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| December 29, 2019 | 0 Comments

Football

For millions of sports loving Nigerians, the decade kicked off with the Super Eagles taking part in the 27th edition of the African Cup of Nations in Angola where they beat Algeria 1-0 on January 30, 2010 to finish third. Egypt won the tournament for the record seventh time by beating Ghana 1 -0 in the final.

However, Nigerian football fans were still hopeful their team do better at the World Cup later in the year, which was taking place in Africa for the first time in its history.

South Africa 2010, as the Mundial was called, confounded the critics and doomsday Sayers as the Rainbow Nation hosted the world’s biggest football event without any major incidents.

Spain beat third-time losing finalists the Netherlands 1–0 after extra time to win their first world title. Spain became the eighth nation to win the tournament.

But the Super Eagles, which had failed to take part in Germany 2006, failed to lift Nigerian spirits after finishing bottom of Group B.

However, what still resonates on the minds of many lovers of the ‘beautiful game’ is the incredible miss by Yakubu Aiyegbeni against South Korea, which if he had scored, would have ensured the Eagles progressed to the next round.

Nigeria’s football woes at international level continued when the Eagles failed to qualify for the next edition of the Nations Cup which was jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in 2012.

But all ill-feeling towards the Eagles ended when the Confederation of African football decided to push the 2014 tournament to 2013 and subsequently held in odd-numbered years to avoid year-clash with the FIFA World Cup, with South Africa hosting and Nigeria landing her third title in beating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final.

The feat, achieved under the tutelage of a Nigerian great, the late Stephen Keshi immediately rekindled interest in the Super Eagles ahead of the next World Cup taking place in Brazil the following year.

The 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup, which took place in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, 2014, saw the Eagles making up for their woeful showing of four years ago, by not only qualifying from a difficult group (F), which also had Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina; but also putting up a decent performance in their 2-0 second round loss to France.

Brazil 2014 will be remembered by the amazing 7-1 demolition of the hosts by eventual winners Germany in the semis.

However, Nigeria failed to build on Brazil 2014 and failed to qualify for the next two Nations Cup finals which held in Equatorial Guinea (2015) and Gabon (2017) and only finally returned to the showpiece football event last summer where they returned with another bronze medal after beating Tunisia 1–0 in their third-place play-off match. Algeria defeated Senegal 1–0 in the final, winning their second title and first since 1990.

Before then the Eagles had taken part in the 2018 World Cup in Russia where they again failed to make it out of the group stage finishing third behind Croatia and Argentina.

The tournament was eventually won by France which did so exactly 20 years after they first one it as hosts.

Nigeria did, however, have something to celebrate at the Rio 2016 Olympics when her Dream Team returned from Brazil with a bronze medal in the football event of the games.

But while the preceding decade was definitely a time of flux our male footballers, our women folk generally fared better – at least on the continent.

The Super Falcons kicked off the decade by winning their eighth African title in South Africa beating Equatorial Guinea in the final. They then followed up with triumphs in 2014, 2016 and 2018, which made them the most successful team on the continent with 11 titles.

The Falcons have not had as much success beyond the continent though with their best showing at the World Cup being their ninth place finish in 2011; while they made it to the Round of 16 at the most recent tournament in France over the summer.

France 2019 was dominated by the US’ women’s team, which set a record in beating Thailand 13-0, before ending with a 2-0 victory over Holland in the final.

Incidentally the Falcons never qualified for any of two Olympic Games that took place in the going decade.

On the domestic scene, issues with coverage of the league meant that while Nigerian are able to sit in the comforts of their homes to follow the action in such places like England, Spain and Italy, they are unable to do the same with Remo Stars, Rangers, Enyimba or El Kanemi Warriors.

None of our teams was able to make a mark in any of the continent’s football competitions in the outgoing decade.

Still staying with football, one of the standout memories of the decade must be Liverpool’s miraculous comeback in last May’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.

After losing the first leg at Barca 3-0, the Reds needed a 4-0 victory to sneak into the final. Still, manager Jurgen Klopp instructed his players to play with everything they had, to “fail in the most beautiful way” even if winning felt out of grasp.

They would do better than that. Thanks to a pair of goals each from Georginio Wijnaldum and Divock Origi, Liverpool pulled off the stunning comeback and would go on to defeat Tottenham in the final to lift the Champions League trophy for the first time since 2005.

Almost at par with this, must be tiny Iceland shocking the world at Euro 2016. Playing in their first Euros tournament, the country of less than 350,000 scraped their way out of the group stage and, in a stunning turn, took down England 2-1 in the knockout round before losing to hosts France in the quarters.

Of course mention must be made of unheralded Leicester City winning the Premier League in 2015 for the most unlikely championship win of the decade. Entering the season as 5000/1 long shots to lift the trophy; Leicester simply refused to lose, finishing their campaign with a record of 23-12-3.

Finally, Sergio Aguero saving the title for Manchester City with stoppage-time stunner on the final day of the 2012 season is also a standout occasion.

