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Africa’s Strongest, Weakest Points In World Cup Participation

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If  South Africans had wanted an omen in the run-up to yesterday’s opening clash against Mexico, they can take heart from the most tenuous of facts – that every time an African team has contested the World Cup opener, they have not only won it, but also made it to the quarter-finals.

Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002 are the two major highlights of Africa’s World Cup adventure, but what about the rest?

And what about the lowlights? Here are some of African highs and lows in the Mundial.

TOP 10 HIGHS:

The 1966 boycott: One of the highs was, at the time, a considerable low. With Africa awarded half a place at the World Cup by an intractable FIFA, the continent boycotted the 1966 finals. The drastic protest worked as Africa received its own berth for 1970.

Tunisia 1978: Nearly 50 years after Africa first participated in the World Cup, the continent recorded its first victory as Tunisia beat Mexico 3-1 in Rosario (although the Carthage Eagles haven’t won at the World Cup since).

Algeria 1982: Shocks had already rocked the World Cup but no one expected first-timers Algeria to beat the European champions.

Rabah Madjer opened the scoring, West German captain Karl-Heinz Rummenigge levelled, leaving it to the great Lakdar Belloumi to seal a late victory. “Germany had very good players but we also had a great team, with lots of experience and talent,” says Madjer.

Morocco 1986: The Atlas Lions continued North Africa’s pioneering World Cup role when becoming the first Africans into the second round. “Nobody could believe what we’d done because we were taking on Poland, England and Portugal,” says goalkeeper Badu Zaki, whose team topped the group unbeaten. “I think our performances persuaded FIFA that Africa deserved more places at the World Cup.”

Cameroon 1990: The Indomitable Lions’ Italian adventure is Africa’s proudest World Cup memory – headlined by Roger Milla’s goals and wiggling hips. Sub-Saharan Africa announced it could be a football power when Francois Omam-Biyik’s prodigious leap sunk defending champions Argentina 1-0.

Wins over Romania and Colombia followed and in the quarters, Thomas N’Kono, Cyrille Makanaky and co. were just seven minutes away from beating England. No African side has ever been so close to the semi-finals.

Roger Milla: Milla made his mark in 1990 but furthered a personal milestone when netting against Russia at USA ’94. The forward had reset the oldest goalscorer mark at 42 years – a World Cup record that will surely never be broken.

Nigeria 1994: Packing power and flair, the Super Eagles routed Bulgaria 3-0 – Rashidi Yekini pumping his fists through the net in celebration – while Daniel Amokachi netted a screamer against Greece.

Nigeria were then two minutes from the quarter-finals until ten-man Italy equalised. “It’s a shame we didn’t realise how good we were, as we lacked experience,” says Jay-Jay Okocha. “But 1994 helped us win the 1996 Olympics.”

Nigeria 1998: The Super Eagles are the only African side to twice reach the knock-outs. The highlight here was the 3-2 win over Spain, lit up by Sunday Oliseh’s sweet 25-yard half-volley. Okocha was also in sublime form, dazzling with his tricks and flicks.

Senegal 2002: Lightning struck twice as an unfancied African side defeated the reigning champions 1-0 in the opening game – Senegal’s humbling of former colonialists France inspired by El Hadji Diouf’s thrilling display.

Draws with Denmark and Uruguay, and a knock-out defeat of Sweden, took the Teranga Lions into the quarters, where they lost to Turkey. “The only game we prepared for like people wanted us to – having lunch, staying in your room, looking at the ceiling etc. – was the one we lost because mentally we’d already played the game,” laments midfielder Salif Diao.

FIFA’s Rotation Policy: 15 March 2001 was one of African football’s most momentous days for FIFA, who had decided to rotate the World Cup the year before, chose the continent to start the new system in 2010. Of course, 15 May 2004 is more celebrated in South Africa as that was the day the World Cup hosts won the bid.

THE LOWS:

Zaire 74: This display was a disaster as the African champions played three and lost three (scoring 0, conceding 14). In addition, Mwepu Ilunga showed scant regard for the rules when kicking away an opponents’ free-kick. He’s since claimed he was trying to get sent off in protest at the federation withholding money from the squad. “I knew the rules very well but the referee was lenient and only gave me a yellow.”

Togo 2006: Bonuses have been the bugbear of many African campaigns but the Hawks took things to a new level when becoming the first team to threaten to boycott a World Cup match.

With the FA refusing to pay the agreed amount, the players were set to sit out the Switzerland tie until FIFA guaranteed them funds. Later on, FIFA fined the Togolese FA for behaviour ‘unworthy of a World Cup participant’.

The ‘Shame of Gijon’, Spain 1982: This setback denied Algeria an historic place in the second round. Since they’d already played, group rivals West Germany and Austria knew a narrow German win in their contest would take both sides through.

After the Germans’ early goal, both sides made little attempt to score – sparking public outcry and FIFA to ensure that all final group ties were played simultaneously from then on. “We were tricked out of qualification but the anger has gone now,” says Madjer.

