'It was like winning the World Cup' - Nwosu recounts Nigeria's maiden Africa Cup of Nations triumph

Nigeria's triumph at the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations was like winning the Fifa World Cup, ex-international Henry Nwosu said while recalling the historic feat.

At the age of 16, Nwosu was the youngest player in the then Green Eagles squad which conquered the continent to win the Afcon title at the National Stadium in Lagos.

Segun Odegbami's first-half brace and Mudashiru Lawal's effort in the second-half powered Nigeria to a 3-0 victory past Algeria as they grabbed their first Afcon trophy 40 years ago.

Nwosu was an unused substitute in the final but the 56-year-old legend recalled the atmosphere at the National Stadium on that day.

“It was like one winning the World Cup, just like one winning the best thing in the world. It was the first time in Nigeria history and it was when I was a young boy in the team,” Nwosu told Goal.

“I felt so happy and on top of the world. The feeling was so great.

“The final was a memorable game for me. Even though I didn't play, I was a substitute and I can say the final was the best game because it was very easy for us.

“To beat an Algerian team just like that, 3-1. We gave our best that day and of course, his excellency Alhaji Shehu Shagari was present and he too was just like a young man.

"He was elated to see us lifting the cup.”

The achievement did not go without rewards from the Federal Government under the leadership of former President Shehu Shagari.

Apart from the rewards earned, the historic victory in Surulere was a turning point for football in Nigeria, with many people becoming interested in the sport.

“The government at that time tried their best, they gave us national honours, they gave us cars and houses each, that is where I still live till today in Lagos," he continued.

“It was a great reward, I must confess. At that time, the feat has never happened in Nigeria history and it was the opening for Nigeria players to move abroad.

“Before then, parents did not want their children to play football. In fact, they did not want their children to watch football, not to talk of participating.

"After that day, parents want their kids on the field playing football so our triumph was an eye-opener for Nigerian football and sports generally.”

The Super Eagles have won the Africa Cup of Nations twice since 1980 - it happened again on home soil in 1994 and in South Africa in 2013.

Nigeria won bronze at the 2019 Afcon in Egypt, after beating Tunisia 1-0 in the third-place playoff match.