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Algeria, Tunisia friendlies: Opportunity to test new players, improve team, says football enthusiasts



Some football enthusiasts have urged Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr to see the friendly matches against Algeria and Tunisia as an opportunity to test new players in order to improve the team.

Reigning African champions Algeria are the opponents of the Super Eagles in the first of the two international friendly matches, arranged by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to be played in Austria.

Three-time African champions Nigeria will confront the Desert Foxes on Friday, before taking on the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia four days later at the Jacques Lemans Arena.

The matches fall within the FIFA window for international matches and have been approved by world football governing body, FIFA and CAF.

A cross section of football enthusiasts said on Monday said both friendly games were very good tests for the Super Eagles and should be used to improve the team.

Godwin Bamigboye, Chairman of FCT Chapter of Nigeria Football Coaches Association (NFCA) noted that the game between Nigeria and the North African powerhouses had always been a titanic affair considering the teams’ head-to-head record.

He, however, stressed that aside from national pride, Rohr must view the game as an opportunity to test and improve the strength of his squad.

“Rohr must also use the matches to test some new players who might be impressive enough for inclusion in the Super Eagles.

“This is still part of the rebuilding process. If he discovers players with more potentials, that will be a huge gain for the team.

“Every department of the team required improvement.
I may not have details of the performance of the invited players, but it is my hope that they will prove their inclusion in the game,” he said.

For the likes of Victor Osimhen and Wilfred Ndidi who are notable absentees from the team, Bamigboye said that it was also an opportunity for their replacements to prove a point.

“Osimhen is in top form and any player invited as a replacement faces the uphill task of performing like him or close to his quality of game.

“Ebuehi is also young as well as talented and I will retain him in the Super Eagles if I were the coach.

“Whether notable players are present or not, I see the new players going to prove a point. Nigeria, Algeria and Tunisia will definitely benefit from these friendlies.

“Also from the list of invitees, it is obvious that the
home-based players have really not impressed Rohr, probably because he has not been watching the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

“However, I think the NPFL needs to be made more attractive in order for players to get more of their value’s worth,” he said.

Emmanuel Babayaro, an ex-international, on his part said his major concern was the goalkeeping department of the team, adding that he was still very concerned about the team finding a suitable replacement for Vincent Enyeama.

“My major concern is in the goalkeeping position as we are yet to have a reliable and consistent number one. I hope goalkeeper Maduka Okoye will give us some hope.

“Carl Ikeme was building up to be a reliable hand but for the health challenge he had.

“Dele Alampasu is coming back. I expect him to be a regular in the Super Eagles by now but I really don’t know his current form.

“Okoye may prove to be a reliable goal tender afterall. The friendly matches will help to assess the players.

“Generally, I see the Super Eagles as a team undergoing rebuilding. I believe that is why Rohr is testing more players.

“I see a solid team coming out from the rebuilding efforts,” he said.

Ralph Chidozie, a renowed Radio/Television sport analyst also shared the same view with Bamigboye.

He said he always looked at friendly games as an avenue to test some new players to see how they could fit into the main set up of the National team.

“I do not look at it from results and ranking points angle, but it’s always good to play quality games like the two lined up and get victories which will act as morale boosters.

“Algeria is rated 4th in Africa and 35th in the world while Tunisia is Africa’s 2nd ranked team after Senegal, and so both games are good games to take for any coach,” he said.

He noted that Nigerian football fans always willed the Super Eagles to win no matter the country they face, stressing that the most important thing was using the friendlies to improve the squad.

“I expect experimentation from Coach Rohr, going by the squad he named for the games; from the goalkeepers to the midfielders and attackers.

“I am expecting a game that will throw up a few new players to the main team.” he said.

Linus Mba, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF’s) referee adviser, and CAF referees committee member, said the friendly match was an opportunity to try out fresh legs for the critical weak positions in the team.

“Professionally technicians – the coaches are better placed to express opinions on who is to be fielded depending on what tactics are expected.

“But as a Nigerian, l pray that we use the opportunities to try out fresh legs for the critical weak positions in the Super Eagles,” he said.

Ameobi Ezeaku, the Team Manager, Rangers International Football Club of Enugu noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had slowed down everything, adding that it would therefore be difficult to predict the likely outcome of football matches.

He said this was in view of the fact that players and clubs/national teams had been laid off for a quite while.

