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Did Rohr Foresee the Zambian Challenge?

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

The Super Eagles’ qualification for the Russia 2018 World Cup has been postponed for another one month following the Zambia’s 1-0 defeat of immediate post-draw favourites, Algeria on Tuesday night.

The Super Eagles were initially projected to pick an outright qualification had the team achieved a double over Cameroon on Monday by taking the full points.

Picking of the ticket could also have been achieved on Tuesday if Zambia had not beaten Algeria in Constantine.

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The stack reality now is that the Super Eagles have to win the next fixture against Zambia in Uyo to pick the ticket before a potentially tricky last match day fixtures which could involve horse trading with the two already eliminated giants, Cameroon and Algeria.

If Nigeria wins the October 7 fixture, the race to pick the Group B ticket gets to its climax. It will be coming on the eve of the 24th anniversary of that October 8, 1993 evening when Nigeria first qualified for the World Cup.

Hitherto, Zambia was the least expected to pose the most serious challenge for the Super Eagles, especially as the team was the first to concede goals and defeat in the power-packed Group B.

Moreover, the Zambian had the worst start in the final phase, losing on home soil.

But ahead of the Tuesday night surprised defeat of Algeria, Nigeria’s manager, Gernot Rohr at post match conference made reference to the danger posed by Zambia.

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He told the gathering that the Zambian team that lost 1-2 at home to Nigeria was not the same side that beat Algeria 3-1 in Lusaka on Sunday.

“We are not done yet. We need to put up a good fight against Zambia when they come to Uyo next month”, he said as if he had premonition that Zambia could shock Algeria o n home soil.

“There have been changes in the Zambian side that lost to us and the team that beat Algeria 3-1 last Sunday”, Rohr said, noting that six new players have been injected into the side, especially from the team that won the Africa Cup of Nations under 20 earlier in the year.

Among the new inclusion that did not feature in the last October duel with Nigeria are Patson Daka, Fashion Sakala, Chisamba Lungu, Augustine Mulenga, Brian Mwila and Ziyo Tembo.

Two of them scored vital goals against Algeria that have put Zambia in contention for World Cup qualification.  Patson Daka scored the vital goal that gave lifeline to Zambia on Tuesday night.

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Patson Daka set Zambia on victory path on Sunday when he opened scoring in the sixth minute in the Lusaka 3-1 beating of Algeria.

A loss by Nigeria at home in October will put both Super Eagles and Zambia at par on points, but depending on the number of goals, Nigeria may have the edge on goal difference as the Super Eagles have a surplus of seven goals as against Zambia’s two.

Zambia will have to score three unreplied goals in the October match to be on equal level with Nigeria on all parameters.

A draw with Zambia on October 7 will stretch the group to the wire on the last match day on November 6 to set up potentially tricky fixtures as each will face the eliminated giants.

While Nigeria will be away to Algeria, Zambia will host Cameroon which may not up much resistance in the away fixture that means nothing to the team but could wish a complete routing of giants in the group.

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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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Manu Garba proud of Eaglets as team countenances Niger Republic

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Coach Manu Garba has asserted that he is proud of the Golden Eaglets after Thursday’s scoreless encounter with their Burkina Faso counterparts in the Group B opener of the WAFU B U17 Championship.

 Five-time champions Nigeria created several scoring chances particularly late in the game at the Accra University Stadium, but failed to utilise even one that could have earned them the three points and handed them early leadership of the pool.

 However, Garba said the boys played a cohesive game in their first-ever international outing and deserve credit for their display.

 “We are proud of our team’s performance. Although we didn’t secure the win that we hoped for, our players showed great teamwork and sportsmanship. We look forward to our next match and the opportunity to continue growing and improving.

 “The boys will get better with experience and exposure.”

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 Against the Burkinabes, the Eaglets showed flair and fluency, but a heavy downpour in the final 15 minutes of the game disrupted the general flow of play, with the pitch waterlogged and effective control and passing impossible.

 The Golden Eaglets go up against their counterparts from the Niger Republic on Sunday evening (6pm Ghana time; 7pm Nigeria) with renewed hope and vigour to pick up the three points that will enhance their chances of a place in the last four.

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Paris to face major disruption ahead of Games opening ceremony, says police chief

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Paris will face major disruption ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony along the Seine on July 26, as organisers ramp up security measures to safeguard the event, the city’s police chief said on Thursday.

Organisers hope the opening ceremony, in which 160 boats carrying athletes from around the world will travel a 6 kilometre route along the Seine river towards the Eiffel tower, will deliver a jaw-dropping spectacle. Some 300,000 spectators will watch from the banks of the Seine as a global audience tunes in on TV.

But the ceremony is also a major security headache, taking place against a backdrop of wars in Ukraine and Gaza. French President Emmanuel Macron has already floated the possibility of scrapping the river ceremony and reverting to at least two back-up plans if the security risks become untenable.

Paris residents with a view of the Seine can invite friends to watch the opening of the 2024 Summer Games from their balconies, but should prepare for heavy traffic and limited movement, Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said at a press conference.

Adjacent metro stations, most river crossings and all water traffic will be halted in the week before the open-air ceremony, Nunez said, adding that some bridges will remain open “in order not to cut Paris in two halves.”

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Everyone who wants to access the immediate surroundings of the Seine in the week before the Games will need to sign up on an online platform, Nunez said. Local residents hoping to access their homes, which are among the most prestigious addresses in France, will need to do the same.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who also spoke at the event said the disruption would impact around 20,000 residents and business owners.

Asked about Macron’s comments earlier this month, Nunez said his teams were still working on the ‘Plan A’ of the river ceremony.

“As of today, we have no reason to be worried,” Nunez said.

-Reuters

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New dawn expected as Nigeria sports ministry partners with Yanga Games

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Towards creating a new dawn for Nigerian Sports,  the Federal Ministry  of Sports has signed a landmark  agreement with  top lottery  company Yanga Games to raise the revenue profile of the Ministry  and ensure a new deal for the welfare of athletes. 

Speaking during the unveiling  of the partnership between  the Ministry  and  Yanga  Games in Lagos on Friday,  Chairman/CEO of Yanga Games  Derrick  David Kentebe  said: “we are so super excited by this opportunity to work  with the Ministry  of Sports Development to change the narrative about Sports in the country. 

Continuing, he remarked: “We see opportunity for marketing our athletes  and sports generally . We shall avail ourselves  the best use  of this unique and  special partnership. We shall pursue this mandate with vigour, passion and unrivaled  commitment  to bring benefits to all the critical stakeholders.”

The agreement  according  to Kentebe  will provide  support for retired athletes, enhance grassroot  sports Development and advance the potentials of  special athletes.

He assured that ” Yanga Games has the capacity to  raise funds on behalf of the Ministry  of Sports for athletes  Development, endorsement and sponsorship deals for athletes”. 

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Minister of Sports Senator John Owan Enoh assured that the Ministry has total and absolute  confidence  in Yanga Games to deliver on the given mandate.

“Gone are the era when we depended solely  on government  to fund sports  development.  We are partnering with  Yanga Games to bring maximum  benefits  to the athletes and all critical stakeholders.

“We shall give institutional encouragement and support to the Management of  Yanga Games to succeed in this onerous task of rebuilding our sports sub sector.”

Speaking further, Kentebe  said ” We shall raise about 34 Billion in the next four years to assist athletes and improve sports in the country.

“We shall help to develop  grassroot  sports and  sustain youth involvement  through raffle draws, fund raiser and other avenues.

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