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International Football

PUYOL PITCHES NIGERIA AGAINST ARGENTINA FOR THE FIFTH TIME

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

 

Carles Puyol of Spain picked the ball from Pot 4 and it was Nigeria, pitching the country with the usual World Cup foes, Argentina!  And so, for the fifth time in six World Cup finals, Nigeria will play Argentina.

This is the high point of the World Cup draws held Friday night at State Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.  Sports Village Square had earlier predicted that Argentina and Overall, it will be the ninth clash of both teams as they had also met in last month in a friendly friendly match in Russia.

Nigeria won 4-2. Both teams are Group D, the same both team drew in their first encounter in USA. As in Brazil 2014, the Nigeria versus Argentina match will be the last group match.

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The other teams in the group are Iceland and Croatia. Nigeria had played Iceland in the ancient past, 1981 in the days of Segun Odegbami and Muda Lawal. Nigeria has never met Croatia before.

The Super Eagles will open their World Cup account on June 16 at Kaliningrad with Croatia. That will be followed with the game with Iceland on June 22 at Volgograd before a potentially explosive game with Argentina at Saint Petersburg on June 26, a day after the 24th anniversary of their first ever meeting in Boston.

World Cup encounters with Argentina have always been won by the odd goal by the South Americans. The score line was 2-1 in 1994, 1-0 in 2002 and 2010 while that of Brazil 2014 was 3-2.

 

 

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BEHOLD NIGERIA’S 2018 WORLD CUP FOES

ARGENTINA

 

  • Argentina are competing in their 17th FIFA World Cup and have qualified for 11 consecutive editions starting with Germany 1974.
  • The only player to score a hat-trick in two different editions is Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta, who hit a treble against Greece in 1994 and another three against Jamaica in 1998.
  • Argentina’s haul of 19 goals in the South American World Cup preliminaries is the lowest goal return by a qualifying team since the tournament first adopted the single-group format ahead of the 1998 finals.
  • No team has been involved in as many World Cup penalty shoot-outs as Argentina, who have contested five and won four of them.
  • With his three strikes against Ecuador in the decisive last qualifier for Russia 2018, Lionel Messi became the all-time joint-leading scorer in the South American Zone preliminary competition with 21 goals alongside Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, both players having overtaken Hernan Crespo’s career total of 19. Messi’s hat-trick was also the second by an Argentinian in World Cup qualification, after Gonzalo Higuain struck three times against Chile in 2011.

CROATIA

 

  • Since making their tournament bow in France ’98, Croatia have only failed to qualify for the 2010 edition and will be making their fifth World Cup trophy bid in Russia.
  • After finishing third in 1998, Croatia were eliminated in the group round during their next three participations. Davor Suker was the tournament’s top scorer in France with six goals.
  • Four goals were scored in each of Croatia’s last four World Cup games. The results were a 2-2 draw with Australia in 2006, followed in 2014 by a 3-1 loss to Brazil, a 4-0 win over Cameroon and a 3-1 defeat by Mexico.
  • For the third time in five qualifications, Croatia have reached the World Cup via the play-off route. The Vatreni overcame Ukraine ahead of the 1998 edition, beat Iceland to reach the 2014 finals and thwarted Greece to secure their place in the 2018 tournament.
  • Having struck five times on the road to Russia 2018, Mario Mandzukic is the all-time leading Croatian scorer in qualifying, with ten goals, surpassing Bosko Balaban’s career tally of seven.
  • Mandzukic previously found the net once in the 2010 preliminaries and four times on the 2014 trail. With three goals in the 6-0 rout of Kosovo, Mandzukic became the second Croatian to bag a hat-trick in qualifying, after Balaban was on target three times in 2001 during the 4-1 victory over Latvia.

 

ICELAND

  • Iceland are one of two newcomers in the 2018 edition of the World Cup, the other being Panama. The islanders are the 34th European team to take part in the finals, after Bosnia and Herzegovina who debuted four years ago in Brazil.
  • Not counting Iceland’s third-placed finish in the Youth Olympic Football Tournament in Nanjing in 2014, Strcikamir okkar are making their debut in the finals of a FIFA competition. The senior side reached the quarter­finals of the UEFA European Championship 2016, also in their maiden campaign.
  • Iceland have played 106 World Cup qualifiers and won 28. Seven of those successes, or 25% of the total, came in the ten-match qualification push for Russia 2018.
  • The islanders’ five home matches (all won) en route to Russia 2018 were played at the Laugardalsvollur stadium in Reykjavik, which has hosted every one of Iceland’s 51 home games in the history of World Cup qualification.
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson was Iceland’s top scorer in qualification for Russia 2018, netting four goals, and is now his country’s all-time second-highest marksman in the preliminary tournament with eight goals overall, three behind Eidur Gudjohnsen. With his two goals against Ukraine on September 5, 2017, Sigurdsson became the only Icelander to net a brace in two different qualifying campaigns, having bagged the first in March 2013 during the 2-1 victory away to Slovenia.

 

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

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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Amokachi, Adebayor and Amanda Dlamini confirmed for CAF African Schools Championship Finals

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African football legends, Emmanuel Adebayor, Daniel Amokachi and Amanda Dlamini are some of the top names that have been confirmed for the Continental Finals of the CAF African Schools Football Championship 2024 scheduled in Zanzibar between 21 – 24 May 2024.

The CAF African Schools Football Championship is the school’s competition that includes over 44 African countries with over 800 000 participants of Boys and Girls under the age of 15.

This is the second edition of the competition that is not only focused on Football but also on a number of programmes including Young Referee’s Programme, Young Reporter Programme and Safeguarding. 

Adebayor, CAF Player of the Year in 2008, represented Togo at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their only appearance at the tournament. Ex-striker for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and others, the Togolese star has had a successful career, earning over 85 caps with Les Eperviers.

Nigerian football star Amokachi played 42 international matches for the Super Eagles. He participated in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and was part of the team that won the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic Games in 1996.

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Former Banyana Banyana (South Africa) captain Dlamini played in two TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions where they finished third and second in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She is one of the few footballers, both in the men’s and women’s national teams to reach 100 caps.

Dlamini recently made history when she became the first female to be part of the world commentary feed at the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

Also on the list are local stars Abdi Kassim Sadalla, former Tanzanian National Team Captain, and Hilda Masanche, Head coach of the Tanzania U17 Women’s National Team.

The Legends will feature in various activities to promote and support football development among African youth.

The finals will bring together talented young players from across the continent, providing them a platform to showcase their skills and passion for the game.

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-CAF

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