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International Football

Flying Eagles begin World Cup title chase with ‘soft’ duel against Dominican

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

On 21 May, the day FIFA clocks 119 years, Nigeria’s Flying Eagles begin a quest to win the U-20 World Cup for the first time after having missed the title twice in their best outings in 1989 and 2005.

In 1989 they lost the the final game against a Luiz Figo propelled Portugal in Saudi Arabia. In 2005, it was Lionel Messi inspired Argentina that beat Nigeria in The Netherlands.

This time, they begin their 13th appearance with a clash with debutants, Dominican Republic.

On the same day, Brazil and Italy will clash in the opening game of Group D. Nigeria

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The Flying Eagles will be hoping to reach the knockout stage from the group.

Overall, Nigeria have reached the knockout stages in ten of their previous 12 FIFA U-20 World Cup campaigns. The last time they featured at the finals and failed to qualify from their group was all the way back in 1987.

As for the Flying Eagles’ first opponents, Dominican Republic it is the first time that the CONCACAF team will feature at a FIFA tournament across all levels.

The Caribbean nation secured their landmark qualification via the 2022 Concacaf Men’s U-20 Championship in Honduras last June, where they triumphed over El Salvador, Jamaica and Guatemala in the knockout stages en route to their first final, which they subsequently lost against a strong USA team who claimed their third successive title.

Not only did their exploits at the tournament see the Dominican Republic seal their spot at Argentina 2023, but they also clinched a place at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024 courtesy of a thrilling penalty shoot-out win over Guatemala in the semi-finals.

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Midfielder Edison Azcona and forward Ángel Montes De Oca were both key to their memorable campaign on Honduran soil and are men that the Flying Eagles will have to watch out for.

Flying Eagles’ next match comes up on 24 May when they face Italy. On that same day, Brazil will play against Dominican Republic.

This is Italy’s third consecutive qualification. But overall, this is their eighth appearance in the global showpiece U-20 event.

 They secured a spot by reaching the semi-finals of the 2022 UEFA European U-19 Championship.

The Italians made it through to the final four in each of the last two editions of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, losing out to the eventual champions on both occasions; England in 2017 and Ukraine in 2019.

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Italy have qualified from their group in each of their last five appearances at the U-20 finals. The last time they failed to make it beyond the group stage was in 1981.

 The first goal in the history of the tournament was scored by Italy’s Luigi Capuzzo in a 1-1 draw against Côte d’Ivoire in 1977.

The only previous encounter of Nigeria and Italy was at Chile ‘87 when Nigeria stumbled 0-2 at Concepcion.

Nigeria will wrap up their group matches with a duel with Brazil on 27 May. The Flying Eagles did not win any of their previous encounters with Brazil, dating back to 1983 when they stumbled 3-0 after a soul lifting 1-0 defeat of the then Soviet Union.

Subsequent matches were lost 2-0, 4-0 and 4-2 in 1985, 1987 and 2015. The only respite was the 0-0 draw of 2005.

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NIGERIA’S GROUP D FIXTURES

21 May: Nigeria vs. Dominican Republic

24 May: Italy vs. Nigeria

27 May: Brazil vs. Nigeria

The two teams finishing first and second in each group and the four best teams among those ranked third will qualify for the round of 16.

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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.

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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International Football

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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