Enyimba Int. vs Rangers Int.: Rangers Still In Range, Players vs The Referee and more #TalkingPoints

The Oriental derby between Enyimba International FC and Rangers International was one of the most anticipated matches of Matchday 29 (it was actually the other anticipated derby of the Matchday). Here’s why:

– Enyimba were trying to return to winning ways after losing to Plateau United the week before. They didn’t have a leaky defence to worry about like their opponents but they obviously wanted to make sure their NPFL run did not resemble their current CAF Champions League campaign.

– Rangers on the other hand, were looking to go one ahead of Wikki Tourists to top the NPFL table. This alone was motivation enough for them. After going their last 5 games unbeaten, Coach Imma’s side were beginning to look like title contenders. And the only team standing in their way was the one from Bauchi (save, of course, a surprise from Rivers United).

– It was an ORIENTAL DERBY.

So, all seemed set for a massive clash, the delight of football fans.

But what really happened?

1. There Was A Half-Filled (or Half-Empty?) Stadium
For a NPFL fan who’s trying to “fall in love” with the league and watch, at any available chance, the league games, this is some sort of painful point to start with. But it was very hard to miss the empty seats that were glaring at me as I watched Moses Praiz (one of the Matchday analysts) welcome me to the Yakubu Gowon Stadium.

It was too obvious! And I was constantly wondering why the stadium wasn’t filled with fans. “Don’t people want to know how this mouth-watering clash will play out?,” I thought to myself.

Of course the hardcore fans showed up. The mums and dads came along with their kids to see the action. The male and female species were duly represented. But I expected more, given what was at stake. I think I want to blame my disappointment on “over-expectation.”

In the end, I gave up wondering about the number of spectators present (and the ones absent) when the match commentator said,

“We’ve seen today, nearly 3 times the amount of crowd that usually come to watch Rivers United play.”

Translated: This crowd is actually a “huge” crowd when compared to the ones that usually show up when the home team plays. #Shock.

2. Rangers International’s Poor Defence Reared It’s Ugly Head Again
Before this game started, Rangers were second on the NPFL log-table. Not because Wikki Tourists had won more games. But because their goals difference was inferior to Wikki’s, a direct result of conceding more goals than Wikki Tourists.

And their coach, Imma Amapakabo, in a pre-match interview, seemed to not have any issues with his team’s defensive frailties. But this same weakness almost cost them the top spot they currently occupy.

Enyimba piled the pressure early in the first half, trying to utilize this weakness to their own advantage. And most times, it alnost worked with Enyimba players getting half-chances that came about thanks to poor defending by the Rangers players.

Wondering how Enyimba scored their goal? Yes, you’re right! And that poor defending almost made them leave Port Harcourt empty-handed.

3. Some Weird Officiating + Drama
I’m still unsure what really happened at end of the first half but the centre referee and one of the Enyimba players got involved in an exchange of words (note: it wasn’t the nicest of exchanges as there was pointing of fingers and the images of glaring eyes).

Enyimba had scored in the 45th minute of the game. And that lead had only lasted 90 seconds. And a certain Enyimba player wasn’t happy. What he was dissatisfied with is still unclear but I’m sure he’d have exchanged more than words with the ref if he wasn’t restrained by his teammates. Yes, it was that serious!

Of course there was that OMG!-I-thought-we-were-leading-a-few-seconds-ago kind of moment. Two goals were scored, either sides of the pitch… in the space of 90 seconds! I guess whoever said, “You’re most vulnerable after scoring a goal,” must have had this match in mind.

Have I mentioned the awkward officiating by the referee? The ladies who were the linesmen (or lineswomen?) did well. But the centre ref kept making calls that disrupted the flow of the game, calls that were sometimes, not totally necessary. But what do I know? Maybe I’m wrong. Afterall I’m only a NPFL fan.

Worthy Mentions
Obinna Nwobodo of Rangers is a rare gem. His mesmerizing skills was one of the highlight of the game. He took one anyone in sight and usually did a good job in the end. Hopefully the league doesn’t lose this one to Greece or Finland. Hopefully.

I used to think Bobby Clement was badass but after he disappeared in today’s game, I’m definitely having a rethink. In fairness, the Enyimba fans were so brutal. They seemed to be in a no-mercy, kill-em-all mode. But even when these gruesome defenders loosened their grip on Clement, he seemed to have become absent, though present, at this game.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the scoreline of this game. But you know that already right?

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to leave a comment and share this article with your friends.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Euro 2016: The Men Who Lit Up the Eiffel (H-S)

This is the second part of the A-Z of players who mesmerized us at the Euro 2016. In case you missed the first part, you can quickly read it up here.

Done?

Let’s start from where we stopped…

Hannes Halldorson
What is your most favourite movie? Who directed it? In a world where movie stars are celebrated more often than not, the men who made the movie happen, selected the right characters and made the movie a hit are rarely appreciated. Take for instance, Alejandro G. Inarritu, the director of The Revenant, the movie that won Di Carprio his first Oscar. He is rarely known, except among movie aficionados. This could drive them to seek passions elsewhere.

Maybe that’s what happened to Iceland’s goalkeeper. A movie director back home, Hannes Halldorson played his part in what was a fairytale for his nation, his lead role from the last line of defence saw him make a staggering 27 saves, a tournament-high statistic. He might have conceded five goals in their last game against France, however, he was the reason the game didn’t end by a much wider margin.

His command of the area and presence made his defence so sure of him that when their opponents seemed to have broken through, he was like the biblical unmovable Mount Zion. Maybe Inarritu should try out a goalkeeping career too and play his part in a fairytale of this nature.

Ivan Perisic
Crazy hair, consistent forward runs and a super goal against Spain to cap, Ivan Perisic was seemingly unplayable in France. A number 4 with a difference, the Inter Milan right winger was a nightmare for any left back he faced all through Croatia’s four games.

He was the executor-in-chief and an expert runner, who evoked memories of Arjen Robben yet scoring when it mattered. His performance against Spain would never be forgotten as he led the charge in Modric’s absence. A classic tournament man.

Joaquim Low
The Ferguson of modern day coaching. Ten years in the job and still evolving, Low came to France in search of a title he was yet to lay his hands on as Germany boss, the Euros. He left ruing what might have been.

Two semi-final appearances and a runner-up finish is all he has to show for it. However, he has done that with modified squads on each occasion. Known to have trusted lieutenants; Low gave Joshua Kimmich, Emre Can, Julian Weigl and Leroy Sane tournament experience despite their relative young ages. A great tactician with touchline demeanour, the only turn off for the football fan is his improper hygiene.
PS: I didn’t say that.

Kingsley Coman
Imagine yourself; the world at your feet, great burgeoning career and having played for three glamourous European clubs despite not reaching your peak yet. Yes, you are that good. That’s the curious case of Kingsley Coman, the silent yet efficient machine with a well-oiled engine.

Despite starting less games than every player who took the field in the final, He ran faster than any other player during
the course of the entire tournament. He was the proverbial V8 engine or better still the Bugatti Veyron everyone wished they had. He was the never tiring defence-stretcher and nearly made it happen in the final. He had a top speed of 32.8km/h, more than any other player all tournament.

Laurent Koscielny
The most consistent defender all tournament, Les Bleus’ defensive leader.
The Arsenal man put in a shift that was worth winning the title. His stout defending even after Samuel Umtiti came in for Adil Rami was a clear indication he could play with anyone as long as it meant keeping the opponent at bay.

