Ighalo hat-trick takes Nigeria closer to Nations Cup place

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Bafana in action

Odion Ighalo scored a hat-trick as Nigeria took a big step towards the 2019 African Nations Cup finals with a thumping 4-0 home qualifier success over Libya on Saturday as the continent big guns flexed their muscles with significant victories.

Former Watford forward Igalho netted an early penalty to settle the nerves of the home side before scoring two more in the second period to go with a strike from Samuel Kalu against a Libyan side whose coach, Adel Amrouche, resigned unexpectedly on Tuesday.

Nigeria leapfrog the North Africans into second place in Group E after three games, a point behind leaders South Africa, who recorded their biggest ever international victory with a 6-0 hammering of Seychelles in Johannesburg.

In-form Strasbourg striker Lebo Mothiba was among the scorers with his third goal in three games for Bafana Bafana, who might well have hit double figures with some more accurate finishing against the woefully out-gunned Indian Ocean island minnows.

The top two teams in each pool advance to the finals in Cameroon next June and July, and Nigeria and South Africa can all but seal those two Group E places with away wins against the same opponents on Tuesday.

Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye was among the goals as Senegal cruised to a 3-0 home win over Sudan in Group A, with Pape Abou Cisse and M’Baye Niang also on the scoresheet.

Lebo Mothiba is the Man of the Match for this encounter.

— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) October 13, 2018

Madagascar join Senegal on seven points at the top of the pool after a 1-0 win in Equatorial Guinea thanks to a goal from Faneva Andriatsima.

World Cup finalists Morocco needed a 97th-minute winner from Faycal Fajr as they edged tiny Comoros Islands 1-0 in Group B, while Zimbabwe took charge of Group G with a surprise 2-1 win in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Defender Ronald Pfumbidzai opened the scoring for the visitors, who added a second via Knowledge Musona, though he was sent off with 15 minutes to play. Yannick Bolasie scored what proved a late consolation for the Congolese.

Tunisia laboured to a 1-0 win at home to Niger in Group J following a first-half strike from Yassine Meriah, and also finished the game with 10 men when Ghailene Chaalali was red-carded five minutes from the end.

Tunisia have a perfect record in the pool with nine points — three more than Egypt, who lost star forward Mo Salah to a groin strain as they defeated eSwatini 4-1 on Friday, ruling him out of Tuesday’s return.

There were also wins on Saturday for Uganda, Namibia and Burkina Faso.


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Dembele is surprise Belgium pick as Matuidi returns for France

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Moussa Dembele was a surprise pick to replace the suspended Thomas Meunier in Belgium’s line-up and Blaise Matuidi was restored to the France midfield for Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final.

Matuidi missed the 2-0 quarter-final win over Uruguay due to suspension but has been recalled in place of Corentin Tolisso.

Belgium’s right wing back Meunier was cautioned for a second time in the tournament in their quarter-final victory over Brazil and Dembele takes his place in the starting side.

Dembele will play alongside Axel Witsel in the centre of midfield with Belgium coach Roberto Martinez moving Marouane Fellaini to the right.

Nacer Chadli goes from the centre to the left where he will try to nullify the threat of speedy France striker Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe and midfielder Ngolo Kante were included in the France team despite sitting out training on Monday.

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Survivors Belgium brace for Brazil challenge

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At a World Cup rocked repeatedly by the fall of giants, Brazil and Belgium have managed to hold firm in the maelstrom and will meet in a blockbuster quarter-final in Kazan on Friday.

Most pre-tournament modelling has been put through the shredder by the eliminations of traditional heavyweights like Germany and Spain.

However, the clash of the fancied South Americans and Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ has given the most casual of analysts reason to feel smug that, at least, they got one thing right in their scenario plotting.

The teams have progressed through different means but each arrives with confidence after rousing wins in their last starts.

Inspired by Neymar brilliance and the wiles of Willian, Brazil sent a tough Mexico side packing with a 2-0 defeat that cemented Tite’s side as favourites to claim a record-extending sixth World Cup trophy.

