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2019 AFCON: Mahrez concerned about unknown quantity Kenya

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Algeria captain Riyad Mahrez is wary of Kenya being something of an unknown commodity when the two teams kick off their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign on Sunday.

“We do not know much about Kenya. We (the current players) never played against them,” Mahrez told a news conference on Saturday.

“We have watched a lot of videos of them and we have played similar teams.”

Kenya who are in Group C with the North African side are making their first appearance in the tournament since 2004.

They last played against Algeria 22 years ago.

Mahrez is Algeria’s highest profile player as they bid for their first Cup of Nations success since 1990.

But the Manchester City winger, who was named African Footballer of the Year in 2016, said he did not see himself as a talisman for the side.

“We don’t go into the game of worrying about who is a great player or who has won the African Footballer of the Year award,” he said.

“I’m part of a collective. The most important is the team. But I am delighted to be named the captain.

(Edited by Remi Koleoso and Olawale Alabi)

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Present Super Eagles and Rohr good enough to win Nigeria’s 4th AFCON title, Utaka says

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Ex-international forward John Utaka says he is confident that the current crop of Super Eagles players can win the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with their Head Coach, Gernot Rohr.

Utaka told the Nigeria News Agency on Friday in Abuja that his confidence was strong on the basis of the abundance of young and quality talents at Rohr’s disposal.

He added that continuity was the team’s strength moving forward, and such was important for a team in search of continental success to gain dominance.

“The present Super Eagles are on a good run which can only lead to tremendous achievement in the nearest future. This team is full of talents and quality.

“I believe Rohr is doing an immense job with the team and very soon Nigeria will start reaping the reward of continuity,’’ he said.

The former wing forward said Rohr was a great coach and he has done well to lead the Super Eagles to win bronze medal at the last AFCON in just  two years of rebuilding.

“I wonder why the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have not offered him a new contract to complete what he started.

“The experiences of the last AFCON and World Cup will propel the team to bigger things in the future.

“I have this strong belief that the present Super Eagles players can win a fourth AFCON title for Nigeria next year in Cameroon if the technical crew led by Gernot Rohr is retained.

“The players will benefit from their working together under the same coach and a grown level of maturity to win the African title,’’ Utaka said.

The former RC Lens player regards his game for Nigeria against Cameroon in the 2004 AFCON semi-finals in Tunisia as the happiest moment of his football career for both club and country.

He added that he had a good tournament even though they lost in the final match to hosts Tunisia.

“It was my first Nations Cup finals appearance for Nigeria and the Cameroonians opened scoring through Samuel Eto’o, but Austin Okocha replied with a sweet free-kick before my goal in the second half won it for Nigeria.

“It was a special goal which I still cherish till date.’’

Utaka added that another game he would not forget easily was the 2012 title-winning game at Montpellier HSC against Auxerre.

“We won 2-0 away from home and I scored.’’

OLAL

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
(NAN)

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2021 AFCON qualifiers postponed over coronavirus

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Two rounds of 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers scheduled for March have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said on Friday.

Rounds three and four of the pool qualifiers were due to be played in the international window from March 25 to March 31.

But the CAF emergency committee has postponed the games until further notice, without providing alternative dates.

The Nations Cup finals in Cameroon have been moved forward to next January and February to avoid the rainy season, which means the qualifiers will have to be completed this year.

That could see a delay to the start of the African qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup which were due to start in October.

The Nations Cup qualifiers would have involved 48 countries.

Many players would have been travelling from the major European leagues in Italy, France, England, Germany and Spain, where the coronavirus has disrupted domestic fixtures.

CAF has also postponed qualifiers for the 2020 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations scheduled for April and this month’s Women’s Under-20 World Cup preliminaries.

“We would like to assure you that CAF is monitoring the situation closely and working with the competent authorities such as WHO (World Health Organisation) on the impact of the virus in the continent and CAF competitions,” a statement said.

The African Nations Championship (CHAN), a national team competition for home-based players, is still on in Cameroon from April 4 to April 25.

But this is dependent on the findings of the CAF medical committee who will visit the country this weekend to assess preventative measures taken by the Local Organising Committee.

Morocco’s football federation has called a meeting for Monday to decide whether they will play in the tournament.

OLAL

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
(NAN)

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Rohr calls up 2 first-timers, recalls Iheanacho for Sierra Leone fixtures in AFCON qualifiers  

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Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser Gernor Rohr has listed 24 players for two 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying fixtures against the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone this month. 

The players invited to camp include team captain Ahmed Musa, vicecaptain William Ekong and veteran defender Kenneth Omeruo.