He was key against Germany and was just a threat from set pieces as he was to opposition forwards. Always snapping into tackles, making goal-line clearances, getting dirty yet looking good. So good he was, that the Mark Clattenburg had to book him for an offence he didn’t commit just to blot his record.

image

Eliminated: Modric weeps after being outsted by Portugal at the Euro 2016

Luka Modric
The white witch doctor. Luka Modric’s sensational strike against Turkey was what set his nation up for a great competition. He consistently dictated play from the middle of the park, making the deep-lying playmaker role look easy. No wonder it was alleged that Ivan Rakitic claimed he hoped Modric would win the UEFA Champions’ League to arrive at the Euros in form.

True or not, Rakitic seemed to be right. He was in the form of his life, a mentality he easily dissipated in the dressing room, so much so, that Croatia looked like tournament winners after three games before failing to get past Portugal.

Radja Naingolan
Trademark Mohican hair, a smile and often times a straight face, stout body, shortsleeved shirt and long shorts. Meet the engine room of the Belgian Red Devils. If not running like a possessed demon to dispossess an opponent, he was looking for a decent position to strike the ball to hurt that opponent.

Radja Naingolan was arguably Belgium’s best player at the Euros. Posting 2goals and 1assist from his Central Midfield role, he did likewise in interceptions too, outsmarting opponents and making key blocks. Had they not gone to sleep, His contender for goal of tournament against Wales should have sent them on their way to the semi-finals. It wasn’t to be for both himself and his countrymen.

Mesut Ozil
He is lazy they said. Fast-forward to post
tournament, and even his detractors back home in Germany have admitted he is the one. The anointed. The architect, I call him. He was basically at the heart of every German attack in France, creating openings, and picking out runs. Who can forget his match winning pass against Ukraine or his one man show against the Northern Ireland? His performance against Slovakia was exquisite bar the odd penalty miss.

He came through against Italy even if he still went on to miss his penalty and bowed out with his head held high despite the loss to France. No one could lay the blame at his feet. Even the best players have bad days at the office.

Paul Pogba
Whenever his name was read out over the PA system all through the tournament, one question came to mind, – “would he still be a Juventini come September 1?” – one which modified to a world record format by the time the tournament almost finished. He was the poster boy of the tournament, even
at times outshining Antoine Greizmann and Dmitiri Payet, the men would had done much better than he did.

No goal was celebrated more, than his goal against Iceland. He was the one-hundred-million-pounds player. He made the headlines everyday, all through the tournament. If you wanted to sell your newspaper during the Euros, all you needed to do was put a picture of Paul Pogba there. Even if his performances on the pitch hardly matched up to the PR he got, Paul Pogba lit up his home nation, and had they won, it would have been his image and not that of Greizmann replacing Zizou at the Champs Elysee.

image

Ricardo Quaresma
My first encounter with this No. 20 was back in 2004. He was 21 with curly hair, playing for FC Porto. He had rig-marolled round three players before leaving a couple of others for dead. He swiped the ball with the outside of his boot and he wheeled away in celebration. If Cristiano Ronaldo was the next big thing in Portuguese football, he was the next big thing in world
football.

It seemed he was the one who would tussle with Ronaldo at the top of world football for years to come. We got it all wrong. After a blissful start, the wheels came off in 2008 after moving to Chelsea: The injury, fallout with managers failing to fit in and bad boy
attitude. Ronaldo had won a balon d’Or, a Champions League and three league titles at that point. He came to France looking for redemption; He got it.

His super sub role was the most exquisite in the tournament. Changing games when Portugal needed him most. His winning goal against Croatia was the turning point for his nation. Before he went on to score the winning penalty against Poland. He is European champion now. He could have been more that but better late than never right?

Raphael Guerrero
The best left-back all through the tournament. The 22-year old France born youngster was a thorn in the flesh of all right wingers. Filling the shoes of Fabio Coentrao perfectly. His apt reading of the game reminded one of a certain Roberto Carlos. Patrolling the left flank in such a manner that defied his age. He was quickly snapped up by Borussia Dortmund after just two group games. He has given Fernando Santos a selection headache when the ever reliable Coentrao returns.

image

Xherdan Shaqiri
Goal of the tournament is what comes to mind when his name is mentioned, and without doubt, it’s the reality. Heavily linked with a move away from Stoke, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka ran the Swiss show like it was theirs. When they weren’t scoring or setting up goals. They were breaking up play or trying to make something happen. So sad they left early.

About Author
Tosin Adesina is an ideal young man, a soccer aficionado. He prefers being called Fijasewa Arogunyo because that’s who the world would grow to know. He is a disciple of Pep Guardiola, a follower of Jurgen Klopp, a lover of Jose Mourinho, an admirer of Cholo Simeone, a fanatic of Carlo Ancelotti and an avid fan of Antonio Conte. You can connect with him on Twitter @teetunez

Demba Ba, New Jersies and more Talking Points from #FootballThisPastWeek

It’s that time of the football season where everywhere’s quiet. Golf and other sports kick football to the back of the news queue and only ‘short scenes’ instead of ‘season-long movies’ are the order of the day.

But of course, with football, even short scenes are major sells thanks to the news media and social media. From friendlies to transfers and all, football never really gets quiet.

So, what has been happening over the past week?

image

High Flyers: Iceland benefitted from their surprising display at the Euro 2016

– The Latest FIFA Rankings
FIFA, as usual, released its latest rankings of football-playing countries across the globe. Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Chile, Portugal, France, Spain, Brazil and Italy made up the top 10.

One of the biggest movers on the rankings was Venezuela that jumped 31 spots to 46th. Thanks to the Euros, Croatia, Poland and Iceland jumped up 12, 11 and 12 spots respectively to now occupy the 15th, 16th and 22nd positions. Wales jumped 15 sppts to the 11th position.

On the other, Austria dropped 11 spots to the 21st position while the Netherlands dropped 12 spots to 26th.

Nigeria? Sliding down the list as they’re now ranked the 70th best football-playing nation in the world.

image

Cross-Country Move: Chelsea FC confirmed the capture of N'Golo Kante from Leicester City

– The Transfer Mart
There have been major movements in the football supermarket:

* Newcastle made its fifth signing of the summer.
* England seem to want Sam Allardyce.
* Kante joined Chelsea from Leicester (this one still baffles me).
* The 50m Pound of Stones: Everton will not sell their star defender for anything less.
* Leroy Sane moved to a new City in Manchester.
* Antonio Conte completed his move to Stamford Bridge. He came along with his record: In his three seasons with Juventus, his side never conceded more than 24 goals. It’s the first time he’s coaching outside the Italian Serie A but his “work” mantra may just work out fine for him.

Of course that’s just a little of the whole news, this one transfer market is bubbling.

– The Friendlies Season
Clubs resumed from their various hiatuses and needed to get the engines rolling. Of course, playing friendly games is the way to go!

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United started off with a win over Wigan while Antonio Conte could not get the better of Austrian side, Rapid. So much for taking charge of your first game just after two days of becoming a coach.

But of course we know the obvious: friendlies are important but they don’t determine how well a club will perform in the season. Louis van Gaal knows this too well

image

New Jersies: Necessary or not? Photo credit: BleacherReport

– The New Jerseys: How Necessary Are They?
So many clubs have unveiled new kits to be used for the upcoming season. Some, great while some weren’t exactly so great. Since it has been a tradition to have new jerseys for new seasons, the question arises: Why does there have to be a new one? If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right?

