AFCON 2013: Nigeria Super Eagles Confront Stallions for African Title

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A repeat of Nigeria and Burkina Faso’s opening Group C match is on the cards Sunday to determine who will bear the toga African champions for the next two years. Up for grabs asides bragging rights is a spot in Group B of the FIFA Confederations Cup alongside Spain, Uruguay and Tahiti in Brazil a few months away (June to be precise).

Friendly internationals with the leading soccer powers will also be a fallout of Sunday’s game, not to talk of the possibility of individual players earning (or improving on) lucrative deals with the foremost club sides in world football.

Africa’s soccer fiesta is known for throwing up surprises, Zambia’s victory at last year’s event buttressing this point. Nigeria, despite being a traditional power in the game, was not expected to play in today’s showpiece. The manner of reaching today’s final has been even more surprising – pleasantly if you are Nigerian – as the Nigerian team upped the ante with a scintillating 2-1 victory over tournament favourites, Cote d’Ivoire, in the quarter final and a 4-1 mauling of Mali in the Semi.

Burkina Faso, if anything, are more surprising finalists. Many Nigerians probably heard the country’s name for the first time after they were famously beaten 7-1 by Nigeria in an AFCON final in the early ‘90s. The present incarnation have however proven to be resilient and hard to beat. Like Nigeria, they are unbeaten so far but success has been built on a tight defence and hard work.

The Stallions showed the stuff they are made of in their first match at this competition, clawing back draw with a 94th minute equalizer. The only other goal they have conceded apart from that given away to Emmanuel Emenike was a penalty against Ghana in the semi finals.

They will be in the final for the first time in their history, while Nigeria will be contesting their seventh, despite winning only two.

This means the best attack in this year’s AFCON will faceoff against its best defence. Both teams are also the only ones to have hit the four goal mark, ensuring that against all odds, these two teams have earned their place in the final with the winner surely earning the title of Africa’s best.

ROAD TO THE FINAL

Seven-time finalists Nigeria and first timers Burkina Faso will clash Sunday for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations trophy. After two drawn games in Nigeria’s first two games, the Super Eagles hit the expected rhythm as a team with three big wins to reach today’s final showdown against fellow West Africans Burkina Faso.

Nigeria 1 Burkina Faso 1

The Super Eagles draw their opening group game 1-1 with Burkina Faso with Emmanuel Emenike giving Nigeria the lead before substitute Alain Traore put the Stallions back on equal pegging. Nigeria played one man short after defender Efe Ambrose was harshly sent off after his second booking.

Nigeria 1 Zambia 1

This high-profile group showdown against defending champions Zambia produced another draw. Emenike was again the hero for the Eagles with the opening goal, before goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene tucks away an equaliser from the penalty spot after a controversial award by the Egyptian referee. With Eagles needing a win to progress to the knock out stage, Stephen Keshi and his wards need no preaching to get the job done against Ethiopia.

Ethiopia 0 Nigeria 2

It took 10 minutes of magic from Victor Moses who won two penalties and stepped forward on both occasions to fire Nigeria into the last eight.

Nigeria 2 Cote d’Ivoire 1

The Eagles faced the top favourites, but against all odds, they beat the Didier Drogba-led Ivorian team. The Super Eagles played the game of their lives to fly past the Elephants with home-based playe Sunday Mba sealing the victory with a top-class finish.

Mali 1 Nigeria 4

The Eagles were no doubt the favourites after the big win over Cote d’Ivoire in the quarterfinals and they made short work of Mali with three goals in the first half. Nigeria eventually mauled Mali 4-1.

Burkina Faso made history by reaching the AFCON final for the first time in their history. To reach the last two, Burkina Faso topped in a group that had champions Zambia and Nigeria. Like the Eagles, they are yet to lose in South Africa.

Burkina Faso 1 Nigeria 1

Burkina Faso surprised bookmakers by recording a 1-1 draw with Nigeria in their opening game. They fought back after pressuring an Eagles defence that had a man sent off.

Ethiopia 0 Burkina Faso 4

The Stallions recorded the biggest win of the 2013 AFCON with 4-0 bashing of Ethiopia to boost their chances of making it to quarter final. Talisman Alain Traore netted a brace as they overran The Walia Antelopes for a deserved victory.

Zambia 0 Burkina Faso 0

Burkina Faso did everything to get the needed result to advance beyond group stage against Zambia. Knowing fully well that a draw will be enough for them to proceed, their game plan was to secure it, but star man Traore was ruled out of the tournament after an early thigh injury.

