FIFA President ‘Disappointed’ By Empty Stands At Korea’s Qualifier

In this file photo taken on January 17, 2019 FIFA President Gianni Infantino gives a press conference during the FIFA Executive Football Summit in the central Moroccan city of Marrakech. PHOTO: AFP

 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he was “disappointed” after attending a historic but bizarre World Cup qualifier between North and South Korea that had empty stands and no live broadcast.

The match in the North Korean capital ended 0-0 on Tuesday, with Infantino one of the few people allowed to see the gameplay out at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Stadium.

“I was looking forward to seeing a full stadium for such a historic match but was disappointed to see there were no fans in the stands,” he said in an interview published on the FIFA website.

“We were surprised by this and by several issues related to its live broadcast and problems with visas and access for foreign journalists.”

No foreign media were at the game — the first competitive men’s match to be played in Pyongyang between the two sides, whose countries are still technically at war.

Frustrated South Korean fans who were not permitted to travel to the game will have to wait days to see it on television after officials bring back a DVD recording.

“For us, freedom of the press and freedom of speech are obviously paramount, but on the other hand it would be naive to think we can change the world from one minute to the next,” Infantino said.

The match comes in the wake of a series of North Korean missile tests that raised tensions in the region, and after the breakdown of talks with the US over Pyongyang’s weapons programmes.

It is a far cry from the cross-border warmth of last year when South Korean President Moon Jae-in seized on the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to broker the Pyongyang-Washington discussion process.

The only simple way to follow the match, which the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had billed as “one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures” for years, was a limited online text commentary posted on the FIFA and AFC websites.

Meanwhile, North Korean state media did not offer much in the way of colourful description in its report on the match.

“The game of attacks and counterattacks ended in a draw,” summarised the official Korean Central News Agency in a two-line dispatch.

Infantino said he and his team had raised questions of free press and speech with North Korea’s football association.

“We will certainly keep pushing so that football can have a positive influence in (North) Korea… and other countries around the world,” he said.

AFP

Germany Win Historic 10th World Cup Qualifier

Germany’s midfielder Julian Brandt, Germany’s midfielder Emre Can and Germany’s midfielder Leroy Sane celebrate after the fifth goal for Germany during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Germany and Azerbaijan in Mainz, western Germany, on October 8, 2017. Christof STACHE / AFP

Midfielder Leon Goretzka netted twice as Germany routed Azerbaijan 5-1 on Sunday to make history with a perfect World Cup qualifying record of 10 wins in as many games.

The reigning world champions had already sealed their ticket to Russia last Thursday with a 3-1 win over Northern Ireland, and finished their qualifying campaign in Kaiserslautern with a 10th straight victory.

This is the first time Germany have qualified for a World Cup finals with a perfect record.

Joachim Loew’s side are only the second team to achieve the feat in a European qualifying campaign after Spain managed it on their way to winning the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

However, the comfortable win came at the cost of two centre-backs, as Bayern Munich’s Niklas Suele and Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi both limped off with first-half injuries.

Schalke midfielder Goretzka gave Germany an early lead with a superb back-heeled goal before Azerbaijan striker Ramil Sheydaev stunned the hosts by equalising before half-time.

Second-half strikes from Hoffenheim striker Sandro Wagner and Chelsea defender Antonio Ruediger, before Goretzka added his second, saw Germany pull away.

Liverpool midfielder Emre Can added the fifth when he smashed home his first international goal with a powerful shot from outside the area.

The World Cup holders lost Julian Draxler before kick-off as the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder dropped out with flu, after Real Madrid star Toni Kroos had already been ruled out with a rib injury.

The hosts got off to a dream start when Goretzka showed great technique by turning the ball into the net on eight minutes.

Then came Germany’s injury blows.

Suele limped off on 22 minutes to be replaced by Chelsea’s Ruediger before Mustafi went down in the build-up to the equaliser.

The Germans should have doubled their lead with half an hour gone when Wagner hit the post.

