16
Nov

Final countdown for African hopefuls

Africa will finally conclude its long, hard slog through qualifying and determine its five World Cup entrants over the next few days.

Perennial powers Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria all look well placed to secure their berths with a professional performance in the second leg of their ties. The remaining two spots, however, remain decidedly in the balance with four teams all harboring genuine hopes of progressing to the showcase in Brazil next summer.

Here is a brief look at the landscape ahead of the decisive fixtures poised to unfold across the continent:

Nigeria – Ethiopia (Saturday, 11:00a.m. ET in Calabar – Nigeria leads 2-1 on aggregate)

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Can Ethiopia withstand the pressure?: Nigeria isn’t a contemplative team. The Super Eagles want to obtain possession and transition quickly through the middle of the park toward Fenerbahçe forward Emmanuel Emenike (both goals in the first leg). It works well for this athletic group given its creative and technical limits. Ethiopia struggled to cope with those robust qualities in the first leg. Unless the rank outsiders (the lowest ranked side left in African qualifying) can slow the tempo on the break and snatch two goals against the run of play, their magical run toward Brazil will end at the last hurdle.

Senegal – Côte d’Ivoire (Saturday, 2:00p.m. ET in Casablanca, Morocco – Côte d’Ivoire leads 3-1 on aggregate)

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How much will the transgressions of the past harm Senegal in the present?: This match will take place on neutral soil after a fan riot in Dakar halted an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between these two sides 13 months ago. Côte d’Ivoire led that series 6-2 on aggregate at the time to provide a glimpse at the gulf between the two sides at that stage. Senegal boss Alain Giresse has inspired an improvement since taking charge earlier this year and Papiss Cissé did throw his side a lifeline with his second-half stoppage time goal in Abidjan, but the task against the continent’s best side looks a bit too daunting without the benefit of the home support.

Cameroon – Tunisia (Sunday, 9:00a.m. ET in Yaoundé – series tied 0-0 on aggregate)

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Can Cameroon produce the goal or two required to go through?: It isn’t the sort of question expected from a side led by Samuel Eto’o, but the Indomitable Lions often struggle to produce the required sharpness in front of goal. Eto’o needs more aid from Pierre Webó and more support from elsewhere (this isn’t the most creative of midfield groups with Jean Makoun leading the way) to ensure he receives the proper service. If Cameroon continues to flail around in front of goal and leave Eto’o adrift, then the Carthage Eagles – another side admittedly short in the final third – could nick this tie from a set piece.

Egypt – Ghana (Tuesday, 11:00a.m. ET in Cairo – Ghana leads 6-1 on aggregate)

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How will Bob Bradley’s tenure conclude?: Bradley deserves a decent parting gift for the commitment and the energy he devoted to the Egyptian national side over the the past couple of years. His stellar record – unblemished in World Cup qualifying despite the absence of a domestic league – did not earn him much latitude after the heavy defeat in Accra in the first leg. Ghana possesses all of the tools to replicate the feat against an Egyptian side incapable of matching that sort of tempo. But if the Egyptians can sort out their defensive issues and summon the usual magic from Mohamed Aboutrika and Mohamed Salah, then a cathartic result against a side all but qualified could reduce the damage and send Bradley off in style.

Algeria – Burkina Faso (Tuesday, 1:15p.m. ET in Blida – Burkina Faso leads 3-2 on aggregate)

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Will the return of Alain Traoré push the Burkinabé to their first World Cup?: A hotly debated late penalty decision in the first leg in Ouagadougou provided Burkina Faso with a narrow advantage to take into this leg. The likely return of Lorient striker Traoré offers a viable target up front to lead the break and play directly against a Desert Foxes side – presumably bolstered if injury doubt Hassan Yebda (calf) recovers in time – in need of a narrow victory on home soil to advance. Algeria scores with some regularity (16 goals during the group stage) despite the absence of a top striker. The home side will expect to tally at some stage and place the pressure squarely on the visitors to respond. The onus will fall on Traoré or Jonathan Pitropia to locate it in order to ensure those dreams come true.

Images provided by Getty.

9
Jul

Nigeria suspends teams involved in “scandalous” 79-0 and 67-0 scorelines

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There is match-fixing, and then there is this.

The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) pledged on Tuesday that it will come down hard on four clubs that were involved in a rather outrageous case of alleged fraud.

Two of the clubs in question were both chasing promotion, knowing that goal differential would determine their fate. Playing their matches at the same time, both teams entered the halftime break with moderate leads, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Then, in the second half, the clubs not-so-mysteriously managed to rack up a massive number of goals. When all was said and done, the two teams secured mind-boggling 79-0 and 67-0 victories.

From TheGuardian.com:

In the matches, played at the same time, Plateau United Feeders reportedly scored 72 of their goals in the second half to beat Akurba FC 79-0. Police Machine swept 61 goals past Babayaro FC in the second 45 minutes of their 67-0 game.

The NFF called it “a mind-boggling show of shame” and said players, match officials and the tournament coordinator would be investigated for match-fixing.

The federation’s director of competitions said “anyone found to have played some role in this despicable matter” would be “severely dealt with”.

Not surprisingly, all four clubs involved have since been suspended while the NFF investigates. Just makes you wonder, did the players and coaches really think that everyone was just going to turn a blind eye on these obscene scorelines? That there would be no questions at all? C’mon man!

Posted by: Thomas Hautmann

22
Jun

2013 Confederations Cup, Weekend Preview - Six Things to Watch

By Jamie Trecker, FOXSoccer.com

RECIFE, BRAZIL

The Confederations Cup group stage wraps up here this weekend with the top of the group at stake in the Group A, and all to play for in Group B. Here’s a quick look at six things you must pay attention to this weekend:

Can Nigeria upset Spain?

The African champions sent a young team to this Confederations Cup and that may prove their undoing: while they have plenty of desire and power in the likes of Brown Ideye and Ahmed Musa, their defense has shown their inexperience. Against a Spanish side that seems to be rolling from strength to strength, this seems like a tall order on Sunday for the Super Eagles. One positive is manager Stephen Keshi: he’s managed to make this at times unruly bunch gel, so if anyone can get this team ready to go, it’s him.

Read More

17
Jun

Tahiti official Twitter account goes berserk over lone goal vs Nigeria

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Nearly everyone expected massive underdog Tahiti to get crushed by every opponent they faced in the Confederations Cup, and that’s precisely what’s happened so far after their 6-1 defeat at the hands of Nigeria.

While they may not have the most talent in the tournament, you can argue that Tahiti has more pride than any other team. They have considered it a blessing to be in the tournament at all and are enjoying every minute of it.

Despite being blown out, the official Tahiti football Twitter showed just how much pride they have:

Alright, maybe that last tweet was a little overambitious, but credit Tahiti fans and supporters for getting behind the team no matter what.