Miracle of Dammam: How Nigeria overturned a 4-goal deficit 32 years ago in one of football’s greatest comebacks

Miracle of Dammam: How Nigeria overturned a 4-goal deficit 32 years ago in one of football’s greatest comebacks

Nigeria’s U20 side recorded one of the biggest comebacks in football at the FIFA U20 World Cup played hosted by Saudi Arabia in 1989.

It was the closest the Flying Eagles came to winning the tournament which was eventually won by Portugal.

However, there were unforgettable memories the Nigerian team left in the hearts of fans and in the history of the round leather game.

Nigeria qualified out of Group A ahead of Czechoslovakia and Saudi Arabia but were behind Portugal who topped the table.

Miracle of Dammam: How Nigeria overturned a 4-goal deficit 32 years ago in one of football's greatest comebacks

Nigeria overturned a 4-goal deficit 32 years ago against Russia in one of football’s greatest comebacks
Source: UGC

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The West Africans were seeded against the Soviet Union in the last eight in what would become the biggest comeback in football.

The entire first-half was dominated by the Soviet Union as they put two goals past the Nigerian side through Sergei Kiriakov and Bakhva Tedeev.

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Nigeria had to substitute their goalkeeper Angus Ikeji for Emeka Amadi but that did not stop the then USSR from scoring through World Cup legend Oleg Salenko and Kiriakov.

The comeback looked impossible and the morale of the Nigeria side even suffered more damages as the team were already thinking about packing their bags home the next day from Dammam.

Two minutes after Russia’s fourth goal, Christopher Ohenhen pulled one back from a long-range free-kick a minute after the hour mark.

Ohenhen even scored a better free-kick than the first from a longer range to make it 4-2 in the 75th minute.

There was a glimmer of hope from 10,000 fans at the Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium and supporters back home in Nigeria glued to their TV sets.

In the 83rd minute, Samuel Elijah’s shot was too hot to handle for the Russian goalkeeper as it became 4-3. The deficit was dramatically reduced to just one goal.

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Nduka Ugbade then sent fans into rapturous celebrations and he intelligently tipped a through ball above the goalkeeper.

It was 4-4 with five minutes left to play and the impossible had happened as the Nigerian side spectacularly did the unbelievable.

The match went into penalties as the Qosimov missed Russia’s third spot-kick after Salenko and Serhiy Bezhenar had converted the first-two.

Nigerian on the other hand were brewing with confidence as Ohenhe, Peter Ogaba and Mike Onyemachara scored their respective spot-kicks.

Oleg Benko and Mutiu Adepoju scored their fourth penalties before Samuel Elijah netted the winner in what would go down as an unforgettable moment in the history of football.

The Flying Eagles won 5-3 on penalties after coming from 4-0 down during regulation time.

Nigeria defeated the United States by 2-1 in the semis but lost 2-0 to eventual winners Portugal in the finals.

Adepoju, Ohenhen and Ugbade were the only players who graduated to play for the Super Eagles.

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Dimeji Lawal, Ohenhen and Adepoju’s performances at Saudi 89′ earned them a contract with Spanish giants Real Madrid, where they featured for their Team B.

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Meanwhile, Legit.ng had earlier reported that Pele’s legendary status in football is second to none and his influence in the round leather game has been unmatched until today.

The Brazilian icon once landed in Nigeria during the civil war and there was a ceasefire when Santos played two friendlies against the Super Eagles in 1969.

Santos pulled out of the Copa Libertadores – the South American version of the Champions League as they began a world tour.

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