FIVE young players to watch

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Read Time:4 Minute, 20 Second

Nosa Igiebor,  Nigeria
After missing the 2012 Afcon tournament for the first time in 26 years, Nigeria are back for 2013 bringing a host of youngsters to the occasion.

For those looking for new stars this month, you may need to look no further than 22-year-old midfielder Nosa Igiebor.

The Abuja-born attacker has already had something of a nomadic career, but now residing in Spain with Real Betis, Igiebor has the platform to build on his promising reputation.

His record for the Super Eagles is impressive – two goals from three caps – including a stunning 30-yard volley in a friendly last November against Venezuela.

The power he brings to the Nigerian midfield will provide the perfect base from which to work and should give Stephen Keshi’s side a good chance of making the quarter-finals.

Christian Atsu Ghana

There is much expected of Porto and Ghana’s Christian Atsu and not only in South Africa over the next few weeks.

The 21-year-old midfielder has long been touted as a genuine star of the future after joining the Portuguese champions in 2009, but it was only after a successful loan spell at Rio Ave in 2011-12 (where he won the club’s Player of the Year award) that his ability shone through.

Predominantly left-footed, but proficient on his right as well, Atsu has shown pace and power when driving from midfield. He is composed on the ball and has a maturity about his game that belies his youth, while the 19 appearances and four assists he has racked up for Porto this year add a further string to his bow.

Nicknamed by some as the ‘Ghanaian Messi’ he has a lot to live up to, but for the time being he is on the right path. Atsu has the potential to be one of the stars of the tournament and if the Black Stars are to live up to their pre-tournament hype, he will be at the forefront of their play.

Cheick Diabate,  Mali

Bordeaux’s giant striker Cheick Diabate will lead the line for Mali in South Africa as his side attempt to negotiate a path through a tricky group.

Standing six foot four, Diabate represents Mali’s most perplexing weapon. He is not a guaranteed starter and has only just been handed such a berth at Bordeaux, the club at which he has spent a frustrating couple of years warming the bench.

Yet he became something of a star for Mali in last year’s Afcon, scoring a dramatic equaliser against Gabon in the quarter-finals, before notching twice in the third-place playoff against Ghana. His record for Mali, therefore, is respectable (11 in 23) and, still relatively young at 24 years of age, he will be one to watch.

If Diabate can continue where he left off in 2012, Mali will have a realistic chance of making waves in 2013.

Wilfried Bony, Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast are not short on forwards with Didier Drogba, Lacina Traore, Gervinho, Didier Ya Konan, Salomon Kalou and Arouna Kone all vying for a spot up top in Sabri Lamouchi’s XI. However, in Vitesse’s Wilfried Bony, Lamouchi possesses one of the most in-form, clinical strikers at the tournament.

The 24-year-old is going to have to settle for being a bit-part player (just as he was in 2012, where he scored once) for the Elephants this time around, and that is a shame, but expect Bony to pose all sorts of problems for opposition defences when he does take to the pitch.

He has netted 16 times in 18 games for Vitesse this term, taking them to fifth in the Eredivisie. Muscularly built, and deceptively quick, Bony (who bears the name ‘Wilfried’ on the back of his shirt) has displayed a clinical instinct in the box, as well as a touch of flair when the situation requires it.

Linked with Chelsea in November, expect the rest of the Premier League to cotton on to this goal machine if he lights up Afcon 2013.

Ryad Boudebouz, Algeria

Sochaux’s Ryad Boudebouz should be a familiar name to Premier League enthusiasts after he was heavily linked with Liverpool over the summer. He has attracted interest from Arsenal in the past, and the left-footed right-winger should give Algeria hope of qualifying from the difficult Group D.

Ryad Boudebouz

Blessed with electric pace and an array of tricks to give defenders nightmares, Boudebouz will be the go-to attacker in tricky games against Ivory Coast, Togo and Tunisia.

Though unlikely to trouble the scorers (he has just one goal in Ligue 1 this season), Boudebouz offers a counterattacking outlet and proficiency from set-pieces that will give the Desert Warriors a chance in any contest.

At 22-years-old and having spent his entire career at Sochaux, Boudebouz is ready for the next move in his career. He will be hoping the cream of the Premier League are keeping a close eye on him in the next month.

