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It’s Nigeria, Algeria semis

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It’s Nigeria, Algeria semis

Super Eagles now have a semifinal opponent as Algeria reached the last four of the Africa Cup of Nations by beating Ivory Coast 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Algeria took the lead through ex-West Ham winger Sofiane Feghouli’s side-foot finish before they missed a penalty.

Baghdad Bounedjah, who had been fouled by keeper Sylvain Gbohouo, hit the bar.

Ivory Coast forced extra time after Aston Villa forward Jonathan Kodjia’s low finish but, after no further goals, the tie was decided by penalties.

Algeria, seeking a first AFCON triumph since 1990, will now meet Nigeria in Cairo on Sunday evening. Nigeria defeated South Africa 2-1 on Wednesday to qualify.

Ivory Coast had gone close to scoring when the game was goalless, Rais M’Bolhi pushing Max Gradel’s attempt on to the post.

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha went into the quarter-final looking to increase his two-goal tally at the tournament.

However, the Ivory Coast player was booked and fortunate to escape a red card after a confrontation with Ramy Bensebaini.

Zaha and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez had been replaced by the end of the 120 minutes and did not take part in the penalty shootout.

Former Manchester City player Wilfried Bony had already had a penalty saved when team-mate Serey Die hit the post, earning Algeria victory.

Algeria reached the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations by beating Ivory Coast 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Algeria took the lead through ex-West Ham winger Sofiane Feghouli’s side-foot finish before they missed a penalty.

Baghdad Bounedjah, who had been fouled by keeper Sylvain Gbohouo, hit the bar.

Ivory Coast forced extra time after Aston Villa forward Jonathan Kodjia’s low finish but, after no further goals, the tie was decided by penalties.

Algeria, seeking a first AFCON triumph since 1990, will now meet Nigeria in Cairo on Sunday.

Ivory Coast had gone close to scoring when the game was goalless, Rais M’Bolhi pushing Max Gradel’s attempt on to the post.

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha went into the quarter-final looking to increase his two-goal tally at the tournament.

However, the Ivory Coast player was booked and fortunate to escape a red card after a confrontation with Ramy Bensebaini.

Zaha and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez had been replaced by the end of the 120 minutes and did not take part in the penalty shootout.

Former Manchester City player Wilfried Bony had already had a penalty saved when team-mate Serey Die hit the post, earning Algeria victory.

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Tokyo 2020: Coaches want more international exposure

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resident, Track and Field Coaches Association of Nigeria (TATCAN), Godwin Ogogo has called for more international training for Nigerian athletics coaches for the country to excel at international competitions.

 

Ogogo made the call on Saturday in Abuja at the end of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) training course for 24 coaches at the Mashood Abiola National Stadium.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that good coaching and early preparations were imperative for Nigeria to return to the good old days of  dominance in athletics in Africa.

“I think for us to return to the good old days when we dominated athletics on the continent, we need to focus on proper coaching and early preparations for competitions,” he said.

 

Ogogo maintained that exposure of coaches to modern coaching techniques was key to grooming athletes that could win medals for Nigeria at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and other athletics competition.

He explained that the just concluded IAAF Level 1 Athletics Coaches Education Certificate Course was organised to train the trainers in modern coaching techniques in line with international best practice.

 

“The IAAF coaching course (level 1) is a programme by the world athletics body to train coaches to be able to develop and produce athletes that will make impact in the world of athletics,” he said.

The IAAF coaching instructor said that the two weeks coaching course covered 22 events including sprints, middle and long distance races, throws, hurdles and jumps.

He expressed optimism that proper implementation of the coaching system across the country, would see Nigeria taking over athletics in Africa and the world at large.

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Akoromuonye targets employment with Grassroots football leagues

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x-footballer, Richard Akoromuonye, has said his decision to float Grassroots Global Sports, the organisers of the Grassroots Premier League, Grassroots National League and two other leagues, was to give back to the society that made him while creating employment for young footballers out there.

 

 

Apart from the players, Akoromuonye, who played his club football in Romania before his retirement, said there are so many players coming out of the National Institute for Sports, Lagos, but no available jobs for them. He said such players will be given opportunity to realise their dreams.

 

He said that the leagues had kicked off on July 11 across several locations in Lagos.

 

“Grassroots Global Sports was founded in year 2000 by Nigerian players playing professional football in Romania,” he said.

 

“As the president and also because I am not playing active football again, so I decided to give back to the society.”

