FOREIGN COACH XI: Nigeria’s 11 Expatriate Coaches, Their Failures And Successes 

FOREIGN COACH XI: Nigeria’s 11 Expatriate Coaches, Their Failures And Successes 


The Nigeria Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick, recently declared that the NFF will not hire indigenous coaches for the Super Eagles again in the aftermath of the resignation of former Super Eagles captain Sunday Oliseh but will once again go foreign in the search for a substantive coach.

Although the NFF have somehow soft-pedalled in their foreign coach or nothing approach, Completesportsnigeria.com's IZUCHUKWU OKOSI presents the foreign coaches to have handled the Nigerian senior national team in the last four decades and the impact they made…

Nationality: Yugoslavian
Duration:   1974-1978

Nigeria failed to qualify for the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup same year leading the Nigeria Football Association to hire Jelisavic ‘Tiki’ Tihomir, popularly known as 'Father Tiko' to oversee the 1976 AFCON and 1978 World Cup qualifications.

Tiko led the Green Eagles to a third place finish (bronze medal) at the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations in Ethiopia. Late Haruna Ilerika and Kunle Awesu made the tournament's Best XI squad.

Tiko however narrowly missed taking the national team to the Argentina ‘78 World Cup after Godwin Odiye scored an own goal in the match against Tunisia to send Nigeria out of the race. The Green Eagles finished bottom of their qualifying group with three points, Egypt had four while Tunisia eventually finished with five points, to book a ticket to Argentina.

Nationality: Brazilian
Duration: 1978-1982

After the departure of 'Father Tiko' the Nigeria Football Association hired former Portugal coach Otto Glória to lead Nigeria through the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations.

The Nigerian team were not given much of a chance to win the tournament at home but the players and coaches started to believe when they got to the quarter-finals stage and defeated the Moroccan national team 1-0 through a Muda Lawal goal.

The Green Eagles won their first ever Africa Cup of Nations title in Lagos on March 22, 1980 with a 3-0 win over Algeria.

The Green Eagles had won against Tanzania (3-1) and Egypt (1-0) and drawn against Ivory Coast (0-0) in the group stages.

Christian Chukwu was the tournament's best player while Segun Odegbami was joint top scorer with Morocco's Khaled Labied with three goals each.

Gloria was however relieved of his post after poor performances at the 1982 Nations Cup in Libya where the Green Eagles could not defend their title. The Eagles crashed out of of that year's AFCON after they finished 3rd in Group B behind Algeria and Zambia.

Nationality: German
Duration: 1981

Julius Berger Football Club of Lagos coach Gottlieb Göller took charge of the Green Eagles in just a game – a 1982 FIFA World Cup qualifier away to Algeria in Constantine which the Green Eagles lost 2-1.

Otto Gloria had taken charge of the first leg tie in Lagos which the Green Eagles lost 2-0 against the Desert Foxes but was indisposed for the Constantine trip.

Algeria booked their place to Spain the following year with a 4-1 aggregate win.

Nationality: German
Duration: 1988-1989

German coach Manfred Hoener came in after the NFA had hired indigenous coaches Adegboye Onigbinde, Chris Udemezue and Patrick Ekeji, who had failed to win any major tournament.

Hoener led Nigeria to a second place finish at Maroc ‘88 Nations Cup. The Green Eagles lost 1-0 to Cameroon on March 27th at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca.

Nigeria had scored a 'goal' through an Henry Nwosu header but Mauritanian referee Idrissa Sarr ruled out the goal for offside. Emmanuel Kunde then converted a penalty after Roger Milla fell theatrically in the Nigerian box.

Nationality: Dutch
Duration: 1989-1994

Dutchman Clemens Westerhof became Nigeria's next foreign coach in 1989 and his mandate was to qualify Nigeria for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy as well as the Africa Cup of Nations same year which Algeria will host.

Westerhof achieved an Africa Cup of Nations place for Nigeria but regretfully did not qualify Nigeria for Italia '90 World Cup.

At the 1990 AFCON, Westerhof led Nigeria to the final but lost 1-0 to Algeria who had beaten them 5-1 in the group stages.

The Super Eagles under Westerhof won bronze in the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal. However it was in 1993 that the self-styled 'Dutchgerian' ensured his name will be written in Nigeria's football history.

On Friday October 8, 1993 at the Stade 5 Juillet 1962, Algiers, Nigeria, with Westerhof in charge, qualified for the FIFA senior World Cup for the first time.