On the list which has three goalkeepers, eight defenders, five midfielders and eight forwards are also two first-time call-ups, as well as a returning old-timer.

Kingsley Ehizibue of FC Koln and Holland-based forward Cyril Dessers have been called up for the first time, while England-based former Under-17 World Cup winner Kelechi Iheanacho returns to the fold.  

There are also goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, defenders Leon Balogun and Olaoluwa Aina, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and forwards Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen.

Nigeria, on six points from their first two matches and in a comfortable lead in their pool, host the Leone Stars at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba on March 27.

They will then head to Freetown to confront the Stars at the Siaka Stevens Stadium in the return four days later.

Ademola Olajire, Director of Communications at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), said in a statement on Wednesday that all invited players are to report in Asaba on March 23.

“The team’s technical and administrative officials are also expected to report on the the same day,’’ he said.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that victory in both games will virtually guarantee Nigeria a spot at the 33rd AFCON scheduled for Cameroon early next year.

They will thereafter be away to Benin Republic in Porto Novo in June and then at home against Lesotho early September.

ALL THE INVITED PLAYERS

Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Heartland FC); Maduka Okoye (Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany)

Defenders: Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Wigan Athletic, England); Chidozie Awaziem (CD Leganes, Spain); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy)

Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); Kingsley Ehizibue (FC Koln, Germany)

Midfielders: Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey); Etebo Oghenekaro (Getafe FC, Spain); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Ramon Azeez (Granada FC, Spain)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia); Alexander Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Victor Osimhen (Lille OSC, France); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain)

Cyril Dessers (Heracles Almelo, The Netherlands); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France)

OLAL

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)

 

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Super Eagles, Leone Stars to clash in Asaba in 2021 AFCON qualifier, NFF says

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The Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba will host next month’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone. 

Ademola Olajire, the Director of Communications, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), announced this in a statement on Sunday, quoting the federation’s General Secretary, Mohammed Sanusi. 

“We have finally settled for the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba for the qualifying match against Sierra Leone and it will be played on March 27,’’ Sanusi was quoted as saying.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the venue, named after former Nigeria captain and coach Stephen Keshi of blessed memory, has hosted several international matches since 2018.

Since it was opened two years ago, it has hosted matches involving the Super Eagles and the Nigeria under-23 male squad.

Uganda were the first opposition entertained at the 15,400-capacity venue by the Super Eagles, in a friendly match which ended scoreless.

This came days after Nigeria sealed a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) ticket in South Africa in November 2018.

The Eagles have since beaten Seychelles 3-1 (2019 AFCON qualifier) and seven-times African champions Egypt 1-0 (a friendly) at the same venue.

They also had a scoreless draw with Zimbabwe in a pre- 2019 AFCON friendly in June last year.

The under-23 team on their part beat Libya and Sudan in 2019 Under-23 AFCON qualifying matches at the same venue.

Olajire disclosed that with NFF now having picked March 27 for the first match, the Sierra Leone Football Association is now likely to opt for March 31 for the return leg.

“That day is the final day in the FIFAwindow, and it is expected as the last possible date for the return leg scheduled for the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown.’’ 

NAN reports that victory in next month’s Match Day 3 fixture against the Leone Stars will take the Super Eagles closer to the 2021 AFCON finals.

They currently perch at the top of their pool with the maximum six points from their first two matches and a goals difference of plus three.

A 2-1 win over Benin Republic in Uyo on Nov. 13 was followed by a 4-2 whiplash of Lesotho in Maseru four days later.

The Super Eagles have further dates against the Squirrels of Benin Republic in Cotonou in June and the Crocodiles of Lesotho in Nigeria in September.

OLAL

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)

 

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2021 AFCON Qualifier: Super Eagles’ victory over Losotho will boost their morale — Odegbami

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An Ex-International Player, Segun Odegbami, says Super Eagles’ victory over the Crocodiles of Lesotho in the first leg of their 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifier in Lesotho will boost their morale in consecutive matches.

Odegbami said this in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency in Ota, Ogun, on Monday.

NAN reports that Nigeria, with a 4-2 win in Maseru on Sunday, stayed solid at the top of Group L of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.

Victor Osimhen scored a brace, while Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze added one goal each to give Nigeria victory over their hosts in the encounter, in which the Eagles came back from one goal behind.

Super Eagles, now on top of their group with six points, will play Sierra Leone next year.

Odegbami said that the Super Eagles’ victory over Lesotho was commendable, but admonished the technical crew to strengthen the defence line of the team.

He said that this was necessary to prevent the team from conceding early goals as seen in their last two matches.

