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‘We are still the best in Africa’ -Ivorian winger Gervinho claims

The Elephants have dropped on the latest FIFA ranking

The Elephants have dropped on the latest FIFA ranking

Ivorian winger Gervinho insists the Elephants remain the leading team in Africa despite their inability to survive their group at the World Cup in Brazil.

In addition to their World Cup disappointment, the Ivoirians have been knocked off the top of the continental rankings after a three-year stranglehold by new leaders Algeria who have now been number one for the past three months.

While the Elephants saw their hopes of reaching the last-16 of the Mundial for the first time ever dashed by a cruel last-minute penalty, Algeria and African champions Nigeria survived their groups.

But the Roma star, who has arguably been his country’s best player in recent months, believes that given the quality of the players in the team, the Elephants are still the continent’s top side.

“Despite the failure in Brazil, the quality of our players is not in doubt. For me, the best team in Africa is still Cote d’Ivoire,” the 27-year-old told Fifa.com.

Gervinho scored two of Cote d’Ivoire’s four goals at the summer’s showpiece and admits that he was bitterly disappointed by their exit.

“We were expected to get out of our group, and we were expected to beat Greece in our last match. In the end, there wasn’t much in it – a penalty in the final seconds knocked us out. It came down to little mistakes. We were all responsible for them, and they cost us dearly,” he added.

“I must admit that I took our exit rather badly. The World Cup was very important to me and to the whole country. We were left with a lot of regrets.”

The Ivoirians have been further weakened by the retirement of legendary skipper Didier Drogba, who is the top scoring Elephant of all-time. Life immediately after the 36-year-old star has been tough going especially as the Elephants also need to adjust to life under a new coach Herve Renard.

Not only did they labour to a 2:1 home win against Sierra Leone in the first of their 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers, they lost in an African qualifier for the first time in nine years when they were hammered 4:1 in Cameroon.

Although Gervinho acknowledges a huge void has been left by Drogba’s retirement, he insists they must move on.

“Didier was our captain – he made a great contribution to the national team and will leave a huge void. As far as I’m concerned, I’m proud and happy to have played alongside him. But he’s left now, and we need to move on. We have some important challenges coming up, including the Cup of Nations qualifiers and the tournament itself in January. That’s what we have to focus on.”

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Former Zambia coach Renard, four others linked to vacant Ivory Coast job

Former Zambia Herve Renard

Former Zambia Herve Renard

Ivory Coast  football officials have revealed a five-man shortlist as they seek to appoint Sabri Lamouchi’s successor as the country’s head coach.

Francis Gillot, Frederic Antonetti, Herve Renard, Jose Manuel De Jesus and Luis Fernandez are the men being considered by the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF).

Lamouchi stepped down from his role after Ivory Coast failed to reach the knockout rounds of World Cup for the third straight tournament.

Drawn against Colombia, Japan and Greece in Group C, Lamouchi’s side opened their campaign with a 2-1 win over the Asian nation before defeats to Colombia and Greece, the latter via an  injury-time penalty, sent them out.

Of those shortlisted to take the job, only Renard and Fernandez have previous international experience.

Fernandez managed Israel in an unsuccessful qualification campaign for UEFA Euro 2012, but Renard is well-known to African terrain, having led Zambia to a memorable 2012 Africa Cup of Nations triumph after a short stint in Ghana as a Physical trainer.

The five were whittled down from a total of 37 applicants, including former Italy and Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni, France legend Didier Six and Ruud Krol – a World Cup finalist in his playing days and ex-coach of African clubs in Egypt, South Africa and Tunisia.

None of the six Ivorian applications were considered further, but FIF president Djedje Benjamin refuted any suggestion that their nationality had played a role.

He said: “I will not go into the details but I can say that candidates who have been selected are consistent with the criteria required by the application process.”

The chosen candidate’s first task will be to qualify Ivory Coast for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

Cameroon and Congo DR stand in their way in Group D of qualifying as well as the winner of Benin and Malawi’s play-off clash.

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Algerian World Cup defender Halliche joins Qatar SC

Algerian defender Rafik Halliche

Algerian defender Rafik Halliche

Algeria international defender Rafik Halliche has signed a three-year deal with Qatar Sports Club.

The 27-year-old centre-back was part of the Desert Foxes squad that reached the last 16 of the World Cup in Brazil – their best performance at a finals.

His transfer comes after the end of his contract with Portugal’s Academica.

