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As Abidjan Set For Another Epic Nigeria, Cameroon Battle 40 Years After, Odegbami, Garba Lawal Pump Up Eagles’ Spirits –

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As Abidjan Set For Another Epic Nigeria, Cameroon Battle 40 Years After, Odegbami, Garba Lawal Pump Up Eagles’ Spirits -

Nigeria football legends Segun Odegbami and Garba Lawal have advised the Super Eagles to be extremely cautious, stay focused, be disciplined and have self-belief when they step onto the field against the Indomitable Lions in their Africa Cup of Nations’ Round of 16 encounter in Abidjan on Sunday.

 

Both giants of the African game have made a rendez-vous at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, following the Lions’ late surge that ensured a 3-2 win over The Gambia in Bouake on Tuesday, and Nigeria’s earlier second-place finish in group A behind Equatorial Guinea.

 

Odegbami, a member of Nigeria’s 1980 AFCON-winning squad and former captain of the team, who also played three times against Cameroon in 1975 (friendly game that Nigeria won 1-0), 1978 (All-Africa Games in Algiers that ended 0-0) and 1980 (friendly game that ended 0-0), said the present crop of Super Eagles can achieve victory the way they did against the Lions at the same stage in Egypt four years ago, but must be extremely diligent and be very clinical with the opportunities that come their way.

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“We may say that Cameroon have not pulled up any trees at this tournament, but the way they turned the game around against The Gambia sends a message. They are not to be taken for granted. I watched their game against Guinea and it was a fight-to-finish. We have been creating a lot of opportunities in our games but this time, we have to be clinical.

 

“Cameroon could prove to be a different proposition from the teams we have played against at this competition. Apart from the rivalry between our two countries, the present generation of Indomitable Lions have a point to prove. They want to be seen in the garbs of the likes of Rigobert Song Bahanang (who is their coach), Samuel Eto’o Fils, Patrick Mboma and Geremi Njitap, and going further back, the likes of Roger Milla, Theophile Abega, Gregoire Mbida and Francois Omam Biyick.”

 

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Lawal, nicknamed Chindo, played four times against the Lions in 1997 (LG Cup), 2000 (AFCON final), 2003 (LG Cup) and 2004 (AFCON quarter-final). He says that self-belief will go a long way in steering the Eagles past the Lions on Saturday.

 

“They must go in there believing in themselves to do the job. Self-confidence is a good feeling when approaching a game like this. I see the Super Eagles getting past the Cameroonians if they believe in themselves and keep it tight at the back.”

 

Nigeria and Cameroon have clashed at the Africa Cup of Nations seven times, with each team winning thrice and one game drawn. Cameroon won the Final matches of the 1984, 1988 and 2000 AFCON tournaments, while the Eagles won the bronze-medal match 2-1 in 1992, defeated then Cup holders Cameroon 2-1 in the 2004 quarter-finals and won 3-2 in the Round of 16 in Egypt four years ago. Both teams drew 1-1 in the group phase in 1988, Samuel Okwaraji scoring a scorcher after only two minutes in Rabat and Roger Milla equalizing with a header when the Andrew Uwe-led Nigerian defence thought they had kept him off-side.

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As the Eagles returned to training on Wednesday, after resting on Tuesday, the match venue is also getting ready to welcome the two teams. It was on the same turf where both teams battled out the 1984 AFCON final.

 

On 18th March 1984, Président Félix Houphouët-Boigny had declared a public holiday to encourage football fans to troop to the stadium for the final, as public interest in the competition had waned following the group stage elimination of the Elephants. Nigeria got in front after 10 minutes when Muda Lawal toe-poked a deflected pull-out past Joseph Antoine-Bell.

 

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The Lions equalized just before half-time, Stephen Keshi unwittingly diverting the ball into his own net from a free-kick, and they seized the game by the throat in the second half, deploying the experience and exposure from playing three matches unbeaten at the 1982 FIFA World Cup finals in Spain. They won 3-1.

 

 

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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AFCON

African champions Cote d’Ivoire ring changes with new backroom staff

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Emerse Fae during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations semifinal with DR Congo

Cote d’Ivoire head coach Emerse Fae has overhauled his backroom team following the Elephants’ Africa Cup of Nations, Cote d’Ivoire 2023, success earlier this year.

Fae, who took over from Frenchman Jean-Louis Gasset during the tournament in January, has brought in three new faces as he builds towards qualifying for the 2025 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations and 2026 World Cup.

