Many Nigerian football fans remember the gold-winning Nigerian football team at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games in the United States of America for putting Nigeria on the global map as one of the giant African footballing nations on earth, but what most people do not know is the fact that beating Argentina in the final of the men’s football category match on August 3, 1996 meant Nigeria became the first African country to win a gold medal in the men’s football event in the history of the Olympics.
The Nigerian Under 23 team, popularly known as the ‘Dream Team’ (a name they took from the 1992 Basketball Olympic team of the USA), finished the group stages of the competition placed second behind Brazil in Group C to qualify for the quarter-final round of the tournament. A 2-0 emphatic victory over Mexico in the quarter-finals meant the West African side had set up a rematch in the semi-final against Brazil who had comfortably sent another West African team, Ghana, packing with a 4-2 victory in the quarter-finals.
Brazil vs Nigeria
Star-studded Brazil were clearly favourites in the contest with the likes of now retired football legends, Bebeto, Roberto Carlos, and Lima Ronaldo, who would go on to be awarded FIFA Player of the Year 1996. To the surprise of many, Nigeria, after falling behind Brazil 3-1 in the first-half of the encounter would come through goals from Victor Ikpeba in the 78th minute, and a Kanu Nwankwo brace in the 90th and 94th minute (Extra Time) to gift the African football giants victory over their Brazilian opponents and set up their final match against another South-American side, Argentina.
Argentina vs Nigeria
For many football pundits, Nigeria stood very little chance of beating Argentina in the final but the Dream Team repeated the historic feat achieved in the semi-final and again came from behind to defeat Argentina 3-2 in the late minutes of the encounter. The Jo Bonfrere charged Olympic Eagles set the stadium alight after Emmanuel Amunike scored the winning goal in the 90th minute to win Nigeria gold!
Featured Image Source: Twitter