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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Messi: I’ve changed so much

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Read Time:9 Minute, 0 Second

Argentina’s Lionel Messi is undisputedly one of the most popular sporting personalities on the planet right now, with his goals played and replayed countless times in every corner of the globe and shirts with his name on donned by kids in even the unlikeliest of places.

Not that the Rosario-born superstar, who has recently turned 25, has let any of it go to his head.

On the contrary, in fact, with his interview responses revealing him to be extremely reserved off the pitch – a far cry from the breathtaking and eye-catching performer that lights up the field when turning out for FC Barcelona or La Albiceleste.

Just moments prior to collecting his fourth consecutive FIFA Ballon d’Or, the man who in 2012 set an all-time record for goals scored in a calendar year spoke to FIFA.com about an up-and-down 12 months.

On the agenda in this exclusive interview were such topics as Argentina’s fine current form, the change in attitudes towards him in his homeland and his hopes for full recoveries for Barça colleagues Eric Abidal and Tito Vilanova.

FIFA.com: You’ve come to the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala for six years in a row now. Does coming to this kind of event become something of a habit or does it always feel exciting?
Lionel Messi: To be honest, it hasn’t become a habit for me. Even though these events are similar or practically the same, every year is special. Just being here is always different: it’s always a lovely feeling knowing what days like this mean. And, what’s more, it’s a sign that you’re doing a good job.

When you first came back in 2007 you were a shy, long-haired youngster, but you’ve changed an awful lot since then, right?
So much! It’s true yes, a lot of things have happened to me and obviously I’ve grown up both as a player and a person. That was a lot of years ago, the first time I came I would’ve been 18 or 19. I’ve become more mature, my personality has developed and my career has taken shape. Loads of things have changed.

Diego Maradona often says that after the 2008 FIFA Ballon d’Or, when you finished second to Cristiano Ronaldo, he told you never to finish second again. Is that really the case?
To tell the truth I can’t even remember when Diego told me that (laughs), but it’s true that I went on to win the next three after that. Just being here is spectacular.

We’ve fired people’s enthusiasm and I’d say we’re more united than ever.

Messi on Argentina
You set a new record by scoring 91 goals over the course of 2012. If you had to highlight just one of them, which would it be?
Like I’ve said many times before, I’m always more likely to remember goals for their importance rather than if they’re beautiful or not. Goals scored in finals for example. So, in this case, the one I scored against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey is the most important.

And, personally speaking, what would be your highlight of the year?
I think it was a good year overall. Although I would have liked to have won more with my club, I think it turned out to be a positive year with the Argentinian national team. That meant a lot to us all and that’s what I’d highlight: the national team having a great year after things not having gone well for such a long time.

What changed to finally help you hit your best form with La Albiceleste?
The national team in itself changed. For things to go well it depends on everybody involved, not just one player. And it’s not as if things were only going badly for me before, things weren’t right with the national team as a whole, for whatever reason. But once we started winning and our results improved, everything got easier. The fans are behind us, the press aren’t as critical as they have been in the past and we’re able to get on with the job in a different, calmer way. On top of that you end up getting more respect from opponents because of the form you’re in. The biggest change was the results, simple as that.

Do you feel more appreciated back in Argentina now?
Yes, I do. We’ve been fortunate enough to play in the capital, in the country’s interior region and all over the place, and the way the fans treated me and the team was amazing. That’s something we earned with our results and our football. We’ve fired people’s enthusiasm and I’d say we’re more united than ever.

You scored several hat-tricks in 2012, but was the one against Brazil in June’s 4-3 friendly win the most special?
They’re all special, aren’t they? But, in the way they came about and who they were against, regardless of the fact it was a friendly, those three goals were extra-special. But it’s scoring goals that’s great, whether against Brazil or anybody else.

Turning back to Barcelona, any doubts that surrounded the club when Pep Guardiola departed have now been dispelled. Have there been changes since Tito Vilanova took over as coach?
Yes, of course. The way we work and prepare for games is the same, but what’s changed is that Guardiola and Tito have different personalities and different ways of handling the squad. They’ve each got their own ideas and own style, but when it comes to playing and training we’re doing the same things we’ve been doing these past four years.

They hit us hard. It seemed like it was one thing after another, and they’re things that count much more than results or form.

Messi on Abidal and Vilanova’s health problems
This year has been a testing one for non-footballing issues, such as Pep’s exit and the health problems suffered by Eric Abidal and Vilanova. The Barça squad is known for being very tight-knit, but how hard did these events hit you all?

