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2010 Nations Cup: Can Angola Maintain Host Countries’ Tradition?

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Goal.com’s James Momanyi looks at the chances of host nation Angola in the forthcoming 2010 African Cup of Nations.

Since the first African Cup of Nations tournament was held in Sudan in 1957, host countries have failed to reach at least the semi-finals on only four occasions. In 1976, hosts Ethiopia were eliminated  and knocked out in the first of two group stages. Morocco were the eventual winners after humbling Guinea in the final game. Nigeria and Egypt were the other semi-finalists.

In 1984, 1992 and 1994 the host countries again failed to make the last four. In the 26 previous stagings, the hosts have won the tournament 11 times, whilst two further home sides have been beaten finalists.

This impressive performance by the host countries begs the question; how far will this year’s hosts, Angola, go in the tournament which kicks off next Sunday? The Palancas Negras’ (Black Antelopes) past history in international tournaments can partly answer the question. They have qualified once for the World Cup, in 2006, but didn’t make it past the group stage. They have qualified four times for the continent’s premier tournament, but have never advanced beyond the quarter-final spot they achieved in the last tournament in Ghana.

If their performance at the continental or world football stage is a consideration, then Angola has a mountain to climb before making any historical imprint by the end of the 2010 CAN competition. Apart from shutting Nigeria out in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers, the Black Antelopes have been too inconsistent to warrant a place as one of the continent’s elite football teams alongside the likes of Egypt, Cameroon or Nigeria.

Nonetheless, Angola appears ready to spring a surprise in the 27th edition of the games. After being confirmed as the 2010 host, Angola, which had just emerged from a debilitating 27-year civil war, immediately hit the preparation road. Whilst other teams were sweating hard to qualify for the finals, Angola got an automatic qualification and started earlier preparations in earnest by playing in a number of friendlies. They took on both African teams and others from outside the continent, posting some reasonable results on the way.

They beat Togo 2-0 and drew with superior teams like Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon in a string of remarkable performances. On Wednesday, before the Sunday tournament kick-off against Mali, the team will play Estonia in a warm-up friendly on the Portuguese Algarve. With the expected massive home support, Palancas Negras couldn’t have dreamt for a better time to stamp their authority on the continental stage than now.

Already their main Group A opponents Algeria have shown signs of nerves, with claims that the Black Antelopes will reach to the quarters coming out of three game even before a ball has been kicked. Retired Algerian international midfielder Rabah Madjer has predicted that, as the host, Angola will start the tournament in the quarter-finals. “Angola are going to benefit from everyone’s support. Their people and their leaders, even CAF officials, won’t accept a precocious exit of the hosts. Everything will be done so that Angola will get through the group stage,” the veteran reasoned.

The anticipated multi-faceted support notwithstanding, Angola have a squad that can get the job done. Benfica’s Pedro Mantorras is one of the best strikers in the Portuguese league, former Manchester United forward Manucho, who now turns out for Real Valladolid in Spain, is as lethal as the Drogbas or Eto’os of African football. In the rearguard, Dias Caires of Sagrada Esperanca, Jamuana of Petro Atletico and Rui Marques of Leeds United will be expected to hold tight in the defence while Petro Atletico’s Davids, Al Ahli’s Gilberto and Ze Kalanga of Dinamo Bucharest may not be household names, but can close the midfield for opponents whenever duty calls.

When the draw was announced last month, Angola’s coach Manuel Jose told Al Jazeera Sport, “I am satisfied with the draw. It is a balanced group. It will not be easy. All our adversaries are known to be combative. Algeria are with us, and they are doing well currently. Mali will be a difficult competitor. We will try to get one of the first two places to qualify.” Algeria, Mali and Angola are billed as the top contenders for the two places available for qualification to the last eight. The coach may have failed to mention Malawi; but The Flames, who are the group lightweights, may well spring a surprise.

Angola’s opening match against Mali will define their group standing. A win will give them great momentum when they face Malawi in the second match, when a second victory would then guarantee them qualification to the quarters. Achieving this feat doesn’t look too difficult. The Black Antelopes will meet their waterloo at the knockout stage where, depending on the group standings, they will either meet Ivory Coast or Ghana (if they manage to elbow Togo and Burkina Faso, as anticipated). If they manage to jump this elephantine quarter-final obstacle, Angola will likely face Cameroon, Nigeria, Egypt or Tunisia in the semi-finals.

With the World Cup just around the corner, so much is at stake for five teams taking part in the Angola tournament, who will carry the African flag in South Africa together with the host. For players, it will be an opportunity to prove why they should be on a plane heading to South Africa in June. As for the other teams, it will be a chance to build their stature ahead of the global bonanza, and cultivate fear within their opponents.

The pride of being crowned 2010 African champions will bolster the continental elites Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Ivory Coast to ride roughshod over emerging sides like Mali, Gabon and hosts Angola. But these smaller footballing nations are dreaming of upsetting the apple-cart.

As for underdogs like Benin, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Togo, Zambia and Malawi; the obituary books are already out of the closet.

