England Name Liverpool, Chelsea Youngsters In World Cup Squad; Drop Wilshere, Hart

England coach Gareth Southgate has announced his 23-man final squad for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Former England centre-back Southgate made the announcement via the official England Twitter handle on Wednesday.

As expected, the likes of Harry Kane, who scored 30 Premier League goals for Tottenham Hotspur this season, Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy, Reheem Sterling, Gary Cahill and Kyle Walker are all included.

However, there is no room for Manchester United defender Chris Smalling, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere and Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart in the squad.

The surprise inclusions is Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who spent the just ended season on loan at Crystal Palace, and Liverpool youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold.

England will face the Super Eagles of Nigeria in a friendly in London on June 2 before playing Tunisia, Belgium and Panama in the group phase in Russia.

England’s official World Cup 2018 squad:

– Butland, Pickford, Pope

– Stones, Jones, Walker, Cahill, Rose, Maguire, Alexander-Arnold, Young, Trippier

– Henderson, Dier, Alli, Lingard, Sterling, Delph, Loftus-Cheek

– Kane, Vardy, Rashford, Welbeck

We Are Not Afraid Of Super Eagles Opponents In Russia – NFF

The Super Eagles are not afraid of any opposition in Russia at the World Cup because they are well motivated; the Nigeria Football Federation’s 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwunmi, has said.

Seyi Akinwunmi told the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Lagos that the NFF had confidence in the team.

“Nigeria is blessed with young talented footballers who are capable of bringing good results.

“We are not scared of the teams in our group, we are happy with the team, we have a blend of experienced and young and fit players; a good squad with a good coach.

“The friendly matches are good testimonies of the Eagles preparation for the World Cup. We have played Argentina and Poland and we defeated both teams; both games are good enough to test the waters.

“Before those games, nobody gave us a chance, but football is football, as long as players give their all, the result will be positive.

“Our youth development system is working because we said few years ago that we want to lower the average age of our senior team which we have achieved,’’ he said.

Akinwumi said though Nigeria had yet to reach the height expected, the football house would stop at nothing to improve the lots of the national team.

“Although it is not yet uhuru for us, we are still working on something that is enduring for the team, so we are hopeful.

“We have a team well motivated enough to face any opposition at the World Cup; individually we are not scared of any team. The team’s responsibility is just to play football.

“What we have done is to prepare better for the World Cup than what we have done in the past. We have everything prepared in terms of logistics, training, accommodation and welfare.

“We are happy with what we have on ground and there is no worry in the camp at all, anything that may come up will be just a minor issue,’’ he said.

NAN reports that Nigeria is in Group D alongside Croatia, Iceland and Argentina for the Mundial.

(NAN)

Safe World Cup Vital To Russia’s Image Says Russian President

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said a safe World Cup this summer would be very important for the country’s image, as the violence from Russian fans at Euro 2016 affects preparation.

In a speech to police, Putin said that Russia, which is to host the championship for the first time, “must hold it at the highest level and most importantly, ensure maximum security for players and fans.”

“Of course you play a crucial role in achieving this aim,” Putin told police.

“I don’t doubt that at the World Cup you will also act appropriately in any given situation, in strict accordance with the law.”

He stressed that “the way this event goes and our country’s image will directly depend on your smooth, skilful work.”

The world football governing body FIFA on Friday expressed “complete trust” in Russia’s ability to ensure a safe World Cup, despite violence involving fans of Spartak Moscow in Spain during which a policeman died.

Russia will host the tournament in 11 cities from June 14 to July 15.

The lead-up has been coloured by fears of a repeat of the June 2016 rampage by Russian hooligans that erupted in the French port city of Marseille during the Euro tournament.

However, Russia has cracked down on football gangs and worked to identify hooligans seeking to attend the matches, even enlisting help from British police.

Putin has courted football fans in the past, even visiting the graveside of a Spartak Moscow fan shot dead in a mass fight with men from the Russian Caucasus in December 2010.

Super Eagles To Get Russia 2018 Camping Allowances Upfront- Dalung

Minister of Youth and Sports Development Solomon Dalung has diclosed that players and officials of the Nigerian Super Eagles team would be paid their camping allowances upfront for the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament holding from Jun. 14 to Jul. 15, 2018.

He said “The Federal Government of Nigeria has mobilised and has overcome some of the common obstacles that usually characterised our preparation.

“Our team would have their camping allowances even paid upfront so that we eliminate the crisis of allowances in camps.

“Bonuses are progressive with performance, that one we are also sure that they will do well in it.

“We have also kept the team together and the leadership, and maintain harmony in their football family to be able to give Nigeria victory.

