Since Nigeria’s victory in men’s football category at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games in the USA, football fans from the West African nation became expectant of victory each time any set of Olympic Eagles file out to represent them at the global sporting event. The 2008 Olympic Games in China saw Nigeria missing on the medals table for quite a while since the competition commenced, and there were fears that the most populous black nation on earth would end up without winning any medal at the event.
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Coach Samson Siasia’s Olympic Eagles had made it as far as the semifinal of the men’s football category but victory was needed to assure Nigeria of either gold or silver. The Nigerian side was pitched against Belgium, a game that would decide if Nigerians would have something to remember Beijing for.
On August 19, 2008, in a fully packed Shanghai Stadium, Pablo Pozo, the central referee blew his whistle to start a match which meant much for Nigerians live at the stadium, back home in Nigeria and in diaspora. Late Adefemi Olubayo put a smile on the faces of Nigerians just 17 minutes into the encounter after rifling a shot into goal. The Nigerian side would keep on pressing for more with the likes of Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi, and retired Osaze Odemwingie all posing a threat to the Europeans.
Chinedu Ogbuke would give Nigerians another reason to be happy after scoring Nigeria’s second goal in the 59th minute, and going further to make it 3 – 0 with just 17 minutes left to play. Just when Nigerians thought the Eagles would just defend the three-goal lead, Chibuzor Okonkwo’s shot was unstoppable as Nigerians jubilated and were now fully convinced that Team Nigeria would not leave Beijing medal-empty.
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A consolation goal for the Belgians came in the 88th minute from Laurent Ciman, but the Nigerian side held their own until Pozo blew his whistle to signal the end of the game. Some sports enthusiasts in the country believed that the victory unlocked Nigeria’s success in Beijing as team Nigeria finished the biggest sporting event on the globe with 3 silver medals and 2 bronze, and were ranked 59th on the medals log.
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