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CAFCC: Rivers United Defeats Al Masry 2-1 In Aba

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Rivers United FC of Port Harcourt, yesterday at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba, saw off Al Masry of Egypt 2-1 in the first leg  of the CAF Confederation Cup, (CAFCC) The pride of Rivers got the early lead in the 24 minutes of the first half by Uche Onwuasonaya while the Egyptian, equalised  three minutes after .
In the 35th minutes, Ishaq Kayode restored United to the lead which was assisted by Malachi Ohawume.
Speaking with Tidesports shortly after the game, the Sole administrator of Rivers United FC, Barrister Christopher Green, described the result as not what they expected.
According to him, they expected the pride of Rivers to have scored more than the two goals but well, they still need to fight back in the second leg.
“ Not what we expected.Well it was a highling contested game.
But we need to fight back in the return leg,” Green said.
Green who is also the Special Adviser to the Rivers State Governor on Real Madrid Football Academy  further explained that, the pride of Rivers will have to fight back to get the ticket to qualify for the group stage of the tournament.

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Why Budweiser Brought Terry, Carlos To Nigeria – Adedeji

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Marketing Director, International Breweries Plc., Tolulope Adedeji, in this interview with newsmen talks about Nigerians’ passion for football and the global impacts of Budweiser Game of Kings, among other sundry issues
Budweiser, the official beer sponsor of the Premier League and Spanish La Liga, understands the love for football by all Nigerians. Football is one of Nigerian’s strongest passions. The love for football goes beyond watching matches to the banter that connects consumers online and offline.
According to Adedeji, every fan believes they know what’s best for their team and always have something to say about managers and coaches’ decisions. The Budweiser Game of Kings aimed to create a unique experience for consumers.
She noted that consumers get to have a say on what happens on the pitch by being the team managers of Kings FC captained by John Terry and Kings FC, captained by Roberto Carlos. And for the first time, both international players played alongside Nigerian Professional Football League players.
As the official beer of the Premier League and Spanish La Liga, the aim was to bring two international football greats from the Premier League and La Liga. And after months of research among football fans in Nigeria, we identified John Terry and Roberto Carlos as two international players who have impacted the Nigerian players and fans over the years and they both formed the perfect duo for the campaign.
She explained that the idea by Budweiser was to use the opportunity to put the Nigerian professional league under the spotlight. We decided to partner with the Nigerian Professional League. Allow our very own professional league players to play alongside the international legends on the same pitch.
She said that the campaign was successful beyond our expectations. Budweiser gained massive media attention and every football lover was excited to be a part of the campaign. Several fans were at the stadium and millions watched the match from their homes on television. The match was broadcast across NTA Network, STV Network and SuperSport Channels on GoTV and DStv. Others also watched online on YouTube and other Budweiser social media platforms.
Budweiser created a first of its kind experience for the Nigerian professional league players and fans with a series of events that they will live to remember for a long time.
“As the official beer of the FIFA World Cup, Premier League and Spanish La Liga, Budweiser’s commitment to creating unique football experiences in Nigeria remains intact and, we are planning something even bigger for the World Cup year in 2022.
“Consumers interested in becoming managers were required to look under the crown cork of Budweiser for the unique code that gives them a chance to participate in the draw to become managers. Successful consumers selected from the draws received invites to audition for the manager position,” she said.
”The audition panel consisted of officials from the National Professional League organising committee. The audition panel, therefore, conducted the interviews to determine the managers.
“Budweiser is committed to consistently bringing consumers new and exciting experiences. To stay in touch, I will suggest you follow our social media pages @BudweiserNigeria.
“Football is one of the platforms that unite the world, and it is a strong passion point of Nigerian consumers. Budweiser is therefore committed to bringing consumers elevated experiences and joy.” She concluded.

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Firm Honours Jonathan With Wrestling Competition, Other Sports

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Renew Empire Group of Companies based in  Republic of Turkey and Bayelsa State, in Nigeria, says it would commemorate former President Goodluck Jonathan’s birthday with a wrestling competition, other sports and cultural displays annually.
Speaking with newsmen in Otuoke, home town of the former president, at the weekend, Managing Director/CEO of the company, Engineer Gospel Obolo identified sports as having the capacity to reduce crime and criminality in the society.
According to him, wrestling is the number one sports in Ijaw-land, adding that no meaningfully engaged youth would take to crime.
“We’ve been planning this event for almost a year now. We decided to take a date which would coincide with the celebration of our icon, former president’s  birthday so as to use these wrestling and the other sporting and cultural activities to commemorate his birthday by drawing the attention of the world.
This is the maiden edition,but we intent to carry out this programme annually.With sports,we can create jobs for our teeming youth and other unemployed citizens of this country,” Engr. Obolo said.
The Tidesports reports that the maiden edition of the event which was tagged, ‘Ibe Onin’ is expected to last for 17 days and has since begun with musical performance by notable artists and mock traditional wrestling trials.
In the same vein,the Paramount ruler of Otuoke, His Royal Highness, Ariwareni Paul(Oke xi) has also described the idea behind the event as unique.
The monarch who spoke through the second deputy paramount ruler of the community, HRH Mirobebh Dogood Akpufu decried the spate of youth restiveness in the area, saying that  an event of this magnitude would not only curb youth restiveness, but can also create jobs for youths.
He commended the organisers for the feat, just as he noted that Bayelsa was blessed with abundant talents and tourism potentials waiting to be harnessed for the economic advantage.

By: Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa

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