 

He added that the prize money for top two stands at N50,000 and N25,000 respectively while there will be prizes for players and coaches of the month as they continue to look for sponsors.

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Asia Trophy: Wolves beat Man City in bizarre penalty shootout

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olves beat champions Manchester City to win the pre-season Premier League Asia Trophy following a bizarre penalty shootout in China.

Four of the first five penalties were saved or missed before keeper Rui Patricio denied City’s Lukas Nmecha to give Wolves a 3-2 shootout victory.

 

The game was level at 0-0 following 90 minutes of an intriguing match in which City dominated possession.

 

City’s Raheem Sterling had also missed a penalty in the first half.

The England winger had two other decent chances to score – Kevin de Bruyne’s wonderful curling cross was inches away from being poked in at the back post by Sterling before the 24-year-old scuffed a shot in the box.

 

Midfielder De Bruyne was excellent in the first half before he was replaced by Ilkay Gundogan, playing exquisite passes to Leroy Sane and Sterling, creating numerous chances for his team-mates, reports the BBC.

 

Wolves keeper Patricio needed stitches after denying Sterling when threaded in by De Bruyne and there was a lengthy stoppage in play.

It threatened to ruin the rhythm of City’s intensity but then Sane outpaced Adama Traore and the Wolves winger brought him down in the box for a penalty.

 

Sterling took responsibility for the spot-kick but hoofed it way over the bar, much to his own frustration.

Pep Guardiola and Nuno Espirito Santo made plenty of changes after the break; City’s David Silva and Bernardo Silva, and Wolves’ Ruben Vinagre, were among the players to come on.

But it was Wolves youngster Dion Sanderson who had the first chance – he was fed in on the right of the box but his shot was blocked at the near post.

 

The FA Cup semi-finalists came close again when Ruben Neves’ half-volley from distance was saved by Claudio Bravo, before City substitute Bernardo Silva had a shot deflected wide.

 

David Silva almost broke the deadlock late on when Conor Coady was booked for dragging back Bernardo after a poor touch and gave away a free-kick. The Spaniard’s curling effort was well saved by Patricio, who dived low to his left.

Then came the shootout – Coady, David Silva, Gundogan and Max Kilman’s spot-kicks all failed to hit the net after Ryan Bennett had given Wolves the advantage.

 

Danilo and Aleix Garcia converted their penalties for City before young Taylor Perry and Vinagre put Wolves 3-2 up. Nmecha had to score but hit it straight down the middle and Patricio made the save to confirm Wolves’ victory.

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Asia Trophy: Wolves beat Man City in bizarre penalty shootout

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Asia Trophy: Wolves beat Man City in bizarre penalty shootout

Wolves beat champions Manchester City to win the pre-season Premier League Asia Trophy following a bizarre penalty shootout in China.

Four of the first five penalties were saved or missed before keeper Rui Patricio denied City’s Lukas Nmecha to give Wolves a 3-2 shootout victory.

The game was level at 0-0 following 90 minutes of an intriguing match in which City dominated possession.

City’s Raheem Sterling had also missed a penalty in the first half.

The England winger had two other decent chances to score – Kevin de Bruyne’s wonderful curling cross was inches away from being poked in at the back post by Sterling before the 24-year-old scuffed a shot in the box.

Midfielder De Bruyne was excellent in the first half before he was replaced by Ilkay Gundogan, playing exquisite passes to Leroy Sane and Sterling, creating numerous chances for his team-mates, reports the BBC.

Wolves keeper Patricio needed stitches after denying Sterling when threaded in by De Bruyne and there was a lengthy stoppage in play.

It threatened to ruin the rhythm of City’s intensity but then Sane outpaced Adama Traore and the Wolves winger brought him down in the box for a penalty.

Sterling took responsibility for the spot-kick but hoofed it way over the bar, much to his own frustration.

Pep Guardiola and Nuno Espirito Santo made plenty of changes after the break; City’s David Silva and Bernardo Silva, and Wolves’ Ruben Vinagre, were among the players to come on.

But it was Wolves youngster Dion Sanderson who had the first chance – he was fed in on the right of the box but his shot was blocked at the near post.

The FA Cup semi-finalists came close again when Ruben Neves’ half-volley from distance was saved by Claudio Bravo, before City substitute Bernardo Silva had a shot deflected wide.

