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Nigeria’s defensive blunders highlighted in 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia snatched a last minute goal at the dot of nine minute added time to stalemate scores with Nigeria. Final scores: 2-2. The Super Eagles were at the verge of a 2-1 win until the last minute of the added time when Mohamed Kanoo pierced through a defensive wall from a direct free kick to beat Francis Uzoho in goal.

Two Saudi players suddenly fell apart to create the wide opening resulting into the goal. Before then, a free kick by Salman Al-Faraj was parried into the Nigerian net by Uzoho to give  Saudi Arabia the lead in the 60th minute.

Own Goal by Abdulelah Al Amri put Nigeria back in the game when  Simon Moses laid the ball to  Victor Boniface whose side kick was deflected into the net by Al Amri’

Then in the 81st minute, Kelechi Iheanacho  left footed shot from outside the box to the top left corner to give Nigeria the lead.

The Super Eagles were on the verge of sealing a win before the last minute heartbreak. Victor Osimhen, Ademola Lookman and Samuel Chukwueze had first-half chances to put the Super Eagles ahead but could not, only for the Saudis, who had lost their last six matches in all competitions, to take a shock lead on the hour mark when

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goalkeeper Francis Uzoho palmed the ball into his own net from a free-kick way out on the right flank by Salman Al Faraj.

Coach Jose Peseiro introduced Terem Moffi for the injured Victor Osimhen, and brought in Bright Osayi-Samuel, Kelechi Iheanacho and Moses Simon to relieve Tyronne Ebuehi, Lookman and Chukwueze.

Eight minutes later, Iheanacho drove the ball powerfully into the net beyond the flailing hands of the Falcons’ goalie, after Moffi and Simon combined to put the opposing defence in knots.

The game came less than 24 hours after the Super Eagles learnt they would be playing hosts Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau and Equatorial Guinea in the group phase at the Africa Cup of Nations early next year, and 48 hours after they adopted ‘Let’s Do It Again’ as their mantra for the trophy quest in Cote d’Ivoire.

On Monday, the Super Eagles will take on the Mambas of Mozambique in another friendly encounter at the same venue, before 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and Zimbabwe next month.

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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

Two Moroccan football players lost at sea, says club official

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Abdellatif Akhrif, IRT player reported missing off the coast of M'diq this Saturday, July 6, 2024. © COPYRIGHT: IRT

Two Moroccan players from top-flight soccer side Ittihad Tanger have been missing at sea since Saturday after strong currents drifted their small yacht, a club official said on Sunday.

They were in a group of five players from the club who went cruising off the northern city of Tangier when strong currents and heavy winds drifted their yacht away as they were swimming in deep waters, club deputy president Anass Mrabet told Reuters.

“Three players have already been rescued on Saturday, while research is still ongoing for the missing Salman Harraq and Abdellatif Akhrif,” he said.

The players did not have buoys on them when they jumped from the small yacht to swim, he said citing recounts by rescued players.

While Akhrif, 24, is already a full member of the squad, Harraq, 18, was about to move up to the senior team this year, Mrabet added.

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Ittihad Tanger have been in the Moroccan top flight since 2015 and won the league title for the first and only time in their history in the 2017-18 season. However, they have struggled in the lower half of the standings in recent years.

-Reuters

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International Football

FIFA launches ‘Football Manager’ World Cup with $100,000 in prize money

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FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development and former soccer manager Arsene Wenger speaks during the 74th FIFA Congress at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

FIFA will host its first ever FIFAe World Cup of Football Manager this year to crown the best virtual manager on the highly-popular video game, world soccer’s governing body said on Thursday.

FIFA is partnering with Sports Interactive, the developers of the game that has sold millions of copies and has also been used by several football clubs to scout players and opponents thanks to its extensive database.

Players will compete for $100,000 in prize money in the final event from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.

“This competition requires participants to demonstrate a profound understanding of football strategy and tactics,” said former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is the ambassador for the esports event.

“Success demands not only mastery of game mechanics but also in-depth football knowledge, making this format a fascinating blend.”

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FIFA said in the inaugural year of the event, selected member associations will be invited to be represented at the final event.

Member associations from all six confederations are expected to be invited while players can sign up on FIFA’s website.

-Reuters

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio robbed at gunpoint

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at his home in northern Italy while watching his country’s match against Spain in the Euro 2024 tournament on Thursday, local police said.

Burglars broke into Baggio’s house near Vicenza, hit him on the head with a gun butt and locked him and his family in a room while they stole jewellery, watches and cash, daily Il Corriere della Sera reported. It said he suffered a deep wound.

“Luckily, the violence I suffered only resulted in a few stitches, bruises and a lot of fear. Now it is to overcome the fear,” Baggio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Baggio, 57, played for clubs including Juventus (JUVE.MI), opens new tab, AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also played 56 times for Italy, scoring 27 goals, and is widely seen as one of his country’s all-time greats.

After the robbery, Baggio, widely known as the “divine ponytail”, was treated at a local hospital where he received stitches for the head wound, Italian media reported.

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Italy lost to Spain 1-0 on Thursday and now must avoid defeat by Croatia to guarantee progression in the tournament.

-Reuters

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