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World Cup

Four goals for Egypt’s Salah but shock setback for Nigeria

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World Cup - CAF Qualifiers - Group A - Egypt v Djibouti - Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - November 16, 2023 Egypt's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh Acquire Licensing Rights

Mohamed Salah scored four times and took his goal tally for Egypt past 50 as they began their World Cup qualifying campaign with an expected victory over tiny Djibouti while Nigeria were held to a shock home draw by Lesotho on Thursday.

Salah’s performance ensured a 6-0 win for Egypt in their opening Group A match in Cairo with the striker grabbing the first four goals and increasing his overall tally for Egypt to 53 in 93 appearances as they look for a place at the 2026 finals, having missed out on the Qatar World Cup last year.

Nigeria, without injured Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, were held to a 1-1 draw at a rainy Uyo by the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho, who are 113 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

Defender Motlomelo Mkhwanazi put Lesotho into a shock lead after 56 minutes of the Group C encounter and they kept their advantage for 11 minutes before London-born centre back Semi Ajayi headed home the equaliser from Kelechi Iheanacho’s corner.

But despite pressure on the visitors’ goal for the remainder of the game, Nigeria could not fashion a winner and the result will put heavy pressure on coach Jose Peserio, just two months out from their participation at the Africa Cup of Nations finals.

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Mozambique claimed the first away victory of the African qualifying campaign, which got underway this week, beating Botswana 3-2 in Group G with Jonathan Muiomo, who plays in the fourth tier of German club football, scoring the winner in only his second appearance.

UNCONVINCING

Algeria are the favourites in that group but their 3-1 home win over Somalia in Algiers was unconvincing with Riyad Mahrez and Amine Gouiri among their star players taken off at halftime as coach Djamel Belmadi looked to freshen up a struggling side.

Gabon fought from a goal down to beat Kenya 2-1 with Denis Bouanga, this year’s top scorer in Major League Soccer, equalising on the hour mark and Guelor Kanga grabbing a 88th-minute winner in Franceville.

Burundi also won in Group F, edging the Gambia 3-2 in their match played in Tanzania because of Burundi’s lack of a suitable stadium.

Sudan were forced to host their Group B clash against Togo in Benghazi, Libya because of the civil war in their country and although they went ahead through an early penalty saw Togo equalise through Belgian-based Kevin Denkey for a 1-1 draw.

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Missed chances were the order of the day in the Group D clash between the Cape Verde Islands and Angola, that ended goalless.

The first two rounds of African qualifiers are played from Wednesday to next Tuesday, and will resume next June.

There are nine groups where the winner qualifies for the 2026 finals in Canada, Mexico and the U.S but the four best runners-up get a further chance to qualify through a two-tier playoff system.

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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World Cup

Home grounds of Barcelona, Real Madrid among 11 proposed World Cup 2030 venues

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- Real Madrid celebrate winning the Champions League - Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - June 2, 2024 General view inside the stadium and Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the Champions League celebration with fans REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo

Spain’s soccer federation (RFEF) has proposed 11 stadiums as candidates to host matches during the 2030 World Cup, including the home arenas of LaLiga clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Spain, who will co-host the tournament with Portugal and Morocco as well as centenary hosts Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, will also have 45 additional grounds as team bases, the RFEF said on Friday.

Other LaLiga clubs whose home arenas have made the list include Sevilla, Malaga, Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, Las Palmas and promoted Espanyol.

Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, despite being the fifth-largest stadium in LaLiga with a capacity of 49,430, was not included in the list of potential venues.

“In order to define the venues, all the possibilities have been analysed, including the option of expanding to 13, an option that must be taken unanimously by the three federations,” the RFEF said in a statement.

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The tournament will have a maximum of 20 venues, the RFEF added.

Co-hosts Morocco last year announced plans to build a stadium near Casablanca and upgrade six others before the World Cup.

-Reuters

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It’s 28 years since Super Eagles’ worst competitive defeat

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Denmark unexpectedly beat Nigeria 4-1

BY KUNLE SOLAJA

Denmark face Germany on Saturday hoping to recreate their famous victory at the Euro 92 when they secured their first title, although they were the underdogs.

 This day 28 June, a day before their Round of 16 Euro 2024 clash with Germany also brings the memory of their famous Round of 16 win over Nigeria at the France ‘98 World Cup.

Their 4-1 defeat of the Super Eagles remains the biggest defeat that the Nigerians have gotten in a competitive duel in nearly 30 years.

 It was an unexpected result considering that the Super Eagles contributed to the elimination of one of the tournaments favourites, Spain.

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A goal down under two minutes and two down under 12 minutes presented a huge mountain for the Super Eagles to climb.

 What a twist of an event most had thought the Nigerian team would be the dominant side.

The world was awaiting a match-up of Nigeria and Brazil in the quarter-finals.

It was to rekindle the memorable encounter of both countries’ Olympic teams two years earlier when Nigeria famously defeated Brazil 4-3 in a golden goal decider at the semi-finals.

     A rematch at the quarter finals of France ’98 would have brought up a novel match-up of reigning Olympic gold medallists and reigning World Cup holders. It turned out a mere dream.

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 Nigeria’s manager, Bora Milutinović fielded a starting line-up with seven midfielders and no attacker.

Could that had been a new tactical formation in football in a knockout game Nigeria had to score and win? Call it the 3-7-0. Call it overconfidence.

      Even Nigeria’s manager was reportedly half-kiddingly remarked before the match: “We’ve got a very important match coming up in Nantes” – a reference to a possible quarter-final meeting  with Brazil.

  Member of the team, Mutiu Adepoju told Sports Village Square that poor tactical approach cost Nigeria the match.     “The game was taken as a routine one and hence, no special preparation for it.

  “The coaches did not even border to get insight into the Denmark team”, said Adepoju who was called ‘Headmaster’  for his heading skill. It was with an header that he scored Nigeria’s first goal that put scores at 1-1 in a 3-2 defeat of Spain in the opening match.

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  He dismissed a well publicised claim by teammate, Taribo West that the players had busy nights with women prior to the match.

  He however admitted that there was discontentment in camp and that the coaching crew lost control of the team.

  It came light that the players did not sleep all night as the now very familiar agitations for enhanced match bonuses came up.

As published in the on-line version of Al-Jazeera in 2014, Sunday Oliseh was quoted as saying: “We wasted too much energy on the eve of our game haggling over bonus, something like that should not be the focus at a big tournament like the World Cup. “We lost that game off the pitch and not on the pitch.”           

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FIFA awards win to Niger after Congo no-show in World Cup qualifier

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FIFA has awarded Niger a win and the full three points in a 2026 World Cup soccer qualifier with Congo that was postponed this month, the world governing body said on Wednesday.

Congo had refused to travel to Kinshasa, capital of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, for their home game after their stadium in Brazzaville was deemed not to have met hosting requirements.

Niger did travel, and were awarded the game 3-0, which leaves them second in Group E on six points, three behind leaders Morocco. Congo are stuck on zero points from their three matches.

Only the top team in each of the nine pools is guaranteed a place at the expanded World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has decided to declare the match lost by forfeit 3-0 by the representative team of Congo,” FIFA said in a statement.

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It said the Alphonse Massemba-Debat Stadium in Brazzaville could not have been used until renovations, including the laying of a new pitch, were completed

Congolese Sports Minister Hughes Nguilondile declared the stadium ready in late May, but it was deemed too late to move the fixture. FIFA ordered it to go ahead in Kinshasa as originally planned, leading to Congo’s withdrawal in protest.

-Reuters

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