World Cup: Gernot Rohr Explains Why Nigeria Lost To Croatia

Nigeria’s coach Gernot Rohr gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the Yessentuki Arena, in Yessentuki, in southern Russia, on June 13, 2018.
PHOTO: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr admitted that his young team had been “naive” in the 2-0 loss to Croatia in their opening Group D game on Saturday.

“We are disappointed but we must recognise Croatia were better tonight and my young players made some mistakes,” Rohr told reporters after the game in Russia’s European exclave of Kaliningrad.

A Luka Modric penalty 20 minutes from time and a first-half own goal sealed the victory for a Croatia side brimming with technical ability, and the Super Eagles — who brought the youngest squad to Russia — have now won just one of their last 13 games on football’s biggest stage.

With rivals Argentina and Iceland only managing a 1-1 draw earlier Saturday in Saransk, both sides had a chance to take control of Group D.

Nigeria, knowing they were always likely to struggle for possession against a central one-two of Modric and Ivan Rakitic, were content to sit back and allow Croatia to come to them.

After 10 minutes, Juventus target man Mario Mandzukic teed up Ivan Perisic at the edge of the area only for the Inter Milan forward to blaze over.

Croatia, semi-finalists at France ’98, have struggled to live up to the lofty expectations borne of an embarrassment of midfield riches, and meekly lost their World Cup opener 3-1 to hosts Brazil four years ago.

There is a sense of now-or-never for the Balkans nation at this tournament and Modric said his side would lift their game when they meet Lionel Messi’s Argentina in their next match.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match. They have huge amounts of quality, but this win will really boost our confidence and we are going to up our game,” Rohr added.

The last time Croatia won their opening group game was back in 1998, and coach Zlatko Dalic said he was glad the squad had put that unfortunate record behind them.

“We were disciplined and we deserved the win. We fought for this,” he told reporters.

Nigeria’s average age heading into Russia was a little over 25 years old and at times the experience gap showed.

Rohr kept faith in 19-year-old keeper Francis Uzoho but the Deportivo stopper’s first real action was picking the ball out of the net.

Just after the half-hour mark, Mandzukic, industrious in his hold-up play, chested a Andrej Kramaric cross back to Ante Rebic, whose fizzing shot was blocked. The resulting corner saw Rebic return the favour with a near-post flick-on met by a diving Mandzukic.

Oghenekaro Etebo, up until that point one of Nigeria’s best performers, was wrong-footed and bundled into his own net.

 ‘All in our hands’

Nigeria responded well, with Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi’s shot from a cleared free-kick blocked on 45 minutes and his Premier League colleague Victor Moses shooting wide from 30 yards on the stroke of halftime.

They had the best of the start of the second period, forcing Croatia to bat away three corners in succession before Moses again snatched a shot wide of Danjiel Subasic’s left upright.

But just as Nigeria showed some signs of life, in the 71st minute William Ekong held down Mandzukic from a cross in the area and referee Sandro Ricci immediately pointed to the spot.

Modric’s gilded right foot guided it to Uzoho’s right side.

“We didn’t concede a goal from open play, only from set pieces so this is not a question of tactics,” Rohr said.

“Sometimes we were a little bit naive on set pieces but we will work on it.”

Nigeria play Iceland on June 22 in Volgograd and Rohr insisted his team could still make it out of what is a highly competitive group.

“We are only one point behind (Iceland) and all is in our hands so let’s be positive. Let them learn from this defeat and try to do better,” said the former Bordeaux coach.

Despite fears pre-match, there was no reports of any racist chanting from among the near-capacity crowd in Kaliningrad.

AFP

Russia’s Gazinsky Scores First Goal Of 2018 World Cup

Russia’s midfielder Yuri Gazinskiy (L) celebrates scoring the opening goal with his teammates during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14, 2018. PHOTO: Alexander NEMENOV / AFP

Russia’s Iury Gazinsky scored the first goal of the 2018 World Cup on Thursday as the host nation took a 1-0 lead against Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the tournament.

Gazinsky headed into the net in the 12th minute at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, sparking scenes of delight from the home crowd.

UEFA Prepares To Fight Infantino’s Club World Cup Plan

FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino                                                                         JUAN MABROMATA / AFP

 

A united response to FIFA’s plans to enlarge the Club World Cup to 24 teams will be the subject of debate on Wednesday at a meeting of football power brokers organised by UEFA.

Ahead of the Europa League final in Lyon, the governing body of European football is holding a meeting of its “Council of UEFA” and FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s plans are the main topic on the agenda.