Togo 0 Burkina Faso 1

Burkina Faso booked their place in the semifinal for only second time in history with a hard-earned 1-0 win over Emmanuel Adebayor’s Togo after extra time to zoom into the last four.

Burkina Faso 1 Ghana 1 (3-2 aet)

Burkina Faso made history by going all the way to the AFCON final by upsetting tournament favourites Ghana. Scores stood at 1-1 after extra time before the Stallions edged past the Black Stars on penalties. Jonathan Pitroipa who got an undeserved second yellow card and sending off, was cleared Friday evening by CAF to play in today’s final clash with the Super Eagles

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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AFCON 2013: EAGLES WILL WIN, SAYS T.B. JOSHUA

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The General Overseer of The Synagogue Church Of All Nations, Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, says Nigeria’s Super Eagles would defeat Burkina Faso in Sunday’s final of the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.

T.B. Joshua, who warned Eagles’ coach, Stephen Keshi to avoid conceding a late minute goal in their AFCON Group C opener against the Burkinabe, told Codewit NEWS correspondent  that Nigeria’s case in the Nations Cup final this year is like the biblical Jacob who wrestled with God, saying that “on Sunday we’ll tell God unless He gives us our heart’s desire we’ll not let Him go.

“The cloud is darker over Nigeria’s Super Eagles, but with God we’ll scale through. If it were not to be the final, anything could have happened. The first match we played with Burkina Faso, it was just by the grace of God that it ended in a draw.
“On Sunday, our opponents will play defensively because they will be looking out for penalty shootout at the end of the game. They will also play through three of their strikers upfront; one of them very tall and huge player and two others.

“What I’m seeing I don’t want to say it because it would be too frightening, but I want to assure that we’ll scale through the challenge on Sunday.”

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The prophet who established a football club, My People FC to groom young players, however, warned the Eagles not to allow Burkina Faso to score first in the final, saying that “if this happened the Burkinabe would fall back to defend the goal, which will be very dangerous for our team. I still repeat that no matter the situation, we’ll scale through.

“The Burkina Faso that we played in the group stage will not be the same team we’ll play on Sunday, even though some of their players are out of the squad due to injuries. They are still a team. But I hope for celebration.”

Joshua said as the giant of Africa, Nigeria last won the Nations Cup 13 years ago, which was too long ago for a great football nation like Nigeria.

“I think God should give us this cup to make the youths of this country happy. Winning this cup at this time of religious intolerance and violence will calm down the youths. I want to appeal to all Nigerians to pray for Eagles’ victory. I would have told you the scoreline but I would rather delay it till Sunday morning in order not psychologically distract the players and their coaches and not to demoralise the losing team.”

Prophet Joshua concluded that he would not want Keshi and his team to come to his church to celebrate their victory after the match because he is not the only one praying for the Eagles to win.

“My voice may be the one louder among the men of God in the country but this doesn’t mean that the team should come to my church to celebrate. I would rather prefer that they celebrate their victory with all Nigerians,”

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Afcon: We’re focused and ambitious – Keshi

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Read Time:11 Minute, 2 Second

A few days before the kick off of the Africa Nations Cup in South Africa, Super Eagles Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi in an interview said his boys feared no team in the competition.

The 51-year old, who played at five Africa Cup of Nations finals, winning gold, silver and bronze, leads Nigeria’s charge for a third title in the 56-year old continental football festival as they battle Burkina Faso tomorrow.

Q: Coach, congratulations on your team’s qualification for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. How tough was it winning the ticket, and was there anytime, particularly after the draw in Liberia, that you thought the Eagles might not make it?

Keshi: No way. There was no time I exercised any fear of our not qualifying. Yeah, I always knew that we had to work harder, after the match against Liberia in Monrovia. But there was no time I thought we would not make it to South Africa. I have confidence in my team.

Q: Nigeria last won the Africa Cup of Nations 19 years ago, in Tunisia. What are your real expectations for the 2013 finals?

Keshi: Oh, of course we have real expectation of winning. From the moment we qualified, we knew we were capable, able to win it. So, our expectations for South Africa 2013 is to win the trophy and make Nigerians happy.

Q: How do you see your team at the moment? Are you still rebuilding?

Keshi: Well, the truth is that even if you have been in charge of a team for five years, you still continue to build. Building is a continuous process because you always want your team to be better, you are always looking out for even better players. For sure, I have the frame of the team I want and I believe that the squad we have selected for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations is good enough. What we need is chemistry. Once we have that, we’ll be okay going forward and all the way.