To be honest, they hit us hard. It seemed like it was one thing after another, and they’re things that count much more than results or form. They’re really awful situations. Of course we were hit hard, but we somehow managed to get through all of that by sticking together throughout. And thank God things began looking up for both Abidal and Tito. Though he (Vilanova) has still got to keep us his treatment, all the signs are good. That’s what matters most.

As far as this season’s La Liga race is concerned, is it hard not to get complacent now you’re so far ahead of the chasing pack?
We’re very aware that there’s a long way to go yet. Our La Liga hopes are in our hands thanks to the lead we’ve got and the way we’ve gone about things, but we can’t afford to relax. We know how good Atletico Madrid are, as we’ve played them already and they’re a great side. And you can never write Real Madrid off because they’ll fight till the end and they’ve clawed back big points’ deficits on us more than once. We’re not taking our foot off the gas, though we’re confident we won’t have problems staying on the same track.

Not long ago the renowned Uruguayan writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano wrote: “Me gusta Messi porque no se cree Messi” (I like Messi because he doesn’t think he’s Messi). Is that the case? Are you aware of your impact on this era in the modern game?

I don’t know. I’m just trying to keep doing my job and enjoying what happens to me, what we do and what we achieve every day. There isn’t time to sit and think about what you’ve been doing because everything happens so fast: as soon as one thing finishes another begins. I think that generally, as I’ve said many times, people are going to remember this Barcelona team once it’s gone, once time goes by. That’s when it’ll be awarded much more significance. And on a personal note, I think it won’t be until after I’ve retired that I’m fully aware of what I’ve done or what I’ve gone on to achieve in my career.

One of the aspects of your game that most catches our eye is the fact you’ll always chase seemingly lost causes and never deliberately go to ground. Is that something you’re born with or have learned?
To tell you the truth, I’ve been that way my whole life, since I was little. I’ve always tried to keep hold of the ball and keep going, whatever happens, and I still try to do that today. Every year I try to grow as a player and not get stuck in a rut. I try to improve my game in every way possible. But that trait is not something I’ve worked on, it’s part of me.

One last question: when you made a toast with your loved ones on New Year’s Eve, what did you wish for 2013 to bring?
Of course, my son is now my number one priority. It’s been a very nice and very big change and we’ll always put him first. Then I wished for Abidal and Tito to get well and put their health issues behind them for good. That and good health for me, my family and all my loved ones. After all that, on a sporting front, hopefully we can carry on what we’ve been doing and pick up some more silverware.

Taken from FIFA.com

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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World Cup security plan to cover Africa Cup

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Football’s Africa Cup of Nations, which kicks off this weekend, will enjoy the same kind of security as the World Cup in South Africa three years ago, organisers said Thursday.

“For this tournament, the operational security concept as was applied during the 2010 FIFA World Cup is being followed, on a reduced scale,” said Elias Mawela, who heads the country’s top security operations, Natjoints.

The structure groups several government services and departments, from police and defence forces to the weather service.

Authorities have stepped up surveillance and security from ports of entry to the various stadiums.

Phased security will ensure safety around stadiums during matches, including permanent aerial surveillance.

The competition kicks off on Saturday at Soccer City and the final on February 10 is also at the Soweto stadium which hosted the 2010 World Cup final.

Each of the 16 teams will have a permanent police escort.

Security forces will have their “finger on the pulse of every team and match official”, said Mawela.

South Africa was lauded for its successful World Cup security programme.

But there was a scare last November when children threw rocks at the Zambian team bus outside Soccer City, shattering glass and inflicting facial injuries on goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.

Security tainted the Cup of Nations in Angola in 2010.

Separatist rebels in Angola’s oil-rich Cabinda enclave opened fire at the Togolese team bus when it crossed the border from Congo-Brazzaville, killing two members of the delegation and seriously injuring another.

South Africa is adamant such a scenario will not happen.

“We don’t envisage it happening, but we plan for terrorism,” said Natjoints commander David Garnett.

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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’94 Eagles vs Present Eagles: Any comparison?

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Read Time:2 Minute, 35 Second

A couple of days ago, precisely on Monday, January 14, the Super Eagles Coach, Mr Steven Okechukwu Keshi equated the present Eagles which he is handling to that of all-conquering 1994 Eagles squad.

Keshi had said in a chat with Supersport.com at the team’s camp in Faro,Portugal that, “many Nigerians don’t know how good this team is. 