Most times, the jersey used by the club the season before does not become obsolete. Most fans still love it: partially because it’s their club and partially because they’ve bought it for their closet.

Now, the club goes ahead to change the style, outlook or colour of the existing jersey. It’s simply a “reformation” or “refurbishment” or “simple improvement” of the existing one. But it comes with all the fuss of a new one. Sales tactics if you ask me.

The fans (loyal, die-hard ones though) go on out there and snap them up. The “old” jersey becomes history. The trend continues over the years.

The question arises again: Is the “New Jersey for a New Season” really necessary?

Worthy Mentions
The most exciting game of the 2015/2016 NPFL season was played on Saturday. Akwa United vs Rangers International. The five-goal thriller was a “balanced diet for a football fan’s appetite.” In the end, Rangers won and ended up at the summit of the table.

image

Awkward Angle: Demba Ba broke his leg while playing in China.

Demba Ba, 31 years of age, suffered a devastating and heart-wrenching injury where his leg got broken. The sight of the awkwardly-bent leg was a gory one. I ran away from the video and only managed rhe sight of the picture. Get well soon Ba. In other news, after that injury, I’m not sure of his football-playing career.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

This Week’s NPFL Round-up… In Tweets!

It’s hard to follow all the games being played in a league on a weekend or matchday. Ha! You’ll need some super powers to keep an eye (or both and some fingers too for some phone tapping or typing) on updates from all games on a Matchday.

And this weekend, in the Nigerian Professional Football League, it was extra important to keep tabs on all the goings-on in the league

There were different struggles for different positions on the league table. Rangers International wanted to snatch that top spot from Wikki Tourists. 3SC desperately needed to start picking points and Kano Pillars were trying to avoid another “Elephantic Defeat.”

While MFM wanted to win without their fans…

… there was a teeming crowd to enjoy the IfeanyiUbah game.

So you can understand where I’m coming from when I say I had to follow “all available” updates. Wouldn’t be so much fun missing out on all the fun right? So I watched when I could and followed trends when watching was impossible.

And the thing is this: Following a match via trends on social media most times, helps you to see the action from more angles than one. Especially if the social media of your choice is Twitter.

You’d be amazed by how much a series of 140-characters-long posts could be informative, engaging and of course, hilarious (if you’re a twitter user, this should be a norm for you).

So how about a round-up?

It all started on Saturday with the most prolific NPFL game I’ve ever watched in my life: Akwa United vs Rangers International. It was a terrific game with terrific goals scored…

… and some amazing records set too.

Then on Sunday, some “Fan Fun” as Enyimba got the better of Kano Pillars…

… for the second time this season…

… and some stuff of international quality from Heartland FC.

Rivers added more misery for 3SC…

… and there was poor officiating in Niger.

It seemed one of the most exciting games of the weekend was played behind closed doors at the Agege Stadium.

At first, 3 penalties were awarded.

Then, as if not satisfied with the number, the ref awarded one more.

I’m wondering: Maybe heet waz a spiritual somtin? *in Falz’s voice*

With the tweets above, the fans have again, showed how interesting the NPFL is, how much fun there is and HOW MUCH YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON if you haven’t started watching NPFL games.

Already looking forward to the next Matchday!

P.S: Thanks for reading. But don’t forget to share with your friends. We need to spread the NPFL Fever. The people need to know how much fun they’re missing out on. Plus, when they realise the fun you’re trying to share with them, they’ll thank you for being a good friend.

Cheers to a great week ahead!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Akwa United vs Rangers International: A Beautiful Game, Beautiful Goals, A Determined Rangers Side and more… #WhatILearnt

image

It was a match that will go down as one of the most interesting in Nigerian Professional Football League’s history.

Victor Ikpeba admitted it was the most exciting NPFL game he had ever seen in all his NPFL-games-watching career. And when a pundit speaks like that, you know a lot went down during the game.

A five-goal thriller, the game between Akwa United and Rangers International was a very open one. Back and forth the action swung, with both clubs threatning to score with every move in the opposition’s direction.

There were flicks and kicks. Tackles and dribbles. There was a display of deadly attacking prowress by both sides and some outstanding goalkeeping by the goalies who did not want to be victims the whole 90.

But what did I learn?

– Rangers Came To Win
The Enugu-based side were the visitors in this encounter. And they had one thing in mind: take all three points back home. They were second on the log, behind Wikki Tourist and they wanted that top spot so badly.

They took matters into their own hands in the second half after Lady Luck smiled on them and caused Harrison of Akwa United to score an own goal. Let’s just say they scored two goals in the second half… one more than their counterpart in the half.

They looked shaky towards the end of the first half and in the early stages of the second half. But they showed what strong stuff they’re made of by recovering well.

An ambitious team this Rangers side, they want to win the league title. And they played like it. They smell blood and are going in for the kill. Watch out Wikki Tourist!

– A Fixture of Beautiful Goals
The NPFL has gone way past the days where players just scored goals. These days, the players play CONFIDENTLY and score BEAUTIFULLY. And this game in Akwa Ibom was not left out.

Asides the simple tap in of an own goal that Harrison scored and Omoniwari’s second goal, the rest were beauties to behold.

Fortune Omoniwari equalized for Akwa United with a powerful header after a beautiful cross-in from Friday.

Then Egbuchulam scored the best goal of the day. Receiving a cross from his left, he controlled the ball with his right foot in the opposition’s 6-yard box. Deciding against shooting directly even though the goal-scoring chance was good enough, he switched play to his left foot, leaving the goalkeeper for dead and scoring an amazing goal.

Morris Chebem’s goal wasn’t as beautiful as the build-up to it. First a cross into the box (another cross?), then a chest-control of the ball by a Rangers player killed the momentum of the ball and placed it in fine position for a bullet shot from Morris who had just come on as a substitue.

– Akwa United Have Potential but…
… they seem to not know how to use it yet. (Or maybe I’m the one seeing things wrongly?) While chasing the equalizer in the dying minutes of the first half, they played LIKE A TEAM. The passes were perfect. The run-ins were deadly. The inter-changes were exceptional. Every move forward seemed to be accompanied by a potential goal. And in the end they got their goal.

In the second half, they started from where they stopped. They made the Rangers players quiver in fear. Their moves caused the Rangers defense to be “at sixes and sevens” according to the match commentator.

Then they slept off. They eased up on applying the pressure. And the rest is history. During this time, their midfield seemed to not provide enough cover for the defense and was not productive going forward. Names like Omoniwari and Friday were trying but the others weren’t helping.

Cooreman, coach of the Akwa Ibom side, needs to take note of this and make sure to bring his players to the awareness of the fact that a game is only won after 90 minutes (+ whatever minutes the ref decides to add on), not during a 10-minute long spell.

Worthy Mentions
The Rangers coach (or technical advisor), Imama Amapakabo was the most animated of the two gaffers on the day. His glasses reminded me of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp. His acting too. Though his armless top made him look like he was heading to war. He looked fierce. Even after his team scored 3 goals, he wanted more!

He may have taken things too far with his “passion” as he was seen yelling at the fourth official while trying to express himself. There seemed to be some pushing too!

