The U-23 Eagles will be taking part in the second edition of the CAF U-23 Cup of Nations which kicks off in Senegal on Saturday 28 November. They will have to find their way out of a group that comprises Mali, Algeria and Egypt, before thinking of landing one of the tickets for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
At the maiden edition in Morocco in 2012, the U-23 Eagles could not make it out of the group stage. But they will hope to make amends this time around when hostilities commence in Senegal.
Ahead of their first game on Sunday against Mali, Completesportsnigeria.com's JAMES AGBEREBI takes a look at how Nigeria have managed to make it to the men's football event of the Olympic Games in the past…
1968, MEXICO CITY OLYMPIC GAMES
Nigeria's first ever appearance in the football event of the Olympic Games was in Mexico City in 1968. The likes of Peter Fregene, Paul Hamilton, Sebastine Broderick-Imasuen, Ganiyu Salami, Kenneth Olayombo and Augustine Ouokwu, became the first set of players to qualify Nigeria for the football event of the Olympics.
In the qualifiers for the games, Nigeria had a walkover against Uganda in the first round of Group 2. In the second round, they faced Sudan who they beat 1-0 in the first leg in Nigeria. The return leg saw Sudan win 2-1, but Nigeria progressed into the final round via a coin toss.
And in the final round of the qualifiers Nigeria took on Ethiopia and beat them 4-1 on aggregate: 3-1 in Nigeria and 1-0 in Addis Ababa.
1976, MONTREAL OLYMPIC GAMES
The qualifiers for the football event saw Nigeria walk over Cameroon in the first round. They also had a walkover against Mali in the second round. In the final round, Nigeria were drawn against Morocco who they beat 3-1 at home before losing 1-0 away to qualify 3-2 on aggregate.
Unfortunately, most sovereign African countries, including Nigeria, boycotted the Montreal Games when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would not support, as had other international sporting organizations, the banning from competition of those countries whose athletes had participated in sporting events in South Africa as long as Apartheid continued.
1980, MOSCOW OLYMPIC GAMES
Due to the American-led political boycott, which saw U.S. President Jimmy Carter refusing to send American teams to Moscow after the Soviets' Afghanistan invasion, six other countries that had qualified for the football tournament followed suit- Argentina, Egypt, Ghana, Iran, Malaysia and Norway. In their place, as invitees and not qualifiers, were Venezuela, Zambia, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Finland and Cuba.
1988, SEOUL OLYMPIC GAMES
After missing out of the football event of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Nigeria made a return four years later in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.
Nigeria took on Liberia in the first round of the qualifiers. They lost the first leg 2-1 in Monrovia but made amends when they triumphed 4-1 in the reverse fixture. Up next was Zimbabwe who they held 0-0 in Harare and beat 2-0 in Nigeria.
The final round saw Nigeria square off against Algeria and won 2-1 on aggregate. They overturned the 1-0 first leg away loss with a 2-0 home win to pick the ticket.
1996, ATLANTA OLYMPIC GAMES
Dubbed the 'Dream Team' which was made up of skipper Nwankwo Kanu, Daniel Amokachi, Austin Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Uche Okechukwu, Taribo West and Tijani Babangida, these players made history by becoming the first African team to win an Olympic football gold.
Before the history-making feat, they had to negotiate through some tricky ties during the qualifiers. They were paired against a less fancied Kenyan side who surprised them by forcing a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Lagos. In the return leg in Mombasa, Nigeria thrashed Kenya 3-0 to advance into the second round.
In the second round, Nigeria hosted Egypt in Lagos in the first leg and won 3-2. The second leg in Cairo saw both teams settle for a 1-1 draw.
Nigeria finally picked the ticket after they beat Zimbabwe 1-0 both home and away, to finish the tie 2-0 on aggregate.
2000, SYDNEY OLYMPIC GAMES
The qualifiers for the Sydney Olympic Games saw Nigeria face Namibia in the first round. In the first leg that was played in Lagos, Nigeria won 4-0 but lost the second leg in Windhock 3-2.
In the second round, Nigeria were grouped with Angola, Uganda and Zimbabwe, with the group winners picking a ticket to the Games.
Nigeria's first group game was a 2-0 win against Angola. Their suffered a 2-1 loss in their second group game to Zimbabwe in Harare. The double header against Uganda saw Nigeria win 3-2 in Kampala and 1-0 in Lagos.
Their next game was away to Angola which Nigeria lost 3-1. And in their final group game, Nigeria needed to beat Zimbabwe by four goals to stand a chance of qualifying, and that they did thanks to goals from Emmanuel Ebiede (brace) Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Pius Ikedia.
2008, BEIJING OLYMPIC GAMES
Nigeria were not part of the first round qualifiers for the football event of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. They eventually joined the fray when they took on Equatorial Guinea. They won the first leg 5-0 at home and progressed into the group stage despite losing the second leg 2-0.
The Nigerian team, then led by current coach Samson Siasia, were then grouped with Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa. Ethiopia were later suspended by FIFA for failing to comply with agreed steps to resolve the leadership dispute within its federation, following the dismissal of its president. With Ethiopia out of the race, Nigeria slugged it out with Ghana and South Africa.
Against Ghana in their first match in Abuja, they won 3-2, before holding South Africa 1-1 away. Following Ghana's home and away win against South Africa, Nigeria had to avoid defeat against Ghana away to stand a chance of picking the group's sole ticket. And after a grueling encounter, the game finished goalless and the last game against South in Abuja saw Nigeria finally picking the ticket thanks to a 3-0 win.
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