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Nigerian Football

Osimhen nets a brace for Seria A champions-elect, Napoli

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Napoli s Victor Osimhen challenge for the ball during the Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match between SSC Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium in Naples, Italy, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. AP

Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia were again the heroes for Napoli as Italy’s champions-elect thumped Torino 4-0 and moved a whopping 21 points clear at the Serie A summit.

Nigeria striker Osimhen took his league-leading goal tally to 21 with two towering headers in each half with Kvaratskhelia’s 35th-minute penalty sandwiched inbetween.

Kvaratskhelia then laid on Tanguy Ndombele’s first Serie A goal in the 68th minute following great hold-up play from Osimhen as Napoli took another step towards a first league title since 1990 in front of an army of fans in Turin.

It was their first away trip after the end of a two-month ban on travelling supporters following a motorway dust up with Roma fans in January.

And they were on hand to see their team put in a typically dominant display which means at worst Napoli will be 18 points ahead of Inter Milan with 11 matches remaining, if Simone Inzaghi’s inconsistent side beat Juventus in Sunday’s big match.

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Regardless it is only a matter of time before Napoli seal a historic title triumph, one which has come following a campaign of breathtaking football that has Osimhen convinced they can also win the Champions League.

They would have to win an Italian derby with AC Milan the quarter-finals and potentially another with Inter in the last four to reach the final, but it would be hard to bet against a team which seems to have caught lightning in a bottle and then used it to fry everything its wake.

Once Kvaratskhelia rolled in his 14th goal of the season Torino offered up no resistance and dropped down to 11th, level on 37 points with Bologna and ninth-placed Fiorentina who won their seventh straight match in all competitions 1-0 over Lecce.

Earlier Manolo Gabbiadini gave Sampdoria hope they might yet escape relegation from Serie A with both goals in Sunday’s 3-1 win over fellow strugglers Verona.

Forward Gabbiadini struck twice in the first half at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to help lift Samp off the bottom of the table into 19th place with their first win since January.

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Dejan Stankovic’s side are nine points behind Spezia, who sit just outside the drop zone and lost 1-0 at Sassuolo on Friday, after Gabbiadini poked home the opener in the 24th minute before lashing home the second 11 minutes later.

Marco Faraoni netted a consolation goal in the 88th minute for Verona, who are one place and four points above Samp, but Alessandro Zanoli responded for the hosts deep in stoppage time.

-AFP

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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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Nigerian Football

Beyond reproach: NFF denies banning Victor Osimhen  

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From Victor Moses To Victor Osimhen, Super Eagles Hope For Another Victorious Ending To Afcon Group Stage  -

The Nigeria Football Federation has described as outright falsehood, reports in some online publications on Wednesday that the football-governing body has slammed a ban on Super Eagles’ forward Victor Osimhen from the team, for his social media outburst few days ago.

NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi expressed amazement at the reports, saying the Federation has neither instructed a process nor has a process been concluded to ban the player from the National Team.

“The NFF hereby implores the media to join hands with the body to positively resolve issues and then focus on the big picture all the time, rather than needlessly escalate certain matters.

“There was no official communication from the NFF, yet some persons have gone to town to talk about a ban on Osimhen from the National Team. This is not good at all.

“Our focus presently is to resolve all matters around the Super Eagles and be able to look ahead with confidence to the 2025 AFCON qualifiers and the remaining six matches of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification series.

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“This is not the time to spread falsehood and foul the public space the more.”

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Nigerian Football

NFF racing against time to meet up CAF deadline for inter-clubs’ registration

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The final match of the President Federation Cup will hold on 29th June as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) races to meet up with the Sunday 30 June CAF deadline to submit the names of Nigeria’s four representatives for the continental inter-clubs competition.

  Only league winners, Enugu Rangers are definitive as at now. They will feature in the CAF Champions League.

Two more representatives, likely from the trio of Remo Stars, Enyimba and Shooting Stars will emerge after Sunday’s league matches.

  The league’s first runners-up will join Enugu Rangers in the Champions League while the second runners up picks one of the two tickets for the CAF Confederation Cup.

 The second ticket will go to the President Federation Cup winners.

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  According to a media release by the NFF, its General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, explaines that the 29 June date was agreed to by both the NFF and GTI in view of the fact that Nigeria have until midnight of Sunday, 30 June to submit to the CAF, the names of the representative clubs in next season’s continental club competitions.

“Having looked closely at our programmes, the stage the men and women competitions are at the moment and the need to submit the names of all our representative clubs to CAF for African Club Competitions next season, ourselves and GTI have reached a consensus for the grand finale of the men and women finals of the President Federation Cup to take place on Saturday, 29th June.

“The venue is the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja. The women’s final will begin at 1pm while the men’s final will commence at 4pm, as has been the tradition for so many years now. NFF and GTI are committed to putting up a great show of this year’s grand finale.”

Meanwhile, the quarter-finals of the women’s competition will take place on Wednesday, 19th June, with Benin City, Asaba and Enugu as host centres.

The semi finals of the men’s competition will take place on Thursday, 20th June, with Abuja and Lafia as host centres.

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Nigerian Football

A three-horse race for two continental ticket is set up after Enugu Rangers league win

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Enugu Rangers have broken loose from the pack as title contenders – Remo Stars, Enyimba and Shooting Stars all blew their chances in the penultimate match days as all lost with identical scorelines of 2-1 in their respective away games.

  The title is gone, now resting in Enugu who are having their second league celebrations in over 30 years. They win the jackpot N150 million prize for their title.

  But the battle is not over for the initial aspiring trio. At best they have the second CAF Champions League ticket to battle for. One of the three will win that on the last match day. The second placed team gets the CAF Champions League slot while the third gets the Confederation Cup ticket.

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Coincidentally, the trio will be at their familiar home ground. As it is, second placed Remo Stars are at advantage to pick a ticket if they can pick a point from their home game with Katsina United. It will be their third consecutive adventure in the continent.

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 The fierce battle will therefore be between third placed Enyimba and fourth placed Shooting Stars.  Both badly need a win to get either the Champions League ticket or that of the Confederation Cup.

  However, Plateau United are lurking and an away win by the Jos team in Aba will not only upset Enyimba, it could land the Plateau United a continental ticket should Shooting Stars lose or draw with Sporting Lagos.

On the other side of the divide, the battle to escape the drop has taken a dramatic twist. As the Sunday matches were on, Sporting Lagos initially thought they had escaped the drop.

 But a turnaround by Bayelsa United who came from behind to beat Shooting Stars change the weather condition for the worst for the Lagos sides.

  They now face an herculean task next weekend in their duel with continental ticket chasing Shooting Stars. The confirmed teams for relegation are Gombe United and Heartland.

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