World Cup Miss: NFF Sacks Super Eagles Technical Crew

Nigeria will be missing from the World Cup for the first time in 16 years. [email protected]

 

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has sacked the Super Eagles’ technical crew. 

The NFF confirmed this in a statement issued on Thursday, less than two days after the three-time African champions drew 1-1 with Ghana in a playoff for the competition.

The result sent the Black Stars to the tournament on the away goal rule after the first leg ended barren.

READ ALSO: Super Eagles World Cup Disappointment Is ‘A Blessing In Disguise’ – George Abbey

“The NFF has in the meantime withdrawn the two-and-half years’ contract offered the coaches and terminated the appointment of the entire technical crew of the team with immediate effect,” the communique read.

“A new crew will be announced after a proper review to lead the new charge of reinvigorating the Super Eagles to face future challenges appropriately.”

The football body, therefore, thanked the crew for their services and wished them well in future endeavours.

It also confirmed that Austine Eguavoen had earlier resigned as the team’s technical director.

‘We Need Warriors’

Nigeria will be missing the World Cup for the first time in 16 years. Facebook/William Troost-Ekong.

 

Following the team’s qualification failure, there has been a deluge of reactions from pundits, ex-players, and fans alike.

Many of them blamed tactical inefficient for the failure while others faulted the players for their lack of zeal.

One such is a former Nigerian international, George Abbey. The ex-Sharks defender blamed the players for not showing the desire to qualify for the tournament.

“When you put on that Super Eagles jersey, the whole nation is expecting you to go to war for us,” George, who played at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, added.

“This is not a time when you want to come and entertain; show skills and dilly-dally on the ball; take your time. Everything has to be crisp. From the start, we need warriors. We need players who are ready to bleed for the nation and I did not see any of that.”

WCQ Preview: Nigeria, Ghana Renew Rivalry For A Place In Qatar

Nigeria and Ghana share an eternal rivalry stretching beyond football.

 

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will battle Ghana for a place at the 2022 World Cup, renewing a long history of rivalry dating back several decades.

The rivalry between the West Africans stretches beyond sports. Both nations pride themselves as the best maker of jollof rice, the red and spicy cuisine. While the banters and debates over jollof rice would not be ending soon, at least one of the countries will be absent at the global showpiece later in the year.

Nigeria travel to Ghana for the first leg of the double-header as the Super Eagles seek to banish the disappointments of a shocking exit from the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in February.

The 1994 continental champions were eliminated by Tunisia in the Round of 16 despite an impressive start to the tournament. They had won all three group games –  the only team to do so – but in an anti-climax, slumped to the Carthage Eagles who struggled to finish as one of the third-best placed countries.

READ ALSO: Super Eagles Arrive In Ghana Ahead Of Crunch Tie

Nigeria Team News And Key Men

Although Nigeria went to the AFCON missing top players like Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and the experienced Odion Ighalo, barring the absence of influential midfielder, Wilfred Ndidi, the coaching crew has a full complement of players to pick from.

Ademola Lookman’s invitation is also expected to boost the attacking options for the three-time AFCON winners.  The Leicester City winger only recently switched nationality to Nigeria after playing for England at age-grade levels.

Rangers Leon Balogun and Dennis Emmanuel of Watford are also back on the team after they missed the AFCON. Former Arsenal star Alex Iwobi is suspended. Goalkeeper Maduka Okoye has been ruled out due to illness and was replaced by John Noble.

The continental powerhouse made it to the playoffs after topping a group that included Cape Verde, needing just a draw in their last game to book a date with Ghana. And following the AFCON ouster, Nigeria rejigged their backroom staff, adding ex-winger Emmanuel Amunike to the roster.

Ahead of the game, Nigeria’s coach Austine Eguaveon said his boys are ready to face Ghana, insisting that they will give their best.

“All we have as our goal now is to put in all efforts and cross the line, qualify for the World Cup in Qatar,” he told the CAF website.