“One thing remains very sure, with the qualification of Nigeria, the country has made a statement that she is not going to Russia as a mere spectator.

“We are contenders that the world should watch out for,’’ Dalung said.

Nigeria would be facing former World Champions, Argentina, Croatia and Iceland in Group D, but Dalung said there was no cause for alarm as Nigeria was prepared to face the challenge.

Can The Super Eagles Cage Messi In Russia

In the beginning, God created a field and a sport. Now, the field was formless and empty. And God said, ‘Let there be football!’, and there was Messi.

It is not clairvoyant to understand that Nigerians lately decided to tighten the noose on tithe because of the age-long extravagant and vainglorious lifestyles of some clerics, whose pretentious facade masks the rotten logs in their eyes. Since I was a kid growing up and playing “omolere” plastic football on the streets of Mushin in Lagos, conmen and fake spiritualists has ripped their victims of money and belongings. A common sight it was to see adults, male and female, suddenly stripping, wailing and rolling on the ground upon realising they had been duped.

As a youngster, I had the privilege of witnessing the golden age of club football in Nigeria when Rangers International of Enugu and IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan represented the best of our values of hard work, courage, competence, perseverance and diversity. Those were the days when the Oracle of Ibadan, the late Prof Sam Akpabot, bedecked in all-white agbada, would, on match day, wave at the crowd from the bleachers before a match and raise four fingers high up, signifying that the Green Eagles or the Nigerian club on duty would defeat their opponents by four goals. If the outcome of the match belied Akpabot’s prediction, you can rest assured that the foremost Ibibio professor, composer, author and ethnomusicologist would explain the reasons why his prediction failed, in his next column in the Daily Sketch or the Nigerian Tribune. This was also the period when we had the renowned India-trained parapsychologist, Prof Godspower Oyewole, and stargazer, Dr Gabriel Akenzua, perusing their crystal balls and predicting that the sun would rise in the east and set in the west.

No doubt, the three co-travellers – football, religion and politics – had long been subjected to exploitation in this neck of the wood called Nigeria.

Nigeria staked her claim to continental football glory on the national scene on March 22, 1980 when the “Chairman” Christian Chukwu-led Green Eagles walloped the Fennec Foxes of Algeria 3-0 at the National Stadium, Lagos, with two goals from “Mathematical” Segun Odegbami while the late midfield maestro, Mudashiru Lawal, added the icing on the cake. During this era, there was discipline in our sports, which blossomed on the wings of fair and competitive team selection.

As every era comes with its challenges, Nigerian football was kidnapped by a mafia in the 1990s when the late Stephen Keshi led the Super Eagles to another Nations Cup glory in Tunisia in 1994. The mafia dictated who was called to the national team, who played and whom the ball was passed to. The historic opening goal scored against Bulgaria by the most potent Super Eagles striker ever, the late Rashidi Yekini, was to the eternal agony of the mafia. By April 1994, the Super Eagles were fifth in FIFA World Rankings – the highest position ever achieved by any African team.

But Nigerian football never rose from the ruins of the destruction wreaked by the mafia and maladministration despite an unpredictable spasm in 1996 when the Dream Team returned home from Atlanta with the Olympic soccer gold medal after defeating Argentina 3-2 in the final. It is easier to destroy than to build, goes a popular saying. It took Nigeria 19 long years to reclaim the African Nations Cup in South Africa by 2013. Coach Keshi, who led the Super Eagles to African Nations Cup glory in 2013, failed to qualify the team for the biennial championship in 2015. In 2014, the team paraded, in the main, anonymous players at the World Cup, turning in a most dismal performance amid allegations of corruption in team selection.

The floundering continued from 2013 until last August when the Nigerian Football Federation picked a former Bayern Munich defender, Gernot Rohr, as the manager of the national team. Before Rohr roared the Eagles back to reckoning, a former Eagles captain, Sunday Oliseh, who, on account of his brilliant football analyses, was handed the coaching job, had abandoned the team midstream just as French coach, Paul Le Guen, turned down the offer to manage the team.

Success is a bastard. Now that Rohr has qualified the team for the World Cup, some former players of the team and a handful of unknown ones plying their trade in fringe leagues abroad have been making newspaper headlines in the bid to catch the attention of the unassuming German.

Joy has a slender body that breaks too soon, says Ola Rotimi in ‘The gods are not to blame’. For our World Cup joy not turn into ashes in our mouths, we must watch it. With our unenviable history of failing on the biggest occasions, caution is the word. The woe list is unending: November 12, 1977, Tunisia snatched the World Cup ticket at the National Stadium; in October 1981, Algeria went away with the World Cup ticket at the National Stadium just as Zamalek also defeated IICC Shooting Stars at the National Stadium to go home with the then elusive African Cup of Champions in 1984. Nigeria, painfully and controversially, lost Nations Cup finals to Cameroon in 1984, 1988 and 2000.