“I was encouraged by Algerian players in Qatar, like Majid Bougherra, Kariem Ziana and Nader Belhaj, to come here,” said Halliche.

“They said great things about the Qatar League. They said great football is played here. All that encouraged me to move to the Qatar League.”

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Feature: Africa blows chances of increasing teams to future World Cup

Nigeria was eliminated in the round of 16

Nigeria was eliminated in the round of 16

African hopes of more teams at the next World Cup were dealt a huge blow by a largely dismal showing during the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

Algeria and Nigeria bowed out in the first knockout round after Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast made first-round exits.

More was expected from a football-obsessed continent that promises much before each World Cup only to deliver comparatively little.

When Roger Milla-inspired Cameroon reached the 1990 quarter-finals, Brazil legend Pele predicted an African winner of the tournament by the close of the 20th century.

But the best Africa has managed since is last-eight appearances from Senegal in 2002 and Ghana four years ago.

Many African football officials believe the odds are stacked against the continent producing champions because they have only five contenders compared to 13 from Europe.

They argue that Africa and Europe have 54 member nations each of world football governing body FIFA, so why the large difference in the number of World Cup qualifiers?

What they ignore is World Cup results between Africa and Europe and South America, the strongest football continents.

There have been 80 match-ups between Africa and Europe, starting with a 4-2 victory by Hungary over Egypt at the 1934 World Cup and Africa have won just 16 games.

Nigeria did defeat Bosnia-Hercegovina in Brazil, Ghana held Germany in a four-goal thriller and Algeria drew with Russia.

But Cameroon were hammered by Croatia, Ivory Coast succumbed to Greece, Ghana lost to Portugal, Nigeria fell to France and Algeria were beaten by Belgium and Germany.

The statistics against South American sides are more depressing with just three victories from 25 matches.

“We need to have the results to back our case,” admits Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou.

Africa has not enjoyed great success against Asian and CONCACAF (North-Central America) opponents either.

They won four and lost four of 14 games with Asia and won three and lost three of eight matches against CONCACAF.

Critics of greater African representation at the 2018 finals can point to just 26 African victories in 127 World Cup games.

But Africa and Asia do have powerful backers with FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Europe football supremo Michel Platini saying the 32-team World Cup could be expanded.

Why did a five-prong African assault in Brazil peter out so early? Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng says disastrous preparations contributed greatly.

“It was a nightmare from start to finish,” Boateng revealed after being kicked out of camp before the last group match for allegedly swearing at coach Kwesi Appiah.

Boateng said the journey from the Netherlands to the United States took 19 hours, including nine hanging around an airport.

“The flight from Miami to Brazil lasted 12 hours, and our legs ached from sitting in economy class while the Ghana FA president, his wife and children were in business class.

“We had a charter flight in Brazil but my luggage was lost — two days without my football boots was a disaster.”

Boateng said the bonus row, which led to $3 million (2.2 million euros) in cash being airlifted from Ghana to Brazil, was the “smallest problem”.

“The association gets so much money from sponsors and FIFA — it was certainly not used for hotels, flights, preparations and the team.”

Ghana were not the only team hit by bonus disputes.

Cameroon delayed their departure from Yaounde wrangling over money and President Goodluck Jonathan intervened when problems emerged in the Nigerian squad.

The list of 2014 World Cup-related embarrassments for Africa is long, including the suspension of Nigeria after they exited the tournament over alleged government interference.

Reports — since discredited — linked seven Cameroon players to match-fixing against Croatia. Alex Song was red-carded and Benoit Assou-Ekotto tried to head-butt team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo during that match.

Boateng was joined on an early flight home by fellow midfielder Sulley Muntari, who was accused of striking a Ghanaian official.

Coaches Vahid Halilhodzic of Algeria and Stephen Keshi of Nigeria, the most successful from Africa in Brazil, have quit, along with Ivory Coast handler Sabri Lamouchi.

Among the unsuccessful, German Volker Finke wants to continue guiding Cameroon and Appiah signed a pre-World Cup two-year extension.

AFP

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Ex Ghana international Tony Baffoe makes Africa proud at WC finals

Ex Ghana defender Tony Baffoe

Ex Ghana defender Tony Baffoe

Ex-Ghana defender Tony Baffoe made history on Sunday when he became the first blackAfrican to lead out two teams in a World Cup final as he led Germany and Argentina onto the pitch in the final match of the tournament in Brazil.

