Belgium have been knocked out of the World Cup at the group stage as Croatia progressed at their expense with a goalless draw in Qatar.
Roberto Martinez’s side, who finished third in Russia four years ago and are ranked second in the world, have had a disappointing tournament with just one win and one goal in their three matches
They produced another lacklustre display against Croatia despite knowing victory was necessary to progress to the last 16.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku had numerous chances in the second half but his failure to convert any sealed his country’s fate.
Lukaku, searching for sharpness following injury, hit the post from in front of goal, poked an effort wide when well-placed and reacted too slowly when the ball hit him in the six-yard box in stoppage time.
Croatia, finalists in 2018, got the point they needed to progress from Group F as runners-up, with Morocco taking top spot thanks to a 2-1 win against Canada.
Zlatko Dalic’s side will face the winners of Group E , which is currently Spain, in the last 16.
Belgium players fell to the turf at full-time as their supporters behind the goal politely applauded them off the pitch.
Lukaku, who replaced Dries Mertens at half-time, came into the game with intent and immediately brought energy and purpose to his side.
But his missed opportunities in the second half proved costly, with each one bringing an audible collective groan from the stands and the on-loan Inter Milan striker punched the dugout in frustration after the final whistle.
Croatia were not especially convincing, their most threatening moment was a first-half penalty award being ruled out by VAR because of an offside infringement in the build-up – but did enough to secure progression.
They did however look a level below what they showed to reach the final in Russia four years ago and their celebrations were fairly subdued after scraping through.
‘NBA Determined To Dev B’ball In Nigeria’
The NBA has said it is determined to grow the next generation of talented basketball players in the country.
The NBA Africa Vice President and Country Head, NBA Nigeria, Gbemisola Abudu, made this known in Abuja on Wednesday at the ninth edition of the Power Forward games.
Abudu said part of the vision of the NBA was to influence the basketball ecosystem in the country.
The Power Forward Project, organised in collaboration with ExxonMobil and PanAfricare ,has expanded over the years to include 40 schools in Abuja, with over 200,000 youths impacted positively since 2013.
Speaking during the finals of the event, Abudu said, “Power Forward is an incredible programme. It is focused on young adults in Abuja for them to acquire life skills through the lens of basketball. The goal is to roll out an expanded programme like this to other parts of the country because when it comes to talent development, it starts from a very young age.
This is part of a big plan for the NBA. The NBA opened its third office in Africa in Lagos at the beginning of last year. This demonstrates the commitment of the NBA and the belief it has in the Nigerian market, that is, from the talent development perspective. In the history of the NBA, we have had about 120 players of African heritage, and more than half of those have been Nigerians. That has signalled year-in-year-out the importance of Nigeria to the NBA.”
The PanAfricare Country Director for Nigeria, Dr. Patrick Adah, said, “This project has produced alumni who are making impact. It has impacted them and made them achieve their aims in life. We have also produced some basketballers in Nigeria, who have participated in various championships. It ignited their interest in basketball.
Coach Bosso Drops Four Players Ahead Of U20 AFCON
Head coach of the U-20 team, Ladan Bosso, has further reduced his squad as he prepares to drop his final list for the 2022 U-20 AFCON in Egypt.
The four unnamed players were dropped before Tuesday’s training session, which also afforded Bosso and his coaching crew the chance to test some overseas-based players who arrived camp over the weekend.
Ademola Ola-Adebomi of Crystal Palace, Joel Ideho of Arsenal, Michael Ologo of Istanbulspor and Abel Ogwuche of Trelleborgs were all involved in a test game that ended in a draw.
During the session, the Ideho and Ogwuche were particularly impressive, just as Ologo showed composure as a topflight player. Ola-Adebomi was also imposing in the test game, but it appeared the 15 minutes game time he got wasn’t enough to show his real abilities.
As the Flying Eagles continue their preparations for the tournament in Egypt, the Nigeria Football Federation has penciled a two-legged friendly against Zambia on Friday and Sunday.
Seven-time champions Nigeria have been drawn with hosts Egypt, Mozambique and Senegal in Group A of the tournament.
The 2023 U-20 AFCON, which will be played from February 9 to March 11, will serve as qualifiers for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Sports Commissioner Blames NFF Over Stadium Rejection
Rivers State Commissioner for Sports, Chris Green, has fingered the Nigeria Football Federation over the rejection of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt to host group stage matches of Rivers United in the CAF Confederation Cup, Tidesports source reports.
Less than a month to the start of the club’s campaign on the continent, reports went viral last week that the NPFL champions had adopted the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo for their home matches, suggesting that the Port Harcourt stadium failed to meet the requirements of the Confederation of African Football.
Having played its preliminary games at the stadium, the club shared updates about upgrades at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, but in the wake of the latest development, Green alleged that the NFF failed to show up for the inspection of the facility.
“The NFF is in a better position to answer. Yes, we upgraded (the stadium) but NFF officials were supposed to inspect it, but they didn’t come,” Green told Tidesports source.
NFF General Secretary, Mohammed Sanusi, declined comments on the issue, saying, “I can’t be discussing issues like this in the media, but NFF has done its job.”
According to the fixtures released by CAF, Rivers United will begin their campaign on February 12 against ASEC Mimosas away from home, before playing their first home game against the same opponents on February 19.
The fixtures also revealed that other home games against DC Motema Pembe and Diables Noirs will be played on March 8 and 19 respectively in Uyo.
The Godswill Akpabio International Stadium hosted last season’s CAF Confederation Cup final match between RSB Berkane and Orlando Pirates.
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