I’ve read stories calling for the invitation of former Eagles captain and goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, back to the fold. The Eagles had trod this familiar path to failure when Christian Chukwu was recalled in 1981 for a crucial World Cup qualifier against Algeria. Enyeama has served his fatherland well, let him enjoy his retirement.

Lack of maintenance culture is of the plagues of Nigeria’s development. Planning is another. The signs and repercussions of our planlessness as a country are etched in our current backwardness. And I wish we do not take this garbage to the greatest sport spectacle on the planet, the World Cup, taking place between June 14 and July 15, 2018.

I fear that our 4-2 friendly win over Argentina recently will go into our heads. I fear that our infectious optimism will not be matched with a deserving strategy and professionalism. I fear. I’ve not forgotten that the Eagles against Burkina Faso, on July 27, 1991, had to play in their tracksuits which were cut into shorts when officials forgot to bring players’ jerseys to the stadium. I’ve also not forgotten that players’ passports had been forgotten once. And how can anyone sanely explain the fielding of twice yellow-carded Shehu Abdullahi in the World Cup match against Algeria? Thank God Nigeria still qualified after FIFA deducted the one point earned for the 1-1 draw.

The big stage is here again and encomiums are pouring in for the Eagles. Analysing Group D, which has Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria, in New York Times, Rory Smith said, “Probably the most delicately balanced, most interesting, and most competitive of all the groups. Argentina only just qualified, Croatia has an abundance of individual talent; Iceland, a tremendous collective strength and Nigeria was, possibly, the toughest fourth seed to draw. Argentina will not be happy at all.”

A former Argentine midfielder, Sebastian Veron, said, “Nigeria is unpredictable. They always come to us in the group. African players are actually unstable and depend on what they have a day before and how they feel ahead of the game.”

Unlike the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, the greatest footballer ever, Lionel Messi of Argentina, doesn’t share the same birthday with me. But thoughts of the Lion of Argentina have been on my mind ever since the World Cup draws came up at the Kremlin in Moscow some days ago. What cruel fate made the Super Eagles draw the Lion again? I wish we had saved that our 4-2 friendly victory over Argentina for the World Cup. That win has put the Eagles on the back of the lion. They must not descend. The lion is livid. Pep Guardiola said it all, “When Messi decides to play, no force on earth can stop him.”

The Barcelona phenomenon and record setter is on the way to his sixth Ballon d’Or having dragged Argentina by the scruff of the neck to the World Cup finals and scored 18 goals in all competitions this season – leaving in his trail, Real Madrid’s Christiano Ronaldo with a dismal four goals in the La Liga but a commendable eight goals in the Champions League.

Can the Eagles cage the lion?

No!

Odesola, a journalist, wrote from the United States of America

FG Budgets N3Bn For Super Eagles #Russia2018 Campaign

The Federal Government has planned N3bn to empower the Super Eagles to have have a successful outing at the 2018 World Cup 2018 which begins on June 14 in Russia.

The Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung, udisclosed this to State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting he had with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

Dalung said while sponsors and partners would raise part of the money, the substantial part of the “conservative budget” would be provided by the Federal Government.

“We have a preservationist spending plan of about N3bn however out of that N3bn, FIFA will raise about N900m; our sponsors and partners are likewise going to raise N600m. Government will moderately raise about N2bn or N2.5bn to complement,” the minister said.

He said plans were in progress to guarantee that the players get their allowance latest by March 2018.

“One of the difficulties we have been facing in sports administration is the welfare of the players and the officiating team and we plan to set a new approach to deal with the topic of welfare.

“By March, we intend to start paying the players their allowances, camping allowances upfront. That will go a long way to boost the morale of the players and their confidence too.

“The new strategy for administration in football has taken the pattern of change We will likewise guarantee that there is solidarity inside the football family.

“Unity, too, is a key factor going by some of the reports we had in the past where poor performances were attributable to lack of unity between the family, the technical team, the officials and the players. This time, unity has to be promoted.

“finally, we will likewise guarantee that government makes funds available on time. That is the reason the budget has since been sent to the President for a unique intervention

He said the government was comfortable with the group the team belong to despite the presence of Argentina.

He said, “We are comfortable with the team because having tested Argentina which is a highly ranked team in the group, we can say confidently that with good work, good training, good welfare for the players and team spirit, we will top that group going by the disposition of our national team

“After the groupings, Nigeria falls within Group D and we appear to be the underdog going by the ranking of the teams.

