Super Falcons: 5 times Nigeria suffered painful defeats in international tournaments

Nigerians have suffered heartbreaks at many international football tournaments in the past.

Super Falcons: 5 times Nigeria suffered painful defeats in international tournaments

Asukwo Oduo 08:32 - 10.08.2023

The Super Falcons defeat to England in the round of 16 clash yesterday left a bitter taste in the mouth of Nigerian football fans.

Nigeria’s Super Falcons despite being underdogs against European champions England, showed strength, character and resolve pushing the Lioness all the way to penalties.

Unfortunately, England were let off the hook. The Lioness emerged victorious with a 4-2 scoreline after an intense 120 minutes of football that ended in penalty shootouts.

Nigerian fans will undoubtedly be extremely proud of this crop of Super Falcons - one of the very best displays that a Nigerian team has put up on the world stage.     

The Super Falcons defenders were rock-solid at the back; Ayinde, Ucheibe, and Payne were all impressive in the middle of the pack - only the attacking third was the missing piece in this glorious team who bow out of the FIFA Women’s World Cup without losing a single game.

Sometimes football can be cruel with the better team on the day losing out. That being said, we now consider 5 times Nigerian teams have come agonisingly close to success and losing out by the tiniest of fine margins.

1. Nigeria Vs Italy (USA 94 World Cup)

Arguably Nigeria’s best-ever squad, coach Clemens Westerhof had put together a side that could stand up to any team in the world.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria were ranked 5th in the world by FIFA - this remains the highest-ever FIFA ranking any African team has achieved.

Nigeria thrashed Bulgaria 3-0 in her first appearance at the World Cup, then defeated Greece 2-0 before losing to Argentina 1-2.

After surviving a World Cup group that had Argentina legend Maradona, Italy waited in the second round. 

Emmanuel Amunike gave Nigeria the lead in the 26th minutes and it took until the 89th minute before Roberto Baggio levelled things for Italy, taking the game to extra-time.

An unfortunate handball by defender Austin Eguavon saw Roberto Baggio beat Peter Rufai in goal for Nigeria and send Nigeria out of the World Cup in a painful fashion.  

2. Nigeria 2 Vs Cameroon 2 (AFCON final 2000)

The Super Eagles of Nigeria that boasted the likes of Ike Shorunmu, Jay Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Sunday Oliseh, and Finidi George came close to winning the African Cup of Nations for the first time since 1994.

During the final of the tournament co-hosted by Ghana and Nigeria, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon were two goals up courtesy of Samuel Eto’o and Patrick Mboma strikes.

Coach Jo Bonfrere’s team scored two goals to draw Nigeria level and take the game to extra-time and penalties. 

Chukwu Ndukwe halved the deficit for Nigeria before half-time and then Jay Jay Okocha showed class where he scored a brilliant 25-yard volley to send fans at the Lagos stadium into frenzy.

However, after Kanu Nwankwo missed Nigeria’s third penalty, Victor Ikpeba who took Nigeria’s last kick put his hands on his head after the ball hit the cross bar, but replays shows the  ball did actually cross the line - sadly there was no VAR or goalline technology back then.

Rigobert Song stepped up and won the final for Cameroon. Till date, this remains one of the saddest days in Nigeria footballing history.

3. Nigeria 1 Argentina 2 (U20 World Cup Final 2005)

Nigerians would never forget in a hurry the night Lionel Messi put a dagger through the hearts of football fans in the country.

A promising Nigerian side that had the likes of John Mikel Obi, Promise Isaac, and Taye Taiwo wriggled their way into the final with the hopes of millions back home resting on their young shoulders.  

Argentina and Nigeria squared up in the FIFA U20 World Cup final. A Lionel Messi penalty had put the young Albiceleste in front before a flying header by Chiendu Obasi restored parity. 

Unfortunately for Nigeria, another penalty converted by Messi saw Argentina crowned champions of the U20 World Cup - a trophy that continues to elude the West African giants.

4. Nigeria 0 Argentina 1 (2008 Beijing Olympic Games)

The Dream Team (Nigeria’s U23 side) were back at the Olympic Games in Beijing China, after mising out on the Athens Greece 2004 edition.

Coach Samson Siasia led side found a familiar and formidable opponent in Argentina again. 

This time around, it took a Lionel Messi assist for compatriot Angel Di Maria to break Nigerian hearts once again. 

Nigeria tried to find a way back into the game but Di Maria’s goal in the 58th minute was sufficient for Argentina to go home with the gold medal.  

5. Nigeria 0 Switzerland 1 (FIFA U17 Final 2009)

At the FIFA U17 World Cup held in Nigeria, the Golden Eaglets were overwhelming favourites after dismantling many teams on their way to the final. 

On home soil, Nigeria faced debutants Switzerland, playing in their first-ever final in 2009. The likes of Ramon Azeez, and Stanley Okoro (nicknamed ‘Little Messi’) were ready to feast on the young boys from Switzerland.

Nigeria’s coach John Obuh decided to tinker his squad a little bit - starting Sani Emmanuel who had made a reputation for himself as the ultimate supersub in the tournament - a decison that later backfired.

The Swiss team, though hugely underrated had Granit Xhaka and Ricardo Rodriguez in their ranks and they expertly nullified the threats by Sani Emmanuel and Stanley Okoro.

Then the unexpected happened, against the run of play, Switzerland countered and Haris Seferovic found the back of the net - sending a shock and graveyard silence through the Abuja stadium.

Nigeria did huff and puff but found no way past the impregnable Switzerland defence. Again, Nigerian were left heartbroken in a tournament they were clear favourites to win.