No matter how passionate you are, player or coach, I think the referee SHOULD BE RESPECTED! Football is a contact sport and a game of emotions, I know, but the “RESPECT” has to be respected (pun intended)

A side that can score three in an away game in the NPFL should be taken seriously. A team that wants to win the league, scores three goals in an away game and takes all three points home should be taken EVEN MORE SERIOUSLY!

Rangers International mean business. They want Enyimba’s trophy. Beware!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Euro 2016: The Men Who Lit Up the Eiffel (A-G)

image

The Reward For Hardwork: C. Ronaldo posts a picture of the Euro 2016 trophy on his Instagram page

Les Rendez Vous in France kicked off June 10 after much anticipation. 51 games and a 108 goals later, a new champion has been crowned.

However, Euro 2016 won’t be forgotten in a hurry. It was a tournament with twenty four teams participating, the first in the history of the competition, and one that saw all football jinxes broken. For emphasis’ sake:

– Not even Didier Deschamps was born the last time France beat Germany in a competitive game.

– Gigi Buffon, the oldest outfield playerin the tournament, wasn’t born the last time Germany beat Italy competitively.

– Fernando Santos was twenty, the last time Portugal beat France in an uncompetitive game.

– Vicente del Bosque was still a footballer the last time Italy beat Spain.

Things have changed now. Don Del Bosque has stepped down following the end of an era. Roy Hodgson resigned as England now carry the unwanted title of being the team to have played the most games in the Euros without lifting the trophy.

Antonio Conte is now at Chelsea starting a rebuilding process while Hemir Halgrimsson, the dentist coach of Iceland has now taken sole charge after he and Lars Lagerback masterminded perhaps one of the most fascinating fairytales in Euro history.

All these names put together golden moments that lit up the tournament.

I’ve compiled a list of some of the players (and managers alike) who made the Eiffel glow over the past month. Let’s take a look:

image

A Box of Emotions: Antonio Conte screams out orders to his players against Belgium

Antonio Conte
Perhaps, the most animated figure on the touchline at the tournament, Conte threatened to kill his players if they bottled it against Belgium according to reports.

It led to Xavi admitting the new Chelsea boss had built a team half Barcelona, half Atletico. He turned players like Emmanuele Giacherini, Eder, Marco Parolo and Antonio Candreva into world beaters.

He admitted his team lacked talent, and he made the best of it. He made lemonade out of lime. With a smile from Lady Luck and a lot less drama from Uncle Zaza, Conte could have masterminded an Italian job on the Euros.

An emotional man with the heart of a warrior and the demeanour of a gladiator, only Conte understood how he made his team tick and Chelsea fans are definitely in for a treat. For the players… I say no more.

image

Bale and Baby: Gareth Bale and his daughter at the Euro 2016

Gareth Bale
The dragon, they called them. Wales, unlike their neighbours (you know who), travelled to France with a game plan, one that would see them play six games and none like their rivals.

However, central to that plan was a certain shooting star, the world’s most expensive player who duly lived up to that tag. Twice he cannoned home free kicks that would tilt the game in his country’s favour. More often he got involved in play for his team: Snapping at tackles, making interceptions, spreading elite passes (one reminiscent of Mesut Ozil) and performing key blocks as well.

He ensured his name was written in the sand of time. Not so many will forget that dipping free kick that Joe Hart couldn’t stop or that pass that sent Ramsey on his way against Russia.

He definitely was central in their Cinderella tournament, and the Welsh can only hope that he leads them to more success on and off the pitch, starting with qualification for a first World Cup since 1958. Never rule them out, because Bale is involved.

image

Lol.. err, too much to handle Ronnie? C. Ronaldo "in action" against Austria

Cristiano Ronaldo    
Il capitane, and now… an international trophy following his travails with the national team. He can just retire now and leave on a high.

However that isn’t Cristiano. He sets very high bars (just search for #CR7Bars on Twitter to see for yourself), he wants more, and now, he will head to Russia for his first Confederations Cup tournament. The silver ball recipient and prospective balon d’or winner (love him or loathe him), contributed 66.67 percent of his side’s goals at the tournament.

And while many would say he played a minor role in the final, he had his team set up for that moment. In fact his Diego Simeone demeanour on the bench, reminded one of Diego Maradona’s personality talk.

It may be his last Euros, given he will be 35 come 2020 but he can look back at the Eiffel and smile because it would be his most cherished moment.

image

A Silver Medal Not Good Enough: Didier Deschamps taking off his silver medal after France lost to Portugal in the final of Euro 2016

Didier Deschamps & Dimitri Payet
The coach of the tournament, he is the stark opposite of Antonio Conte (hello Iron Man). He is much calmer and just like Conte, isn’t afraid to make big calls.

His decision to bring off Dimitri Payet wasn’t loved by many, but football enthusiasts would have felt Kingsley Coman should have started the game. His ability to unite the dressing room despite the ruckus that rocked the FFF after Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena contrived to let him down is unique.

That he managed to get a team, whose centre-forward was Olivier Giroud, to the final, is enough achievement. Arsene Wenger might need to tear a leaf from his book to learn how to utilize the Arsenal forward.

Deschamps is a legend and while he might be unable to fill a Zinedine Zidane or Michel Platini-sized boot in French hearts, he will be remembered for ushering a new era in French football; a period of discipline, and talent.

image

Stamping Your Authority While Having Fun: Payet celebrates after scoring against Albania. Image credit: http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/

Simply put, he has made the French people believe again.

Who remembers France’s winning goal against Romania? The one that sunk Albania? That goal against Iceland? He lit the torch before handing it over to Antoine Greizmann.

So much so that the nation had their hearts in their mouths when he was subbed in the final. 50 odd million? I’d sure give it a thought. Of course you know who, right?

image

The Eder: Eder spearhEaDED Antonio Conte's attack at the Euro 2016

Eder
The irony is, while one was busy setting the tournament alight, the other was busy enduring a torrid time on the bench, like a man who was in bondage until he was set loose in the final.

The Italian Eder was an embodiment of his coach, all action, and combative while his Portuguese version, showed up only when he was needed the most.

From the first game against the Belgians, Eder epitomized everything Conte stood for: some bit of aggression, speed, agility, craftiness and more.

So much for one name.

image

Dad and Son: Fernando Santos hoists the trophy in the air with Cristiano Ronaldo after touching down in Portugal

Fernando Santos
The wily 61-year old tactician who masterminded Portugal’s unlikely triumph in France admitted his side played ugly, but better win ugly than lose sexy he said.

He never seemed to care and stuck to his guns. He executed a perfect gameplan with the right tools. His reunion with Ronaldo and the respect he commanded in the dressing room made communicating instructions easier.

Little wonder they are unbeaten under him. He maximized the potential of his squad, with all 20 outfield players getting a look-in at some point or the other. The image of him and his star man on the touchline in the final moments echoed a father and son relationship that Ronaldo claimed he had lacked.

With the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign on the horizon, he’ll be hoping to mastermind yet another unlikely road to glory in Russia and for him, the work begins now.

This is the dawn of a new era and he will lead the nation into it.

image

The European Golden Boy: Antoine Griezmann celebrates a goal scored with Dimitri Payet

Antoine Greizmann
The top scorer, and undoubtedly, the tournament’s best player; the Atletico Madrid forward was in the mood from start to finish.

And he basically took matters into his own hands, whenever it mattered (pun or no pun?) after having a taste of the bench following a below-par opening game. He looked more alive than the £100million player, and even earned the nickname Grizou along the way.