Q: How easy was it for you to draw up your provisional list of 32 players?

Keshi: It was not easy at all. You see, Nigeria is blessed with good players who are scattered around the world. There are some that we have not even discovered yet. After we earned the ticket to the final tournament, we started working: myself and my colleagues in the technical crew.

You know, we played so many friendly matches last year and that enabled us to see so many players. By the time we played Rwanda in the second leg of our Cup of Nations qualifying fixture, we already had the frame of the team we wanted.

It was not easy, and you know, positioning was important. You could have four, five good players that you wanted to take but if they are all playing in the same position, it makes it difficult for you.

Q: What about the final 23?

Keshi: It was not easy either. That one was tough. But we knew what we wanted and there were no sentiments. Current form and positioning played key roles.

Q: At the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja few days to the opening ceremony, President Goodluck Jonathan called on the team to do Nigeria proud. Does that put any pressure on your team?

Keshi: Any team going into a tournament must have an ambition to win. We are focused and ambitious. President Jonathan is right to say that, and it makes us all to tighten our belts and know that Nigerians back home expect us to make them proud. It is a normal charge and we are comfortable with it.

Q: You played at five Africa Cup of Nations (1982, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1994). What memories do you have of these tournaments?

Keshi: Lovely memories, wonderful memories, great memories, my brother. For me, it was always an honour and special privilege to wear the green-white-green. And the Africa Cup of Nations is so special. I went into the field each time wanting very much to do my country proud.

Every match at the finals was great. But the greatest was 1994 in Tunisia when we won it. I told myself that, yes, I have reached the summit now and can be happy forever.

Q: How did you feel missing the 1986 finals?

Keshi: It was extremely painful. I kept asking myself what went wrong. The Africa Cup of Nations is the biggest tournament in Africa and considering the quality and enormity of resources that we have, Nigeria should always be there. Missing the 1986 finals in Egypt was a sad moment.

Q: Which was your most memorable Africa Cup of Nations match?

Keshi: Ah, every match I played at the Cup finals was great. In 1984, we had a young team and we came up against a very experienced Cameroonian team in the final.

The most memorable would be the 1984 semi final, when we defeated Egypt on penalties in Abidjan. They led us 2-0 after 35 minutes and then we told ourselves that this would not happen. We got a penalty and I scored and we went into recess 2-1 behind. We attacked with purpose and they defended stoutly. But eventually, I lifted the ball into the box and Bala Ali headed into the net for the equalizer. We went ahead to win 8-7 on penalties. Tough game.

Q: In your first Cup of Nations playing for Nigeria, Zambia and Ethiopia were also in our group, back in 1982. What memories do you have of the finals in Libya?

Keshi: That’s more than 30 years ago! We defeated Ethiopia but lost to Zambia. Our team had problems and we were not properly coordinated. We had old and young players, like Sylvanus Okpala, Rashidi Yekini, Ademola Adeshina and myself. The old included Muda Lawal and Tunde Bamidele.

In South Africa, we also have a blend of few old and mostly young players. We have to keep telling them about patriotism and dedication and the honour and privilege of wearing the green-white-green. We are here to soar very high.

ROLL OF HONOUR

Year           Winner              Score     Runner-up

1957           Egypt                 4-0         Ethiopia

1959           Egypt                 2-1         Sudan

1962           Ethiopia             4-2         Egypt

1963           Ghana                3-0         Sudan

1965           Ghana                3-2         Tunisia

1968           DR Congo          1-0         Ghana

1970           Sudan                1-0         Ghana

1972           Congo                3-2         Mali

1974           Zaire                  2-0         Zambia

1976           Morocco                           Guinea  (Morocco)

1978           Ghana                2-0         Uganda

1980           Nigeria              3-0         Algeria

1982           Ghana                1-1         Libya       (7-6 pen)

1984           Cameroon          3-1         Nigeria

1986           Egypt                 0-0         Cameroon(5-4 pen)

1988           Cameroon          1-0         Nigeria

1990           Algeria               1-0         Nigeria

1992           Cote d’Ivoire      0-0         Ghana  (11-10 pen)

1994           Nigeria              2-1         Zambia

1996           South Africa       2-0         Tunisia

1998           Egypt                 2-0         South Africa

2000           Cameroon          2-2         Nigeria    (4-3 pen)

2002           Cameroon          0-0         Senegal   (3-2 pen)

2004           Tunisia               2-1         Morocco

2006           Egypt                 0-0         Cote d’Ivoire (4-2 pen)

2008           Egypt                 1-0         Cameroon

2010           Egypt                 1-0         Ghana

2012           Zambia               0-0         Cote d’Ivoire  (8-7 pen)

2013              Nigeria                         ?                              Burkina Faso

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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AFCON: Eagles are potential winners – Nwosu, Adepoju

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AFTER their superlative performance in the ongoing  Africa Cup of Nations quarter and semi final matches, former internationals, HenryNwosu (MON)andMutiu Adepoju  are firm in their beliefs that the Super Eagles are potential winners of the trophy.

