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All eyes on Egypt as Nations Cup kicks off

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All eyes on Egypt as Nations Cup kicks off

The twenty-four best teams on the continent of Africa will be in Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs, from this Friday striving to outwit themselves in order to be crowned champions when the African Cup of Nations draws to a close on July 19. Although, Africa’s ‘World Cup’ has always captivated the attention of those on the continent, the rising profile of the “foreign brigade” means that the interest in this edition, which is the 32nd, will spread far and wide around the globe.

 

For many of the stars descending on the North African country are already household names the world over playing for their various teams in Europe and other places. Only three weeks ago a trio of players from the continent, were spearheaded Liverpool’s march to another European conquest when they beat fellow English side, Tottenham Hotspur in the final of the UEFA Champions League at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, Spain.

 

Egyptian star, Mohamed Salah scored from the spot after just 106 seconds, before substitute Divock Origi sealed the icing on the cake after 87 minutes for the Reds’ sixth European crown. Other African stars that played a pivotal role in ensuring only the second all-England final include Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Spurs’ Victor Wanyama, who will be filling out in the colours of Senegal and Kenya in Egypt. However, they are not the only foreign-based players leading the armada of 552 players to Egypt over the next one month; with the bulk of the players now plying their trades outside the shores of the continent.

 

Other equally notable stars heading to Egypt include our own very John Obi Mikel, who will be making his fifth appearance at the continent’s top football competition for national teams, Alex Iwobi, who was a member of the Arsenal side which lost to Chelsea in the final of the Europa League last month, and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi.

 

Other household names taking part in the month-long tournament include: With 24 teams taking part in the competition for the first time in its 62-year-old history, that means there are six groups of four teams each playing in six stadia dotted across Egypt. However, the capital city, Cairo is hosting two of the venues, namely: Cairo International Stadium, 30 June Stadium and Al Salam Stadium; with the 74,100-seater Cairo International Stadium (which is the largest venue) hosting the opening and final games.

 

Other venues to be used include: Alexandria Stadium in Alexandria, Suez Stadium in Suez and Ismailia Stadium in Ismailia. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has chosen 27 of the continent’s top referees to handle matches in Egypt, unfortunately no match official from Nigeria was deemed fit enough to make the grade; while of the 30 assistant referees that will be running the lines only Baba Adel will be representing Nigeria.

 

Like all football tournament’s Egypt 2019 has had its own fair share of likely winners and stars expected to light up the competition. Some of the heavyweight teams tipped for glory include, 2002 runners-up Senegal, hosts, Egypt, champions, Cameroon and three former champions, Tunisia, Nigeria and Morocco.

 

SENEGAL

 

Currently the top African football nation, the Lions of Teranga, as the Senegalese national team is called, has been the top team on the continent since replacing Tunisia on top of the FIFA rankings last November. Presently ranked 22nd in the world, according to the (April FIFA), under the guidance of Aliou Cisse, who made 35 appearances for the national team, the Te r a n g a Lions have become a formidable side.

 

C i s s e , who played either as a midfielder or defender, captained the Senegal team at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. After a stunning 0–1 victory over reigning world champions France on matchday one, the team made it all the way to the quarter finals where they lost 1–0 to Turkey.

 

The former captain, who was also part of the Senegal team who were the runners-up in the 2002 African Cup of Nations, but was one of the players who missed a penalty during the shootout in the final as they lost to Cameroon, has been in charge of the Lions since March 2015.

 

Under his leadership, the Teranga Lions qualified for Russia 2018 on November 10, 2017, courtesy of a 2–0 away win against South Africa. Unfortunately, Senegal were knocked out in the group stage of the tournament after becoming the first team in FIFA World Cup history to be eliminated due to fair play tiebreaker rules. Speaking afterwards, a crestfallen Cisse said: “This is one of the rules. We have to respect it. Of course, we would prefer to be eliminated another way. It’s a sad day for us but we knew these were the regulations.”

 

Senegal, which qualified for Egypt 2019 unbeaten, has gone six games unbeaten with her last loss coming in their 1-0 defeat to Colombia on June 28 last year in Samara, Russia during the World Cup.

