Avram Grant believes an African country can win the World Cup
Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant has expressed believe that ”strong mental strength” will be key for the countries representing Africa at the FIFA World Cup if they stand a chance of annexing the trophy for the first time in the history of the competition.
Stressing that Africa’s five at Brazil 2014 are set to excel, Grant said “I certainly believe Africans teams will excel at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. I strongly believe that Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria might even go further than the quarter final stage if their mental strength is excellent. It will be a good testimony for African football.”
“One advantage that the African teams have in Brazil is that it is going to be warm. European teams have never won the World Cup in South America, so it will be a great opportunity for the African teams to do well because of the circumstances they have to play in,” Grant said but cautioned that to excel, Africa’s representatives will need to have “technical expertise to inculcate the strong mental strength in the players” for them to prevail against other competing nations.
Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria carry the hopes of a continent pregnant with huge expectations that at the barest minimum, one team would go all the way to the final and attempt to win Africa’s first World Cup.
“An African team will be champions of the world one day. I even don’t understand why Africa can’t win the World Cup because when compared to other countries, Africa has got excellent talents,” Grant said adding that “the only problem I have seen with African teams is the fact that they lose games they can win in crucial moments. However, this can be improved because the problem is lack of a strong mental strength but it can be fixed.”
“When Italy won the World Cup in 2006, they had no good talented players more than Africa with all due respect. At that time, Italy was not better than the leading countries in Africa but they have something that is lacking here in Africa and its more to do with the mental strength and this can be taught by employing the best people to teach it.”
Grant, who said he was particularly following the Nigerian Super Eagles since their Nations Cup triumph in South Africa and reckons they will be Africa’s top side because of their “brilliance”, advised the coaches of African teams to emphasize on the mental strength of the players and to get results in crucial moments and matches.
Nigeria’s world Cup program will go ahead as planned
Spokesman of the Nigeria Football Federation, Ademola Olajire, has stressed that there has been no change to the Super Eagles’ schedule leading to the 20th Fifa World Cup finals in Brazil, ruling out claims of a cancellation of the program.
“We have heard people talking about cancellation of the friendly with the Senior Team of USA. Sincerely, we don’t know where that is coming from.
“For avoidance of doubt, the NFF and its Official Fifa Match Agent, Jairo Pachon of Eurodata Sport hereby re-confirm that the Super Eagles will regroup in London on May 25, play Scotland at the Craven Cottage ground of English Premiership side Fulham FC on May 28 and fly to the USA on May 29.
“The African champions will play the Senior Team of Greece at the Philadelphia Union Stadium on June 3 and then take on Team USA at the EverBank Field Stadium in Jacksonville on June 7, before flying to Sao Paulo on June 11″, Olajire stated.
Norway based Ghana goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey
Former Ghana FA Chaiman MND Jawula says Stromgodest goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey can be the country’s only solution to the powerful strikes of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo at the 2014 World Cup.
With barely two months left for the tournament to begin the race for a place in coach Kwesi Appiah’s final 23-man squad has intensified with massive campaigns to have certain players included in the team.
The goalkeeping department will be fiercely contested with Adam Kwarasey and Fatau Dauda the key players fighting for the number one position.
Veteran goalie Richard Kingson, Daniel Agyei and CHAN hero Stephen Adams as well as Spain-based Razak Brimah are all lurking around for a potential inclusion into the team.
But former Ghana FA Chairman MND Jawula believes Stromgodest captain Adam Kwarasey stands tall among his compatriots and should be given the nod, claiming Turkish-based veteran goalie Richard Kingson and Dauda are simply not good enough to man the post.
“I’m not quite sure Richard Kingson can handle shots from [Cristiano] Ronaldo, he may be playing actively for a second-tier side but I don’t think he needs a call-up,” Jawula said on a Ghanaian TV show.
“We have good goalkeepers but I will choose Adam Kwarasey over Fatau Dauda and the rest.
“He was the best goalkeeper for his team last season and he is also playing actively week in and out.
“I’m sure nobody will hand over his life into the hands of an inactive pilot.