The duo in separate chats with Saturday Vanguard sports congratulated the players and their coaching crew led by Stephen Keshi for their superb performance in the last two matches played.

Nwosu, a former Eagles’ captain and a member of the 1980 winning squad, expressed his optimism that Nigeria would cross the final hurdle when they face their Group C rivals, Burkina Faso.

He said, “ It was a good game against Mali. The Super Eagles have done well so far, but they played more of individualist  game than team work against Mali in the semi final. This is not good enough for us. They have to play as a team and not as individuals.

We played our best game against Cote d’Ivoire  and I will expect them to replicate it in the final against Burkina Faso. They should be more determined, focused and start from the blast of the whistle to attack the Burkinabes and should not relent.

If they do so, I see the them lifting the Cup. “I have always believed that Nigeria will go far in this tournament and they are now proving it. Burkina Faso, I do also know,  will come out smoking but with good officiating, the cup is ours by God’s grace”.

Also speaking,  a member of the famous 1994 squad, Mutiu Adepoju was full of praises for the Eagles on their outstanding feat.

According to him, “beating Mali by the goal margin of 4-1 shows that they’re great and improving with every match because Mali is a very good side. The victory shows that the Eagles  are strong and are  potential winners of the African Cup. For the final match, we have all it takes to win it.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Afcon: Keshi equals Onigbinde, pursues El Gohary

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Shame to bad people is the usual local slang for anyone who has performed a feat which his detractors never wished for him.

That is exactly the meaning of this posture, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi made after his side, the Super Eagles scored the second goal in their 4-1 semi final routing of the Eagles of Mali on Wednesday.

Like him or hate him, Keshi is on the path of history despite the fact that his employers, the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF are angling for his replacement with a foreign coach.

Though the football body denied the rumour, Keshi insists he doesn’t know his fate with the team after the final tomorrow against Burkina Faso, win or lose.

After every performance, especially during the group matches where the Eagles struugled to qualify for the quarter finals as second best, he always told the battery of journalists who thronged the post match conference that he would decide his future after the Nations Cup because he doesn’t know whether he would remain coach of the Eagles.

Before the first whistle was blown, nobody reckoned with the Eagles to even qualify from the group that paraded the defending champions, Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia but Keshi kept saying that the team were work in progress and should be given time to mature.

The music however, changed when the Eagles shocked title favourites and star-studded Elephants of Cote dïvoire and with the superlative performance against Mali has raised their profile with fingers pointing to their vctory tomorrow.

Nigerian coaches who have handled the senior natinal team before now include, Adegboye Onigbinde, Shaibu Amodu, Paul Hamilton, Samson Siasia, Christian Chukwu, Monday Sinclair, Alabi Aisien and Patrick Ekeji. Of these lot however, only Chief Onigbinde had taken the team to the final of the Nations Cup, that was in 1984 and lost to Cameroon to settle for the silver. Incidentally, Keshi was among the youngest players in that squad

That feat, Keshi equalled last Wednesday with an emphatic 4-1 win over Mali. He has a chance to surpass the feat and become Nigeria’s greatest local coach, and third best after Otto Gloria in 1980 and Clemens Westerhof in 1994.

If the Eagles win, Keshi will become the second African to win the Cup both as a player and coach, a feat Mahmoud El Gohary of Egypt of blessed memory performed when he led the Pharoahs to the Nations Cup victory in 1998 after winning it as a player in 1959 on home soil.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Afcon 2013: Supporters club at war

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The Nigerian Football Supporters Club are at war in South Africa as they prepare to drum support for the Super Eagles in their quest of wresting the Nations Cup trophy from Burkina Faso tomorrow.

The bone of contention is the struggle over which sponsor to support, Globacom or Guinness, a transfer of the power tussle in their botched election of national officers recently.

