Football Features

What happened next? The Nigeria team that beat Argentina to win gold at the 1996 Olympics

By Squawka News

Published: 18:32, 27 August 2019 | Updated: 18:32, 27 August 2020

The Olympic Games are often overlooked from a football perspective, but the nations that have brought home the gold medal with definitely tell you that shouldn’t be the case.

It’s not as prestigious as the World Cup or Champions League, but the recognition that comes with the accolade within the sporting world is an achievement that any winner will treasure alongside even the biggest of achievements.

The U-23 tournament often gives us a glimpse of some stars of the future, who will be ready to progress to the senior national team in good time.

But the overage rule also means that we see some genuine superstars on show every four years. And that was certainly the case in 1996, as Nigeria played out a thriller of a final against Argentina.

Here, we take a look back at the players that started for both sides 20 years ago, and what has happened to them since.

Diego Simeone coming off the bench you say? Read on!

Nigeria

Joseph Dosu

Age: 47

Position: Goalkeeper

Currently: Coaching in Lagos

Dosu’s career started promisingly with his Olympic gold following on from a Nigerian cup win – performances that sealed him a move to Reggiana in Serie A.

However, he never made an appearance in Italy as his career was tragically ended by a car accident in 1997. He is currently coaching at an academy in Lagos.

Mobi Oparaku

Age: 43

Position: Centre-back

Currently: Retired (2010)

Oparaku spent the majority of his career in Belgium, which included a spell with Anderlecht.

He then played in the American lower leagues before returning to Nigeria in 2005, and then retiring in 2010.

Taribo West

Age: 46

Position: Centre-back

Currently: Retired

Derby County fans will remember West for his varied change of multi-coloured hairstyles, but the defender played for some illustrious clubs before his move to the Premier League.

He played alongside Ronaldo as his Inter side won the UEFA Cup in 1998, before making the move to cross-city rivals Milan.

He went on to make five appearances for Plymouth Argyle before retiring in 2008. He has since become a pastor.

Uche Okechukwu

Age: 52

Position: Centre-back

Currently: Retired

Okechukwu was a part of the squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations two years before the Olympic triumph and he was a stalwart at the heart of Fenerbahce’s backline for the best part of nine years.

In all he spent 13 years in Turkey, even going on to obtain citizenship in the country under the name Deniz Uygar.

Tijani Babangida

Age: 46

Position: Right midfield

Currently: Retired

A wide player with an impressive goalscoring record, Babangida — a Championship Manager 2001/02 legend — spent the best years of his career in Holland with Ajax where he was signed in 1996 by Louis van Gaal.

In his seven years in Amsterdam, he won the Dutch league once and the Dutch cup twice. He retired in 2004.

Sunday Oliseh

Age: 45

Position: Centre midfield

Currently: Management (most recently Fortuna Sittard)

Oliseh played for some huge clubs during his time in Europe, including Ajax, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund.

The defensive midfielder went on to become a coach, and he was appointed as Nigeria boss in 2015 but resigned less than a year later, citing a lack of support from the Nigerian FA.

Oliseh would go on to manage Fortuna Sittard in the Netherlands but was fired in February 2018, claiming he was axed because he refused to engage in illegal activities at the club.

Jay-Jay Okocha

Age: 47

Position: Centre midfield

Currently: Retired

So good they named him twice, Okocha lit up the Premier League during his time at Bolton Wanderers, where he spent time as captain and led them to the 2004 League Cup final. His pace and trickery made him a firm favourite in England.

Celestine Babayaro

Age: 42

Position: Left midfield

Currently: Retired

An attacking left-back by trade, Babayaro often featured higher up the pitch during his time at Chelsea, where he became famous for his acrobatic goal celebrations.

He went on to move to Newcastle after being deemed surplus to requirements by Jose Mourinho, he retired in 2010 after a very brief spell in MLS with LA Galaxy.

Victor Ikpeba

Age: 47

Position: Striker

Currently: Retired

A member of the impressive Monaco side managed by Jean Tigana, Ikpeba was a major part of the team that knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League in 1998.

He spent two years with Borussia Dortmund, followed by two short spells in Qatar before hanging up his boots.

Daniel Amokachi

Age: 47

Position: Striker

Currently: Retired

Amokachi failed to nail down a starting place during his time at Everton but he will be fondly remembered for scoring twice in the 1995 FA Cup semi-final against Spurs.

The Toffees went on to lift the trophy to provide Amokachi with his only piece of club silverware. He has since managed lower league Finnish club JS Hercules but was sacked in 2017.

Nwankwo Kanu

Age: 44

Position: Striker

Currently: Retired, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

Kanu’s Olympic gold compliments an impressive silverware collection, the striker having also won the Premier League, FA Cup, UEFA Cup and Champions League.

