Today marks 27-years since Nigeria won Gold in the football event of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics games following a 3-2 win over Argentina.
The History book will always open for celebration that historic night of August 3, 1996 when the Kanu Nwankwo skippered Nigeria Dream team stunned the World to win Africa’s first-ever Olympics football gold medal.
After a dramatic comeback win over Brazil in the semi-final, the Jo Bonfere tutored Nigeria U-23 team faced star-studded Argentina in the final match.
Nigeria’s opposition in the gold medal match boasted of talented players such as Hernan Crespo, Claudio Lopez, and Ariel Ortega, but the Dream team had its own stars and so had no reason to fear.
In the final, Argentina and Nigeria scored headed goals in the 3rd and 28th minute , respectively to set foundation for a goal-feast.
Lopez scored first in the third minute for Argentina but Nigeria pulled level through Celestine Babayaro.
Argentina again scored to lead 2-1 but Daniel Amoakachi drew Nigeria level, showing great skill to force a 2-2 score.
With the score ticking towards the final minutes, Nigeria’s Emmanuel Amunike delivered the decisive blow to hand the Dream team Gold in Atlanta as it ended 3-2.
Undoubtedly, the Nigeria squad for the Atlanta 1996 Olympic football competition remains one of the very best teams the country has ever produced. Some Super Eagles squads in recent times are not even as good as this age-grade team.
The ‘Dream Team’ – as they were nicknamed back then – brought suspense to the 1996 Olympic, coming twice from behind to defeat Brazil with a 4-3 scoreline in the dying seconds of the semi-final after trailing 3-1 and beating Argentina 3-2 in the final.
1996 Olympics football final
Nigeria vs Argentina 1996 line up
Goalkeeper: Joseph Dosu
Defender: Mobi Obaraku
Defender: Uche Okechukwu
Defender/Centre back: Taribo West
Defender/Left back: Celestine Babayaro
Midfielder: Jay Jay Okocha
Midfielder: Sunday Oliseh
Forward: Daniel Amokachi
Forward: Tijana Babangida
Forward: Victor Ikpeba
Forward: Nwankwo Kanu
Garba Lawal IN – Jay Jay Okocha OUT in the 59th minute
Wilson Oruma IN – Mobi Obaraku OUT in the 61st minute
Emmanuel Amunike IN – Victor Ikpeba OUT in the 72nd minute
NIGERIA AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES – 27 YEARS ON
For a second straight edition, Nigeria will be missing at the Olympic games male football event after the Coach Salisu Yusuf tutored U-23 Eagles fell short vs Guinea.
Nigeria missed the Olympics in Tokyo and again will be absent at the gathering in Paris.
27-years on, Nigeria has slipped from winning Gold to struggling with qualification.
THE 1996 DREAM TEAM HONOURS ROLL
1. Emmanuel Babayaro, GK. 26th December, 1976 (19years), Plateau United, Nigeria.
2. Celestine Babayaro, DF. 29th August, 1978 (17years), Anderlecht, Belgium.
3. Taribo West, DF. 26th March, 1974 (22years), Auxerre, France.
4. Nwankwo Kanu, FW. 1st August, 1976 (19years), Ajax, Netherlands.
5. Uche Okechukwu, DF. 27th September, 1967 (28years), Fenerbahce, Turkey.
6. Emmanuel Amuneke, MF. 25th December, 1970 (25years), Sporting Lisbon Portugal.
7. Tijani Babangida, MF. 25th December, 1973 (22years), Roda, Netherlands.
8. Wilson Oruma, MF. 30th December, 1976 (19years), Lens, France.
9. Teslim Fatusi, MF. 17th September, 1977 (18years), Ferencváros, Hungary.
10. Jay-Jay Okocha, MF. 14th August, 1973 (22years), Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany.
11. Victor Ikpeba, FW. 12th June, 1973 (23years), AS. Monaco, France.
12. Abiodun Obafemi, DF. 25th December, 1973 (22years), Toulouse, France.
13. Garba Lawal, FW. 22nd May, 1974 (22years), Esperance, Tunisia.
14. Daniel Amokachi, FW. 30th December, 1972 (23years), Everton, England.
15. Sunday Oliseh, MF. 1st September, 1974 (21years), FC Kölñ, Germany.
16. Kingsley Obiekwu, DF. 12th November, 1974 (21years), Go Ahead Eagles, Netherlands.
17. Mobi Oparaku, DF. 1st December, 1976 (19years), Anderlecht, Belgium.
18. Dosu Joseph, GK. 19th June, 1977 (19years), Julius Berger, Nigeria.