Odegbami also enjoined the Super Eagles to remain focused and disciplined, so that they would be able to do better than they did at the last AFCON in Egypt.

Edited by Kevin Okunzuwa/Oluwole Sogunle

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2021 AFCON Qualifier: Eagles wallop Lesotho’s Crocodiles 4-2 to stay top of group

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Nigeria on Sunday stayed solid at the top of their qualifying group for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations with a convincing win against Lesotho in Maseru.

This was after a brace by Victor Osimhen and goals by Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze steered them to 4-2 win over the hosts.

As has happened in recent times with Nigerian teams, the Super Eagles (who also conceded a second minute goal to Benin in Uyo on Wednesday before rallying to win 2-1 on Day 1 of the qualifying series), fell behind after 11 minutes.

This was when Nkoto Masoabi rose highest between two defenders to nod powerfully beyond Daniel Akpeyi after the Crocodiles broke on a counter attack.

This was only a minute after Osimhen had rattled goalkeeper Moerane Sekhoane with a stinging shot from outside the area.

In the 17th minute, William Ekong’s flying free kick from 24 yards was parried by Sekhoane, and nine minutes later, Alex Iwobi brought Nigeria level following hard work by Victor Osimhen.

The former U17 World Cup winner saw his pull-out intercepted by a defender, chased the defender, retrieved the ball neatly and passed to Iwobi to drive into the net at the far post.

Five minutes later, Osimhen again rattled the Crocodiles’ goaltender, but in the 36th minute there was to be no stopping Nigeria.

Chukwueze rose between two taller defenders to nod home a well-weighted pass from Osimhen for the Super Eagles’ second of the evening.

Livewire forward Osimhen still had time for two attempts before half time.

In the second half, Nigeria went all out and after Osimhen had clipped the crossbar and saw another shot parried to safety, the gangling forward slid full length to score Nigeria’s third from a cross by defender Ola Aina in the 74th minute.

Osimhen again worked hard to create a glorious chance for substitute Ahmed Musa in the 80th minute, but the captain inexplicably missed from inside the box.

Fittingly, the Lille of France forward would score a second, latching onto a brilliant pass by substitute Ramon Azeez to poke beyond Sekhoane in the 84th minute to virtually assure of the maximum points.

However, defender Chidozie Awaziem enabled a respectable scoreline for the home team when he diverted a pull-out into his own net with Akpeyi wrong-footed and with only two minutes left in regulation time.

With six points and six goals, the Super Eagles have started this race well and strong.

Home matches against Lesotho and Sierra Leone will be completed by trips to Sierra Leone and Benin Republic in the final phase of the qualifying series in 2020.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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U23 AFCON: Olympic Eagles crash out

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Cup holders, Nigeria have crashed out of the ongoing U23 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt following a dire 0-0 draw with South Africa on Friday.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the draw on the night was not enough to see the Eagles through to the semi finals.

The result meant they finished third in Group B and dropped out of contention for a place in the Men’s Football Tournament of next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.

Failure at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo sustained an unsavoury streak of Nigeria appearing in the Men’s Football Tournament at every other Olympics since the year 2000.

Champions in 1996 in Atlanta, USA where they won Africa’s first-ever football gold medal of the Olympics, the Nigeria U23 participated in the tournament in Australia in 2000, but missed the event in Greece in 2004.

They then took part at the event in China in 2008 and won the silver medal; missed the tournament in the United Kingdom in 2012; participated in the event in Brazil in 2016 and won the bronze medal and; will now miss Tokyo 2020.

On a day they needed just one goal to topple the South Africans and assure of a place in the last four – irrespective of the result in the other match between Cote d’Ivoire and Zambia – the Olympic Eagles failed to find their sting in the fore.

The Eagles held on too much on the ball without effective contact or meaningful touches in the opposition critical zone.

Awed by Nigeria’s array of stars in Kelechi Nwakali, Taiwo Awoniyi, Azubuike Okechukwu, Sincere Seth and Orji Okwonkwo, alongside respected home-based professionals Sunusi Ibrahim and Ndifreke Effiong, the South Africans preferred to absorb the heat for the first half hour.

Seeing that the Olympic Eagles lacked the punch when it mattered, the Amaglug-glug came out to attack. And thrice they came close to putting the ball in the net, but met with the alertness and agility of goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar.

Abubakar also saved the Olympic Eagles in the second half, as the South Africans fired from every angle, while Nigeria were looking to walk the ball into the net and stubbornly stuck to an ineffective strategy of trying to make hay from the wings.

