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FINAL DRAW ASSISTANTS TO REPRESENT RUSSIA AND SEVEN WORLD CUP WINNERS

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Ten Days to the Final Draw of the 2018 World Cup which is being eagerly awaited, FIFA has revealed the high-profile draw assistants who will be lending a helping hand on 1 December.

Seven of them are the representatives of countries that have won the World Cup in the past.

The football icons are: Laurent Blanc, Gordon Banks, Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro, Diego Forlan, Diego Maradona and Carles Puyol will be the footballing royalty assisting draw conductor, Garry Lineker and Russian femal journalist, Maria Komandnava  at Moscow’s State Kremlin Palace. The eighth draw assistant is Russian football legend Nikita Simonyan,

Together with the trophy bearer, Miroslav Klose, they will represent the eight FIFA World Cup-winning nations.

“The Final Draw is an exciting moment for all of us football fans for obvious reasons.

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“But it is also a magical one because it allows us to look ahead to the big emotions that await us during the World Cup while also bringing the spotlight to those who have made history,” said FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

“It is a great line-up and I am delighted to have FIFA Legends from all of the former World Cup winning countries represented in the Final Draw show.”

A combined 13 different finals of the World Cup will be represented with the presence of the eight draw assistants in Moscow. Of the group, 91-year-old Nikita Simonyan can lay claim to competing at the earliest edition, representing his country at Sweden 1958, while Diego Forlan donned the colours of Uruguay at the most recent tournament, Brazil 2014.

“It has been almost 20 years since my unforgettable World Cup experience, and taking part in the Final Draw is an incredible way of feeling closer to the excitement of that tournament again,” said France legend Blanc, who tasted success at the global finals on home soil in 1998.

Two-time World Cup winner Cafu, who played at four World Cups with Brazil and was also a draw assistant four years ago, is eagerly awaiting the Final Draw in the Russian capital.

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“The Final Draw is a magical moment when the whole planet joins in enthusiasm and expectation, so it makes me happy to be a part of that once again,” the former full-back said.

“I was fortunate enough to come to Russia several times over the course of this World Cup cycle and I am quite certain that the country will deliver yet another fantastic event in Moscow.”

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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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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Finidi George wants to be judged with the twin World Cup qualifiers with South Africa and Benin Republic

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NFF Director of Legal, Obi guides Finidi in the signing of the contract.  

“My first target is to make sure that we are in line to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup by winning the upcoming two matches against South Africa and Benin Republic” declares Finidi George as he signed the dotted lines that confirmed him as the 41st Super Eagles coach.

Continuing, he remarked:  “The 2025 AFCON qualifiers will soon start and we must also be prepared for those as well. I know what the NFF wants as it is boldly written in the contract, and I will work very hard to add value to the team and put myself in the position to earn even more than I will be earning from the take-off.”

On relationship with the players, George said: “I have always had a cordial relationship with all the players as an assistant coach.

“I am still the same person even as Head Coach now, only that the title has changed. There will be no controversy regarding relationships with the players. These are professional players and we have to give them what they’re used to in Europe; you don’t need to slap anyone to get him to do the right thing.

“I will try my best to ensure the team starts functioning properly and we start winning games again. There is no pressure on me; I have tough skin. I just want to call for your support. I know this is not an easy job, but with the support of everyone, we can achieve our objectives.”

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