4. Group of death? Easy peasy!
When the Round 3 draw of the African qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup was made, it was almost impossible to imagine that a pool featuring Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria and Zambia would have a clear cut winner. Group B was even touted by pundits as the ultimate ‘group of death’ if the pedigree of all teams and the players was anything to go by.
Nigeria went on to beat Zambia in both legs as well as securing an emphatic 4-0 win over bitter rivals Cameroon and a 3-1 win over Algeria to seal the sole ticket to the World Cup.
3. Nigeria 4 Argentina 2
Yes I wrote the score line correctly. Even though it was a friendly match in November 2017, this was a classic encounter between unevenly matched teams on paper at least. Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi inspired the Super Eagles as they came back from 0-2 down to beat the World Cup and Copa América finalists Argentina. The South Americans, without their talisman Lionel Messi, went ahead through goals by Ever Banega and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.
The game at that point resembled a true reflection of the gulf in class between the two sides however; there was room for another twist. Kelechi Iheanacho pulled one back for Nigeria just before half time. Iwobi then started and finished the comeback in the 52nd and 74th minute which fell between debutant Brian Idowu’s strike for the win.
2. Yakubu’s dreadful miss vs South Korea (2010 World Cup)
On June 22, 2010, Nigerian striker YakubuAyegbeni made headlines for the wrong reasons after a horror miss from barely a metre to the goal line. Nigeria desperately needed a win to stand any chance of progressing to the knockout phase after defeats to Argentina and Greece.
In this match, they trailed South Korea 1-2 and in the 66th minute, the moment of football madness came to life. Yakubu received the ball from a low cross that pierced through the South Korean defence including the goalkeeper. With seemingly no pressure from any defender and a simple tap-in inevitable, the then prolific Everton man fluffed his effort as he side footed it wide.
Check the incident below.
Even though he redeemed himself minutes later by converting a penalty to even the scores, Nigeria crashed out of the tournament in South Africa much to the dismay of the entire continent. He definitely would not like to see that again.
1. Nigeria rocks 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games on route to gold
Who can forget arguably the greatest moment in Nigerian football to date? On August 3, 1996, the epitome of Nigeria’s drive to conquer adversity during matches was shown when the side beat highly fancied Argentina 3-2 in the final to clinch the football gold medal.
This was the second pulsating match in succession for Nigeria as they also came from behind to beat Brazil 4-3 after trailing 2-3 with only two minutes of normal time left to play. Against Argentina, they came from a goal down twice to win. This victory would go down as one of the greatest spectacle in the Olympic Games’ history books.
The icing on the cake was that the tournament opened the doors for players who went on to make a name for themselves. They included: Celestine Babayaro, Sunday Oliseh, Nwankwo Kanu and the best player of their generation Jay Jay Okocha.