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Nigeria into World Cup last 16 despite stalemate with Ireland

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- FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Group B - Republic of Ireland v Nigeria - Brisbane Football Stadium, Brisbane, Australia - July 31, 2023 Nigeria's Toni Payne in action with Republic of Ireland's Denise O'Sullivan REUTERS/Dan Pel

Nigeria advanced to the Women’s World Cup knockout stages for the third time in their history after a 0-0 draw with Ireland in their final Group B match on Monday, with the African side finishing second in the group behind hosts Australia.

Nigeria started the game top of the standings and only needed to avoid defeat to reach the last 16, regardless of the result in the other Group B match in Melbourne where Australia thrashed Canada 4-0 to leapfrog the Africans.

Nigeria will have to wait until Tuesday to discover who their last-16 opponents will be next week in Brisbane, but they side are likely to play European champions England who are favourites to top Group D.

“I don’t think anybody, before we got here, believed that we could get out of this group and go through it without losing a match,” Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum said.

“So I’m so proud of them and the effort they put in and so happy for them that they’re getting to experience this.”

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Both teams were playing in their away kits to avoid an all-green clash. But Brisbane’s Lang Park was a sea of green in the stands, with plenty of support for Ireland despite their early elimination.

After Irish skipper Katie McCabe flashed an early effort wide, Nigeria came closest to taking the lead in the first half through striker Asisat Oshoala when they pounced on an errant pass from Louise Quinn.

Oshoala was set through on goal with just the keeper to beat but the Barcelona striker fired wide to give Ireland a reprieve.

TIMELY SAVE

Seven minutes into the second half, Uchenna Kanu rose above the Ireland defence to direct a header on goal but Courtney Brosnan made a timely save to parry the ball onto the crossbar and away to safety.

“It was an unbelievable ball into the box, one of those teasing ones I thought I could come at the last second. I dropped back and I knew I needed to make a special save on the line, so I just kind of threw my body out,” said Brosnan.

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“I wanted to keep us in it. I knew we deserved something from today, so I’m really happy with that.”

Brosnan came to Ireland’s rescue again when Nigeria attempted to break through the defence with a clever set-piece routine before the Everton keeper rushed off her line to snatch the ball.

While debutants Ireland go home having earned their first ever point at the World Cup, Nigeria will be looking to better their quarter-final run from 1999.

“We knew this was going to be the group of death, we knew it was going to be hard,” midfielder Toni Payne said.

“If we play like how we’re playing, if we improve on each game, I think we can go all the way to the final.”

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-Reuters

 

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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Colombian football president arrested

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The president of the Colombian Football Federation, Ramón Jesurun,

The president of the Colombian Football Federation, Ramón Jesurun, was arrested in Miami following an incident at the Copa America final on Sunday, according to a police report released on Monday.

According to a Miami-Dade County police report, Jesurun was arrested on Sunday night for “battery on an officer/employee” at the Hard Rock Stadium, where the 2024 Copa America final was played. Colombia lost 1-0 to Argentina in extra time thanks to a Lautaro Martinez goal.

Chaos reigned around the 65,300-capacity multi-sport stadium in the US suburb of Miami Gardens, north of Miami, Florida.

Many fans (some without tickets) rushed the gates of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins stadium, pushing people to the ground and trying to sneak into the stadium through large air conditioning vents, causing several delays totalling 80 minutes.

Jesurun, 71, was unable to enter the field with his son and other family members after the game for the awards ceremony, where Jesurun’s son reportedly confronted a security guard who denied them access.

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Jesurun, a CONMEBOL vice-president and CONMEBOL representative on the FIFA Council, was also involved in the altercation before police officers intervened, according to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

Miami-Dade police said 27 arrests were made and 55 people were ejected from the stadium during the match.

“I am extremely proud of our officers’ response to a volatile situation and their hard work to keep our community safe, as well as our law enforcement partners who provided critical support,” said Police Chief Stephanie Daniels.

“As part of the comprehensive analysis of last night’s game, we will review the protocols in place to ensure an orderly, safe and secure environment for all future events.”

In the wake of the scandal in the southern United States, where CONMEBOL decided to stage the Copa America despite the fact that the United States is not a member of the confederation but belongs to CONCACAF, the South American body said it had proposed procedures to the security organisers that were not used.

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“Fans without tickets went to the vicinity of the stadium, which delayed the normal access of those who had tickets, slowed down the entry and led to the gates being closed,” CONMEBOL said in a statement, attempting to distance itself from the organisation’s responsibilities (for which it is responsible as the tournament’s organiser, although it has ceded them to the United States and its security forces).

“In this situation, CONMEBOL was subject to the decisions made by the authorities of the Hard Rock Stadium, in accordance with the contractual responsibilities established for the security operation.

“In addition to the provisions established in the said contract, CONMEBOL recommended to these authorities the procedures tested in events of this magnitude, which were NOT taken into account.”

“We regret that the acts of violence perpetrated by ill-intentioned people have marred a final that should have been a great celebration of sport,” concluded the organisation, led by Paraguayan Alejandro Domínguez.

-insidethegames

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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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