It was hardly such smooth sailing for the Belgians, who suffered a huge scare in their last-gasp 3-2 win over Japan.

But their marauding finish, banging in three consecutive goals late in the tie to erase a 2-0 deficit, was a sobering reminder of the firepower at Roberto Martinez’s disposal.

Against Brazil, however, Belgium’s formidable attack featuring captain Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku may be hard pressed to break down a stingy defence which has conceded one goal in their four matches at the tournament, and a total of six from their past 25.

Their win over Mexico showed textbook defending from the central pairing of Thiago Silva and Miranda, assisted by full backs Fagner and Filipe Luis.

If there is one glimmer of hope for Belgium, it might be the suspension of holding midfielder Casemiro, who picked up his second yellow card during the Mexico game.

The Real Madrid man has been key to Brazil’s structure, so his likely replacement, the 33-year-old Fernandinho of Manchester City, will have big shoes to fill.


Although Luis put in a solid display against Mexico, Tite may be tempted to recall his preferred left back Marcelo, who missed the match with a back injury but returned to training.

At the other end, Brazil’s attack has clicked after a disappointing start to the tournament, and even Neymar’s much-criticised histrionics could not completely overshadow a dominant performance against Mexico.

They will look to exploit a Belgium defence that has let through four goals and has a trio of big centre backs that may be exposed for pace by the nippy Neymar, Willian and Philippe Coutinho.

Belgium, bidding to reach their first semi-finals since 1986 in Mexico, face a huge challenge to knock off Tite’s men but after surviving Japan, they already feel they are playing with house money.

“We can enjoy it from the first minute,” Martinez said.

“I don’t think anyone expects us to go through to the semi-finals.”

The winner will bid for a place in the final against either France or Uruguay.

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Black Leopards appoints new technical director

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The Premier Soccer League returnees, Black Leopards FC have appointed former assistant manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C, which plays in the Football League Championship in England as the club’s technical director.

The Italian tactician, Stefano Cusin has joined the club on a three-year contract.

Leopards General Manager Tshifhiwa Thidiela says the club’s preparations for the new season are going well and that they are not worried about the matter between Ajax Cape Town and PSL.

The Johannesburg High Court has recently overridden an earlier ruling that Ajax be demoted to the National First Division.

This is after the team was docked seven points from the games in which Tendai Ndoro had played after it was found that he went against FIFA rules and played for three clubs in one season.

Lidoda Duvha, as Black Leopards FC are fondly called by fans have appointed an Italian football coach Stefano Cusin to the position of technical director.

Coach Joel Masutha will be assisted by Morgan Shivambo. Cusin has been officially unveiled together with physical trainer, Sorini Juan Luka who is also an Italian, at a media briefing that was held in Polokwane.

Cusin who gained international prominence as coach in countries such as France, England and Bulgaria also coached various clubs in Africa that include Congo’s national team.

Leopards FC General Manager Tshifhiwa Thidiela says they want to build a strong team.

“There’s a case between Ajax Cape Town and the Premier League, we are Black Leopards we are nowhere involved in that, we want to build a strong team and we want to go and say let’s put ourselves as high as possible, to Stefano when he came we told him that we have got a head coach, he is not here to coach when they fail or anything goes wrong they will get fired together as a unity.”

Cusin says he has been following South African football because he has been working in Africa for five years.

“I used to work in Africa for five years so I know the league very well, so I know all the best teams in the country and facilities during the world cup and I have also started to study the players, coaches and how they play and I’m still studying the league.”

Masutha says he is expecting a good working relationship with the new technical director for the benefit of the club.

“ I joined the club in 1995 since then up to now I have worked with 30 technical directors and he will the 31st obviously I have a good relationship with all of them and I believe we are going to have a good working relationship for the benefit of everyone especially the club so I don’t see any problem.”

Leopards’ Captain Macks Munyai says they want to make sure that the team retains its PSL status.

