In this piece I take a look at data on set-peice goals scored by Nigeria in two competitions -- the Cup of African Nations (CAN) and the World Cup. We use the complete World Cup statistics for Nigeria and in the CAN we select the last five tournaments that Nigeria was a participant.
The data show remarkable difference between the two competitions. Nigeria has done much better in the percentage of goals scored via set-piece and the percentage conceded via set-piece in the CAN compared to the World Cup. An obvious argument here is that Nigeria faces much better competition in the World Cup and this is demonstrated in the records of games played in the two competitions.
The World Cup
Nigeria's record of set-piece goals is poor. Nigeria has scored just 20% of its World Cup goals from a set-piece compared to conceding more than half of goals scored by opponents from set-piece. In essence, Nigeria has only conceded 12 goals from open play in the World Cup. This means less than a goal a game! More alarming is that over 30% of goals conceded have come from free kicks. Perhaps, the signature game was against South Korea at the 2010 World Cup when Korea scored both goals from free kicks!
The Cup of African Nations
As many as 36% of Nigeria's goals in the CAN have come from set pieces compared to conceding 26% of goals from similar situations. However, it is notable that half of Nigeria's set pieces came from the penalty spot. Only one goal has come from a corner kick and that was against Zimbabwe in 2006. In essence, our productivity from corner kicks has been abysmal. Though we have also conceded only once from a corner kick which came in 2010 when Asamoah Gyan headed Ghana to a 1-0 victory in a semi-final game. More troubling is that most of our goal scoring from set-pieces (67%) came at just two of the CAN competitions (2004 and 2013).