Baffoe, who is the FIFA general coordinator for matches at the Maracana in Rio during the 2014 World Cup, led the two teams onto the pitch minutes before kick-off.

The Ghanaian subsequently gave the directives to the referee to kick-off the match with millions of people watching the game worldwide in the world’s biggest sporting event.

He becomes the first black man and African to be handed such a big responsibility at the World Cup.

“This is an incredibly exciting task. The entire world is looking at us, and I am sure we have got it under control,” Baffoe said.

FIFA gave Baffoe the chance to be its general coordinator for Rio’s Maracana stadium knowing that he will be there to lead the proceedings in the final.

Perhaps his performance as a General coordinator at the Confederations Cup competition impressed the World  governing body leading to the decision to give him this task.

His performance, delivery and attention to detail and diligence in previous tournaments in his work for FIFA, as well as his fluency in seven international languages, also helped catapult him to the top.

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History-making Algeria coach Halilhodzic gets Trabzonspor job

Halillivic resigned after the job

Halilhodzic resigned after the job after the World Cup

Vahid Halilhodzic has been appointed coach of Turkish league side Trabzonspor, the club has confirmed.

The Bosnian led the north Africans to a historic second round place in the World Cup in Brazil missing out on a chance to make it to the quarter finals narrowly in an extra time loss to the eventual winners Germany.

Details of the deal with the 61-year-old Bosnian, who last week turned down pleas from Algeria’s president to stay with the North African nation, were not disclosed.

Halilhodzic, a former Yugoslav international striker, had a testy relationship with the Algerian federation and the country’s media but emerged a folk hero after Algeria got past the group stage of the World Cup for the first time in four attempts.

It will be Halilhodzic’s second spell at Trabzonspor, where he worked previously in 2005. He has also coached in Croatia, France, the Ivory Coast, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

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Ace Zambian journalist Musonda Muzo Chibulu slams Ghana FA for poor World Cup showing

Zambian journalist Musonda Muzo Chibulu

Zambian journalist Musonda Muzo Chibulu

Zambian journalist Musonda Muzo Chibulu has slammed the Ghana Football Association for Black Stars’ disgraceful exit from the 2014 World Cup.

Ghana picked just a point at the group stage and became a subject of ridicule when over $3.5 million was airlifted from the West African country to settle agitated players’ appearance fees.

Chibulu believes Ghana had the best of chance to make Africa proud but love for money coupled with poor man management cost the four-time African champions.

“When Ghana qualified to Brazil 2014 at the expense of my beloved Zambia in the group stages, the entire continent was pregnant with expectations. No sooner had the draws of the group stages been announced than doubt began to creep in,” Chibulu told Goal Ghana.

“Ghana was placed in the proverbial Group of Death – Germany, Portugal and the United States of America. The group was tough. But with the experience of 2010 when Ghana nearly became the first Africa nation to make the semi-finals, it was envisaged the Black Stars would find the compass to navigate their way to the second round only to be entangled by monetary issues.”

He added: “It quickly emerged that the Black Stars were owed appearance bonuses. The world heard with amusement a plane carrying over $3 million would land in Brazil to settle the arrears. As the world chuckled, the worst was to come. Muntari and Boateng were chucked out of the Ghana squad due to alleged indiscipline,” he recollected.

“Could my own Chipolopolo [Zambia] have done better had they qualified over Ghana? In terms of working out bonuses in advance, however meagre, that would have been done before the tournament. The Zambian footballers would have played on without fuss and addressed the issues of money later.”

“To be honest, some of the players Ghana possessed were as good as anybody with the likes Gyan, KP Boateng, Ayew brothers [Andre and Jordan], Kwadwo Asamoah, Atsu, Muntari, Mensah, and Essien were stellar names forming the Black Stars backbone but indiscipline halted the team’s dreams.”

Chibulu admitted that the only achievement by Ghana at the Mundial was the record captain Gyan equaled and bettered to become Africa’s all-time top scorer at the global showpiece.

 

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New Bafana Bafana coach to be named next week

Safa president Danny Jordaan

Safa president Danny JordaanNew Bafana Bafna 

The South African Football Association (Safa) will announce the new senior national team coach next week with president Danny Jordaan keen to end speculation about who will take charge of the Bafana Bafana.

According to Times Media, the appointment would have been announced already had it not been for Jordaan’s role as a special adviser to the World Cup in Brazil, which has kept him busy.