Many of those participating have already expressed hostility to the plan.

The council, chaired by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, brings together the European Club Association (ECA), the recently renamed European Leagues (EPFL) and the players’ union (FifPro).

Infantino is pushing to revamp the Club World Cup, boosting it from seven clubs to 24 in a four-year format. At the moment it is played every year.

At the same time, he hopes to launch a biennial league tournament for nations, the Global Nations League.

Infantino says he has an offer of $25 billion over 12 years for the two competitions from a group of investors, which the Financial Times has identified as SoftBank from Japan and the governments of China and Saudi Arabia.

That is allowing FIFA to dangle enormous amounts of cash in front of the biggest clubs.

For the club competition alone the consortium “guarantees minimum revenues of $12 billion for the four editions from 2021 to 2033”, according to a document, which AFP has read, that FIFA presented to seven big European clubs including European Champions Real Madrid, Spanish champions Barcelona and German champions Bayern Munich.

According to the document, 12 of the 24 teams in the competition would be European, four or five from South America, two each from the rest of the Americas, Asia and Africa, leaving the Oceania to battle for the last place with a South American team.

The winners of the four previous Champions Leagues would be guaranteed places.

The European participants could make between $50 million  and $80 million each.

Already some clubs have voiced their support.

Barcelona’s board of directors said the tournament would be  “exciting, dynamic, inclusive and prestigious.”

They added that it would “create a global platform for clubs to contribute to the growth of their brands.”

Emilio Butragueno, Real Madrid’s head of public relations, told his club’s TV station: “We think that for fans it could be a very interesting competition.”

 60-day deadline 

Infantino says he needs agreement soon because the consortium gave FIFA a 60-day deadline and after that the money will vanish and hopes to get approval at the FIFA conference in Moscow in June ahead of the World Cup.

Ceferin is not happy.

“FIFA should not be meeting with only seven federations or clubs and discussing with them things that concern all of European football,” he said in a recent interview.

“I know that at least three of the seven clubs don’t agree with the path that FIFA wants to take.”

“They have invited only the clubs,” the Slovene said on Friday. “So they think only they count.”

Infantino insists that the new format will reduce the number of games the “great players” would play in each four-year cycle, but the leagues are sceptical and object to cramming new competitions into the football calendars.

“FIFA itself has highlighted the international match calendar’s congestion and lack of rest periods for players most in demand,” Premier League chief executive Richard Scumadore told

“To be presented with FIFA’s ‘solution’ as a fait accompli and claim this to be consultation defies all definitions of best practice and good governance,” Scudamore told The Times in London.

AFP

I’m Under Pressure From Agents To Include Players In World Cup Squad – Pinnick

President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr Amaju Pinnick

 

President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr Amaju Pinnick has admitted to being under pressure by agents to include players in the final list of the World Cup squad.

Pinnick, made this known when he appeared as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily while highlighting plans for the global tournament in Russia next month.

He said: “I have pressure from agents, they want their players to be added in World Cup squad.”

The NFF boss, however, maintained that the Super Eagles German Coach, Mr Gernot Rohr, was in a better position to determine who would represent the country in the competition.

Meanwhile, on allegations of favouritism and bribery in the selection of the players, Pinnick described the Super Egles coach as one he could vouch for to not involve himself in such practices.

“Not Gernot Rohr. He is a coach that is very professional. He played for Bayern Munich and has been an Ambassador.

“He is somebody that has an image that is almost untainted. You should understand the pressure. Once a player is excellent on the field, there is no way a coach would not want to get results.

“If a player will give him that result, Gernot Rohr will never cage any player. That, I can tell you,” he said.

Team Nigeria sealed their chances for participating in the World Cup after a 1-0 victory over Zambia in October 2017.

It became the first in Africa to advance to Russia after Arsenal’s Iwobi gave a brilliant performance in the thrilling match.

But despite the success, Pinnick still believes a lot more has to be done to turn Nigeria’s economy around through sports.

 

Japan Dumps Former Coach, Appoints Nishino Ahead 2018 World Cup

FILE PHOTO: This March 24, 2018 picture shows Japan’s national football team head coach Vahid Halilhodzic (2nd R) speaking to his players during a training session ahead of their March 27 friendly match against Ukraine at Liege, Belgium. PHOTO: AFP / JIJI PRESS

 

Japan on Monday named respected veteran Akira Nishino as its new national football manager, taking an “emergency measure” after sensationally dumping Vahid Halilhodzic only two months before the World Cup.

