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AFTER SHOCK WORLD CUP ELIMINATION, US COACH RESIGNS

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Last Wednesday’s elimination of the United States’ team from 2018 World Cup qualification has forced its coach, Bruce Arena to resign this Friday.

United States were eliminated to the joy of banned-for-life former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner following a 2-1 loss to Warner’s country, Trinidad & Tobago.

It is the first time since 1986 that US will be missing at the World Cup. The U.S. Soccer released a statement from Bruce Arena on Friday.

“It is the greatest privilege for any coach to manage their country’s National Team, and as I leave that role today I am honoured and grateful to have had that opportunity twice in my career,” Arena said in a statement.

“When I took the job last November, I knew there was a great challenge ahead, probably more than most people could appreciate.

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“Everyone involved in the program gave everything they had for the last 11 months, and in the end we came up short. No excuses. We didn’t get the job done, and I accept responsibility.”

The 66-year-old, who previously coached the U.S. from 1998 to 2006, took over following the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann in November.

He led the U.S. to a 10 wins-two draws-six losses record in his second stint, winning the Gold Cup title in July, but oversaw a side that collapsed late in qualifying while failing to secure a World Cup berth for the first time since 1986.

No replacement was immediately announced for him. Arena had drawn scrutiny for his line-up choices against Trinidad & Tobago, as he eschewed the heavy rotation he used in past qualifiers and chose the same starting XI that recorded a 4-0 win over Panama on Friday in Orlando, Florida.

Arena defended his decision by pointing to the fact that the Soca Warriors made minimal adjustments after their own match Friday, a 3-1 loss in Mexico.

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“You can say I could’ve played this guy, that guy, and then you’d come back the next day if we had lost and said, ‘Why did you make those changes and play those guys?’” Arena told the Washington Post.

“The job we have doesn’t allow us to be the Monday morning quarterback. [T&T] played almost the same team that played against Mexico on Friday, so there’s no difference. So that’s all a bunch of baloney. It has nothing to do with formations or not making changes. We didn’t get the job done.”

Arena also chose not to call in some of the key players from the Klinsmann era. He left out many of the national team’s European-based players, opting to feature an MLS-heavy side for the final two World Cup qualifiers.

Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron was benched in favour of Omar Gonzalez, while Arena kept his entire German-American contingent at home. Borussia Moenchengladbach starter Fabian Johnson was the main absence, with Timmy Chandler and Danny Williams also being left out.

The future of the U.S. program is now completely up in the air. Gulati is up for re-election, but fans, former players and media are calling for changes at the very top to right the ship.

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And Arena’s departure is a start, with Tab Ramos expected to take over coaching duties as the search for a long-term replacement begins.

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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New match officials designated for Benin-Nigeria World Cup qualifier

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Atcho Pierre Ghislain from Gabon will officiate Benin versus Nigeria World Cup qualifier

World-governing body, FIFA has made changes to the officiating team of the 2026 World Cup qualifying match between Benin Republic and Nigeria which is scheduled for the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in the Ivorian capital on Monday, 10th June 2024.

The changes have sent packing Ethiopian official Bamlak Tessema Weyesa, who was originally designated as referee for the encounter scheduled to kick off at 4pm. In his place, Gabonese official Pierre Ghislain Atcho will now be the referee.

Weyesa’s compatriots Temesgin Samuel Atango and Tigle Gizaw Belachew have been retained as assistant referee 1 and assistant referee 2 respectively. However, another Ethiopian, Tewodros Mitiku, earlier designated as fourth official, has been thrown out, replaced by Cameroonian Antoine Max Effa Essouma.

The originally-designated referee assessor, match commissioner and security officer retain their places in the Day 4 encounter that comes up only three days after the Super Eagles, Bafana Bafana clash at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo in a Day 3 battle.

