Football remains one of the sports that cannot be easily predicted until the final whistle as the pendulum can easily be swing.
From time immemorial, there have been some great comebacks in football when the winning teams had thought they have wrapped it up only to be shocked at the eleventh hour.
One of the greatest comebacks in football that got the whole world believing it is not finished until the last whistle in football was in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool where the Reds were trailing 3-0 in the first half.
Liverpool went on to equalize through Xabi Alonso that fateful night in the 60th minute before dragging the game to a penalty shootout, and then going on to defeat the star-studded Italian team. That was 13 years ago. Football have seen even more dramatic comebacks since then.
The 2018 AITEO Cup final between Kano Pillars and Rangers International at the Stephen Keshi stadium is one of such memorable occasions. On Wednesday, another epoch was added to the country’s ever rising list of great comebacks as two club sides in the Nigerian game slugged it out in the finals of the FA Cup, now the AITEO Federations Cup.
Pillars had raced in front scoring two goals in the first half before adding the third goal in the second half. But when it looked like they were cruising to a unique first win of the title, Rangers suddenly woke up to the game, scoring three goals in 15 minutes to cancel out the earlier three they conceded to stretch the game to a penalty shootout.
The Flying Antelopes would then climax their historic rally to win the shootout lottery 4-2.
Hotsportstv.com takes a look at some greatest comebacks in the history of Nigerian football.
SAUDI ‘89 FIFA WORLD YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
The history of comebacks in Nigerian football is not complete without glorious reference to Nigeria’s first major comeback that shocked the world; the ‘Miracle of Damman’ as it was known.
Nigeria went to the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship hosted by Saudi Arabia. In the quarter-final game they were trailing 4-0 at the Prince Mohamed Bin Fahd Stadium to the defunct Soviet Union who scored four goals within 58 minutes through Kiriakov who scored a brace in the 30th minute and 58th minute as Tedeev and Salenko were also on the scoresheet in the 45th and 46th minute respectively .
With such a heavy scoreline, the Soviets thought they had wrapped up the game, but it would all look like a bad dream as Nigeria’s U-20 team, the Flying Eagles ignited what would turn out an amazing comeback.
Christopher Ohenhen scored two free kicks in the 61st and 75th minute, while Samuel Elijah reduced the deficit to one in the 83rd minute before Nduka Ugbade completed the dramatic rally in the 84th minute
Nigeria went on to win 5-3 in the penalty shootout as they finished second losing to Portugal in the final. That game announced Nigeria as a football power in the world
ATLANTA ‘96 CENTENNIAL OLYMPICS
The heroics of Nigeria’s U-23 team, otherwise known as the Dream Team to the centennial Olympics at Atlanta in 1996 will forever remain indelible in the memories of most Nigerians.
The Dream team, en route to winning the gold medal, put up a great comeback to edge past favourite, Brazil in the semi-final at the Sanford Stadium, Athens.
Brazil in that fateful game scored the first goal in the very first minute of the match through Flavio Conceicao before Roberto Carlos diverted the ball into his own net in the 20th minute to gift Nigeria with the equalizer.
However, Bebeto restored the Samba Boys lead in the 28th before Flavio Conceicao extended the lead to 3-1 in the 38th minute and were dominating possession with the game looking already won by Brazil.
With 15 minutes left to play, Nigeria began their comeback as Victor Ikpeba scored in the 78th minute to bring the scoreline to 3-2 before Kanu Nwankwo equalized on the dot of 90 minutes and went on to score the winning goal in the 94th minute as the golden goal rule was in used then. The team went on to defeat Argentina in the final.
SOUTH AFRICA 2014
Nigeria shocked Morocco again in another comeback at the 2004 African Nations Championship hosted by South Africa 2014
The Atlas Lions of Morocco in the first half of the game scored 3-0 and were certain of a victory against the CHAN Eagles team led by the late Stephen Keshi.
The Never- say – die attitude of Nigerian players spurred them to overturn the 3-0 deficit to 3-3 and drag the game to extra-time.
The Eagles went on to win the game 4-3 in the extra time as Nigerians dubbed it another Damman Miracle.