The 63-year-old Nishino boasts an impressive array of domestic silverware and masterminded one of Japanese football’s proudest moments: beating a Brazil side containing Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos 1-0 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Nishino will have only 70 days with the Blue Samurai before they play their first match against Colombia in a tough World Cup pool that also includes Poland and Senegal.

“We thought the new director should be appointed from inside, given we have just two months left before the World Cup,” Japan Football Association President Kozo Tashima told reporters.

“We have asked Nishino to take this position as an emergency measure.”

A former international midfielder who won 12 caps for his country, Nishino is best known for his stint at the helm of Gamba Osaka, which he steered to the team’s first Asian Club Championship in 2008.

This earned them the biggest match in their history, a World Club Cup semi-final clash with a powerful Manchester United side featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney, which they lost in a 5-3 thriller.

Despite the famous win over Brazil in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Nishino came under fire for being overly defensive. But in 2012 he wrote a newspaper column on “the thrills of attacking football”, setting out an offensive style of play.

Tashima said the “basics will remain the same” under the new manager, adding that a fast, attacking style was “much needed.”

Communication ‘weakened’

The writing was on the wall for Halilhodzic after a series of disappointing results, including a loss to Ukraine and a snatched draw with Mali from the last kick of the game.

The straight-talking Halilhodzic was also reported to have ruffled feathers in the dressing room with his no-nonsense approach.

Tashima said the reason for the sacking was that “communication and trust with players have become weakened”.

He said he had given the news over the weekend to Halilhodzic, who had reacted with a mixture of confusion and anger.

“I told him that we have reached this decision so that Japan would have more chance of winning,” said Tashima.

Franco-Bosnian Halilhodzic, who recovered from being wounded in 1992 during the Bosnian war, insisted he was no “dictator” — but acknowledged his frank approach was capable of “wounding” some people in Japan.

In 2016, as Japan struggled to qualify for the World Cup, he told AFP he felt his players were too respectful.

“Sometimes I’d really like them to be more aggressive, more street-smart, more vicious,” said the former Nantes and Paris Saint-Germain striker.

He once reportedly banned his players from smiling, and he found himself in trouble with authorities on two separate occasions after traffic accidents in 2015 and 2017.

‘No progress, no hope’

“No progress, no hope, lots of worries over the World Cup,” blared a headline in the Sports Nippon last month, raising the prospect that Japan might lose all its group games in June.

The Nikkan Sports daily said Monday “the association made the decision as it has a growing sense of crisis over the team’s performance, which has shown no sign of improvement with fewer than 70 days until the World Cup”.

The tournament in Russia will be the sixth successive World Cup appearance by the Blue Samurai, who made it to the last 16 in 2002 when Japan co-hosted the tournament with South Korea and again in 2010.

However, it was not a smooth path through to the finals.

Japan lost 2-1 at home to the United Arab Emirates in the first qualifying match and rounded off an unconvincing campaign with a 1-0 loss to Saudi Arabia.

It is not the first time Halilhodzic has been jettisoned just before a major tournament.

He missed out on leading Ivory Coast during the tournament in 2010 when he was fired as national coach just months before the finals following the team’s disappointing performance in the African Cup of Nations.

Before moving to Japan, Halilhodzic took Algeria to the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

AFP

Ten Big Events In 2018

Here are 10 major events to look forward to in 2018:

– Winter Games –

– February 9, South Korea: Start of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang against the backdrop of tensions with North Korea over its nuclear missile programme. The Games close on February 25.

– The end of the Castro era

– February 24, Cuba: Raul Castro steps aside as president, ending nearly six decades of Castro leadership on the island.

– A fourth term for Putin ? –

– March 18, Russia: Presidential election at which Vladimir Putin will seek a fourth term.

– Voting in Iraq –

– May 15, Iraq: Legislative and provincial elections, the first since the defeat of the Islamic State in the country.

– Royal wedding –

– May 19, Britain: Prince Harry marries US actress Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle.

– Football finals –

– July 15, Russia: The final of football’s 2018 World Cup, which opens on June 14 in Moscow.

– Test for Trump –

– November 6, United States: Midterm elections, the first serious electoral test for President Donald Trump.

– Venezuela votes in crisis –

– December, at a date to be confirmed, Venezuela: Presidential election in the country, which is mired in political and economic crisis.

– Climate, the moment of truth –

– December 3, Poland: Start of the COP24 environmental summit in Katowice, where key decisions are expected on the implementation of the Paris climate accords.