“It’s a special game indeed, it’s the final game of the qualifiers, the first and the second leg determines our place in the World Cup in Qatar, but I guarantee we are well prepared, every member of the team is working round the clock as Ghana is not a pushover. They are a very strong team and our matches with them have been explosive, this time, we are bringing the game on again.”

Ghana Team News And Key Men

Having struggled in recent games, culminating in a horrifying AFCON outing where they crashed out in the group stage with just one point, Nigeria’s opponent will head into the tie expecting a reversal of fortunes.

The Black Stars qualified for the playoffs following a controversial victory over South Africa in the last game of the previous qualification round.

But a woeful outing in Cameroon ended in a humiliating loss to lowly-placed Comoros. In the wake of the crash, Ghana sacked their Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac and appointed former player Otto Addo. Otto, who is one of the second team coaches at Borussia Dortmund, is assisted by a former Newcastle manager Chris Hughton for the two games.

Several players who featured at the AFCON were not invited for the tie.  Instead, six players including AS Roma youngster Felix Afena-Gyan were handed their debut call-ups. Fulham defender Denis Odoi and Hearts of Oak star Dennis Korsah also got their maiden call-ups.

Ghanaian skipper Andre Ayew is absent due to a suspension. In his stead, Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey is expected to inspire the Black Stars to victory over their perennial rivals.

Despite the team’s poor run of form, Addo says Ghana can book a ticket to the competition. Games between Nigeria and Ghana are “difficult” but with support and “strategies”, the Black Stars will land in Qatar, the coach maintained.

“We all expect Ghana to qualify for the FIFA World Cup (Qatar 2022) but that won’t be easy as we need to do our best to make it to this tournament,” Addo said in an interview with the CAF website.

“Matches between Ghana and Nigeria are always difficult but we believe in our players, we believe in our strategies, and we believe in the unflinching support of all Ghanaians as we go into these two matches.”

Ghana Vs Nigeria: Head To Head, Team Form 

In their last five matches, the Super Eagles have drawn one, lost another but were victorious on three occasions. For Ghana, however, their last five games have resulted in three defeats, one draw, and a victory.

The four-time African champions have met Nigeria 56 times with the former triumphing in 25 games while their opponents have only won 12. There are 19 draws between the sides.

Nigeria have qualified six times for the World Cup, just one shy of Cameroon, the only African team that have participated the most in the competition. Ghana have played thrice at the World Cup but missed out on the 2018 edition in Russia.

Time For Nigeria, Ghana Match

The first leg of the fixture between Ghana and Nigeria will take place by 8:30 pm (WAT) at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi on Friday. Four days later, Tuesday,  the second leg will hold at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria. This will kick off by 06:00 pm (WAT/Nigerian time).

‘He Will Bring Some Value’: Eguavoen Wants Victor Moses Back To Super Eagles

In this file photo, Victor Moses poses with the Nation’s Cup in 2013

 

Super Eagles coach Austine Eguavoen believes Victor Moses has a lot to offer and wants him back to the team. 

The former Chelsea wingback quit international football after the 2013 African champions crashed out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Nearly four years after that and unsuccessful attempts to lure him back to the national team, Eguavoen says he is persuading Moses to come out of retirement.

“Whether we like it or not, Victor Moses will still bring some value,” he told BBC Sports. “But right now he is playing in Russia, we all know the problems with Ukraine and Russia. I am happy to say that my conversation with him is settled.”

The former U-23 Eagles coach said has been in touch with the player, admitting that he admires his style of player. According to him, while Moses is not part of the squad that will face Ghana in a 2022 World Cup play-off, the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) winner is part of his plan.

READ ALSO: [WCQ] Onazi On Standby, Ighalo Returns As Nigeria Name Squad For Ghana Clash

Eguavoen Unveils Squad 

Victor Moses
Victor Moses quit international football in 2018. [email protected] Moses.