Led by their mercurial Sane, who had an outstanding season with Liverpool, the Teranga Lions is full to the brim with foreign-based players, with some of them playing in top clubs around the world including Everton midfielder, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate of Crystal Palace, Inter’s Keita Balde and Napoli’s towering defender, Kalidou Koulibaly, who is reportedly wanted by a host of clubs including Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

 

Placed in Group C along with Algeria, Kenya and Tanzania, the Teranga Lions kick off their Nations Cup campaign on June 23 against Taifa Stars of Tanzania who are coached by Nigeria’s 1994 Nations Cup hero Emmanuel Amuneke, who ended the East African side’s 39-year wait to return to the tournament. Senegal then follows up with a very tricky clash against 1990 winners Algeria before rounding up their group fixtures against the Harambee Stars of Kenya on July 1. The Teranga Lions conclude their Nations Cup build up today with a tune up match against Nigeria in Ismailia, Egypt.

 

STAR MAN (Sadio Mane)

 

Twenty-seven-year-old Sadio Mane, who became a European champion with his English Premier League side, Liverpool, early this month, is captain of the side. With 60 caps and 16 goals he is one of the most experienced players in the side having made his national debut in 2012.

He has since gone on to represent the Lions at the 2012 Olympics, 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Sane began his career with Metz in France on January 12, 2012 after honing his skill at the Académie Génération Foot, Senegalese football academy.

 

He transferred to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria later that same year. After winning the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup in 2014, he was signed by Southampton.

 

In 2015, Mane set a new Premier League record for the fastest hattrick when he scored three times in 176 seconds during a 6–1 win over Aston Villa. He transferred to Liverpool in 2016 for a fee of £34 million, making him the most expensive African player in history at that time. Since joining Liverpool, Mane among other achievements scored in the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final.

 

The following season he was joint recipient of the Premier League Golden Boot with 22 goals Unlike Russia 2018 when an injury lay off meant that he was not fully fit for the World Cup, Sane goes into Egypt 2019 in the best form of his life and many Senegalese will be hoping that with him in their fold the Teranga Lions will finally be able to make the pinnacle of African football by being crowned Nations Cup champions.

 

EGYPT

 

Ranked 8th, the Pharaohs of Egypt are the most successful team in the tournament having already won the title seven previous times. However, their last victory was way back in 2010 when they dimed the Black Stars 1-0 in the final played in Angola.

At the last tournament, played in Gabon, they reached the final were they lost to Cameroon. Like Senegal, the Pharaohs were one of Africa’s representatives at Russia 2018, but also like the Teranga Lions an injury to their key man, Mohamed Salah meant that he was not at his best as the North Africans failed to progress past the group stage. Last August the Egyptian FA decided to place their trust in 60-year-old former two-time Mexico coach, Javier Aguirre.

 

Aguirre, whose coaching career has spanned 23 years with stints in Spain with Osasuna, Atletico Madrid, Zaragoza and Espanyol, has overseen a minirevival of Egyptian football with the national team going five games unbeaten since September last year until a March 26 1-0 loss to Nigeria in an international friendly played in Asaba.

 

However, in truth the former Mexican international midfielder, who won 59 caps, did not go to Delta State with a full strength side. With the expectations of the nation on his shoulders, Aguirre, who briefly coached Japan between 2014 and 15, will, however, be able to call on a more formidable side for the Nations Cup campaign.

 

 

With a 66.67% success with the Pharaohs having won four, drawn one and losing one of his six matches, Egyptians will be quietly confident that he will be able to deliver in their record setting fifth hosting of the Nations Cup. He will also be able to enjoy a full fit Salah to rely on unlike the half fit player who was in Russia last summer.

 

The Pharaohs kick off their Nations Cup quest in Group A against Zimbabwe on Friday and follow this up on June 26 against DR Congo before concluding against Uganda four days later.

 

STAR MAN (Mohamed Salah)

 

Mohamed Salah is undoubtedly the standout player for the North Africans.

