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Flying Eagles of Nigeria Create Football History at Saudi Arabia 1989
At the 1989 World Youth Championship held in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria took the Silver medal, defeating the USSR in the most successful match in the history of the FIFA U-20 Championship.
The Flying Eagles’ first game was against the host nation, and they defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 with Midfielder Mutiu Adepoju and Striker Christopher Ohhenn scoring two crucial goals for Nigeria. The next match was against Portugal, and it was against Coach Tunde Disu’s leadership of the Boys, who lost 1-0 to a strong Portuguese team. The Flying Eagles qualified for the quarterfinals after a 1-1 draw against Czechoslovakia in their last game. Christopher Ohenhen saved a point for Nigeria by scoring the decisive goal in the 72nd minute of the match.
The quarterfinals saw the Flying Eagles paired with the USSR.
The game was played in Dammam, and was later called the “miracle of Dammam”.
It was a game that saw Nigeria take a 4-0 lead with minutes to go in the quarter-finals. USSR legend Oleg Salenko was among the scorers in the memorable game. In the 30th minute, Nigeria fought back to tie the game at 4-4 and send the game to penalties. The comeback was started by star player- Christopher Ohenhen who scored in the 61st and 75th minutes to bring the majority to 4-2 with 15 minutes of play left in regulation time. Samuel Elijah, later known as “Prophet” Samuel Elijah scored in the 83rd minute of the game to reduce the score to 4-3, before inspirational captain Nduka Ugbade made it 4-4 with a stunning goal in the 84th minute. The Russians were more surprised than they thought. The game had to go to penalties after 90 minutes, and the Nigerians won 5-3, after Mirdjalal Kasimov missed his shot to tie the game. It was the biggest comeback in the history of world football until today.
In the semi finals, the Flying Eagles defeated the USA 2-1 after the game had to go to extra time with the game tied at 1-1 in regulation time. Mutiu Adepoju who later became an integral part of Nigeria’s Super Eagles scored all the goals that knocked the USA out of the tournament. USA’s goal on a memorable day, was goalkeeper Kasey Keller who later became a household name in international soccer.
It was a tired looking Flying Eagles team that made it to the Final of the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship, after playing two consecutive games that went to penalty shootouts. That proved to be the case, as the Flying Eagles lost 2-0 to Portugal, who beat them 1-0 in the group stage.
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