Nigeria and Cameroon will once more battle it out at the Stadion Wiener Neustadt in the second of a two-match friendly programme in the Austrian capital, Vienna.
Five –time African champions Cameroon edged the first encounter 1-0 at the same venue on Friday, courtesy of a 36th minute strike by Andre Zambo Anguissa. The Super Eagles created chance after chance but failed to get the ball into the net.
Coach Gernot Rohr spoke at length about having to use a rash of new players in the first session, but he is compelled to do even more of that in Tuesday’s encounter following injuries to defenders William Ekong and Jamilu Collins, and the knock for pacy winger Moses Simon.
Simon appeared to be getting better as of Monday morning, but the smart money is on him starting from the bench, just as Cyprus-based goalkeeper Francis Uzoho may start in goal against the Indomitable Lions. With the versatile Abdullahi Shehu heaved back to the rear from midfield for which he was initially pencilled down, and the couple of injuries from Friday’s match, Rohr has had to extend invitation to Hungary –based Vincent Onovo to fight for his first cap. Onovo arrived in the team hotel just after dinner on Sunday.
A three-man defenceline is in the offing, with perhaps Chidozie Awaziem, who impressed in that unit on Friday, Abdullahi and Ozornwafor. Another late invitee, Anthony Izuchukwu, from Slovakia, is another possibility. A loaded midfield could include Onovo, with Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo, Samson Tijani and Abraham Marcus also on the roll.
Home –based professional Anayo Iwuala could start, with Paul Onuachu, Peter Olayinka, Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi, Moses Simon, Terem Moffi and Captain Ahmed Musa also to taste action.
After Friday’s game, Rohr told the media: “We missed seven key players due to injuries, so it was not our best team, but it was good to see other players. We are not happy to lose the game, but we saw some interesting new young players.”
Friday’s defeat was Rohr’s first loss to Cameroon in four matches. The Eagles pounded the Lions 4-0 in Uyo and were held 1-1 in Yaounde in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in September 2017, and then edged the Lions 3-2 in the Round of 16 at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt two years ago.
Though a friendly game, fierce rivals Cameroon were very happy to prevail over Nigeria for the first time since winning the Africa Cup of Nations final on penalty shoot-out in Lagos 21 years ago. “We took the game seriously because we played against a tough opponent, a big game against a big rival. It was important for us to show our preparations, and I’m happy we won,” said Cameroon’s Germany-based striker Eric Choupo-Moting.
A sense of purpose to win the second game reigns supreme in the Eagles’ Hilton Garden Inn camp in Wiener Neustadt, 46 kilometres outside Vienna.
After a one-hour training session in the light drizzle on Sunday morning, the three-time African champions will have their last training session at the match venue on Monday evening. Captain Ahmed Musa says defeat in Tuesday’s game is not an option.
“We are not happy to have created so many chances and fail to score. We will approach the game differently on Tuesday. Cameroon is a big rival and we are not happy to have lost the game on Friday.”
The match is slated for 5 pm Nigerian time.
Mercy Shines On Messi As Argentina Beat Brazil To Win Copa America Trophy
By Taiwo Ibrahim
Romans 9 v15: He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” KJV
For years, it has been a case of tears, disappointment and it looked like Mercy eluded Lionel Messi on the international scene, Sportivation.com.ng reports.
He lost four finals with the La Albiceleste including the 2014 FIFA World Cup and three Copa America finals before Mercy prevailed for him and as it is written in the holy book, “weeping may endure for a night, but Joy cometh in the morning”
Joy truly came in the morning as most Messi fans in Nigeria stayed awake to watch the final in the early hours of Sunday as he led Argentina to their first Copa America trophy since 1993.
Angel Di Maria scored the only goal in the 22nd-minute to give Argentina a 1-0 victory over their arch-rivals, Brazil in the land of the Selecao.
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Before the match, Messi and Neymar were named the best players of the tournament, this is the first time the award will be split between two players.
According to Conmebol, “It is not possible to choose only one player, because this competition has two best players,” CONMEBOL said in a statement.
“They demonstrated in each match the different qualities that make them players of integrity, with technical and tactical quality, for their intelligence with and without the ball, and their decision making, which is always decisive.
“Both are finalists with their national teams, they have performed at a high level, being key players in the goalscoring charts in this tournament.
“In addition, they are leaders in assists – the Argentine has five and the Brazilian has provided three – which demonstrates how decisive they have been on the pitch during this CONMEBOLCopa America 2021.”
Messi was at the heart of everything good for Argentina in the competition scoring four goals and racking up five assists including two sublime free-kicks.
EURO 2020 FINAL: Is It Going Home, Or Is It Going To Rome ?
The last one month in Europe has been full of actions as eleven nations witnessed a premium football festival to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Europe’s football showpiece, Sportivation.com.ng reports.
And so far, there’s been conflicting reactions from different quarters in Europe as to how EUROS 2020 has panned out for a couple of juggernauts in European football.
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The prepotency of narratives that erupted is that UEFA’s diplomacy to make the The Three Lions emerge winners of the competition isn’t stealth enough, due to the scrappy arrangements made by the football body to have Wembley host more matches than any other stadium in Europe.
And indeed, the dodgy penalty awarded to England in the semifinals against Denmark gave some validations to those popular opinions.
But amidst all this reactions and counter reactions, the last hurdle of the competition will still serve off on Sunday evening at the Wembley Stadium, London, in England.
However, the destination of the EUROS trophy remains unclear as both sides in the final fancies their chances of landing the trophy after 90 minutes or a probable enthralling 120 minutes given that the Azurris and The Three Lions have been the best sides in the tourney thus far, and their semifinal matches was decided after 120 minutes.
The Great Intents
England’s journey to the final of a major international competition is as a result of athleticism and resilience in the last four to years, and it has culminated into a steep progress with Gareth Southgate at the helms.