I see great potentials in them and they can go places,” adding that “in Emenike I see a player who can be like Rashidi Yekini and Godfrey Obaobona will grow in his position”.

 

 

1994 Eagles Squad

However, his comparison has drawn mixed reactions from football stakeholders and soccer fans alike. In fact, there are divergent opinions on whether there is any basis for comparison. One of those that disagreed with Keshi is former Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper, Peter Rufai.

In a sharp reaction to Keshi’s assertion, Rufai who manned the posts both at the 1994 Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup said, “our ’94 squad was poles apart.”

He said although the present Eagles could boast of some talented footballers, “they still cannot be compared with the team of our time.”

Rufai recalled: “Remember, 1994 was not our first Nations Cup as some of us had been in the national team since Libya ’82. We were in Cote d’Ivoire ’84, Egypt ’86, Maroc ’88, Algiers ’90 and Senegal ’92 before Tunisia ’94. You can see the difference. The present crop of players have to be there for some time to be compared to our team.”

Present Eagles

Apart from experience, which Rufai said comes with time, the former goalkeeper said, “during our time, we played a lot of matches, our league was good and the competition for shirts in the national team was stiffer. We went through a lot to get to the national team.”

He noted that the Eagles preparing for the Nations Cup in South Africa were an upcoming team that need encouragement and cannot be compared with 1994 set.

Even Vanguard Online commentators are not left out of the debate. Most of them believe that there is no comparison whatsoever between the present Eagles and 1994 squad.

Note that the ’94 squad won the Nations Cup in Tunisia(Nigeria’s second after 1980) and also qualified the nation for her first World Cup in USA’94.

The 1994 Super Eagles squad paraded the likes of Skipper Stephen Keshi, Sunday Oliseh, George Finidi, Emmanuel Amunike, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Dan Amokachi, Austin Eguavoen, Peter Rufai, Uche Okechukwu, Uche Okafor(late), Rashidi Yekini(late) and Emeka Ezeugo.

Others are Aloy Agu, Ben Iroha, Chidi Nwanu, Oliha Thompson, Samson Siasia, Mutiu Adepoju, Victor Ikpeba, Efan Ekoku and Mike Emenalo among others.

Now, based on what Rufai has said here, do you think the present Eagles have come of age to be compared with ’94 set? Any basis for comparison?

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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NIGERIA: Butcher shows pride, stabs self to death in Zaria

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Read Time:1 Minute, 17 Second

A 44-year-old butcher at Tudun Wada Market in Zaria, Kaduna State, Tanko Maitsiren-Safe, has stabbed himself to death.

Confirming the report, the Sarkin Fawan Tudun Wada, Malam Abdullahi Ibrahim, described the incident as pathetic and an outdated means of showing pride by ancient butchers.

Ibrahim advised other butchers to transform the trade, “especially now that most businesses in the country have been modernised”.

A police source in the area, who pleaded anonymity, also confirmed the incident in Zaria.

The source said the case was reported to the police on Jan. 15 and that policemen were immediately mobilised to the scene of the incident.

“On reaching the scene, they snapped the picture of the deceased and gathered some information from eye witnesses.

“After that, we ordered his relations to bury him,” said the source.

Similarly, an eye witness, Malam Yahuza Mohammed, said that the deceased and his boy were preparing “tsire” or “suya meat” (barbeque)  when the boy slightly cut his hand with a knife.

He said: “on seeing what happened to his boy, the deceased collected the knife and proudly stabbed his lap thrice without any harm to his lap.

“He then opened his stomach and stabbed first and second without causing any injury to the stomach, but on stabbing the third time, the knife went dip into him thus flushing out his intestines forcefully,” he said.

The  incident has dominated public discourse in Zaria City and its surrounding villages.

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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Somalia’s Shebab say they have executed French hostage

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Somalia’s Shebab Islamists said Thursday they have executed a French agent they had held since 2009, as France said the hostage was likely killed several days ago in a failed rescue attempt.

“16:30 GMT, Wednesday, 16 January, 2013. Denis Allex is executed,” the group said on its Twitter feed Thursday, with the report confirmed by a senior Shebab official who said the group might release audio and video of the “execution.”

“Audio and video are available and will be released any time we decide,” he told AFP, saying the hostage, whose name is likely a pseudonym, was killed in Bulomarer, a town south of Mogadishu still under Shebab control.

