Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has given the due credit to his players for the sacrifices they made in qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
The Super Eagles beat Ethiopia 4-1 on aggregate, and Keshi was quick to deflect the credit to his largely inexperienced wards.
“It wasn’t easy. Trying to qualify for the Nations Cup and the World Cup at the same time wasn’t easy,” Keshi said.
“It was a very big battle. And that’s why I thank the players, because a lot of sacrifices went into this.”
Keshi was the captain when Nigeria qualified for the World Cup in 1994. Twenty years after, he has masterminded qualification as coach.
He ranks his achievement with Togo as his most special, but says doing it with an inexperienced Nigerian team came pretty close.
“I would like to pick Togo because about 75 per cent of my players were all local, never played for the national team before. Nobody gave us a chance. We were in a group with Senegal, Mali, Zambia and Congo.
“But having qualified Nigeria this time, under two years that we’ve been around, also makes it special for me.”
Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who would be making a third World Cup appearance in Brazil, equally said this qualification was special.
“I have been to two World Cups before at Korea and Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010 but this qualification is special because we are going to the World Cup as African champions,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia coach Bishaw Sewnet has blamed Gambian referee Bakary Papa Gassama for robbing his team of a chance of a making the World Cup finals for the first time.
“The referee won the game for Nigeria. He denied us two penalties and gave them a soft penalty. These were not fair decisions by the referee.”
Sewnet said the two teams were not evenly matched in terms of experience, with Nigeria featuring more European-based players used to football at the highest level.
“My players are young and most of them play locally but Nigeria have professionals who play in Europe and so they are ahead of us,” he added.
“But we will continue to work hard so as to be one of the best teams in Africa.”
The SA Football Association (SAFA) is appealing to football fans around the country to put aside their club affiliations and support Orlando Pirates in their all-important CAF Champions League first leg final fixture against Egypt’s Al-Ahly on Saturday.
“This is the defining moment not just for Orlando Pirates, but for our football in general,” SAFA president Danny Jordaan said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It has not been an easy journey for them but they walked the talk and now they are standing at the gates of glory. And I believe this is where we come in as fellow South Africans.”
Jordaan said South Africans needed to come out in numbers and make sure when the players trotted out onto the field, they knew the whole country was behind them by seeing a packed Orlando Stadium.
“I believe they will do the business. A good result in the first leg will surely go a long way in giving them more confidence to tackle the return fixture. They have done us proud so far, so let us put our club differences aside and show our support.”
Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said fans should make life unbearable for Al-Ahly when they play in Soweto as they would not make it easy for Pirates when they play in Cairo.
“Pirates are not doing this for themselves but for the country,” Igesund said.
“Remember after their famous victory in 1995 our football blossomed and we went on to win the 1996 African Cup of Nations.
“To Roger, his technical team and the players, this is the moment you have all been dreaming of and now it has come – go out there and do the best you can and we know you will deliver.
“Get a good result at home and you have one hand on the trophy.”
It was a long two-day wait but it ended in relief for Ghana. After doing what they had to do last Thursday by beating USA 4-1 to secure third place in Group A of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013, the Black Satellites had to sit and wait for the other groups to reach their conclusions and hope they would squeeze through to the last 16 of the competition.
Finally, on Saturday evening they could breathe easy, with Egypt’s 2-0 defeat of England confirming they would go through as the last of the four best third-placed teams. It was a close-run thing, however, the Ghanaians ending the group phase with the same goal difference of zero as the Egyptians but having scored five goals to the north Africans’ four.
While there was frustration for both the Pharaohs and the English when the final whistle sounded in Bursa, there were celebrations nearly 800 kilometres away at the Hotel Hilton in Kayseri, where the Ghana team are staying.
Members of the coaching staff, medical team and the squad itself emerged from their rooms on the ninth floor to hug each other and celebrate the end of a long and tense wait.
“We were watching the game (between Egypt and England) and we were all very nervous. We only just got through,” the forward Ebenezer Assifuah told FIFA.com, recalling the dramatic final two minutes of the match in Bursa, when Egypt scored their second goal, leaving them needing just one more to go through. “We were worried but thanks to God everything worked out. The last couple of days have been very long and we are very happy now.”
