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NIGERIA AND THE WORLD CUP TOP SEEDS

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA, seven consecutive World Cup reporter.

Invariably, every team not in Pot 2 to Pot 4 will have to face a seeded team in the first stage of the World Cup. In the case of Nigeria, top seeds have always been difficult to crack in the group stage.

Only once, at France ’98 did Nigeria succeed in beating a seeded side after Spain slumped 3-2 in the opening Group D game in Nantes. At the France ’98 Final Draw conducted on December 4, 1997 in Marseilles, Spain was one of the seeded fifth among the eight top seeds and was projected as possible finalist.

Ecstasy as Sunday Oliseh celebrates his back breaking goal against top seed, Spain at France ‘98.

The commonest top seed that Nigeria always faces is Argentina. Both were in Group D at the USA ’94 when Argentina was number one among the six seeded teams. Both teams met again in Group F of Japan/Korea World Cup 2002.

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Seven years ago, Nigeria faced Argentina in Group B in South Africa. Three years ago, both were Group F at Brazil 2014 and got entangled in a five goal thriller won 3-2 by Argentina.

In the four encounters with Argentina, Nigeria lost by the odd lone goal. It was 2-1 in 1994 when Argentina came from behind to win. Samson Siasia shot Nigeria ahead in the eighth minute before two free kicks expertly taken by Diego Maradona was scored by Claudio Caniggia in the 21st and 28th minutes.

Samson Siasia celebrates his eighth minute goal against Argentina at USA ’94. But Nigeria lost 2-1.

When both met again in 2002, a 63rd minute goal by Gabriel Batistuta broke the deadlock.  Nigeria under Adegboye Onigbinde had played defensively hoping to scrape a goalless draw before the next projected less-tasking encounter with Sweden.

Gabriel Batistuta leaps above Nigerian defenders to score a 63rd minute goal at the World Cup 2002.

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But it was not the Gabriel Batistuta’s goal that eliminated Nigeria from the 2002 World Cup. Rather, it was that of Henrik Larsson penalty and winning goal in the Sweden 2-1 defeat of Nigeria after the Super Eagles had taken the lead through Julius Aghahowa’s glancing header and the subsequent equalizer by Henrik Larsson.

Henrik Larsson celebrates his penalty kick goal that technically knocked out Nigeria from the 2002 World Cup.

It was again a 1-0 win for Argentina in 2010 in Nigeria’s only match ever to be shot by 3D camera at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg. Gabriel Heinze scored early in the game in which Nigeria did everything to contain the rampaging Argentine attack hinged on Lionel Messi. The heroic performance by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama also helped in keeping the score line low.

Gabriel Heinze’s solitary goal decided the outcome of Nigeria versus Argentina at South Africa 2010.

At Russia 2018, which top seed will Nigeria face next year? Will it be Argentina again? The answer emerges this Friday at the State Kremlin Hall in Moscow.

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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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International Football

Amokachi, Adebayor and Amanda Dlamini confirmed for CAF African Schools Championship Finals

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African football legends, Emmanuel Adebayor, Daniel Amokachi and Amanda Dlamini are some of the top names that have been confirmed for the Continental Finals of the CAF African Schools Football Championship 2024 scheduled in Zanzibar between 21 – 24 May 2024.

The CAF African Schools Football Championship is the school’s competition that includes over 44 African countries with over 800 000 participants of Boys and Girls under the age of 15.

This is the second edition of the competition that is not only focused on Football but also on a number of programmes including Young Referee’s Programme, Young Reporter Programme and Safeguarding. 

Adebayor, CAF Player of the Year in 2008, represented Togo at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their only appearance at the tournament. Ex-striker for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and others, the Togolese star has had a successful career, earning over 85 caps with Les Eperviers.

Nigerian football star Amokachi played 42 international matches for the Super Eagles. He participated in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and was part of the team that won the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic Games in 1996.

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Former Banyana Banyana (South Africa) captain Dlamini played in two TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions where they finished third and second in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She is one of the few footballers, both in the men’s and women’s national teams to reach 100 caps.

Dlamini recently made history when she became the first female to be part of the world commentary feed at the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

Also on the list are local stars Abdi Kassim Sadalla, former Tanzanian National Team Captain, and Hilda Masanche, Head coach of the Tanzania U17 Women’s National Team.