President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick was quoted as saying that the failure of the Olympic Eagles was a shock.

“Working together with the Ministry of Sports, we have been able to provide the team with what is required for them to excel.

“The team’s failure to reach the semi finals and ultimately qualify for the Olympics is a big shock.

“Three years ago, football won the only medal that Nigeria took from the Olympics in Brazil.

“Our expectation was that this team would qualify for Tokyo and go there to do the country proud,” he said.

Edited by Saidu Adamu/Maharazu Ahmed

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I will be most excited person if I win 2021 AFCON for Nigeria, Rohr says

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Super Eagles’ head coach Gernot Rohr on Wednesday said winning the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for Nigeria would make him the most excited person.

Rohr who spoke at a post-match conference in Uyo after his team came from behind to defeat the Squirrels of Benin Republic 2-1 said winning AFCON 2021 was a huge desire.

“It will be exciting for me to win the 2021 AFCON title with Nigeria. That’s my desire, and I will be the most excited.

“So, winning today (Wednesday) is just the beginning. I can’t be excited until we win the title in 2021,” he said.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the Nigeria versus Benin game was a 2021 AFCON Qualifier and it took place at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.

Rohr, who said Benin Republic have a good team, also noted that the Nigerian side had a good game in the second half.

“The Super Eagles had a lot of scoring opportunities, but they failed to convert all of them.”

He however pointed out that the game’s opening goal, scored by the Squirrels’ captain, Stephane Sessegnon, in the match’s second minute, was a big shock.

“In the second half, we played a very good match, ‘one-touch two-touch’, and we have good wingers. We had a lot of opportunities, and with the changes we made, we did very well. It is good for us.”

Rohr also said he could not use home-based players for now in the Nigerian team due to specific reasons

“At the moment, the quality we have from  abroad is higher than what we have in the home league (Nigeria Professional Football League).”

Speaking also, the Super Eagles’ team captain, Ahmed Musa, said the match was “a tough game for our team, even though we won.’’

He added that the Nigerian side gave their best to prevail over the visitors.

On his part, the Head Coach of Benin, Michelle Dussuyer, noted that his team played very well in the first half.

He however pointed out that the 45th minute penalty kick his team conceded gave more confidence to the Super Eagles.

Also, Sessegnon acknowledged that while the game was not a bad one for his team, the Nigerian side played better.

NAN reports that in the game the Squirrels drew  the first blood, while the Super Eagles, through Victor Osimhen, equalised from the penalty kick spot in the 45th minute.

Although Nigeria had several scoring chances thwarted by the Benin goalkeeper in the second half, the winning goal came in the 62nd minute through a solo effort by Samuel Kalu.

Alex Iwobi, Joe Aribo, Samuel Chukwueze and Ola Aina also shone for Nigeria in the match where the Super Eagles confined the Squirrels to their own half throughout the second half.
IE/L

(Edited by Dianabasi Effiong and Olawale Alabi)

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Super Eagles ‘ll grow into AFCON qualifiers, says Akanni

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A former Super Eagles defender, Waidi Akanni, has expressed optimism that the Nigerian national football team would keep improving and getting better with each 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match.

Akanni was reacting to the hard-fought 2-1 victory recorded by the Super Eagles against the Squirrels of Benin Republic in their Group L encounter on Wednesday.

The match, played at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, saw the Super Eagles come from behind to defeat their West African opponents 2-1.

Akanni, a former chairman of the Lagos State Football Association, told the Nigeria News Agency that the most important thing about the game against Benin Republic was that the Eagles secured victory.

“The most important thing is that we got the three points. It is true that we struggled in the opening part of the game but it was due to lack of cohesion, especially in the midfield.

“It is not unusual because it is the first game of the qualifiers, but going forward, I believe the boys will play better as a team,” he said.

Squirrels’ Stephane Sessegnon opened scoring in the fifth minute to send Nigeria into panic mode before Victor Osimhen levelled up in the 45th minute.

Samuel Kalu then won the match for the Super Eagles with a close-range effort in the 62nd minute to seal a 2-1 victory.

Nigeria’s No. 10 jersey, which former Chelsea midfielder, Mikel Obi had made his own for years, was handed to new entrant, Joe Aribo, against the Squirrels.

Akanni said that the 23-year-old Glasgow Rangers midfielder gave a good account of himself.

“Joe Aribo was solid. He has easily blended into the national team. What the Eagles need now is playing together more. The players will get better,” he said.

Edited by Joseph Edeh and ‘Wale Sadeeq

 

 

 

 

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Contact US: editor @nnn.com.ng, nnnnews247 @gmail.com

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