Martins Wins Goal of the Week


OBAFEMI Martins, Nigerian footballer and former Levante of Spain striker, became the second Seattle Sounders player to claim the AT&T MLS Goal of the Week award this season after narrowly beating out Ned Grabavoy of the Real Salt Lake.

Martins earned a little more than 32 percent of the vote for his game-winning chip in Seattle’s 2-1 victory over 10-man Chivas USA, a total that was a few percentage points more than what Grabavoy claimed for his decisive tally in RSL’s 1-0 triumph against the Portland Timbers.

Martins scored his second goal of the season on Saturday, April 26, in Seattle Sounders 4-1 thrashing of Colorado Rapid. The ex-Birmingham City striker hit target in the 75th minute for Sounders fourth goal of the game.

Nigeria draws South Africa


NIGERIA, Africa Cup of Nations defending champion, has been grouped with South Africa and Sudan in the 2015 qualifying draw made in Cairo Sunday, April 27.

The Group A line-up will be completed by the winners of a preliminary tie involving Namibia, Congo Brazzaville, Libya and Rwanda.

Nigeria can be confident of making the 16-team finals between January 17 and February 8, in Moroccan cities Agadir, Marrakech, Rabat and Tangier. Every draw creates a ‘group of death’ and Group G fits the bill with Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal and one from Burundi, Botswana, Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau.

Egypt has lifted the Cup of Nations a record seven times, hosts Tunisia, triumphed in 2004 and Senegal were the strongest third seeds.

Another mini-league set to generate fierce competition is Group D, which includes Ivory Coast, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The remaining place in that section will be filled by Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Gambia or the Seychelles.

Didier Drogba-skippered Ivory Coast started the last five Cup of Nations tournaments as title favourites, but the closest they came to glory was finishing runners-up twice.

Cameroon has shown signs of recovery under German coach Volker Finke after failing to make the last two African tournaments.

DR Congo rank among the sleeping giants of African football and much could hinge on who succeeds veteran Frenchman Claude le Roy as coach.

Ghana, whose last of four Cup of Nations triumphs came in 1982, should not be unduly troubled by modest fellow West African opponents – Togo and Guinea.

Uganda, whose last appearance at the tournament was 36 years ago, Madagascar, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea are going to battle for the other Group E slot.

Shock 2012 champions Zambia is another country that should have no complaints having drawn the Cape Verde Islands, Niger and one from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Sudan.

Debutants Cape Verde reached the 2013 quarter-finals and will be favoured to advance with the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets).

Burkina Faso, who greatly exceeded expectations by reaching the final last year before losing 1-0 to Nigeria, are in Group C with Gabon and Angola.

That section would be completed by Kenya – long overdue a finals appearance – with Liberia, Lesotho and the Comoros Islands as other contenders.

Group B comprises Mali, Algeria, resurgent Ethiopia and one from Sao Tome e Principe, Benin, Malawi and Chad. The two-leg preliminary rounds will be staged between mid-May and early August and the six-match day group stage kicks off during September.

Group winners and runners-up and the best third-place team secure places at the finals with host Morocco.

African Team can Win the World Cup — Oliseh

Sunday Olise
Sunday Olise

SUNDAY Oliseh, former Super Eagles captain, believes that African teams have all it takes to emerge as world champions at this year World Cup tournament in Brazil.

Oliseh predicted that an African team would eventually lift the Fifa World Cup which has been elusive to the continent. The former Borussia Dortmund player, who led the Super Eagles to the France ’98 World Cup, said that it was not a near impossible task for an African team to achieve what looks like a tough prospect if only countries could put into place proper planning. Thus far, African teams have only reached the quarter finals thrice.

“I think an African country will eventually win the World Cup. What is lacking now, it’s simple to say what is wrong is that we don’t plan well. We leave the planning [until] it is late,” Oliseh said on CNN’s Human to Hero series.

He also said that African teams needed to begin to focus on more than the physical aspects of the game but on the psychological. “Africans need to learn how to start pressurizing the opponents. Football has changed now. It’s no longer football where you pick individuals and expect them to do well. Now it’s more about team work, team dynamics, team schemes, things that are planned out like how to look at the opponent, how to bring about antidotes to the opponent’s playing star.

“When it comes to physical strength and bursts of speed, you can’t beat an African. But what is lacking now is just that technical and tactical know-how. Then we’ll get it,” he said.

Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon and Algeria are the five teams that will represent the continent at this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Suarez wins PFA Player of the Year Award


LUIS Suarez, Liverpool Football Club striker, won England’s Professional Footballers’ Association’s Player of the Year award on Sunday, April 27.

Suarez received the award during a ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House hotel after flying down from Liverpool following a 2-0 defeat by Chelsea at Anfield that dented the Merseysiders’ challenge for a first English title in the Premier League era. The 27-year-old Suarez has scored 30 league goals in 31 appearances, despite being banned for 10 matches biting Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea, which was carried over into the start of this season.

“The Premier League is full of really great players and so it is a great honour when these players recognise your work on the pitch,” said Suarez, who threatened had to leave Liverpool at one stage after claiming that Brendan Rodgers, Reds manager, had gone back on a deal to let him move to a Champions League club.

However, Suarez added at the award night on Sunday: “I always try my best for the team and it is nice to get awards but really this is for my team-mates and the staff at Liverpool because without their help I wouldn’t have this prize.”

Suarez and Liverpool strike partner Daniel Sturridge were both included in the PFA Premier League team of the year, also chosen by their fellow top-flight professionals in England.

The duo was joined by Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard in the first eleven.

Chelsea also had three players in the PFA side in goalkeeper Petr Cech, defender Gary Cahill and Hazard. Eden Hazard of Chelsea, however, was named the PFA Young Player of the Year.

Title-chasers Manchester City was represented by Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure, while the Southampton duo of Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana were also included, with Everton right-back Seamus Coleman in the XI.

PFA Premier League team of the year: Petr Cech (Chelsea); Luke Shaw (Southampton), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Seamus Coleman (Everton); Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton); Luis Suarez (Liverpool), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool).

— May 12, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

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