After two games in the qualifiers for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles have given a head start to the Pharoahs of Egypt. The seven-time African champions are two points ahead of the Eagles, with a plus seven goals difference to Nigeria's plus two.
Both countries will meet in March 2016, in the third round of matches, and the game could determine their fate.
But if there is a country that has mastered the art of playing catch-up and making the impossible become possible, it is the Nigerian team.
Though, the Nigeria, Egypt game is still five months away, Completesportsnigeria.com's JAMES AGBEREBI gives seven reasons why the Egyptians should not yet start celebrating automatic qualification…
1. USA 1994 QUALIFIER:
The Super Eagles had a smooth run in the first group stage of the qualifiers for the USA 1994 World Cup. They saw off South Africa and Congo Brazzaville to progress to the final group phase. But is was at this final hurdle that things almost got messy for the Eagles when they lost 2-1 to Cote d'Ivoire in their first group game.
And when the Eagles, with no points yet, took on Algeria in Lagos, Cote d'Ivoire already had three points (a win back then was two points). Without allowing that to affect them, the Eagles secured two back-to-back 4-1 wins against Algeria and Cote d'Ivoire in Lagos. Andtrailing Cote d'Ivoire by just one point but ahead on superior goals difference, the Eagles needed just a draw against Algeria and they got it by playing 1-1 and eventually qualifying for their first ever FIFA senior World Cup in the USA.
2. FRANCE 1998 QUALIFIER:
Still in the euphoria of winning the Atlanta Olympic football gold, most football fans in the country expected the Super
Eagles to have an easy passage in their France 1998 World Cup group that had Guinea, Kenya and Burkina Faso. But to everyone's surprise, the Guineans had already secured two wins and were ahead of the Eagles by two points. Both teams met in a decisive clash in Lagos with the Eagles triumphing 2-1 and going top of the group. The turning point for the Eagles eventually taking charge of the group was their 2-1 away win against Burkina Faso and Kenya's 1-0 win against Guinea in Nairobi. And to make
qualification for the 1998 World Cup certain, the Eagles thrashed Kenya 3-0 in Lagos. They went on to lose 1-0 to Guinea in an inconsequential last group game.
3. KOREA/JAPAN 2002 QUALIFIER:
Grouped with fiercest rival Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Eagles were expected to have problems with only one country, Ghana.
But it was a George Weah-inspired Liberia's Lone Star that were on the brink of qualifying for their first ever World Cup. With three crucial games to go, the Eagles needed maximum points and hope results didn't go the way of Liberia. And that wasBexactly what happened, as Liberia lost 2-1 to Ghana in Monrovia while the Eagles walloped Sudan 4-0 in Omdurman.
Qualification for a third straight World Cup was secured when the Eagles beat Ghana 3-0 in Port Harcourt.
4. SOUTH AFRICA 2010 QUALIFIER:
As it has become the norm for the Eagles to hand the initiative to group rivals, this time it was Tunisia who were inthe driving seat for qualification to Africa's first ever World Cup in South Africa.
Having already drawn their two other away games (0-0 against Mozambique and 0-0 against Tunisia), the Eagles needed an outright win against Kenya in Nairobi, and hope Tunisia didn't beat Mozambique.
Goals from Obafemi Martins (brace) and Yakubu Aiyegbeni, gave the Eagles a 3-2 win, while Tunisia lost 1-0 to Mozambique.
5. SYDNEY 2000 OLYMPIC FOOTBALL QUALIFER:
This was one of the most dramatic qualifiers a Nigerian team has ever been involved in. After trailing Angola for most of the qualifiers in the group that also had Uganda and Zimbabwe, the U-23 Eagles needed to beat Zimbabwe by 4-0 in their last group game, to qualify for the Sydney Olympic Games.
Coached by former Super Eagles handler, Clemens Westerhof, the Zimbabweans frustrated every move of the U-23 Eagles in the early part of the game. But late in the first-half, Emmanuel Ebiede scored two goals to give Nigeria a 2-0 lead before half-time. With time running out, two late goals from Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Pius Ikedia sealed the 4-0 win and Nigeria's qualification for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
6. BEIJING 2008 OLYMPIC FOOTBALL QUALIFIER:
With four points from two games, the U-23 Eagles needed to avoid defeat in their third qualifier against Ghana in Accra, to stand a chance of qualifying for Beijing 2008. A victory for Ghana would have rendered the Eagles' final game at home to South Africa irrelevant.
Trailing Ghana by just one point, the U-23 Eagles held their own in front of a vociferous crowd, forcing Ghana to a 0-0 draw. And in the final group game against South Africa, the U-23 Eagles triumphed 3-0 inside the Abuja National Stadium and picked the group's sole ticket.
7. SOVIET UNION 1985 U-20 WORLD CUP QUALIFIER
The Flying Eagles had an herculean task before them during the qualifiers for the 1985 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Soviet Union. In the qualifier against Cameroon, the Flying Eagles lost 3-0 in the first leg in Yaounde and needed a miracle in the return leg in Lagos.
Staring elimination in the face against a Cameroon side that had the Biyik brothers, Oman and Kana, Jacques Songo’o and Cyril Makanaki, the Flying Eagles defeated Cameroon 5-1 and went on to qualify for the 1985 U-20 World Cup in the Soviet Union.