Super Eagles Set For Algeria Clash In AFCON Semi-Final

(file) Nigeria’s players take part in a training session at the Kaliningrad Stadium.  OZAN KOSE / AFP

 

The Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Desert Foxes of Algeria will clash today in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final encounter at the Cairo international stadium in Egypt.

Three-time champions Nigeria are looking for their fourth title since winning their first on home soil at the expense of Algeria in 1980, while the Algerians are looking for their second crown since winning on home soil at the expense of Nigeria in 1990.

The Super Eagles dashed the hopes of Algerian players in 2017 after stopping them from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, as they bashed the Foxes 3-1 in Uyo and tied the second leg in Constantine 1-1 before FIFA awarded the match to Algeria following the ineligible defender Abdullahi Shehu fielded by the Eagles.

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Nigeria have been dogged in their approach, keeping their feet on the ground, cautious but able to smell opportunities to strike and able to swing games in their favour even towards the end. This strategy worked for Guinea, Cup holders Cameroon, South Africa, and Burundi.

Coach Gernot Rohr says defeat by Madagascar has rudely awakened his boys to the approach they must adopt to win each game, by not under-rating any team.

On the other hand, Algeria Coach Djamel Belmadi, stated it firmly on Saturday that his team are aiming for the trophy by paying the Super Eagles back after stopping them from reaching the 2018 World Cup.

Algeria Beat Côte d’Ivoire On Penalties To Reach Semi-Finals

Algerian players celebrate after winning the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) quarter final football match between Ivory Coast and Algeria at the Suez stadium in Suez on July 11, 2019.
Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Africa Cup of Nations title favourites Algeria defeated the Côte d’Ivoire 4-3 on penalties in Suez Thursday to the relief of Baghdad Bounedjah and set up a semi-final showdown with Nigeria.  

The quarter-final finished 1-1 after extra time with Sofiane Feghouli giving Algeria a 20th-minute lead that was cancelled by Jonathan Kodjia on 62 minutes.

In the shootout, Youcef Belaili struck the woodwork when he had a chance to clinch victory for Algeria, and then Côte d’Ivoire captain Serey Die hit the same post and his team were eliminated.

Forward Bounedjah missed a penalty in the second half of regular time and was visibly upset by his failure, fearing it would cost Algeria a first last-four place since 2010.

Algeria retained the team that started a last-16 demolition of Guinea, a result which confirmed the belief of many rival coaches that the Desert Foxes are the team to beat.

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Côte d’Ivoire coach Ibrahim Kamara changed two of the side that began an unimpressive 1-0 win over Mali in the first knockout round.

Midfielder Ibrahim Sangare and forward Max-Alain Gradel were selected to start in place of Jean-Philippe Gbamin and off-form Nicolas Pepe.

This was the eighth Cup of Nations meeting between the countries with Côte d’Ivoire holding a 3-2 lead and two matches were drawn.

Côte d’Ivoire was more impressive in the early exchanges before a modest crowd in a stadium overlooking the Suez Canal, a major shipping link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

Algeria goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi finger-tipped a Gradel shot on to a post and Kodjia wasted a chance from close range after a cutback in 38 celsius (100 Fahrenheit) heat.

Serge Kanon was the next Ivorian to squander an opportunity to put the two-time champions in front, stabbing the ball wide from inside the six-yard area.

Against the run of play, Algeria went ahead when Feghouli connected with a Ramy Bensebaini cross and his snapshot flew past Sylvain Gbohouo.

Algeria had a great chance to go further ahead early in the second half when Bounedjah was fouled by Gbohouo, but he blazed the penalty against the crossbar and over.

The Ivorian Elephants were playing much better than in previous matches and equalised just past the hour mark, ending a 422-minute run by Mbolhi without conceding a goal in Egypt.

Crystal Palace flier Wilfried Zaha created the goal with a surging run down the middle from the centre circle before passing to Kodjia, who scored with a shot from just inside the box.

AFP

Halep Advances Into Second Wimbledon Semi-Final

Romania’s Simona Halep returns against China’s Shuai Zhang during their women’s singles quarter-final match on day eight of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 9, 2019. GLYN KIRK / AFP

 

Simona Halep reached her second Wimbledon semi-final on Tuesday with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 victory over China’s Zhang Shuai.