David Silva almost broke the deadlock late on when Conor Coady was booked for dragging back Bernardo after a poor touch and gave away a free-kick. The Spaniard’s curling effort was well saved by Patricio, who dived low to his left.

Then came the shootout – Coady, David Silva, Gundogan and Max Kilman’s spot-kicks all failed to hit the net after Ryan Bennett had given Wolves the advantage.

Danilo and Aleix Garcia converted their penalties for City before young Taylor Perry and Vinagre put Wolves 3-2 up. Nmecha had to score but hit it straight down the middle and Patricio made the save to confirm Wolves’ victory.

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Greenwood scores winner as United beat Inter

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Greenwood scores winner as United beat Inter

Teenage striker Mason Greenwood scored Manchester United’s second-half winner against Inter Milan in the International Champions Cup.

Greenwood, 17, fired home 14 minutes from time, then hit the bar as United deservedly won 1-0 in Singapore.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side created a series of decent first-half chances.

Luke Shaw’s 20-yard shot went narrowly wide, then he crossed for Marcus Rashford, who couldn’t get a touch inside the six-yard box.

The first half also saw a sensational pass with the outside of his foot by Paul Pogba, who sent the ball curling 40 yards for Rashford to run on to, only for Inter keeper Samir Handanovic to rush out just in time.

Skipper Nemanja Matic headed against a post after half-time, so it took the introduction of Greenwood for United to get the goal their dominance deserved.

The Yorkshire teenager feinted right, then cut in on his left foot before smashing a shot through a crowd of bodies.

He nearly had a second when he clipped the bar trying to finish off Tahith Chong’s pass.

On Wednesday, it seemed a bit outrageous when Solskjaer said the teenager could start United’s opening Premier League game against Chelsea at Old Trafford on August 11.

Maybe it is not so far-fetched after all.

In his side’s two games prior to this in Australia, Solskjaer had switched his entire team at half-time.

On Friday, he revealed an intention to keep some on for longer despite the additional heat and humidity in Singapore, so there was an awareness that he is starting to send out messages to his large squad for the season ahead.

For Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo, there was a very interesting one – with fellow defender Axel Tuanzebe selected ahead of all four of them.

When United’s players returned for pre-season training at the beginning of July, it was anticipated Tuanzebe would probably be sent out on loan, possibly back to Aston Villa, who he helped into the Premier League last season.

But Tuanzebe has impressed on this trip, so much so that the 21-year-old was picked alongside Victor Lindelof for the toughest test of United’s pre-season so far.

The England Under-21 international did well. He occasionally drifted out of position, but Lindelof and skipper Nemanja Matic soon corrected him.

And, while it is tough to see how Tuanzebe could have shown enough to persuade Solskjaer he did not need to buy someone of the stature of England’s Harry Maguire, he could be being cemented in a back-up role.

That would have major repercussions for his more experienced team-mates, particularly Smalling and Rojo, who were left on the bench throughout.

It has been obvious for some time that Solskjaer’s strategy is going to rely on pace.

His starting line-up was stacked with it. The key is going to be allying that with an end product.

United coaching staff view £15m signing Daniel James as a bit of a gamble. They have been working on the Wales winger’s final pass and it was clear in Singapore’s National Stadium there is still work to do.

James had his head in his hands when he blazed Lindelof’s lay-off wide from an acute angle. In fairness, James was hitting it with his weaker foot but he needs to take an extra half-second before shooting.

It was also interesting to see Pogba come over to offer encouragement after James had missed. If the Frenchman is to remain at Old Trafford this summer, as Solskjaer is convinced he will, Pogba needs to take on more responsibility.

United stay in Singapore for another day before heading to China, where they will play Premier League rivals Tottenham on Thursday, reports the BBC.

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Man Utd reject £54m Inter bid for Lukaku

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Man Utd reject £54m Inter bid for Lukaku

Manchester United have rejected a 60m euro (£53.9m) bid from Inter Milan for striker Romelu Lukaku.

The bid falls well below United’s valuation of the 26-year-old Belgium international, who joined them from Everton two years ago for £75m.

Inter boss Antonio Conte has made Lukaku – who will not play for United against the Italian side in Singapore on Saturday – his number one target.

“You know I like this player,” Conte said on Friday.

“When I was Chelsea’s coach [from 2016 to 2018], I tried to bring him to Chelsea.

“I like this player and consider him an important player for us to have a good improvement, but at the same there is a transfer market.

“We will see what happens – but for now Lukaku is a United player.”