He made the nation believe, and even if they fell short, the prospect of he and a repentant and returning Karim Benzema will give the French hope for the future… and make some mouths watery. Football mouths of course.

About Author
Tosin Adesina is an ideal young man, a soccer aficionado. He prefers being called Fijasewa Arogunyo because that’s who the world would grow to know. He is a disciple of Pep Guardiola, a follower of Jurgen Klopp, a lover of Jose Mourinho, an admirer of Cholo Simeone, a fanatic of Carlo Ancelotti and an avid fan of Antonio Conte. You can connect with him on Twitter @teetunez

Jose Mourinho the Serious One, £100m Pogba, the NPFL and 7 More Talking Points From #FootballThisPastWeek

image

Portugal: European Campeons!

I’ve got a confession to make.

Well, let’s just say it’s more of a theory I’d like to prove than a confession.

Want to know what it is? Okay, here we go!

Football is a whole lot about “could haves,” “would haves,” and “should haves.” (you agree with me right?)

Although it’s something associated with sports in general, football (or soccer for the U.S fans) gets more than its own fair share of the “what-could-have-been” tales of the sports industry.

Maybe it’s because of the worldwide reach of the game, which means there’s a massive amount of people to talk about what happened, with plenty of regard to what could have happened.

“What if the German national team was not hit by injuries? They would have beaten France.”

“Manchester United want to buy Pogba for £100m? They shouldn’t have sold him in the first place.”

“Portugal are champions of Europe? They shouldn’t have even qualified out of their group. They were that poor.”

You get the gist?

It is these kind of questions and the assumptions (and presumtions) that come along with them that makes football deep; so deep, it’s hard to cover all about football in one article.

Different opinions from different people watching from different angles. But this is what makes football fun to talk about: the endless possibilities. An ever-growing list of stuff to talk about.

And in the past week, there’s been more than enough to talk about.

From the Euro 2016, to England’s search for a coach, the players leaving and joining football clubs with weird price tags (and weird locations too!), football has been quite eventful.

Let’s review some of the talking points from football this past week shall we?

– The Euro 2016: So Far, So Good…French Hosts, Portugese Champs, French Runners-up
The European championship has come and gone. It brought drama, amazing goals, upsets and surprises.

One of the surprise, and the ultimate one,  was Portugal winning the tournament. Judging by the way they played in the group stages, they were the least-expected country to even qualify for the final.

But, they pulled a Leicester on all and, against all odds (the C. Ronaldo injury included), won the trophy.

Their opponents, the Frenchmen, couldn’t capitalise on their mistakes like they did against the Germans. The host-nation had to settle for second place.

This Euro was the one European tournament that had long-standing records tumbling over themselves. In Euro 2016,

▶ FRA which had NEVER lost an European Championship Final, after winning both the 1984 and the 2000 finals which were their only final appearances, came in second place behind Portugal.

▶ France beat Germany in the semi-final of the competition. That was the first time in 58 years that the French beat their German counterparts in competitive football.

▶ Ronaldo: With 9 Euro goals, Cristiano Ronaldo tied Platini’s 1984 record for most goals, in an European competition.

How about the weird ones?

▶ Portugal didn’t win any game in normal time until they got to the semi-final stage of the competition.

▶ Who would have thought that Griezmann would turn out to be the highest goalscorer of the tournament? Dunno bout you but, I didn’t see him scoring six before the tournament started.

▶ OFFICIAL: Renato Sanches has won the #EURO2016 Young Player of the Tournament award. A star is born. https://t.co/jwo3xnvKyy
Even Sanches could not have seen this one coming.

image

Jose 'The Serious One' Mourinho

– The Jose Mourinho Press Conference
The Special One has officially become the HNIC at Manchester United (just in case you’re wondering what HNIC means, search for it a href=”www.urbandictionary.com”>here ). I’ll be waiting for you when you come back.

But after his press conference, the media changed their minds and gave Jose a new name: The Serious One. Why?

Let’s just say some tough statements, aggressive statements and some excerpts from his first press conference as a Manchester United coach:

José Mourinho:

“I was never very good at hiding behind words or hiding behind philosophies.”

José Mourinho:

Man. Utd is a Champions League club. We have to make sure in July 2017 that this club is where it belongs.

José Mourinho:

“I prefer to be more aggressive, to say that we want to win. We want to win everything.”

https://t.co/aLoZB8mmIi

José Mourinho:

“I know the responsibility, the legacy, the history. I know what the fans expect from me.”

https://t.co/zRa8RVZYw5

José Mourinho:

“This is a job that everyone wants and I have it! This challenge does not make me nervous.”

https://t.co/bJvqPYHDSc

José Mourinho:

“I feel a bit frustrated we’re not in the Champions League. Man Utd is a Champions League club.”

https://t.co/TgXDE2fTtY

José Mourinho:

“49 is a lot. One lie repeated many times. Always a lie. If you want names, I give you the names.”

https://t.co/19DD3lGrzO

José Mourinho on why Ryan Giggs left Man Utd:

“The job Ryan wanted is the one I got. He wants to be a manager.”

https://t.co/OUNK1Koh4W

José Mourinho on Ryan Giggs:

“I will never stop him coming back. The club tried to offer him any important job they could. He’s been brave.”

José Mourinho on the advice Sir Alex Ferguson gave him:

“Bring the umbrella! And bring the good bottle of wine.”

https://t.co/MAZRLaOwBA

After using the word ‘I’ 91 times during his introductory press conference, according to DailyMail, you can understand why the media quickly gave Jose a new name.

But with all the huffing and puffing, will Mourinho turn Man. Utd’s fortunes around? Can he actually win all?

I think he can’t win all. What do you think?

image

New Citizen in town: Pep Guardiola poses for his first official photos as Man. City coach

– The Pep Guardiola Press Conference
During the week, in the other half of Manchester, Pep “The Philosopher” Guardiola also gave his introductory press conference.

While reading through the excerpts, you will notice a sharp contrast between the words he chose to use and those used by Mourinho. A norm for two coaches known to never have been on the same side of a coin.

Pep on Mourinho:

“I think Jose said pretty well in his press conference that it’s not about me and him.”

Pep:

“The top coaches, and Jose is one, help me reach the next level. They made me better. Like Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund too.”

Pep Guardiola on Yaya Toure:

“I’m counting on them all including Yaya.”

PEP:

“I love to work with young players. Now I realise in a short time working with players from the second team, I’m really impressed.”

Pep Guardiola:

“Antonio Conte is a master tactician. It’s going to be very interesting competing against him.”

https://t.co/QZciP6BeQU

Pep Guardiola:

Manchester City can play ‘beautiful football’ in Premier League

: https://t.co/9ZSj0V9Urq

PEP:

“I will always be grateful to this club for giving me this opportunity to come to the Premier League. I’ll do my best to the last day.”

Pep:

“I think it’s great top managers are here in England. Big managers take me to another level — they push me to achieve things.”

Pep:

“My responsibility here is for the players. The other business is huge so I just focus on my players.”

What is Guardiola up to? I wish I knew. Of course I’d love to hear from you if you know what the Philosopher will do next.

-The Crazy Football Transfer Market’s Getting Crazier!
With the way most football clubs are going about their deals: signing players, selling some, and releasing others for free, there might not be too much to do on that dreaded dealine day.

