SuperSport viewers on DStv can now begin counting down the days until the the football season restarts with La Liga on 12 June, but until then you can ReLive Africa’s best football memories with Nigeria.
Nigeria burst onto the global football scene in style in the nineties with an impressive performance at the 1994 World Cup in the USA which saw them finish top of their group in their first ever official football tournament.
There have been two undeniable peaks in the history of Nigerian football, two moments which have garnished the reputation of fear when you face the Super Eagles. Those moments are undoubtably the 1994 World Cup and the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Unfortunately, this was followed by a hard fought 2-1 loss to Argentina after Samson Siasia gave the Super Eagles the lead. Nigeria bounced back in their very next game with another mouth-watering performance to beat Greece 2-0 thanks to goals from Finidi George and Amokachi, his second of the tournament.
The result left them top of Group D and set-up a Last 16 match against Italy, a match that will be remember by many West Africans for a long time.
The Super Eagles looked set to move onto the quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup after taking the lead through Amunike, but a late, late Roberto Baggio goal (89th minute) broke African hearts and saw the 90 minutes end 1-1. Italy went on to win the match in extra-time after a Baggio penalty-kick to send the Super Eagles crashing out of the tournament. Italy went onto finish runner-up at the World Cup after losing in a penalty shoot-out to Brazil in the final.
Nonetheless, the Nigerian nation had won the hearts and minds of all football fans and made Africa proud in their first official tournament on the world stage.
Speaking after the tournament, Amokachi explained why the team was so successful. “It all started from 1989 when we failed to reach Italia 90 and the coach made it clear that he will make us the first to play at the World Cup. We had a blend of experience and fearless young players as well as a manager who had the power of motivation and the ability to bring the best out of his players,” said Amokachi.
It was only two years later when the Super Eagles were crowned the 1996 Olympic champions in Atlanta, USA after beating Argentina 3-2 in the final where Amokachi and Amunike were front and centre once more.
Nigeria finished second in Group C after beating Hungary (1-0) and Japan (2-0) before losing 1-0 to Brazil. This set up a quarterfinal match against Mexico which saw the Super Eagles register a comfortable 2-0 win thanks to goals from Jay-Jay Okocha and Celestine Babayaro.
Speaking after the Olympics, Sunday Oliseh, who was a key player in the Nigerian team, said: “I guarantee you that as I talk to you now, everyone in Africa is celebrating. There is no sleeping tonight. Everyone will be happy. This is for all the African countries.”
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