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Eagles Begin Fourth AFCON Chase Against Pharaohs

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Nigeria and Egypt will faceoff at the Stade Roumdé Adjia, Garoua as both sides aim to begin their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations on a positive note.

Nigeria will be without top scorer in the qualifiers Victor Osimhen, Watford forward Emmanuel Dennis, and 2019 AFCON top scorer Odion Ighalo, while Egypt will not have Mohamed Abogabal and Ibrahim Adel available after both tested positive for COVID-19.

The rivalry between the two sides dates as far back as 1960, when Nigeria secured a 2-1 friendly victory in their first encounter at the National Stadium, Lagos.

Both sides have since gone on to clash on 18 occasions with Nigeria setting the pace with eight victories, losing five with another five draws.

The Super Eagles are one of the most successful nations on the continent following their last triumph back in 2013, when they narrowly defeated a stubborn Burkina Faso side 1-0 courtesy of Sunday Mba’s stunner, to claim the AFCON title for the third time.

While the Eagles, who finished third at the 2019 edition of the football showpiece in Africa, will be seeking their fourth title, the Pharaohs will look to conquer the continent for a record-extending eighth time.

The Eagles qualified for their 19th AFCON appearance enjoying an unbeaten qualification where they finished at the top of Group L with 14 points ahead of Lesotho to secure smooth entry into the group stages of the tournament.

Eagles defender Chidozie Awaziem said Nigeria, who heads into today’s game in fine form having won four of their last six competitive games, drew one and lost one, said the team were ready to face Mohammed Salah-led side.

“We are fully focused on the game, we are just a few hours away from our first game and we are fully ready for Egypt,” Awaziem said.

“With our efforts and the help of the coach, I believe we will come out with a positive result.“We have lots of good players in the team to count on.”

While Nigeria will be seeking an opening-day victory over Egypt, the Pharaoh’s coach Carlos Queiroz said his ambition was to go unbeaten throughout the tournament.

“It’s a great pleasure to face Nigeria in the opening game. We want to face the strongest teams in the tournament,” Queiroz said in his pre-match press conference.

“Nigeria is a very strong team, but we have no objections. It’s always good to compete against football giants.

“We have a lot of players that are competing among themselves for a starting position, and that’s great because we came here to play seven games.

“Our ambition is very simple. Win all the matches.”

Egypt’s last AFCON title win was back in 2010 when they saw off Ghana 1-0 courtesy of Mohamed Nagy’s 85th-minute strike in the final and will be eager to start the campaign on a positive note.

BIG STORY

UFC: Israel Adesanya Reacts To Boos After Cannonier Win

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Nigeria’s Israel Adesanya has admitted that Saturday wasn’t the best performance of his career so far.

At UFC 276, Adesanya (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) defeated Jared Cannonier (15-6 MMA, 8-6 UFC) by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 50-45) to successfully defend the promotion’s middleweight title for the fifth time.

Despite a largely dominant performance, the lack of action drew criticism from both booing fans in the arena and commenters online. Initially disappointed, Adesanya mentally framed the performance differently and was more comfortable with it shortly after the main event’s conclusion.

“(I feel) a lot better,” Adesanya told reporters including MMA Junkie. “I’ve said this before: On my worst day, I can kill the best man. I call that suicide, on my worst day. I had an off night tonight. (Coach) Eugene (Bareman) told me, ‘The people who know you, (your) teammates, (your) family, they know you had an off night.’ And still, I f*cked him up.”

It takes two to tango and Adesanya faulted and credited both himself and Cannonier for the lack of exchanges. Adesanya has long thought Cannonier is a top-tier fighter, a hypothesis proven in his eyes at UFC 276.

“I couldn’t find my power shots, my kicks,” Adesanya said. “The initiators – the jabs and leg kicks – were working, but I was trying to find the power shots. He was adjusting well. It wasn’t just me vs. him. … His adjustments to what I was doing, I’d go ahead, I got to his body, I got to his legs. I got to his legs and he’d adjust and get away from my power. I was able to get away from his, as well.”

As for the boos, Adesanya said he wasn’t fazed by them. He pointed out many all-time great combat sports athletes have been booed, jeered, insulted, and criticized by crowds over the spans of their careers. He’s no different.