Inter’s move for Lukaku is thought to hinge on the future of Mauro Icardi, who has not travelled on the club’s summer tour of Asia amid reports he is to leave, reports the BBC.

When asked about the Argentina striker, Conte replied: “The club was very clear that Icardi is out of Inter’s project. This is the reality.”

When pressed on Lukaku’s future at Old Trafford, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Friday he had “no more updates”.

The Belgian missed both of United’s tour matches in Australia because of injury.

“He’s not fit. He won’t be available,” said Solskjaer.

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Eagles land in Abuja, as FG welcomes bronze winning team

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Eagles land in Abuja, as FG welcomes bronze winning team

Super Eagles of Nigeria arrived the country on Friday morning after participating at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

 

The players and their officials touched land in Abuja, the country capital amid fanfare as they were welcomed by different dance group and a delegation of the Federal Government.

 

Despite the expectation of Nigerians for the team to win the title, they have to settle for the bronze medal after losing their semifinal game against Algeria 2-1 before defeating Tunisia 1-0 in the third place match.

 

A chartered Air Peace aircraft that flew the delegation from Egypt landed in Abuja about 10.40am, led by the NFF First Vice President, Seyi Akinwunmi, including the 2nd Vice President Shehu Dikko, General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, Members of the Executive Committee, and players and officials of the Eagles.

 

The Federal Government had lauded the bronze medal –winning effort of the team, as a team led by the Secretary to the Federal Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, received the Nigeria delegation to the finals in Egypt, on arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. In his remarks while receiving the team on arrival, Mustapha said the Government of Nigeria was appreciative of their efforts in finishing third in a 24 – team Africa Cup of Nations, the biggest in the history of the championship.

 

“We commend you for finishing third best in the whole of the African continent,” he said.

 

“We all wanted the first position but this is football where things sometimes do not go as you plan.

 

The government of Nigeria is quite happy with your level of discipline and professionalism and how you comported yourselves creditably as Nigerian ambassadors. “The fighting spirit and resilience you demonstrated in Egypt is a reflection of the never-say-die spirit of the Nigerian.

 

We want you to keep it up. I congratulate the technical crew led by Coach Gernot Rohr, the players and the staff of the team.”

 

On behalf of the team, Ahmed Musa thanked President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) and the Federal Government for the support given to the team before, during and after the AFCON 2019, promising that the Super Eagles will endeavour to do better at the next championship

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AFCON: Eagles did well, can do better

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AFCON: Eagles did well, can do better

In all spheres of life, Nigerians are very difficult to please.

 

The 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations ended on Friday (yesterday) in Egypt with the final match between Senegal and Algeria. They earned the berth on merit because they were the best two in the competition while Senegal are the current number one country in the rankings of the world football body, FIFA. The Super Eagles lost 2-1 in the ssemi-final 1but many followers of the game believe they should have gone all the way to emerge the champions.

 

Against a well-organised Algerian team, Eagles struggled and conceded a late freekick to give the North Africans a ticket to the final. Nigeria eventually settled for the bronze after beating Tunisia 1-0 in the Third Place match. It is important to stress that strong countries like Morocco, Egypt, Cote d Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Cameroon did not make it to the last four stage.

 

In fact Cameroon, the defending champions, lost to Nigeria in the second round while South Africa eliminated hot favourites, Egypt, also in the second round. For the 2015 and 2017 editions of the competition, the Eagles failed to qualify. So much has been said on the performances of Gernot Rohr and the Eagles in Egypt but it is sad that many believe the only result Nigeria deserves in AFCON was the first position. How?

 

The current Eagles team is an emerging team yet to blossom and that is why the expected cohesion was not there. In the first two games, the Eagles struggled and were lucky to have beaten Burundi and Guinea. In the knock out games against Cameroon and South Africa, the team did very well with the 3-2 win over the Lions and the 2-1 win over Bafana Bafana. It was a different issue against Algeria because the Foxes were better overall. The three strikers upfront interchanged to confuse defenders and there was no hiding place for the Eagles.

 

Only an element of luck could have made the encounter go the other way. Before the competition, there were issues raised about the goalkeeping department and this manifested at the AFCON. Francis Uzoho, the country’s number one at the World Cup in Russia, became number three at AFCON but Daniel Akpeyi is not better. The three keepers lacked the quality of a great number one like Vincent Enyeama, Peter Rufai and a host of others.

 

The defenders too were barely average considering the kind of goals conceded through schoolboy errors. The free-kick Riyad Mahrez scored in the semi-final was a result of poor defending.