French commandos on Saturday launched a raid on the town to free the hostage, but the bid failed and resulted in the death of two French soldiers.

The Al-Qaeda linked Shebab said Wednesday they had “reached a unanimous decision to execute” their hostage in order to avenge “the dozens of Muslim civilians senselessly killed by the French forces during the operation.”

Witnesses said eight civilians died during the raid to free Allex.

The group also cited “France’s increasing persecution of Muslims around the world, its oppressive anti-Islam policies at home, French military operations in … Afghanistan and, most recently, in Mali.”

The French army on Wednesday accused the Shebab of “manipulating the media” and reaffirmed that Allex was likely already dead.

“We suspect, and I believe that we are not wrong to do so, that Somalia’s Shebab are manipulating the media,” France’s Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud said on Europe 1 radio.

“We have no element since the raid indicating Denis Allex is alive. We think he is most likely dead,” he said.

In the operation to free Allex, two other French soldiers were killed. The French retrieved one of the bodies. Pictures of the second soldier, presented by the Shebab as the commander of the raid, have been posted on the Islamists’ Twitter account.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday that the raid, by the elite DGSE secret service, was sparked by the “intransigence of the terrorists who have refused to negotiate for three and a half years and were holding Denis Allex in inhuman conditions.”

The minister said at the weekend that a French soldier was missing, but on Monday he said it now appeared that the soldier had died. He did not indicate that he was a commander. Le Drian said 17 guerrillas were killed in the raid.

Sources in Somalia said one of the reasons the raid failed was that the rebels had received advance warning, which senior Shebab commander Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim confirmed to AFP by telephone without giving further details.

Le Drian’s explanation was that French troops had underestimated the Islamist rebels’ strength when they launched the operation involving some 50 troops and at least five helicopters — and some help from Washington.

President Barack Obama has acknowledged that US forces provided limited technical support for the operation, but said they had played no role in the fighting.

Denis Allex is the longest held French hostage overseas since French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt, who had been held for more than six years by Colombian guerrillas until being rescued by Colombia’s security forces in 2008.

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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Hodgson eyes long-awaited England glory

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As the Football Association begins its 150th anniversary year, England manager Roy Hodgson has challenged his players to provide the ultimate celebration by at least putting themselves in contention to end almost half a century without a trophy.

Hodgson is the latest in a string of managers charged with ending England’s wait for a first major honour since their lone World Cup final triumph, against the then West Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1966.

But after helping the FA launch its landmark birthday on the London site of its first meeting, the curret incumbent in the so-called ‘impossible job’ refused to accept it may take another 50 years to replicate.

“There’s always hope,” Hodgson insisted. “Hope springs eternal. But what you have to do to win tournaments is make sure you’re regularly among the ones who are up there with a possibility of winning.

“You could compare it to someone who is an amateur darts player. The more darts he throws in and around the centre, one day he will get it in the bullseye.

“If he’s spreading them around the board your chances will be less than if he’s getting them in the 25 circle.”

Hodgson took England to the quarter-finals at Euro 2012, only losing on penalties to Italy — even though his team’s performances were often described as limited by many critics who yearn for England to rely more on technique and finesse than just their famous bulldog spirit.

The FA shares the same ambition; which is why it has built a national academy in central England at St George’s Park — a school for coaches where all 24 national teams will also be based.

And although Hodgson knows any rewards from that venture are a long way down the line, he hasn’t ruled out a degree of short-term success if England qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

“The first thing we have to do of course is qualify for the tournament,” he said. “And then when we qualify it will be important that we give a very good account of ourselves at the World Cup in Brazil. And who knows, once you are there you have a chance of winning it.

“I think we have some very good young players coming into the game playing regularly now and showing that they do have the ability to shoulder the burden.”

Hodgson was joined at The FA’s anniversary launch by several former England managers including Sven-Goran Eriksson, Terry Venables and Fabio Capello, who left the role in controversial circumstances following a row over a decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy.

But the Italian was all smiles as he said: “We are all friends now. It is very good to come back and see the people I used to work with. I have no problems with anyone.

“You know I can’t talk about what happened with England but I am enjoying my life with Russia and my hope is that we play England in Brazil at the World Cup. That would be very good I think.”

FA chairman David Bernstein welcomed Capello’s participation by insisting: “Fabio is a man of great dignity and I respect him enormously.

