The Ivory Coast and Egypt will rekindle their rivalry at the Africa Cup of Nations with a Round of 16 meeting at the Japoma Stadium in Douala today.
The Elephants and the Pharaohs had two iconic meetings in the latter stages of AFCON tournaments this century: the 2006 final and 2008 semifinal, both of which had Egypt emerge as victors (on penalties after a 0-0 draw and 4-1 respectively).
Yet the North Africans will not enter this clash as favourites after a stuttering showing in Group D, where they only qualified as runners-up behind Nigeria (recording a 1-0 loss to the Super Eagles, followed by 1-0 wins over Guinea-Bissau and Sudan).
One of the Pharaohs’ main problems has been a lack of creativity and efficiency in attack, with star man Mohamed Salah notably short of his best form. Nonetheless, coach Carlos Queiroz has promised an improved showing from their forwards.
“Despite all the pressure they come back [from the defeat to Nigeria]. They play strong, they play good football,” said the Portuguese tactician. “They just need to score more goals. To only play good football is not enough – we need to build up more goals and with that be more relaxed in the game.”
Ivory Coast, meanwhile, were one of the most impressive teams on show in the Group Stage (they topped Group E with an unbeaten record) and are fresh from a big win over a North African heavyweight, trouncing Algeria 3-1 last week to end their reign as AFCON champions.
Coach Patrice Beaumelle insists his side still has vulnerabilities that need addressing, “the goal we conceded [against Algeria] shows our fragility”, but feels “a soul in the team”.
“I’m satisfied with that,” he added. “There is individual talent, but also collective talent.”
In head-to-head stats, Ivory Coast and Egypt have met in 21 matches across all competitions since their first clash back in 1970. The Pharaohs have claimed 11 wins compared to seven for the Elephants, while three games have been drawn.
The teams last met in an international friendly in Abu Dhabi in January 2013 which ended in a 4-2 win for the Ivory Coast, thanks to goals from Gervinho (two), Lacina Traore and Didier Ya Konan.
Mali and Equatorial Guinea will battle for the last Africa Cup of Nations Quarterfinal berth when they meet at the Limbe Stadium this evening.
Mali comes into this clash as the favourite after a fine Group F campaign in which they finished top of the standings ahead of impressive debutants Gambia (who also ended unbeaten and with seven points), Tunisia and Mauritania.
Coach Mohamed Magassouba is taking nothing for granted against Equatorial Guinea, as the Eagles chase a first-ever AFCON title (their best showings have been runners-up in 1972, as well as third-place finishers in 2012 and 2013).
“It is true that this competition is very high [of a high standard]. We made a very good start against Tunisia, the big engine of African football, then hung by Gambia which is also very catchy, tenacious and fast,” said the Mali boss.
“And we finished ahead of Mauritania, who are a very good team as well and were looking to finish on a very good note naturally. For us [at this] competition, we always manage all the games with the same state of mind and we put ourselves in mind that all the games are equal.
“Anyway in this AFCON, you have found that all nations are fighting and everyone is favourite, we are taking on our role and we are working to get there.”
Equatorial Guinea, meanwhile, have been one of the main narrative drivers at this AFCON, earning their spot in the knockout rounds thanks to wins over defending champions Algeria and Sierra Leone (which saw them finish second in Group E behind Ivory Coast).
Nzalang Nacional are very much outsiders for this clash, but coach Juan Micha Obiang is hopeful his side maintain the underdog attitude which has served them so well thus far at the AFCON.
“When you qualify for the second round of a competition, you are naturally happy,” said the Equatorial Guinea coach. “We had a great game, we knew the game against Sierra Leone was going to be difficult, but we prepared accordingly to win the game.
“We know that we are not favourites in this competition, which is why we work every day to achieve good performances.”