“ The plan is still the same we are going there to compete if we fail as long as we are still there in the PSL, the important thing is to stay there we just have to continue where we left.”

The club has also unveiled five new players. They include former Kaizer Chiefs player Zwivhuya Matombo and Themba Ndlovu, Lefa Hlungwane and Alton Kaping from the NFD side, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC. Former Orlando Pirates player Ayanda Gcaba is also training with Leopards in a bid to join the club.

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World Cup success is becoming an addiction says Russia’s Kutepov

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World Cup hosts Russia were outsiders only weeks ago but their unexpected World Cup success has made them hungry for more as they eye a semi-final spot against Croatia, defender Ilya Kutepov said on Wednesday.

Russia edged Spain on penalties in last week’s round of 16 match after the Spaniards played more than 1,000 passes but failed to create any chances.

Kutepov, who has so far played every minute of their four matches, said his team was now allowed to dream big.

Since the end of the Soviet Union, which had reached the last four in 1966, Russia have never advanced as far as they have done in their home tournament.

“There are always chances. We are getting ready, focusing,” Kutepov said. “We have ambitions, we want to go further, everything is decided on the pitch. It is a kind of addiction – you want more and more.”

The Russians came into the tournament as the lowest-ranked team and making it through the group stage was their initial goal.

After their penalty shootout win over Spain, however, the country has been gripped by World Cup fever with Russian fans wanting more of that success.

That will require different tactics than the ones deployed against Spain where Russia sat back and soaked up the pressure with the Spaniards dominating possession but lacking a clinical edge in front of goal.

“We all understood that Spain will control the ball, it happens in every match they play with any team,” midfielder Aleksandr Golovin was quoted by Match TV as saying.

“We understood that. With the Croats we should play using our strong points, dictating our play.”

Russia face Croatia at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium on Saturday and the winner will play either England or Sweden for a spot in the July 15 final in Moscow.

“If the team has less control of the ball it doesn’t mean they are weaker,” Golovin said. “That’s just another style of play. They don’t aim to control the ball for the whole match, they aim to achieve a favourable result. From this point of view – it’s easier.

“The team that will show more muscle and will be more stubborn will win the game against Croatia.”

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England beat Colombia on penalties to reach quarterfinals

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England finally ended their penalties curse when they beat Colombia 4-3 in a shootout after drawing their World Cup last-16 clash 1-1 following extra time after the South Americans equalised in the 93rd minute.

England had previously lost all three World Cup shootouts and three of four in the European Championship but prevailed on Tuesday when Mateus Uribe and Carlos Bacca failed to convert, leaving Eric Dier to win the game for England

It was the first time Colombia had been involved in a World Cup shootout and they took first blood when Jordan Henderson missed his spot kick – but for once fortune smiled on England.

Earlier Harry Kane smashed in a 57th-minute penalty, his sixth goal of the tournament, and England looked to be through until Yerry Mina headed an equaliser in the third minute of stoppage time.

It was England’s first win in a knockout game since 2006 and earns them a quarter-final with Sweden, who were far from impressive in beating Switzerland 1-0 earlier on Tuesday.

Then comes a potential semi-final against hosts Russia or Croatia with Tuesday’s win appearing to vindicate – just – coach Gareth Southgate’s decision to field a second-string side in the the final group game loss to Belgium to secure an easier route.

Colombia’s hopes suffered a huge setback before kickoff when key playmaker James Rodriguez was ruled out with a calf injury and without him they took a defensive approach and never rarely threatened.

England were always the more purposeful side but they lacked the key final ball and needed a gift to take the lead.

The South Americans had been getting away with blatant holding and wrestling at each of England’s many corners and the referee’s patience finally snapped when Carlos Sanchez hauled down tournament leading scorer Kane once too often.

After four minutes of mayhem as the Colombians protested, Kane kept his cool and smashed in his third spot kick of Russia 2018.

