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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Messi scores stoppage-time winner in Inter Miami debut

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Leagues Cup - Group J - Inter Miami v Cruz Azul - DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States - July 21, 2023 Inter Miami's Lionel Messi scores their second goal from a free kick REUTERS/Marco Bello

Lionel Messi made a rousing debut for Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami as he scored a stoppage-time winner to beat Liga MX’s Cruz Azul 2-1 on Friday in their Leagues Cup opener in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Messi drew a foul about 25 yards from goal in the dying seconds and stepped up to deliver what everyone came to see as his free kick sailed into the top left corner and sent the crowd into delirium.

After the goal, Messi ran toward the right corner of the field with his arms spread wide and then headed to the sidelines on the other side where he shared a hug with his family.

“I knew I had to score, it was the last play of the game and I had to score so we didn’t’ go to penalties,” Messi said on the broadcast through a translator.

“It was very important for us to get this win because it’s a new tournament and it’s going to give us confidence moving forward.”

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With four-times NBA champion LeBron James, tennis great Serena Williams and reality television star Kim Kardashian among those in the sold-out crowd, Messi entered the game as a second-half substitute to a rousing ovation with Miami ahead 1-0.

Messi was introduced as “the world’s number 10” when he came into the game in the 54th minute, slipped the captain’s armband on his left arm and sent the crowd into a frenzy whenever he touched the ball.

The seven-times Ballon d’Or winner did not take long to make his presence felt as he eluded some Cruz Azul defenders and led an attack down the right side, one of many chances he created on the night.

‘DREAM COME TRUE’

At one point, Messi ran into a Cruz Azul player in the box and fell to the ground and while his team and supporters wanted a penalty the referee immediately wagged his finger, denying the Argentine a chance at a spot kick.

The 36-year-old then set up what appeared to be the winning goal in the 89th minute but Martinez, who tapped the ball into the net, was ruled offside.

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But Messi, seven months removed from leading Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar, got his chance to shine once again.

“As soon as I saw the free kick given I thought this is the way it’s meant to end,” said Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham. “It’s so exciting tonight for our fans. All of these people that have come down here to see Leo just step on the pitch, let alone just do what he’s done.

“It’s a dream come true for everybody in this stadium and everybody around this country to see Leo step into the MLS and perform and I don’t have many words for that.”

Messi’s Miami debut coincidentally came 16 years to the day after Beckham played his first game for MLS side LA Galaxy.

The euphoria over Messi’s arrival in South Florida reached a fever pitch as restaurants are offering food and drink options named after him while murals depicting his likeness have popped up all around Miami.

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It has been a whirlwind week for Messi, whose arrival at MLS is a huge boost for the profile of soccer in the United States, which will co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.

Messi’s 2-1/2 year contract with Miami was made official last Saturday. A day later he was introduced to the club’s supporters at a glitzy welcome party, and on Tuesday he took part in his first full training session with the club.

Inter Miami close out the two-game group stage on Tuesday when they host Atlanta United with hopes of advancing to the knockout stages of the Leagues Cup, which is a World Cup-style tournament featuring all teams from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.

-Reuters

 

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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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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

CAF Women’s Champions League Qualifiers draw holds on Wednesday

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The 2024-2025 women’s interclub football season will officially kick off on Wednesday, 24 July, with the draw for the CAF Women’s Champions League qualifiers in 4 zones: UNAF, UNIFFAC, WAFU B and CECAFA.

The draw will be conducted at 10:00 GMTat the CAF Headquarters in Egypt and live-streamed on CAF TV and CAFOnline.com. 

Below are the teams entered by zone and the dates of the qualifying tournaments:

WAFU B (10 – 23 August): Ainonvi FC (Benin), Hasaacas Ladies (Ghana), Inter d’Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), AO Étincelles OU USFA (Burkina Faso), AS Garde Nationale (Niger), Edo Queens (Nigeria), ASKO de Kara (Togo).