“But I think ranking is more or less a paper job, what is very important is how you will perform and I believe that we are comfortable with the teams.

“Some people have been arguing that Argentina did not present their best, but we also have some players we didn’t invite and we also intend to invite them. It is an issue that is going to be determined practically by the level of preparation of the Nigerian team. Don’t forget that the Nigerian team had enjoyed a formidable home support and they are inspired to deliver.

“So we will engage in more friendlies to try and determine our strength and areas of improvement before the final competition.”

Dalung said the government would mobilizen3 a strong delegation that will support the team because of its belief that sports is an about number.

Russia 2018: Super Eagles Draw Argentina Again As Morocco Get Spain, Portugal

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have been drawn for the fifth time against Argentina, 1998 bronze medal winners Croatia and debutants Iceland in Group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The draw was held at the Kremlin Palace here in Moscow, Russia on Friday.

According to the draw which was conducted by legends like Diego Maradona, Cafu, Carles Puyol, Gordon Banks and Diego Forlan, the Super Eagles will open their account against Croatia, while Argentina will do battle with Iceland.

Africa’s other representatives Egypt are in Group A with hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.

Senegal are in Group H with Poland, Colombia and Japan, while Morocco are in Group B with Spain, Portugal and Iran, while Tunisia are in Group G with Belgium, England and debutantes Panama.

The opening game of the 2018 World Cup is between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup will run from 14 June to 15 July in 11 host cities.

2018 World Cup Groups:

(Group A)
Russia
Uruguay
Egypt
Saudi Arabia

(Group B)
Portugal
Spain
Iran
Morocco

(Group C)
France
Peru
Denmark
Australia

(Group D)
Argentina
Croatia
Iceland
Nigeria

(Group E)
Brazil
Switzerland
Costa Rica
Serbia

(Group F)
Germany
Mexico
Sweden
South Korea

(Group G)
Belgium
England
Tunisia

(Group H)
Poland
Colombia
Senegal
Japan

Russia Prepares For 2018 World Cup Draw

A rehearsal for the FIFA soccer World Cup draw was held in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday.

Teams were drawn by the likes of former Uruguayan player Diego Forlan ahead of the official draw ceremony on Friday (December 1).

Russia, competing both as Russia and the Soviet Union, has made 10 World Cup appearances and will host the tournament for the first time next June and July.

In their three appearances since the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1994, 2002 and 2014, Russia have failed to reach the knockout stage. Doing so on home turf at the 2018 tournament would represent a significant accomplishment for Stanislav Cherchesov’s side.

Reuters 

FIFA Confirms Super Eagles As Youngest Squad During 2018 W/Cup Qualifiers

The Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) says Nigeria paraded the youngest players during the qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This was announced on FIFA’s official website on Tuesday by a Switzerland-based independent study Centre International d’Étude du Sport (CIES) in it’s issue number 30 of Observatory Monthly Report.

The CIES Football Observatory is a research group founded in 1995 by FIFA in partnership with the canton and town of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

World Cup champions Germany emerged as the second country that had the youngest squad, while England were third.

A statement on FIFA’s website reads: “The CIES Football Observatory and FIFA have joined forces to analyse the profiles of the players who were fielded by the 32 qualified teams on the road to Russia. The analysis highlights the diversity of the squads in terms of both age and height, as well as the importance of migration with almost two thirds of players currently playing for clubs outside of the association they represent.

“While Nigeria fielded the youngest players (with an average age of 24.9 years) in the qualifiers, followed by title-holders Germany (25.7) and by U-17 and U-20 world champions England (25.9), at the opposite end of the spectrum were two newcomers Panama (29.4 years) and Iceland (29.0), as well as 2014 FIFA World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica (29.0).

“There were also considerable differences among the teams in terms of the average height of players. At one extreme, seven associations fielded players with an average height of less than 180cm: Peru, Argentina and Uruguay (CONMEBOL), Saudi Arabia and Japan (AFC), Mexico (CONCACAF), and Spain (UEFA). At the other extreme, the average height of the players fielded by four European nations – Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Serbia – was at least 185cm.

“The study also revealed that about 9% of players were born outside of the association they represent. Only seven of the 32 teams did not field any players born abroad. The number of footballers playing for clubs outside of the association they represent also revealed the importance of migration in football. In total, 64.6% of footballers play abroad: from 0% for England and Saudi Arabia, to 100% for Croatia, Sweden and Iceland.”

The Super Eagles who are in Pot 4, will know their group stage opponents when the draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup holds on Friday, December 1st, in Russia.