Azerbaijan deservedly levelled on 34 minutes when Sheydaev sprinted clear of Mustafi — who pulled up with a leg injury.

Sheydaev then wrong-footed Ruediger and fired past Germany goalkeeper Bernd Leno to stun the hosts.

It stayed 1-1 at the break, but Wagner put Germany back in the lead on 54 minutes thanks to Hawk-Eye.

Wagner’s header was cleared in a scramble, but goal-line technology showed the ball had crossed the line for his fifth international goal in as many games.

At 2-1 up, the floodgates opened when Ruediger hammered his header past Azerbaijani goalkeeper Kamran Agayev on 64 minutes.

Goretzka grabbed Germany’s fourth just two minutes later when he fired home Leroy Sane’s pass after some good work by the Manchester City winger.

The 23-year-old Can completed the scoring in style when he rifled a 30-yard strike into the roof of the net.

With time almost up, Azerbaijan defender Magomed Mirzabekov hit the post and Germany’s Matthias Ginter cleared a shot off the line.

AFP

Mikel, Ighalo, Others Arrive In Eagles Camp

Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi, Odion Ighalo, Leon Balogun and William Troost Ekong have arrived in camp ahead of Saturday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Zambia.

Other players who have made it to the camp in Uyo are Israel-based duo of John Ogu and Anthony Nwakaeme, Elderson Echiejile, Oghenekaro Etebo, Ikechuchukwu Ezenwa, Dele Ajiboye, Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, Shehu Abdulahi, Mikel Agu and Odion Ighalo.

Two players on the stand by list, Afeez Aremu and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi are also in camp.

The players led by coach Gernot Rohr will have their first training session on later today.

South Africa, Senegal To Replay World Cup Qualifier In November

Football Legends Beat Iraq Team In Basra

The 2018 World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal will be replayed on either November 8 or November 9, the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) said on Friday.

The FSF said FIFA had decided on the possible dates for the rearranged game, with the initial 2-1 South Africa victory on November 12, 2016, having been chalked off after the match was manipulated by referee Joseph Lamptey.

The Ghanaian awarded South Africa a controversial penalty in the original Group D encounter.

Lamptey has since been given a life ban by FIFA for match manipulation.

Burkina Faso and Cape Verde both have six points from four matches in Group D, with Senegal on five and South Africa on one, but with this game in hand.

The match will be played in South Africa only two or three days after the reverse fixture in Senegal.

AFP

Sweden, Belarus Prepare For World Cup Qualifier

Sweden, Belarus Prepare For World Cup Qualifier

Swedish and Belarussian national teams on Saturday trained ahead of their World Cup qualifier match.

Sweden beat Belarus 4-0 in their home match back in March and followed that result with a 2-1 home defeat of France.

They now lie second in the qualifying group, three points behind France with Belarus second to bottom on five points and one ahead of Luxembourg.

Sweden’s coach Janne Andersson said another defeat would be unthinkable for fans back home, admitting the pressure was on the team to get a good result and bounce back.

“Of course, we clearly understand that currently, Sweden is not very satisfied with our performance during Thursday’s game, with our defeat,” said Andersson.

“And we understand that one more defeat will have a very negative reaction. But in any case, we hope for a good outcome of the match for our team.”

Also, Swedish defender Andreas Granqvist said, “Of course, after the Thursday match, the team is a bit tired and now they are working on getting back in shape.”

“They are trying to do their best to prepare for tomorrow’s match and the entire team hopes for a good outcome.”

On his part, Belarus team coach Igor Kriushenko said his team is preparing harder to ensure they qualify for the world cup.

He said, “(Our goal) is to play well. Sweden is one the of favourites in our group and as any athlete, as any team, we should aspire to be the winner.”

“Of course, that’s what we will be doing and by saying “playing well”, I meant to put up resistance and to try to play rather aggressively, taking into account that we will be playing at home.”