Earlier, Eguavoen put midfielder Ogenyi Onazi on standby as Nigeria named their squad, which included Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2022 absentee, Oghenekaro Etebo, for the World Cup play-off later this month.

The long-time absentee was part of the Super Eagles side that won the AFCON in 2013.

Leicester City forward Ademola Lookman was also included in the provisional squad.  Nigeria take on Ghana at the 20,000–capacity Cape Coast Sports Stadium on March 25, with the reverse leg set for Abuja four days later.

The winners from the tie will earn one of Africa’s five tickets to the World Cup finals in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.

Lookman has been cleared by FIFA to play for Nigeria after he represented England at various age-grade levels.

He is one of three uncapped players selected by Nigeria, along with Calvin Bassey of Scottish champions Rangers and FC Copenhagen youngster Akinkunmi Amoo.

First 11: Nigeria Vs Ghana Match Date Confirmation +This Week’s Biggest Sports Stories

First Eleven

 

After three weeks of action, the 2021 AFCON ended in Cameroon with a new champion. The uncertainty about the Super Eagles coaching job was also resolved. There was equally good news for Nigeria ahead of their 2022 World Cup playoff with rivals, Ghana. First 11 captures these and other stories that made the headlines, including’s Kurt Zouma’s travails.

The ‘Jollof’ Rivalry

(Top L-R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, defender Kenneth Omeruo, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, midfielder Joe Aribo, defender William Troost-Ekong, (bottom L-R) forward Kelechi Iheanacho, defender Ola Aina, defender Zaidu Sanusi, forward Moses Simon and forward Samuel Chukwueze pose prior to the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has fixed March 27th for the second leg of the 2022 World Cup playoff with Ghana, Secretary-General of the body, Ademola Olajire, said earlier in the week. In a statement, Olajire said the match will take place at the MKO Abiola National Stadium in Abuja but explained that the first leg of the encounter.

“Ghana Football Association now has to confirm whether the first leg inside the Cape Coast Stadium will be on Wednesday, 23rd March or Thursday, 24th March,” he said.

The winner of the tie will join four other countries to fly Africa’s flag at the global competition billed for late 2022 in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar. Qualification for the tournament will make Nigeria one of the few countries on the continent to have reached the FIFA World Cup more than six. The game is expected to rekindle the age-long rivalry between both West African nations.

Lookman Switches Allegiance

Ademola Lookman won the U-20 World Cup with England in 2017. Photo: [email protected] Leipzig

 

And in a major boaster for the Super Eagles ahead of the two-legged tie, Ademola Lookman is now qualified to wear Nigeria’s green and white. The former Fulham man was cleared by FIFA on Thursday; months after fans questioned his omission from the Nigerian side that featured at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon. The Leicester City forward had played for England at age-grade levels and had been courted for years by football authorities in Nigeria. Born in Peckham, England, Lookman won the 2017 U-20 World Cup with the English team and will be likely feature for the side during the clash with Ghana.

Eguavoen Stays!

File photo of Augustine Eguavoen

 

Before Looksman’s switch, the NFF had confirmed the retention of Augustine Eguavoen as the interim manager of the senior side but made former international, Emmanuel Amunike, his assistant. The football body explained that the move followed a recommendation from its technical and development committee. It also cited what it described as the “positive performance” of the Super Eagles at the 2021 AFCON despite an early exit.

“The NFF Board has approved a recommendation of the Technical and Development Committee retaining Augustine Eguavoen as Technical Director/Technical Adviser (interim) while Emmanuel Amuneke becomes the Chief Coach of the Super Eagles. Salisu Yusuf will be the 2nd Assistant Coach/Chief Coach of the CHAN team and Joseph Yobo will be 3rd Assistant while Aloysius Agu remains the Goalkeepers’ Trainer,” the NFF said.

Monday’s development finally ended the uncertainty surrounding the Eagles’ coaching role. In the wake of Gernot Rohr’s dismissal, football authorities in Nigeria had appointed Jose Peseiro as the team’s coach. The Portuguese was expected to be an observer at the AFCON before taking over. But the NFF said it did not sign a contract with the former Ah Ahly manager, yielding to calls for a local coach for the national team.

