Thursday, February 6, 2014

1994 v 2014 Super Eagles: Experience, WCQs, CAN, etc….

Many have compared Nigeria's World Cup team of 1994 to the current team that is to play at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil. To be sure, the 1994 team is generally believed to be Nigeria's best ever team and with good reason. The 1994 team went on to reach the second round of the 1994 World Cup, a stage that remains the furthest achieved by Nigeria at any World Cup.

The 2014 team has an opportunity to surpass this feat but may also become eliminated in the opening round.  Nevertheless, the 2014 team has matched the 1994 team by winning the Cup of African Nations (CAN) and also matching it by also winning the Cup away from home. Below we compare the teams in several areas: Cup of African Nations (CAN) triumph, Confederations Cup, experience of the team at the time of the World Cup, and the Nigerian record of the team coaches prior to the World Cup.

Cup of African Nations (CAN)

Of course, both teams won the Cup away from home but their paths to the Cup were unique.  The 1994 team played one game less on the way to the Cup but was more efficient at the group stage. On the other hand, the 2014 team was more efficient at the elimination stage. Below we provide a table comparing both teams and we use efficiency points (% of maximum possible points obtained) to compare the teams. The 2014 World Cup team has a higher efficiency points than the 1994 team obtained on the way to winning the CAN (see Table 1).

Confederations Cup

FIFA began the Confederations Cup after 1994. However, the 1995 Intercontinental Championship played by the 1994 team was the fore runner of the Confederations Cup. The 1994 team had a better outing at the competition even though it won just a game. The team by 1995 was under the care of Shuaibu Amodu as Westerhoff resigned after the World Cup of 1994. The team went on to finish fourth in the competition after a tie breaker in the third place game and leaving the competition without a loss. The 2014 team was eliminated in the group stage, losing two of its three games. This is reflected in the wide disparity in efficiency scores between the two teams as demonstrated in Table 2.

World Cup Qualifiers

We compared the teams on the basis of the World Cup qualifiers for the 1994 and the 2014 finals. The efficiency scores for both teams were statistically close (seeTable 3) even though the 2014 team had a 0.04 advantage. On the other hand, the 1994 team was far more prolific in its goal scoring.

Team Experience

Results here are quite surprising. First, it is important to point out that the eleven players (starters) compared here were selected for some reasons. The 2014 XI is based on the actual team frequently used in starting games at the World Cup finals. Thus, an injured Ben Iroha is not listed even though he would have started ahead of Emenalo if he had been healthy. Note also that the player appearances were counted only up to the end of 1993 meaning that appearances at the 1994 Nations Cup and thereafter are not included. For the 2014 team, the appearance data goes up to the end of 2013. In addition, we estimated that Nosa Igiebor based on his play towards end of 2013 is the starter in a midfield position where several others were used as starters.

The surprise is that the difference in average number of national team appearances for both teams is wide and in an unexpected way. The 2014 team average 33.00 appearances per player compared to only 20.72 appearances per player on the 1994 team at the beginning of the World Cup year! One would have thought, based on mythology surrounding the 1994 team, that the opposite would be the case. While one could argue that the surprise result is due to the non-inclusion the 1994 Nations Cup games but even if those were added the 2014 team would have still shown more experience playing for the national team.

Records of Coaches

The final table (#5) compares the record of both coaches -- Clemens Westerhoff (1994) and Stephen Keshi (2014). Note that while Keshi's record is up to date and includes all games played under his management, Westerhoff's records exclude the 1994 year. Again, the reason for this is to ensure that only records achieved prior to the World Cup are used for comparison. In any case, there is little statistical difference between the records with Westerhoff having an advantage of 0.05.

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