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Thursday, 22 February 2024 19:00

Cote d’Ivoire victory at AFCON final similar to Nigeria’s experience in 1980 – Odegbami

Nigerian football legend, Chief Segun Odegbami, has said how the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire defeated the Super Eagles of Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations final on February 11, was similar to how the national team won the edition in 1980.

 

The ex-international said the Super Eagles were overpowered in the final for playing in an inspiring and electrifying atmosphere favourable to the Ivorian team as they hosted the tournament, which was similar to what happened to the then Green Eagles when Nigeria hosted and won in 1980.

Odegbami said this in a recent exclusive interview with Vanguard in Lagos, while providing insights into the performance of Jose Peseiro’s side that clinched silver medals at AFCON 2023.

The former Nigerian footballer said the Green Eagles beat the Algerian team at the final of the 1980 because the stadium was filled with 100,000 Nigerians including late President Shehu Shagari, making the atmosphere an inspiring one to win.

Nigeria beat Algeria 3 – 0 in the 1980 AFCON final as Odegbami got a brace while the third goal came from late Muda Lawal.

He likened the same to the trajectory of the Ivorians in the just concluded biggest African football showpiece where the Elephants were more inspired.

Odegbami said, “And when it even came to our turn, you don’t go to the finals like that against a team that was that inspired. You know, I was a witness to the 1980 Cup of Nations. We were not the best team in that Championship. 

“We got to the final against Algeria that were easily the best team, they were the better team between the two at the final. But we were supported by 100,000 Nigerians on that field. There was no single Algerian supporter and the kind of support we received was unprecedented. Our president was sitting there and so on. 

“The atmosphere was intimidating, it was electrifying, it was positive for us. It was negative for the Algerians. And we did what we could not ordinarily do. We scored goals we could not ordinarily score. And we won, and we are still celebrating it today.” 

 

Comparing the latest edition to what favoured Nigeria 44 years ago, Odegbami said, “And that was exactly what happened to the Ivorians. They were inspired, they were lifted and we were intimidated, dispirited, and so on.”

The 71-year-old commended the federal government for massive rewards given to the players, saying they were rewards for lifting the spirit of the country at a very difficult time. 

He said, “It happened like that and I believe that’s why the government rewarded the situation, that they did their best and went beyond expectations. They lifted the spirit of the country. Nigeria had never supported a team the way they supported this team, even though at the start, people did not have an interest. 

“But getting to the final, every Nigerian all over the world was interested in that match and seeing the national team play. It unified Nigerians. We were going through some of the worst times in our history. Then you can imagine the hardship that people are going through – the political turmoil, the economic turmoil, the social turmoil and yet there was something the whole country wanted to celebrate. 

“It was something that lifted us out of that low morale, and that was the football matches going on in Cote d’Ivoire. So, it attracted unprecedented interest and that was what the federal government rewarded. I will see it as the positive not as a negative. I won’t lament anything. We might not have been perfect.”

[Vanguard] 
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