Peseiro Faults NFF

Venezuela’s Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro gestures during the Conmebol Copa America 2021 football tournament group phase match between Venezuela and Peru at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, on June 27, 2021. EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

Hours after the NFF’s decision, the Portuguese said he never agreed to go to the AFCON with the team, faulting the ‘Glass House’ for not reaching an agreement with him before announcing his appointment. Talks to take over the three-time African champions’ coaching role broke down due to financial disagreements, Paseiro posted on his Instagram page.

Up The Ladder!

Nigeria supporters cheer after their team won the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2021 football match against Guinea-Bissau at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 19, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

 

News of the NFF’s U-turn was quickly followed by the Super Eagles’ jump in the FIFA ranking despite an early ouster from the 2021 AFCON. Nigeria moved three places on the continental ranking to become the number three team on the continent. Before the latest ranking, the Super Eagles were 36th globally and 5th in Africa. Senegal are number one in Africa.

The Jinx Is Over

Senegal's players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Senegal’s players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Their global ranking, which has moved from 20th to 18th, was a direct reward for their historic AFCON win. They defeated Egypt by a penalty shootout to claim the title for the first time after losing twice in the final. Senegal reached the final in 2002 and 2019. Their feat prompted wild celebrations across cities in the West African nation. The government also declared a national holiday to celebrate the win and also handsomely rewarded the team.

D’Tigress Keep W/Cup Hopes Alive

The D’Tigress in action during the game against France. Photo: [email protected] DtigressNG

 

On Friday, the D’Tigress defeated France 67-65 to make amend for their opening day loss to China at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup qualifiers. The win keeps the team’s qualification hopes alive. The African champions had earlier lost – 90-76 – to China in their quest for a ticket for the competition billed for Australia in September. They will now play Mali in the last group fixture of the qualifiers.

Zouma’s Travails

West Ham United’s French defender Kurt Zouma warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Watford at the London Stadium, in London on February 8, 2022. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Away from Africa, former Chelsea defender, Kurt Zouma, made headlines for kicking his pet cat. Although he apologized after the video went viral, the French international was fined 250, 000 pounds by his club West Ham while kit maker, Adidas, ended their deal with the player. There are also calls for David Moyes to drop him for the club’s league game this weekend. But several players and fans have questioned the sanctions meted out to Zouma, describing them as overtly harsh.

Chelsea On the Cusp of History

Chelsea players celebrate their opening goal during the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup semi-final football match between Saudi’s Al-Hilal and England’s Chelsea at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, on February 9, 2022. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Zouma’s former team defeated Al-Hilal by a lone goal to reach the final of the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup and moved a step closer to winning the title for the first time. The European champions will take on Palmeiras on Saturday, a game that could define Chelsea’s season.

The Blues have fallen off the pace in the Premier League after three wins in 10 matches but are still vying for multiple honours at home and on the continent. They will play Liverpool in the League Cup final later this month, four days after the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against French club Lille. The defending champions are also in the running for the FA Cup.

“We are desperate to win this trophy. We could be the first team in Chelsea history to bring this trophy to London so we are happy that we are in such a big final,” said the midfielder, Mateo Kovacic. “We will do everything to win it on Saturday.”

Neymar’s Account Hacked

File photo: Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar walks off the pitch after a red card during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Marseille (OM) at the Parc de Princes stadium in Paris on September 13, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Police authorities in Brazil have arrested a man for hacking into Neymar’s bank accounts and repeatedly stealing money to the tune of 40,000 dollars. According to officials, the suspect worked with an unidentified bank where the former Barcelona player and his business manager father had accounts. The hacker was arrested on Wednesday “for defrauding bank clients”, a police statement explained. While the security agents did not mention Neymar in the statement, the officer in charge of the case said it was Neymar. He also explained how the alleged theft occurred to Brazilian TV show Brasil Urgente.

