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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Third time lucky?
Nigerian players celebrate one of the crucial goals against Ghana by Babangida (13)
Nigeria celebrate one of their crucial goals against Ghana
Nigeria left it late to qualify for their third World Cup in succession, needing a win in the last group game against Ghana in Port Harcourt.

It was a far cry from gaining a place at the finals four years ago. On that occasion, the star-studded side booked a place early and qualified in style.

Nigeria went to their first World Cup finals in 1994 after winning the African Nations Cup in Tunisia just months earlier.

A dream start at USA 94 with a 3-0 defeat of Bulgaria was followed by defeat to Diego Maradona's Argentina, but victory over Greece in the final pool match saw Nigeria qualify as group winners.

In the second round it was only two late goals by a Roberto Baggio-inspired Italy that denied the newcomers a place in the quarter-finals after they had taken a lead.

In France, although the Eagles reached the same stage of the World Cup, they were dumped out 4-1 by Denmark.

But 2002 brings a new challenge for the Nigerian squad, some of whom played in the last two World Cups and have immense experience in the top leagues of Europe.

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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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