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Nigerians Celebrate Super Eagles Round of 16 Qualifications

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Super Eagles pip Burundi 1 0 in Afcon Opener …Re-enacts Confidence in Fans
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… ‘It’s a Step to Becoming Champions

By Ben Nwachukwu, Abuja

Football loving Nigerians have continued to celebrate the emergence of the senior national team; Super Eagles to become the first to make it to the knockout rounds of the on-going 32nd Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt on Wednesday evening, as highly improved central defender Kenneth Omeruo’s well-tucked in header from a Moses Simon’s corner kick earned the maximum three points against Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium.

The fans who claimed that the Super Eagles below average first half almost caused them heart attack noted that it gave way to a lively second half, during which enterprising Odion Ighalo, who earned all the three points for Nigeria in the opening game after coming on as a substitute against Burundi on Saturday, had an ample opportunity to score thwarted by Guinean defenders that checkmated Ahmed Musa’s pass from an instantaneous counter-attack.

They lamented that though the Super Eagles have made history by becoming the first country to zoom into the Round of 16, the team’s attack with Alex Iwobi, Odion Ighalo, Chukwueze, Simon, Ahmed Musa et al still have more work to do if they must return with the prized trophy next month.

The Super Eagles played 27 minutes without a shot either on target or off target while the Syli Nationale had three shots on target to their credit before Iwobi’s forced clever one was saved by Guinea’s goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone after Moses Simon had shot wide.

With this result it is the first time since the AFCON finals (also staged in Egypt), Nigeria won their two matches of the finals.

At the beginning, the Syli Nationale were more business-like, working hard in search of early goal which eventually eluded them even with three shots on target including one that distressed Daniel Akpeyi.

Coach Gernot Rohr benched Captain Mikel Obi and William Ekong and Chukwueze for Simon while Ighalo started in place of Paul Onuachu however the Super Eagles did not look penetratingly creative in the first half hour and it was principally the union of Kenneth Omeruo, Leon Balogun, Chidozie Awaziem and Ola Aina at the rear that guaranteed a barren score line at the break.

 Iwobi who was described by the commentator as the most enterprising player on Nigeria’s side had movement and venture but gave the ball away in turn and Ighalo lamented after side-netting with Musa waiting eagerly to raze the net from close range in the 32nd minute that he did not look up. Earlier, he had, with a poor first touch, rummaged a good pass from wing wizard Musa after the deputy Captain’s run down the left, and Iwobi also wasted another excellent pass by the quick winger.

Only a draw from their last match of the group phase against Madagascar on Sunday will see the Super Eagles to finish top of the group and remain in Alexandria for their Round of 16 fixture.

SPORTS

Para Badminton: Bolaji, Chigozie qualify for Paris 2024 Paralympics

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The duo of Mariam Eniola Bolaji and Jeremiah Chigozie have qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games coming up from 28th August to 8th September.

According to the Badminton World Federation, Multiple African Champion, Mariam Bolaji will represent Nigeria in the Women’s Singles Standing Lower 3 (SL3) while Jeremiah Chigozie represents Nigeria in the Men’s Singles Standing Lower 4 (SL4).

An elated Francis Orbih, President of Badminton Federation of Nigeria said the qualification of Mariam Bolaji and Jeremiah Chigozie is a testimony of hard work, consistency and perseverance.

Orbih who was full of joy revealed that Nigeria stands a good chance to make history by winning medals in para badminton in her debut appearance.

He said, “Today, history has been made as two players for the first time will be representing Nigeria in the para badminton event at the Paralympic Games. I am full of joy because the sacrifices of the players and the Federation were not in vain.

“Mariam Bolaji and Jeremiah Chigozie have consistently attended the African Championship winning gold medals in the singles and doubles events. Last month, Mariam Bolaji won two gold medals at the Spanish Internationals in Victoria and Toledo putting her in a better position to make it to the Paralympics; which has become a reality.

“With adequate camping, foreign tours and proper funding, I believe Nigeria will win a medal in the Para Badminton event when we make our debut this year”.

Orbih once again, called on well meaning individuals to support the Badminton Federation of Nigeria in ensuring the athletes get maximum support ahead of the Olympic/Paralympic Games in Paris next August.

