(Reuter/) France were without three key world champions but still cruised past Euro 2020 qualifier rivals Albania and Andorra.
Midfielders Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante, as well as start striker Kylian Mbappe, missed the games through injuries but their absence was barely felt as Les Bleus scored seven goals in two outings.
Kingsley Coman emerged as the biggest winner of the long weekend, netting three times and proving a constant threat in man-of-the-match performances at the Stade de France.
The Bayern Munich forward’s devilish pace, inspiration and eye for goal have put him in prime position to at least become Didier Deschamps’s favourite substitute at the 16-team championship next year, should France qualify.
“I’m not going to complain that I have an extra solution. He was already with us at Euro 2016, and he was already performing.
“What he’s got now is an eye for goal and he showed it with Bayern and in these two games,” Deschamps said of Coman, who missed out on the 2018 World Cup in a year marred by injuries.
Coman, 23, scored one goal and set up two in three Bundesliga games this season.
His three goals in a 4-1 win against Albania and the 3-0 defeat of Andorra took his France tally to four goals in 19 games.
Other forwards took their chance to shine, too.
Lille forward Jonathan Ikone came off the bench against Albania to score on his debut and he was also brilliant against Andorra, setting up Coman for the first goal
“He’s a young player who can improve a lot. He made the most of the time he had, it’s important to be decisive,” said Deschamps of the 21-year-old.
Monaco striker Wissam Ben Yedder had less time to shine, but he took full advantage of 20 minutes against Andorra to find the back of the net in stoppage time.
France are level on 15 points with Turkey in Group H, second by virtue of their Istanbul defeat last June despite a better goal difference.
They now face two potentially decisive clashes against Iceland in Reykjavik and Turkey at the Stade de France. (Reuter/)
Edited by Nick Nicholas/Maharazu Ahmed
U23 AFCON: Olympic Eagles crash out
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
Manchester City’s appeal to CAS over FFP rejected
Manchester City have lost their attempt to block a UEFA investigation into financial fair play violations.
City had asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS] to throw out the financial fair play case that had been brought against the club by UEFA.(Skysports/NAN)
(Edited by Emmanuel Okara/Peter Ejiofor)
African champions Algeria begin title defence with rout of Zambia
Algeria thrashed Zambia 5-0 on Thursday in a successful start to the defence of their continental crown, winning their opening qualifier for the 2021 African Cup of Nations 117 days after lifting the trophy.
Baghdad Bounedjah scored twice, one from the penalty spot, with Ramy Bensebaini, Youssef Belaili and substitute El Arabi Hilal Soudani completing a pleasing performance for the home fans in Blida.
Thomas Partey’s long-range shot gave Ghana the lead and 19-year-old debutant Mohammed Kudus added the second in a 2-0 home win over South Africa in Cape Coast, but Egypt, who hosted the finals this year, were held 1-1 at home by Kenya.
Mohamed Salah’s absence due to an ankle injury left Egypt looking ineffective in attack although they did take the lead when Mahmoud Kahraba picked up on a weak back pass.
Michael Olunga stunned the home crowd in Alexandria with a 67th-minute equaliser for Kenya.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang captained Gabon as they forced a goalless draw away to Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa, while Mali twice surrendered the lead as they were held 2-2 by Guinea, for who Naby Keita scored their first goal.
The Comoros Islands, who only became FIFA members in 2005, notched their first away win in a competitive international as Faiz Selemani scored early in the second half to beat Togo 1-0 in Lome.
The small Indian Ocean island nation host Egypt on Monday, looking to keep up their giant-killing start in Group G.
Mozambique beat Rwanda 2-0 at home in Thursday’s other qualifier.
Qualifiers continue through to Tuesday, by which time each of the 48 participating countries will have played two matches each.
(Edited by Emmanuel Okara/Peter Ejiofor)
Turkey qualify for Euro 2020 with draw against Iceland, France also secure spot
Turkey qualified for the Euro 2020 finals with a goalless draw in a Group H against Iceland on Thursday, with the result also ensuring France a place in the championships.