Ezeaku, however, said that it was possible to rely on old statistics to predict the likely outcome of matches, adding that beyond these, the two high-profile friendlies would serve as good assessments for the team.

“They will be good games for the Super Eagles because it will give the national coaching crew ample opportunity to assess the team, especially the new invitees.

“Algeria and Tunisia parade quality talents who can give any team a run for their money.

“So, a friendly game against them won’t be a tea party, but serious business,” he said.

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Cristiano Ronaldo wins The Best FIFA Special Award



Cristiano Ronaldo has been honoured by FIFA for becoming the all-time leading goalscorer at the international level.

The Manchester United star has now scored 115 goals for Portugal, breaking Ali Daei’s previous record of 109.

Ronaldo received a special in-person award and was also named in the FIFPRO Men’s World11 for 2021, at what was largely a virtual ceremony for FIFA’s The Best ceremony in Zurich on Monday.

“It’s a dream. First of all, I have to say thank you to my teammates, especially in the national team during the last 20 years that I used to play with. I never thought of beating that record,” Ronaldo said.

“I have to say thank you to my family, my wife, my kids – soon I will be a father again! I’m really proud, it’s a great achievement to be the top scorer of all time.”

Asked how he is maintaining his fine goalscoring form at the age of 36,he insisted that he is as motivated as ever to even score goals and win trophies.

“It’s a passion, I still have a passion for the game, not just to score goals but to entertain myself,” Ronaldo added. “I’ve played football since I was five or six years old so when I get to the pitch even in training I still enjoy it and my motivation’s still good.

“I’m 37 soon, I feel good and motivated. I keep working hard since I was 18 and I continue. I have that passion and want to continue.

“People ask sometimes how many more years I’m going to play and I say I hope to play more than four or five years. It’s all about mentally, because physically if you treat your body good, it’ll treat you back.”

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AFCON: Okocha names most important player in Super Eagles



Former Nigeria captain, Austin Okocha has singled out Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi, for special praise.

Akpeyi is currently part of the Super Eagles’ squad at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

The 35-year-old who has made 19 international appearances, is behind Francis Uzoho and Maduka Okoye in the pecking order after his recent injury concerns.

However, Okocha believes Akpeyi has an important role to play in the team.

“Daniel is a very important player for the squad. He only lost his place through injury. This shows how strong the whole squad is, because once you miss out because of injury, it’s always difficult to get back for a goalkeeper.

“We believe we have a great squad and we have people like Daniel we can rely on if needed.

“I am happy that we have a happy competition in our goalkeeping department and it is a plus for any coach,” Okocha said in an interview with Amakhosi’s media team.

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AFCON: Egypt coach, Carlos Queiroz, reacts to loss to Super Eagles



Egypt coach, Carlos Queiroz, has said his team’s poor performance in the first half of the Africa Cup of Nations encounter with Nigeria caused Pharaohs’ loss.

He said this during a post-match interview.

According to him, Pharaohs were no where to be found on the pitch in the first half.

He said, “The performance in the first half was very poor and this is the truth, we were not on the field. We started playing in the second half and there was no reason for this failure and loss against Nigeria.

“We lost this match but there are 6 points we must get against Sudan and Guinea Bissau to qualify.”

A sweet 34th minute belter, intelligently struck by Kelechi Iheanacho and off a brilliant headed pass by Taiwo Awoniyi, earned Nigeria a first-ever opening match win over Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations as Cameroon’s northern town of Garoua dazzled in green and white on Tuesday night.

Former U-17 World Cup winner Iheanacho ran hard at the North Africans’ defence a number of times in a pulsating first half clearly dominated by the three-time African champions at the Stade Roumdé Adjia. But it was the dimunitive winger Moses Simon, who plays his club football in France, that threw the Egyptians’ rear into jeopardy several times with his dancing, taunting and inexhaustible bag of tricks, and it was his penetrating pull-out from the left that resulted in the game’s only goal.

The Eagles played with gusto, zest, immense confidence and go-go spirit – not seen for such a long time, and with Olaoluwa Aina and Zaidu Sanusi firm at both wing backs, Kenneth Omeruo and William Ekong surefooted in the central defence, Wilfred Ndidi and Joe Aribo disciplined and focused in the middle, the Pharaohs were literally at sea.

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