 

The 26-year-old Liverpool star, who scored the first goal in the Reds’ 2-0 Champions League final win over Spurs on June 1, has had stellar season ending joint leading English Premier League scorer with team mate Sane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal with all of them finishing on 22 goals each.

 

Considered one of the best players in the world, he is known for his finishing, dribbling, and speed, Salah has blossomed under Jurgen Klopp and unlike the World Cup when he was not match fit having been injured in the final of the Champions League, which they lost to Real Madrid, the forward is injury free.

 

Standing just 1.75 m (5ft 9in) tall, the Egyptian has honed his other attributes to ensure that he is consistent goal threat whenever he is on the field. On April 5, he scored his 50th Premier League goal for Liverpool in a 3–1 win over Southampton and in the process broke Fernando Torres’ record to become the fastest player to reach the milestone for the club, doing so in his 69th appearance.

 

It also saw him become the third fastest to player to reach the milestone for a single club in the Premier League era, behind Shearer for Blackburn Rovers, in 66 appearances, and van Nistelrooy for Manchester United, in 68 appearances.

 

Later that month, he scored the second goal in a 2–0 win over Chelsea which helped Liverpool earn a club-record-equalling 26th win for the Premier League campaign; and the club’s second-highest ever wins return in the top-flight after the record of 30 set in 1979. Egyptians will be hoping that “Mo”, as he is fondly called by Liverpool fans, will be able to reproduce the same form for the Pharaohs and pilot them to an eighth triumph.

 

CAMEROON

 

The Indomitable Lions is one of the most feared teams on the continent with five African titles to their name. Current champions of the biennial competition, the Lions have qualified seven times for the FIFA World Cup, more than any other African team (1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014). They were the first African team to reach the quarter-final of the World Cup, in 1990, losing to England in extra time in a game which shot Roger Milla to international fame.

 

On August 4, 2018 the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) surprisingly announced that former Dutch midfielder; Clarence Seedorf would be in charge of the Indomitable Lions.

 

It was the 43-year-old’s first stint at handling a national team after previously coaching Italy’s AC Milan and Deportivo La Coruna in Spain.

 

His record so far with the Lions will not be inspiring confidence with Cameroon fans as the former Ajax star has only a 37.50% win ratio after eight matches with only three wins two draws and three defeats. But perhaps what is more worrying is the inability of his Lions to roar with only seven goals scored and an equally number let in! Seedorf can rely on a number of quality players in his effort to secure a sixth title.

 

STAR MAN (Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting)

 

Now 30, Choupo-Moting began his career with Hamburger SV, making his Bundesliga debut in August 2007. He spent the 2009–10 season on loan at FC Nurnberg and in August 2011 he joined FSV Mainz 05. After three seasons with Mainz he moved on to Schalke 04 in August 2014. He became a regular for the Gelsenkirchen club, and made over 100 appearances, before joining Premier League side Stoke City in August 2017.

 

 

In August last year, he joined Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. He has so far amassed 50 caps for the national team scoring 15 goals.

 

TUNISIA

 

Ranked the second best team on the continent after Senegal, 2004 champions, Tunisia has participated in three quadrennial major football competitions. It appeared in the end stages of five FIFA World Cups and 18 Africa Cup of Nations, and featured at four Olympic football tournaments.

Nevertheless, they created history in that 1978 tournament in Argentina by becoming the first African side to win a World Cup match, beating Mexico 3–1. In recent times, the Carthage Eagles have turned to former France international, Alain Giresse in a bid to end their trophy drought. The French footballer of the year in 1982, 1983 and 1987 was named Tunisia coach on December 13, 2018 and has achieved a 66.67% win rate with two wins and a loss in three matches so far played.

 

STAR MAN (Wahbi Khazri)

 

Wahbi Khazri is one of the most experienced players in the team. At 28 the Saint-Étienne of France player has amassed 43 caps and scored 15 goals.

 

 

NIGERIA

 

Nigeria’s Super Eagles will be gunning for their fourth title in Egypt after topping their qualification group despite an opening round shock home defeat to South Africa. Under their German manager, Gernot Rohr, the Eagles have managed some sort of consistency. They may not play very entertaining football but they have remained unbeaten in nine games going back to the 2-1 reversal to Argentina at Russia 2018.