They join Belgium, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain and Ukraine as the teams who have already qualified for the tournament that will be staged across 12 European countries from 12 June to 12 July 2020.
Turkey lead Group H with 20 points although France can overtake them at the top if they beat Moldova later on Thursday.
Third-placed Iceland are out of the running as they have 16 points with one qualifier remaining.
Both teams struggled to make an impact with Turkey striker Burak Yilmaz failing to find a way past Iceland keeper Hannes Halldorsson.
The hosts pressed harder in the second half but Iceland’s defence kept them from scoring.
Midfielder Ozan Tufan came close to scoring in the 63rd minute but his effort brushed past the crossbar.
Iceland also missed a chance to score in the closing stages when Hordur Magnusson’s header was blocked by Turkey defender Merih Demiral on the line.
Before kickoff, Turkish fans whistled as Iceland’s national anthem was played.
Edited by Felix Ajide
NPFL: Rangers pips Sunshine Stars 1-0 in Enugu
Nnamdi Egbujuo’s 54th minute goal gave victory to the home team.
Though the first 45 the minutes ended goalless as the visitors had the upper hand but could not break the deadlock in spite several attempts.
Speaking after the match, Rangers coach, Benedict Ugwu expressed joy over the outcome of match and said that the two teams played well.
” I Thank God we won and the most important thing is the three points and not the score line,” he said.
Ugwu said that he fielded new players for them to have a test of the league.
” You know we started the league late so that is why I am fielding the new players now to identify those who can play at the continental championship.
” With time we will get the new players glued together and the goals will start coming,” he said.
Sunshine Coach, Kabiru Dogo admitted losing to a better side.
He said that the players did well in spite of playing two matches in the league with the same players.
” You know we are working with only 17 players and we are trying to rotate them so that they will not brake down before time.
” It is a good match with good officiating and the better team won so we are going home to work more on our game.
Edited by Joseph Edeh/Ali Baba-Inuwa
IOC President tasks FG on grassroots development, infrastructure
President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Dr Thomas Bach, has urged the Federal Government (FG) to strengthen grassroots sports development and infrastructure in order to produce more Olympic champions.
Bach gave the advice on Thursday in Abuja during an interactive session with Nigerian Olympians as part of his two-day working visit to Nigeria.
He said the visit was part of efforts to support the country’s Olympic preparations and further boost the ideals of the Olympics.
Bach rounded off his engagement for the visit with the inauguration of the National Olympic Committee of Africa (ANOCA) headquarters building in Abuja.
He said the inauguration of the building would automatically transform Nigeria to the capital of Olympic sports in Africa.
Earlier, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, described the event as a great landmark in the development of sports in Africa.
“It is a day that the entire black race should be proud of. And as Nigerians, we are proud to be a major contributor to the actualisation of this day.
“Aside the obvious fact of the commissioning of the building that would, from today, be the administrative and technical hub of sports administration on the continent, we also have in our midst, the leaders of the world governing body for sports, ably led by the president of the International Olympic Committee, Dr Thomas Bach,” he said.
He recalled that the journey to the commissioning started about 13 years ago when Nigeria, alongside six other African countries, bided to host the headquarters of ANOCA.
“With the selection and signing of the Headquarters Cooperation Agreement on Feb. 21, 2007, the ANOCA Secretariat, hitherto in Yaoundé, Cameroon, was moved to Abuja, Nigeria,” he added.
The minister also revealed that “After 10 years of trying to get approval for the domestication of the anti-doping bill, the Federal Executive Council on Wednesday approved the domestication of the convention.
NAN reports that Bach, a German lawyer and former Olympic fencer, is the ninth and current president of the IOC.
He had arrived Abuja on Wednesday on a two-day working visit as part of tour of selected African countries ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
Edited by Moses Solanke/Sadiya Hamza
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