– Delayed voting in DRCongo –

– December 23, Democratic Republic of Congo: Presidential election, two years after the expiry of the term of outgoing President Joseph Kabila.

AFP

2018 World Cup Draw Pots

The pots for the draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which will be held at the Kremlin on Friday:

Pot One

  • Russia (hosts)
  • Germany (holders)
  • Brazil
  • Portugal
  • Argentina
  • Belgium
  • Poland
  • France

Pot Two

  • Spain
  • Peru
  • Switzerland
  • England
  • Colombia
  • Mexico
  • Uruguay
  • Croatia

Pot Three

  • Denmark
  • Iceland
  • Costa Rica
  • Sweden
  • Tunisia
  • Egypt
  • Senegal
  • Iran

Pot Four

  • Serbia
  • Nigeria
  • Australia
  • Japan
  • Morocco
  • Panama
  • South Korea
  • Saudi Arabia

Note – There will be eight groups of four teams; teams from the same continent cannot be placed in the same group, with the exception of Europe which can have a maximum of two teams per section.

AFP

Russia Prepares For 2018 World Cup Draw

A rehearsal for the FIFA soccer World Cup draw was held in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday.

Teams were drawn by the likes of former Uruguayan player Diego Forlan ahead of the official draw ceremony on Friday (December 1).

Russia, competing both as Russia and the Soviet Union, has made 10 World Cup appearances and will host the tournament for the first time next June and July.

In their three appearances since the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1994, 2002 and 2014, Russia have failed to reach the knockout stage. Doing so on home turf at the 2018 tournament would represent a significant accomplishment for Stanislav Cherchesov’s side.

Reuters 

Switzerland Edge Out Northern Ireland To Qualify For World Cup

Swiss players celebrates their qualification at the end of the FIFA 2018 World Cup play-off second leg football match between Switzerland and Northern Ireland at St. at St. Jakob-Park Stadium. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland held off Northern Ireland to seal a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a 0-0 second-leg draw on Sunday that secured a 1-0 aggregate play-off victory.

Vladimir Petkovic’s side wasted numerous first-half chances as the Northern Irish stayed in the tie, but Ricardo Rodriguez’s controversial first-leg penalty in Belfast proved enough for the Swiss to reach their fourth consecutive World Cup.

“It was very hard, there was a lot of pressure,” Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer told television channel RTS.

“Everyone said it was almost done, but against teams like that it’s a fight. I’m very excited we’ve achieved our goal.

“It’s unfortunate that we were not more efficient because it would have been easier.”

Northern Ireland fell short in their bid to reach first finals since 1986.

“Ultimately we’ve gone out to a poor decision in the first leg,” Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill told Sky Sports, after a harsh handball decision against Corry Evans saw Rodriguez score the only goal of the tie.

“Our performance and reaction tonight was fabulous. We were the better team.

“We had to ride our luck at times but we were pushing until the 94th minute. The players are devastated but I couldn’t be any prouder.”

O’Neill replaced Kyle Lafferty up front with Queens Park Rangers striker Conor Washington, while the hosts named an unchanged starting XI.

With heavy rain leaving the St Jakob-Park pitch in bad condition, Northern Ireland started strongly.

Chris Brunt brought a good save from Sommer with a swerving long-range strike in only the third minute before Stuart Dallas fired over from the resulting corner.

In a high-tempo opening to the game, Haris Seferovic should have doubled the hosts’ aggregate lead but headed Xherdan Shaqiri’s vicious cross past the far post.

Switzerland continued to push for a crucial opening goal, but Gareth McAuley did well to help Blerim Dzemaili’s shot over the crossbar, and Benfica striker Seferovic again headed a Shaqiri delivery off target.

O’Neill’s visitors still looked much brighter than they had done in Thursday’s loss in Belfast, but the 25-year-old Seferovic was proving a real handful as he volleyed wide from a tight angle.

Petkovic’s side were struggling to make the most of their early chances, though, as goalkeeper Michael McGovern got down quickly to deny Stoke City winger Shaqiri at the near post.

The Norwich City keeper was called into action once more before the half-hour mark, keeping out Steven Zuber’s low drive with his legs.

The Swiss, who finished second to Portugal in qualifying Group B despite winning nine of 10 matches, came out of the blocks quickly after half-time with Zuber seeing an effort blocked and left-back Rodriguez drilling narrowly wide.

Northern Ireland sent out a reminder that they were still in with a chance of forcing extra-time, as Washington sent a header looping away from keeper Sommer, but also the top corner.

