Nigeria fight back to deny Brazil's dream

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The Independent Online
Nigeria produced an amazing men's semi-final comeback to beat Brazil 4-3 in sudden-death extra time on Wednesday in Athens, Georgia, and leave their South American opponents in floods of tears.

Nwankwo Kanu, who equalised in the last minute of normal time, danced through the Brazilian defence to score the "golden goal" winner four minutes into extra time.

Brazil, who have never won an Olympic gold despite winning the World Cup four times, led 3-1 with only 13 minutes left. Flavio Conceicao put them ahead with a deflected free-kick in the second minute but his team- mate Roberto Carlos miscued a clearance into his own net to gift the Nigerians an equaliser in the 20th minute.

Brazil regained the lead eight minutes later when the Africans' goalkeeper, Joseph Dosu, spilled a Ronaldinho shot and Bebeto knocked in the rebound. Nine minutes later Juninho capped a fine move by using his chest to set up Conceicao for his second goal. Nigeria's Austin Okocha missed a 63rd- minute penalty, but Victor Ikpeba pulled one back with a fine shot in the 77th minute, setting the stage for Kanu's heroics. The Africans now face Argentina in tomorrow's final.

The defeat raises questions about the future of Brazil's veteran coach, Mario Zagallo, who is also in charge of the full national side. " Nigeria never gave in and they won on merit," said Zagallo, who has been criticised for asking too much of Europe-based players such as Juninho and Roberto Carlos. They both spent the last European close-season playing in the Copa America.