The Legends will feature in various activities to promote and support football development among African youth.

The finals will bring together talented young players from across the continent, providing them a platform to showcase their skills and passion for the game.

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-CAF

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International Football

Nigeria’s Nnadozie, Malawi striker, Chawinga scoop top awards in France

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Malawi striker Tabitha Chawinga and Chiamaka Nnadozie of Nigeria have been named the best player and best goalkeeper respectively in the French women’s league.

Chawinga wasted no time in making an impact upon her arrival in France after joining Paris Saint-Germain from Inter Milan in less than one year.

 The Malawi captain joined PSG in the summer of 2023 and has quickly showcased her talent, resulting in the top award on Monday night.

She played 25 matches, scoring 18 goals and providing 10 assists while donning the iconic red and blue jersey.

As a semifinalist in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, PSG’s number 22 became the first Malawian to score a goal in a European competition.

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Meanwhile, Nnadozie has had an exceptional season with Paris FC which had led to dethrone Christiane Endlerthe – long standing best goalkeeper in the French women’s top-flight.

The Nigerian goalkeeper boasts 10 clean sheets in 28 appearances in the French league.

For the first time in her career, Nnadozie has been recognized in this category, ending the dominance of Endler, who was named the best goalkeeper in the French league from 2019 to 2023.

Chawinga and Nnadozie’s achievements highlight the growing influence of African players abroad as their performances will pave the way for future generations of footballers from the continent to shine on the global stage.

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What a twist of fate! Before now, Morocco and Algeria were  allies

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When FIFA Suspended Morocco for Supporting Algeria’s Independence

Despite Morocco’s historical solidarity with Algeria, the regime continues to politicize sporting events in search of opportunities to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity.

Algeria continues to push with its obsessive tendency to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity despite the country’s long-standing solidarity with its National Liberation Front (FLN) in international sporting events.

Last week, the Algerian regime confiscated the jerseys of a Moroccan club RS Berkane ahead of a CAF Confederation match in Algeria due to the fact that they featured a full map of Morocco.

The decision drew outrage from Moroccans and international observers who decried Algeria’s politicizing of sporting events and its constant search for opportunities to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity.

On Saturday, Algerian journalist and political analyst, Oualid Kebir, took to social media exposing the regime’s disregard for Morocco’s historical support for the Algerian FLN in international sporting events.

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Kebir highlighted Morocco’s “heroic” and “strong supportive stances” during Algerian’s challenging times during French occupation. “Morocco’s historical and heroic stance at that time is added to the honorable and strong supportive stances at that time towards Algeria,” the post read. 

Kebir’s statement referred to Morocco’s Royal Football Federation (FRMF) organizing a match in 1958 against the FLN team despite the fact that the team was not recognized by FIFA. The team consisted then of French Muslim (Algerian) players who had been suspended by the French Football Federation.

FIFA’s justification at the time for punishing Morocco was due to the licensing of the FRMF clubs to play against the FLN team. 

“Today, the military regime disguises ingratitude and compels Algerian clubs and sports teams to refuse to play and confront their Moroccan counterparts who display the map of Morocco on their jerseys!” Kebir wrote, decrying Algeria’s ungratefulness to Morocco’s historical support.

“This is the reward for standing with us during difficult times?!” he stressed.

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Attached to the post was the official document from FIFA outlining its decision to revoke the affiliation of the FRMF due to Morocco’s authorization of its clubs to play matches against the Algerian national team, despite FIFA’s objections. 

Algeria’s blatant attacks on Morocco’s sovereignty have especially peaked over the past days with the country staunchly attempting to politicize yet another sporting event.

One such event occurred during the Arab Championship this week, where the Algerian U-17 national handball team withdrew in protest of Morocco’s jersey featuring a full map of Morocco that includes its southern provinces. 

After the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced RS Berkane to be the winner of the Sunday match, Algeria relentlessly appealed the decision, losing the appeal in the process.

However, the regime announced that they would take their case to a higher court, alleging that the jerseys include a political symbol.

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In January 2023, Algeria orchestrated a similar attack on Morocco through the African Nations Championship (CHAN). During the tournament, the Algerian regime denied the Moroccan team the right to participate and defend their title, while using the tournament’s opening ceremony as a political platform to express support for the Polisario Front. 

-Morocco World News

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