“To see him today (Wednesday) and the warmth he showed, and there was a great deal of warmth when we met each other was really fabulous. It’s the way it should be. There were hugs all round.”

Meanwhile it emerged the FA, which has already arranged anniversary England friendlies against Brazil, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, was also looking to fit in matches against Argentina and Germany at Wembley in October and November.

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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Hostile atmosphere at Stamford Bridge affecting players – Chelsea Benitez

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Rafael Benitez blamed Chelsea’s defensive problems for their failure to beat struggling Southampton and admitted skipper John Terry remains a major doubt for the weekend clash with Arsenal.

Chelsea allowed a two-goal first half lead to slip as visitors Southampton battled back for a 2-2 draw that left the European champions 13 points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester United and all but extinguished their domestic title hopes this season.

Interim Chelsea manager Benitez said the Blues must improve quickly if they are to claim three points when London rivals Arsenal visit Stamford Bridge.

“We cannot be happy drawing at home,” said Benitez. “We have to defend as a team, as a unit, a bit better,” the Spaniard added.

“It’s something we have to improve. It’s a question of experience.

“No, I’m not angry,” the former Liverpool manager said. “I’m disappointed.

“We know the problems we have when the other team are well organised. We have to sustain attacks, keep the ball, and that’s not something we did today (Wednesday).”

Chelsea led through Demba Ba and Eden Hazard but Southampton, for whom the draw moved them three points clear of the relegation zone, recovered through Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon.

Benitez has been on the end of taunts from Chelsea supporters ever since replacing sacked fans’ favourite Roberto di Matteo in November.

And he admitted the hostile atmosphere at Stamford Bridge was beginning to affect his players.

The return of Terry would provide Chelsea with a major lift, particularly after the home supporters had again voiced their frustration.

But the centre-back, who was on the bench against Southampton, is not yet fully recovered from a knee problem.

“He’s not match fit to play 90 minutes,” said Benitez. “He needs to play some minutes. We’ll see how he trains. It will be difficult.

“He needs games and minutes, but at the right time. It was easier the other day. Today (Wednesday) wasn’t the game.

“To change the player, when you have to play high, with a player with no match fitness, it would be a risk. I will try not to take a risk. I will try and do my best and make the right team selection.”

Wednesday’s draw came on the same day as former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, billionaire Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s long-time target for the manager’s job at Stamford Bridge, joined German giants Bayern Munich — the team the Blues beat in last season’s Champions League final.

However, Benitez would not be drawn on what that meant for his prospects of extending his stay at Chelsea beyond the end of the season.

“It’s fine for him (Guardiola),” said Benitez. “He deserves to go there. No, it’s not a surprise.”

The interim manager also insisted Fernando Torres would be unaffected after once again being booed by Chelsea supporters after appearing as an 80th minute replacement for Frank Lampard.

“Torres is a professional, he’s concentrated and will try and do his best,” said Benitez.

Meanwhile Southampton manager Nigel Adkins believed this result showed how the south coast club were on the rise.

“It’s two defeats in 12 games, both one-nils, and it shows we’re improving,” Adkins said. “I just said ‘stick to the game-plan’.

“We could have chased it, played two up, and it could have been like Aston Villa here when they were done by eight (goals).

“We believed the plan was the right thing to do, so we stuck at it. Not many teams will come back from 2-0 down against Chelsea.

“There’s a continual growing belief and maturity about the players. They’re becoming accustomed to playing at this level now. We concentrate one game at a time. Let’s stay in the here and now and work hard.”

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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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Drogba upbeat that Ivory Coast will end Cup jinx

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Read Time:4 Minute, 16 Second

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in South Africa on Saturday with Didier Drogba’s hugely gifted yet trophy-less Ivory Coast favourites once again to march off with the continental crown.

The competition has grown from humble beginnings into a global event watched by a TV audience running into hundreds of millions tuning in to be dazzled by the top players on the continent.

Aside, that is, from those conspicuous by their absence, including Samuel Eto’o's Cameroon and seven-time champions Egypt.

South Africa, hosts of the 2010 World Cup, stepped in to stage this year’s renewal originally designated for Libya.

And over the next four weeks stadia in Soweto, Nelspruit, Rustenburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban will witness Drogba and company cross swords in pursuit of the honour of being crowned kings of Africa.

The 16 teams vying to walk off with the title on February 10 are also battling for a seat at the 2013 Confederations Cup table in Brazil in June, where world and European champions Spain, South American champions Uruguay and little Tahiti await the African champions.

