May 22 (Reuters) - Factbox on the Nigeria national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup:
FIFA ranking: 47 (till June 7)
Previous tournaments: Nigeria are appearing at their sixth World Cup finals, having missed only one tournament since they first qualified in 1994. They have got past the first round three times — on their debut appearance in the United States in 1994, four years later in France and again in Brazil. In 1994 they were just minutes from beating Italy and reaching the quarter-finals before giving up an equaliser and going on to lose after extra time.
Gernot Rohr: The former Bayern Munich player was appointed coach on a two-year deal in August 2016. He spent 12 years as a player at Girondins Bordeaux before going on to manage the club, taking them to the 1996 UEFA Cup final where they lost to Bayern. He began coaching in Africa at Etoile Sahel in Tunisia and led the national teams of Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso before the surprise appointment by Nigeria. Rohr brings a strict attention-to-detail approach to the job, which often frustrates the Nigerians, but he guided them to comfortable World Cup qualification despite a tough group.
Alex Iwobi: A tricky winger, he played for England at youth level before declaring for Nigeria. Iwobi was four years old when his family moved from Lagos to London. His uncle Jay-Jay Okocha went to the World Cup in both 1994 and 1998 and Iwobi is seen as a member of an exciting new crop of talent with the ability to match the exploits of Okocha’s group, who are regarded as Nigeria’s golden footballing generation.
Victor Moses: Another former England junior international who fled to Britain aged 11 when his parents were killed in religious riots in Nigeria. Moses’s strong play on the right side of the attack is pivotal to the Super Eagles and he brings vital previous World Cup experience to the squad.
Wilfred Ndidi: Converted from centre-back into a defensive midfielder when still a teenager at Genk in Belgium, he cost Leicester City 17 million pounds ($22.78 million) last year. Ndidi does not score many goals but when he does it is usually with a touch of the spectacular.
A six-match unbeaten run for Nigeria was ended when Serbia beat them 2-0 in a World Cup warm-up game in London in March. Their preparatory programme before Russia includes a 4-2 victory over Argentina in Krasnodar in November and 1-0 away over Poland in Wroclaw in March.
How they qualified:
Nigeria finished five points ahead of second-placed Zambia in a qualifying group that also included Algeria, who reached the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup, and last year’s African Nations Cup winners Cameroon.
Nigeria are in Group D where they face Croatia, Iceland and, in their final game, Argentina. The meeting with the Argentines in St Petersburg is the fifth match-up between the two countries in Nigeria’s six World Cup finals appearances. As a team that feed on confidence, success in their opening encounter on June 16 against Croatia is key to their chances of advancing. ($1 = 0.7464 pounds) (Compiled by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Peter Rutherford)