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The Super Eagles of Nigeria Break the World Cup Jinx
Nigeria broke the World Cup jinx in 1994, when it finally qualified for the biggest football event on earth.
This was after several futile attempts, by the Green Eagles at the time to grab the elusive ticket. The closest attempt was in 1978, when an unfortunate own goal by defender Godwin Odiye in a qualifying match against Tunisia sent Nigeria crashing out of the race to represent Africa at the 1978 World Cup.
The team had previously secured a 0-0 draw against Cartage Eagles from Tunisia in Tunis, and all they needed was a win, to secure their first ever ticket. That was not to be, as they got the shock of their lives, when the reliable defender- Godwin Odiye, headed an own goal into his own net.
Subsequent attempts by the Eagles to qualify for the 1982 Monday dial hosted by Spain did not yield any positive result, as they were denied the lone ticket by the desert Warriors Algeria, who defeated the Green Eagles in their own backyard 2-0 and to cap it off with a 2-1 defeat away in Algiers, ending Nigeria’s World Cup dream.
In 1986, the National team once again failed to qualify for the Global fiesta, hosted by Mexico. They once again fell to the superior powers of North Africa. This time, the same Tunisians who denied the Eagles the precious ticket eight years ago, which caused a 2-0 defeat on the Green Eagles in Tunis once again, to put a stop to their ambition in the World Cup. The story was no different in 1990, as the Super Eagles suffered a serious blow, from close neighbors Cameroon.
Needing at least a draw in their last group game, the Super Eagles were beaten 1-0 by arch-rivals Cameroon. The Italia 1990 qualifier would be best remembered for claiming the life of Nigeria’s enterprising midfielder, Samuel Okwaraji, who died in the World Cup clash with Angola’s Palancas Negras on August 12th 1989 at the Lagos National stadium.
Nigeria eventually announced that it had reached the biggest stage of Football, the World Cup in 1994, when it reached the world cup for the first time, after many previous failed attempts. They began their journey to their first ever World Cup outing, with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana winning 4-0 in their first World Cup qualifier.
However, they narrowly lost 1-0 at the hands of Congo in their second World Cup qualifier. In the return leg of their encounter with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana tagged “the battle of Johannesburg”, the Eagles braved the high altitude to record an impressive goalless draw in front of a packed crowd at the Johannesburg Football City.
Nigeria progressed through to the group stage with an emphatic 2-0 win over Congo, in the final match of the first leg of the qualifiers.
Drawn in group A alongside Cote d’Ivoire and Algeria, Nigeria began their final World Cup outing on a shaky note, as they suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Cote d’Ivoire, in an away game, before restore some hope. of qualification with a resounding 4-1 defeat against Algeria. The floodgates of goals were opened by a certain Austin Okocha, who dazzled the Algerians with wonderful dribbling skills and capped his superb performance with a stunning goal scored from a free kick. Cote d’Ivoire were the next to fall, and they went home empty handed after suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the rampant Super Eagles.
It was a fairytale adventure, and one game stood between Nigeria and a World Cup ticket. In the battle of Algiers, the Senior National team needed either a Win or at least a draw to seal their World Cup ticket.
Before a vocal and hostile crowd in Algiers, the Super Eagles got the result they needed when Finidi George equalized for Nigeria after the Algerians took the lead, to force the Algerian Desert Warriors to a 1-1 draw.
It was a historic result, as Nigeria booked its ticket to appear at the World’s biggest football fiesta for the first time. Throughout Nigeria, there was celebration, and the whole country was united in its moment of ecstasy.
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