The Big-Name Absences: Africans decry the failure of Liberia’s George Weah, Ghana’s Abedi Pele and Mali’s Salif Keita. On this occasion, many fans were also dismayed by the absence of a team, six-time African champions Egypt, meaning Ahmed Hassan and Mohamed Aboutreika would be sorely missed.

The Quarter-Final Barrier: Despite winning the U17 World Cup, the U20 World Cup and the Olympic Games, Africa has never won the World Cup – nor reached the last four. Can the continent’s first World Cup rewrite history?

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Rivers United Know Confed Cup Foes, Dec 12

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The Confederation of African Football has fixed December 12 for the group stage draws of the Champions League and the Confederation Cup, Tidesports can confirm.
Group stage draws for both interclub competitions were initially slated for November 16, but CAF announced a postponement via its website, a day before the event.
The draws will now be held almost a month after the initial date, as confirmed by Africa’s football governing body.
“The Group Stage draw for the 2022/23 TotalEnergies CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup will be conducted on Monday 12 December 2022 in Cairo, Egypt.
“The TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup will be live from 13h00 (11h00 GMT) followed by TotalEnergies CAF Champions League at 14h00 (12h00 GMT).
“Both draws will be live on CAF digital platforms and also CAF TV partners,” CAF wrote on its website.
With the development, it means Nigeria Professional Football League side, Rivers United, will find out its group opponents in the Confederation Cup Dec 12.
The media officer of the club, Charles Mayuku, also confirmed that the new date has been communicated.
“CAFCC: @Rivers United FC to Know Foes December 12th. The group stage draw was initially fixed for November 16th but had to be postponed due to some reasons.
“According to the update coming from CAF, December 12th has been fixed for the draw at its headquarters in Cairo, Egypt,” Mayuku tweeted on his official Twitter handle
Since scaling the hurdle of Al Nasr Benghazi in Libya, the club has been training at the Adokiye Amesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, while also looking forward to the money-spinning stage of the competition.
Rivers United are in the running for the second-tier competition with 15 other clubs.

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Cricket: Nigeria Team Arrives Rwanda For W/Cup Qualifier

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Nigeria’s men’s senior cricket team, the Yellow Greens, has arrived Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, for the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 Africa Sub Region B World Cup qualifier yesterday.
The team arrived Rwanda via Zimbabwe, where they embarked on a week-long training tour with four warm-up games against the Midwest Rhinos cricket club in Kwekwe. Nigeria won the series 3-1.
It began with a 122 to 126 runs loss in the first game, before the Yellows Greens followed it up with comprehensive wins in the last three games, edging Rhinos by 102-59, 82-39 and a 112-111 runs.
National coach, Clive Ogbimi, expressed optimism about the impact of the training tour on the players.
“We selected a team of international standard for the tour and the chaps have learnt a lot, especially in the areas of fielding and organising play.
“You will notice that in four games, Nigeria batted first and we didn’t get last 125 runs. It shows that a little more is to be done, regarding the batting. We start well, and we must be able to finish well.
“On the other side, the batters will have to show tremendous belief in their abilities and Coach Steve and I have always emphasised that as well. Putting all of that together, we had brilliant performances from the players to win the nervy games and we hope to go to Rwanda with that winning momentum,” Ogbimi said.
Upon the arrival of all teams today, technical meetings will follow Wednesday, while actions will begin on Thursday with four games per day till December 9.

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21st NSF: RSG Tasks Team Rivers To Win As Opening Ceremony Takes Place, Today

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Today, Asaba, the capital city of Delta State  will be at the center stage in Nigeria as President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to declare  the 21st National Sports Festival (NSF) open at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba.
Before Team Rivers left her base yesterday, the State Government has charged athletes to put up impressive performance as the State Government is expecting nothing less than top position at the festival.
The State Commissioner for Sports, Barrister Christopher Green gave the charge yesterday, while addressing athletes in Port Harcourt, saying that he had no doubt that his athletes will perform credibly.
According to him, Team Rivers athletes have the potentials to top the medals table because  there was adequate preparations and motivations for the festival .
“What His Excellency Governor Nyesom Wike is  expecting is nothing less than first position because he has released funds for the Festival.
“ As I speak, no athlete in the State is being owed one dime, all camp allowances and other payments due athletes have been paid, consequently, what we  expect in return was  to  the win the festival and make the state proud”, Barrister Green said.
Earlier, the Commissioner had said at different fora that he was poised to develop sports in the State in all ramifications, saying that no good athlete in the State will die in penury.
”As a Commissioner I will ensu re that I develop other Sports and not only football. Let me also say it here I am not commissioner for football, but I am commissioner for Sports.
“You all are aware that our Governor is a sports loving person, that is why he gave Sports deveploment priority and he was awarded  the Power of Sports Africa (POS Africa) award”;  he stated.
General Yakubu Gowon, initiated the National Sports Festival in 1973 as a platform to bring together youths from all parts of the country to compete, using sports as a tool to achieve national healing after the brutal 30-month civil war.
He saw the sports festival as a rallying point for national unity and cultural integration. It was named the Unity Games.
The maiden edition of the NSF took place in 1973 at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.

By: Tonye Orabere

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