He is currently serving as an ambassador for UNICEF after retiring in 2012.

 

Substitutes: 

Current Kaduna United FC manager Garba Lawal replaced Okocha shortly before the hour mark, while Wilson Oruma — who went on to play for the likes of Nimes, Sochaux and Marseille in France — and Emmanuel Amunike also made the field. The latter scored the dramatic last-minute winner and left Sporting CP shortly after, going on to represent the likes of Barcelona and Albacete in Spain.

Argentina

Pablo Cavallero

Age: 46

Position: Goalkeeper

Currently: Retired

Cavallero spent most of his career in La Liga with Espanyol, Celta Vigo and Levante.

He was a regular for Argentina until the early 2000s, and he was beaten by David Beckham from the penalty spot in the 2002 World Cup.

Javier Zanetti

Age: 47

Position: Right-back

Currently: FIFA Ambassador

A superstar with superhuman levels of stamina, especially as he continued as a player at the top level until be was 40.

He spent 19 years at Inter after arriving from Argentina, lifting the treble in 2010. He is now a FIFA ambassador for the SOS Children’s Villages project in Argentina.

Roberto Ayala

Age: 47

Position: Centre back

Currently: Argentina national team assistant coach

Recognised as one of the best defenders in the world at his peak, Ayala defied his somewhat small frame by asserting himself as a dominant competitor in the air.

A regular in La Liga with Valencia for seven years, he retired at Racing Club in Argentina and went on to become their manager, and has since taken up a coaching position with the Argentina national team under Lionel Scaloni.

Roberto Sensini

Age: 53

Position: Centre back

Currently: Without a managerial job since leaving Atletico de Rafaela

A key member of Lazio’s all-conquering squad of superstars in the late 1990s, Sensini also enjoyed two trophy-laden spells at Parma.

He has managed several clubs including Udinese and Newell’s Old Boys, but he is without a job since leaving Atletico de Rafaela in 2015.

Jose Chamot

Age: 51

Position: Left-back

Currently: Retired

Another who spent a successful time in Italy, Chamot left Lazio before the silverware came rolling in but he did win the Champions League with Milan in 2003.

Christian Bassedas

Age: 47

Position: Centre midfield

Currently: Manager of UAI Urquiza

A stalwart at Velez Sarsfield for 10 years, he spent a short spell in the Premier League with Newcastle, although he was a never a regular.

He returned to Sarsfield as manager in 2015, and has since managed Boca Unidos, Olimpo and is presently in charge of UAI Urquiza.

Matias Almeyda

Age: 46

Position: Centre midfield

Currently: Manager of San Jose Earthquakes

Something of a journeyman, Almeyda never really settled and spent his career moving around Spain and Italy.

Now a manager, he previously took charge of River Plate and Banfield, before venturing to Guadalajara in Mexico. Currently, he is the manager of San Jose Earthquakes, where he deploys his unique open-play man-marking system.

Hugo Morales

Age: 46

Position: Centre midfield

Currently: Retired

Morales spent most of his career in his home country, aside from a three-year spell at Tenerife.

He made the last of his nine appearances for Argentina in 1996 and retired in 2008.

Ariel Ortega

Age: 46

Position: Attacking midfield

Currently: Retired

He might never have lived up to the comparisons to Diego Maradona, but Ortega was still a terrific attacking player, even though he just didn’t produce his best form in Europe.

He made his final Argentina appearance in 2010, after being selected for the squad by Maradona himself.

Claudio Lopez

Age: 46

Position: Striker

Currently: Retired

Lopez built up a lofty reputation and supported it with a healthy goalscoring record during his spell in Europe.

Valencia and Lazio saw his best before a move to MLS, where he retired with Colorado Rapids in 2010.

Hernan Crespo

Age: 45

Position: Striker

Currently: Manager of Defensa y Justicia

Crespo’s transfer to Lazio broke the world transfer record in 2000, and he lived up to expectations with impressive spells in Rome and then in Milan and London.

He is currently the manager of Defensa y Justicia following a spell in charge of Banfield.

Substitute:

Argentina only used one substitute in this match, but they certainly picked a good one! In the 58th minute, with La Albiceleste a goal to the good, Diego Simeone was introduced to the action in an effort to see the game out and deliver the gold medal.

Of course, it didn’t work out as Nigeria rallied to win 3-2 but that wasn’t to be a precursor to the rest of Simeone’s career, with the now-iconic Atletico Madrid manager going to pick up 106 caps for his country, over 500 appearances at club level and no fewer than 11 trophies, including Spanish and Italian league titles and the 1998 Uefa Cup with Inter.

 

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