Nigerian national football teams have proven to be topsides in African nay world football in the past when the elements employed by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the respective coaches in charge of the sides worked in tandem.
This has been evident in the nation’s football history as the actors involved masterminded
some of the best thrilling moments seen of an African team.
Even as the Super Eagles failed to live up to the billing at AFCON 2019 in Egypt, there were some sparks of brilliance from the Gernot’s team, which were the signs of that immense quality the team has been known for over the years.
With the future looking bright and Nigerians as expectant as
always, MARTINS OBIWELUOZO takes a look at some of the top moments in Nigerian football history.
Nigeria 2-1 Zambia (1994 AFCON FINAL)
This remains a remarkable day in Nigerian football as the Super Eagles, coached by Dutchman Clemens Westerhof, clinched the nation’s second AFCON trophy in north African country, Tunisia, following the first title won on home soil in 1980
Nigeria won the match 2-1 thanks to Emmanuel Amuneke who scored twice to confound a resilient Chipolopolo of Zambia side in the final.
It was a frenetic game with expectation up in the atmosphere. Dignitaries from various parts of the continent stormed the El Menzah Stadium in Tunis on April 10 1994 for the AFCON Final.
The Zambian side, understandably, had the sympathy of the world to beat Nigeria. It would have been a perfect feat to mark the first year remembrance of Zambia national team players that perished in a plane crash on April 27, 1993.
A sympathetic world paid attention to the match, ostensibly to see how a ‘depleted’ Zambian side led by talented Kalusha Bwalya (who was alive as he wasn’t aboard the ill-fated Zambian Air Force aircraft) will fare against the
star-studded Super Eagles with Austin Okocha, Augustine Eguaveon, Sunday Oliseh, Peter Rufai, Uche Okechukwu, among others in the mix.
However, the 1994 FIFA World Cup bound Super Eagles were too good to handle. Their class prevailed and Nigeria bagged a deserved second AFCON tile.
Nigeria 4-3 Brazil (ATLANTA 96 OLYMPIC SEMIFINAL)
This is arguably Nigeria’s best moment in football history, for obvious reasons; the underdogs, the Dream Team, triumphed over a highly rated Brazilian side.
July 31 1996 is an important date to remember in the history of Nigerian football. It was a day the likes of Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo de Lima, Bebeto and co were shocked by the U-23 Olympic Eagles.
It was a game of inspiration for the Nigerian side as the trio of left-full-back Celestine Babayaro, Victor Ikpeba and Nwankwo Kanu inspired the side to a shock turnaround in against the Brazilians.
Flavio Conceicao scored in the first minute of the match to give Brazil an early 1-0 lead. But the Jo Bonfrere’s lads fought back and the pressure on the opponent’s area had Roberto Carlos netting an own goal, and it was Nigeria 1-1 Brazil after 20 minutes.
Bebeto restored Brazil’s lead with his 28th minute goal, then Conceicao scored his second of the match in the 38th minute to make it 3-1.
At this point, most of the spectators at the Sanford Stadium Athens might have concurred that the Nigerians were indeed in for thorough spanking.
As at 77th minute – just 23 minutes until full-time, the scoreline was Nigeria 1-3 Brazil. But the U-23 Eagles refused to throw in the towel.
Victor Ikpeba reduced the deficit with a 78th minute goal. Kanu Nwankwo equalised in the 90th minute and grabbed the winner – a golden goal in the 94th minute. It ended Nigeria 4-3 Brazil, a monumental upset that reverberated across the world.
The rampant U-23 Eagles maintained that explosive form and beat another world football superpower Argentina 3-2 in the final to bag Africa’s first ever Olympic football gold medal.
Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria (2004 AFCON Quarterfinal)
The Super Eagles were up against their archrivals, Cameroon, in the quarterfinals of 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia. The match was a nervy one heralded by high expectations from both camps who boasted of big-name players.
The Cameroon side was the dominant side against the Super Eagles at that time following
their impressive head-to-head record. Names like Rigobert Song and Patrick Mboma had always caused fear in the
Nigerian camp, including among the fans, but there was a twist on the pitch of Stade Mustapha Ben Jannet Monastir that faithful day – February 8, 2004.
It was a memorable day for Nigerian football as Austin Jay-Jay Okocha’s sublime freekick goal that cancelled out Samuel Eto’o Fils’ 42nd minute opener became a talk of the tournament.
Okocha’s goal gave the Eagles more impetus to press for the winner which John Utaka netted in the 73rd minute, and Nigerian fans stormed the streets to celebrate a massive victory.
Nigeria 3-0 Mexico (2013 FIFA U-17 WORLD CUP FINAL)
Nigeria’s U17s, the Golden Eaglets were outstanding in 2013 in the UAE as they went all the way to win the country’s fourth FIFA U-17 World Cup title.
The coach Manu Garba’s team pipped Mexico 3-0 inside the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, on November 8, 2013. Kelechi Iheanacho doubled Nigeria’s lead in the 56th minute after Mexico’s Erick Aguirre netted an own goal in the 9th minute. Musa Mohammed scored the third goal in the 81st minute.
It came at a time Nigerian football needed redemption to appease the
fans following some poor showing from the nation’s national teams in recent times.
With the Super Eagles winning the AFCON 2013 in South Africa earlier in the year, it proved
to be a massive return for the Golden Eagles led by
enterprising defender and captain Musa Mohammed.
That victory in the UAE brought smiles back on the faces of the soccer-loving Nigerians while also attracting the interest of European clubs for the young players.
The Eaglets’ success was marked by the famous ‘yes-yes goal celebration’ from Kelechi Iheanacho who won the Golden Ball of the tournament.
The world once again saw a glimpse of what Nigerian football was capable of producing. The enterprising young talents played with so much panache, causing the oppositions problems in the final third.
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