WM: Why did Amokachi’s Greek ram hammer play second fiddle to Yekini?

Can it be argued that the Bull’s goal in 1994 was just as crucial for Nigeria?

Goals that are long remembered are the result of the broader narrative, their importance or the stunning nature of the strike.

Nigeria’s debut appearance at the 1994 World Cup stands out more than Rashidi Yekini’s display against Bulgaria in the opening match.

The goal itself was nothing remarkable – basically a close-range tap-in after fine work down the right flank from Daniel Amokachi and Finidi George – but what followed has emerged as one of the iconic World Cup images.

Standing in goal, Yekini roared in his independent display of passion that is incomprehensible to this day. The teammates’ apparent reluctance to join the celebration has often sparked conversation among Super Eagles fans, but you wonder if having nine outfielders around the late forward would have diluted the moment and made him less powerful.

Nigeria 1994 squadGetty Images

We’ll never know.

Nigeria’s all-time leading goalscorer never netted again at the finals, a stat rarely mentioned as it falls short of the image of a man at the net, arms outstretched, clutching the net after scoring his team’s first-ever goal at the global championship .

Over the years, this has left an indelible impression on observers and fans alike, perhaps at the expense of other quality goals from Nigeria at that 1994 tournament.

Emmanuel Amunike headed in Finidi’s well-weighted cross to seal a 3-0 win over Bulgaria, Samson Siasia’s lob against Argentina rounded off a smooth Super Eagles action against the South Americans and Finidi’s technique against Greece earned him a chip of his own to open the gate and go from assistant to goalscorer.

But what about Amokachi’s incredible finish against the Greeks?

In a way, the timing of the strike meant that an incredible effort from outside the box by “The Bull” was relatively neglected.

Daniel AmokachiGetty

Amokachi gained possession in the left half and had nowhere else to go…we all thought so. In an effective two-on-five against the West Africans, the attacker seized the initiative and scored arguably Nigeria’s best goal at USA 1994.

He had no fewer than four players around when he gained possession in the half-spin, but he still took them all. Amokachi’s dribbling and aggressive ball carrying saw him beat the Greek defense, despite two desperate tackles that would thwart his run before firing a rocket-propelled staker into the top right post.

Christos Karkamanis was transfixed as the powerful effort flew past him. There was no way he would have come close to a parade.

Amokachi’s performance is rarely the talk of Nigeria’s first World Cup appearance, and perhaps that’s understandable. Nigeria were 1-0 up at the time and the striker’s shot made it 2-0. It neither opened the scoring nor sealed qualification for the next round.

And, of course, it wasn’t the West Africans’ first goal of the finals and lacked such an iconic celebration.

Some 28 years later, Amokachi’s goal fell victim to his timing. Despite its amazingly good nature, the lack of a narration has contributed to its watered-down place in the story.


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