The Belarussian side host their Swedish rivals on Sunday in Borisov Arena in Barysaw, Belarus.

Reuters

World Cup Qualifiers: Okwi Puts Uganda Top Of Group

 

AFCON 2017: Egypt Defeat Burkina Faso In Penalty Shootout To Reach Final

Livewire Emmanuel Okwi scored on 51 minutes to give Uganda a 1-0 victory over Egypt in Kampala on Thursday and top place in a World Cup Africa zone qualifying group.

Tanzania-based Okwi had been a constant menace down the right wing before scoring the only goal on a hot afternoon in the 45,000-seat Mandela National Stadium.

A cross slid off the head of Ugandan Murushid Juuko and dropped at the feet of Okwi just inside the Egyptian box.

He cut inside an Egyptian, took the ball across another, then unleashed a low shot that flew past 44-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary into the far corner of the net.

Victory lifted Uganda, who have never qualified for a World Cup, to seven points in Group E. Egypt have six, Ghana one and Congo Brazzaville none.

Ghana host Congo Friday in Kumasi and maximum points for the “Black Stars” will bring them back into contention for a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance.

Only the five Africa zone group winners qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah had two great chances to equalise after Egypt fell behind.

His close-range header off a cross was magnificently parried by Uganda goalkeeper and 2016 Africa-based Footballer of the Year Denis Onyango.

The loose ball fell in front of Mahmoud “Kahraba” Abdel Moneim, but he was unable to control it and fired over.

Six minutes into stoppage time and opportunity knocked again for Salah, who has scored twice for Liverpool in three English Premier League matches this season.

Onyango failed to cut off a corner and Salah connected with the ball at the far post only for the goal-bound shot to rebound off the back of team-mate Ahmed Hegazy.

Salah and West Bromwich Albion defender Hegazy were among four Premier League footballers on show.

Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny also started and Stoke City winger Ramadan Sobhy was introduced at half-time by Argentine coach Hector Cuper.

In Conakry, Alkhaly Bangoura scored in stoppage time to give Guinea a dramatic 3-2 victory over fellow strugglers Libya in a must-win Group A match for both teams.

Leading by two goals from midway through the first half, the Guineans were rocked when Libya netted twice within a minute in the closing stages to equalise.

The first Guinean goal was scored by Naby Keita, who agreed this week to join Liverpool from RB Leipzig for the 2018-2019 season.

Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who meet Friday in Rades, share the lead with six points, Guinea have three and Libya none.

There are five qualifiers scheduled for Friday, including Nigeria hosting Africa Cup of Nations title-holders Cameroon in a top-of-the-table Group B clash.

AFP

FIFA Fixes Dates For Nigeria, Cameroun World Cup Qualifiers

World football governing body FIFA has set dates for the double-headers of the 2018 World Cup qualifying games between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun.

In the schedule released by the world football governing body, the Super Eagles will host the current African champions on Thursday, August 31 in Uyo and then visit the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde on Monday, September 4 for the return leg.

Three-time AFCON winners, Nigeria currently lead Group B of the qualifying round with six points. Cameroun are second with two points while Zambia and Algeria have one point each.

FIFA ranking, Super Eagles

In June, Former Nigerian national team goalkeeper Dosu Joseph urged the technical crew to invite some experienced players to join the squad in order to develop the new players.

“I will only advise the technical crew to please bring in the few experienced players, we need the young ones too but they need to learn from the experienced ones. I think with that they will be able to win games too,” he said after the Super Eagles were defeated by Bafana Bafana of South Africa.

The former goalkeeper asked the Eagles to redeem their pride by defeating Cameroon during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier in August.

Rohr Frees Super Eagles From London Camp

Gernot-Rohr
Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Genot Rohr

Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Genot Rohr, has freed all invited players following the end of the team’s international break in London.

Rohr said the 10 days of camping and training has enabled the technical crew to see new and young players that could be part of his team in future.