Halep, the seventh-seeded former world number one, will face either Elina Svitolina, the eighth seed from Ukraine, or Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic for a place in the final.

Zhang, bidding to become just the second Chinese woman to reach the semi-finals, led 4-1 in the first set and held four break points for a 5-1 lead.

READ ALSO: Serena Fined $10,000 For Wimbledon Court Damage

“I fought hard in the first set, even if I was down 4-1,” said 27-year-old Halep, a former French Open champion.

“I knew I had to be strong, play aggressive as much as possible and I did it great.

“I have energy, I feel fresh, I feel healthy, I feel confident when I step on the court.”

Romania’s Halep last made the last-four in 2014 when she was beaten by Eugenie Bouchard.

AFP

Lin Dan Advances Into Malaysia Open Semi-Final

China’s Lin Dan hits a return against Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama during their men’s singles quarter-final match at the Malaysia Open badminton tournament in Kuala Lumpur on April 5, 2019.
Mohd RASFAN / AFP

 

Chinese badminton ace Lin Dan advanced to the Malaysia Open semi-finals Friday after beating Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama in a high-octane match that left his opponent exhausted. 

In a gruelling 70-minute match, the 35-year-old five-time world champion floored the much younger Tsuneyama — 13 years his junior — winning 16-21, 21-17, 21-10.

The world number 16 attributed his victory to experience, after tying 17-17 in the second game after losing the opening match.

“It was my experience that counted today, coming into a high-pressure situation like this,” Lin told reporters after the match.

“He was patient in the first game, and the second game was close, but I managed to gain the upper hand. He is not an attacking player so that worked for me too.”

Lin will meet compatriot and second seed Shi Yuqi in the semi-finals, adding that he hoped to continue with “the same tempo”.

The other men’s singles semi-finals will see China’s Chen Long go up against Indonesian youngster Jonatan Christie.

Christie needed just 41 minutes to dispatch Denmark’s sixth seed Viktor Axelsen 21-18, 21-19, while Chen was also on song to beat India’s K. Srikanth by the same score.

The women’s singles saw Taiwan’s Tai Tzu Ying breeze into the last four after she dismantled Thai stalwart Ratchanok Intanon 21-19, 21-13.

Tai will go on to face China’s Chen Yufei, who beat South Korean Sung Ji-hyun 21-18, 21-14.

The other semi-final pits Akane Yamaguchi against Nozomi Okuhara.

In the men’s doubles, Indonesian top seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo were beaten by countrymen Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto 23-21, 19-21, 21-18.

Results (x denotes seeding)

Men’s singles

Lin Dan (CHN) bt Kanta Tsuneyama (JPN) 16-21, 21-17, 21-10

Chen Long (CHNx4) bt K. Srikanth (INDx8) 21-18, 21-19

Women’s Singles

Tai Tzu-Ying (TPEx1) bt Ratchanok Intanon (THAx7) 21-19, 21-13

Chen Yufei (CHNx3) bt Sung Ji-hyun (KOR) 21-18, 21-14

Men’s Doubles

Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen (CHNx2) bt Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan (INAx6) 21-13, 16-21, 21-17

Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto (INAx8) bt Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INAx1) 23-21, 19-21, 21-18

Women’s Doubles

Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan (CHNx5) bt Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara (JPNx3) 21-17, 21-13

Chang Ye-na-Jung/Kyung-eun (KOR) bt Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota (JPNx1) 21-13, 16-21, 21-17

Mixed Doubles

Zheng Siwei/Huang Yaqiong (CHNx1) bt Nipithon Phuangphuapet/Savitree Amitrapai (THA) 21-13, 21-19

Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping (CHNx2) bt Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying (MASx5) 21-19, 16-21, 27-25.

