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Super Eagles set to strike Mozambique Mambas as World Cup race beckons

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After conceding a last-minute goal that tied their encounter with Saudi Arabia 2-2 in Portimäo on Friday, the Super Eagles are determined to earn a win over the Mambas of Mozambique on Monday in order to have a positive mindset ahead of 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against Lesotho and Zimbabwe next month.

 

Yet, Coach Jose Peseiro is optimistic ahead of the encounter, insisting he has a clutch of forwards who can send packing the southern Africans in their only fifth-ever clash with Nigeria at senior level.

 

“We will miss Kelechi and Victor, but we have other good players who can make Nigeria proud. I look at the bench and see players who can step up and take their chances.”

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The clash with the Mambas is the last gathering for the three-time African champions before the race to the 2026 FIFA World Cup begins, in which they host the Crocodiles of Lesotho and then fly to play Zimbabwe’s Warriors away, all within a few days in November.

 

In the absence of Iheanacho and Osimhen, Peseiro will have to cast his lot with Terem Moffi, Victor Boniface, Samuel Chukwueze, Sadiq Umar and Moses Simon, and hope that Alex Iwobi comes to the party in his playmaking role to supply ammunition to the forwards.

 

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Defenders Kenneth Omeruo, Jordan Torunarigha and Chidozie Awaziem, and midfielders Frank Onyeka, Fisayo Dele-Bashiru and Raphael Onyedika did not taste action against the Saudis, and could prove to be Peseiro’s aces against the Mambas at the Estadio Municipal de Portimäo on Monday.

 

Nigeria and Mozambique have met four times at senior level, with the Super Eagles winning a friendly match in Maputo by a lone goal, before home-and-away 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches that remain fresh in the memory till this day.

 

Mambas’ forward ‘Tico Tico’ Bucuane proved a thorn in Nigeria’s flesh in the first encounter in Maputo that ended scoreless. At the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja in October 2009, it was heading to another 0-0 scoreline before Yusuf Ayila valiantly rescued an outbound ball that landed on the head of Victor Obinna Nsofor for the only goal of the match. Had the match ended 0-0, Nigeria would have been eliminated from the race to the first FIFA World Cup on African soil.

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Few months later, at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Angola, the Eagles spanked the Mambas 3-0 in Lubango to qualify for the tournament’s quarter finals.

 

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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