But they tripped up in the next two competitions, finishing fourth in their group in South Korea and Japan in 2002 and then missing the tournament altogether in 2006 in Germany.
The Super Eagles have an opportunity this year to become the first African nation to reach the knockout round on three separate occasions, but it will be a significant challenge as the draw saw the side placed into Group F with Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran.
The 2014 version of the Super Eagles is one in transition as head coach Stephen Keshi's team contains no bona-fide international superstars and a few surprising omissions.
Seattle Sounders forward Obafemi Martins, Villarreal striker Ikechukwu Uche, and Queens Park Rangers defender Taye Taiwo were all left off the plane to Brazil.
The side's two most influential players both come from the Premier League in Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel and forward Victor Moses, who spent last season playing sparingly at Liverpool.
Mikel is used in a defensive role at Chelsea, but occupies a more attack space with his country. The 2013 Nigerian Sportsman of the Year has shown significant offensive flair for the Super Eagles and possesses deadly-accurate set-piece ability.
Moses is a versatile winger who has pace down the left side and has shown an ability to cut inside and score from the edge of the area. Form may be a question, however, as Moses made just 19 appearances for the Reds while scoring one goal.
Leading the line will be Fenerbahce forward Emmanuel Emenike, who seems to be realizing his vast potentially at the perfect time. He scored a brace in a 2-0 win over Ethiopia on Nov. 16 to secure a berth in this year's competition.
Emenike was also the top scorer at the 2013 African Cup of Nations, which the Super Eagles won after defeating Burkina Faso in the final.
Center back Efe Ambrose will anchor the back line and has been in fine form with Scottish champions Celtic, while goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who captained Nigeria during the run to the African Cup of Nations title, will give the Super Eagles a commanding presence in net.
With a difficult draw upon them, Nigeria's chances of reaching the knockout stage appear slim, but may rest with the outcome of the June 21 match against Bosnia-Herzegovina.