AFP

Champions League Quarter-Final And Semi-Final Match-Ups

The results of the draw for the Champions League quarter-final is displayed on a screen next to the competition’s trophy, on March 15, 2019, in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Champions League quarter-final and semi-final match-ups after Friday’s draw:

Quarter-final first legs (1900 GMT)

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April 9

At Liverpool, England

Liverpool (ENG) v Porto (POR)

At London

Totttenham Hotspur (ENG) v Manchester City (ENG)

April 10

At Amsterdam

Ajax (NED) v Juventus (ITA)

At Manchester, England

Manchester United (ENG) v Barcelona (ESP)

Quarter-final second legs (1900 GMT)

April 16

At Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona (ESP) v Manchester United (ENG)

At Turin, Italy

Juventus (ITA) v Ajax (NED)

April 17

At Porto, Portugal

Porto (POR) v Liverpool (ENG)

At Manchester, England

Manchester City (ENG) v Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)

Semi-finals

Tottenham Hotspur/Manchester City v Ajax/Juventus

Manchester United/Barcelona v Liverpool/Porto

First leg April 30/May 1, second leg May 7-8

Final

June 1 at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.

AFP

Serena Survives Scare To Make 11th Wimbledon Semi-Final

US player Serena Williams celebrates after winning against Italy’s Camila Giorgi during their women’s singles quarter-final match on the eighth day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 10, 2018. Williams won the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Serena Williams survived a major scare before sealing her 11th Wimbledon semi-final appearance as the seven-time champion hit back to beat Italy’s Camila Giorgi 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday.

Williams was in danger of a stunning quarter-final exit after world number 52 Giorgi became the first player in this year’s tournament to take a set off the former world number one.

But Serena bludgeoned her way out of trouble over the final two sets to stay on course for an eighth All England Club triumph.

The 36-year-old will play German 13th seed Julia Goerges on Thursday for a place in Saturday’s final.

AFP

Thierry Henry In ‘Wrong Camp’ For World Cup Semi – France

Belgium’s assistant coach Thierry Henry plays with the ball during a training session of Belgium’s national football team at the Guchkovo Stadium in Dedovsk, outside Moscow, on July 8, 2018, ahead of their Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match against France. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

When France line up for their World Cup semi-final French great Thierry Henry will stare back at them from the Belgium bench — and Les Bleus can’t stop talking about it

Henry, who was part of the France squad that won the 1998 World Cup on home soil, has been assistant manager to Belgium boss Roberto Martinez since 2016 and has helped guide the Red Devils to the last four of a World Cup for just the second time.

The irony that a player who scored 51 goals in 123 international appearances and helped France become world and European champions is now plotting to stop them reaching the final in Russia is not lost on the current French team.

“It will be bizarre to have him up against us,” forward Olivier Giroud said. “He is a living legend of French football.

“He has given so much to the France team and we have got a lot of respect for what he has done.”

“But of course I would be proud to show ‘Titi’ that he has chosen the wrong camp,” Giroud added, using Henry’s French nickname.

 ‘Lost sight of him’ 

After spending most of his career at Premier League club Arsenal and putting down roots in England, 40-year-old Henry has had little involvement in French football despite being one of the most popular players that France has ever produced.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet told AFP pointedly that “we’ve rather lost sight of him and he has little contact with the federation”.

“Life can be like that sometimes. He has been in England a long time and personally I have very little contact with him,” Le Graet said.

He said Henry had made Belgium into “a team that likes to attack”.

“The strikers go to him, they respect him,” he said.

Henry had little previous coaching experience and the president said he had “probably chosen the right solution” by taking the job of an assistant.

He compared Henry’s early steps in coaching to those followed by Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid before he took the top job and went on to win three Champions League titles in a row.

“It is definitely better to start as assistant in a national team, even if he was hoping it would be in Arsenal’s staff,” Le Graet said. “There is no doubt that he has a career in coaching ahead of him.”

Henry, now sporting a thick beard, is happy to remain in the background as Martinez, a former manager of English clubs Wigan and Everton, does the talking to the media.

He joined the Belgium setup in 2016 just after Martinez was appointed and reportedly set to work immediately with forwards Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi.

Though a very different player from the elegant Frenchman, the powerfully built Lukaku showed a touch of Henry in his intelligent dummy that allowed the ball to run through to Nacer Chadli to score Belgium’s winner in the thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 win over Japan in the last 16.

