Apparently, Nigeria’s men’s basketball team D’Tigers have come a long way from THAT defeat to the United States of America at the London 2012 Olympics.
In what was one of the most one-sided games in Olympic history, the United States, led in scoring by the red-hot Carmelo Anthony (37 points), battered Nigeria 156-73. It was a humiliating blowout but it was not entirely unexpected.
D’Tigers were up against an all-star cast that included National Basketball Association superstars like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Anthony and James Harden. The Nigerians stood a snowball’s chance in hell and they got properly roasted.
Maybe the points difference was a little more than was expected, but no one was in doubt that the US were going to win by a big margin. That was the level D’Tigers were back then.
Of course, you would still back the US team to comfortably beat Nigeria at the moment, but you wouldn’t bet on a 40-point blowout. D’Tigers have made some progress and it is showing at the 2019 FIBA Men’s World Cup ongoing in China.
Also, back at the 2012 Olympics, D’Tigers lost to Argentina (93-79) and Lithuania (72-53), and finished 10th out of 12 tteas, beating only fellow Africans Tunisia (60-56).
The 2016 Olympics was a bit of a mixed bag for the Nigerians. They lost to Argentina by a wider margin than four years previously (94-66) but got closer to Lithuania (89-80) and then surprisingly beat Croatia (90-76). However, defeats to hosts Brazil (86-69) and Spain (96-87) meant D’Tigers finished 11th out of 12 teams in Rio.
Apart from the victory over Croatia, who later defeated Lithuania, none of D’Tigers’ results was unexpected. These were big teams that Nigeria, even as African champions, were seen as inferior to.
But that has changed in the last few years. D’Tigers are now expected to stand up to some of the world’s best teams and not be intimidated.
Despite having to practically go down on their knees in order to raise funds for their trip to China, and in spite of the crisis in the Nigeria Basketball Federation board, D’Tigers went into the World Cup not as whipping boys.
With an impressive roster that includes three NBA players and other stars based in Europe and Asia, as well as the vast experience of captain Ike Diogu, D’Tigers are no longer expected to roll over against top opponents.
And after winning the Peak Invitational tournament just before the World Cup tipped off, D’Tigers served notice that they were a team on the rise.
At the pre-World Cup tournament, coach Alex Nwora’s boys, ranked 33rd in the world, first defeated Montenegro (world no.28) 89-86 before beating world no.25 Poland 87-84 to win the Peak trophy.
Even before the Peak tournament, D’Tigers had secured warm-up victories over Dominican Republic (world no.18) and Canada (world no.23).
It’s a measure of their growth that D’Tigers’ defeats to world basketball powers Russia and Argentina were received with disappointment in Nigerian basketball circles. At the very least, these people felt Nigeria should have won one of these games.
D’Tigers were ranked seventh in the Power Rankings (based on current form) of the World Cup teams just days to the tournament. They were ranked higher than both Argentina and Russia, even Lithuania and Brazil. That’s how good the Nigerians were going into the World Cup.
In the painful defeat to Russia, D’Tigers kept up with the European giants before finally succumbing to an 82-77 loss. The 2015 African champions also put up a brave fight against Argentina, tying the game in the second quarter, before going down to a 94-81 defeat.
The setback against Russia and Argentina however did not dampen the spirits of the Nigerian lads. They didn’t let their heads drop as they took South Korea apart in their final group game, winning impressively 108-66. That is their biggest ever winning margin against a non-African team.
The victory over South Korea has given D’Tigers a shot at playing for a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and with the level they have risen to in recent months, it would take a brave man to bet against this talented bunch.
Hopefully, they will make it to Tokyo and take that next step of actually beating some of the top teams.
It is definitely not beyond these brave young Nigerians. There is still some way to go to catch up with the big boys but the trajectory is promising.
If D’Tigers could be this impressive amid the chaos of late release of funds, a divided NBBF board and the general Nigerian shodiness, who’s to say they would not that next elite level with proper funding and an ideal preparation.
Euro 2020: van Dijk to miss Holland’s final qualifier
Virgil van Dijk will not play in the Netherlands’ final Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia in Amsterdam for personal reasons.
He played the whole game as the Dutch drew 0-0 in Northern Ireland on Saturday to qualify for the finals.
But the captain left their training camp and will not feature on Tuesday, reports the BBC.
A statement released by the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) said Van Dijk’s absence for the Estonia game was due to “personal circumstances”.
The 28-year-old Liverpool defender has not missed a minute of Premier League football this season, with the Reds eight points clear.
The next league match for the leaders is away at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Van Dijk, who cost £75m when he joined from Southampton in January 2018, has featured in 64 of Liverpool’s 66 league matches since then.
Brazil rallies to win U-17 World Cup
* France beats Holland for bronze
Hosts Brazil staged a remarkable comeback for the second time in a week on Sunday to beat Mexico 2-1 in front of their own fans and win the Under-17 World Cup for a fourth time.
Just three days after they recovered from being 2-0 down to beat France 3-2 in the semi-finals, Brazil scored two goals in the last 10 minutes to overcome their Latin rivals.
Although Brazil had more of the early chances, Mexico took the lead at 66 minutes when Bryan Gonzalez rose between two defenders to head a cross from the left into the net.
Kaio Jorge equalised from the penalty spot with six minutes remaining after the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) advised officials to pull play back following a challenge on Veron.
Then three minutes into stoppage time, substitute Lazaro ran on to a cross ball and calmly fired home, to the delight of the home crowd.
The Flamengo forward had also come off the bench to score the winner in Thursday’s last-minute win over France.
“They use the VAR when it is convenient for them,” said an unhappy Mexican coach Marco Ruiz. “We had the game under control until the VAR decision. They grew after that.”
The win was revenge of a sorts for Brazil, who lost 3-0 to Mexico in the under-17 final in 2005, as well as to their under-23 team in the final of the 2012 Olympics.
Earlier in the day, Arnaud Kalimuendo-Muinga scored a hat trick to help France come from behind to beat the Netherlands 3-1 and take third-place.
Dutchman Sontje Hansen won the golden boot for the top goalscorer with six goals.
Ronaldo vows to break international goals’ record
Cristiano Ronaldo vowed to break the world record for men’s international goals after scoring his 99th Portugal goal in a 2-0 win over Luxembourg to clinch their place at Euro 2020.
He is 10 behind Iran legend Ali Daei’s tally of 109, after his most prolific year for Portugal with 14 goals.
“All records must be broken and I will beat that record,” he said.
Bernardo Silva’s ball over the top allowed Bruno Fernandes to fire them ahead and Ronaldo scored a late second, reports the BBC.
Holders Portugal needed to beat Luxembourg to make sure of a place at next summer’s tournament.
Fernando Santos’ 2016 winners finished second in Group B, three points clear of Serbia who drew 2-2 against Ukraine.
Ronaldo must wait until the next international break in March for the chance to become just the second male player to reach 100 international goals.
The Juventus forward struck his ninth international hat-trick – and the seventh since he turned 30 – on Thursday against Lithuania to set up the opportunity to hit a century on Sunday.
He says he is not fully fit, having been replaced in Juventus’ last two games before the international break.
“I wasn’t 100% and I’m still not,” he said. “In the last three weeks, I have played at a slightly reduced capacity.
“But when it comes to sacrificing myself for my club and my national team, I do it with pride.”
Tsitsipas fights back to beat Thiem and claim ATP Finals title
Stefanos Tsitsipas confirmed his meteoric rise into the highest echelon of men’s tennis by battling back to beat Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-7(6) 6-2 7-6(4) in a compelling title duel at the ATP Finals on Sunday.
The 21-year-old debutant, the youngest of the eight qualifiers for the elite season-ender at the O2 Arena, displayed resilience and flair in equal measure to become the youngest champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001.
Thiem edged an intense first set full of powerful baseline rallies but Tsitsipas, the first Greek player to qualify for the ATP’s blue-riband event, was undaunted and responded in style.
As Thiem’s level dipped, Tsitsipas surged into a 4-0 lead in the second set and then led 3-1 in the decider, reports Reuters.
Twice French Open runner-up Thiem was not finished though and fought back to take the match into a tiebreak.
World number six Tsitsipas, the crowd favorite, led 4-1 but was pegged back to 4-4 before reeling off the last three points, sealing victory when Thiem ballooned a forehand wide.
It is the fourth successive year the tournament has had a first-time winner and incredibly it is just one year since Tsitsipas won the NextGen Finals title for the best up-and-coming players on the men’s Tour.
After a sensational week in London, Tsitsipas looks poised to lead the charge for the young guns in 2020.
“I have no clue how I played so well in the second set,” Tsitsipas said on court. “I was nervous playing in such a big event. But I’m so relieved by the outstanding performance and the fight I showed today.”
Thiem will rue the 40 unforced errors that undermined him on Sunday but back-to-back wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic this week proved that, at 26, he is moving into his prime years, and not just on his favored clay.
Tsistipas was the youngest player to reach the final on debut since American Jim Courier in 1991.
He was also playing for the third successive day after losing a superb group match against Nadal on Friday and eclipsing six-time champion Federer in the semi-finals.
But he showed few signs of nerves or fatigue as he wore down Thiem with his courageous all-court attacking game to pocket a $2.6 million winner’s cheque.
Thiem, who has been battling a cold all week, was hanging on at times in the first set, saving break points at 1-2 and 3-4.
But he edged the tiebreak. Tsitsipas saved one set point with an athletic volley but then offered up another chance which Thiem took by landing a powerful first serve.
Tsistipas’s response was emphatic. He won 16 of the first 18 points of a second set he bagged in 25 minutes.
Under siege Thiem showed guts to hold serve at the start of the decider but when he slapped a backhand into the net to hand Tsitsipas the first break in the third game it appeared the match was slipping away.
The Austrian, whose run to the final will see him end the year ranked fourth in the world, then went for broke, throwing the kitchen sink at Tsitsipas as his groundstrokes rocked the Greek and he leveled the set at 3-3.
Twice Tsitsipas nervelessly held serve to stay afloat as the final moved into a final-set tiebreak for the first time since 2005 and only the fourth time in the event’s 50-year history.
Tsitsipas said after beating Federer that he would love an army of fans like the Swiss great. So it was music to his ears as “Tsitsipas…Tsitsipas” rang around the cavernous hall.
Despite being pegged back to 4-4 he reeled off the next three points to seal his third title of the year.
Olympics Eagles were unlucky – Amapakabo
Nigeria U-23 coach Imama Amapakabo has said his side were unlucky to crash out of the ongoing CAF U-23 African Cup of Nations in the group stage, missing the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games ticket.
The team played a goalless draw with South Africa in Cairo on Friday which was not enough for them to progress to the semifinal of the U-23 AFCON putting the coach under intense criticism.
“We were unlucky and unfortunate to go out because we gave everything, but it’s totally out of my hands,” he told BBC.
“I know that, as a coach, you come under pressure. We have to look at the future – this [Olympic hopes] has ended, whichever way we want to look at it.”
Africa’s most successful side at the Games, Nigeria went out of the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations on Friday with questions raised about Amapakabo’s future following the country’s poor results under his watch.
The Super Eagles B side failed to qualify for the 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) and his team also suffered an embarrassing early exit at the regional WAFU Cup tournament in October.
Amapakabo is aware that his position has become untenable following his recent failure, but said that it is up to his employers to make a decision on his future.
“I can’t say anything now because it all depends on what the federation wants in terms of going forward.” he added.
Nigeria – bronze medallists at Rio 2016 – won the 1996 Olympic football tournament and are the first African country to complete an Olympic medal sweep having won a sliver medal in Beijing in 2008.
AFCON 2021 qualifiers: Eagles whip Lesotho 4-2
Victor Osimhen scored twice as the Super Eagles defeated Lesotho 4-2 in 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers Match Day 2 tie at the Setsoto stadium on Sunday.
Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze were also on score sheet for Nigeria while Chidozie Awaziem conceded an own goal.
Manager Gernot Rohr made two changes to the starting line-up that beat Benin Republic in Uyo five days ago, with Moses Simon and Awaziem coming into the side at the expense of Samuel Kalu and Jamilu Collins respectively.
Lesotho took the lead against the run of play when Masoabi Nkoto took advantage of some lax Nigeria defending to put the hosts ahead after eleven minutes following a cross from the left channel.
But the lead would only last till the 26th minute when Osimhen led the Super Eagles press, charging down the right to set up Iwobi who slotted home from close range.
The duo of Chukwueze and Osimhen looked particularly dangerous on the break and alongside Simon, who tested goalkeeper Ntsane Lichaba with a ferocious drive from a free-kick.
On the 36th minute, Osimhen was at it again when he found space to ping in a lob which Chukwueze got on the end of to beat Lichaba with a good header.
The Lille striker was proving too difficult to handle for The Crocodiles, as he would yet threaten after the break when he rattled the cross bar with a shot.
He will then get his goal deep into the game when Ola Aina broke free from the right flank to play him in for a neat finish and take the game to 3-1.
Osimhen made it 4-1 on the 84th minute mark when impressive second half substitute Ramon Azeez shrugged off his marker to find the long-limbed front man who rounded Lichaba to grab his brace as Nigeria looked all but set to close out 2019 in style.
Osimhen wants Yekini’s crown
Victor Osimhen says he wants to do well for the national team and be remembered as one of the greatest strikers that ever played for the Super Eagles.
The former youth international who scored Nigeria’s first goal in the 2021 AFCON qualifying match against Benin, has set his sights on becoming the Super Eagles’ greatest striker of all time.
“I want to be remembered as one of the greatest strikers that ever played for the Super Eagles,” the Forward told www.brila.net.
“A lot of strikers have come through the national team, the likes of Odion Ighalo, Obafemi Martins, Julius Aghahowa and the legend Rashidi Yekini and they did quite well.”
The 20 year-old spoke about how he wants to surpass the record set by Nigeria’s all time top scorer,Rashidi Yekini, who netted 37 goals in 58 appearances.
“I want to really do well, and even surpass their goal tally for the national team but it is not just about my ambition but also for the team to achieve everything they want to accomplish and what the country has set for themselves in terms of football and I’m working so hard to get there.”
Baby Face, Bobby Girl shine at 1st GOtv Boxing Night Mini
West African Boxing Union welterweight champion, Rilwan “Baby Face” Babatunde, and rising female super featherweight boxer, Cynthia “Bobby Girl” were the standout performers at the maiden edition of GOtv Boxing Night Mini, which held on Saturday at the Rowe Park Sports Complex in Lagos.
Baby Face was all menace and speed, knocking out Saheed Lawal in the third of their eight-round national challenge duel. Lawal, who was a replacement for Dennis “The Range” Mbat, who pulled out on account of an accident, gave a good account of himself in terms of defiance. But the WABU champion’s volume punching at velocity was too much for him, as he was quickly in a daze, forcing the referee to stop the fight.
Ogunsemilore, who won her fight by knockout at GOtv Boxing Night 19, confirmed her status as a boxer to watch out for. She defeated Roliat “Mummy’s Pet” Akinsanya by unanimous decision in a thrilling super featherweight bout. The Range boxer exhibited composure and guile beyond her age to outwit her similarly impressive opponent. In the lightweight category, WABU champion, Rilwan “Real One” Oladosu, stopped Ola Adebakin in the first of the scheduled eight rounds. Waheed “Showmax” Shogbanmu got the better of Semiu “Jagaban” Olapade.
Shake-up imminent at NFF secretariat
…as Minister dangles the axe after strings of poor results
The Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, is worried stiff over the way the country’s football fortunes have been on the decline in the past few weeks and the poor results could lead to a shake-up in the secretariat of the Nigeria Football Federation.
Dare was reacting to the recent ouster of the Nigerian team from the U-23 AFCON taking place in Egypt.
The team, under the tutelage of coach Imama Amakapabo, drew goalless with South Africa in a match that the country needed a win. The team had earlier lost 1-0 to Cote d’ Ivoire while the 3-1 win in the second group match was not good enough for Nigeria to book a semifinal berth.
Egypt, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa are still in the race for the three automatic tickets to the football event of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, last year.
The debacle in Egypt followed the Golden Eagles’ early ouster from the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil and the failure of the Super Falcons to qualify for the Olympics.
The Flying Eagles had earlier crashed out of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the second round this year and Nigeria also had an unimpressive showing at WAFU tournament.
Our correspondent learnt that Dare was worried about the vicissitude of fortune of Nigerian football and is ready to effect a ‘surgical operation’ in the game.
Authoritative sources close to the minister revealed that there might be changes in the secretariat of the federation this week in line with the thinking of the ministry.
“He knows he can’t touch the NFF board but he will carry out the reorganization of the secretariat. He is passionate about initiating reviews of the game and he sees a well-structured and functional secretariat as an important process. He will wield the big sticks this week,” the source said.
Ronaldo hits 99th goal as Portugal make Euros
Cristiano Ronaldo was made to wait for his 100th international goal as defending champions Portugal edged past Luxembourg to qualify for Euro 2020.
Fernando Santos’ 2016 winners required victory to confirm second spot in Group B and finish three points clear of Serbia, who drew 2-2 against Ukraine.
Ronaldo tapped in his 99th goal to seal victory with four minutes remaining.
Bernardo Silva’s ball over the top had allowed Bruno Fernandes to fire the visitors ahead after 39 minutes.
Ronaldo must wait until the next international break in March for the chance to become just the second male player to reach 100 goals for his nation.
He is now just 10 behind Iran legend Ali Daei’s world-record tally of 109, after ensuring his most prolific calendar year for Portugal with 14 goals
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