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Brazil to Face Spain in men football final

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Spain will play reigning champions Brazil in the Olympic men’s football final after Marco Asensio’s superb extra-time winner yesterday secured a 1-0 victory over host nation Japan in Saitama.

The Real Madrid winger came off the bench as a substitute and curled in a terrific strike in the 115th minute, sending Spain through to a first Olympic final since they finished runners-up at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

“We knew it was going to be difficult against a good team that was having a great tournament. We knew what we had to do and with patience, effort and hard work the reward had to come.

Japan will take on Mexico in Friday’s bronze medal match. Mexico lost 4-1 on penalties to Brazil in Kashima following 120 goalless minutes.

Having needed a last-gasp equaliser against Ivory Coast in the previous round before prevailing 5-2 after extra time, Spain created the better chances over the 90 minutes against Japan without making the breakthrough.

Japan goalkeeper Kosei Tani produced a key save to deny Rafa Mir in the first half, while VAR intervened to overturn a penalty awarded to Spain after a tackle by Maya Yoshida on Mikel Merino.

Takefusa Kubo had a shot batted away by Unai Simon before Japan withstood a late siege, as Kou Itakura threw himself in the way of Martin Zubimendi’s strike before Mir fired against the legs of Tani.

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As a shootout beckoned Asensio conjured up a touch of magic, spinning free inside the area and bending his effort beyond Tani’s despairing dive.

Earlier, Brazil goalkeeper Santos saved Eduardo Aguirre’s penalty in a shootout before Johan Vasquez smacked the post with Mexico’s second attempt.

Dani Alves, Gabriel Martinelli, Bruno Guimaraes and Reinier all scored for Brazil, who will be appearing in a fifth Olympic final on Saturday in Yokohama.

SPORTS

We’ll use Football to promote Unity, National Devt- Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari has declared his administration’s commitment to use football for the development of the girl-child, inspiring young people to have rewarding careers in the game.

 

The president stated this when he received the FIFA delegation led by its president Gianni Infantino and the president of Confederation of African Football (CAF) Patrice Motsepe, at State House, Abuja on Thursday.

President Buhari called on the top echelon of football’s world governing body to see Nigeria as “one of its greatest assets when it comes to the development of football’’.

On women’s football, the president expressed delight that Nigeria has produced excellent role models to inspire the next generation of stars to take up the sport.

‘‘Our National women’s football team, the Super Falcons are a force to reckon with both on the continent and internationally.

‘‘Some of our women footballers such as Asisat Oshoala, who only recently became the first African to win the women’s European Champions League with her club Barcelona.

‘‘Rasheedat Ajibade, Rita Chikwelu, Onome Ebi, who is the only African to have played in five FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals, Desire Oparanozie and before them Perpetual Nkwocha, Mercy Akide-Udoh, Nkiru Okosieme and Ann Chiejiene are globally recognized stars,’’ he said.

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President Buhari, therefore, urged the leadership of the world football governing body to consider Nigeria top on its plan for support and investment.

The president also told the visiting FIFA president, who is in the country for the six-nation Aisha Buhari Invitational Football Tournament, that since 2017 his administration had adopted football as a national asset.

According to him, sport is being accorded the highest level of attention possible by the government to enable rapid development of abundant talents in the country.

‘‘I have also approved the unveiling of a committee to draw up a 10 year football development master plan for the country.

‘‘I expect that the recommendations of this committee will accelerate the development of football. It is my hope that it will further improve the fortunes of the game internationally.

On the Aisha Buhari Cup (ABC), with the theme “Playing for Good”, which is on-going in Lagos, the Nigerian leader said the tournament could not have come at a better time.

‘‘This Women’s football competition is a novel idea here and I am sure it will be exciting in its execution for our women folk and lovers of football.

‘‘It is also a confirmation of what we already know about our women,’’ he said.

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The president thanked FIFA for making ABC, a ranking tournament, adding that he looks forward to more countries joining to participate in the future.