Switzerland had become frustrated by their inability to kill the tie off, and Washington created a good chance for George Saville to break the deadlock, only for the Millwall midfielder to curl tamely at Sommer.

O’Neill sent on Kilmarnock winger Jordan Jones for his international debut with 15 minutes remaining.

The home side should have sealed a ticket to Russia in the 85th minute, but Seferovic’s poor day in front of goal went from bad to worse when he blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

Northern Ireland almost made him pay for a late rally, but Rodriguez cleared a Jonny Evans injury-time header off the line as Switzerland clung on.

AFP

Russia Cuts University Year For World Cup Security

(File Photo)

The Russian government said it was shortening the academic year at universities in some cities hosting the 2018 World Cup to make room in dormitories for police.

The decision drew protests from the country’s largest student union and underscored the concern Russia devotes to security at the marquee June 14-July 15 competition.

“We are talking about thousands of students who paid a full year’s tuition and are now being told the semester will end a month early,” Russian Student Union chief Vasily Mikhailov told AFP.

The decision means that end-of-term exams usually taken in June will go ahead a month earlier — a disruption that Mikhailov said has left both students and professors scrambling for a way to ensure a full-fledged education.

“But the most frustrating thing is that we have not yet seen the actual government decree spelling out what is going on,” Mikhailov said in a telephone interview.

News that Russia intended to prematurely empty some dormitories in four host cities was first reported by the Kommersant business daily.

It said the education ministry and the Russian World Cup organising committee had “recommended” students be moved out to make space for the police and the newly-created National Guard.

Kommersant added that a lawmaker in the Urals host city of Yekaterinburg had obtained a copy of a directive saying interior ministry personnel had to be settled at the local dormitory by May 14.

The respected publication said just one university in the central Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod was clearing out 2,300 students from four of its six dormitories to make room for the National Guard.

– ‘No forced evictions’ –
Russia’s education and science ministry said in a statement issued to AFP that no “forced evictions” of students were taking place.

“Following the Russian government’s instructions, the education and science ministry developed and sent to a number of education institutions recommendations concerning how they should correct their academic year.”

The ministry added that security forces had concluded contracts with the affected universities to pay for their stay.

Mikhailov said he had already written a letter to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev asking him to provide details about what happens to students whose universities had signed contracts to station security forces at the dormitories.

He has so far received no response. It also remained unclear how much the interior ministry was paying the institutes — many of them underfunded and eager to secure new sources of income.

Russia has vowed to take extraordinary measures to combat terrorist threats when it hosts the World Cup for the first time.

Its military campaign in Syria makes the country a prime target for jihadists while sporadic violence continues to fester in Russia’s predominantly Muslim North Caucasus.

AFP

Super Eagles Confident Of Victory In Algeria Clash

Super Eagles Coach, Rohr Confirms Ogenyi Onaz' Injury

Nigeria’s Super Eagles are in confident mood as they face the Desert Foxes of Algeria in the World Cup qualifying game today, November 10.

Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr said he has plans to give some players in his squad chance to prove themselves in the game.

However Algeria Coach, Raber Madjer has vowed to beat Nigeria in his first game in charge.

It will be recalled that the Super Eagles sealed their place at the World Cup after defeating Zambia’s Chipolopolo 1-0 in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital on October 7, making them top the Group B.

Super Eagles players left the shores of Morocco for Algeria on Thursday, November 9 to get ready for the final showdown of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.

The match will hold by 8:30 p.m. today at the Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui in  Constantine, Algeria.

We Must Look Beyond 2018 World Cup, Says Taribo West

Former Super Eagles defender, Taribo West

Former Super Eagles defender Taribo West is more concerned about what will become of the current Super Eagles squad after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The former Inter Milan and AC Milan player, who was a guest on Channels Sports Sunday, urged the Ministry of Sports to look beyond the 2018 World Cup qualification and begin to make developmental plans for the team.

He said, “The problem with us is that we don’t have the foundation in the Sports Ministry or a vision, after the World Cup what next?”

West, who praised the Super Eagles for securing qualification for the World Cup, said although he doesn’t know if the Ministry of Sports has a visual manifesto for the Super Eagles, he is certain that a proper plan is needed for Nigerian footballers across the globe.

“I don’t know if the people at Sports Ministry or Sports Association have a manifesto for what next,” he said.

“We don’t have that kind of structure on ground or men who have the capacity, who know how they can work with the ministry and also work with our footballers across the globe to make sure that after 2018 we still have a team.”