 

The former defender, who will turn 66 during the Nations Cup, has been able to instil some form of defensive solidity in the Eagles, which means that although they may not score many goals; but they equally do not concede too many either.

 

Rohr is also not one to shy away from making tough decisions which was obvious in dropping Kelechi Iheanacho and Semi Ajayi from his final Nations Cup squad, which he released last week. The two players were unused substitutes last Saturday as Zimbabwe held the Super Eagles to a goalless draw at the Stephen Keshi Stadium Warri in an Egypt 2019 tune up game.

 

Incidentally, Iheanacho had featured prominently in ensuring the Eagles qualified for Russia 2018; but an indifferent season with Leicester cost him a place in the Nations Cup team.

 

However, the former Niger and Burkina Faso manager raised many eyebrows when he opted to recall John Obi Mikel to the team even though the former Chelsea star last featured for the Eagles in the defeat to Argentina.

 

The German has a fairly decent winning ratio with the Eagles having so far won 21 of the 36 matches he has played (58.33%). He has only lost six games. Rohr, who handled Gabon (2010-12), concluded his Nations Cup tune up yesterday with a game against high ranking Senegal at the Ismailia Stadium in Ismailia, Egypt.

 

Currently ranked the third best team in Africa, Nigerian fans will be hoping that come July 19 the Super Eagles will be in the final.

 

The Eagles kick off their Egypt campaign in Group B along with Guinea, Madagascar and Burundi and their first game comes up on June 22 against the Swallows of Burundi, who will be making their ever Nations Cup appearance.

 

STAR MAN (John Mikel Obi)

 

John Mikel Obi is undoubtedly the stand out player in the Super Eagles. Although getting to the tail end of a glittering career, the player, who shone like a million stars at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Holland, placing second behind Lionel Messi, Mikel is still experienced enough to help his younger teammates perform well in Egypt.

 

Mikel, whose 87th cap against Zimbabwe meant he is Nigeria’s third most capped player, will tie the record of 94 jointly held by Vincent Enyeama and Joseph Yobo should the Eagles fly all the way to the final.

 

Now 32, the former Tianjin Teda of China star, whose glittering career includes two Premier League, three FA Cups, Football League Cup, Community Shield, Europa League and Champions League titles (all with Chelsea) and the 2016 Olympics football bronze medal, would love nothing more than to add to his solitary Nations Cup trophy (2013) before he finally calls it quits with the national team.

 

MOROCCO

 

The Atlas Lions of Morocco arrive Egypt as the fourth highest ranked team at the competition and will be hoping to finally lay to rest a 43-year-old jinx. Since winning the competition way back in 1976 the Lions have become the “nearly men” of the Nations Cup coming close in 2004 when they won the silver medal and 1980 when they finished third.

 

However, they do have some decent pedigree on the international stage for instance they were the first African team to win a group at the World Cup, which they did in 1986, finishing ahead of Portugal, Poland, and England.

 

They were also the first African team to make it to the second round, barely losing to eventual runners-up West Germany 1–0 in 1986.

 

They also came within two minutes of moving out of the group stage of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Kjetil Rekdal’s late winning goal for Norway against Brazil eliminating them.

Morocco qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, making it their first time in 20 years. Under Herve Renard, the man who guided unfancied Zambia to a shock Nations Cup win in 2012, Morocco has only lost once in seven matches since the World Cup and that was to Argentina in an international friendly on March 26 in Tangier, Morocco.

 

The 50-year-old French tactician, who also won the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations with Cote d’Ivoire, becoming the first coach to win two competitions with different countries, took charge of the Lions in 2016 and has steadily improved them taking them to the quarter-finals of the last edition in Gabon and Russia 2018.

 

He, however, has his work cut out with the Atlas Lions placed in Group D, the “ G r o u p of Death”, a l o n g – side Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa and Namibia.

 

STAR MAN (Hakim Ziyech)

 

They come no bigger than Hakim Ziyech. At just 26, the Dronten, Netherlands born Moroccan was one of the stars of Ajax’s impressive Champions League run which ended in the semis.

