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Costa Rica 2022: Falconets seek three precious points against France

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Two-time runners-up and one-time semi-finalists Nigeria are upbeat about scooping the three points when they go up against one of Europe’s top teams, France in the opening match of Group C of this year’s FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup finals in San Jose on Thursday night.

Head Coach Christopher Danjuma minces no words about his faith in the high-scoring Falconets delivering on Thursday and afterward: “The World Cup stage is about players’ mentality; we have prepared the team very well in that area. You have to go out there, aim to be the best, and work hard to be the best. It is not a picnic. I believe that these girls will do Nigeria proud.

“Playing seven matches in the African qualifying series toughened the team very well, and we have also worked on their psyche. Nigeria has never been an also-ran at this level. Having reached the final twice and made the semi-finals once, the Falconets have pedigree in this championship. We cannot afford to falter. We will take it one match at a time, beginning with the game against France.”

Danjuma, who also led the team to the last tournament in France four years ago, where they lost narrowly to Spain (1-2) in the quarter-finals, is banking on the experience of the captain and central defender Oluwatosin Demehin, the lively midfield orchestra of Esther Onyenezide, Deborah Abiodun and Adoo Yina, and the ever-potent forward line of Flourish Sabastine, Mercy Idoko and Joy Jerry.

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First choice Monle Oyono is expected to be in goal against the French team, with wingbacks Omowunmi Oshobukola and Jumoke Alani also favoured to retain their places.

In the African qualifying series, the rampant Falconets hit 11 goals past the hapless Central African Republic in the second round and spanked the Republic of Congo 4-0 in Brazzaville –with the consequence that the Congolese failed to turn up for the return leg in Nigeria.

They then routed Cameroon 3-0 on aggregate in the fourth round. The final qualifying fixture against Senegal was effectively over after Flourish Sabastine hit a hat-trick away in Thies before the home team got a consolation goal from the spot late in the game.

On Thursday, Danjuma will be goading his girls to summon every sinew of strength, skill, and savvy in them to overpower France and collect three points that will stabilize their campaign and empower their quest to go all the way.

“It will not be easy but we have what is known as the special ‘Nigeria spirit’ and we will go in there with confidence and belief in what we can do. We will play to our strengths – firm at the back and clinical at the fore.”

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Falconet’s Games
Vs France – Thursday, 11th August – Estadio Nacional – 12 midnight
Vs Korea Republic – Sunday, 14th August – Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto – 9 pm
Vs Canada – Thursday, 18th August – Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto – 3 am

Groups
Group A: Costa Rica, Australia, Spain, Brazil
Group B: Germany, Colombia, New Zealand, Mexico
Group C: France, Nigeria, Canada, Korea Republic
Group D: Japan, The Netherlands, Ghana, USA

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Osimhen, Lookman snubbed for Serie A awards

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Super Eagles duo Victor Osimhen and Ademola Lookman have been snubbed for the end-of-the-season awards as neither of the two players was shortlisted by Italy’s football federation for the division’s annual MVP honours.

The Lega Serie A on Wednesday officially revealed the list of players for the end of the season awards but surprisingly, no Nigerian made the shortlists.

The current Serie A awards format which is in its sixth season has different categories which include the equivalent awards for goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and attackers, as well as the league’s overall MVP, which will be announced directly, without a shortlist, on May 24.

For the best striker’s award, AC Milan’s Rafael Leao, Paulo Dybala of Roma and Juventus leading goalscorer Dusan Vlahovic were the three players shortlisted meaning there was no space for last season winner Osimhen.

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Last year, the Striker of the Year prize was handed to the division’s top goalscorer Osimhen, who was pipped to the overall MVP award by his teammate Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

While he was not as prolific as he was last term when he finished as the Serie A top scorer with 26 goals, Osimhen still boasts of decent numbers considering how much Napoli have struggled.

He has 15 goals and three assists in 24 appearances in the Italian league and ended the season as Napoli’s best player.

Despite having his best season ever, Lookman was overlooked as Atalanta playmaker-in-chief Teun Koopmeiners, Scudetto winner Hakan Calhanoglu and Milan wide-man Christian Pulisic were listed for the best midfielder award.

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The former Leicester City forward has 15 goal contributions in 29 league games while also guiding Atalanta to the finals of the Italian Cup and Europa League.

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The Lega Serie A three-man shortlist for the Defender of the Year prize includes Inter Milan’s Alessandro Bastoni, as well as Juventus and Bologna centre-backs Gleison Bremer and Riccardo Calafiori.