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BIG STORY

Don’t Compare Me With Wilfred Ndidi – Mikel To Oliseh

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John Obi Mikel, former Chelsea midfielder has responded to some of the harsh criticisms sent his direction by former Super Eagles manager Sunday Oliseh a fortnight ago.
Oliseh had in an interview, shaded Mikel as nothing more than a useful player who possessed no offensive qualities and was only half as good as Wilfred Ndidi as a defensive midfielder.
Augustine Eguavoen handed Mikel his Super Eagles debut in 2005, while Oliseh gave Ndidi his international bow ten years later.
Oliseh said: “He’s (Mikel’s) a player who’s done some good with Chelsea. But when you talk about playing as an offensive midfielder, he’s not an offensive midfielder.
“My man here knows I’m blunt to say certain things. Offensive midfielders have certain qualities and he doesn’t have any of them. As regards a defensive midfielder, I think he’s useful but I won’t play him. I’ll play Ndidi because a defensive midfielder’s work is you have to win balls without making fouls; you have to be very good in aerial balls. You have to have some control by helping others.”
Taking a higher moral ground, however, Mikel has refused to join issues with the former Ajax midfielder and current head coach of German fourth-tier side SV Straelen.
Mikel insists he enjoyed a solid relationship with everyone he worked with on the national team, including Sunday Oliseh.
And the 35-year-old has called on his compatriot to show others respect and not seek unnecessary attention.
“Unfortunately, it was the opposite because I have a solid relationship with the player just like others in the national team,” Mikel said.
“I read it just the same way I learnt a few days ago about my disagreement with Sunday Oliseh when he was the coach.
“All these are mere distractions and I will not want to join issues with anyone. Respect is the key rather than unnecessary attention.”
In his way of getting back at Oliseh, Mikel snubbed him when naming the managers he enjoyed playing under when with the Super Eagles.
During a decade-and-a-half-year spell wearing the colours of the three-time African champions, Mikel saw several gaffers – indigenous and foreign – take charge of the national team.
The 2012 Champions League-winning star retains fond memories of working with Samson Siasia, Gernot Rohr, and Eguavoen.
But Mikel holds in higher esteem the late Stephen Keshi, who guided the Super Eagles to their most recent triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations.
“In the national team, it’s a straightforward answer, late Stephen Okechukwu Keshi (Big Boss),” the former Trabzonspor ace replied to a question regarding the best coach in his career.
“I have not seen a man like him; he was a special person; I recalled the way he resolves problems and he was such a calm fellow with the way he dishes out instructions.
“Everything was just perfect and during the games, he knows what he was doing and we all respect him for that as a former player, captain, and manager.”
At the club level, Mikel reveals that Italian tactician Roberto Di Matteo had a more significant impact on his Chelsea career than Jose Mourinho.

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ENTERTAINMENT

JUST IN: FG Lifts Nigeria’s Ban From Basketball Competition

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the immediate return of Nigeria to international basketball competitions.

Ismaila Abubakar, the Permanent Secretary, of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, made the announcement on Thursday at a press briefing in Abuja.

According to him, the approval was granted following a letter of appeal dated June 17, 2022, which was signed by Musa Kida, leader of the Nigeria Basketball Federation board, and addressed to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare.

Abubakar said, “The letter appealed to the Minister to use his good offices to approach President Buhari for the reversal of the 2-year withdrawal of Nigeria from international basketball competitions.

“The Appeal letter also critically gave some key undertakings: to immediately set in motion the process of status review or constitutional amendments from stakeholders as collated by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, to set up a high-powered team to reconcile all contending parties in the basketball family at home and abroad, and a commitment to work with the Ministry in the governance and development of basketball among other things.

“Flowing from the above and upon a review, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development approached and placed these developments before President Muhammadu Buhari being one that is committed to youth development and desirous of ensuring that they are availed of all opportunities in sports and other endeavors considered the appeal and in the overriding spirit of national interest, love for our youth, and in order to avoid sending basket development into a long period of suspension when NBBF has now committed to the resolution of the issues which precipitated the withdrawal in the first place has approved the return of Nigeria to international basketball immediately.”

Furthermore, Abubakar said despite the approval, the stakeholders were warned to ensure that the country’s laws are not subjugated to any other law.

“Failure to do this, as with any constitutionally bound sovereign nation, will attract sanctions. There was first a country before any organization or federation that bears the Nigerian name, colors, and flag us representing Nigeria.

“Secondly, that all those that lead government organizations and in this case our federations, hold such positions in trust for the Government and people of Nigeria under the direct supervision of the Minister of Youth and Sports,” he said.

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