Former Super Eagles player and League ambassador, Mutiu Adepoju, has singled out his outing with the national team at the 1998 World Cup in France as the best moment of the national team.
Adepoju is one of the few Nigerians to have had the privilege of participating in three different editions of the FIFA World Cup, having made the cut in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 editions.
Speaking as a guest on PREMIUM TIMES Twitter Spaces, Adepoju said he still has fond memories of playing in the World Cup, adding that it is unfortunate that Nigeria will be out of the Qatar 2022 World Cup starting in Qatar on Sunday.
The Super Eagles were “almost men” for many years before they finally broke the jinx and qualified for the United States tournament.
“Yes, it was a very special feeling, with what was happening and with Nigeria qualifying for the first time. I can’t describe how it felt, going to the World Cup, the biggest tournament in the world, and representing Nigeria for the first time. It was awesome! And I was excited about the experiences I was able to gather in the US. It was a very special feeling,” Adepoju began.
“I will say that the 1998 World Cup was my best. I was part of the creations, including the Cup of Nations. In the 1994 World Cup, I didn’t order a home shirt, many players entered. I was young, and we shared the minutes, but in 1998, I participated in all the qualifying matches, including the Nations Cup. I would say it would have been better for me if he hadn’t lost to Denmark in the second round. They were excellent matches, both in 94 and 98”, recalled the director.
Adepoju is fondly remembered by Nigerian football fans for his classic header in the five-goal thriller against Spain as the Eagles came from behind twice to win 3-2.
Adepoju’s 24th-minute header canceled out Fernando Hierro’s 21st-minute opener, Nigeria’s first goal at France 98.
While Adepoju was also at the 2002 World Cup, he was less encouraging as coach Adegboye Onigbinde left him on the bench for the entire tournament.
“In the 2002 World Cup, I didn’t play a game then, it was time, and I didn’t play a minute when I was on the bench watching the games. The most important thing is to be there to motivate the players who were very young at the time,” said Adepoju.
The Nigerian League ambassador has admitted that playing at the World Cup helped grow his career, even though it was every player’s dream to play on the biggest stage.
“Definitely, you can’t see or say every player who plays in the World Cup, every player wants to play in the World Cup once. I am privileged to have participated in three World Cups for Nigeria and I can say that the feeling was overwhelming. The experiences and everything you get there are out of this world. Every player wants to play in the World Cup,” added Adepoju.
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