On the final match day of the Premier League season in 2012, Manchester City needed only to defeat a lowly QPR side to win the league. But in the 66th minute, disaster struck, with QPR scoring to take a 2-1 lead and send panic into the hearts of City supporters. At the start of stoppage time, City was given a lifeline thanks to a goal from Edin Dzeko, but still needed one more score to win the league.

That’s when Sergio Aguero worked his magic, scoring a dazzling goal in the desperate final seconds to win the title ahead of “noisy” neighbours from the red half of Manchester. It was as dramatic an ending as you can find in sport.

The preceding decade also saw two of the greatest managers in the game in England – Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger quitting.

Sir Alex retired as Manchester United manager in 2013 after spending 27 years in charge during which he won more trophies than any other manager in the history of football.

Frenchman Wenger retired in 2018 as the greatest manager in Arsenal history after being in charge for 22 years.

Boxing

Not since Leon Spinks’ shock victory over Muhammad Ali in 1978 or Buster Douglas stunning triumph over Mike Tyson in 1990 has the world of boxing been turned on its head like it was on June 1, 2019.

On that day the biggest upset in heavyweight boxing in a generation took place when Andy Ruiz Jr., who was a late replacement fighter, upset Anthony Joshua in his first bout in the US.

While Ruiz Jr. would fall in the rematch in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, his original feat can’t take away from his monumental victory.

Although the next epic of the decade was not truly a real boxing bout in the real sense of the word, it did, however, still resonate mainly for the audacity, when mixed martial fighter, Conor McGregor made his boxing debut against none other than Floyd Mayweather on August 26, 2017.

For better or for worse, Mayweather-McGregor was the biggest fight of the decade in terms of interest, pay-per-view buys, and purse. After a clown show of a build that included suits lined with curse words and accusations of illiteracy, Mayweather eventually won with a 10th-round TKO.

With both fighters leaving with the biggest pay cheque of their lives – dwarfing the huge pay day of the Mayweather- Manny Pacquiao fight of May 2, 2015.

Mayweather was said to have made $275 million from the fight.

Tennis

At the start of the decade on June 22, 2010 to be precise, John Isner and Nicholas Mahut took part in ‘the match that refused to end’ as they pushed each other to the brink in the longest match in the history of tennis

Isner and Mahut went toe-to-toe for three days attempting to find a finish in their gruelling fifth set at Wimbledon.

Ultimately, Isner would prevail 64, 36, 67 (79), 76 (73), 70(68),

Since then, Wimbledon has changed its rules regarding fifth-set tiebreakers, meaning it’s likely that their record will stand forever.

Golf

The undoubted preeminent occurrence of the decade must be Tiger Woods winning the Masters.

Once the most dominant athlete on the planet, Tiger Woods, had numerous starts and stops throughout the decade, especially as he strived to get his career back on track. He even took a self-imposed hiatus from professional golf from December 2009 to early April 2010 in an attempt to resolve marital issues with his then-wife, Elin.

Between on-going back issues and his 2017 arrest, it was unclear if Woods would ever be able to compete with the best in the world again.

But Woods closed the 2018 season strong and back at Augusta National, cemented his legend once more with a brilliant performance over four days in April to lift the Masters.

Athletics

One man stood head and shoulders above the rest (literally) during the outgoing decade on the tracks and he was Usain Bolt. The 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics belonged to the now retired sprinter. Bolt, the impossibly cool, wickedly fast sprinter from Jamaica, changed the sport of sprinting throughout the decade. Never was his dominance more evident than in London when he walked into the Olympics as something of an underdog — despite becoming a worldwide celebrity following the 2008 games. He had lost in his country’s qualifiers to up-and-coming star Yohan Blake before heading to London. But big-time stars come up big in big-time situations.

The fastest man on the planet came out of the gates slow — not unusual — before passing American Justin Gatlin and Blake and shattering the Olympic record. Bolt cruised — literally, taking a chance to peek at his rival Blake before the line — to gold in the 200-meter final and then earned a three-event sweep with a gold in the 4×100-meter relay. After the 100-meter final, he called himself the “greatest athlete to live.”

Four years later, it was pretty impossible to argue he wasn’t at least in the discussion. Bolt completed another three-event sweep in 2016 at the Rio Olympics just two days before his 30th birthday. By 2017, he’d won every 100-meter race he’d entered for four years. And while he lost at the 2017 World Championships, the 2012 and 2016 Olympics will go down in history forever as belonging to the Jamaican.

Sadly unlike the 2000s when Nigerian athletes did well at the Bejing’08 Games winning three silver and two bronze medals, Team Nigeria failed to make the podium in London (2012) and only won a solitary bronze medal in Rio four years later. Incidentally for the first time in history, Nigeria took part in a Winter Olympics at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games where their female bobsleigh team captured the hearts even though they failed to win a medal. The decade will also be remembered for the feat of Kenyan athlete; Eliud Kipchoge who became the first person to complete a marathon in less than two hours on October 12 in Berlin, Germany


Culled from :Here

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Category: Sports