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AFCON: Super Eagles Set For Burundi Clash

Peter Okunoren

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Nigeria will begin their journey at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with their opening match against Burundi at the Alexandria Stadium in Egypt on Saturday (today).

The three-time African champions, who are returning to the competition after missing the previous two editions, will be hoping for a winning start against the debutants, who were unbeaten in the qualifiers.

Nigeria finished top of their AFCON qualifying group, which had South Africa, Libya and Seychelles with a game to spare, while Burundi came second behind Mali in Group C of the qualifiers.

Eagles’ striker, Odion Ighalo, who is expected to lead his team’s attack at the tournament, finished the qualifiers as top scorer with seven goals.

Before the AFCON game, Nigeria had only played the Itamba of Burundi once, beating them 2-0 at the MKO Abiola Stadium, January 23, 1999 in a qualifying game for the 2000 AFCON.

While Nigeria boast many stars playing across various leagues in Europe and Asia, Burundi’s biggest star is Saido Berahino, who plays for Stoke City, same club as Eagles’ Oghenekaro Etebo in the English Championship.

This year’s AFCON is the 18th time the Nigerian side will be appearing in the African football showpiece.

The team will be presenting 20 debutants at the football showpiece, with the trio of captain Mikel Obi, Ahmed Musa, and Kenneth Omeruo the only ones to have been at any other AFCON.

While many have seen the encounter as an easy ride for the Nigerian side, Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, believes it is their toughest tie.

“We prepare to face them with humility because they were unbeaten in the qualifiers. It’s difficult because all the big countries are here, but I believe the competition will be wonderful with passionate fans and nice pitches,” he said on Friday.

In terms of match day selection, Rohr seems to have made up his mind on players to use, with his preferred central defence pairing of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong set to start.

Obi, Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi, Shehu Balogun, Moses Simon, and Ighalo are also assured of starting shirts barring any last minute injuries.

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Mourinho Meets Arsenal Chief, Set To Replace Embattled Gunners Manager Emery

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Arsenal is reportedly close to making their move to replace manager Unai Emery with former Chelsea boss, Mourinho.

Arsenal head of football, Raul Sanllehi dined with Jose Mourinho this week as the club considers pulling the trigger with a managerial change, according to The Times.

The Gunners have struggled to make progress under Unai Emery and growing concerns over fractures in his relationships with senior players have led to contingency plans being put in place.

According to the newspaper, Mourinho and Sanllehi had dinner together, with the former Manchester United boss said to have impressed with his plans for their squad.

It is claimed Emery has just one or two games remaining to save his job as club bosses seriously consider a move ahead of the November international break.

Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw at the Emirate by Wolves on Saturday, with pressure mounting on Emery.

Mourinho has been holding out for a return to the Premier League as he eyes his first job since being sacked at Old Trafford almost a year ago.

The former Real Madrid boss have also retained a home in north London.

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Ukraine vs Nigeria: New Super Eagles Invitee, Maja Takes Over Mikel Obi’s Number 10 Shirt

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New Super Eagles invitee, Josh Maja, will be wearing jersey number 10 for Tuesday’s international friendly against Ukraine at the Dnipro Arena, according to Sporting Life.

The iconic jersey was worn by John Mikel Obi, who retired from international football after this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Maja who plays for French Ligue 1 side, Bordeaux, was a late call up for the friendly following the withdrawal of key players.

Alex Iwobi, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Ola Aina, William Troost-Ekong, and Leon Balogun have retained their shirt numbers ahead of the match.

Rohr’s men will be facing a Ukraine side, that has never lost to an Africa side in the last seven years.

Kick off is 7.30pm.

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Zenith Bank Celebrates D’Tigress On Back-To-Back Afrobasket Championship Victory

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Zenith Bank Plc, the sole sponsor of the Nigerian Female Basketball League has hailed the Nigerian female basketball team, D’Tigress, for emerging champions of the FIBA Women’s Afrobasket 2019 in Dakar, Senegal, defeating the host nation 60-55 points in the final match to retain the coveted trophy.

Speaking on the success of the team at the championship, the Group Managing Director/ Chief Executive, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu commended the team for their hard work, doggedness and team spirit, which has seen them retain the trophy which they won two years ago in Mali. He expressed delight at the heroics of the team, comprised mostly of products of the Zenith Bank Women Basketball League, which the bank has sponsored for 15 years consecutively.

D’Tigress of Nigeria held their nerves in the final quarter of the game played at the magnificent Dakar Arena on Sunday, fighting off a late challenge from their Senegalese counterparts, to emerge African champions for the fourth time.

Evelyn Akhator, one of the products of the Zenith Bank Women Basketball League, scored 14 points and made nine rebounds and her amazing performance throughout the tournament earned her a place in the Tournament Five.

The Nigerian female basketball team kick-started the competition with resounding victories of 75-26 points win over Tunisia and 106-39 points win over Cameroun in the group stages, before recording a 79-46 points win over Congo in the quarterfinals and a 79-58 points win over Mali in the semifinals.

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