For Drogba and his fellow Ivorians there is a frustrating sense of deja vu as the clock ticks towards Saturday’s curtain-raiser at Soweto’s Soccer City featuring South Africa against debutants Cape Verde.

The Ivory Coast are desperate to shed a reputation for falling short when it matters most, having failed to justify their favourites’ tag in the last four editions.

Agonising penalty shoot-out defeats in the finals of 2006 against Egypt and last year against Zambia will only serve to motivate the Elephants in what is 34-year-old Drogba’s last throw of the Nations Cup dice.

“We have a team capable of great things at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations,” remarked the Chinese-based striker.

“It would be great to win the trophy now. Honestly, we are getting tired of losing out each time.

“We showed great solidarity against Senegal (in the qualifiers). We fought together, everybody gave of himself and this helped us to win.

“And now everybody expects a trophy. We hope to give the cup to our country.”

Africa’s top-ranked team, who lost out in 2012 despite remaining undefeated in regulation time, are drawn in Group D with former champions Algeria and Tunisia, and Togo.

“It is unquestionably the most difficult group and we got three fearsome opponents,” admits Ivorian coach Sabri Lamouchi. “We were favourites before the draw and still are. Now we must deliver on the pitch.”

The list of potential suspects to walk off with the 2013 title extends far beyond Ivory Coast, however.

Zambia, for one, are back to defend the title they clinched against all the odds in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea 12 months ago.

Herve Renard’s side may have failed to impress in their warm-ups, but turn out with a better squad, on paper at least, than last year.

The dashing French coach is anxious his team get off to a flying start against Ethiopia in Nelspruit, with powerful Nigeria, and Burkina Faso, to follow.

Reacting to domestic media criticism of his side’s build-up, he said: “A lot of pundits do not believe we can win the title again and do not want to take risks with their predictions. It is easier to say Zambia will never win the Cup of Nations again.

“Should we fail to retain the trophy, it simply means another team was better than us. However, it will be very difficult to beat this Zambian team.”

Other contenders in the title mix include west African heavyweights Ghana, Morocco, hosts of the next edition in 2015, and Maghreb neighbours Algeria and Tunisia.

Astute French coach Claude Le Roy will be calling on all his long Nations Cup experience to spring a surprise with the Democratic Republic of Congo, while 2010 hosts Angola boast a five-match unbeaten run in their build-up.

And, with their vuvuzela-blowing fans behind them, South Africa cannot be discounted, either, as they seek to add to their lone title won 17 years ago on home soil.

In contrast to the fevered anticipation that accompanied the build-up to the 2010 World Cup, there has been a distinct lack of excitement in the run-up to the January 19-February 10 tournament.

Sipho Sithole, spokesman for the Cup of Nations’ local organising committee, remarked: “You are expecting South Africa to have done the same that it did for 2010.

“If this was the 2017 (Cup of Nations) — the tournament we were supposed to host — and we had four years, it would have been fair.”

The stage is set for what promises to be another fascinating feast of football with the smart money on Drogba and company to end years of heartache and finally do justice to their billing as the ‘golden generation’.

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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I want to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians – Keshi

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Read Time:1 Minute, 25 Second

The Super Eagles of Nigeria flew into South Africa Wednesday and are about settling down in the former apartheid enclave for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations  which begins Saturday.

Before their departure from Faro, Portugal, where the team had been camping for the past two weeks, head coach, Stephen Keshi declared  that his main task was to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians.

Speaking in Faro, Keshi said, “the level of concentration has been high, high level of discipline and team work. I pray they continue like this throughout.

“What I have noticed that needs to be improved upon is their attitude. Their attitude in the game must improve and we are working on that. I am happy that the boys have been talking to themselves.

“I am happy the boys have realised it and they have to step up our game for us to achieve anything tangible for Nigeria in South Africa.”

Asked if he was under any pressure to do well at the tournament, Keshi smiled and said, “I am not under any pressure from any quarters. Perhaps, the only pressure I am under is from my own quarters. It’s from myself because I want to bring back smiles to the faces of Nigerians.

“People always want to put you under pressure. They tell you what they want, but I don’t listen to them.

People say what they want to say, if it is good I take it if not I ignore them. We live with that kind of pressure everyday, but I only do what I believe will be good for the team.”

 

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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