THE Nigerian Super Eagles have participated eight times in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) last ten tournaments but have topped the group stage table only twice.
However, the team has progressed to the knockout stages seven times and has been sent packing from the tournament’s first round only once.
The latest advancement the team has recorded was its qualification to the knock out stage Group A in the ongoing AFCON tournament in Cote d’Ivoire, finishing second on the log with seven points.
The seven points were drawn from a 1-1 draw in their opening match against Equatorial Guinea, plus slim 1-0 victories against Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau, respectively.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, group-stage matches in football and some other sports are the first part of a cup competition when teams are divided into groups, and the teams in each group play against each other.
The first and second on the group’s table then move to the next round of the competition.
In football, some competitions give room for the third position, described as the best losers to emerge to the next round based on the number of participating teams.
For instance, 24 countries are participating in the ongoing 2023 AFCON, and they grouped into six.
Expectedly, the top two from each group, making 12, will qualify for the next round in which 16 teams are required to play.
This allows four countries described as the best losers to participate.
In its eight appearances in the last ten AFCON tournaments, Nigeria has not experienced the ‘best loser’ option to qualify for the next round of the competition.
Rather, the country has always finished in the top two positions.
The ICIR discovered that the country finished in the first position in 2006 and 2021 while settling for the second position in 2008, 2010, 2013, 2019 and 2023.
It did not qualify for the 2015 and 2019 editions.
Also, Nigeria failed to progress from the group stage in 1982.
The country’s team, then known as the Green Eagles, returned home from the group stage in Group B with just two points, as Algeria and Zambia finished first and second, respectively.
Commenting on the Super Eagles’ series of qualifications from each AFCON tournament, a sports journalist, Rotimi Arabi, described the successive qualification as sheer luck, saying that the team mostly did not convincingly progress from the group stage.
“Yes, Nigeria has always qualified from the group stage. I will say it is luck. It was only in 1982 that we did not progress from the group stage. In other AFCON tournaments, we struggled to qualify except in 1994, we won all our matches.
“So far, I will say that Super Eagles have that penchant for struggling,” he said.