Juventus stopper Wojciech Szczesny, Monza’s Michele Di Gregorio and Marco Carnesecchi of Atalanta will all vie for the best goalkeeper award.

Frosinone’s Juventus loanee Matias Soule, Torino wing-back Raoul Bellanova and Bologna leading goalscorer Joshua Zirkzee are the players listed for the Young Player of the Year prize.

According to Serie A, the awards are based on several different metrics, including stats recorded from tracking data and the ‘scientifically validated’ player rating system, which measures players’ in-game impact, movement and decision-making.

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BREAKING: Liverpool name Arne Slot new coach

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Liverpool Football Club has announced that Arne Slot has agreed to become the club’s new head coach.

The club disclosed that Slot will resume duty on January 1 after a work permit.

This was disclosed in a statement on the club’s website on Monday.

“Liverpool Football Club can announce Arne Slot has agreed a deal to become the club’s new head coach, formally taking up the position on June 1, 2024, subject to a work permit.

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“The 45-year-old will join the Reds from Feyenoord ahead of the 2024-25 season after a deal was reached with the Eredivisie club for his services,” it read.

Slot will replace Jürgen Klopp at the helm following his decision to step down from the post at the end of the current campaign.

Klopp had announced his decision to leave in January.

“The Netherlands-born coach will arrive after three highly successful seasons with Feyenoord, during which he led them to the league title in 2023 and was named Eredivisie Manager of the Year on two occasions.

“More recently, he helped the Rotterdam club to victory in the KNVB Cup in April after they defeated NEC Nijmegen 1-0 in the final.

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“Before moving to Feyenoord, Slot held the position of AZ Alkmaar head coach, and he had led them to second place in the table, trailing leaders Ajax only on goal difference, when the Dutch season was cancelled due to COVID-19 in 2019-20.

“During his playing career, he operated primarily as a midfielder, turning out for FC Zwolle, NAC Breda, Sparta Rotterdam and PEC Zwolle before hanging up his boots in 2013,” it further read.

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He will now soon become the first head coach of Liverpool FC from the Netherlands – with his first pre-season in charge of the squad set to get underway in July.

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NFF promises Eagles coach Finidi house, car after unveiling

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President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Ibrahim Gusau, has assured that newly appointed Super Eagles coach, Finidi George, will be provided with a house in the area of his choice and a driver to ensure smooth operation of his job, Theheute reports.

Gusau made these promises during the official unveiling of Finidi as Eagles coach on Monday where his assistants were also revealed.

After serving as an assistant to Portuguese coach, Jose Peseiro, Finidi was appointed as the substantive coach of the Eagles last month, beating the likes of Emmanuel Amuneke, U.S. men’s U-19 coach Michael Nsien, among other candidates to the job.

The 56-year-old will work with ex-international Daniel Amokachi and Benjamin James as assistants, Olatunji Baruwa as goalkeepers’ trainer, while Chima Onyeike will serve as fitness trainer and Turk Mehmet Ozturk as match analyst.

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Speaking at the brief ceremony in Abuja, Gusau said Finidi would be provided with a house and a driver while assuring that his salaries would be paid regularly.

“We want to avoid any issues of having conflicts in the area of paying coaches, for the coach we are going to arrange how we will be paying on a monthly basis but for every other assistant, we are engaging them on an invitational basis,” he said.

“We are going to engage them on an invitational basis, once we invite them for a match, qualifiers, or tournament; we give them whatever they are entitled to, including other allowances that the team is entitled to. Whatever the team is entitled to at any point in time, that is what the assistant coaches are entitled to and we will also agree on certain amounts that we are going to agree on to pay them whenever they come for matches or tournaments. We just want to avoid issues of having a crisis in the payment of salaries.

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“I want to assure Nigerians that we will do our best to make sure we support Finidi and give him whatever he needs to work and his salary will not be a problem because we will do our best to support him.

“Right now, as part of his contract, we must get him a comfortable house where he will stay in Nigeria which is in process and we will give him the privilege to agree on where he wants it, we will provide him transportation, he has a car already and we will provide him a driver. We just want Nigerians to support us in prayer.”

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The first task ahead of the former Ajax man is the World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic next month.

With his first real test less than a month away, the ex-international says his target is to qualify the Eagles for the 2026 World Cup.

“If you get to see my contract, it’s boldly written there what the NFF wants. But personally, my first target is to reach the 2026 World Cup and AFCON qualifiers will be coming up soon. But the major one are these two games we have which are against South Africa and Benin Republic. From there we will set the tone and take it from there,” Finidi said.

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