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The Amazing Story of the Nigeria Olympic Dream Team
The Dream Team one was coached by Dutchman Johannes Bonfrere and started their road to the finals with a 1-0 victory over Hungary and a 2-0 win against Japan before ending the first round with a 1-0 defeat to the impressive Brazilians. The Africans shut out Mexico, led by the eccentric goalkeeper Jorge Campos, 2-0, in the quarter-finals to make it a surprise match.
Losing in the semi-finals to a formidable Brazil team that boasted Bebeto, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, 3-1, Nigeria rallied in the 78th minute when Victor Ikpeba scored from 20 meters. As time was running out, the inspirational Captain Nwankwo Kanu took center stage, firing in front of the goal in the last minute to equalise. With three minutes of added time left, Kanu fired home the winner from 16 meters to complete one of the greatest comebacks in world football history in what many consider to be the greatest Olympic football game ever played.
The Dream Team later led the way in making a remarkable comeback against Argentina in the gold medal game in front of 86,117 spectators in Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. At the end of 90 minutes of entertaining football, Nigeria beat Argentina.
The Argentines took a 2-1 advantage on goals from Claudio Lopez’s third-minute header and Hernan Crespo’s 50th-minute penalty. A resilient Dream team came back strongly in the game and equalized in the 74th minute when striker Daniel Amokachi fired in the final goal. With a minute left, super substitute Emmanuel Amunike scored the winning goal to give Nigeria a 3-2 win.
It was an important day in the history of Nigerian football, as the world football team celebrated an unusual event with the African side.
Dream Team Two
With the success of Dream Team I in Atlanta 1996, the pressure was on Dream Team II to do well at the Olympic Games held in 2000 in the beautiful city of Sydney, Australia.
The team did not lack good players, as they did in their squad: Victor Agali, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Garba Lawal and Celestine Babayaro, but unfortunately, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals. In their first game, the second Dream team drew 3-3 with Honduras, before defeating Australia 3-2 in their second game. They drew 1-1 with Italy, to set up a thrilling quarter-final clash with Chile. It was an encounter that exposed the inadequacies of the second Dream team, as they were humiliated 4-1 by an inspired Chile side.
Nigeria Dream Team Three Dreams Never Last
The dream died in 2004, when the Nigerian Olympic football team then known as: The Dream team three, could not go through the African qualifiers. Tunisia qualified for Athens 2004 after losing the Nigerian Dream team three and a humiliating 2-0 defeat to Nigeria in the final in Tunis. The team that also represented the country at the 8th All African Games hosted by Nigeria fought until the end of the football match, but lost to Cameroon 2-0, at the current Abuja National stadium.
Dream Team Four-The Rebirth of Nigeria’s Olympic Team
The dream was rekindled in 2008, when a group of talented players who were children from the U-20 team that took silver medals at the World Youth Championship in Holland in 2005, invaded the city of Beijing, during the Olympic football tournament. Coach Samson Siasia, one of the best young coaches in Nigeria, led them to the Olympics. Joining heavyweights such as the Netherlands, Japan and the United States in Group B, the Dream team Four began their Olympic campaign with a sterile 0-0 draw with the Netherlands, before coming back to win 2-1. Japan. They confirmed their success in the group with another 2-1 victory over the United States. Ivory Coast fell to coach Samson Siasia’s coach in the quarterfinals, where they lost 2-0.
The semi-final saw the best outing of the Dream Four team, as they ran riot against a tough Belgian side who tried hard to stop the aggressive Nigerians. The match ended 4-1 in favor of Nigeria, and the death was also made in an exciting match between Nigeria and their great friend Argentina. It was a repeat of the 2005 U-20 World Cup held in Holland, as the players were still very young on both sides. Revenge was what the Nigerians were calling for, and they had a diminutive Lionel Messi to compete with in their quest to win the Olympic Football Gold for the second time since 1996. It was a close encounter that was decided by one goal conceded in the 58th minute. Play by Angel Di Maria from Argentina. The Dream Four team also had to play a second game against the famous Argentina team, where they lost the game 1-0.
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