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Nigeria's five most memorable World Cup qualifiers

On Saturday, Nigeria's Super Eagles host Zambia in Uyo knowing that a win would send them to their sixth World Cup.

The Super Eagles have had some topsy-turvy qualifying games in the past, some of which have not exactly had happy endings.

In this feature, Colin Udoh remembers five of the Super Eagles' most memorable World Cup qualifiers.

1989: Cameroon 1-0 Nigeria

This was one of the most painful failures for the then-Green Eagles.

Fresh off reaching the final of the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations, Clemens Westerhof's team looked good for qualification after leading for most of the qualifying series.

Having been neck and neck and equal on points with the Indomitable Lions for the preceding two rounds, the duo were both on seven points when they met in Yaounde, with Nigeria needing just a draw to qualify.

When Henry Nwosu's perfect header sailed into the net, they thought they were on their way to Italia 90. However, their joy was shortlived as Tunisian referee Neji Jouini inexplicably chalked off the goal, despite bemusement on both sides.

Francois Oman-Biyik's goal ultimately proved to be the decider, with Cameroon claiming the two points to seal qualification.

1993: Algeria 1-1 Nigeria

Drawn with Algeria and Ivory Coast in the final round of qualifying, which featured three groups of three teams, Nigeria were aiming to reach their first World Cup.

Earlier in the campaign, they missed out on victory in Abidjan when Samson Siasia went for glory - rather than passing to an unmarked Rashidi Yekini - and duly missed, before being axed from the squad after Nigeria were defeated 2-1.

They subsequently won the reverse fixture in Lagos, but their lapse in Ivory Coast meant that they needed at least a draw in Algeria to progress.

Having been advised that the Algerians loved flowers, the entire Nigeria starting eleven, led by captain Stephen Keshi, lugged giant bouquets as they lined out for the pre-match formalities and presented them to their hosts.

It looked to have worked when Finidi George gave the Nigerians the lead on 20 minutes.

However, that was as far as it went, as the Algerians came back with a vengeance in the second half, peppering the Nigerians, who retreated into a desperate rearguard action.

Abdelhafid Tasfaout finally found a breakthrough on 66 minutes, and the Algerians almost carved out a late win, hitting the post late in the game.

However, Nigeria held out for one of the most nervy and most important results in their football history.

1998: Burkina Faso 1-2 Nigeria

Guinea were the other team in contention for the World Cup spot with Nigeria, and led the opening two rounds by two points over the Super Eagles.

Things turned on matchday three when Daniel Amokachi's quickfire brace -- on 66 and 67 minutes -- gave the Eagles a 2-1 win, although Titi Camara pulled one back to sour the victory.

Sat atop of the table by the slender margin of one point, Nigeria -- fresh off winning Olympic gold -- travelled to Burkina Faso and struggled on a bumpy pitch that eventually proved their redemption.

Mutiu Adepoju headed the Eagles in front before Emmanuel Amuneke's speculative daisy cutter from distance bobbled past the flailing foot of the Burkinabe goalie for a second.

Mamadou Zongo's late consolation was not enough to deny Nigeria three big points, while Guinea suffered a shock 1-0 defeat in Nairobi.

Nigeria had turned a two-point deficit to a four-point advantage, and by the time they won their next game at home to Kenya, they were out of reach and qualified for the World Cup with one game -- away to Guinea -- to spare.

2005: Nigeria 1-1 Angola

This was the qualifying programme that introduced Nigerian football fans -- very painfully -- to the tie-breaking concept of the head-to-head rule.

In one of CAF's more harebrained qualification models, 30 teams were split into five groups of six teams each. Winners qualified for the World Cup, while the top three qualified for the 2006 Nations Cup.

The decisive game for both Nigeria and Angola was in the scorching heat of Kano, where Paulo Figueiredo's freekick on the hour cancelled out Jay-Jay Okocha's 15th-minute opener to give Angola an unlikely point.

On the final day of qualification, the Super Eagles needed to win at Zimbabwe and hope Malawi did them a favour by getting a result at home to the Angolans.

Nigeria ran out 5-1 winners after Obafemi Martins bagged a brace, and Ayila Yussuf, Nwankwo Kanu and Osaze Odemwingie added to the score before Benjani Mwaruwari scored a consolation goal for Zimbabwe.

It was all going well, before a late, late Fabrice Akwa goal in Kigali rendered all of that academic.

Angola qualified on the head-to-head ruling despite trailing the Eagles by a whopping eight goals.

2009: Kenya 2-3 Nigeria

Tunisia had led the final round of qualifying from the opening matchday, keeping a two-point gap over Nigeria until the final day, when both sides had difficult away games to negotiate.

The math was simple; Nigeria needed to win at Kenya, and hope Mozambique did them a favour by beating the North Africans.

Striker Dennis Oliech did not read that script, and put the Harambee Stars in front within 15 minutes.

Apoplectic Nigeria hearts were stilled when two quick goals in a four-minute spell by Obafemi Martins and Yakubu Ayegbeni put Nigeria in front.

Allan Wanga threatened a collective coronary with a 77th-minute goal, before Martins struck with nine minutes to go to claim the win.

The Super Eagles were then greeted by good news from Maputo, as Mozambique's Dario had scored an 83rd-minute winner to hand Nigeria a come-from-behind World Cup ticket.

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