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NIGERIA’S NATIONAL TEAMS OF ALL TIME: The Most Popular, The Most Impressive and The Most Disappointing

Nigerian football supporters give it to you just the way it is. No patriotism! No fanaticism! If the national team is playing well and keep winning, it gets all the applause, “eh, eh, eh!” and become popular among fans. But if the team is fumbling, there’s no mincing words, the same supporters will boo them.

Over the years, we’ve had a mixed quality of performances from our national teams, both  the men and the women at all level – under 16, under 21, under 23 and the senior teams. Few of them were quite popular with fans, some impressive, but we’ve had a whole lot that were very disappointing all together.

It may be a matter for argument, but we still want to know your own opinion. So which Nigeria’s national team is so popular among fans and which set was so disappointing?

I have my own personal opinion on the matter, but I had made more objective selections after my interview with some fans around the country. I admit you may have a different opinion all together and we’ll like to have your comment below.

 Nigeria’s Most Popular National Team:
Atlanta 96 Olympic men soccer team called “Dream Team” is Nigeria’s most popular national team.

Fans say the team became so popular after it defeated the star studded Brazilian national team comprising of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Bebeto… at the semi finals and went on to win Gold Medals of the men soccer event.

The team managed by the Dutch tactician, Bonfrere Jo, had some very skillful players including: Sunday Oliseh, Uche Okechukwu, Daniel Amokachie, Austin Okocha… who were ready to give their all in the game.

It was indeed a miracle! Perhaps, no one including the players themselves, gave the team a chance against Brazil, But Nwankwo Kanu’s golden goal settled it all, after Nigeria came from 1 – 3 behind, to win the game 4 – 3.

Nigerian fans went wild in celebration of the semi finals victory for several weeks. The motivation was so high that it was almost like a work over when the Dream team also defeated Argentina to clinch the gold medal at the finals

Nigeria’s Most Impressive National Team:
There were unresolved arguments among the fans I interviewed.

Some say the 1980 Green Eagles team that won the Cup of African Nations, with star players like Christian Chukwu, Segun Odegbami, Muda Lawal, Emmanuel Okala and the famous Brazilian coach, Otto Gloria, was the most impressive. While others were of the view that the 1994 Super Eagles team was better. It won both African cup of Nations and had a very impressive performance at USA 94 FIFA World cup, which was the first time Nigeria participated.

In  my own verdict, I should say, for qualifying Nigeria for the world cup for the first time, the 94 Super Eagles team have a slit edge over the 80 Green Eagles.

The 94 team was led by the Dutch technical adviser, Clemence Westerhof and some very enterprising players: Stephen Keshi, Uche Okechukwu, Rashidi Yekini, Finidi George, Thompson Oliha, Emmanuel Amunike… It may be difficult to erase in the memory of Nigerians how the 94 team held Italy down for 72 minutes in  a world cup game and the whole world were watching spellbound for a possible upset.

 Nigeria’s Most Disappointing National team:
Nigeria have had a lot of disappointing teams in the past. You may recall when the senior national team was derogatory called “Papa Eagles” for spate of poor performances. When James Peters’ (U23) Wingless Eagles or Fammy Amu’s fumbling and wombling (U21) Eagles.

Perhaps, 80 Green Eagles also recorded one of the most disappointing moments in Nigeria football history, when Godwin Odiye’ flip back header scored an own goal in dying minutes of the last qualifier match for 1982 world cup against Tunisia. The whole country went into mourning.

But my most disappointing team is the 1987 Flying Eagles, with such great players as Etim Esin, Willy Okpara, Ladi Babalola, Adeola Adekola, Peter Nekien… The team so raised the hope of Nigerian fans as it squashed all opponents in Africa by wide margins: 6 – 1, 5 – 0, 4 – 2, 3 – 0… during the qualifiers for World Youth Championships (WYC).

The world media so hyped the team that I as a young supporter then, believed no team in world can beat the flying Eagles. But not only were they beaten by Brazil 4 – 0, but the team lost steam and fumbled all the way out of the group stage of WYC. Nigerians were so – so disappointed.

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