Jean-Marie Pfaff, the Belgium goalkeeper when they last reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1986, told AFP’s German sports agency SID that Henry would be “France’s main opponent” in the semi-final.

“He plays an extremely important role for Martinez,” Pfaff said. “Martinez regularly asks him for advice and he listens to it. I think that Thierry Henry can be credited with some of the tactical ploys.”

Giroud, who like Henry was an Arsenal forward until he joined Chelsea last year, wishes Henry were on the French staff.

“Of course I wish he was with us and was giving advice to me and the other strikers. But we can’t be envious. It is not something that shocks me because it is a normal move at this stage in his career.”

France defender Lucas Hernandez said he was sure Henry would be happy if France beat his employers on Wednesday.

“He’ll be happy if we win because above all else he is a Frenchman,” the 22-year-old left-back said.

AFP

France Eye World Cup Final Despite Belgium’s Thierry Henry

(From L to R) France’s defender Presnel Kimpembe, forward Ousmane Dembele, forward Florian Thauvin and defender Djibril Sidibé attend a training session at the Glebovets stadium in Istra, some 70 km west of Moscow, on July 7, 2018, ahead of their Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match against Belgium. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

World Cup favourites France are targeting the final in Russia two decades after their 1998 triumph with one of their greatest players, Thierry Henry, plotting their downfall from the dugout of opponents Belgium.

The European neighbours meet in Tuesday’s first semi-final in Saint Petersburg for the right to play England or Croatia in Sunday’s showpiece in Moscow.

Former Arsenal and Barcelona forward Henry, who was part of the squad that won the World Cup on home soil 20 years ago, is now alongside Belgium coach Roberto Martinez and eyeing the chinks in France’s armour.

“It will be bizarre to have him up against us,” said France striker Olivier Giroud. “He is a living legend of French football.

“He has given so much to the France team and we have got a lot of respect for what he has done. But we’re not thinking about it too much, we’re going to be focused on the pitch and our game.”

A slick Belgium side boasting the talents of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku are the only team to have won all their matches in Russia and are the top scorers, with 14 goals.

Confidence is sky-high after they ousted Neymar’s Brazil in the quarter-finals but they will come up against formidable opponents in France as they try to reach a first ever World Cup final.

Didier Deschamps’ side, with Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe up front, struggled for goals in their group matches but have now hit their stride, dominating Uruguay after beating Argentina.

France will start the semi-final in Saint Petersburg as favourites, with an impressive mix of youth and experience allied to tournament nous after they reached the Euro 2016 final.

With Hugo Lloris impressing in goal and a solid midfield of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, the one potential weakness for France could be their inexperienced defence.

Belgium’s Thomas Meunier will miss the game after picking up a second yellow card but France will be buoyed by the return of defensive midfielder Blaise Matuidi, after sitting out a suspension of his own.

 Southgate tells stars: you can be heroes 

For the fifth time in World Cup history, the semi-finals will be an all-European affair. On each of those occasions the tournament has been hosted in Europe.

In the other last-four clash on Wednesday, England take on Croatia in Moscow.

England boss Gareth Southgate has told his players they can be bigger heroes even than the generation of 1966, which featured Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton.

“I’ve met quite a few of those players and we know exactly how they’re held and perhaps, in the modern era, that would be even crazier,” Southgate told British newspapers.

“(With) social media and everything else, the global thing is so much bigger.”

England is gripped by World Cup fever. Nearly 20 million viewers tuned in for the win over Sweden and social media is awash with videos of excited fans watching on big screens in bars and parks, fanatically celebrating every England goal.

Captain Harry Kane is the man leading England’s charge in Russia with six goals so far, putting him top in the race for the Golden Boot. Lukaku is on four goals and France’s Griezmann and Mbappe have three each.

Despite Kane’s impressive tally, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has identified Raheem Sterling as England’s danger man in their semi-final.

Sterling was a key part of the Manchester City side that won the Premier League last season but he has been less effective in England’s charge to the last four for the first time since 1990.

“I think Raheem Sterling is an important player because he is fast and dangerous alongside Harry Kane,” Dalic said.

