Romania 3-0 Nigeria 16 November 2005
Friendly, Bucharest
Nicolae, Petre, Rosu (Romania)

For reasons that no one seemed to be able to properly explain, rather than playing the Democratic Republic of Congo at home as fixtured, Nigeria travelled away to play Romania in a hastily rearranged friendly. Few people seemed to know about the match – only 800 spectators turned up. And the confusion didn’t stop there.

The Super Eagles arrived in Bucharest four hours before kick-off, with just six players and no manager. There was no sign of key players like Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Joseph Yobo, Obafemi Martins, and Aiyegbeni Yakubu, who had variously missed previous matches dues to conflicts with the Nigerian Football Authority (NFA). This time, the NFA’s late issuing of invitations for the last-minute match was also partly to blame. In some cases players were given only 48 hours notice, with clubs requiring seven days notice to release players for international duty. Manager Austin Eguavoen didn’t turn up either. ‘The game was arranged, called off, and suddenly it was given the seal of certainty, by which time I was unable to report because of other assignments,’ he told the Daily Independent. In Eguavoen’s absence, former Everton striker Daniel Amokachi took charge of the team, and the situation. He arranged for the match to be delayed by two hours – forcing Romanian TV to abandon plans to televise the match – and then dashed to the Nigerian embassy to mount a desperate last-ditch search around Romania for players with Nigerian passports. He then procured a set of shirts – the Super Eagles had also forgotten to bring their kits. With 10 minutes to go until kick-off, the Nigerians were yet to emerge for their warm-up – in freezing cold conditions. ‘We were even thinking the game might not happen,’ Romanian defender Razvan Rat told the Bucharest Daily News.

But the game did eventually get under way – a further 20 minutes late – with Amokachi having managed to increase his makeshift squad to 12. Romania may have lined up without star players Adrian Mutu and Christian Chivu, but Nigeria lined up without any recognised players whatsoever. ‘I don’t even know the names of the players we played against,’ admitted Rat. One of the Nigerian players Rat failed to recognise was debutant Sam Sodje of Brentford, who picked up an injury during the game but was forced to play on due to the lack of substitutes. It should come as no surprise to learn that Nigeria were duly stuffed 3-0, with Daniel Nicolae, Floretin Petre, and Laurentiu Rosu the goalscorers for new champions Romania.

‘Anybody who expects that we should have won that match is merely deluding himself,’ explained missing manager Eguavoen, ‘because you can’t arrive for a match four hours to the game and expect to win.’ Nigeria were thoroughly deserved losers.