The World Cup is a prestigious football tournament, and it’s the biggest level at which any footballer can play, hence the hunger for every Nigerian stars to ensure they have an appearance or two at the Mundial before their retirement.
To measure greatness in football is not only by the exploits of footballers at various club sides, no. But also at the World Cup.
This is why players who achieved the goal of playing for their countries at the Mundial are respected up till today – even the ones that are late are still being celebrated.
However, nature has its ironic way of making life and football interesting. As far as football is concerned, there are players that were opportune to play at the highest levels for club sides and National teams, while others weren’t.
For instance, names like Ryan Giggs, Alfredo Di Stefano, George Weah, Eric Cantonna, George Best et all were fantastic for their respective clubs in Europe, but for a variety of reasons got eluded by opportunities to don their National team jerseys at the FIFA World Cup.
Even in Africa, African stars that were privileged to dazzle at the Mundial like Didier Drogba, Roger Milla, Nwankwo Kanu, Samuel Eto’o Fils, Rashidi Yekini etc are easily remembered.
Below are the elite Nigerian Stars that never played at the World Cup
One of the best playmakers to have donned the Green and White jersey. Nwosu was a National team player for eleven years (1980 – 1991). He played for Nigerian for sixty times, scoring in eight of them.
The gifted midfielder was the youngest player of the conquering 1980 AFCON Squad. Nwosu despite his talents tried but failed to qualify the Super Eagles for the 1990 edition of the football showpiece.
By the time Nigeria would eventually qualify in 1994, age was no longer on his side to feature for Nigeria.
Odegbami Mathematical was another member of the 1980 AFCON Winning Squad, the skillful winger was with the National Team for five years (1976 – 1981). He was regarded as on of the great Nigerian Stars during his era.
He won for himself forty six caps for the National team and scored 23 goals in his colorful career that spanned fourteen years.
His love for Nigeria and Nigerian football is immeasurable even after retirement. Not only that he didn’t play at the World Cup, the Mathematical also never played outside Nigeria as his career started and ended with Shooting Stars of Ibadan.
Playing as a winger on the left side of midfield, Adokiye’s pace and dribbling runs were a distinguishing feature of his footballing career. The nimble-footed midfielder after making his mark with Rangers International at home front, helped Nigeria win the 1980 African Cup of Nations and also played at the soccer finals of the 1980 Summer Olympics.
No doubt, Adokiye was one of the best in his generation, pretty unfortunate he did not have the opportunity to grace the world stage.
Teslim Balogun (late)
Thunder Balogun was a nightmare for every defender he faced during his days. He was enormously talented and scored numerous goals with ease – most of them were shots by the way.
Thunder possessed ferocious shot and up till this moment is regarded as one of the best Nigerian attackers.
Uche was synonymous with injuries during his days with the Super Eagles, so much so that he was able to win for himself forty-six appearances in his seven years as a National team player.
But one thing that cannot be taken away from the former Villarreal is his quality. On his day, Ikechukwu would shine like millions of stars.
He called time on his international career in 2014 after missing out on Nigeria’s consecutive appearances at the Mundial in 2010 and 2014. But, Ikechukwu didn’t leave Super Eagles empty handed, he won the AFCON at South Africa in 2013 under Stephen Keshi (late).