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South Africa drops domestic league’s top scorer,  Mabasa in preliminary World Cup qualifying squad against Nigeria

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Tshegofatso Mabasa of Orlando Pirates celebrates goal during DStv Premiership 2023/24 Match between Orlando Pirates and Golden Arrows at Orlando Stadium on the 06 April 2024 © Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePi

In-form local league top scorer, Tshegofatso Mabasa is a glaring absentee in a 36-man provisional squad that South Africa’s coach, Hugo Broos has drawn for twin World Cup qualifying match against Nigeria in Uyo and Zimbabwe at home.

Tshegofatso Mabasa, the centre forward for Orlando Pirates currently tops scoring chart in South Africa’s DStv Premiership where he has scored 15 goals. The provisional 36-man squad will in the next few days be reduced to 23.

The Belgian tactician however called up most of the players that featured at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the year when South Africa placed third after being eliminated by the Nigeria Super Eagles.

Included in the squad is Lyle Foster. The  striker  whose club, Burnley has just been relegated from the Englsih Premier League was absent at the Africa Cup of Nations owing to what was termed as mental health issues.

Also invited is Mabasa’s teammate at the Orlando Pirate, Evidence Makgopa, who played a crucial role for Bafana as they won bronze at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire.

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He was not called for Bafana’s friendlies in Algeria in March, where the national team drew 1-1 against Andorra and 3-3 against Algeria as Foster’s future with the national team remained clouded.

Broos said after the Nations Cup he would engage the Pirates youth product and Burnley manager Vincent Kompany on the striker’s future with Bafana.

Another notable inclusion is Pirates’ 19-year-old attacker Relebohile Mofokeng who has caught the eye with his performances, scoring four goals in 35 league and cup games in a breakthrough season for the Soweto giants.

Bafana meet Nigeria in Lagos on June 6, then host Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein on June 11.

South Africa are in second place in group C on three points to Rwanda on four. Nigeria, Lesotho and Zimbabwe have two points and Benin one.

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The top teams from the nine African groups qualify for the first 48-team World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the US. The four best runners-up go into a playoff to decide one side that will contest a six-team intercontinental tournament.

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CAF appoints Chadian official as referee for Nigeria, South Africa World Cup qualifying battle

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Chadian referee, Alhadi Allaou Mahamat

Chadian referee, Alhadi Allaou Mahamat will be in the centre when the Super Eagles host South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in a 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying match at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo next month.

The 38 year old was the fourth official when South Africa played goalless with Tunisia at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Mahamat, also refereed the 3-0 home loss of Dream FC of Ghana to Zamalek SC in the semi-final of the Confederation Cup. He has been a FIFA referee since 2012.  

He has officiated in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup competitions. He was also a referee at the 34th Africa Cup of Nations held in Cote d’Ivoire earlier this year.

Mahamat will work with Sudanese official Mohammed Ibrahim Abdallah (assistant referee 1), Abelmiro Dos Reis Monte Negro from Sao Tome & Principe (assistant referee 2) and compatriot Pousri Armi Alfred (fourth official) at the encounter that will commence at 8pm Nigeria time on Friday, 7th June.

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Ahmed Sayed Abou Elela from Egypt will serve as the referee assessor while Ghanaian Munkaila Nassam Adam will be the commissioner for the Day 3 clash.

CAF has also appointed Ethiopian official Bamlak Tessema Weyesa, 43, as the referee for the Day 4 encounter between the Super Eagles and the Cheetahs of Benin Republic at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Abidjan. That match will kick off at 4pm CIV time (5pm Nigeria) on Monday, 10th June.

An icon of refereeing on the African continent, Bamlak Weyesa will work with compatriots Temesgin Samuel Atango (assistant referee 1), Tigle Gizaw Belachew (assistant referee 2) and Tewodros Mitiku (fourth official). Djamel Haimoudi from Algeria will be the referee assessor while David Yameogo from Burkina Faso will serve as the commissioner, and Ivorian Claude Elloh will work as security officer.

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