Playing for one’s country is always a good feeling, but winning a game or more importantly, winning a trophy is every player’s dream.
When a national team wins a vital game or a major trophy, it is not only for the team but also for millions of citizens of that particular country.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria have been involved in some memorable matches that gave Nigerians pure joy.
While there have been some bitter moments, they have also given Nigerians happy memories with their performances.
Soccernet takes a look at some moments in Super Eagles history that created happiness for a nation of over 180 million people.
Nigeria vs Zambia (AFCON 1994 Final): Football is the number one sport in Africa’s most populous country, but for all the talents Nigeria had, they had just one AFCON trophy to show for it which came on home soil in 1980.
However, that would change in 1994 as the Super Eagles won their second nations cup title. After defeating Ivory Coast in the semi-finals, they faced Zambia in the final.
Zambia had surprised many with their performances as their team was a new one having lost a whole team in a plane crash a year earlier.
For a moment, it looked like their emotional journey will end in a fairytale as Elijah Litana put them ahead in the third minute.
But there was no fairytale ending as a brace from Emmanuel Amuneke turned the tie around for Nigeria to win their second AFCON.
The 90s was the most successful period in Super Eagles history, which makes one wonders what could have been if they had not missed the 1996 and 1998 editions.
Nigeria vs Bulgaria (Debut Appearance At The World Cup): As stated earlier, the 90s was Nigeria’s most successful spell, and it only fits that it’s time they made their debut at the biggest stage.
The Super Eagles made their first World Cup appearance at the USA 94, and they could not have asked for a better start.
Clemens Westerhof side faced Bulgaria in their opening game, and it was a game they won with ease. Goals from Rashidi Yekini, Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amuneke sealed a 3-0 win.
Although they lost to Argentina in the second group match, they secured qualification for the second round with a win over Greece.
However, their journey ended with a disappointing loss to Italy. But despite their loss, they won fans hearts.
Dream Team Atlanta 1996, Olympic: Arguably the greatest moment in Nigeria’s sporting history. Following opening victories against Japan and Hungary, they lost to Brazil in the third group match.
But it did not matter as they already qualified for the quarter-final where they beat Mexico. The win set up a rematch against Brazil and what a match it was.
Brazil appeared to be cruising as they went 3-1 up thanks to goals from Flavio Conceicao brace and Bebeto’s strike after a Roberto Carlos own goal had drawn Nigeria level.
Victor Ikpeba reduced the deficit for Nigeria in the 78th minute. But there was to be more drama as Kanu’s strike in the final minute of added time sent the tie into extra-time.
Nigeria eventually went on to win the game in extra-time thanks to another Kanu strike. This moment is one of the best moments in Nigeria’s history.
The next time Nigerians probably celebrated like that was when Abacha died. Nigeria went on to become the first African side to win a gold medal in the football event of the Olympics, beating Argentina in the final.
Nigeria vs Cameroon (2004 AFCON Quarter-Finals): Cameroon are Nigeria’s long-standing nemesis, so when the two teams clashed once again at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigerians feared the worst.
The Indomitable Lions were the defending champions and were favourites going into the match. Samuel Eto’o put them ahead following a misjudgement from Isaac Okoronkwo.
However, Nigeria drew level right on half-time thanks to a superb free-kick from Austin Jay-Jay Okocha. John Utaka’s second-half finish ensured the Super Eagles gained one over their arch-rivals.
Although Nigeria lost the semi-final clash to Tunisia, there was a feeling of fulfilment after they beat Cameroon.
Nigeria vs Burkina Faso (AFCON 2013): Nigeria were unconvincing in the group stages of the 2013 AFCON, but they still managed to qualify for the quarter-finals where they faced Ivory Coast.
They were underdogs against the star-studded Elephants, but they managed to cause an upset than to a Sunday Mba deflected winner.
A comfortable win over Mali set up a final clash against Burkina Faso. And once again, Sunday Mba was the hero as his strike won the country her third African title.