In head-to-head stats, Mali and Equatorial Guinea have met in three previous matches, dating back to their first clash in 2009. The Eagles boast a 100 percent record, with a 3-0 win in a friendly in 2009, followed by successive 1-0 wins in March 2016 in qualifying for the following year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
RSFCA Holds Coaching Clinic In PH, Today
The Rivers State Football Coaches Association (RSFCA) has concluded arrangements to organise a coaching clinic tagged: “Continuous Professional Development Coaching (CPD),” aimed at developing football coaches in the state.
Chairman of the local organising committee (LOC), Coach Raphael Akunna revealed that the coaching clinic is being organised in conjunction with Bright Stars Sports Agency United Kingdom which will hold at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium starting from tomorrow, and last for two days.
Wuga Birabe, Co/Director MW Sporting World Limited London, England, United Kingdom and other invited instructors are expected to deliver key note lectures.
Dignitaries expected at the opening ceremony today include Sir Honour Sirawoo (Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Sports and President of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria), Barr Chris Green (Special Adviser to Rivers State Governor on Real Madrid), Mr Benjamin Akubor (RSFA), Sarah Davids (Chairman Sports Writers Association of Nigeria Rivers State), Chairman Nigeria Referee Council Rivers State) and other invited guest.
It would be recalled that the Rivers State Football Coaches Association (RSFCA) has conducted a number of coaching courses over the past three years.
The latest was the NFF/NLO/Berackiah Football Grassroots Coaching Clinic course that took place March 7 – 11, 2022 and attracted about 40 participants
Super Six: Why Nasarawa Walked Over Ratels – Chairperson
Chairperson, Nigeria Women’s Football League, Aisha Falode, says Naija Ratels were walked over at the ongoing NWFL Super Six tourney in Benin City, the Edo State capital, after they failed to respect the sponsorship deal for the event.
New girls Ratels were scheduled to clash against former champions Nasarawa Amazons at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium on Monday before they were walked over.
The NWFL had sealed a N16m sponsorship deal for the championship, with all six teams to wear shirts branded by the sponsors.
But Naija Ratels reportedly flouted the rule book, preferring to wear their own jersey branded by another sponsor.
“We walked them over for flaunting the rule of being the club that has not worn the official jersey. We will work on the fixtures and move on, this is what the rule is all about,” Falode said.
“We told them (clubs) each team would get N1m each, while there would be N5m for the winners, N3m for the runners-up and N2m for the second runners-up, meaning N16m was going back to the league.
“This man (Ratels owner), who just qualified for the league for the first time, who is playing in the Super Six for the first time, has come to disorganise what we have done. We have a responsibility; we have a duty to the organisation and those who appointed us to manage this league.”
Falode added, “If you have a shirt sponsorship, you are supposed to write to the league board and as a matter of fact, a percentage of the sponsorship is supposed to come to us but we are not aware they have any sponsorship deal.
When asked if there would be stiffer punishment aside the walkover, the ace sports journalist added, “one step at a time.”
Also, the NWFL Chief Operating Officer, Modupe Shabi, noted that Paul Edeh, Ratels proprietor, contravened the NWFL Statutes on sponsorship.
“Article 7.8 states that all rights contracts to be entered into by any club shall first is subject to the writing and approval of NWFL, before execution,” she said.
Ban On Basketball Bad For Nigeria – Chairman
The Chairman of Retired Basketball Players in Port Harcourt, Fubara Fibika has said that the ban of basketball in Nigeria from international competition by the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, would cripple the game at the grassroots.
According to him, the best thing to do was to formulate a programme on how to develop the game instead of the ban.
Fibika said this on Monday in an exclusive interview with Tidesports in Port Harcourt, saying that basketball is one of the fastest developing games in the country.
The veteran explained that he has respect for the Sports Minister for his initiative on sports development, but his recent action is not fair at all.
“Bringing politics in Sports will cripple the industry.
What we should think of now is how to promote and develop the game in our locality” Fibika said.
He advised the Sports Minister to rescind his decision, narrating that the ban is not good for the game.
By: Kiadum Edookor
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