NIGERIA became the first African side to win the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in 1996 with their fabled ‘Dream Team’. A side that included Celestine Babayaro, Taribo West, Nwankwo Kanu, Jay Jay Okocha and Sunday Oliseh defied the odds in Athens, Georgia thanks to dramatic late winners; Kanu grabbed a golden goal in their semi-final against Brazil while Emmanuel Amuneke fired the decisive strike in the 90th minute of the gold medal match against Argentina. The Albiceleste would have their revenge in 2008 though, with a Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria-inspired side consigning the latest incarnation of the ‘Dream Team’ to silver in their sixth, and most recent, Olympics appearance.
THE ROAD TO RIO
The 1996 winners entered qualification for the CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations at the final play-off stage, where they defeated Congo 2-1 over two legs, with Junior Ajayi grabbing both of the goals for ‘Dream Team VI’. In the tournament proper, they finished second in Group B on goal difference behind fellow Olympians Algeria, courtesy of an Ajayi-inspired victory against Mali and draws against Egypt and Les Verts. A single Etebo Oghenekaro strike saw off the finals hosts Senegal in the semi-final to book their tickets to Rio, and finished the tournament in style by defeating Algeria 2-1 in the final.
Nwankwo Kanu, Jay Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh (1996), Victor Obinna, Peter Odemwingie and Victor Anichebe (2008).
10 – No African side has won more Men’s Olympic Football Tournament games than Nigeria. Despite Egypt also winning ten matches, they have done so in 32 attempts to the Super Eagles’ 25.