 

 

Known for his finishing, dribbling, speed, technique and free kick ability, Ziyech, who had featured at all age-grade levels for the Dutch national teams, opted to play for his fatherland in 2015 and since then has gone on to win 23 caps scoring 12 times in the process.

 

Currently on the wish list of many of the big teams in Europe, Ziyech, who was a member of the Lions’ Russia 2018 party, will be hoping to end his season with a Nations Cup medal around his next.

 

NATIONS CUP FACTS EGYPT 2019 GROUPS

 

 

 

Group A:

 

Egypt, Zimbabwe, Uganda, DR Congo

 

 

 

Group B:

 

 

Madagascar, Burundi, Guinea, Nigeria

 

 

 

Group C:

 

Kenya, Tanzania, Algeria, Senegal

 

 

Group D:

 

Namibia, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco

 

 

Group E:

 

Angola, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia

 

 

 

Group F:

 

Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon

 

 

 

Overall top goalscorers

 

Goals                                             Scorers

12                                               Cameroon Samuel Eto’o

14                                                Cote d’Ivoire Laurent Pokou

13                                                Nigeria Rashidi Yekini

12                                               Egypt Hassan El Shazly

11                                               Cameroon Patrick Mboma

Egypt Hossam Hassan

Cote d’Ivoire Didier Drogba

 

10                                              DR Congo Ndaye Mulamba

Cote d’Ivoire Joel Tiéhi

Ethiopia Mengistu Worku

 

Tunisia Francileudo Santos

Zambia Kalusha Bwalya

9 Angola Manucho

Cote d’Ivoire Abdoulaye Traoré

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La Liga considers legal action over new El Clasico date

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La Liga considers legal action over new El Clasico date

La Liga is considering legal action after the postponed El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid was rescheduled for December 18 by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

The match was set for 12:00 BST on Saturday in Barcelona but was postponed at La Liga’s request due to fears of civil unrest.

There was a week of protests in Barcelona after nine Catalan separatist leaders were jailed earlier this month.

La Liga had proposed December 4, reports the BBC.

Both clubs put forward Wednesday, December 18 after being asked to agree on a new date by RFEF’s competitions committee, who signed off the decision on Wednesday.

The first round of the Copa del Rey is set to take place on the same date.

“La Liga doesn’t agree with the competition committee’s decision to stipulate  December 18 – after an agreement was reached between Barcelona and Real Madrid, despite La Liga’s objections – as the date in which the postponed Clasico should be played,” La Liga said in a statement.

“We are studying the documentation that we have recently received regarding the process in which the decision was taken.

“This is in order to evaluate taking possible legal action and against whom it should be tabled, before the relevant and opportune public organisations or legal organisms.”

Barcelona and Real Madrid disagreed with La Liga’s earlier call to switch the game to Madrid.

Catalonia is a semi-autonomous region in north-east Spain and in a referendum on  October 1, 2017, declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court, around 90% of Catalan votes cast backed independence. Turnout was 43%.

The nine separatist leaders were convicted of sedition over their role in the referendum and handed jail sentences of between nine and 13 years by Spain’s Supreme Court.

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JUST IN: This weekend’s El Clasico shifted to Dec 18

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JUST IN: This weekend’s El Clasico shifted to Dec 18

This weekend’s El Clasico match between Barcelona and Real Madrid has been shifted to December 18.

The announcement was made by the Spanish Royal Football Federation (RFEF) Competition Committee on Wednesday.

The match was supposed to have taken place at the Camp Nou this weekend but had to be postponed due to the political unrest in Catalonia.

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UEFA League roundup: Mbappé, Sterling score hat-trick in PSG, City routs

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UEFA League roundup: Mbappé, Sterling score hat-trick in PSG, City routs

Kylian Mbappé came off the bench to grab a second half hat-trick and inspire Paris Saint-Germain to a runaway 5-0 victory at Belgium’s Club Brugge in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The win kept up their 100% record in Group A with the French team on nine points at the halfway mark and on the cusp of qualification for the next phase, a comfortable five points ahead of second placed Real Madrid, who won 1-0 against Galatasaray in Turkey.

