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Elephants, Pharaohs Rekindle Rivalry …As Mali, E’Guinea Battle For ¼ Final Ticket

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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.

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Okowa Lauds Athletes Ahead Olympics Trials

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President, Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Tonobok Okowa, has once again mandated all athletes looking to represent the country at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games to attend the Nigerian Trials, which hold from June 16 to 18 inside the main bowl of Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin-City.
Making his stance clear in Monday’s release by the athletics body, Okowa commended the athletes for their determination to qualify for the Olympics.
He said, “The athletes have shown commitment, determination, and desire to succeed in their careers by picking Olympic qualifications. They deserve our collective appreciation.”
He added, “The athletes would be picked in accordance with their performances at the trials because it would largely determine who goes to Paris for the Olympics.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Edo State Sports Commission, Yusuf Alli, says the state is waiting to welcome athletes for the trials.
He said, “We are the hosts of the national trials, and athletes and spectators are welcome.”
The trials are expected to throw up the best of Nigeria’s athletes based at home and abroad for the Olympic Games in Paris in July.

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Emerging Star Eyes Olympics Place For Nigeria

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Nigerian track and field star, Favour Ofili, has set her sights on the upcoming national Olympics trials after she pulled off a stunning victory in the women’s 100m at the New York Grand Prix, defeating a stellar field that included Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica last Sunday.
The 21-year-old clocked a season-best 11.18secs to take the win, America’s Morolake Akinosun was second in 11.20secs while her compatriot Aleia Hobbs ended in third place in 11.21secs.Thompson-Herah, the Tokyo Olympics 100m and 200m gold medalist, could only manage ninth place in 11.48secs as she continues to search for her best form this season.
“Just like practice, stay calm and just go, finish your transition because that’s the issue, and whatever happens will happen. I wanted to get the standard here and I give God glory for the win,” Ofili told Tidesports source after the race.
“For the trials, stay calm and just do what I know how to do, go back and do some training before I go back home for the national trials.”
The Olympic trials are scheduled to hold in Benin City, Edo State from June 16 to 18. The trials will serve as the selection of the nation’s athletes for both the Senior Africa Athletics Championships, holding between June 21 and 28 in Douala, Cameroon and the Paris 2024 Olympics, which hold from July 26 to August 11.

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Olympic Day Celebrations Hold June 29

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The Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), at the weekend, said the annual Olympic Day celebrations would be held on June 29 across the country.
The Olympic Day is a global event that commemorates the birth of the modern Olympic Movement, founded by Pierre de Coubertin in 1894.
Speaking with news men, the Secretary-General of the NOC, Babatunde Popoola, said this year’s celebration holds special significance as it precedes the highly anticipated Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
It’s where Nigerian athletes will compete and inspire the world with their achievements.
“Olympic Day is a chance for people of all ages and abilities to experience the magic of the Olympic Games in their own communities.
“It is an ideal platform to highlight the benefits of physical activity and the Olympic values of excellence, friendship, and respect,” Popoola said.
Popoola said that NOC had received positive responses from various states and stakeholders, and preparations were well underway for the nationwide celebration.
He added that no fewer than 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory have indicated their plans to organise activities for the event.
The states are: Abia; Anambra; Bayelsa; Delta; Edo; Enugu; Ebonyi; Lagos; Kogi; Gombe; Jigawa; Kebbi; Kano; Kwara; Taraba; Imo; Ondo; Plateau; Rivers; Nasarawa and Osun
Also speaking, the Chairman of the NOC Sport For All Commission, Abdul Ibrahim, said that Olympic Day was a special day to come together, move together, and learn about the Olympic values.
“We encourage everyone to participate and experience the joy that only sport can bring,” he said.
According to him, a series of activities have been lined up in Lagos, with fitness clubs at the National Stadium Complex and the general public gearing up to take part in the global event.
“The celebration will conclude with the presentation of diplomas signed by the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach.
The President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Engr. Habu Ahmed Gumel and other dignitaries will officially flag off the event in Abuja,” he added.

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