To begin with at least, the singing and partying that echoed around the other floors of the hotel was triggered by nothing more than Ghana’s relief at squeezing through. Yet as time went by, you could have been excused for thinking the celebrations formed part of the African side’s tactical preparations for their Round of 16 match.
Facing them in that game will be Portugal, who as it happens are staying just two floors below the Ghanaians and were no doubt asking themselves what all the fuss was about as they returned from their evening meal on Saturday.
Assifuah was the life and soul of Ghana’s qualification party at the Hilton and not without good reason, having scored two of the goals in the vital win over the Americans, which gave the African side renewed hope after their defeats to France and Spain. After grabbing the second of those goals he showed how much of a fun-lover he is by dancing a celebratory jig alongside his team-mates.
As he explained, he knew at the time just how important that goal was, even if it would be another two days before he and his colleagues would learn their fate.
“I think we just needed to let some steam off,” he said. “It was a spontaneous bit of fun and it was good for the team. We played well in our first two games and lost them both but we decided we weren’t going to give up.”
Their determination was rewarded, as was Assifuah’s own persistence around about year ago, when he was still playing for the unfashionable Sekondi Eleven Wise in Ghana’s second division. Though well out of the spotlight, he kept plugging away and received the call to join the national U-20 team for the African qualifiers, the goals he scored there earning him a contract with modest first-division outfit Liberty Professionals.
While not the career-defining move the 19-year-old Assifuah might have hoped for, it was with the Accra club that talents such as Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah first emerged before finding fame and fortune in Europe.
Those precedents give Assifuah every reason to believe he has made the right move: “Liberty are a small club but I enjoy playing for them and it could be an important step in my career. The great players who have been here are an inspiration for me and I know that if I can keep going, then I’ll have every chance of following in their footsteps. We have an incredible opportunity now and I hope there are some European clubs watching our games and that lots of players from the team can make the move there.”
Assifuah had discussed his career and future dreams in a brief interview with FIFA.com following last Thursday’s match at the Kadir Has Stadium in Kayseri. Before stepping on the bus that would take the team back to the Hilton, he explained what the following few days would be like: “We’ll just sit in the hotel and wait to see what happens. We’ll watch the games and cheer the right teams on.”
As it turned out for Assifuah and his colleagues, the wait was definitely worthwhile.
By Akyereko Emmanuel
Samir Zaher has won an appeal over the legitimacy of his victory in the 2008 elections as the Egyptian FA chairman.
The Egyptian court of law announced the ruling on Monday, which means that Zaher is staying in his position until the the next elections is due.
Zaher was kicked out of the post by the National Sports Council which claimed it received a letter from the Egyptian Supreme Court declaring him ineligible to run for the post in 2008.
But the 67-year-old challenged that the decision was based on pure allegations without substance and therefore filed an appeal against the decision.
With this verdict from the appeals court, Zaher will remain in his post as the chairman for the Egyptian FA until 2011 but the current regulations prevents him from running for a third term.
Tunisian side Esperance beat Egypt’s Al Ahly in the second leg of the semi final tie of the 2010 Caf Champions League by a solitary, highly disputed goal.
A first minute Michael Eneramo header sent the November 7 Stadium agog Sunday evening but television replays proved the ball was helped on by Eneramo’s hand – a classic Maradona “hand of God’ style.
The Nigerian striker who is the campaign’s top scorer thus extends his tally to eight goals.
Ahly’s woes were deepen in the 29th minute with the sending-off of midfielder Mohammed Barakat.
Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey showed the red card to Barakat for slapping an Esperance player in the face.
The first half thus finished with the homers recording 1-0 lead which makes the tie 2-2 on aggregate and puts Esperance firmly in the driving seat on the away goal rule as the rains came down in Rades.
With all the action in the first half, the second half was played along more tactical lines.
As Ahly pressed for the much needed away goal, Esperance looked content with soaking the pressure only to hit their opponents on the break.
Chances in the second half were far in between with constant stoppages due to consistent fouling and time delay by the homers.