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala scored twice in three minutes late in the game to give the Turin side a 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscowafter the Russians had taken a shock first-half lead, reports The Press Association.

Aleksei Miranchuk stunned the Juventus Stadium by putting the visitors ahead after half an hour of the Group D match despite the home side having 70% of possession in the first half.

Lokomotiv’s blanket defence frustrated the Serie A champions until Dybala equalised with an exquisite shot from outside the area in the 77th minute and the Argentine struck again three minutes later to complete a dramatic win.

In the other game in Group D Atlético Madrid substitute Álvaro Morata scored a late second half header to give his team a 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern Munich needed two goals from their top scorer Robert Lewandowski to sneak past hosts Olympiakos 3-2 on Tuesday and remain top of their Champions League.

The win lifted Bayern to nine point from three games. Tottenham crushed Red Star Belgrade 5-0 to move up to second place on four, one ahead of the Serbs.

And in Group C, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb played out a 2-2 draw, with Dodo’s 75th-minute equaliser.

And on a night of firsts for Manchester City, they could savour Raheem Sterling’s maiden Champions League hat-trick. If the only red card of Phil Foden’s career was a footnote, a superlative display by Sterling, who epitomises Pep Guardiola’s quest for perpetual, exponential improvement brought another milestone in his development. It was all the more remarkable as it came in 11 minutes and as he had already played a part in City’s first two goals. They scored five to give them a five-point lead in Group C. It was quite a turnaround after trailing to Atalanta. If Sergio Agüero’s double gave City a further reason to be relieved he escaped unhurt from a car crash last week, even he was overshadowed by Sterling.

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UEFA League roundup: Mbappé, Sterling score hat-tricks in PSG, City routs

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UEFA League roundup: Mbappé, Sterling score hat-tricks in PSG, City routs

Kylian Mbappé came off the bench to grab a second half hat-trick and inspire Paris Saint-Germain to a runaway 5-0 victory at Belgium’s Club Brugge in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The win kept up their 100% record in Group A with the French team on nine points at the halfway mark and on the cusp of qualification for the next phase, a comfortable five points ahead of second placed Real Madrid, who won 1-0 against Galatasaray in Turkey.

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala scored twice in three minutes late in the game to give the Turin side a 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscowafter the Russians had taken a shock first-half lead, reports The Press Association.

Aleksei Miranchuk stunned the Juventus Stadium by putting the visitors ahead after half an hour of the Group D match despite the home side having 70% of possession in the first half.

Lokomotiv’s blanket defence frustrated the Serie A champions until Dybala equalised with an exquisite shot from outside the area in the 77th minute and the Argentine struck again three minutes later to complete a dramatic win.

In the other game in Group D Atlético Madrid substitute Álvaro Morata scored a late second half header to give his team a 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern Munich needed two goals from their top scorer Robert Lewandowski to sneak past hosts Olympiakos 3-2 on Tuesday and remain top of their Champions League.

The win lifted Bayern to nine point from three games. Tottenham crushed Red Star Belgrade 5-0 to move up to second place on four, one ahead of the Serbs.

And in Group C, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb played out a 2-2 draw, with Dodo’s 75th-minute equaliser.

And on a night of firsts for Manchester City, they could savour Raheem Sterling’s maiden Champions League hat-trick. If the only red card of Phil Foden’s career was a footnote, a superlative display by Sterling, who epitomises Pep Guardiola’s quest for perpetual, exponential improvement brought another milestone in his development. It was all the more remarkable as it came in 11 minutes and as he had already played a part in City’s first two goals. They scored five to give them a five-point lead in Group C. It was quite a turnaround after trailing to Atalanta. If Sergio Agüero’s double gave City a further reason to be relieved he escaped unhurt from a car crash last week, even he was overshadowed by Sterling.

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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Expect a fantastic team – Garba

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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Expect a fantastic team – Garba

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ith the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup taking centre stage from this weekend in Brazil, coach of the Golden Eaglets, Manu Garba, has assured Nigerians and the World of a fantastic team performing better than they did at the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations played in Tanzania early this year.

