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THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Nigeria’s ‘Dream Team’ terminates European domination of Men’s football at the Olympics

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

On this date, 3 August 1996, the Nigeria men’s football team beat Argentina 2-1 to win the Olympic Games gold medal and became  the first non-European team to win in 68 years.

It was a milestone in the football event of the Olympic Games. Since the 1928 Olympics in Antwerp, European teams had won all the football gold medals until Nigeria broke the trend.

Significantly, since Nigeria’s feat and 27 years down the line, no European team has been able to win the gold. Perhaps also significantly, when Nigeria won the bronze medal at the Rio 2016, the country became the first to win all available medals – gold (1996), silver (2008) and bronze medals in the football event.

The feat was later matched by Brazil, which had won the bronze in 2008, silver in 2012 and gold in 2016.

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The sports magic by Nigeria was first noticed in a memorable semi-final clash against star-studded Brazil when the Nigerian lads came from behind to beat the South Americans with a golden goal in the extra time.

It was at that encounter that an apparent jinx was finally broken. Before the July 30, 1996, Olympic Games semi-final match, no Nigerian team had ever beaten a Brazilian squad in an official FIFA match

Again in the final match before a crowd of 86,116 spectators at the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, and against another South American side, Argentina, the Nigerian team came from 2-1 down to win 3-2.  Emmanuel Amuneke scored the winner in the second-to-last minute, earning Africa its first Olympic gold medal in soccer.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

Olympics

Paris ready for the Games, says Organising Committee

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With the Olympic Games Paris 2024 set to kick off formally with the opening ceremony on Friday night in the French capital city, President of the Organising Committee, Tony Estanguet, announced on Sunday that the city was “ready” for the Games as he played down complaints from some residents and businesses about the impact of the event.

“We are ready as we head into the final phase,” Estanguet told a press conference in Paris on Sunday, five days from the opening parade on Friday.

He added: “For as long as the closing ceremony hasn’t finished, we need to remain vigilant. But today we are exactly where we would have dreamed of being a few years ago.”

Finishing touches are being applied to the venues across the City of Light and thousands of athletes and officials are pouring in, while the weather has also brightened up after months of rain.

In a further boost for organisers, the water quality of the river Seine – which is set to be used for outdoor Olympic swimming events – has also improved dramatically since the start of July.

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“All the indicators for the Seine are positive at this stage,” Estanguet added.

The river is set to host the opening ceremony next Friday which will see 6 000-7 000 athletes sail down it on 85 barges and boats.

It will be the first time a Summer Olympics has opened outside the main athletics stadium, with up to 300,000 ticketed spectators set to watch from stands and on the river banks and another 200,000 expected to watch from the overlooking apartments.

Around 4,000 tickets are still available, Estanguet said.

“We’ve always tried to maintain as high a level of ambition as possible so that these Games make France shine,” Estanguet added.

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The vast security operation required for the opening ceremony is causing some friction, however, with large parts of central Paris along the banks of the river and around Olympic venues off-limits for most people.

Trade groups representing Paris shops, restaurants, bars and clubs complained on Friday that they were facing an “unprecedented slump in business and footfall”, blaming the “heavy security measures” in part.

“We were always a choice made in full conscience that the success of Paris 2024 would mean having the Games in the city,” Estanguet explained. “That was the completely unprecedented concept for Paris 2024.”

Around 45,000 members of the French security forces are set to be on duty on Friday evening when the Olympics kick off at 7:30 pm (1730 GMT).

“Security was the No. 1 priority for Paris 2024,” Estanguet stressed.

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Brazilian women train in Zidane’s birthplace ahead of Nigeria Super Falcons clash

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National team players train at Chaban Delmas, in Bordeaux Credits: Rafael Ribeiro / CBF

Ahead of their clash on Thursday with Nigeria’s Super Falcons, the Brazilian Women’s National Team trained on Sunday in Bordeaux.

It was their  third field activity since arriving in France.  Their training session is being held at a stadium  that symbolizes a lot for world football.

It was precisely at the Chaban Delmas Stadium that Brazil won two games and drew another in the 1938 World Cup, in front of a crowd that in all three matches was enchanted by the football of Leônidas da Silva, the competition’s top scorer, with seven goals.

The Chaban Delmas Stadium, where Brazil women’s team is training, is used for two sports: football and rugby
Credits: Rafael Ribeiro / CBF

The arena was also used in the 1998 World Cup. The Chaban Delmas is also famous for having introduced Zinédine Zidane to the international scene. He played for Bordeaux after being traded to Cannes and had not yet attracted much attention.

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Little by little, between 1992 and 1996, years in which Bordeaux were doing very well, Zidane began to make his mark with his goals and stylish plays. His team always played at Chaban Delmas, which until 2001 was called Parc Lescure.

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Guinea Olympic team beat Argentina in friendly duel

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Africa’s fourth team at the men’s football event of the Paris 2024, Guinea has beaten former Olympic gold and silver medallists, Argentina 1-0 in a friendly match at the weekend. Argentina, winners over Nigeria in 2008 and silver medallists in 1996 will feature in Group B alongside Morocco, Iraq and Ukraine.

Mohamed Soumah scored the winning goal for Guinea in the 72nd minute. Nicolás Otamendi’s teammates in Argentina tried to come back to the score but the Guineans held on until the end of the match.

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