“I went to commission a match in South Africa involving Orlando Pirates but he [Dauda] was not part of the team so I looked for him only to find him in the stands watching the game. I felt very sorry for him.
“The goalkeepers to be selected will be Adam Kwarasey as the first-choice followed by Fatau Dauda and Stephen Adams. Stephen was very good at the just ended CHAN tournament in South Africa.”
Dauda, who plays for South African side Orlando Pirates, must start getting regular playing time if he wants to remain Ghana’s number one at the global piece in Brazil.
He has been restricted to the substitute bench as pressure heaps on him to break into the starting line-up while his competitor Kwarasey has been in consistent form for the Norwegian champions.
The Africans are drawn in group G alongside ‘old friends’ USA and Germany as well as Portugal which has reigning World Player Cristiano Ronaldo in their fold.
Iran will play against Nigeria at the World Cup
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has invited 28 players for his team’s World Cup preparatory training camp in South Africa.
The camp will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from April 14 to May 7.
Arsenal transfer target Sardar Azmoun and European-based players have not been invited because their participation in their leagues.
Iran has been drawn along with giant Argentina, Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Group F of the 2014 World Cup.
Iran will play Mozambique in its training camp in S. Africa and will also face Trinidad and Tobago in its final preparation for the 2014 World Cup in a match to be held in Sao Paolo, Brazil on June 8.
The World Cup will begin in Sao Paulo on June 12 and will end in Rio’s famous Maracana stadium on July 13.
Iran will play Nigeria in Curitiba on June 16 in its first group match.
Players invited for Iran’s training camp:
Rahman Ahmadi – Sepahan Esfahan
Sousha Makani – Foolad Khuzestan
Hamed Lak – Tractor Sazi Tabriz
Khosro Heydari – Esteghlal Tehran
Hossein Mahini – Persepolis Tehran
Pejman Montazeri – Umm Salal, QAT
Jalal Hosseini – Persepolis Tehran
Amir-Hossein Sadeghi – Esteghlal Tehran
Shoja Khalilzadeh – Sepahan Esfahan
Mohammad-Reza Khanzadeh – Zob Ahan Esfahan
Ahmad Alenemeh – Naft Tehran
Hashem Beikzadeh – Esteghlal Tehran
Ehsan Hajsafi – Sepahan Esfahan
Mehrdad Pouladi – Persepolis Tehran
Mehrdad Jamaati – Foolad Khhuzestan
Javad Nekounam – Kuwait SC, KUW
Andranik Teymourian – Esteghlal Tehran
Reza Haghighi – Persepolis Tehran
Omid Ebrahimi – Sepahan Esfahan
Ghasem Hadadifar – Zob Ahan Esfahan
Bakhtiar Rahmani – Foolad Khuzestan
Payam Sadeghian – Persepolis Tehran
Mohsen Mosalman – Persepolis Tehran
Mohammad-Reza Khalatbari – Persepolis Tehran
Mehdi Sharifi – Sepahan Esfahan
Karim Ansarifard – Tractor Sazi Tabriz
Reza Norouzi – Naft Tehran
Yaghoub Karimi – Sepahan Esfahan
NFF general-secretary Musa Amadu told the media that they are already monitoring the progress of players belonging to their Group F rivals.
Eden Dzeko will be in the Bosnia side that will face Nigeria
The Nigeria Football Federation has said that they keeping a close watch on the Super Eagles’ group opponents at this summer’s World Cup.
“A lot of work is going on with regards to doing espionage on Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Argentina,” Amadu said.
“It is not like anybody is sleeping whether from the technical crew or from the Nigeria Football Federation. Everything is being done to monitor players of Nigeria, players of Bosnia, Iran and Argentina.
“We are watching and monitoring the players of all the other countries whether they are playing, the players that are playing, those that are injured, those that are hot like (Edin) Dzeko and those that are not doing very well. A lot of hard work is going on as we speak.”
Algeria will be at the World Cup in Juneo
Algeria’s players hope to finally come out of the shadow of the 1982 World Cup team, which is still considered the nation’s best after beating European champions West Germany in their opening group game.
