Many remarkable events happened in Nigeria in the 90s, but one particular day in Atlanta, USA will forever stand out in the minds of Nigerians.
20 years ago, the Nigerian men Olympic football team, beat all odds to win a gold medal at the 1996 summer Olympics.
The Nigerian Dream Team as they were called defeated Argentina 3-2 in the final game to win Africa’s first gold medal at the Olympics.
It was an unexpected victory. The dream team had previously defeated the Brazilian team at the knockout stages which had the likes of Bebeto and Ronaldo, and the Argentine team which had the likes of Ortega, Crespo, and Claudio Lopez.
The Nigerian team was also armed with one of the best football talents including; Kanu Nwankwo who captained the team, Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West, Daniel Amokachi, the great Jay-Jay Okocha, among others.
In their game against Brazil, the dream team was down by 3-1 in the first half, only to make a comeback in the second half with Victor Ikpeba and Kanu Nwankwo netting goals in the second half. It was the same in the final against Argentina. A late goal by Daniel Amokachi and a 90th minute by Emmanuel Amunike sealed Nigeria’s win.
Reminiscing on that day in Atlanta, Amokachi told FIFA:
“It was the manner in which we won the competition that made us incredibly happy.
“We always seemed to come back from behind in games – and against top opposition. We played the giants of North and South America; Mexico in the quarter-final, Brazil in the semi-final and beat Argentina in the final.”
He also added that the team had a great sense of togetherness and cooperation.
Today’s Dream Team will be facing Japan in the second Group B match of the men’s football event. The team who were stranded in Atlanta due to financial issues trailing their travel plan will be arriving in Rio seven hours before the game begins.