With all substitutions made, coach of the six-times African Champion, Hossam Badri could only watch on the sidelines as the ‘Red Devils’ hope of making this year’s finals kept wearing away with time.
And so it was, Esperance pipped their north African rivals on the away goal rule with a goal that the Ahly faithfuls will hope to forget very quickly – it wont be easy though.
Esperance will now take on defending champions TP Mazembe of the DRC in the final with the Congolese side hosting the first leg on the weekend of 29th, 30th and 31st of October.
Marouane Chamakh is set to make his Arsenal debut today against Barnet at Underhill.
The former Bordeaux striker has been named in Arsenal‘s 22-man squad, along with another new signing, Laurent Koscielny, the former Lorient defender.
The Moroccan completed his English switch in May from the 2008-2009 French Champions on a free transfer after refusing to pen a new deal.
The 26 year old has made 53 appearances for his national side with a goal return of 27 since making his debut in 2003.
The Black Princesses of Ghana missed a glorious opportunity to notch up Africa’s first win at the ongoing Fifa Under 20 womens championships in Germany after drawing one all with defending champions USA.
An early goal from Elizabeth Cudjoe has given Ghana a deserved first half lead against USA.
A beautifully struck long range shot from Cudjoe emerged too much for American goalie Henninger to handle as she was left completely beaten as the ball zoomed well into her twine.
The Black Princesses would however have to see through the rest of the game without inspirational captain Mercy Miles as she left the field of play full of vomiting.
If the girls are able to hold on and even increase their tally to emerge winners of the match, it’ll be Africa’s first win at this year’s tournament following Nigeria’s one all draw game against England earlier in the day.
Just a day after hosts South Africa were humiliated by the Uruguayans, yet another African team in Nigeria will have to deal with the bitter disappointment of defeat as they slumped to a 2-1 at the hands of Greece.
A second goal in the 70th minute from Greek midfielder Vassilis Torosidis after Vincent Enyeama failed to hold on to a ferocious strike from outside the goal area practically gifting the ball to the rugged midfielder who made no mistakes in guiding the ball home.
This was all after Dimitris Salpingidis had pulled even following a 16th minute goal from Kalou Uche with Nigeria ending the first half a man down after Sani Kaita received his marching orders for retaliation.
Nigeria could have added to their tally early in the second half when Hoffenheim’s Chinedu Obasi missed an absolute sitter after Greek goalie Tzorvas had pushed a Yakubu Ayigbeni’s shot into his path, but the youngster failed to capitalize to the bemusement of his coach Lars Largerback on the bench.
The score line could have got even worse but for the agility of Enyeama who once again ended up on the loosing side despite putting in another impressive performance.
The win brings Otto Rehagel’s side back into the fray with the Nigerians almost certain to bite the dust after the group stages.
The Super Eagles would now have to beat South Korea on Wednesday to stand any chance of making the knock out rounds.
The Greek side on the other hand has recorded their first win ever in the World Cup finals diminishing the African challenge in the process.
Africans in particular, Nigerian hearts breathed easy as Almeria’s Kalou Uche’s harmless but temptious free kick found its way to the back of the Greek net to give the Super Eagles a deserved first half lead.
A resulting free kick taken by Uche surprisingly ended up in the Greek net after Lukman Haruna had been felled 25 yards out on the 16th minute mark.
Though a scrappy game, the Nigerians are making frantic efforts to keep the ball on the turf in order to impose their play but Otto Rehagel’s men will not allow it.
They however would have to do it the hard way after seeing their defensive midfielder Sani Kaita sent off 10 minutes from half time for retaliation even though his Greek counterpart seemed to have exaggerated his act.
Vincent Enyeama in post once more again emerged Nigeria’s hero as he stopped a clear shot from Dimitris Salpingidis after Karagounis has put him through clear on goal.
Their persistence however paid off in the 44th minute when Dimitris Salpingidis’s shot deflected off Haruna to pull even.
Nigeria are looking very shaky since the sending off and would have to pull something out of their surprise bag to secure victory against a Greek side which smells blood and are pushing for the kill.