From collapse to triumph: how Nigeria won gold at the Atlanta Olympics

Atlanta Olympics

1994 was so long ago. The Nigerians left the United States as heroes with worldwide recognition. Now they have returned to the American continent, although they have not been remembered for a long time.

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In 1996, Nigeria, like everyone else, had no idea how to stop Ronaldo. He just calmly passed through any defenders, leaving even the best out of work. He was not just a striker, he covered the entire front line, doing the job in several. Stop, or was it … Ronaldinho?

With Ronaldo Guiaro already on the team, the Barcelona newcomer changed his name to Ronaldinho. He single-handedly tore apart the Hungarians’ defenses and set to work on the “super-eagles”. In the 30th minute, 21-year-old Sunday Olise tried to stop the Brazilian genius, but he would leave him on the ground with just one movement, after which he would score another goal.

Against the background of the Selesao, the Africans looked weak. It was hard to be a protector that day. Finally the Olympics came, but the Nigerians were somehow sad.

The whole world turned its gaze to the Brazilians, who, it seemed, were guaranteed to take gold – both in the women’s and men’s categories. They also talked about talented Argentines and Portuguese. Nigeria? Nobody thought about her. They discussed only how poor they were, that they did not even have money for transport – they had to buy a bus ticket with their own money. The hotel refused to wash the team’s jerseys because of the “AIDS stories.”

Gradually, Nigeria began to gain momentum. There were many young talents and future captains in the squad. This was a true golden generation even before the term became popular. JJ Okocha, Taribo West, Celestine Babayaro, Sunday Olise and Nwankwo Kanu – why not stars? And even if the Mexicans had Cuautemoc Blanco, what could they show against such a Nigeria?

In the final, the Nigerians, who were already heroes, were awaited by Argentina – with Diego Simeone in midfield. In general, this is a surprisingly principled rival for the “eagles” who have fought with them at four world championships since 1994.

In the final, everything was repeated. An early conceded goal, a goal by Babayaro, and then a penalty kick by Hernan Crespo. And again, the coach turned to the substitutes and released Wilson Oruma and Emmanuel Amunike on the field. And now, 16 minutes before the final whistle, Daniel Amokachi scores a goal, throwing the ball over Pablo Cavaliero. This was the second time Argentina had missed an advantage, and fatigue was evident in their game. In the 90th minute, Amunike earned a free kick and scored the winning goal. Argentines began to protest even before the round flew into the net, but history was already written – Nigeria won their gold.


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