Finidi George scored against Algeria in the last qualifying match away in Algiers from a brilliant shot after good work by Daniel Amokachi in the 20th minute. Algeria key man, Abdoulaye Tasfaout, equalised in the 66th minute. It became 1-1 and a draw was enough to take the Eagles to USA '94.

Westerhof led Nigeria to win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia defeating Zambia 2-1 in the final. The feat saw FIFA rate the Eagles the fifth best ranked team in the world.

At the USA '94 World Cup, Nigeria reached the Round of 16 stage, losing out to Italy 2-1. They were ranked the 12th best national team and second best entertaining team behind Brazil.

Nationality: Dutch
Duration: 1995-1996, 1999-2001

The Dutchman came to the country to assist Clemens Westerhof but he got his chance to be in charge of a team when in 1991 he was appointed to coach the Super Falcons.

Bonfrere's achievement with the women‘s team gave him the opportunity to be in charge of the Olympic football team in 1995 and
the following year led the team to win gold at Atlanta‘96 Olympic Games, the first time an African nation would be winning the football event of the Olympics.

Bonfrere left his Nigeria job unceremoniously after he was hired to manage Qatar between 1996 and 1997.

He however returned for the second time to take charge of the Eagles in 1999 and he led to a second place finish at the 2000 Nations Cup co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana.

Nigeria lost to Cameroon via penalty shootout. He was sacked in 2001 after leading the team to the brink of elimination from the race for the 2002 World Cup. 

Nationality: French
Duration: 1997

Phillipe Troussier was the next foreign manager to handle the Super Eagles after Bonfrere's first spell.

The Frenchman's successes with African countries earned him the nickname ‘White Witch Doctor‘. He was engaged by Nigeria in 1997 and he guided the Super Eagles in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, overseeing the last four games of the qualifiers.

Despite qualifying Nigeria for the France 98 World Cup, the Nigeria Football Association decided to sack Troussier and replace him with Bora Milutinovic.

 Nationality: Serbian
 Duration:    1998

The Nigeria Football Association settled for Serbian, Bora Milutinovic, who was popularly referred to as the Miracle Worker and had taken three teams to the World Cup before joining Nigeria in 1998.

The coach was hired simply for his World Cup experience needed to guide the Eagles through France‘98.

Milutinovic hardly made any change to the squad he inherited from Troussier and the Eagles failed to go beyond the second round of the competition, losing 4-1 to Denmark.

 Nationality: Dutch
 Duration: 1998-1999

Thijs Libregts had managed nine other teams – including the Dutch national team – before taking charge of the Eagles in August 1998. He was dismissed by Greek side Olympiakos in 1995 and was jobless until he was hired by Nigeria.

Libregts took charge of the Eagles in August 1998 after a disappointing World Cup campaign by Milutinovic.  He was relieved of his job after winning just two games in five matches in the build-up to the 2000 Nations Cup.

Nationality: German
Duration:  2007-2008

The German had vowed never to return to football management after dumping the Scotland team  but a lucrative deal with Nigeria made him change his mind.

Vogts' four-year contract abruptly came to an end 13 months later after he resigned following the poor performance of the Eagles at the 2008 Nations Cup in Ghana where Nigeria were eliminated by the host country at the quarter finals stage after a 2-1 defeat.



Nationality: Swedish
Duration: 2010

Swedish coach Lars Lagerback was in charge of his country's national side between 1998 and 2009 -at a point the assistant coach to Tommy Soderberg.  But he failed to take the team to the 2010 World Cup.

The Nigeria Football Federation stepped in and ensured that Lagerback was not jobless for too long.

The NFF employed him on February 26, 2010 to take charge of the Super Eagles in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The deal was a five-month contract which was renewable.


Nigeria crashed out of the World Cup in the first round, losing to Argentina and Greece, and drawing with South Korea.

Despite Nigeria's poor performance in the 2010 World Cup, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) offered Lagerbäck a contract extension for another two years.

Lagerback was expected to inform NFF about his decision by July, 2010 but declined the offer due to the 'interference' of the Presidential Task Force in the running of the team.

The former Swedish international is now the coach of Iceland.

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  • Ayodele 5 years ago

    I think our indegeniuos coaches are far better, no need of foreign coach. after all Steven keshi won us gold medal at the nations cup.