Ex-AFN Scribe Arraigned Over $150,000 IAAF Fund

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

And back home, the anti-corruption agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) arraigned a former Secretary-General of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Mr Amaechi Akawu, for reported complicity in a $150,000 fraud. He was arraigned before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court 5 in Abuja on Friday over allegations bordering on money laundering and fraudulent diversion of public funds.

The ICPC filed 10 charges against him before Justice Ekwo, in which it accused Akawu of diverting monies released by the International Association of Athletics Federation for the hosting of the CAA Grand Prix Competition in Delta State, popularly known as the 2017 Warri Relay Competition. The offence was allegedly committed in July and August 2017, when he, on several occasions, fraudulently diverted funds from the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development into personal use.

“Akawo entered a not guilty plea when the charge was read to him. His counsel, Emmanuel Aghedo, moved his application, praying the court to grant him bail on liberal terms,” the ICPC said in a statement. “Counsel to ICPC, Mashkur Salisu, who did not object to the bail application, however, urged the court to grant him bail on stringent terms that will ensure he stands trial.”

While ruling on the bail application, Ekwo reportedly admitted him to bail in the sum of N15 million, with one surety in like sum.

‘We Reached All Targets’: Rohr Criticises NFF For Firing Him

Rohr maintains there was no justification for sacking him.

 

Gernot Rohr has criticised the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for sacking him as the Super Eagles coach, maintaining that the team’s performance under him was not below expectations.

The German, who is Nigeria’s longest-serving coach, was fired earlier in the week following some unconvincing results with the 1994 African champions.

But the coach has faulted the move, insisting that he met all targets set by the NFF upon his appointment in 2016.

“It was not necessary to do this so close to AFCON,” he told ESPN, saying the team had chances to score more goals in their last two matches – against Sierra Leone and Cape Verde but were unlucky.

“After what the team did, and after what the team had achieved with [reaching] the targets… but it happened, and we are realistic people.”


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‘Close To AFCON’

File photo: Nigeria’s players line up before the 2022 Qatar World Cup African qualifiers group 3 football match between Nigeria and Central Africa Republic at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in Surulere in Lagos State, on October 7, 2021. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

According to him, the Super Eagles had become better since he took charge, citing the team’s improved FIFA ranking.

Rohr said that he has built a reliable team since 2016 and tipped them for glory in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon.

“Everybody knows that we are close to the AFCON, and I think this team should win it because this team is built to win matches, important matches, decisive matches,” he added.

Beyond his sacking and the team’s performance, Rohr also refuted claims by the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, that he had lost the dressing room.

He claimed that the football body had been planning to sack him over a year ago. This, he said, was the reason they brought in Austin Eguavoen to become a part of his crew.

“The dressing room was 100% behind me,” Rohr noted and hoped that “it will also be 100% behind the new coach [Eguavoen]”.

 

ODSFA Denies Blaming Referees For Eguavoen’s Exit

Austin Eguavoen

The Ondo State Football Agency (ODSFA) said it has never blamed Austin Eguavoen’s disengagement on bad officiating from referees in the Nigeria Professional Football League.

The agency made the clarification over the weekend in a statement from its media officer, Chris Okunnuwa.

“ODSFA wishes to clarify that the claims attributed to the parental body of Sunshine Stars FC in the said report are not true. The claim in the report is not in any way a reflection of ODSFA’s thought about Nigerian referees.

“The agency, nor any member of its management staff has never and will never issue such a statement wrongly credited to the Secretary of the ODSFA Interim Management Committee, Elder Mike Adeyeye,” it said.

The agency, however, noted that only Coach Eguavoen could have divulged the reasons for his disengagement.

“We hold the Nigerian Referees in high esteem and regard the Nigeria Referee Association (NRA) as a noble body that must be accorded every bit of respect.

“So we urge every stakeholder of the Nigerian game, particularly the NRA to disregard the said report,” the statement added.