At the 1989 World Youth Championship in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria clinched the silver medal after defeating the USSR in the most exciting semi-final ever played in the history of the FIFA U-20 Championship.
The Flying Eagles’ first match was against the host country, and they defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 with midfielder Mutiu Adepoju and forward Christopher Ohenhen scoring the two vital goals for Nigeria. The next game was against Portugal, and it went against the expectations of coach Tunde Disabled Boys, who were beaten 1-0 by a strong Portuguese team. However, the Flying Eagles were able to secure a ticket to the quarter-finals after securing a 1-1 draw against Czechoslovakia in their last group match. Christopher Ohenhen once again rescued a point for Nigeria by scoring the decisive equalizer in the 72nd minute of play.
The quarterfinal game saw the Flying Eagles paired with the USSR.
The game was played in Dammam and was later renamed “the miracle of Dammam”.
This was a match where Nigeria trailed 4-0 with just minutes to go in the deciding quarter-final match. Legendary Oleg Salenko of the USSR was among the scorers in that memorable match. In the span of 30 minutes, Nigeria came from behind to draw 4-4 and take the match to a penalty shootout. The comeback was started by star player Christopher Ohenhen, who scored a brace in the 61st and 75th minutes to bring the score to 4-2 with 15 minutes remaining in regulation time. Samuel Elijah, who was later nicknamed “Prophet” Samuel Elijah scored in the 83rd minute of play and cut the score to 4-3, before inspirational captain Nduka Ugbade appeared out of nowhere to level the score at 4-4 with a unbelievable equalizer in the 84th minute. The Russians were stunned beyond their imagination. The match had to go to penalties after the expiration of 90 minutes, and the Nigerians triumphed 5-3, after Mirdjalal Kasimov missed his penalty to bring the game to an anti-climax. It was the biggest comeback in world football history to date.
In the semifinals, the Flying Eagles narrowly defeated the USA 2-1 after the game had to go to another overtime with the games tied 1-1 in regulation time. Mutiu Adepoju, who later became an integral part of the Nigerian Super Eagles, scored the two goals that eliminated the US from the tournament. In the US goal on that memorable day was goalie Kasey Keller, who later became a household name in world soccer.
It was a tired-looking Flying Eagles team that qualified for the final of the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship, after playing two consecutive games that ended in penalty shootouts. This was to prove decisive, as the Flying Eagles were beaten 2-0 by Portugal, who had previously beaten them 1-0 in the group stage.