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.
Company Seals Kebbi Beach Soccer Deal
WACOT Rice Limited, a member of Tropical General Investments Group, has signed a four-year sponsorship deal with Kebbi Beach Soccer Association.
The Kebbi Beach Club (Kebbi Fishers), owned by the Kebbi Beach Soccer Association, is one of Africa’s foremost beach soccer clubs.
The sponsorship deal with WACOT Rice as the official Food Partner, is a boost for the growth of beach soccer and, ultimately, youth development in Nigeria, WACOT Rice stated.
Last year, WACOT Rice sponsored Kebbi Fishers to the World Winners’Cup in Antalya, Turkey, organised by Beach Soccer Worldwide, the global governing body under FIFA responsible for Beach Soccer.
Commenting on the partnership, Chairman of WACOT Rice, Farouk Gumel, said, “In our operations, we always ensure that we create avenues for the Nigerian youths to thrive. Kebbi Beach Soccer Association, through Kebbi Fishers, has grown and received accolades across the continent. They have put Kebbi on the map. We are immensely proud of them and remain committed to supporting them to grow.”
Also, Chairman, Kebbi Beach Soccer Association, Mahmud Hadejia, lauded WACOT Rice and TGI Group for their support for Kebbi Fishers and commitment to sports development in Nigeria.
Hadejia, who is also President, African Beach Soccer Union and Coordinator, Nigeria Beach Soccer League, said beach soccer in the country had received another boost with the sponsorship from WACOT Rice.
NPFL: Mgt Gives Kwara, Wikki Two-Match Ultimatum
The management of Nigerian Professional Football League clubs Kwara United and Wikki Tourist have handed their respective coaches a two-match ultimatum to overturn their team’s poor run in the NPFL or get sacked, The Tidesports source reports.
This comes after both teams failed to end their winless runs in their match-day four encounters amid disappointing displays.
The Harmony Boys, who are yet to record a win this season after four matches — two defeats and two draws — were thumped 3-0 by Enyimba in Aba on Sunday, just as Wikki were held to a goalless draw at home by newly promoted Doma United at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi.
The result sees both teams languishing in the relegation zone of their respective groups, with Kwara placed 19th in Group A of the NPFL log with two points from their opening four games, while Wikki are rock bottom of Group B with just a point from four games.
The General Manager of Kwara United, Bashir Badawiy, revealed that the management would not tolerate any negative result from the team as they play in the “dangerous” abridged NPFL league.
“The team has no excuse not to perform, going by the commitment of the government, the determination of the management and the sacrifice by the supporters and stakeholders,” Badawiy said.
“And that Is why we have decided to give the team a two-match ultimatum. They should rather perform or give way. We are playing in a dangerous league, the abridged league, and we cannot tolerate this kind of result.”
Kwara United will host former champions Plateau United in their next league game at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan today.
Wikki secretary, Idris Pali, on behalf of the board and the management of the club, also expressed dissatisfaction with the team’s performance since the start of the season.
He added that proper action would be taken if the team did not win their next two games.
Coach Kabiru Dogo faces a daunting task in keeping his job as his next two games are against Group B leaders Rivers United and Enugu Rangers.
“The board members and management of Wikki Tourist have found unsatisfactorily (performance of Wikki), which has led to the decline of the team’s performance. The board has however handed the technical crew a two-match ultimatum to win their next two games or proper action will be taken against you (Dogo) considering the terms of our agreement. I hope he gives us the best going forward.”
U-17 Cup Of Nations Draws Hold Today, In Algeria
The draw ceremony for this year’s Africa U-17 Cup of Nations will hold today at the Cercle Nationale d’Armee in Algiers, Algeria.
Five-time world champions, Nigeria, is one of the 12 countries, whose names will go into the pot for the draw, as all participating teams get to know their group phase opponents for the tournament scheduled for April 8 to 30 in Africa’s largest nation by land mass.
All the 12 participating nations are now known: Algeria, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Somalia, South Sudan, Zambia, South Africa, Cameroon and Congo.
The 12 teams will be drawn into three groups of four teams each, with the four top-placed teams qualifying to represent Africa at this year’s FIFA U-17-World Cup finals taking place in Peru later this year.
Meanwhile, the international friendly match between Nigeria and Zambia at the U-20 boys’ level will now hold at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on February 4.
Initially, both countries’ football-governing bodies had agreed on a two-match tour for January 27 and 30 respectively. But, issues of logistics and the compunction on the Young Chipolopolo to process their entry visas into Egypt for the forthcoming Africa U-20 Cup of Nations before leaving Zambia forced a postponement.
Zambia’s U-20 delegation is still in Lusaka and will now only be able to play one match against the Flying Eagles, before proceeding to Dakar for a game against Senegal on Tuesday next week.
Both Nigeria and Zambia will face a country from the other’s region in Egypt, with Nigeria drawn against Mozambique (alongside host nation Egypt and Senegal) in Group A, while Zambia will face Benin Republic (alongside Tunisia and The Gambia) in Group C. Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo make up Group B.
Seven-time African champions, Nigeria, will fly to Morocco next week for their final round of preparations.
Coach Isah Ladan Bosso’s wards have been in flaming form in recent weeks, lashing a slew of teams in friendly games.
Bosso’s wards were worthy champions of the WAFU B U-20 Championship in Niamey, Niger Republic in May 2022, winning all their five matches in the competition.
By: Tonye Orabere
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