The 1960s

Nigeria only played a handful of internationals in the 1950s, but on 22 August 1960 they joined FIFA. It was from 1960 the Green Eagles began something more akin to a modern programme of internationals.

Nigeria entered it’s first Olympics qualifying competition for the 1960 Rome Olympics. The qualifying series started in 1959 with a round–robin series with Ghana and Egypt. A 3-1 win over Ghana was the only success and there was a devastating 2-6 defeat against Egypt in Lagos.

In 1960 Nigeria also played its first World Cup qualifying games as it attempted to reach the 1962 finals in Chile. Again they came up against Ghana and came off second best with a 4-1 thumping in Accra before salvaging pride with a 2-2 draw in Lagos.

In 1963 The Green Eagles made their first appearance in the African Nations Cup finals in Kumasi, Ghana. The team finished bottom of its three team group, losing 3-6 to Egypt and 0-4 to Sudan.

Nigeria missed out on qualification for the 1st All Africa Games in 1965. Drawn in a group with Togo, Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger, the group was dominated by the Togolese.

The great achievement of the 1960s has to be the qualification for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. None of the teams in Mexico were professional selections with the exception of Japan. Nigeria lost to Spain and got a much celebrated 3-3 draw with Brazil.

Results in this period against non-African teams were generally unexceptional even though the standard of opposition was poor. It is, however, worth remembering that the Biafran War, fought between 1967 to 1970, made a strong cadre of players from the east unavailable.



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