When Juan Cuadrado blazed horribly over the bar with the goal gaping 10 minutes from time with Colombia’s first chance of the match it looked all over for them but there was a fiery sting in the tail of normal time.

England keeper Jordan Pickford made a superb save to touch wide a furious long shot by Uribe but from the following corner – Colombia’s first of the match – giant defender Mina rose highest to head in the equaliser and send the massed Colombian fans into a frenzy.

England substitute Dier missed the best chance of the extra period when he headed over the bar but he made up for it in emphatic fashion with the winning penalty in the shootout.

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Analysis: Swedes steam into last eight with big names in their wake

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Sweden’s brand of football may not be easy on the eye but on Tuesday they added Switzerland to a list already including the Netherlands, Italy and Germany as they marched into the World Cup quarterfinals.

Had results in qualifying, the playoffs and the group stage gone another way, it might be any one of that illustrious trio preparing to face Colombia or England in the last eight on Saturday.

Much as it might offend the purists, however, it is Janne Andersson’s no-name outfit who will make the trip to Samara after a typically rugged 1-0 victory over Switzerland in St Petersburg.

The Dutch, third in Brazil four years ago, were barged out of the way in qualifying when Sweden edged the three-times World Cup finalists on goal difference to finish second in a group that France won.

In the playoffs the Swedes were paired with four-times world champions Italy and sensationally saw them off over two legs to keep the Azzurri out of the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

On seeding, defending champions Germany would have expected to be in Samara on Saturday but they finished bottom of Group F in Russia, an ignominious exit that would have come sooner had Sweden held out for a few seconds more to draw their clash in Sochi.

And on Tuesday, Sweden proved that once again that dogged defending and huge collective effort can be very effective, even in the knockout stages of the World Cup.

Sure, they were helped by the fact that Switzerland were toothless up front but no team is going to find it easy to break down the Swedes.

Ranged across the pitch in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, they are happy to cede possession – Switzerland enjoyed 63 percent on Tuesday – confident that by working indefatigably for each other they would get it back.

In attack, they lack the world-class edge that Zlatan Ibrahimovic once brought but they are big and strong and keep pumping balls into the box until one falls right for them.

In St Petersburg, their goal came with an element of luck when Emil Forsberg’s shot from the edge of the area took a huge deflection off defender Manuel Akanji and spun into the net.

The yellow-shirted hordes in the stands cheered it just as loudly as they once would an Ibrahimovic wonder-strike and, like the fans, Andersson does not really care what outsiders think about the way his team plays their football.

“We know that we are a good team, we’ve earned our successes, we know how we’ve got this far,” he told a post-match news conference.

“What other teams and countries think about that, you’ll have to ask them.”

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Brazilian pair ruled out of Sunday warm-up vs Croatia

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Renato Augusto

Renato Augusto and Douglas Costa will miss Brazil’s World Cup warm-up friendly against Croatia in England this weekend due to injury, the Brazilian Football Confederation said on Friday.

Costa will travel with the squad to Liverpool, but will not play in Sunday’s match due to a thigh strain.

However, Renato Augusto, the Beijing Guoan midfielder who has been a regular starter under coach Tite, will stay in London to have physiotherapy on an injured left knee.

Brazil play Croatia at Anfield on Sunday in what will be their penultimate warm-up before heading to Russia.

The five-time World Cup winners also face Austria in Vienna on June 10.

Striker and talisman Neymar, who has not played since injuring his foot in a league match for Paris St Germain back in February, is expected to feature in both games, although reports said he will start on the bench against Croatia.

Brazil kick off their World Cup campaign against Switzerland on June 17 and also play Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E.

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Book ‘Divided Country’ revisits history of SA cricket

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When the South African cricket team thrashed Australia recently, it was a victory celebrated by the whole of South Africa. However, that was not always the case.

Professor Andre Odendaal and his fellow authors will launch ”Divided Country” on Friday.

The book tells the history of South African cricket between 1914 and 1950 when there were unbelievably seven Cricket South Africa’s split along racial and gender lines, each playing its own tournaments and leagues and selecting its own national teams.