He said, “I will not get tired of calling on the Federal Government of Nigeria and the private sector to key into our brand and give more support to the Badminton Federation of Nigeria. We have athletes who are marketable and will sell their brands to the world with their sterling performances”.

Mariam Eniola Bolaji shocked the world by winning her first gold medal at the Spanish Para badminton International 2021 beating Oksana Kozyna from Ukraine.

Bolaji won the women’s singles SL3 at the Uganda Para Badminton International 2023, All African Para Badminton Championship 2023 (Doubles and Mixed Doubles).

She won gold medals at the 5th Fazza Dubai Para Badminton International 2023, Egypt Para Badminton International 2024, World Para Badminton Championship 2024 in Thailand and Spanish Para Badminton International 2024.

Bolaji is also the first African player to be ranked among the top 10 in the BWF world rankings as she is currently ranked number 5 in the world.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah Chigozie won bronze medal at the Uganda Para Badminton International 2023 and three gold medals at African Para Badminton Championship 2023

He played a lesser number of championships compared to Eniola; playing in Egypt, Dubai, and World Championship in Thailand.

Chigozie got to the quarter finals in the men’s singles SL4 category in Thailand and currently ranked number 16 in the recent BWF para Badminton ranking.

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SPORTS

Tinubu Congratulates Table Tennis Champion, Aruna Quadri Over ITTF Trophy

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President Bola Tinubu has congratulated Nigeria’s table tennis pacesetter, Aruna Quadri, on winning the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Africa Cup title.

Quadri achieved a resounding victory in the final match of the 2024 ITTF Africa Cup in Rwanda, reclaiming his title and sealing his place as Africa’s table tennis champion.

 

The President commended the table tennis star for his dogged pursuit of excellence even in the face of gnawing obstacles, declaring that the zeal for distinction, the hardiness to succeed, and the inventiveness to solve complex problems are the exceptional qualities that define Nigerians.

The President also noted the recent progress in the nation’s sports sector, with remarkable performances in the African Games, the Africa Cup of Nations, and the World Relay Championships, and emphasized that his administration will continue to foster the growth and development of sports in the country.

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SPORTS

NFF Appoints Finidi George as Super Eagles’ Head Coach

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The Board of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has appointed Finidi George as Head Coach of the Senior Men National Football Team, the Super Eagles.

A statement by Ademola Olajire, NFF’s Director of Communications, on Monday said the NFF approved the recommendation of its Technical and Development Committee to appoint George.

Reports says that the ace winger spent 20 months as assistant to José Peseiro before the Portuguese voluntarily left the post after guiding the team to silver medal at AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire.

George took charge of the squad in acting capacity during two friendly matches in Morocco last month.

His squad edged Ghana 2-1 in the first match, ending an 18-year winless streak against the Black Stars, but then lost 0-2 to Mali in the second game.

He was a member of the so-styled ‘Golden Generation’ that won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Tunisia.

The team also emerged the second most entertaining team in Nigeria’s debut at the FIFA World Cup finals in USA the same year.

George won 62 caps for Nigeria, including featuring at the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cup finals. He also won gold, silver and bronze medals from the 1992, 1994, 2000 and 2002 AFCON tournaments.

The 52-year-old former Ajax Amsterdam (The Netherlands) and Real Betis (Spain) forward made a scoring debut for fatherland in an AFCON qualifying match against Burkina Faso at the National Stadium, Lagos, on July 27, 1991.

He also featured for Calabar Rovers and Sharks FC in the domestic scene before heading to Europe.

He assisted Rashidi Yekini (of blessed memory) to score Nigeria’s first-ever FIFA World Cup goal against Bulgaria in Dallas, USA, on 19th June 1994.

George had actually scored the goal that took Nigeria to that FIFA World Cup debut, when he put Nigeria ahead against hosts Algeria in a crucial qualifier in Algiers on 8th October, 1993.

The match eventually ended 1-1 and earned Nigeria a ticket to the finals in America.

George’s immediate task will be to guide the Super Eagles to victory in two 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and Benin Republic in Uyo and Abidjan respectively, in a little over five weeks.

The matches are must-win encounters, with the Super Eagles lagging behind in third place in Group C of the African campaign behind Rwanda and South Africa.(NAN)

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