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International Football

Festival of Champions, FIFA Confederations Cup Kicks Off

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

 

Virtually every participant is a champion. It serves as a convergence of continental champions, World Cup holders and World Cup next hosts.

It is a dress rehearsal for the 2018 World Cup. It is the unfolding of what should be expected when Russia hosts the World Cup next year.

Eight teams from all the continents gather for the competition. In Group A are Russia, the hosts, New Zealand, Portugal and Mexico. Group B has Cameroon, Chile, Australia and Germany.

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This edition has a different complexion from the previous ones. It is the first Confederations Cup to involve three teams from the same confederation, in this case UEFA. Each of the last four editions featured only two European sides.

The 10th edition of the Confederation Cup (eighth under the name as the first two editions were called Intercontinental Cup) kicks off on Saturday with Russia facing New Zealand in Saint Petersburg at 4pm, Nigerian time.

It is an encounter that brings to memory a similar encounter 35 years ago when the then Soviet Union beat New Zealand 3-0 at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

The odds weight heavily in favour of Russia who are appearing in the competition for the first time. No host team has lost its opening match since the 2001 edition when France beat Korea Republic 5-0.

Sports Village Square recalls that three out of nine Confederations Cup competitions have been won by the host nation, namely Mexico in 1999, France in 2003 and Brazil in 2015.

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Since 2001, the home sides have recorded three wins and one draw in the last four editions. New Zealand are still looking for their first victory in the Confederations Cup.

In nine matches spanning three previous participations, they secured just one draw against Iraq in 2009, after losing eight in a row.

The All Whites netted their last goal on June 20, 2003, edging ahead against Colombia through Raf De Gregorio before ultimately losing 3-1. The Kiwis have since played four matches and a total of 423 minutes without finding the net.

 

TEAM FACTS

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RUSSIA are making their bow in the tournament.

This is the first Confederations Cup to involve three teams from the same confederation, in this case UEFA.

Each of the last four editions featured only two European sides.

Three out of nine Confederations Cups have been won by the host nation, namely Mexico in 1999, France in 2003 and Brazil in 2015.

 

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NEW ZEALAND are participating in their fourth Confederations Cup after the 1999, 2003 and 2009 editions, although they have never made it beyond the opening round.

Of the nine Confederations Cup fixtures they have contested, New Zealand lost the first eight before achieving a 0-0 draw with Iraq in their last group game at the 2009 tournament.

The All Whites qualified for the Confederations Cup on 11 June 2016, when they won the OFC Nations Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over Papua New Guinea.

 

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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International Football

Former Italy international Roberto Baggio robbed at gunpoint

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at his home in northern Italy while watching his country’s match against Spain in the Euro 2024 tournament on Thursday, local police said.

Burglars broke into Baggio’s house near Vicenza, hit him on the head with a gun butt and locked him and his family in a room while they stole jewellery, watches and cash, daily Il Corriere della Sera reported. It said he suffered a deep wound.

“Luckily, the violence I suffered only resulted in a few stitches, bruises and a lot of fear. Now it is to overcome the fear,” Baggio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Baggio, 57, played for clubs including Juventus (JUVE.MI), opens new tab, AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also played 56 times for Italy, scoring 27 goals, and is widely seen as one of his country’s all-time greats.

After the robbery, Baggio, widely known as the “divine ponytail”, was treated at a local hospital where he received stitches for the head wound, Italian media reported.

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Italy lost to Spain 1-0 on Thursday and now must avoid defeat by Croatia to guarantee progression in the tournament.

-Reuters

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International Football

New twist in Cameroon football coach crisis

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

The coaching crisis in Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions has taken a new dimension as the football federation, FECAFOOT, led by former international, Samuel Eto’o goes in direct confrontation with the coaching crew appointed by the sports ministry which also picks the bills.

  According to a Cameroon official who will not like to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, the claims and counter claims of both the sports ministry and the FECAFOOT led by Eto’o had been heard and decided by the conciliation and arbitration chamber of the Cameroonian national Olympic committee, which is a court in charge of sports cases in Cameroon.

  “What is in contention is not the position of the Belgian coach, Marcc Brys, but that of the Cameroonian assistants attached to him.”

  The source explained to Sports Village Square that although the employment of Brys by the sports ministry was initially contested by Eto’o, the former player has come to accept the situation.

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  “In Cameroon, there is always a techenical crew of nine to 11. The foreign coach is allowed to bring in two foreign assistants, while the others are always Cameroonians.

  In this case, the sports ministry approved the list of two foreign assistants by Brys while also announcing another set of local assistants that included former international, François Omam-Biyik, one of the stars of Italia ‘90  and the scorer of the goal that gave Cameroon a 1-0 win over a Diego Maradona-inspired  Argentina.

  “That is where the problem is. FECAFOOT also submitted a list of technical crew that included Brys and his two foreign assistants but dropped the names of the local assistants with new ones.”

  In essence, there are two lists with both having three names as same, but differ on the rest.

 According to the source, the list submitted by the sports ministry was upheld by the tribunal which threw aside that of FECAFOOT.

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  In another twist, FIFA has already removed the name of Marc Brys from the profile of Cameroon on its website. Only the name of national women’s coach, Jean-Baptiste Bisseck is listed.

The removal of Brys’ name is happening a second time as it was first removed at the end of last month before being reinstated.

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Cameroon’s appointment of Brys as manager suspended by sports tribunal

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Marc Brys

Cameroon’s appointment of Belgian Marc Brys as head coach was suspended by the country’s top sports tribunal on Tuesday following the petition of an amateur football club.

The country’s sports ministry stirred controversy last month when it named 61-year-old Brys as manager of the Indomitable Lions without consulting the football federation (FECAFOOT).

The move sparked a dispute between the sports ministry and FECAFOOT, which said the government had made a unilateral decision.

In response, it asked its president Samuel Eto’o to propose a national coach and other management staff for the national side within 72 hours, deepening its standoff with the sports ministry.

Eto’o kept Brys as head coach but named different assistants, technical, medical and administrative staff.

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An amateur club, meanwhile, took the matter to the Arbitration and Conciliation Chamber of the Cameroon National Olympic and Sports Committee.

In a provisional ruling on Tuesday, the court suspended the FECAFOOT appointments while it fully examined the matter. Concerned parties have 24 hours to appeal.

FECAFOOT in response said it “reserves the right to refer these decisions to FIFA, as they hinder the preparation process for the forthcoming sport events.

“The Emergency Committee of FECAFOOT will meet immediately to take appropriate measures,” it said in a statement.

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has strict rules against government interference in national federations and has frequently banned countries when governments get involved in federation affairs.

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The president of the Cameroon Association of Amateur Football Clubs, Balla Ongolo Henri, had previously said Eto’o’s appointments would damage Cameroon’s image and disrupt preparations for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers next June.

Brys, 61, penned a contract on May 8 as head coach of the Indomitable Lions following the dismissal of Rigobert Song in February. FECAFOOT did not attend the signing ceremony.

The sports ministry says it has acted in accordance with national and international regulations.

Reuters

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