”Divided Country” is Volume Two of the history of cricket in South Africa – a book written by Professor Andre Odendaal, Krish Reddy and Christopher Merrett.

The first volume was a book called ”Cricket and Conquest” which covered the period from 1795 to 1914.

The book documented colonialism at its worst with Cecil John Rhodes at the helm and how cricket in South Africa had been formed by colonialism, imperialism, racism, the superiority of the English and then segregation through apartheid.

“Today, we know the SA team bats for all cricketers in SA, but it was not always so. In the 1950’s,  there was a white only male SA (team) called Saca; there was a coloured, Muslim, SA (team) called SACB which was forced to become the Malay cricket board; there was the SA coloured  cricket association formed in 1926; there was a SA Indian cricket union; the SA Bantu Union which in the 60’s became the African Union; there was the SA/Rhodesia women’s cricket association for white women only, and finally there was an inter-race SA called SACB, later called SACBOC. It was an absolute jumble with seven different organisations in the same cities and towns each running their own leagues and inter-provincial tournaments each selecting their own national teams. Some of them have never been known about a lot. Now, for the first time, there is a coherent history, statistical appendage of 65 tournaments by these black and omen cricketers. We had to sweat blood in newspapers, old scorebooks, wardrobes and suitcases.We have reasserted people to history where they have been erased not by accident, but as a deliberate part of colonial and apartheid thinking and action,” says author Professor Andre Ondendaal.

The book deals with both World Wars and the hardships it brought; how Indians were discriminated against and how they only became citizens in 1961, 100 years after arriving in South Africa. They were based mainly in Durban and Johannesburg and were not allowed in the Free State.

They were resilient and their love for the game of cricket shone through against all odds. White women started playing cricket in 1952. The gentleman’s game, however, was real and while women were allowed to play hockey, golf and tennis, there was tremendous opposition to women playing the cricket.

African women were also involved in the game, but not in an organised forum. It was only in 2005 that women finally found a place in world cricket when the International Women’s Cricket Council became part of the ICC.

”Divided Country” also tells some amazing cricketing stories about matches and players that affected countries on a global scale.

”Divided Country” is a book that bowls out the existing history in SA cricket. It helps to decolonise the game and creates a past that will never be the same again. It will hopefully help change mentalities and attitudes and the ownership of cricket in South Africa today – a game to be cherished by all South Africans.

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‘Arrogant’ Mamelodi Sundowns stay on course for treble

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“Arrogant” Mamelodi Sundowns stayed on course for a treble by overcoming hosts Cape Town City 2-1 on Sunday in a South African FA Cup quarter-final.

Percy Tau and Hlompho Kekana scored within eight minutes during the second half at Cape Town Stadium before Bradley Ralani halved the deficit to set up a tense climax.

Sundowns will be away to Maritzburg United in the semi-finals while Kaizer Chiefs host Free State Stars.

“We want to win the South African league and cup double and the CAF Champions League this year,” Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said before the quarter-final.

“I would rather say that than appear to be lacking confidence and ambition. Many may view us as being arrogant — but we have won trebles before.”

After eliminating Cape Town City, Mosimane added: “Experience counted for a lot today in a tough, close, exciting cup tie.

“While delighted to be in the semi-finals, we need to be more clinical. The boys should have scored several goals during the first half and the woodwork foiled us twice.”

Cape Town coach Benni McCarthy, part of the 2004 UEFA Champions League-winning Porto squad managed by Jose Mourinho, said he was hurting but proud.

“No coach wants to lose at this stage of the competition, but I can only salute the efforts of my players. They did not lie down when two goals behind.

“Our only failing was finishing and if you do not take your chances against a team stacked with stars like Sundowns, defeat is inevitable.”

On Saturday, Chiefs edged Baroka 1-0, Maritzburg defeated Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 and Free State eliminated second-division outfit Ubuntu Cape Town 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

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