BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
This Wednesday in Aba, Nigeria’s Enyimba have a Herculean task as they attempt to cross into the group stage of the CAF Champions’ League. Their 3-0 to Sudan’s Al Merrikh in the first leg match nearly two weeks ago has imposed a daunting task for the Nigerian side in the quest of getting to the group stage.
Failure will mean their dropping into the second tier competition, the CAF Confederation Cup. The 3-0 loss is one of the worst results that Enyimba ever recorded in the continent.
Last year, rival Sudanese club, Al Hilal also eliminated Enyimba at the same stage of the Champions League. Will affliction arise a second time for Enyimba?
Perhaps a dig into history could help Enyimba believe they can surmount the huge obstacle that Al Merrikh are posing. Sports Village Square presents some come-back moments Enyimba can draw inspiration from.
- 2020: Nigeria 4-4 Sierra Leone
This Africa Cup of Nation qualifying match played some weeks ago is enough to inspire Enyimba that it is not over until it is over. Even before the kick-off the overwhelming favourite to win were the Super Eagles on account of historical antecedents and comparative strength.
Things appear to be according to prediction as within 30 minutes, the Super Eagles were four goals up. But a determined Leone Stars side overcame the deficit and drew 4-4 to record one of the most amazing comeback stories in Africa.
- 1979: Mufulira Wanderers (Zambia) 4-0 Simba (Tanzania); Simba 5-0 Mufulira
This is easily the biggest comeback in Africa’s inter club competition. Dating back to 41 years, the assumption for the Tanzanian side was that the game was over.
But within two weeks, they stepped up their preparations and not only reversed the result; they assailed it by a goal, winning 5-0 after a 4-0 loss away. Considerably, Enyimba have a lesser task to that of Simba.
- 1975: Mehalla (Egypt) 3-1 Enugu Rangers; Rangers 3-0 Mehalla
When the now decimated Ghazil El-Mehalla beat Enugu Rangers 3-1 in the first leg semi final match of the then Africa Cup of Champions Club, it was enough to write the Nigerian team off.
It was their biggest loss in the continent. But in the return leg match on 24 October 1975, Rangers did what was considered a impossible task, beating the Egyptians 3-0 in Enugu. If Rangers can, then Enyimba can also do it.
- 1976: Zamalek 2-0 IICC; IICC 2-0 (5-3pso) Zamalek
All hope seemed loss when the then medium power Nigerian club fell 0-2 to Egyptian giants, Zamalek in the first leg of the semi finals of the 1976 Cup Winners Cup.
IICC despite being unable to score a goal in the preceding 75 minutes, the two-goal deficit was cancelled in the last 15 minutes and IICC went ahead via 5-3 penalty shootout.
- 1984: IICC 4-0 Tonerre (Cameroon); Tonerre 4-0 (4-5pso) IICC
Sports Village Square recalls that this episode presented a even more daunting episode for the Cameroonian side than Enyimba are currently experiencing. Both IICC and Tonerre Kalara met in the 1976 African Winners Cup final in which the Roger Milla-inspired Cameroonians were the defending champions.
In the second round of the CAF Champions Cup, IICC won 4-0 in Ibadan. The Cameroonians reversed the result two weeks later but fell via penalty shootout.
- 1984/1985: Cameroon 3-0 Nigeria; Nigeria 5-1 Cameroon
Qualification for Nigeria’s Flying Eagles for the 1985 World Youth Championship looked an impossible task after the team lost 3-0 to Cameroon in Yaounde on 19 December 1984.
But in the return leg played in Lagos on 13 January 1985, the Flying Eagles went on goal rampage scoring three goals in the first half. Cameroon however pulled a goal back through Oman Biyik.
The Flying Eagles scored two more goals in the second half to move on 5-4 on aggregate.
- 1985: Australia 2-3 Nigeria
The Nigerian u-21 side, Flying Eagles were condemned to win against Australia in their last Group A match of the 1985 World Youth Championship in Soviet Union if they were to advance to the knockout stage for the first time ever.
Before the match they lost 2-1 to hosts, Soviet Union but had beaten Canada 2-0. They needed a win to advance but suddenly found themselves 2-0 down against Australia at half time.
With hopes looking fade, Niyi Adeleye began an unlikely comeback after pulling a goal back in the 63rd minute. Monday Odiaka restored parity in the 78th minute before Mark Anunobi put in the winner a minute later.
- 1989: Soviet Union 4-4 (3-5pso) Nigeria
One of the most remarkable comeback episodes in global football was when the Nigerian U-20 team faced their Soviet counterparts in the quarterfinals of the 1989 World Youth Championships.
At half time, the Flying Eagles of Nigeria were two goals down. At the start of the second half, it became 3-0 after just 54 seconds. Six minutes later, the Soviet put in the fourth goal.
Then began what has turned the greatest comeback story of the U-20 World Cup. Within the next 30 minutes, Nigeria cancelled the 4-0 deficit and went ahead to win 5-3 on penalties. Enyimba too can win 3-0 on Wednesday and get through by penalties.
- 1996: Brazil 3-4 Nigeria
Who can easily forget the great comeback of the Nigerian Olympic team against a star-studded Brazilian side in the semi finals of the football event of the Atlanta ’96 Olympics?
After being 3-1 down at half time and even losing a penalty kick in the second half, the Nigerian side fought to the last minute and levelled 3-3 before scoring a golden goal in the extra time to win 4-3. This is a lesson for Enyimba.
- 1999: Kaloum Stars (Guinea) 3-0 Shooting Stars; Shooting Stars 6-0 Kaloum Stars
Shooting Stars lost 3-0 in their first leg first round match against Kaloum Stars of Guinea. The Nigerian side was able to sum up muscle and won the return leg 6-0 in Ibadan.
- 2009: Nigeria 3-3 Germany
What a rude shock it turned when Germany score three goals to take a 3-0 lead against Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets in Abuja during the 2009 U-17 World Cup in Nigeria.
In the second half, they began their comeback episode from a penalty kick scored by Stanley Okoro. Kenneth Omeuro and Edafe Egbedi completed the comeback.
- 2014: Morocco 3-4 Nigeria
The great comeback of the home-based Super Eagles at the 2014 CHAN in South Africa should be inspirational for Enyimba.
At half time, the Stephen Keshi coached side were 3-0 down at the match played in South Africa. The team began a great comeback in the second half when four minutes into the half, midfielder Ugonna Uzochukwu pulled a goal back.
In the 56th minute, Rabiu Ali put Nigeria on redemption course when he reduced the tally to 3-2. Ejike Uzoenyi completed the comeback on the dot of 90 minute. The winner came in the 11th minute of the extra time when substitute player scored the fourth goal.