Clubs like Newcastle made their fourth signing in the past week (English Championship clubs beware!); a signing from Atletico Madrid. Unless they’re aiming to beat Quique Flores’ record at Watford last season, they’ll be very well done with their purchases before August 31 (or is it September 1?)

Players like Pelle of Southampton discovered that the grass is greener on the “Chinese” side. Victor Valdes intends to “pick it up from ground level” again at Middlesborough and Ahmed Musa joined “a family” at Leicester.

But the major transfer news was about a player whose only movement was the movements he was making on the pitch for his country at the Euro 2016.

Paul Pogba is his name. And wherever that name appears now, a price-tag of £100m follows. And Manchester United is the football club making the offer.

And a whole lot has been said by a whole lot of people about this, one of them being Robbie Fowler…

“The former England striker has launched a scathing attack on the Manchester United target, claiming the £100m price-tag is way too much for the 23-year-old France’s Paul Pogba is ‘massively overrated’ and has been average at the European Championships.”

“He’s done OK against pretty limited opposition for France, but what does he bring? Energy and athleticism to midfield, but so does N’Golo Kante.”

– Fowler

Ouch!

But, the question remains: Whose fault is it that an amount that huge is being offered for a player of, erm, let’s just say, that calibre?

Manchester United? Mourinho? Pogba? Who’s to blame?

– Coaching Drama
Guardiola and Mourinho weren’t the only coaches in the news over the week.

England has put a number of coaches in the spotlight with their recent search for a new coach. Roy stepped down after the dismal Euro 2016 showing and now the Three Lions are in search of a new coach.

Jurgen Klinsmann has become one of the front-runners for the job. Can’t blame the FA. Seeing the job that was done by the German with the USMNT, Jurgen presents a fantastic opportunity English football has been waiting for since 1966: a coach that knows how to win. Or at least, a coach that knows how to turn a losing side into a side that will be feared.

An impressive C.V and the opportunity to help develop a predecesor who will take over when he’s gone means Klinsmann is an offer the FA can’t refuse. Seems England may not be needing a ‘Roll of the Allardyce’ afterall. Sorry SkySports.

Still on irresistible offers, Marcelo Bielsa resigned just two days after taking the coaching role at Lazio! This one will go down in coaching folklore.

Bielsa threw all the blame on Lazio but we both know who’s to blame right?

Moving on…

Worthy Mentions
During the past week, a certain Real Madrid player, Lucas Silva, aged 23, was forced to retire from football due to a serious heart problem. https://t.co/HRxK8zPvbL

It’s certainly a sad one for the lad who, going by his age, still had a couple of playing years ahead of him. Hopefully Real Madrid will be able to get him a player-scouting role at the club because… of course a coaching role would be bad for his heart!

This stat appeared somewhere online last week: Hugo Lloris had 33 passes v #GER, only Paul Pogba (35) had more on the French side. Playmaker.

I really dunno where to categorize that.

Kano Pillars, missed out on cash from the Musa-to-Leicester move. Why? No sell-on clauses were inserted in his contract when he moved to Europe.  Maybe our Nigerian clubs need more business orientation. Maybe that alone can make the NPFL a better league generally.

image

Tight Battle For the Title: Wikki Tourists, Rangers and Rivers set to make this one a "photo-finish." Photo credit: LMCNPFL

Speaking of the NPFL, Rangers International are obviously giving Wikki Tourists a run for their money. Or should I say… a run for their title. And with both teams on 43 points, Rivers United is lurking around the corner like an hyena, with 41 points, waiting to take advantage of any slip ups.

Who said the NPFL isn’t fun?

Did I mention that Portugal, before the Euro 2016, were 20/1 to win the tournament? I guess it’s safe to say again, THEY PULLED A LEICESTER ON ME! I’m sure they did on you too right?

Don’t forget to share this beautiful read with your friends. I’m sure they’ll love it and will thank you.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Euro 2016: So Far, So Good… (Eight Become Four)

image

Bel-GIONE: Wales celebrate after knocking Belgium out of the Euro 2016

It was a fitting end to the Quarter finals of the Euro 2016.

A quarter-final that had it all: The birth of a star, the late awakening of another. The embarrassment of yet another nation. The end of an era, and the end of a cycle; one which ended in tears… or maybe not?

It re-ignited an argument that was born the moment the first game of the tournament ended: “Is this the most interesting Euros yet?”

For the doubters who were against the idea of an expanded tournament, Michel Platini had being vindicated… albeit a bit too late.

But wherever the Frenchman was on Sunday night (most likely in his living room or most likely entertaining more questions from investigators), he would have being proud of himself and his achievements.

An European tournament like none other.

image

What a tournament!!

He called it his own Euros when France got the hosting rights, claiming it was the perfect place for the new cycle to begin.

He was right. Spot on! The cycle of unforeseen surprises (the Icelandic fever and those Portuguese), broken jinxes (Angela Merkel must be very proud), and the big Whales (Wales).

Monseuir Plat must have peeked into the future!

Euro 2016 has been a blockbuster of a competition far. And while most fans seem to have been surprised enough, you’ll agree with me that more’s coming.

More surprises… especially with the way Portugal seem to be crawling to the final.

While we await the semi-final matches, how about a rewind?

So far, so good:

image

Pole-less Euro: Portugal celebrate after beating Poland on penalties

When You Can’t sPORT UR GAL en route to the Final
Coming into the tournament, they seemed primed for it. They had the luck of the draws and many expected them to roll over their opponents in the group.

If they had done so, they would have faced Belgium and… that would have been game over (or maybe not?)

Many blamed them when second place seemed certain with only two minutes of their last group game remaining. But then, it never came through.

Iceland somewhat created a fairy tale by scoring perhaps the deadliest counter-attack at the tournament, one which demoted them to third place.

Had they finished second, England would be lying in wait. Cross the English hurdle and France would have been patiently waiting for them.

However, fortune favours the brave (if I am permitted to say so). Ronaldo and co now have the final in their sights… without even hitting second gear!

It might seem bad, but look on the bright side: there was the birth of a certain Renato Sanches, the lad that said no to the club some call the biggest in the world. The sizzling goal he scored to cancel out Lewandowski’s strike was one which had Cedric Soares written all over it, the Southampton right back selling out.

Fernando Santos would be wise to reinstate Vierinha to that position against Wales due to the You-Know-Who effect. Portugal have managed to come this far by making little mistakes, a key component of every title winning side.

They might not be scoring but they aren’t conceding either. When they do, they find ways of cancelling out the deficit without giving much away, yet another key component for winning trophies. If in doubt, ask Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.

It’s time the emphasis on the collective is reinforced and they get a way to coax the best out of their star men. It is a shame that they have no No.9 who can score effortlessly which increases the work-load on Ronaldo, who likes to score, but then is losing his legs and his no longer as young.

If there was any time for them to hit second gear, it’s now! And they would need every help they can get. Ronaldo stepped up against Hungary. Rui Patricio was the reason they hung on against Croatia. Renato Sanches came to the fore in the quarters.

However, it goes way beyond that now. Otto Rehaegel who masterminded Greece’s win in 2004 in Portugal’s backyard would say, “While being the underdog can be good, it could be extremely dangerous and leave you vulnerable.”