The Three Lions shortly after the disappointing 2-1 loss to Iceland at the quarterfinals of the EUROS in France in 2016, rebuilt from scratch, and appointed her former player and U-21 manager, Gareth Southgate.
And ever since, the team have captured the imagination of a success starved teeming fans of English Football.
Five years into Southgate’s spell, England have played in the semifinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and will play in her first final of a major football competition in 55 years. Really, there’s never been a better feeling than this in the English camp since 1966.
Also, England’s unbeaten run datesback to 2020 when they lost to the Red Devils of Belgium in the UEFA Nations League.
And hitherto, The Three Lions have lost in the semifinals of five major tournaments (EURO ’68 and ’96, the 1990 and 2018 World Cups and the 2019 UEFA Nations League).
But seeing off Germany, Ukraine and Denmark (after 120 minutes) on Wednesday night to book a date in the final against the Azurris, they have the chance to put behind them an agonizing 55 years.
Ostensibly, The Three Lions have gotten a very high mountain to surmount, a fact that has been acknowledged by Gareth Southgate himself.
“We’ve got to enjoy the fact we’re in the final but there’s one more massive hurdle to conquer. Italy are a very good side, I’ve thought that the last couple of years. They are in outstanding form and have defensive warriors who have been through everything. It’s a great game to look forward to.” Southgate said.
Meanwhile, The Italians on the other hand, have surpassed whatever expectations many had for them because they weren’t seen as serious contenders by most people untill the knockout stages of this year’s EUROS.
It will be recalled that Roberto Mancini’s side was not given much respect especially by some English pundits, who claimed that the Italians fizzle out when they face a more technical and clinical side.
But here we are, Italy have knocked out Austria, Belgium and Spain, posing a 6 matches unbeaten run in EUROS 2020 and 33 overall.
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Therefore, if it’s by the pedigree of the teams both Italy and England have ousted in the competition prior to Sunday’s final, the Italians obviously, will be the favorite team to emerge champions of Europe. Sadly, it’ll not happen like that.
This is a final that would be down to the greatest of intents from both sides.
Italy’s probable dynamism so far is how they’ve approached each match they’ve played in this competition with little or no pressure. Even when they were on the brink of elimination during the shootouts against Spain, there were grins on the faces of everyone.
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And there’s no better spirit or feeling to approach a young and talented Gareth Southgate’s tutored English side than this.
Same cannot be said for The Three Lions because at some point in their EUROS 2020 campaign, there was panic and glimpses of disappointment.
Messi, Neymar Battle For First Copa America Trophy
Former Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar will line up opposite each other in Saturday’s Copa America final looking to end a hoodoo that has also affected some of their countries’ greatest players.
Like Brazil’s Pele and Diego Maradona of Argentina before them, neither Messi nor Neymar has ever won the Copa.
That statistic will change for one of them in the dream final at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium.
For six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, this will be his fourth Copa final and perhaps his last chance to finish on the winning side.
He’s been his team’s standout performer, as ever, scoring four goals and creating five more – the tournament leader in both categories.
But at 34, this may well be his last Copa and next year’s World Cup could be his last major international tournament altogether.
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So far, finals have led only to disappointment for Messi having lost in 2007, 2015 and 2016 at the Copa, and seen his side beaten 1-0 by Germany at the 2014 World Cup.
Some people believe winning something with Argentina is Messi’s only remaining professional goal.
“We’ll try to stop him from achieving this objective,” said Brazil centre-back Marquinhos.
“As much as Messi, we also have players that deserve this title … like our own ‘Ney’ who wasn’t there for the last Copa,” he added.
At 29, Neymar has a bit more time on his side but he was injured and absent two years ago when Brazil won their ninth title on home soil, beating Peru 3-1 in the final.
But as well as the two superstars lining up on opposite sides on Saturday, this is a classic match between two world heavyweights.
“We’re going to play a final against our eternal rivals, the lifelong ones, the two most powerful national teams in South America and we hope … it will be a great match,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.
“Brazil versus Argentina is much more than a simple game of football … these jerseys make the world stand still to watch their games. That represents the history of Brazil-Argentina,” added Marquinhos.
Incredibly, these two sides are not even the two most successful ones in Copa history, with Uruguay having won 15 titles to Argentina’s 14 and Brazil’s nine.
In what is the 47th edition of the Copa, this is also just the fourth time these two have met in the final, with Argentina triumphing the first time in 1937 and Brazil coming out on top in 2004 and 2007.
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And that is despite having faced each other more than 100 times in their history.
They have been by far the strongest two sides in the competition, even if Argentina rode their luck a touch in their semifinal penalty shoot-out win over Colombia.
The two squads are impressive for their strength in depth.
In their semifinal victory over Peru – and despite Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus being suspended – Brazil left the likes of Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Flamengo hot-shot Gabriel Barbosa and Real Madrid starlet Vinicius Junior on the bench.
In midfield, Liverpool’s Fabinho has been kept out of the side by a resurgent Fred, of Manchester United.
Likewise, Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria – a bright spark when he came on in the semifinal against Colombia – has mostly started on the bench while new Barcelona signing Sergio Aguero has hardly had a look in for Argentina.
Messi and Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez (three goals) have provided Argentina’s main attacking thrust but they have quality and creativity throughout.
“Argentina are not just Lautaro and Messi, we cannot only concentrate on those two,” said Brazil and Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro.
“They’re great players, world-class players, but if Argentina have reached the final it’s because of the (whole) group, we have to respect this.”
As well as looking to end his career-long trophy drought with Argentina, Messi could make history in another way on Saturday.
He currently sits on 76 goals for Argentina, one shy of Pele’s South American record of 77 national team goals. (AFP)
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