 

After finishing champions in 2013 and 2015, the Eaglets failed to defend their title in 2017 as they failed to qualify. They however finished fourth at the African U-17 Championship behind Angola, who beat the favourites 2-1 in the match for third place.

 

Nigeria have been grouped in Group B alongside Hungary, Ecuador and Australia with their opening game coming up against Hungary on Saturday, October 26.

 

Speaking with FIFA.com, Garba, said they had the trophy in sight once again.

 

“Everyone should get ready to see a fantastic Nigerian team that play great football and have the trophy in their sights,” Garba said.

 

“Ecuador, Hungary and Australia are undoubtedly strong teams that we respect, but we are record-breaking world champions and I was involved in two of our title wins.

 

“The will to win every game is part of the DNA of every Nigerian team, and my team here in Brazil is no exception.”

 

Indeed, Garba was head coach when the African side clinched victory in the United Arab Emirates in 2013, and served as Yemi Tella’s assistant six years earlier.

 

Meanwhile, the assistant coach of the team, Uduka Ugbade, has declared that the team must work very hard if they are to qualify from their group as they begin their quest for a record sixth title.

 

 

Ugbade said they must be wary of the teams in their group, while also charging the players to be hardworking and never underrate their opponents.

 

He told www.brila.net that, “As the most successful team in the U-17 world cup from the past and to this present, it’s so funny that now we are meeting Hungary again since 1985 that we met them in the quarter-finals.

 

“And you know Ecuador as well, we are not going to say they are an easy country to deal with and football is on the rise in Australia as well. So we have a very big work to do to sort these teams.”

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Iwobi can’t play as Everton’s number 10 – Bent

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Iwobi can’t play as Everton’s number 10 – Bent

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ormer Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa striker Darren Bent believes Alex Iwobi does not have the quality to play in the number 10 role for Everton.

 

The Nigeria international was deployed to the attacking midfield position in the Toffees’ 2-0 victory against West Ham United last Saturday and featured for 87 minutes before making way for Gylfi Sigurdsson.

 

 

The former England international lauded the performance of the 23-year-old but claimed he is not good enough for the central attacking midfield role.

“He’s a funny one as for me he works really hard,” Bent told Football Insider

“Any player would want him in their team as he works so hard but my only issue with him is that if you’re going to play that No.10 role you need to have better quality on the ball.

 

 

“For me, too many times, he’ll pick the wrong option as he’ll shoot rather than pass or overshoot his pass, so if you’re going to play a No.10 it needs to be someone like Sigurdsson.

 

“He’s got that kind of technique, which he showed with the second goal, that means he can play No.10 and Iwobi, for a manager, he is a manager’s dream as he works really hard but to play No.10, you need to have more quality.”

 

 

Iwobi has scored two goals and provided one assist in eight appearances since his summer switch from Arsenal.

The utility player will be expected to play a role when Everton take on Brighton and Hove Albion in their next league game on October 26.

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NFF defies minister on redeployment of women dept head

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NFF defies minister on redeployment of women dept head

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he Nigeria Football Federation  has defied the order of Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, on the redeployment of its Head of Women Department, Ruth David, who was allegedly fingered for the exit of Super Falcons coach Thomas Dennerby.

 

 

The connected lady  has now been named as the Head of International competitions in the Glass House.

 

 

David was Head of Women’s football during which time she was alleged to have frustrated Dennerby causing the Swedish coach to walk out on the women’s national team.

 

 

In Dennerby’s absence, Nigeria scandalously crashed out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to Cote d’Ivoire.

 

 

And now as head of international competitions David will also oversee the Super Falcons.

 

“This appointment is against the orders of the minister as she is still very much involved with a technical aspect of the NFF, more or less the same role she was playing as head of women’s football,” an official of NFF said

 

“She ought to have been redeployed to the administrative or the accounts department, but certainly not a related competitions position.”

 

Top officials made entreaties to the minister when the order to redeploy her was made.