That remains the nation’s finest performance on the international stage – not to mention one of the biggest World Cup upsets in history – and every Algeria squad have failed to live up to it since.
The bitterness of that tournament, where a seemingly contrived result between Austria and Germany in their final group match qualified both of them at the expense of the Algerians, is still keenly felt among fans and continues to fuel passionate debate.
That Algeria team contained genuine stars, such as skillful forwards Rabah Madjer and Mustapha Dahleb, and the outstanding Lakhdar Belloumi in midfield.
This year’s team does not have any players of similar ability, with only winger Sofiane Feghouli coming close.
Since the heady days of the 1980s, Algeria have found success hard to come by on the international stage and are without a major trophy since winning the African Cup of Nations in 1990, although they did reach the African Cup semi-finals in 2010, where they were routed by Egypt 4-0.
This will be Algeria’s fourth World Cup, the other appearances coming in 1986 and four years ago in South Africa, where a well-drilled side held Fabio Capello’s highly-fancied England to a 0-0 draw.
But while Algeria were solid in defence, conceding only two goals in three group games, they lacked invention, failing to score a goal and finishing last after losing to Slovenia and the United States, both 1-0.
This year’s experienced side is shaped around CSKA Sofia goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi and rugged centere half and captain Madjid Bougherra, with Foued Kadri and promising 19-year-old Nabil Bentaleb as the main creative talents in midfield. Dinamo Zagreb forward El Arbi Hillel Soudani remains the best finisher in attack.
Bentaleb’s age may work against him, though, with Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic perhaps reluctant to start him in such a big tournament.
They will head to Brazil with spirits high, however, after dominating their group in qualifying, winning five of six matches and finishing seven points ahead of Mali.
The problem the 61-year-old Halilhodzic faces is that Algeria’s World Cup group looks even harder than four years ago, with Belgium, Russia and South Korea standing in the way.
Algeria will need to summon the spirit of ‘82 to pull off an upset against Belgium in their opening match on June 17. If they do, then finally the fans will have some new idols to revere.
Realistically, another early exit looks more likely.
Under coach Vahid Halilhodzic, Algeria have more flair and score more goals.
The well-organised and technically assured side starts at the back, where Madjid Bougherra runs the defence. At full back, Faouzi Ghoulam has also impressed.
The main attacking threat comes from Sofiane Feghouli, who is arguably the team’s best player. Halilhodzic will be counting on him to unlock defences in Brazil.
Here are five players to watch:
Sofiane Feghouli – Sofiane Feghouli is Algeria’s most skillful player and has proven himself in Spain over the past few seasons with some impressive performances at Valencia.
The 24-year-old winger played for France’s Under-21 side and was even close to a call-up for the senior team before pledging his allegiance to Algeria. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic gave him his international debut three years ago.
The Parisian-born Feghouli, who has scored five goals in 17 international appearances, has everything to trouble defenders: pace, skill, passing and an eye for goal. But he has also been plagued by inconsistency.
Faouzi Ghoulam – Like Sofiane Feghouli, French-born Faouzi Ghoulam chose Algeria after playing for France’s Under-21 team.
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi
Nigeria head coach Stephen Keshi has refuted reports that have linked him to irregular payments of bonuses from the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations triumph.
Keshi’s former assistant coach Sylvanus Okpala, is reported to have said that money from Cross River state government was pocketed by the Super Eagles coach and Nigeria Football Federation officials.
However, the national team media officer Ben Alaiya, who spoke on the coach suggested that the allegations are a smear campaign aimed at fuelling the disagreements between him and the football governing body.
“I want to assume that Sylvanus was misquoted but if not then there is no truth in such a claim, because the NFF has never asked or shared from any monies given to the team by supporters and well meaning Nigerians and state governments,” Keshi said in a statement.
“We have our rules here in the team and the team administrator normally liaises with the captain and other relevant authorises before such monies are doled out.