Croatia, who boast Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic in a strong midfield, emerged through extra-time and spot-kicks against Denmark before going through the same ordeal again against Russia in Saturday’s quarter-final.

“Our last three games were different because we played teams with a defensive approach,” he said.

“But we are looking forward to a different style of game against England because they like to play attacking football.”

AFP

Arsenal Survive Moscow Scare To Reach Europa League Semis

Arsenal’s British striker Danny Welbeck celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg football match between CSKA Moscow and Arsenal at VEB Arena stadium in Moscow on April 12, 2018.
Alexander NEMENOV / AFP

 

Arsenal survived a scare as they progressed to the last four of the Europa League on Thursday after coming back to draw 2-2 with CSKA Moscow in Russia.

Fedor Chalov and Kirill Nababkin scored for CSKA to set Arsenal nerves jangling in the Russian capital, as the hosts looked to overturn a 4-1 deficit from the first leg.

But Danny Welbeck pulled one back before Aaron Ramsey levelled the scores on the night in stoppage time, taking the Premier League side through 6-3 on aggregate.

 

CSKA Moscow’s Russian striker Fedor Chalov (2nd R) scores past Arsenal’s Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech during the UEFA Europa League second leg quarter-final football match between CSKA Moscow and Arsenal at VEB Arena stadium in Moscow on April 12, 2018.                                    Alexander NEMENOV / AFP

 

It was another night of comebacks in a crazy midweek in Europe, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg producing stirring performances to overturn first-leg deficits and go through.

Salzburg lost 4-2 to Lazio in Rome last week but won 4-1 in the return in Austria, despite Ciro Immobile giving the Italians a second-half lead on the night.

The hosts proceeded to score four times in 20 minutes to advance 6-5 on aggregate.

Marseille recovered from losing 1-0 away to RB Leipzig last week, and from falling behind to the Germans inside two minutes in the return at the Velodrome, as they won 5-2 on the night to progress 5-3 on aggregate.

A brilliant Dimitri Payet finish for Marseille’s fourth was a highlight as they made it through to a first European semi-final since 2004.

Atletico Madrid are also through, and remain the favourites to win the trophy in Lyon next month — they were beaten 1-0 on the night away to Sporting Lisbon but progressed 2-1 on aggregate.

AFP

Czech Republic Beat Spain To Reach Fed Cup Semi-Final

Czech Republic Beat Spain To Reach Fed Cup Semi-FinalThe Czech Republic have reached their ninth straight Fed Cup semi-final, after Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova led the reigning champions to a 3-1 victory over Spain in Ostrava.

After wins for Pliskova and Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in the opening rubbers on Saturday, Sunday’s action started with the score level at 1-1.

Pliskova was in dominant form and the world number three dispatched Muguruza in just 60 minutes in their tie.

However, Czech triumphed 6-2 6-2 over the French Open champion to give Strycova the chance to seal the Czech Republic’s 10th consecutive Fed Cup victory.

Simeone Charges Atletico Madrid Ahead Of King’s Cup Semi-Final

Atletico Madrid Coach, Diego Simeone says his side would have to be at its best to beat Barcelona in tonight’s second leg of the king’s Cup semi-final.

Coach Diego Simeone’s side are aiming for their first Cup final appearance since the 2012-13 campaign title win.

“The only result that would satisfy me is to reach the final,” Simeone said.

Atletico, who have not won at Barcelona since a 3-1 victory on February the 5th, 2006, need to score at least two goals to progress.

Goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi gave Barcelona a 2-0 lead in the first leg in Madrid, though a strong second-half display and an Antoine Griezmann strike gave Simeone’s side a glimmer of hope.

Atletico will not have midfielder Gabi on board against Barcelona due to suspension.

Nigeria Qualify For CAF U-23 Championship Semi-Finals

Under-23Nigeria’s Dream Team 6 have qualified for the semi-finals of the CAF Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal.

Coach Samson Siasia’s team secured their place in the last four after holding Algeria to a goalless draw, coupled with Egypt’s 1-0 loss to Mali.

Nigeria will play Senegal for a place in the final after finishing second behind Algeria in group B.

The top three teams at the tournament will represent Africa at the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil.