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CAF Player of the Year wants top coaches for Nigeria

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Newly crowned CAF Female Footballer of the year, Asisat Oshoala, says the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, must hire a top professional coach for the Super Falcons in order to challenge with other great teams in world football.

The former Arsenal and Liverpool star, who currently plies her trade with Chinese side, Dalian Quanjian, has enjoyed a great height for both club and country.

Having won the golden ball and the golden boot at the 2014 Under 20 Women’s World Cup as Nigeria finished runners-up, and an African Cup of Nations winner’s medal the same year, Oshoala has started to eye international glory.

She revealed that for the Super Falcons to reach the highest peak of football like other countries such as Germany, Japan, USA and South Korea, the NFF must hire a very good coach.

“We don’t want to be sharing with the men’s team anymore and waiting for the funds to be able to do things,” she said.

“We need our own committees that can run things for the women. We also need top professional coaches. Football is getting harder. There are a lot of teams out there that are getting better every year. We need to do everything within our reach to move forward, keep people in Africa and make us strong enough to compete on a world stage.”

U.S. Open champion, Stephens, crashes out in Sydney

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

U.S Open champion Sloane Stephens’ preparations for the Australian Open hit the rocks on Monday, January 8, when she was bundled out of the first round of Sydney International by Italy’s Camila Giorgi.

Stephens, who has not played since the Fed Cup final in November, looked rusty against the hard-hitting Giorgi and made 35 unforced errors as she lost 6-3 6-0 to the 26-year-old in an hour.

The world number 13 has not won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final of the Flushing Meadows in September 2017.

She lost both singles encounters in the Fed Cup against Belarus, lost twice in the WTA Elite Trophy event in Wuhai and suffered first-round losses in two tournaments in China.

“I trained in Italy, my home, and felt so very good. I did six weeks of preparation. It was great. Very good,” said Giorgi, who missed the end last season with an elbow injury.

“I made a few errors at the start but then I played my game and it was good after that.”

Giorgi will next meet two-time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, who secured her passage after 2017 Australian Open semi-finalist, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, retired following a first set 6-1 loss.

Meanwhile, Germany’s 2016 Melbourne Park title winner, Angelique Kerber, also progressed to the next round, saving two match points to beat Lucie Safarova 6-7(3) 7-6 (8) 6-2.

Kerber’s victory sends her into a second round clash with multiple grand slam champion, Venus Williams.

However, Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova, also reached the last 16 with a swift 6-3 6-1 demolition of eighth seeded Latvian, Anastasija Sevastova.

In the mean time, Sydney’s weather continued to wreak havoc as extreme heat was replaced by storms with hail, lightning and rain all halting the Kerber-Safarova clash.

The Australian Open, the opening grand slam of the year, runs from January 15 to 28, 2018.

Nadal, Djokovic eye return from injury ahead Australian Open

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Ahead of the January 15 Australian Open date, Spanish tennis player, Rafael Nadal, and Serbian, Novak Djokovic, will use the Kooyong Classic starting on Tuesday, January 9, as a convenient emergency stop to gain much-needed match practice as the pair return from injury in time for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

The upcoming edition will feature five of the world’s top 10, including ATP Finals runner-up and two-time Kooyong champion, David Goffin, Austrian, Dominic Thiem, Croatia’s Marin Cilic and Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. Under the ad-hoc rules, late additions, Nadal and Djokovic will be playing practice matches.

World number one, Nadal, who missed the warm-up Brisbane International last week with a knee injury, is set for just one appearance on Tuesday when he faces Frenchman, Richard Gasquet.

Djokovic, who has not played competitively since a right elbow problem forced him to quit Wimbledon in the quarter-finals in July 2017, will face Thiem on Wednesday, January 10.

“The addition of both Novak and Rafa changes our schedule and the way we will run the four days but that’s what Kooyong is all about, we are here to help the players get ready for the Open,” said tournament director, Peter Johnston.

Meanwhile, the women’s draw, now into a second season after being introduced in 2017, includes new Hopman Cup champion, Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, Aussie teen, Destanee Aiava and young Chinese star Wang Xinyu.

However, Pat Cash, the 1987 Australian Open winner who coaches American CoCo Vandeweghe, serves as an official ambassador for the event and said it would be good preparation for Djokovic and Nadal.

“Everyone will be watching Rafa’s legs and Novak’s arm,” he said.

“It can make for a very exciting week of tennis. Both guys had good preparation, they just suffered setbacks. But when those come within a couple of weeks from the Australian Open, it’s a bit of a worry.

“They have to be absolutely ready, players can be quite anxious about it all.”

Federer, Bencic shoot Switzerland into Hopman semi-final

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Swiss tennis players, Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic, overcame Jack Sock and CoCo Vandeweghe respectively, to help Switzerland secure a 3-0 victory over the United States and book a place in the final of the Hopman Cup on Thursday, January 4.

Federer stepped up his preparation for the Australian Open with a 7-6(5) 7-5 win in a thrilling encounter to give his side a 1-0 lead in front of a packed Perth Arena, with a record crowd of 14,029.

According to reuters, the 19-times Grand Slam champion opened up a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker of an evenly-matched first set but Sock levelled at 4-4 with a rush of powerful drives. Federer then took control, producing a neat backhand volley to close out the first set.

The second set went with serve up to 4-4 before Sock missed an opportunity to break. The world number eight Sock, then double-faulted at 5-5 as Federer pounced to snatch a decisive break and went on to seal the win.