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Osimhen clever, dangerous, Chukwueze warns Valencia

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Osimhen clever, dangerous, Chukwueze warns Valencia

…as Lille host Valencia in Champions League today

 

…eagles striker can wreck any team – Esin

 

 

S

uper Eagles striker Victor Osimhen will be looking forward to scoring his second UEFA Champions League goal and lead his French side Lille to their first victory in the tournament when they confront Valencia today and his national teammate Samuel Chukwueze warned the Spanish side the striker could wreck them.

 

 

Osimhen announced his arrival on the big stage when he scored Lille’s only goal in their 2-1 loss to Chelsea on Match Day 2 to the admiration of Blues coach Frank Lampard who rated the Nigerian as the biggest threat for his side in the encounter.

 

 

Lille Metropolle has been the slaughter slab for Osimhen where he has scored eight of his side 12 goals on that ground ands it remains to be seen how Valencia will stop the rampaging striker.

 

Chukwueze knows all about the qualities of the Lille number seven, having played together with him in the Golden Eaglets, Flying Eagles and Olympic Team before they were promoted to the Super Eagles and the youngster has warned the Spanish side to watch out for his teammate.

 

 

 

“He is a great player, he has a lot of speed and [eye for] goal, he reads [the opposition] very well. He is a very complete forward,” Chukwueze told Spanish online news outlet, Superdeporte.es.

 

Ex-international, Etim Esin, believes Osimhen has proved he can hold his own against any team in the world and challenged the striker to maintain the consistency.

 

“Osimhem is a huge talent; he is proving that he can become one of the biggest forwards in the world and you saw the way he played against Chelsea in their last match in the Champions League, he showed class.

 

 

“I look forward to another fantastic showing from him when they play on Wednesday again. I want to see that consistency because that is what is important for a youngster. He needs to keep working hard and Champions League is a big stage for him to show the world he is getting to that level where he will be regarded as one of the best,” he said.

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Champions League: Salah returns for Liverpool

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Champions League: Salah returns for Liverpool

M

ohamed Salah has returned to Liverpool training ahead of their Champions League meeting with Genk on Wednesday.

 

 

There is, however, no Trent Alexander-Arnold for the trip to Belgium, with the England right-back having remained in Liverpool due to a virus.

 

 

Egypt star Salah missed Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United due to an ankle injury sustained before the international break but is now poised to feature in the midweek encounter.

 

 

Divock Origi took his place at Old Trafford, where a late Adam Lallana strike was sufficient to preserve the Reds’ undefeated record in the Premier League but not enough to maintain their remarkable sequence of victories.

 

 

It seems that the 27-year-old, who scored 27 goals in 52 outings last term, could be back in the starting XI in Genk, despite the club playing their cards close to their chest when discussing his condition in recent days.

 

 

This will come as a major boost to the team, who missed his presence at the weekend.

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Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League Final 8: First Bank, Air Warriors cruise to semis

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Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League Final 8: First Bank, Air Warriors cruise to semis

T

he two top teams at the 2019 Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League Final 8 both qualified for the semi-finals of the competition with emphatic wins at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos on Tuesday.

 

Having both topped their groups with 100 percent win records, First Bank and Air Warriors eased towards an anticipated confrontation in the final with big victories over Black Gold and Plateau Rocks as expected.

 

The Elephant Ladies, who are on a quest for their 10th national title, thrashed Black Gold 90-32 in the first quarter-final to claim their fourth straight post-season victory.

 

 

Grace John had a game-high 17 points and added four assists to power favourites past the underdogs who have now lost all of their four Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League National Final 8 games.

 

Ifunanya Okoro contributed 16 points, five assists and five rebounds as the champions cruised into the last four stage.

 

Air Warriors, who won all their three games to top the Group B table, ruthlessly dealt with Plateau Rocks 103-50 points.

 

Murjanatu Musa of Air Warriors scored an impressive 26 points and bagged two assists and 12 rebounds to drive her team to victory against the team that finished bottom of Group A.

 

The semi-finals are billed for Wednesday with the final scheduled for Thursday.

 

The champions of the competition and runners-up will represent Nigeria at the FIBA Africa Zone 3 Champions Cup qualifiers in Cotonou from 28 October to 3 November.

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