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Calabar Bubbles As Eaglets Hosts KoreaU-17 World Cup Q/Final

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Calabar, the Cross Rivers State Capital, is currently bubbing as the U.J. Esuene Stadium today hosts the crucial quarter final match between Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets and their Korean counterparts by 7.00 pm local time, in one of the two matches scheduled for today at the on-going FIFA Under – 17 World Cup.

Spain will take on Uruguary in the other match.

Before leaving her Abuja base for the encounter, the Eaglets coach, John Obuh had expressed confidence and assured Nigerians that his boys would not only beat the Asians, but also retain the trophy they won two years ago in Korea.

The question on the minds of close watchers is whether they can really do it, following their performances in this 13th edition of the championship?

It was a shaky start for the Nigerians, they had to come from three goals down against Germany to end the game at 3-3 with such fighting back spirit and determination that deserves commendation and encouragement.

They struggled to beat Honduras 1-0 in their second match in which but for poor marksmanship, they would have won by a wider goal margin. The Eaglets faced the same problem in their last group match against the Argentines who they beat 2-1, but one sure thing was that their pattern of play improved with each match.

With six points, the baby Eagles emerged winners of their group and so staged back in Abuja to host New Zealand, which had been quite impressive in their own group, beating world powers, Brazil on their way to the last 16 stage.

It was thus surprising that the Europeans fell by a whoopping 5-0 to the Eaglets at the end of 90 minutes, but not only did their coach accept the defeat, it was glaring that New Zealand was no match for the Nigerians as the defending champions dominated the game from start to finish, with an apparent hunger for goals all through.

It thus did not require a soothsayer to say that this final set of Eaglets were ready to fly really high to the apex of the championship.

Home advantage may also be an added advanatage for the Eaglets, though some sports analyst say it does not really matter when it comes to competitions like this.

Contrarily , this is not totally correct, when one considers, for instance, that England won their only World Cup when they hosted the world in 1966. South Korea, which is not recognised as a football power played semifinal when the country hosted in 2002.

Also, little known Burkina Faso, before now went as far as the semifinals of the Africa Nations Cup as host in 1998. So, it would still be a courage to the Eaglets playing on their soil.

Besides, records have also shown that Nigeria is the second best to Brazil globally and the best in Africa when it comes to football at this level having won the trophy three times, all in Asian countries, (1985 in China, 1993 in Japan and 2007 in Korea). The Eaglets were also semi finalists in 1987 and have played in several quarterfinals.

On paper, it is easy to give today’s match to the Eaglets, but modern football has gone beyond big names and the days of underdogs. Ask France what little known Senegal did to them in their opening match at the Japan/Korea 2002 World Cup as defending champions.

The Koreans have also proved that they are not on a jamboree in this World Cup judging by the manner in which they sailed through the group stage, capping their effort with a 5-3 win over more favoured Mexcio via penalty  shoot-out after full and extra time ended 1-1 at the group of 16 stage.

Moreover, coach of the Koreans, Kwang Jong Lee, has declared that his team has resolved to give Nigeria the fight of their life.

“Having come this far, my team cannot afford to allow themselves to be cowed by any team, no matter how highly rated and favoured.”

No doubt today’s game promises to be explosive and thrilling knowing that the Koreans also have the never give-up spirit in them, as well as determination and good teamwork which they have demonstrated in their previous games.

But 90 minutes, or, at worst, 120 minutes must determine a victor and a vanquished. Just as Nigerians would be backing the Eaglets all the way, the Koreans will have same, albeit in a less physical manner.

One thing is, however, certain, players of both teams will be prepared to do anything to be in the semi- final.

Tonye Orabere

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Athletics: Okagbare Begins Preparation For Tokyo 2020

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Blessing Okagbare, yesterday started her preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the National Trials.
The opening day of the Tokyo 2020 National Trials will see Okagbare competing in the 100m against highly rated Grace Nwokocha
Okagbare, the 8th time national champions is the favourite to win the event again, but Grace Nwokocha remains one of her biggest threats.
The American-based track queen won the championship from 2009 to 2014 and returned to win the 2016 edition after missing out in 2015.
Despite her qualification for the Olympics, Okagbare will be hoping to continue her winning streak and go to the Olympics in high spirits.
Apart from the 100m finals expected to take place in the afternoon, there will be shotput men final with all eyes on  Chukwuebuka Enekwechi.

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LAA Holds Lucrative Track Meet, Next Week

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The Lagos State Athletics Association has announced it would be holding a lucrative Athletics Meet on Thursday, June 24, 2021, at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
Yussuf Alli, who is the Meet Director for the Lagos Open Athletics Championship, made the disclosure on Wednes-day even as he revealed that arrangements were in top gear to have an elite cast of athletes in the one-day meet.
According to Alli, the Lagos Open Athletics Championship will simultaneously serve as a qualifying window for the Tokyo Olympics as well as a preparatory event for athletes that have already qualified for the sporting showpiece.
“This is another fantastic window for those seeking to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics as well as those seeking quality competition to stay in shape for the Olympics,” Alli said.
“The Lagos State Athletics Association, which is one of the most vibrant in the country, is out to organise a world-class event that would be the talk of the town as we count down to Tokyo,”  he added.
The list of events to be competed for at the Lagos Open Athletics Championship include, the 5,000 meters, 400 meters hurdles, 100 meters, 800 meters, 400 meters and 100 meters.
There would also be quality action in the 4×100 meters open, 4×100 meters open and 4×400 meters mixed relay.
Long jump, High jump, Triple jump, Shot put as well as  4×100 secondary schools relay and 4×100 secondary schools relay have all been pencilled down for the maiden Lagos Open Athletics Champion-ship.
Organisers have assured that the top three finishers across all the events will receive handsome prizes for their efforts.

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S’ Falcons Bow To World Champions

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The Super Falcons of Nigeria lost 2-0 to world champions, USA, in their final Group game at the 2021 Summer Series in Texas, USA.
The result means the African champions failed to win any of their three matches at the invitational tourna-ment, drawing one and losing the other two.
Kristen Press gave the Americans the lead on the stroke of half time, and before Lyn Williams killed Falcons hope of getting a draw with the second goal on the dot of 90 minutes.
With the victory, the world number one has now gone 42 games without tasting a defeat .As for the Falcons, the aim of participating in the Summer Series was to prepare them for a crucial 2022 African Women’s Champion-ship eliminator against perennial rivals, Ghana in October.
The African Women’s Championship will serve as qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

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