“I’ve maintained a high level in all three matches, which is a great thing,” Federer said after the match.

“This was another step up in terms of ranking and I thought it was a very entertaining match for both of us… I thought it was a good step forward.”

In the mean time, Bencic secured the victory for Switzerland with a 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Vandeweghe. Federer and Bencic then won the mixed doubles 4-3(3) 4-2.

Group B winners Switzerland will face the winner of Group A in Saturday’s final, with Germany, Belgium and Australia all capable of sealing top spot.

Tyson calls out Joshua for potential bout

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Irish boxer,Tyson Fury, has called out British-born Nigerian boxer, Anthony Joshua, by demanding that the IBF and WBA heavyweight champion faces him in his comeback fight.

After a two and a half year absence from the sport, the 29-year-old is ready to step back into the ring following the clearance given by the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Agency.

Fury has not fought since he beat Wladmir Klitschko in Germany in November 2015, and is now looking forward to getting back to his best form .

Fury, also known as The Gypsy King, has brought his weight down from 27 stone down to 23 stone. He is now looking forward to a comeback around April.

The WBC, IBF, WBO, and IBO champion has, however, put out the “sporting challenge” on his Twitter, asking Joshua to face him in his first fight back.

He told Joshua not to let his fans down and prove who is the best heavyweight boxer on the planet.

The Irishman wrote: “As a sporting challenge I Lay Down the challenge for @anthonyfjoshua to fight me in my first fight back in over 2.5 years! I’m the best heavyweight on the planet come prove I’m not?

“The ball is in your court don’t let your fans down CHAMP #wanttoseehowgoodiam”

Fury then added to his comments, tagging in several broadcasters who may be interested in televising the fight.

“I’m that good I don’t need any warmups I can come off the couch & beat up on @anthonyfjoshua don’t run your big arse in the bush.”

Former Arsenal midfielder, Rosicky, retires from football

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

Former Arsenal and Czech Republic midfielder, Tomas Rosicky, has announced his retirement from professional football after a career beset by injuries finally took its toll.

Rosicky, 37, started and ended his career at Sparta Prague, with spells in Germany at Borussia Dortmund and Premier League side Arsenal in between.

After making his professional debut for Sparta in 1998, Rosicky cemented his place in the first team the following season, helping the club win the 1999/2000 Czech First League.

Rosicky’s move to Dortmund in January 2001 made him the most expensive Bundesliga player in history, and in his first full season with the club helped them win the league title.

After five-and-a-half years in Germany, Rosicky moved to Arsenal, spending 10 years at the London club and winning two FA Cups.

However, it was during his time at Arsenal that the injury problems started to mount, missing the entire 2008/09 season, while featuring in more than 20 games in a league campaign just five times.

“My body was telling me for a long time that it does not want (to do it) any more,” Rosicky told a news conference. “I would probably have nothing to offer my teammates and Sparta.”

“I lived through beautiful moments but unfortunately also terribly negative ones. Without even thinking about, I would immediately do it again.”

Rosicky made 105 appearances for the Czech Republic national team before retiring in 2016, making him the third-highest capped Czech international behind Petr Cech and Karel Poborsky.

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.

We have to win group stage before World Cup glory- Messi

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

Argentina superstar, Lionel Messi, says he wants to play in the World Cup final for the second time in a row, but stressed that the two-time world champions have to overcome Nigeria, Croatia and Iceland in the group stage first.

The Barcelona super star was speaking shortly after he was handed the Pichichi (top goalscorer in La Liga) and Di Stefano award, a prize for the best player in the Spanish Leagues.

When asked the possibility of facing Spain in the final of the 2018 World Cup, Messi told Spanish paper, Marca, : ”It would be something incredible to be able to play in a World Cup final again. First we have to think about the group, which is difficult, and then we will see what happens…”

Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the final of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil courtesy of a Mario Gotze 113th minute strike, making it the fourth time the Germans lifted the coveted trophy.

The Super Eagles will face Argentina in the final Group D match at Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, on June 26, 2018. The meeting would make it the fifth time both teams would meet at the World Cup, having already met at the 1994, 2002, 2010, and 2014 editions.

German players to get 350,000 Euros each for 2018 World Cup title

Emmanuel Onminyi,

The German Football Association, DFB, has announced that each member of their squad will receive a 350,000 Euros, ($411,267), bonus should Germany defend their World Cup title in Russia.

If the Germans win a fifth world title, Joachim Loew and his squad stand to get an increase in prize money from the 300,000 Euros they each got for winning the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil.

Germany kick off their title defence against Mexico on June 17, 2018, in Moscow, having also drawn Sweden and South Korea in Group F.

Germany have a reputation for being a tournament’s favourite, and there will be no prize money from their Football Association until they reach at least the quarter-finals, where each player would get 75,000 Euros. The cash rises to 125,000 Euros for the semi-finals, 150,000 for third place and 200,000 if they lose the final on July 15 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

Since the FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan 2002, the German national team has made it to the semi-final of each tournament, finishing as Runners-up in 2002, Third place finish at the 2006 and 2010, in Germany and South Africa respectively.

The team, however, won the tournament in Brazil, where they recorded an emphatic 7-1 scoreline over the host in the Semi-final to book their place in the final for the first time in 14 years, as they defeated a resilient Argentina team 1-0 in the final, courtesy of a MM’s 113th minute strike.

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.