At the centre of the struggle is the Dr. Rafiu Ladipo faction and Vincent Okumagba-led group who are angling to take over the leadership of the club from Dr. Ladipo

It was gathered that the Okumagba group are insisting on wearing the apparel of Guinness as that is the firm that sponsored them to South Africa while Dr. Ladipo wants them to put on their Globacom regalia.Globacom did not support them this time.

With this situation, it is certain the support for the Eagles on Sunday will not be one of unity.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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AFCON 2013: Moses, Emenike miss Nigeria training session

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Injured Nigeria strikers Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike did not practice on Friday and coach Stephen Keshi likely won't know whether they can play in Sunday's African Cup final until just before the game.

Nigeria officials said tests were conducted on both players but did not give any information about the results. Emenike was not on the field Friday and Moses only walked around the pitch as his teammates trained.

Injury threat

Moses, the Chelsea forward who set up two goals in Nigeria's 4-1 win in the semifinals, twisted his left ankle in the second half, while Spartak Moscow's Emenike is nursing a muscle injury also sustained in the semifinal against Mali. He scored his fourth goal of the tournament in that game and is one of the tournament's top strikers.

Nigeria is bidding for its first title since 1994. The Super Eagles hadn't made it to the final since 2000.

Although Nigeria spokesman Ben Alaiya said both players should be fine to play on Sunday at Soccer City, Keshi said he will likely have to wait until closer to the game to know whether they'll be fit.

-We'll see tomorrow (Saturday) what it looks like, we will wait and see, said Keshi, the team captain in 1994.

After game against Mali

Moses was limping badly when the team boarded a plane from Durban to Johannesburg on Thursday, a day after the team's win over Mali. He appeared in better shape on Friday and was walking normally, but still didn't join his teammates on the field in the first 15 minutes in which the media had access to the training session in Johannesburg.

Keshi said before the practice session that the plan was for Moses just to jog a little bit.

Moses again didn't want to talk to reporters about the injury that forced him to be replaced in the 53rd minute in Durban.

-It's getting better, Moses said briefly.

Waiting on the doctors

Emenike wasn't even on the bus that took his teammates to the training session on Friday.

-They did an MRI this afternoon, the doctors will give us the information, I'll be informed, I'm waiting for the doctor to give me a feedback, Keshi said.

Keshi didn't want to talk about possible replacements for the regular starting strikers who have been key for the team in the tournament so far.

Nigeria is trying to win its third African Cup title, while surprising Burkina Faso, which eliminated Ghana in the semifinals, will be looking to lift the trophy for the first time.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Afcon: Ref admits mistake, Pitroipa set to play in final

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Read Time:1 Minute, 21 Second

 Burkina Faso’s star striker Jonathan Pitroipa, who picked up a red card in Wednesday’s semi-final, is set to play in Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final after all.

For Pitroipa to be able to take part the referee in Wednesday’s game had to admit he had made a mistake in booking the player for a second time for diving, something Tunisian Slim Jdidi has now done, CAf president Issa Hayatou said.

“Everyone realised that this referee did not officiate well,” Hayatou announced here on Friday.

“They’ve told me the referee has sent a letter saying he got it wrong.

“From this moment, the CAF executive committee will pass on the matter to the disciplinary commission, who will announce their decision today (Friday).

“The referee admitted his error in his report given to the (CAF) secretary general (Hicham El Amrani) — he recognised that he had got it wrong.”

Jdidi’s admission that he had erred paves the way for the red card to be rescinded and for Pitroipa to take his place in the Burkina Faso side to face Nigeria at Soccer City on Sunday.

Pitroipa produced the only goal in the 1-0 extra-time quarter-final win over Togo.

He has helped lighten the blow of the Burkinabe losing their best striker Alain Traore to injury.

Jdidi, who has been suspended for his poor performance in Wednesday’s game, sent off the Rennes forward in the 117th minute of the game that Burkina won on penalties against Ghana.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Football glory unites Nigeria in pride — at least for now

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Nigeria’s sensational run to the final of the African Cup of Nations has united the often divided country in football pride and given a nation that has grown weary with bad news a reason to celebrate.

With Africa’s largest population and massive oil wealth, many see Nigeria as a natural powerhouse held back by corruption and division, but some football fans say that reputation could be improved with a win on Sunday.

After shocking star-laden Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) quarter-finals and thrashing Mali in the semi-finals, Nigeria will face Burkina Faso for a chance to win its first continental title since 1994.

“We are going to show what kind of country we are on Sunday… you’ll see,” said Kola Obe, standing on the sidewalk at a busy intersection in the Lagos Island area of Nigeria’s economic capital.

