Resurgent Senegal boasts one of the most potent attacks at the 2012 CAF African Cup of Nations and a first title could well be within their grasp.
After losing a penalty shoot-out to Cameroon in the 2002 Bamako final, the Teranga Lions gradually fell away and did not even qualify for the previous tournament in Angola two years ago, but after several coaching changes appear to be on pace to challenge for the African title.
Amara Traore has taken post as head coach and rebuilt the team around the likes of Moussa Sow, Mamadou Niang, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba. Sow was the leading scorer in Ligue 1 last season and also helped Lille to a league and cup crown. Cisse, meanwhile, finished second in scoring in the Bundesliga.
Although Niang may have entered the autumn of his career at Asian champions Al-Sadd after spells in France and Turkey, he was the leading Senegalese marksman in the qualifiers with five goals, including a hat-trick away to Congo DR.
But the man of the moment is Newcastle United darling Ba, whose English Premier League goal against defending champions Manchester United last week was a lesson in simplicity, positioning, skill and raw, unstoppable power.
A long clearance, a flick-on, and Ba struck with a volley that flew into the net to open the scoring in a memorable 3-1 triumph for the Magpies amid the electric St James’ Park atmosphere.
The physically imposing 26-year-old is the second highest scorer in the Premier League this season with 15 goals, just two less than Robin van Persie of Arsenal, but two more than United’s Wayne Rooney.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew rates the footballer who operated in France, Belgium and Germany before moving to West Ham last year among the top four or five Premier League strikers. “His biggest asset is his personality. Demba is a winner. I have given him two or three different roles and he has done them all to the best of his ability,” said Pardew.
Ba oozes pride as he talks about his Senegalese team-mates: “I just love these guys. They are good on and off the field. Training camps are intense, but great fun because we behave like brothers.”
Strikers alone cannot assure Senegal of winning the continental showpiece, and France-based pair Kader Mangane and Souleymane Diawara marshal a defence that have kept five clean sheets in six qualifying matches, including two against a Cameroonian attack spearheaded by Samuel Eto’o.
Topping co-hosts Equatorial Guinea, Libya and Zambia and winning Group A is imperative for the Lions as this would set up a likely quarter-final clash with Angola or Burkina Faso. A second-place finish in their pool could set up for an earlier than hoped match against Côte d’Ivoire.
Zambia are first up on 21 January for the Senegalese in round five of an enduring African Cup of Nations rivalry that has seen each country win once and draw twice, followed by Equatorial Guinea and Libya.
Athletics: Okagbare Begins Preparation For Tokyo 2020
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.
LAA Holds Lucrative Track Meet, Next Week
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.
S’ Falcons Bow To World Champions
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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