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Iwobi promises turn-around against Guinea-Bissau

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 21: Alex Iwobi of Everton during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium on November 21, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi promised that Nigeria will bounce back after suffering a shock 1-0 home loss to Guinea-Bissau on Friday in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.

It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition as Mama Balde scored for the Wild Dogs, who are 81 places below the Super Eagles in the FIFA world rankings.

“As players and staff, we know we have to react to this result,” said Iwobi, one of three Premier League stars in the starting line-up.

“All we can do is improve and, to the fans, all I can say is that they should stick by us and support us because we give 100 percent not just for ourselves, but also for our nation.

“Next time we are going to do our best and make the country proud,” he added, referring to a Group A rematch in Guinea-Bissau on Monday.

Balde, who plays for French top-tier club Troyes, scored on 30 minutes in Abuja to take the Portuguese-speaking nation to the top of the table.

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Guinea-Bissau have seven points, Nigeria six, Sierra Leone two and Sao Tome e Principe one, halfway through the six-round mini-league. The top two finishers progress to the finals.

Nigeria, whose line-up included prolific Napoli scorer Victor Osimhen, were firm favourites to win at home.

But after a bright start, with Osimhen coming close to scoring on 16 minutes, the home side battled to create clear-cut scoring opportunities in the capital city.

As the match reached the half hour mark, Balde raced on to a lofted pass and fired a low shot past goalkeeper Francis Uzoho.

Osimhen, who has been linked with a move to Manchester United or Arsenal, became increasingly frustrated as poor service and close marking restricted his threat.

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It was the fifth loss in seven matches for Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro, and another defeat next week in Bissau could spell the end for the Portuguese.

“We could have been here for another hour and not scored,” said Peseiro.

“I am not happy. I am sad, like my team, but they did the maximum. If you play like we played, you can beat any team, not only Guinea-Bissau.”

In Soweto, Belgium-born South Africa coach Hugo Broos stormed back to the dressing room before the final whistle after seeing his side surrender a two-goal lead in a 2-2 Group K draw with Liberia.

Lyle Foster put the hosts two goals ahead by half-time, but Tonia Tisdell halved the deficit entering the final quarter and Mohammed Sangare levelled in added time.

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Broos initially refused to attend the post-match press conference, then spoke briefly and refused to answer questions.

“There are too many disappointments, too many frustrations and too much anger in my body. If I say anything, it will not be nice,” he said.

“In the past, I have always been ready to answer your questions — even difficult ones. But I hope that you understand that tonight it is going to be very, very difficult to do that.”

The draw meant 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco, who had a bye, became the first team to book a place at the finals apart from hosts the Ivory Coast, who qualify automatically.

Elsewhere, some of the biggest names in Africa were among the goals, including Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Sebastien Haller.

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Returning to the Senegalese line-up after missing the World Cup due to a leg injury, Mane scored the second goal in a 5-1 Group L rout of Mozambique in Dakar.

Salah claimed the first goal and played a role in the second as Egypt beat Malawi 2-0 in Cairo to rise from last to first in Group D.

Haller, who resumed playing last month after successful treatment for testicular cancer, notched the second goal for the Ivory Coast in a 3-1 Group H victory over the Comoros in Bouake.

Tanzania won an east African showdown against Uganda in Group F 1-0 thanks to a superb second-half strike from Simon Msuva.

-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.

AFCON

BREAKING! Nigeria Football Federation is finished with Finidi

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Following the poor run of the Super Eagles in the on going qualifying series for the 2026 World Cup which has seen the Super Eagles languishing almost at the bottom of a group in which they were previously the favourites, the Nigeria football Federation (NFF) that they has relieved Finidi George as the head coach of the national team.

Rising from a crisis-managing meeting, the NFF announced that it has resolved to employ an expatriate Technical Adviser for the Super Eagles in the coming weeks, ahead of the AFCON qualifiers and the remaining FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.

 The deduction is that the tenure of Finidi George has come to an end after two competitive matches as a substantive coach and two others in friendly matches as a caretaker coach.

Also, the NFF resolved to beef up its Technical Department with more qualitative hands. Equally, the Technical and Development Sub-Committee will be re-jigged with immediate effect.

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AFCON

Struggling Super Eagles to know AFCON 2025 qualifying round opponents in three weeks

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It has not been a pleasant outing so far for the Super Eagles in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. They have another nine months to wait to reset their arsenal.

But while the World Cup qualifying series go on recess, attention now focuses on the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying series.

In exactly three weeks’ time, the Super Eagles will know their opponents in the qualification race for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Next year’s finals, which will be the 35th edition of Africa’s flagship football championship, will be staged by Morocco.

Preliminary stage survivors Chad, e-Swatini, Liberia and South Sudan will join 44 others for the draw that will hold at the SuperSport studios in Johannesburg, South Africa in the afternoon of Thursday, 4th July.

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The 48 countries will be drawn into 12 groups of four teams each, with the top two teams in each pool qualifying directly to the finals in Morocco.

The first two games of the qualification series will take place in the FIFA window in September (2nd – 10th), with two other matches in the window in October (7th – 15th) and the final two games in the November window (11th – 19th).

Nigeria’s Super Eagles are the runners up at the last edition.

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Date and venue fixed for draw for Africa Cup of Nations Morocco 2025 Qualifiers

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The journey to the  CAF Africa Cup of Nations Morocco 2025 will resume with the draw for the Qualifiers on Thursday, 04 July 2024, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The draw will be conducted at SuperSport studios in South Africa at 14h30 local time (15h30 Cairo time, 12h30 GMT).

48 Nations, including the four winners from the preliminary round (Chad, Eswatini, Liberia and South Sudan) will be drawn into 12 Groups of four teams each to battle it out for places at the finals.

Headlining the confirmed Nations for the draw are reigning African champions Cote d’Ivoire joined by Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, DR Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini and Ethiopia.

Others include Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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The qualifiers are scheduled to kick-off in September 2024 to determine the first 24 nations that will compete for Africa’s biggest event, the  CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco in 2025.

Fresh from the thrills and successes of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023 where the host nation defied all odds to claim their third title, a line-up of intriguing matches is expected for the journey to the 35th edition of the showpiece continental sporting event.

In attendance will be selected CAF legends, representatives of the participating teams, members of the Local Organising Committee for Africa Cup of Nations Morocco 2025 amongst others.

-CAF

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