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Nigerian Football

Upbeat Eagles Plot Cameroon’s Fall in Uyo

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Table –toppers Nigeria are confident of overhauling Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions when both teams clash in perhaps the biggest match of Africa’s Group B of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying race on Friday.

Reigning African champions Cameroon come to town at a time the Eagles are fully committed to establishing an unassailable lead in the pool, and on the back of Nigeria having won the last three encounters between both nations at senior level.

Cameroon won the African title in Gabon early in the year – a championship for which Nigeria failed to qualify – and then tucked three big games under their belt at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia in the summer. Yet, they have a mountain to climb against a Nigerian side ready to rise to the occasion in front of a partisan home crowd at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.

The Lions will derive little comfort from glancing at the Group B table, on which they lag behind Nigeria with as many as four points, and also realize they have never beaten Nigeria in a World Cup qualifying match played in Nigeria.

Team captain Mikel John Obi is at the head of 22 players who were as at Tuesday morning in the Akwa Ibom State capital for the big encounter, with only Cyprus –based Abdullahi Shehu and Russia –based Aaron Samuel still expected at the Ibom Meridien Hotel.

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Eagles’ Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, told thenff.com on Tuesday that his wards are fully focused on what pundits have referred to as Nigeria’s biggest match of the year.

“It is a big match and we are fully focused and committed. The players know what it means; they need little or no reminding of how important this match is. I am happy we have almost the full house now and can concentrate on our tactics for the game.”

Tuesday’s arrivals were Moses Simon, Uche Agbo, Leon Balogun, John Ogu, Anthony Nwakaeme and Victor Moses, joining up with Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, Oghenekaro Etebo, Kelechi Iheanacho, William Ekong, Ahmed Musa, Chidozie Awaziem, Ola Aina, Daniel Akpeyi, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Mikel Agu, Odion Ighalo, Wilfred Ndidi, Dele Alampasu, Elderson Echiejile and Tyronne Ebuehi who made it to Uyo on Monday.

Nigeria, on six maximum points from their first two matches, will all but seal a place in Russia if they snap up the three points on offer on Friday evening. Zambia and Algeria, the other two teams in the group, have one point each and clash at the Heroes National Stadium in Lusaka on Saturday.

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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.

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Nigerian Football

Enugu Rangers hold on grimly at the top as Nigerian league gets to home stretch

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Enugu Rangers may have broken loose from the pack following their comprehensive  3-0 victory over Bayelsa United on Sunday.

As if to aid Rangers’ hold of the top position, their closest rivals, Remo Stars who were initially just a point behind fell like  papers blown by the huricane, losing 3-2 to Kwara United. Their loss dealt a big blow on their title aspirations as they are now four points behind Enugu Rangers and had also narrowed their goal difference.

They are now third having been overtaken by Enyimba who have better goal difference even though both are with 56 points.

Shooting Stars who suddenly peaked in the second half of the season are fast pacing up, getting to the fourth position and three points behind Remo Stars.

They were dealt a blow in the added time as Katsina United’s Michael Okoro got an added time goal against to stalemate scores at 2-2.

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Just as Enugu Rangers are at the cusp of the championship, the fates of Gombe United and Heartland appear already decided as the second tier Nigeria National League are already waiting to welcome them next season.

Akwa United may have navigated their ways out of relegation waters following their 2-1 away win over Lobi Stars. Akwa United are now 15th on the log. In Jos, former champions, Plateau and Niger Tornadoes played uninspiring goalless while relegation-troubled Heartland of Owerri spanked Gombe United 3-0 just as Kano Pillars dimmed Doma United 3-1.

All the results:

Sunshine Stars 0-0 Bendel Insurance

Rivers United 4-1 Sporting Lagos

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Lobi Stars 1-2 Akwa United

Kwara United 3-2 Remo Stars

Katsina United 2-2 Shooting Stars

Kano Pillars 3-1 Doma United

Heartland 3-0 Gombe United

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Enugu Rangers 3-0 Bayelsa United

Abia Warriors 0-1 Enyimba

Plateau United 0-0 Niger Tornadoes

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Nigerian Football

Finidi deserves our support, says former international, Kingsley Onye

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NFF Confirms Finidi George

Ahead of the first press parley that Super Eagles’ new manager, Finidi George is going to have on Thursday in Lagos, former Nigeria international, Kingsley Onye has canvassed for full support for the new coach.

 To him, the time of politicking and pushing for a particular candidate was over. “It is time for all of us to back the chosen one, Finidi George”, remarked Onye who was a left rearguard player in the 1985 class of Flying Eagles who against all odds, upstaged hosts,Soviet Union to clinch the third place in the then World Youth Championships that is now called the U-20 World Cup.

  “Although I canvassed for Emmanuel Amuneke’s candidature, am still happy that an equally good Finidi George got the job”, he said in a phone conversation from his base in the United Kingdom.

  “The fact that some players complained after Nigeria’s second friendly match in March shows that Finidi is a man of his class and cannot be influenced by players’ sentiments.

  “I believe he will take Nigeria to an enviable height, the same way Amuneke too would have done.”

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 Continuing, Onye who played for Enugu Rangers while he was in the country in the 1980s also remarked that he was on the same page with Victor Ikpeba who has asked that Finidi’s assistants should always back him in team selection  and tactical formations.

 “We should be more than 100 per cent behind the coach. If we do, he will perform wonders. He has his own philosophy which we must allow to flourish. He did it will Enyimba, leading the club to success last season and was at the brink of repeating the success before his appointment as Super Eagles’ coach.”

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s broadcast icon, Danladi Bako hails NFF on choice of Finidi George

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Nigerian broadcasting icon, Dr. Nasir Danladi Bako has praised the Nigeria Football Federation for settling for former international and ex-Enyimba FC strategist Finidi George as Head Coach of the Super Eagles.

The Kogunan Sakwatto, 66, who created a plethora of famous TV programmes including Morning RideMastersports and Second Chance, among others, and served as Special Adviser to a number of Sports Ministers many years ago, insisted the NFF leadership struck a bull’s eye with the appointment of the two-time FIFA World Cup star, stating that George oozes class and character, and an iron determination to succeed despite his public carapace of a quiet person.

“Finidi George has that cultured, disciplined mien and personality that makes you want to trust him with a big project. He understands the meaning of constituted authority and right from his playing days, has always displayed the attribute of a team player. He has always had that calm, collected nature even in the face of pressure or danger.

“Above all, he is not someone who thinks he is doing the nation a favour. He is grateful for the opportunity and I believe that he has all it takes to succeed. I am calling on the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, the NFF and Nigerians as a whole to support him to take the Super Eagles to brand-new heights.”

Bako, who holds a doctorate degree in development communication from the Ahmadu Bello University and was Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission between 1999 and 2002, says all hands must now be on deck to ensure victories in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and Benin Republic on 7 June and 11 June respectively.

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“No doubt, the NFF got this one appointment right. Very much on point. Now, they should endeavour to give George all the support he needs to succeed in his task of qualifying Nigeria for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

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