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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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SPORT

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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Rohr Must Scout For Goalkeepers — Peter Rufai

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Ex-International, Peter Rufai has admonished the Super Eagles’ technical crew to work more on the goalkeeping department in the team, to fix some of the loopholes experienced at the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations.

Dodo Mayana as he’s fondly called during his goalkeeping days stated that the goalkeeping trio of Okechukwu Ezenwa, Francis Uzoho, and Daniel Akpayi had an impressive performance with little or more to amend.

The Super Eagles finished third at the AFCON tournament after beating Tunisia 1-0 in the third-place match, thanks to an Odion Ighalo’s solitary goal in the first half.

However, Rufai told Soccernet.ng that the team’ technical trainer, Gernot Rohr should scout for more goalkeepers that would create more competition in the team.

“There is no doubt that the goalkeeper who represented Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations showed a very decent performance. At least we saw what goalkeepers such as Okechukwu Ezenwa, Francis Uzoho, and Daniel Akpayi could do for the Super Eagles but then, I still think the Super Eagles technical crew must scout for more goalkeepers that will give them stiff competition.

“This is not to say that they are not good but there is always the need for competition in the team to bring out the best from them.

Rufai earned 65 caps for Nigeria, and represented the nation at two FIFA World Cups, always as a starter: 1994 (Nigeria’s first-ever appearance, where he also acted as captain) and 1998, also helping the Super Eagles win the 1994 African Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

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BIG STORY

Nigeria vs Algeria: Rohr Reveals Mistake Super Eagles Made, Singles Out One Player

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Head coach of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr, has admitted his players were relaxed at the end of the game when they wanted to force Algeria into extra time in their Africa Cup of Nations semi-final clash.

Nigeria had leveled the game through Odion Ighalo’s penalty after they went behind in the first half.

But with the final kick of the match, Riyad Mahrez struck an unstoppable free-kick past Daniel Akpeyi, to ensure the Desert Foxes will play in the final.

Rohr, speaking to Reuters, hailed Mahrez ass the “genius who made the difference”.

He said: “It was a big fight until the last minute, it was a wonderful match, I think my players wanted it to go to extra time thinking Algeria were more tired.

“We scored an own goal, unlucky, but we have come back every time in this tournament and this time we came back on a penalty. But a wonderful free kick from a football genius made the difference.”

Nigeria will face Tunisia in Wednesday’s third-place encounter at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo.

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