Portugal are playing that part well, but they would be wise to let the world take them serious and set themselves up for the final with the right morale.

image

The winning penalty: Hector takes the penalty that sends Germany through at the expense of Italy

The Bells Rung
When Eden Hazard said he felt fresh for Euro 2016, it meant good news for the Belgian fans. Many felt their time had come. The golden generation had matured.

However, they (or us?) got it all wrong. Belgium was just a bunch of individuals with talent, one which was showcased by Radja Nainngolan’s unbelievable goal.

The flashes were there, but they never became electricity. They were like a circuit that twitched, but never came alive. Sadly so.

Aaron Ramsey on the other hand showed what talent in a well-oiled system would do. Two assists helping his side to a victory. And even when he’ll miss the semi-final, he will with a mind that his replacement would be just as good. An audacious team.

In the opposition dressing room, they were coming to blows, Thibaut Courtois revealed in the mixed zone. It was a case of the fleet wanting a new shepherd. Someone with the tactical discipline. Not the man in charge.

While he might be right, he is just as wrong because, he only came to the fore after the first game, a match in which he contributed to their failures. They were doomed from the outset, the loss to Italy had set the tone for the remainder of the tournament such that they had already being eliminated even before they took to the field against the Welsh.

The 4-nil win over Hungary aside, they left a lot to be desired and never needed to change gears to win games, something that should be the norm and not the exception.

The bells have rung and they have done so clearly, he who has an hear let him hear or else they would end up just like England’s failed class of 2000-2006.

A MACHINE AND A CHICKEN
I might have wished Italy won against Germany (but I still honestly do and Antonio Conte would be feel the same). The less said about Simone Zaza’s spot kick, the better.

Italy’s elimination had a sense of unfairness in it, just like that of the Icelandic and the Polish teams. However, their’s felt the most unfair. The cruel nature itself was just as unfair as every missed German spot kick felt like Italy would score their next.

It’s their second spot kick elimination at this stage since the turn of the millennium, one which brought back memories of Euro 2008. Gli Azzuri’s spirit, one embodied in their coach, Antonio Conte, had endeared them into the hearts of many. One Body, One Soul, One Spirit.

It was typical of the man and the team, even after going down to Ozil’s neat finish, they stuck together and got the reward. It however exposed the failings of the Italian game, the spot kicks in particular.

At some point, it felt like we were watching a Principals cup penalty shootout. While the Germans did have their version of poor penalties, the Italians’ were the worst. Names like Graziano Pelle, Matteo Darmian appear. Simone Zaza in particular, whose spot kick is still making waves on social media was a joke.

Giampero Ventura has a big job on his hands. He has to retain the mentality that Conte has instilled in this team of fighters. Conte admitted Italian football was at its lowest ebb and they would need a miracle to win the Euros.

Well he was right. The miracle didn’t happen. And while Germany stroll on, the Machines would hope they have enough left in the tank to see off Les Bleus, who dispatched Iceland.

This was France’s best game all tournament, they chose to hit top gear at the right time, given whom they have in sight in the semis.

And while Iceland might have seen their fairytale come to an end, they would go home knowing that they have reached out to a whole continent and preached the gospel that is, football.

About Author
Tosin Adesina is an ideal young man, a soccer aficionado. He prefers being called Fijasewa Arogunyo because that’s who the world would grow to know. He is a disciple of Pep Guardiola, a follower of Jurgen Klopp, a lover of Jose Mourinho, an admirer of Cholo Simeone, a fanatic of Carlo Ancelotti and an avid fan of Antonio Conte. You can connect with him on Twitter @teetunez

5 Talking Points From #FootballThisPastWeek

image

When asked to describe football, my friend could only let out one word, “Magical,” after a deep sigh.

The sigh in itself was enough answer (I’m sure you’ll agree with me). Football is just unfathomable.

One time, it gives you joy. Another time it breaks your heart. At other times, it just abandons you in-between, leaving to wonder what exactly happened.

And over the past week, there were more-than-enough heart-breaking, pressure-relieving, shocking, amazing, heroic stories that happened in the football world.

One of them was,

– Manchester United’s #ZlatanTime
It was dubbed the world’s worst-kept secret at the time. Speculations were rife! Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contract with French giants PSG had expired. The big guy was a free man.

And every single club wanted him to join them. Who wouldn’t want the Swedish king on their team?

The Swede powerhouse was in no hurry to choose sides. He kept his cards close to his chest, using the Euro 2016 for cover-up.

Sweden got eliminated from the competition and the big man was followed everywhere by questions about his next move.

He answered the world via his Facebook page.

image

And on Friday, it was Zlatan time in Manchester. Zlatan signed for Manchester United and rejoined ‘The Special One.’

image

You can’t wait for the Manchester derby right? Me too!

But Zlatan and The Red Devils weren’t the only ones signing contracts in England. There were more…

– …Premier League Transfers
It’s buying and selling season across Europe. And the English Premier League clubs have been pulling their weights.

image

The Philosopher's in town: Pep Guardiola arrives at Manchester City

Over the week, Manchester City unveiled Pep Guardiola to the fans. The Philospher who called City his “new home” joined from Bayern Munich and will be looking to infect the Citizens with his winning power. And also attract some big names.

Manchester City also acquired the services of Nolito who was the leading goalscorer for Celta Vigo last season.

Saido Mane became the 5th Southampton player to join Liverpool in 3 years. Dwight Gayle left Crystal Palace for Newcastle. The Batshuayi hijack was completed by the Blues. Arsenal signed a certain Japanse striker, Asano (surprise surprise).

Henrik Mkhitaryan, who was listed in the 2015/2016 Bundesliga Team of the Year, also signed for Man. Utd as was confirmed by Borussia Dortmund.

While players were moving in and out of clubs, the action continued in the…

image

Winning Penalty: Hector's penalty seals win for Germany over Italy

– Euro 2016
“If in doubt, smash it down the middle.” – Commentator, on penalties, during the Germany vs Italy game.

The Quarter finals of the Euro 2016 witnessed a clash of the titans: Germany vs Italy (Poland, Wales and Iceland don’t exactly count as titans if you know what I mean…).

Both coaches played a 3-5-2 formation. A cagey game highlighted by Boateng’s ‘Air Jordan’ advert led to a 1-1 draw at the end of 120 minutes.

A penalty shoot out was needed to seperate both teams. And the penalties on display were amazing…ly funny. There were some really good ones though like De Sciglio’s and Kimmich’s.

But it was generally a contest of poor penalties. Comical penalties. Zaza of Italy literally danced for a couple of seconds before sending his penalty into space.Pelle’s spot-kick was a shot very well off-target.

Then there was Schweinsteiger’s blaze over the bar and Mesut Ozil’s penalty that sent Buffon the wrong way but hit the post. Muller missed too.

In the end, Germany won the game and finally broke the jinx of not beating the Italians in the last 8 meetings in major competitions (4 draws, 4 losses).

In the other games, Portugal, which are yet to win a game in normal time, knocked Poland out of the competition via penalties.

France ended Iceland’s fairytale run by scoring 5 past them. That was the first time in the competition a team scored five goals.

image

Welsh Winnings Ways: Wales celebrate after winning against Belgium. Photo credits: Www.worldsoccer.com

Wales came from a goal down to beat Belgium 1-3. Robson-Kanu’s “Cryuff-esque goal” was one of the highlights of the game.

The teams are now down to four. Who will win the Euro 2016?

While the quest for European glory continues, there’s another quest on-going in the Nigerian Premier Football League.