The Super Eagles played 1-1 draw against the Teranga Lions of Senegal and also a test match between Super Eagles Team A and Team B ended in a 1-1 draw.

The games were oraganised to keep the team in shape ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa and the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Cameroon.

Dalung Says VOA Interview Was Edited Out of Context

solomon-dalungNigeria’s Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, has cleared the air on his interview with the Voice of America, Hausa Service where he was reported to have said the Super Eagles do not need to attend the 2018 World Cup since they can’t win the trophy.

Mr Dalung said that the interview which he granted four months ago was misinterpreted, insisting  he has total confidence in the team to pick the sole tick in their group for Russia 2018.

He said that the interview was edited midway into a more comprehensive conversation and the act has sent a misconception about his commitment to the ongoing World Cup campaign.

“The statement was taken out of context. It was part of a comprehensive interview I granted four months ago when I was reacting to the status of African nations in global competitions and also football administration globally. Where do we stand?

“The question also was that whether Nigeria or any African country is likely going to host the World Cup. My reaction was what was captured.

“Unfortunately, the interview did not avail those who listened the complete narrative so that they can benefit from the background with which the response was taken,” he explained.

He maintained that the Nigerian government and the Ministry of Sport remain committed to ensuring that Nigeria re-positions itself as a global player in football and lead other African countries to the top of the game.

He urged Nigerians to support the Super Eagles to ensure that they do not lose the momentum that is in their favour in the 2018 World Cup qualifying series.

He added that his selfless contributions so far in Super Eagles’s quest for qualification, particularly ahead of the away win in Zambia, contradicts the impression that he was not in support of the team.

Arsenal’s Sanchez Picks Up Muscle Injury On Chile Duty

Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez, ChileArsenal’s Alexis Sanchez has suffered a “low grade muscle injury” while on international duty with Chile.

The injury has led to the exclusion of the 27-year-old from Chile’s squad for Thursday’s World Cup qualifier in Colombia.

The country’s medical team disclosed in a statement that Sanchez could return for the home game against Uruguay next Tuesday.

“He will remain in Santiago, under treatment and in evaluation for the meeting against Uruguay,” they said.

The former Barcelona player has scored eight goals for Arsenal in the current English Premier League season.

He played the whole 90 minutes of Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium.

Rohr Wants Super Eagles To Stay Focused

Rohr Wants Super Eagles To Stay FocusedSuper Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, is not getting carried away with the form of his players ahead of the game against Algeria.

He wants the players to stay grounded despite their winning start in their World Cup qualifiers.

A win against the Algerians in Uyo will put the three-time African kings in good position to reach Russia 2018.

While acknowledging Nigeria’s confidence, the German insisted that there is still plenty of work to do before facing the North African giants.

Super Eagles players Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi, Daniel Akpeyi, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Musa Muhammed, Onazi Ogenyi and Odion Ighalo are the early birds in the team camp head of the 2018 World Cup qualifier on Saturday, November 12.

The coaching crew are confident that the bulk of the 23-man squad will be in camp by Tuesday night as the former African champions begin training on Wednesday morning.

The team will train twice daily in Abuja before heading to Uyo, Akwa Ibom state venue of the game against Algeria on Thursday.

The Super Eagles are top of Group B with three points after they beat Zambia 2-1 in Ndola last month and Algeria were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Cameroon.

World Cup Qualifier: 20 Super Eagles Players In Camp

Super Eagles, World cup qualifierLeicester City forward Ahmed Musa, Brown Ideye and Godwin Obaje are the only players that are being expected at the Abuja training camp of the Super Eagles.

The team media officer, Toyin Ibitoye told Channels Television that the players will join the rest of the team by Tuesday.

A total of 20 players were involved in the team’s training session on Tuesday morning at the Abuja national stadium.

Meanwhile, the team will now leave for Zambia on Saturday morning instead of Friday that was scheduled for their departure.

The World Cup qualifier against Zambia will be played on Sunday from 1.30pm Nigerian time.