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Falconets declare readiness to face South Africa

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Nigeria’s Under 20 female team, Falconets, will on Saturday, January 13, take on their South African counterparts in the first leg of the final round of African qualifying series for the 2018 FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup finals in France.

To reach this stage, the Falconets overwhelmed their oppositions from Tanzania 9-0 on aggregate, before sending their Moroccan counterparts packing with a 6-2 scoreline after two legs.

The South African girls shot past Namibia and Burundi to secure a doubleheader with rivals, Nigeria, with the opening leg at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday, 3pm South African time (2pm Nigeria time).

Falconets’ coach, Chris Danjuma, told thenff.com that his team, which departed Nigeria on January 3, are prepared to take the game to the South Africans in Polokwane.

“We have been working very hard at training for some weeks now, and we are very focused on earning the World Cup ticket. Of course, we understand that the South Africans would be tougher opposition than our previous opponents.

“We are ready for them. Our eyes are on the ticket to France.”

Nigeria reached the final of the tournament in 2014 in Canada but lost 1-0 to a resilient German side after regulation time.

 

We can’t surprise Argentina again- Rohr

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Super Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr, has admitted that Nigeria’s last World Cup group match with Argentina on June 26, 2018, at Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg will be a difficult one.

According to Argentine publication, Ole, Rohr reportedly remarked that the match will determine who qualifies from the group. In essence, he is projecting that both Argentina and Nigeria will emerge from the Group D and the last match will only determine the group leader and the runners-up.

The runners-up face a potentially difficult Round of 16 match with projected Group C leader, France. The French side eliminated Nigeria in the second round in 2014. The tactician has a link with the French, even though he was born a German.

On the South Americans, Rohr stated: “You know how we play, so we cannot surprise them like the last time”, referring to the 4-2 defeat Nigeria inflicted on Argentina two months ago.”

He acknowledged that this time it will be more difficult to beat the the two-time World Champions who lost to the Eagles in an international friendly game played in Krasnodar, Russia, in November, 2017.

“It will be more difficult this time than in the friendly because they know how we play, so we cannot surprise them like the last time.”

Oshoala seeks more games for Super Falcons

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Three-time African footballer of the year, Asisat Oshoala, has called for more fixtures to be arranged for Nigeria’s women’s team, after a friendly against France was confirmed for the coach-less side in April, 2018.

The match, scheduled for April 4 in Paris, will be the Super Falcons’ first since winning the African Women Championship in December, 2016.

The former Arsenal Ladies attacker welcomed the fixture but says Nigeria needs more games ahead of the qualifiers for the 2018 Nations Cup in Ghana.

“It’s a good one, a big step for us and good news for women’s football in Nigeria generally but it’s not enough,” Oshoala, who won the CAF individual prize in 2014, 2016 and 2017, told BBC Sport.

“It’s not about the France game alone, but we need more games like this and we don’t have to plead before we get games,” she added.

This year’s Women’s Nations Cup will take on extra significance as it will also decide the continent’s representative at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Meanwhile, the eight-time African Champions are still searching for a coach after American, Randy Waldrum rejected the opportunity to lead the team in the month of December, 2017.

Ousmane Dembele set for action after four months

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Barcelona’s record signing, Ousmane Dembele, has been given the green light to return to action after four months on the sidelines due to an injury he sustained while in action for the Catalan giants.

Dembele, who cost Barca an initial 96.8 million Pounds, rising to a possible 135.5 million Pound, when he joined from Borussia Dortmund in August in 2017, managed just three appearances for the Catalan giants before suffering a hamstring injury against Getafe on September 16, 2018.

The France international subsequently underwent surgery in Finland, and has been working his way back to fitness since.

He has now been Barca’s cleared by medical services, with a club statement saying: “After a lengthy recovery process from an injury to the femoral biceps on his left thigh, the 20-year-old Frenchman is now available for Ernesto Valverde.”

Barca will be in action against Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey on Thursday, January 4, before taking on Levante in the La Liga on Sunday, where they will attempt to extend their nine-point lead at the top of the table.

Dembele became the second most expensive player in history when Barca invested almost half the 200.6 million Pounds they received from Neymar’s move to Paris St Germain earlier in the summer of 2017 on the former Borussia Dortmund player.

Ex-AC Milan, Chelsea, and PSG striker emerges Liberia’s president

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

After vying for the position over a decade ago, former Chelsea, Manchester City and AC Milan striker, George Weah, will be the next president of Liberia, following the country’s election conducted recently.

Weah, 51, became the first non-European player to win the Ballon d’Or in 1995; just one of many achievements over a prolific 18-year professional career that ended in 2003.

He entered politics after his retirement and had been serving as a senator in Liberia’s parliament.

His victory was announced by Liberia’s National Elections Commission, and it said that with 98.1 percent of ballots counted, Weah had won 61.5 percent of the vote.

Weah will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Africa’s first elected female president. She defeated Weah in 2005, in elections held shortly after the end of a brutal civil war.

The former Liberian international is famous for his moments with AC Milan, one of which was a solo effort against Verona which started in his own penalty area and saw him dribbling past almost an entire team.

First brought to Europe by Arsene Wenger at Monaco in 1988, Weah scored 47 league goals for the club in four years before a move to Paris St-Germain. There, he won the league title in 1994 and was the top scorer in the UEFA Champions League a year later, finishing ahead of Jari Litmanen, Romario and Hristo Stoichkov, before moving to Milan in 1995.

After a stellar season with Milan, Weah featured for Manchester City, and Chelsea, winning the FA Cup with the London club before returning to France to play for Marseille. He retired from football in 2003 after playing Al Jazira.

Blues join chase for Eagles right-back, Abdullahi

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

English Championship side, Birmingham City, have launched a move for Nigeria international, Shehu Abdullahi, who has been on the radar of a host of European club-sides in recent weeks.

The 24-year-old utility player, who is capable of playing at right-back or in midfield, is in the final year of his contract with Cypriot club, Anorthosis Famagusta.

According to the Daily Mail, the Blues have made an enquiry for Abdullahi’s services, but Anorthosis want to avoid losing him on a free transfer so they could cash in around 500,000 Pounds when the transfer window reopens.

Birmingham fought their way up the Championship table after a difficult first half of the campaign. The St Andrew’s chiefs are, however, ready to back under-fire boss, Steve Cotterill, in the transfer market.

According to 90MinutesGoal.com, Premier League giants, Everton and Liverpool, are also interested in Abdullahi, as they seek to beef up their respective wing-back positions.

Everton have been without first-choice right-back, Seamus Coleman, since he suffered a broken leg in March and manager of the side, Sam Allardyce, believes Coleman is still “a way off” returning. Liverpool, on the other hand, are looking to strengthen their right-full back position with Nathaniel Clyne set to be sidelined until February.

Speaking last month, a representative for Abdullahi said: “Yes we have offers from Spain, France, Italy and Merseyside clubs in England.

“We will study which offer is best for our client, since he will be a free agent after the World Cup,” the source concluded.

According to the Daily Mail: German outfit Freiburg and Turkish side Trabzonspor are also in the hunt for the former Kano Pillars defender.

Falcons commence preparation ahead South Africa clash

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

Nigeria’s Under 20 women’s team have kicked-off preparations ahead of their all important final FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup qualifying round clash with South Africa.

The Falconets camp opened on December 18, and held their first full training session with a full squad on December 20 afternoon at the FIFA Goal Project, Abuja.

The trio of Charity Rueben, Rasheedat Ajibade, and captain of the team, Kemi Famuditi, were part of the training session as they gear up for a double-legged encounter with the Basetsana.

This latest development sees the Christopher Danjuma tutored side spending their Christmas at their base to continue their training until January.

The Falconets, earlier in November, had advanced, having defeated Morocco 6-2 on aggregate after pummeling the North Africans, recording a 5-1 victory at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.

While the South African side progressed after they secured a first leg 2-0 deficit, and a 5-0 second leg victory over Burundi at the Dobsonville Stadium, South Africa.

Danjuma and his wards will be hoping to maintain Nigeria’s winning streak against the Southern Africans when both sides meet for the sixth time at this stage.

Nigeria will travel to Johannesburg for the first leg clash at the Dobsonville Stadium before the return leg at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, Benin City, two weeks later.

Winner of the double-header will qualify as one of Africa’s representatives at the FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup in France between August 5 and 24, 2018.

Super Eagles end year Africa’s ninth best team on latest FIFA ranking

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

The Super Eagles again dropped in the latest FIFA ranking released Thursday, December 21, as they now occupy the 51st position in the world and 9th in Africa; the worst yet.

The previous ranking saw the Gernot Rohr-led side drop to 50th place and it does not seem to be getting any better, as the team continues to drift.

The Eagles who were very impressive throughout world cup qualifiers are now the 6th lowest ranked team going to the world cup.

Meanwhile world champions, Germany, retained the first position, followed by Brazil, Portugal, Argentina and Belgium to make up the five best teams in the world, as it remained unchanged from what it was last month.

The release also saw Algeria move up six places and back into the top 10 teams in Africa displacing Ivory Coast.

The top ten teams in Africa include: Senegal, Tunisia, Egypt, Congo DR, Morrocco, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, and Algeria.

The top ten countries in the world include: Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, France, and Chile.

In the mean time, Nigeria’s 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifying opponents- South Africa, Libya and Seychelles sit in the 81st, 88th and 192nd places respectively in the updated ranking.

Also, Nigeria’s World Cup rivals Croatia and Iceland occupy 17th and 22nd spots respectively on the ladder, as Argentina was earlier named the fourth placed team in the world.

Griezmann free to leave- Simeone

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

As a result of their poor form in the 2017/18 season, Atletico Madrid’s coach, Diego Simeone, has confirmed that Antoine Griezmann will be allowed to leave the club.

The 26-year-old is reported to be a target for a number of Europe’s largest clubs, with Manchester United linked with a move for the France international last summer.

Griezmann is expected to remain at Atletico for the remainder of the season, but he has been given the nod by Simeone to leave the club in the future.

Although there are indications of the attacker remaining at the club in the new year, the club is preparing for life without him, as Barcelona and Manchester United are leading the race for his signature.

The Frenchman has endured a rough start to the current campaign with Atletico since the team moved to their new stadium, Wanda Metropolitano.

The Spanish giants who made it to two UEFA Champions League finals in three seasons, and losing out to city rivals, Real Madrid, on both occasions, have crashed out of the current season Champions League, and they are third on the La liga table with 33 points, 6 points behind leaders, Barcelona.

With the attacker’s present form, staying with Atletico may prove a tall order, especially with the interest from other top clubs.

 

Scolari to lead Australia to 2018 World Cup

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, former Brazil’s World Cup winning coach, Felipe Scolari, has announced that Australia have approached him to lead them to the tournament, and he has accepted the job.

Scolari, who recently ended a two-and-a-half year stint with Chinese club, Guangzhou Evergrande, said the Socceroos had spoken with his agent about him replacing Ange Postecoglou, who resigned in November.

Australia qualified for Russia after beating Honduras in an intercontinental playoff and have been drawn in Group C alongside France, Peru and Denmark. Postecoglou quit the Socceroos a week after securing Australia’s spot at the mundial.

Having led Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002, Scolari suffered a heartbreaking 7-1 home defeat by Germany in the 2014 tournament; their first home loss since 1975, and Scolari described as the “worst day of my life”.

The tactician’s reign as Brazil’s coach came to an end days later after the Selecaos were handed a 3-0 defeat by the Netherlands in their third place match.

The former Chelsea handler stated that he does not just want to take a team to the World Cup, but beyond the tournament, as he intends to lead a team with an organized project for one or two years.