– The NPFL: Who Will Wear The Crown?
The much-talked about contest between red-hot, second-placed Rangers International, and table toppers, Wikki Tourists, ended in a draw. The Lagos derby saw MFM fire 3 past Ikorodu United (who I think can’t avoid a relegation this season).

There was an away win as Plateau United got one over their counterparts, Abia Warriors (this one came as a surprise though). Unsurprisingly though, Enyimba bounced back from their South African travel (travail?) with a 2-0 win.

Worthy Mentions
Credit to the very commited Italian side that was able to finally score one past Germany in the competition. The flying block made by Florenzi in the game emphasized the kind of commitment Conte had drawn from his men.

But football isn’t all about defending. And I hope Conte now knows better as he heads for the Stamford Bridge.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

CAF World Cup Qualifiers: The Major Problems of Nigeria’s Super Eagles

IMG-20160624-WA0002

This is more of an open letter containing jabs, discussions about Nigeria’s failing state of football and some bit of advice.

I have been around long enough on the continent Africa (not as long as your mind is thinking) to be forever concerned about the state of Nigerian football and the Nigerian Football Federation (abi shey na association them be).

Things have gotten so complex these days that there’s now usually a long list when talking about the problems of Nigerian football.

And when solutions are proposed (of course everyone usually has an idea), there’s an even longer list than before.

A long list of problems. An even longer list of solutions.

You can understand my plight when I ask, “Where do I even begin?”

First off, Nigeria’s Super Eagles, AGAIN, failed to qualify for yet another African Cup of Nations. It is now the first time we’ve failed to qualify for the tournament back-to-back and the third we’ll be missing out on out of the last five organized.

We refused to go to the 2012 edition. The Super Eagles (Super Chickens maybe?) as defending champs, decided against qualifying for the 2015 edition in Equatorial Guinea. And now, they won’t be taking part in the 2017 edition in Gabon.

Why?

Let’s blame it on the Pharaohs of Egypt who killed us off with the one-all draw in Kaduna and then a lone goal victory in Alexandria.

But really, how did we get to this sorry state in our football history when just three years ago we were African champions?

To back-date a bit, Atlanta ’96 may be a bit foggy but I read about it and watched a few clips. I must say, a few of the matches were glorious and beautiful to watch then. The memories. The tears that came to your eyes then were those of “oh, what a beauty” and not “Jesus Christ! what in the heavens did I just watch.”

From findings, Westerhoff was gone then and on came Bonfire JO (lol its Bonfrere Jo actually, but I like to think he was the one who set the fire to our team). After then Naija began to hire and fire coaches at will sometimes even re-hiring fired coaches sef (Bonfrere Jo, siasia, amodu etc).

Maybe one of the reason Nigeria’s football has been so unstable is the chronic instability as regards coaches.

Once outsted from a competition, the mandate is that the coach must follow. He’s shown the exit door. No time to build rappport with the players.

Another steps in, with a new management and a new style. The players have to adjust in such a short time.

Rinse and repeat.

Of course that’s one way the NFF has failed me as Nigerian football fan.

Another is poor funding which, has been responsible for why our home-based football clubs are finding it difficult to match others in North Africa and elsewhere and hence can’t produce players who can compete in the national colours.

Can’t blame people for watching the EPL and other leagues more than the NPFL when the moment you start to watch a Nigerian Professional Football League match, the environment alone kills your morale. The equipments cause backaches (talking of the stadium chairs) and the pitch just has the “save me” cry.

Only 3 of the 20 clubs in the topflight, IfeanyiUbah FC, MFM FC and Ikorodu United are privately owned. The rest are funded by state governments.

Before the down turn in the country’s economy, most states never really considered these clubs as big businesses that should be managed as big businesses. Instead, they were given to politically-correct persons to run.

End result?

A back-log of owed salaries with players playing half-heartedly.

The ripple effect follows the players when called up and are in the midst of guys that have just flown in from all parts of Europe. The international ones. By this time, they’re not even motivated enough to give them a run for their money.

The lazy ones get the starting berths and the even lazier ones get the bench role. The home-based ones can only watch from home. Nigeria struggles to beat the likes of Sudan and the cycle continues.

But if the international ones have become too big (more on this later) and the local ones are feeling too inferior to step up to the plate, the younger ones should give it a shot right?

I wish they could. The failure of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to encourage football academies, check the activities of football agents and monitor the progress of super kids (see Germany) has helped the free-fall of the Super Eagles.

The total under-development of our football academies/ U-17’s, U-20’s. I recall the likes of Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemwingie, Kelechi Iheanacho and, of late, Kelechi Nwakali coming through the junior national teams.

Nigeria is feared in every world U-17 or U-20 football tournament as we never cease to produce great kids. Yet, it’s still so difficult to produce great footballers for our generation.

But the kids, no matter how good they are, can’t get to play until that lousy politician’s cousin, without skills or talent whatsoever, is done playing.

Grooming the young and giving them a shot is the model most teams in the EPL and in Europe at large use. They all have decent-enough football academies that are responsible for grooming footballers of the future. And it works for them.

If only the same could be said about our nation.

The NFF need to focus more on trying to get the most out of the many talents we’ve got in Nigeria instead of wasting time analysing how lesbianism has caused the downfall of the Super Falcons (the joy of Nigerian football).

What has a person’s sexuality got to do with how a person plays her football? Of course we’ve all got different stances on the issue but… if a gay player plays better than a straight person, biko why not let her play?

Talent over sexuality!

Afterall its about Nigeria and it’s to the benefit of all. Abi when they win the trophy, no be all of us go celebrate?

Wages are not paid early. Due tournament bonuses are withheld. Training facilities remain the same without improvements. Yet you can blame their sexuality?

How comprehensive!

Back to the international ones. On one hand, in the on-going EURO 2016 tournament, you see players extremely pleased and dedicated about playing for their nation.

Men and boys playing their heart and soul out in a bid to bring glory to their nation. Countries trying to “out-sing” the other whenever their anthems are played (welldone Buffon).

On the other, you have Nigerian players who have a different idea to National Loyalty. For the nation, IT HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT THE MONEY. I don’t think there is any nation that pays its players better than what the clubs pay so, grow up! Play with heart! If you can’t, don’t heed the call.

IMG-20160624-WA0002

Of course I’m scared of the next WC Qualifiers. Truth be told , I am on the side of those who believe Nigeria won’t make it.

Call me pessimistic but I look forward to what Mahrez and co. would do to us. I doubt we can even pick up a point against Cameroon. Perhaps we would get to finish above Zambia, but then, the Super Eagles are known to disappoint so maybe we shouldn’t expect too much.

Bottom line: Let’s play this WC qualifier in preparation for Qatar 2022 because we aren’t going to Russia.

Let’s look for a good coach, and improve our tactics and dedication to the nation’s football spirit.

Although I refuse to give up on supporting Nigerian football, I am tired of the whole permutation process we as fans have to go through during qualifications like this. Letting our fate be decided by the results of other teams and all.

The coach change and leadership of the football federation is the BIGGEST CONCERN of all.

Nigerians are known to be spiritual, so I am calling on my God in heaven to save us and help us.

GOD BLESS NIGERIA.

About Author
Bamgboye Ayodele is a writer of all genres, passionate sport analyst and a freelance game blogger. You can keep up with writing and also engage with him on Twitter @LORD_Obote.