Former Cote d’Ivoire goalkeeper Gerard Gnahouan, 45, joins as goalkeeping coach after working in this role with French Ligue 2 side Sochaux.

Gnahouan, capped 10 times by the Elephants between 2002 and 2011, takes over as goalkeeping coach and will be tasked with getting the best out of first-choice Yahia Fofana.  

Moroccan Samir Anba, previously with French club Nice and Morocco’s Under-17s, takes over as fitness coach, while Jeremy Antonio arrives as video analyst after working with Fae at French side Clermont.

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“This new composition of the technical staff marks the start of a new era for the Cote d’Ivoire national team, and expectations are high,” said Fae.

Fae kept faith with assistant Guy Demel while former international Alain Gouamene joins as the second assistant coach of the AFCON-winning team.

The 40-year-old led an all-local setup to a surprise African title in March after being promoted from Gasset’s number two following their near exit at the group stage.

The new backroom additions have a huge challenge ahead, with Cote d’Ivoire facing crunch matches in June as they bid to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

The Elephants top their qualifying group after beating Gambia and Seychelles in the opening two matches  in Group F of the qualifiers under caretaker Gasset.

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-CAF

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Liberia, Eswatini hold upper hand in AFCON 2025 preliminary qualifiers –

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Liberia, Eswatini Hold Upper Hand In AFCON 2025 Preliminary Qualifiers -

After commanding victories in the first leg matches of the Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco 2025, qualifiers, Chad, Liberia, and Eswatini find themselves in advantageous positions as they gear up for the return fixtures scheduled for Tuesday.

As the second leg of the preliminary fixtures approach, all eyes will be on these teams as they vie for their coveted spots in the group phase of the qualifiers, with the hopes of making their mark on the continental stage.

Chad emerged victorious with a narrow 1-0 win over Mauritius, joining Liberia and Eswatini in the lead after their impressive triumphs earlier last week.

Liberia secured a 2-0 victory against Djibouti, while Eswatini displayed their dominance with a 3-0 win over Somalia.

The second leg promises to be fiercely contested, particularly for Chad, who will face a challenging encounter against Mauritius on the latter’s home turf.

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Coach Kevin Nicaise’s players are keen to defend their slender lead and secure their spot in the next phase of the qualifiers but the trainer admits they have an arduous task.

“We are far from perfect, far from being a top team in the world. We are in the construction phase. There are still things to work on and improve,” coach Nicaise said after their first-leg win.

“It is not overnight that we will be a top team in the world, we are aware of that, however we are working hard with the group and the staff to achieve this goal.”

Meanwhile, Liberia will host Djibouti, aiming to build on their first-leg success and seal their progression to the next round.

Eswatini will host Somalia with confidence, seeking to maintain their winning momentum and secure passage to the next stage of the tournament.

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South Sudan and Sao Tome and Principe will also face off in what is expected to be a closely contested encounter, following their goalless draw in the first leg.

With both teams eager for victory, the match promises to be a thrilling battle for supremacy.

-CAF

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AFCON

Liberia and Eswatini take control of AFCON preliminary ties

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Liberia and Eswatini take control of AFCON preliminary ties

Liberia and Eswatini took commanding leads in their respective Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco 2025, preliminary round ties after claiming impressive away victories on Wednesday.

Liberia captain Murphy Dorley scored one of two first-half goals as the Lone Stars defeated hosts Djibouti 2-0 in the opening leg in  Marrakech.

Mohammed Sangare broke the deadlock from the penalty spot on 23 minutes before Dorley coolly slotted home Sebastian Teclar’s cross 12 minutes later.

Djibouti struggled to lay a glove on their more illustrious opponents as the Lone Star side kept them at bay to take two away goals into next week’s second leg in Monrovia.

Eswatini were also celebrating after demolishing Somalia 3-0 in the Moroccoan  city of El Jadida to put one foot in the group stage qualifiers.

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Striker Sabelo Ndzinisa was the hero, netting twice either side of Felicio Figuareido’s 40th minute opener for the visitors.

Somalia now face an uphill battle to qualify when they travel to the Mbombela Stadium in the South African city of Nelspruit for the return on March 26th.

The opening leg victories give Liberia and Eswatini a huge advantage heading into the second legs as they target a place in the group stage on the road to next year’s finals in Morocco.

Back from the locker room, Somalia still couldn’t play its game.

Worse, Eswatini widened the gap with Ginindza who scored his double of the evening in the 56th minute. 3-0, the score remained unchanged on the scoreboard until the final whistle.

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Victory for Eswatini which will still have to perform in the return leg to ensure its qualification for the qualifiers.

 

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