President Buhari, who described football as one of the greatest sources of unity in the country as well as in many parts of the world, said:

‘‘Our hearts beat as one anytime our teams are playing a football match. Our youth are always positively engaged when our national football teams are on assignment.

‘‘Without any doubts here, football is a major tool of national unity’’.

The Nigerian leader commended the enormous work done by the organisation in the development of football, using it as a tool for positive social change and to drive global unity.

He pledged support for the latest FIFA initiative, the FIFA Connect programme which aims to drive football development at the grassroots using technology, assuring football body’s top echelon of Nigeria’s active participation in the programme .

He also emphasised Nigeria’s huge pedigree in global and continental football.

According to the president, the country has achieved successes in many international and continental competitions while maintaining close, cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with FIFA.

‘‘Nigeria is one of the few nations of the world that has participated in all FIFA competitions, at all the different levels for both men and women.

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‘‘These have opened doors of opportunities for a lot of our young boys and girls, men and women to have rewarding careers in the game,’’ he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development Sunday Dare said Nigeria, as the leading black nation in the world, was central to all that FIFA is seeking to achieve in its football development plan.

‘‘We love football and we follow the game passionately,’’ he said.

Also speaking, Infantino renewed FIFA’s commitment to support the development of football in Nigeria, pledging to strengthen its partnership with the Nigeria Football Federation.

‘‘Nigeria is a big football playing country. We need Nigeria to lead the football movement in the world, together with Africa as a continent,’’ he said.

The FIFA president thanked President Buhari for supporting the development of the game, appealing to him to help FIFA amplify the message of football as a uniting force.

‘‘When football is played there are no divisions in a nation or continent. Football brings people together and to do that we need important countries like Nigeria,’’ he said. (NAN)

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Ohunene Dominates Sapetro Futures Tennis Girls’ 16 Event

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By Orkula Shaagee, Abuja

Emerging tennis prodigy, Ohunene Yakubu, ranked19 in Nigeria’s women tennis lived up to her billing on Wednesday as she made her debut in the Girls’ 16 category at the ongoing Sapetro Futures Tennis Championship.

Lagos based Yakubu defeated Sofia Agbabiaka also from Lagos 9-4 in her opening match and then stamped her authority in the group stage with an easy 9-1 victory over Priscilla Terfa from Benue. She will need one match to top her group and qualify for the semi-finals slated for Friday.

In the boys; events, Mubarak Ganiyu from Oyo State and Seun Ogunsakin from Ekiti playing in the 16s and 14s respectively, had testy rides in their group matches.

Ganiyu beat Lucky Danjuma from Abuja 9-4 in his first match and survived a spirited fight from Happy Agbe from Benue who eventually succumbed 9-6;

Ogunsakin beat Kpum Kater from Benue 9-3 and will meet Nathaniel Ibrahim from Lagos Thursday in a semifinal decider.

The week long tournament which is featuring four categories – 10s, 12s, 14s and 16s – is taking place at the Lagos lawn Tennis Club.

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SPORTS

Team Nigeria Depart Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifiers, to Arrive on Friday

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The 26-man contingent is expected to arrive in Lagos from Ethiopia on Friday.

Nigeria secured two victories from four matches, while Team captain Blessing Etim recorded the feat of securing four wickets, four overs and four maidens in the match against Cameroon.

Etim told reporters that, Gaborone on Wednesday that the experience had been worthwhile.

“It has been a great experience for the team but it was unfortunate that we were not able to make it to the semi-finals stage.

“However, I will rate the team’s overall performance average, even though we are very hopeful that we will continue to improve in our style of play,” she said.

Etim also commented on her feat in the game against Cameroon.

“I never thought of achieving that record. It came as a surprise to me. I knew I had four wickets but not four maidens.

“Realising that after the game made me very happy and I am thankful to my teammates for making that possible,” she added.

Nigeria lost to Namibia and Uganda but defeated Cameroon and Sierra Leone in their Group B matches.

The result was not enough to secure Nigeria a place at the semi-finals of the 11-nation tournament scheduled to end on Sunday.(NAN)

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