While an African football team has never won the World Cup, the sport’s biggest prize, neighbors Nigeria and Cameroon can proudly claim Olympic gold medals in men’s soccer at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
The 1996 Nigerian Olympic team, captained by two-time African Footballer of the Year Nwanko Kanu, defeated Argentina, 3-2, in the final. Argentina, winner of the past two Olympic football titles, gained some revenge by beating Nigeria, 1-0, on a goal by Angel Di Maria in the 58th minute of the 2008 final in Beijing, China.
Millions of Nigerian soccer fans would love to see their team get another shot at an Olympic gold medal next year in London, but first the squad has to qualify. The inaugural African Under-23 Championship is currently taking place in Morocco. The eight-team competition is doubling as a qualifying event for the London Games.
The top-three African teams in Morocco will advance to the 2012 Olympics, while the fourth-place finisher goes into a playoff against an Asian side. In addition to Nigeria, the seven other teams competing are Algeria, Egypt, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, South Africa and host Morocco. The semifinals are scheduled for December 6 and December 7, and the final on December 10 in Marrakech, Morocco.