The ball should have been cleared better to avoid the free-kick. In defending it, Akpeyi was behind his defenceline and the other side was free for Mahrez. In the midfield, Alex Iwobi tried his best but it was evident that the team needed more creativity to flourish better. Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo did well generally but they did not help in creating chances for the strikers.

 

Ndidi was committing fouls in dangerous areas. Some of the changes made by Rohr were poor except in the two games against Cameroon and South Africa. When Eagles were chasing the game against Madagascar, he did not bring in a striker. He should have introduced Victor Oshimen against Algeria while Ahmed Musa took a bow but that did not happen. Coaches do make mistakes and so Rohr is only human.

 

It was learnt that he did not work well with his assistants in taking crucial decisions in Egypt and that was bad. After bringing a keepers’ trainer to join Alloy Agu, we were unable to get a quality keeper for AFCON. There are quality keepers in the country, the coaches should work hard to fish them out. Skipper Mikel Obi cannot be at the next AFCON and so Ndidi is the best option as captain because of his position and current form.

 

The team should be moulded around him. The Technical Department of the Nigeria Football Federation should function, ask questions and provide direction for Rohr. He should be allowed to continue to make the team stronger. The plan of the NFF to send Rohr to Bayern for refresher course is good but two or three Nigerian coaches should follow him to gain knowledge.

 

Samuel Chukwueze was great at AFCON and it is expected he will get better together with other younger elements in the team. Nigerians should embrace the spirit of sportsmanship; the Eagles cannot win every competition. To place third out of 24 teams is good enough but certainly, there are obvious areas where better quality players are required.

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Don’t fire Rohr, Balogun begs NFF

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Don’t fire Rohr, Balogun begs NFF

Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun has made a passionate appeal to the Nigeria Football Federation not to fire their manager Gernot Rohr. The German’s future with the Nigerian team has been thrown into doubt following the Eagles’ elimination in the semi-final of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.

 

They surrendered to a 2-1 loss in the hands of Algeria. Balogun said the team was developing under the former Gabon coach, insisting that changing of guards could disrupt the steady growth of the squad.

 

He enjoined Nigerians to be patient with the 2019 AFCON bronze winners under the charge of the German tactician, stating that the manager would lead them to a greater performance in the future.

 

“I think continuity is always the basis for success in the long run; if you keep changing coaches then you are always going to have different ideas and that will distruptive continuity in the team, I think it is better we keep it the way it is now,” he said. The Brighton defender insisted that the team would dominate football on the continent and they had learnt so many lessons from the campaign in AFCON 2019. “Of course we have improved from the World Cup, most of the players from then are still together, I think we matured a little bit.

 

We were disappointed with the way we were eliminated here but we are young team, we are strong, we are learning, we are developing that is the greatest lesson we are taking away from this campaign,” he said. He said although the team’s ambition was to win the title, they were still happy to have ended the campaign on a high with a bronze medal.

 

“We are glad that we have something to take back home; we deserved to leave here with something and we got it. This was a long campaign and you can see we can smile again,” he said.

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Nigerians deserve better than bronze medal from Eagles –Garba Lawal

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Nigerians deserve better than bronze medal from Eagles –Garba Lawal

Ex-international, Garba Lawal, has said the performance of the Super Eagles at the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations cannot be termed a good outing as Nigerians back home want their team to win every competition, especially the AFCON. “Getting to the semi-finals is not news again, Eagles have been to that position on several occasions,” he told our correspondent.

 

“They have won the silver and bronze especially on several occasions, what we all want is for them to win the gold and the title.

 

“If they say the mandate for them was to get to the semi-finals, then I will say Nigeria is bigger than that, whenever we go for any championship, the people back home will want the team to win the trophy especially a competition like the AFCON.

 

“Nobody wants you to get to the sem-ifinals and say you are out. A lot of people didn’t watch the third-place game compared to if the Eagles were playing in the final. Nigerians want the cup but getting the bronze, we will have to take it like that.”

 

He added that going for the AFCON, everyone expected the Eagles to get the gold, but coming back with the bronze medal is a good thing as the team didn’t come back empty handed.

“The bronze is better than nothing. We should stop the blame game as they all win and lose together as a team. We need to forge ahead from now.”

 

The Super Eagles defeated Tunisia 1-0 in Cairo on Wednesday night to win Nigeria’s eighth AFCON bronze medal.

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