It took Paul Ebere Onuachu just eight seconds to score Nigeria’s goal against Egypt in Asaba. Although the massive crowd roared, it may not have been clear that they had just witnessed a record that may never be broken in their lifetime.
For 70 years of Nigerian national team football, no Nigerian goal has been scored faster than Onuachu’s goal. In that span of history, the record indicates that only four goals have come within the opening minute for Nigeria (See Table).
Until Onuachu’s goal, the most memorable goal in the opening minute for Nigeria came on February 10 in 2000 with Nigeria playing against South Africa in the semi-final of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Lagos.
Remember the name, Paul ONUACHU! What a goal pic.twitter.com/lnqg76QdO8
— The NFF 🇳🇬 (@thenff) March 26, 2019
That goal saw South Africa turn the ball over to Tijani Babangia who sped forward and turned Mark Fish inside before shooting from 20 yards to score. It was a tactical plan by Nigeria to use the pacy Babangida against the slow Mark Fish but no one was looking for such a quick yield.
In Asaba, against Egypt in an international friendly it is important to recollect Onuachu’s goal because it is bound to be in the record books for ages. Right from the opening whistle of Ghanaian referee Charles Bulu, John Ogu received a pass and launched a 40-yard volley that found Onuachu.
Without much waste of time, Onuachu controlled it once and dipped a shoulder to go past an Egyptian marker and find himself right on the top of the 18-yard box with the ball descending from about 2 feet high. His second touch was to immediately strike the ball with his right shoelaces and it zipped left into the net beyond the Egyptian goalie. It was such a stunning opener. Only three players, all Nigerians, had touched the ball before it found its way into the net.
Scoring within the first minute of an international encounter is nothing to sneeze at. It is notable that Nigeria’s earliest opening goal in its first nine years of football came in the third minute from Noquapor in a 1957 encounter against Ghana and was not matched until Joe Aghoghovia’s third minute goal against Thailand in a pre-Olympic Games friendly in Mexico City.
It will take another 12 years before Segun Odegbami’s 2nd minute goal in the AFCON final (1980) against Algeria in Lagos set the record for Nigeria’s earliest goal. Then another 20 years before Babangida’s goal in 38 seconds against South Africa represented the benchmark that Onuachu disposed of against Egypt in Asaba.
For those who saw it live in Asaba and those who watched on television, they may never see that record goal broken in their lifetime by a player playing in the Nigerian team colors. It was a moment to cherish and to bank in longterm memory.
Table1: Fastest Goals Scored by the Nigerian national team
|8 secs||2019||Paul Onuachu||Egypt||Asaba||1-0||Intl. Friendly|
|38 secs||2000||Tijani Babangida||South Africa||Lagos||2-0||AFCON Semi-Final|
|1 min.||2012||Efe Ambrose||Liberia||Calabar||6-1||AFCON Q|
|1 min.||2011||Peter Utaka||Ethiopia||Abuja||4-0||AFCON Q|
|1 min.||2001||Victor Agali||Ghana||PH||3-0||WCQ|