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AFCON Qualifiers: Super Eagles step up preparations for Libya clash

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Super Eagles get new date for Seychelles tie

The Nigeria national football team, the Super Eagles, will on Wednesday have their second training session as they step up preparations for their crucial Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON qualifying matches against Libya.

Already, 22 of the 24 players invited to face Libya are on the ground in Uyo and they are all looking forward to Saturday’s game billed for the Akwa Ibom Stadium, as well as the reverse leg in Sfax, Tunisia three days later.

Stand-in skipper, Ahmed Musa, is top on the list of players getting set for battle against the Mediterranean Knights of Libya.

Three-time African champions, Nigeria has failed to qualify for the last two editions of the AFCON tournament. Even now, a three-point rating against present Group E pacesetters, Libya, is not negotiable, come Saturday.

Goalkeepers Francis Uzoho, Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Daniel Akpeyi, as well as defenders William Ekong, Semi Ajayi, Leon Balogun, Olaoluwa Aina, Jamilu Collins, Abdullahi Shehu, Chidozie Awaziem and Kenneth Omeruo are among those at the Ibom Meridien Hotels and Resort.

Also on ground are midfielders Wilfred Ndidi, Samuel Kalu, Ogenyi Onazi, John Ogu and Oghenekaro Etebo, and forwards Isaac Success, Alex Iwobi, Moses Simon, Henry Onyekuru and Kelechi Iheanacho.

Only Russia –based wing back, Bryan Idowu and China-based forward, Odion Ighalo are being expected on Wednesday.

There are however fears that the duo may be affected by the strike action at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, early Wednesday morning.

The Mediterranean Knights top Group E with four points (from their defeat of Seychelles and draw with South Africa), while South Africa (winner over Nigeria before they drew with Libya) are second and Nigeria, who lost to South Africa and defeated Seychelles, lie third.

The Libyan Football Federation confirmed on Monday that a 54-man delegation, comprising players, technical crew, backroom staff and LFF officials will fly into Ibom International Airport, Uyo, aboard a chartered aircraft on Thursday.

It was however gathered that erstwhile coach of the Libya’s national team, Adel Amrouche, will not be in Uyo, having reportedly resigned from his post owing to a backlog of unpaid salaries.

Meanwhile, the match officials for Saturday’s tie from the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the referee assessor from Mali and the security officer from South Africa, are all billed to arrive in Nigeria on Thursday and then fly to Uyo Friday morning.

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Odion Ighalo shares throwback Photos

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AFCON Qualifiers: Ighalo tops 24-man list of invited players for Seychelles tie

 

Super Eagles player, Odion Ighalo has shared his throwback photos, revealing his journey in football. Ighalo while posting the photos said, he has paid his dues.

Ighalo is the top scorer in the ongoing 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.

The Changchun Yatai player is the leading top scorer ahead of the tournament scheduled for Cameroon in 2019.

 

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Juventus forced me to leave

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Juventus forced me to leave

AC Milan striker Gonzalo Higuain said he was treated very well by Juventus — right until the moment they forced him out of the club to make way for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Argentine moved to Milan on loan in August after two seasons at Juventus, where he won two Serie A and Coppa Italia titles.

Higuain also scored 55 goals in 105 appearances in all competitions.

His departure, which he said was not his decision, came shortly after the Turin side signed five-times world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.

Higuain, in an interview published on Thursday, said he felt something was amiss when he was left on the bench for the Coppa Italia final against AC Milan in May.

“That day, I had the feeling inside me that maybe something had broken down. And then they signed Ronaldo,” he said.

“The decision to leave was not mine. I gave everything for Juventus, I won several titles, after which Cristiano arrived.

“The club wanted to make a leap in quality and they told me that I could not stay and that they were trying to find a solution. The best solution was Milan“.

Still, Higuain said there were no hard feelings.

“Mine is a feeling of affection because they treated me very well,” he added. “Companions and supporters have given me huge affection. But I did not ask to leave. Basically, everyone says it, they sent me away.”

Higuain, who will take part in his first derby against Inter Milan on Sunday, has scored four goals in his first nine games for Milan.

“Milan have given me something more after a World Cup which wasn’t great,” he said. “I found what I was looking for.”

(Reuters/NAN)

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World number one, Halep, withdraws from WTA Finals

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World number one, Halep, withdraws from WTA Finals

World number one, Simona Halep, on Thursday pulled out of next week’s World Tennis Association (WTA) finals due to a lower back injury.

“It’s always difficult to withdraw from a big tournament. Actually, I think it’s the first time in my life. So it was a tough decision but it’s better for my health.

“My back is not OK. I didn’t practice for the last four weeks. I’m not ready to compete at this level and I’m still sore. It’s not easy to go on court and compete at this moment.

“The decision was tough for sure,” the 27-year-old Romanian said on her verified Twitter account of an injury sustained during training ahead of the Wuhan Open last month and later diagnosed as a herniated disc.

Halep has enjoyed a stellar season, which saw her reach the Australian Open final before winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open.

“I wanted to finish 2018 on a high after such an incredible year, but sadly my back injury hasn’t healed the way we hoped it would and I need to put my long-term health first.

“I’m sad I won’t be able to play the fifth and final edition in Singapore, but I’m confident this is the right decision and will do everything I can to be back fighting my place at the WTA Finals next year.

“Singapore is a special city and I’m sure the fans will enjoy seeing some fantastic women’s tennis this week,” she added.

Despite withdrawing from Singapore, Halep is guaranteed to end 2018 as world number one for the second year in a row.

In her absence, Kiki Bertens, who finished ninth in the Race to Singapore standings, will be making her WTA Finals debut in the last version of the tournament in Singapore after a five year run in Southeast Asia.
The 26-year-old will be first Dutchwoman to compete at the season-ending showpiece in more than 20 years, since Brenda Schultz-McCarthy lost in the first round in 1997.

Bertens has won three tournaments this season, including a victory over Halep to claim the Cincinnati Masters title.

Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina have also qualified for the $7 million event which will move to Shenzhen next year.

(Reuters/NAN)

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