“Nigeria is a nation to watch and we are coming up and we are going to get there,” insisted the 45-year-old father of two. A win against Burkina Faso, he added, “is going to improve our image.”

Obe and others on Lagos Island, one of the oldest areas of the city, conceded that outsiders often view Nigeria as a case of unfulfilled promise, including when it comes to sport.

The country boasts a population of roughly 160 million people and the continent’s second biggest economy, not to mention hordes of passionate football fans: so the 19-year AFCON title gap has been frustrating for many.

Nigeria failed to even qualify for last year’s AFCON, and the team’s performance in the 2010 World Cup was so dismal that President Goodluck Jonathan sought to ban the team — a move he later rescinded.

The start of this year’s Nation’s Cup initially brought back some of the old cynicism, as Nigeria did not look to be playing as champions in the group stages.

Nigerians are not known for holding their tongues, and coach Stephen Keshi took exception to the criticism. Ahead of the quarterfinal he said that “it’s a great shame that a nation doesn’t have confidence in its sons, the players.”

The country has since rallied behind Keshi, who captained the team that last won Nigeria the Nations Cup in 1994, along with his mix of experienced stars and local-based players.

In the team’s thrilling win over favourites Ivory Coast, the show stealer was not a Premier League star like Victor Moses or John Obi Mikel, both of Chelsea, but Sunday Mba, who plays in the Nigerian league and scored the winning goal.

“I want to kiss him!” Keshi said of Mba after that match. “Everyone one of my boys is a hero, a Hollywood star, but it just happened that a home-based player, Sunday, scored a beautiful, beautiful goal.”

No local networks secured the rights to broadcast the tournament, so Nigerians have flocked to outdoor bars with satellite TVs to watch the matches, breaking out into wild celebrations with each victory.

“I must confess, since 1994 until yesterday, (the national) Super Eagles have been a shadow of itself, but the activities of yesterday really impressed me,” said Godfrey Idahosa, 27, recalling Wednesday’s win over Mali.

The daily papers here are filled with reports of the nation’s troubles, notably a corrupt, often inept government and waves of violence partly linked to religious and ethnic divisions in a country with a mostly Christian south and mainly Muslim north.

Moses, the national team star and Chelsea player, suffered a personal tragedy connected to this divide when, at age 11, his parents were killed in religious riots in Kaduna, still a flashpoint city a decade later.

As for Obi Mikel, his father was abducted in what was suspected to have been a ransom kidnapping in Nigeria in 2011 before being freed some 10 days later in a police raid.

But football transcends the country’s divisions, several Super Eagles fans argued, adding that come kick-off on Sunday, people across the country will be united and cheering for the same result.

“In Nigeria, when football is involved all barriers crumble,” said Musa Yakubu, a taxi driver in Kano, the country’s second city and largest in the north.

He recalled Nigeria’s stunning football gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, a victory which sent people of both faiths pouring into a busy neighbourhood to celebrate side by side.

Speaking in Lagos, a city of some 15 million people, Obe offered a similar sentiment.

“Of course we have differences, we have Christian, we have Muslims,” he said. “But when it comes to sport, especially soccer, we unite.”

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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AFCON: Jonathan sends Mark, 3 govs, 3 ministers to South Africa

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President Goodluck Jonathan is sending a high-powered delegation to South Africa to boost the morale of the super eagles and cheer them to victory in their final games against Burkina Faso on sunday.

A statement issued by the special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati Friday said the delegation will be led by the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark  while  members include Governors Peter Obi of Anambra, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi  and the Minister of State (Foreign Affairs) Prof. Viola Onwuliri, the Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade and  the Minister of State (Works), Ambassador Bashir Yuguda.

The statement said President Jonathan would have loved to be present in South Africa but his  official commitments in London and Paris have made it impossible for him to lead the cheering for the Super Eagles.

The president charged  the delegation to ensure that the members of the team are properly motivated and in the best possible spirits to win a resounding victory for the nation on Sunday.

“They are to also inform the team that President Jonathan will host a dinner reception for them at the State House Banquet Hall at 7pm on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 to personally thank and honour them for their positively transformed performance in South Africa which has undoubtedly re-established Nigeria as a major power in international soccer.

“The President charged the team to go out against Burkina Faso on Sunday with the greatest determination to win a final victory that will bring immense joy and happiness to the millions of Nigerians at home and abroad who have had their pride restored by the triumphs against Ethiopia, Cote D’Ivoire and Mali, and are praying for ultimate success at South Africa’s National Stadium” the statement said.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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