“Indeed, the Cross River Government was very clear about who gets what and the money was paid direct to the account of all the players and officials.”
He added: “I don’t know why the media and some of our friends like to drag me into all these controversies when we should be concentrating on preparation for the World Cup.
“Maybe the name Keshi just evokes some form of joy in their minds and the only way to appreciate it is to put me under the searchlight all the time, it’s not fair on me please.”
The twenty-eight national associations who attended the just ended FIFA workshop in South Africa have asked Fifa to increase Africa’s allocation of five places at the World Cup.
The continent has five slots, although this increased to six when South Africa hosted the continent’s first finals four years ago.
Nonetheless, no more than one African nation has ever reached the knock-out stage at any World Cup.
“The allocation of Africa’s World Cup slots is based on a decision taken in 1994 at the FIFA congress in Chicago, just ahead of the World Cup in the United States,” Danny Jordaan, the president of South Africa Football Association (SAFA) explained.
“When that allocation was made 20 years ago, was African football still at the same place? And if not, what progress has been made – and is there a case for an argument of increasing the number of slots for the African continent?”
Jordaan is keen to bring these issues to the table at the Fifa Congress in Brazil, though he suggests it may be after the World Cup.
Alongside African champions Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria and Cameroon are set to compete in Brazil.
No African side has ever reached the semi-finals, although Ghana were a penalty miss away in 2010, while Cameroon (1990) and Senegal (2002) make up the three sides to have reached the last eight.
Former Nigeria defender
Former Nigeria international Taribo West has blasted the NFF for giving coach Stephen Keshi a query,saying that they are trying to foist failure on the team and causing distractions.
The former Inter and AC Milan player said that such moves could only but be inimical to Nigerian football,especially putting into consideration that the World Cup is few months away.
“I don’t know why the NFF has chosen this time to query Keshi when the World Cup is just around the corner,”Taribo said in an interview.
“We should be concluding our plans for the World Cup and not fighting Keshi . The query is irrelevant – it’s a distraction.They should stop harassing him.
“I believe there are people inside and outside the NFF who are benefitting immensely from the confusion in our football.
“They are the ones instigating the crisis to make money to the detriment of the development of the game in the country and our World Cup preparations. They know if there’s a good relationship between Keshi and the NFF, they won’t make money. So they put much pressure on the NFF to fight Keshi.
“They don’t care whether we perform in Brazil or not, providing they make money.
“Yes, the crisis will affect the psyche of the players but I believe Keshi will take care of it because he knows what he’s doing.”
Coach Keshi will face the NFF over issues concerning the Super Eagles
Coach Stephen Keshi’s decision to take wives of the Super Eagles players to the World Cup has not gone done with officials of the Nigeria Football Federation, according to reports.
The NFF chiefs were reportedly miffed at the explanation of the ‘Big Boss’ at a media parley organised by Tom Tom, an official partner of the NFF last week in Lagos. Keshi told the gathering that the idea was welcome because it would be a psychological boost for the players.
“There was a meeting of which Keshi was part where it was stated that having the wives with the players will be a distraction, hence it should not be approved,” a top official of the NFF said.
“That particular meeting was when the issue of a foreign fitness trainer was mooted, which Keshi rejected. Mind you, we did not impose the foreigner, we actually asked for his opinion. So, we cannot understand why Keshi would go ahead to say that,” he said.
But other sources have been quoted in the Nigerian media as saying that the issue would be brought up when both parties meet next week.
Another reason why the federation may be angry with Keshi is that he is expected to be aware of the Glass House’s financial situation. It is also not clear if the N2 billion approved for the team’s World Cup campaign covers the players’ partners.
The 1994 Super Eagles, which was incidentally captained by Keshi captained were allowed to travel to the World Cup in the U.S.A. with their wives at the expense of the government. “I believe it is an issue that will be thrashed out. Let us just wait for the outcome of the meeting,” said the source.
Keshi has been in Abuja since the week started to discuss Brazil 2014 preparations, but has not been able to meet with key officials of the NFF Technical Committee who are away on official duties. They are expected back from this weekend.