At the same time, Safa will also confirm who will be the country’s technical director, a post currently held by Fran Hilton-Smith and has been in an acting capacity for the past 18 months after Serame Letsoaka was appointed Bafana assistant coach to Gordon Igesund.

“We cannot delay this process any longer, with the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on the horizon. Dr Jordaan is adamant we have to give this urgent attention,” Safa communications head Dominic Chimhavi told Times Media.

“As soon as he arrives back in the country, we should have an announcement to make.”

That would suggest that Safa have a deal in place, but would also contradict a statement from the governing body on Monday that refuted, once again, claims from Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi that he had an offer from Safa.

“There is no iota of truth in this statement,” Jordaan was quoted as saying. “Safa has not offered any coach the Bafana Bafana job and we don’t take kindly to such rumours .”

Another leading contender for the Bafana job, Carlos Queiroz, who is in Brazil watching the remainder of the World Cup and could potentially sign a contract there.

According to reports in Iran, he has an offer of $2m a year plus bonuses on the table from that country to lead the team to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

That is a salary likely out of reach of Safa, but Queiroz, in saying he had received an offer from Iran, has stated that money is not a motivating factor in deciding where his future lies. “I have not opened that letter yet,” he told Iran’s “2014″ TV show.

“Money is not an issue for me. My only concern is that would the clubs release the players for national team camps? Would we have good a training pitch to work with the players ?” Queiroz asked.

He was Bafana coach from 2000 until 2002 before he was dumped despite qualifying the country for the World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan that year. He would go on to complete two spells as assistant manager at English powerhouse Manchester United, lead Real Madrid as their head coach and take Portugal to the 2010 World Cup.

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FIFA slaps indefinite ban on Nigeria overdue government interference

Nigeria banned

Nigeria banned

 FIFA has suspended Nigeria indefinitely after government interference in the running of football in the country.

The country will not be entitled to participate in the upcoming FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (5-24 August 2014) should the suspension not be lifted by 15 July 2014.

Nigeria will also forfeit an U17 African qualifier in DR Congo slated for July 20 if the ban is not lifted.

In a press statement on the FIFA website, the FIFA Emergency Committee has decided today to suspend the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) with immediate effect, on account of government interference. Article 13, par. 1 and article 17, par. 1 of the FIFA Statutes oblige member associations to manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.

The decision follows a letter sent by FIFA to the NFF on 4 July 2014, in which it expressed its great concern after the NFF was served with court proceedings and consequently an order preventing the president of the NFF, the NFF Executive Committee members and the NFF Congress from running the affairs of Nigerian football was granted by a High Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The said court order compelled the Nigerian Minister of Sports to appoint a senior member of the civil service to manage the NFF until the matter was heard in court, without giving any date for such a hearing.

The authorities then appointed a person who decided to convene an extraordinary general assembly on 5 July 2014. This extraordinary general assembly was convened in violation of the NFF statutes.

Originally, an elective congress had been planned by the NFF to take place on 26 August 2014.

The suspension will be lifted once the court actions have been withdrawn and the properly elected NFF Executive Committee, the NFF general assembly and the NFF administration are able to work without any interference in their affairs.

As a result of this decision, no team from Nigeria of any sort (including clubs) can have any international sporting contact (art. 14 par. 3 of the FIFA Statutes).

During the period of suspension, the NFF may not be represented in any regional, continental or international competitions, including at club level, or in friendly matches.

In addition, neither the NFF nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any FIFA or CAF development programmes, courses or training during the suspension period.

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Algeria World Cup stars receive heroes welcome

Algerian players arrive in Algiers

Algerian players arrive in Algiers

Algerian’s gave their World Cup squad a hero’s welcome when they arrived on Wednesday after their historic progress to the knock out stages in the extra-time defeat to Germany.

As they got off the plane, the Desert Foxes were met by Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, who embraced the team’s Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic with Algerians on social media demanding that he stay on amidst rumours of his departure.

“Allahu akbar, Halilhodzic,” shouted fans at Algiers airport as the team emerged, a chant repeated later on the streets of the capital.

The squad boarded a bus painted green and white, with each player’s name daubed in red — the three colours of the national flag –, and toured the capital.

Thousands of supporters cheered them on, despite the blistering heat and the obligatory daytime fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

State television broadcast a special programme dedicated to the team entitled “Thank You Heroes.”

The only Arab country represented at the World Cup, Algeria lost their last 16 game 2-1 with all the goals at Porto Alegre’s Beira-Rio Stadium coming in extra-time.

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