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CHAN: Chikatara, Usman, Kalu To Start Against Tunisia

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Hat-trick hero Chisom
Chikatara, midfielder Usman Mohammed and defender Orji Kalu have pushed for starting shirts with Nigeria’s Super Eagles at the CHAN on the strength of their displays against Niger, officials have disclosed.
Chikatara came off the bench in the 58th minute to replace the hugely ineffective Tunde Adeniji and he showed his class with three well-taken goals and could even have scored more against Mena.
He has done more than enough to lead the Eagles strike force against Tunisia on Friday afternoon.
Usman Mohammed did more in the 20 minutes he was on the pitch than the older and more experienced Bartholomew ‘Mosquito’ Ibenegbu produced in 70 minutes.
“‘Mosquito’ was far apart from the two defensive midfielders, Paul Onobi and Ifeanyi Matthew. He could not thread a through pass to the attack, he did not follow the tactical instructions,” said one official.
Jamiu Alimi was outstanding in the team’s training camp in South Africa, but he was a nervous wreck in the heart of the defence against Niger on Monday so much so that he bagged a booking after a late reaction and he was promptly hauled off after just 16 minutes.
And his replacement Orji Kalu came in to post a solid display in central defence, a position he plays for his club Enugu Rangers, even though the Eagles have used him in right back.
With the return from suspension of Austin Obaroakpo, it is left to be seen whether coach Sunday Oliseh will stick with the new central defence pairing of Kalu and Stephen Eze or get Obaroakpo back in the deep end right away against Tunisia on Friday.
Meanwhile Kano Pillars have said that Nigeria CHAN hero Chisom Chikatara has given them his word he will sign for them in the new season should he still be in the domestic league by then.
Abia Warriors striker  Chikatara, 21, announced his emergency on the international  stage on Monday when he came off the bench to fire in three goals for Nigeria to beat Niger 4-1 and get off to winning start at CHAN 2016.
“We have not signed any contract papers with Chikatara, but he has given us his word that Kano Pillars is the club he will play for next session if by then his is still playing in the league”, Pillars spokesman Idris Mlikawa disclosed.
“He approached us and he said he would love to play for us”.
Last year, ‘Kolanut boy’ Chikatara had trials in Switzerland but Abia Warriors said the offer was too poor to consider.
Last season, Christian Obiozor joined Pillars after he scored the winner for Nigeria against Zimbabwe in a third place match at the 2014 CHAN in South Africa.
However, midway through the campaign the big striker opted to quit the four-time league champions.

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European Clubs Distasteful, Disrespectful Over Afcon – Ikeme

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Former Nigeria goalkeeper Carl Ikeme has described the reaction of European clubs to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations as distasteful.
Ikeme, who made 10 appearances for the Super Eagles before his early retirement in 2018, weighed in on the issue of releasing players for the tournament during the European season and he described it as disrespectful to African football.
The former Wolverhampton Wanderers star believes the foremost African football competition is just as important as the European Championship and that players derive joy in representing their countries in a major event like Afcon.
“I don’t think it is professional, I think it is distasteful. I don’t think it helps the reputation of African football, I think it is disrespectful,” Ikeme told Tidesports source.
“Whether you are playing for England, Spain, Nigeria or Egypt, there is no difference. These players find pride in wearing their national team jerseys.
“When I was playing, it was the biggest honour I had in my career, playing for my national team and nothing can be compared to it.
“To think any player who is looking at Afcon as a burden is wrong because they love representing their countries, as you can see when Iheanacho scored Nigeria’s goal against Egypt, how Nigerians in Cameroon celebrated.

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AFCON 2021: ‘Good Times Are Back For Nigeria’

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Good times are back for the Super Eagles declared Nigerian legend Jay Jay Okocha after the team wrapped-up their Group D campaign with a perfect record on Wednesday.
Nigeria made it three-out-of-three following a 2-0 win over Guinea Bissau on Wednesday to see the two-time AFCON champions march on to the last 16 with a 100 percent record after topping Group D on 9 points, scoring 6 goals and conceding just one in the process.
Okocha said it was even more gratifying to see Nigeria coach Augustine Eguavoen make a massive eight changes in Wednesday’s game.
The highlight saw striker Sadqi Umar score in his first AFCON start when he netted the opening goal in the 56th minute before Nigeria captain William Ekong wrapped-up the match in the 79th minute.
“He has got a great team of not just eleven good players but also twenty-something good players that he can rely on,” Okocha stated.
“There is nothing better for the coach than giving a player a chance and him paying you back by restoring his confidence in you.
“I think it is good to see that we are flying high but the game today is gone, the most important one is the next one and we can only justify our performances so far if we go on and win the next one.”
Nigeria returns to action this Sunday and await the best third place finisher from yesterday’s night’s tight Group E and F encounter’s.
“So every next game is the toughest one for you and the one you have to win,” Okocha said.
“I hope we will carry on the good job that we are doing so far.”

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Nigeria, Egypt Tipped For AFCON 2021 Title

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Sudan coach Burhan Tia has tipped Nigeria for a long run at the Africa Cup of Nations following the Super Eagles’ strong group-stage campaign.
The Falcons of Jediane were defeated by both the West African giants and Egypt’s Pharaohs during their brief stint in the competition, and has seen enough from both sides to expect great things from them in the fixtures to come.
“Could Egypt or Nigeria be champions?” Tia asked rhetorically. “Both teams are very good and both played good football in the group.
“They are two teams who could go very far in the competition.”
The Super Eagles faced off with Sudan in their second group match, having dispatched Egypt 1-0 in their opener.
The result was a 3-1 triumph for Augustine Eguavoen’s men, with Samuel Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi and Moses Simon netting the goals to confirm Nigeria’s passage to the Last 16.
The West African giants subsequently downed Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in their final group game on Wednesday to ensure they reach the knockout stages as the only team in the tournament with a 100-percent record.
It’s the first time since 2006 that Nigeria has navigated a Nations Cup group stage with maximum points, fuelling expectation that the West African giants can go the distance in the tournament for the first time since 2013.
Sudan’s campaign ended with a narrow 1-0 defeat by an unconvincing Egypt side in Yaounde on Wednesday, although coach Tia was downhearted with his side’s performance.
“We were concentrated on our game and we did as much as possible to see to it that we could put up a good fight,” he continued. “It wasn’t perfect but we tried our best.”
Ex-Al-Merreikh boss Tia was not happy with the mistakes his team made as they tried to keep their North African rivals at bay in the Nile Derby, but believes his side can hold their head high as they exit the competition.
“We played our game as much as we should have, we played quite well but I think that we had a number of mistakes as far as our players are concerned,” he concluded. “We will get better and we will try as much as possible to try and correct our mistakes.
“It was possible for us not to make them, but it was an important game for us, and we made effort and tried our best.

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