UNAF (21 – 31 August): CF Akbou (Algeria), Tutankhamun (Egypt), AS Far (Morocco), ASF Sousse (Tunisia)

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CECAFA (17 August – 4 September): PVP Buyenzi (Burundi), FAD (Djibouti), CBE FC (Ethiopia), Kenya Police Bullets (Kenya), Kawempe Muslim (Uganda), Rayon Sports (Rwanda), Yei Joint Stars (South Sudan), Simba Queens (Tanzania), Warriors Queens (Zanzibar)

UNIFFAC (16 – 24 August): Lekié FF (Cameroon), TP Mazembe (DR Congo), Atlético de Malabo (Equatorial Guinea), CSM Diables Noirs (Congo)

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Colombia 2024: Danjuma invites 32 as countdown begins to Final Tournament

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Flying Eagles, Falconets To Resume Camp On Thursday -

With just eight weeks to their first match of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup Colombia 2024, Head Coach Chris Musa Danjuma has called up four goalkeepers, eight defenders, eight midfielders and 12 strikers to a training camp in the Federal Capital, Abuja in the first phase of preparation for the global tournament.

Team captain Oluchi Ohaegbulem is top of the list, with first-choice goalkeeper Faith Omilana, defenders Shukurat Oladipo and Comfort Folorunsho, midfielders Chinyere Kalu, Adoo Yina and Rofiat Imuran, and forwards Janet Akekoromowei, Flourish Sabastine and Aminat Bello also called.

Nigeria, a fixture at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup finals since the tournament began as an U19 event in Canada 22 years ago, will contend with three-time winners Germany, Asian powerhouse Korea Republic and South American representatives Venezuela in group D of the competition scheduled for three Colombian cities, 31st August – 22nd September.

All the invited are expected at Serob Legacy Hotel, Wuye, Abuja on Sunday, 7th July.

ALL THE INVITED PLAYERS:

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Goalkeepers: Anderline Mgbechi (Delta Queens); Rachael Unachukwu (Nasarawa Amazons); Faith Omilana (Naija Ratels); Shukura Bakare (Nasarawa Amazons)

Defenders: Oluchi Ohaegbulem (Nasarawa Amazons); Jumoke Alani (Nasarawa Amazons); Shukurat Oladipo (FC Robo Queens); Oluwabunmi Oladeji (Naija Ratels); Folashade Adegbemile (Delta Queens); Chidera Okenwa (Delta Queens); Comfort Folorunsho (Edo Queens); Taiwo Lawal

Midfielders: Adoo Yina (Nasarawa Amazons); Olushola Shobowale (Nasarawa Amazons); Aminat Folorunsho (Rivers Angels); Chioma Olise (Edo Queens); Chinyere Kalu (Nasarawa Amazons); Joy Igbokwe (Naija Ratels); Rofiat Imuran (Stade de Reims, France); Zikora Agama (Naija Ratels)

Forwards: Delight Nwosu (Dannaz Ladies); Adaobi Okah (Remo Stars Ladies); Chiamaka Okwuchukwu (Rivers Angels); Chinaza Agoh (Delta Queens); Mary Nkpa (Heartland Queens); Chiamaka Osigwe (Edo Queens); Janet Akekoromowei (Asisat Academy); Mary Offor (Adamawa Queens); Flourish Sabastine (Stade de Reims, France); Sharon Ulumma (Heartland Queens); Aminat Bello (Otero College, USA); Reilly Adebowale (Bohemian FC, Republic of Ireland)   

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Nigeria’s Flamingos drawn against debuting hosts in FIFA U-17 World Cup

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The Flamingos, Nigeria’s U-17 women’s football team have been drawn against hosts, Dominican Republic for the finals of the Women’s U-17 World Cup holding from 16 October to 3 November in two host cities of Santo Domingo  and Santiago de los Caballeros.

 Both Nigeria and Dominican Republic are drawn in Group A along with Ecuador and New Zealand.  In Group B are Spain, USA, Korea Republic and Colombia.

Group C has  Korea DPR, Mexico, Kenya and England while those competing in Group D are  Japan , Poland, Brazil and Zambia.

The hosts will make their debut in the competition on 16 October against Ecuador in Santiago de los Caballeros, with New Zealand and Nigeria completing Group A.

Herrera, the first Dominican woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, had a special message for her compatriots taking part in the World Cup. She said: “I am the living example that you can achieve your dreams. So, keep up the good work. I am looking forward to seeing those amazing games.”

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Reigning champions Spain, meanwhile, will kick off their campaign in Group B, in which they will face USA, Korea Republic and Colombia, runners-up last time around.

“The advice to all the players that will participate here is to be confident and go live your dream. ¡Y Buena suerte!” said Flores, who took part in this tournament two years ago in India.

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