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Obiano Congratulates Super Eagles for Qualifying for World Cup

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The Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano has hailed the Super Eagles of Nigeria for emerging as the first African country to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Describing the qualification as “historic,” Governor Obiano observed that the Super Eagles’ performance demonstrates the infinite possibilities that Nigeria can achieve if all the component units of the federation were to work together in perfect harmony with each other.
In a statement issued by James Eze, his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Governor Obiano praised the Super Eagles for playing all their qualifying games with utmost dedication and commitment, saying that no serious national goal could be achieved without sacrifice by all the parties involved.
Governor Obiano further urged Nigerians and all lovers of sports to rally round the Russian-bound Eagles and lend them the support they need to represent the country well in the World Cup.
“This team has proven its worlth. By achieving the status of the first African team to qualify for the World Cup, the  players have shown that they are ready to bring honour to Nigeria. It is now up to us all to support them and cheer them to higher achievements in the World Cup,” the Governor maintained.
Observing that only a perfect team-work could have earned the Super Eagles such an impressive result, Governor Obiano said the same principle of harmonious team spirit had helped his administration to record commendable achievements in Anambra State in just three and a half years.
“We believe in the proven powers of a strong team spirit. Nothing compares to a well-coordinated team effort. That is what has helped us a lot in Anambra State. We can all see how it has helped the Super Eagles too,” the governor further observed.
Obiano is seeking re-election in the November 18, 2017 gubernatorial election in Anambra State after a sterling performance that has turned the growth curve of the state upwards in only three years after conferring it with the enviable status of Nigeria’s safest state.

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World Cup 2018: Moment England fans in London leap from their seats and celebrate as Harry Kane scores late winner against Tunisa

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This is the moment a pub full of England fans erupts with celebratory cheers as Harry Kane scores the national team’s late winner against Tunisia in the World Cup.
Football fans were seen with their eyes glued to the big screen as England scrambled to regain their lead against the North African side in their opening fixture on Monday.

As the Tottenham striker headed the ball in to the back of the net the supporters, watching the game in an east London hotel, leapt up from their seats with their arms in the air.

Roaring cheers erupted around the room and the fans turned to hug each other following Kane’s goal, which came in the closing seconds of the match in Russia.

One excited fan could be heard shouting “have it!” as he gestured towards the screen, which had been set up at the Shoreditch venue Hotel Mundial this evening.
Others screamed with joy with their arms high in the air before applauding the England captain for his injury-time goal, which secured a potentially vital three points.

It was Kane’s second goal of the clash, which ended 2-1.

He had opened the scoring after 11 minutes as Gareth Southgate’s side dominated the first-half only to concede a 35th-minute penalty for Kyle Walker’s challenge on Fekhreddine Ben Youssef, which Ferjani Sassi converted.

England laboured after the interval and looked to be heading for a draw before Kane converted the smart near-post header to earn a win which puts them level on points in Group G with Belgium, who beat Panama 3-0 earlier in the day.

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Over 30,000 fans attend Croatia v Nigeria

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The World Cup Group D game between Croatia and Nigeria in Kaliningrad was attended by a total of 31,136 spectators, FIFA said on Saturday.
The game, which ended with Croatia winning 2-0, took place at the Kaliningrad Stadium, built specifically for the World Cup. The official capacity of the arena is 34,000 seats.
Croatia will next face Argentina on Thursday, while Nigeria will take on Iceland on Friday.

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Super Eagles Player Ratings : Etebo Top Man, Mikel Struggles, Iwobi Not

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The Super Eagles opened their 2018 Russia World Cup campaign with a 2-0 defeat to Croatia at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Saturday evening.

The Starters Rating

Goalkeeper

Francis Uzoho: The young goaltender could do little about both goals he conceded. Kept down the scoreline with some important saves. (6/10)

Defenders

William Troost-Ekong: Was astute in his defensive duties for as long as he did not wrap his hands all over Mandzukic. Undid all his good works with that single act. (5/10)

Leon Balogun: Dovetailed well with William in the rear and was an imposing presence in aerial duels.(6/10)

Shehu Abdullahi: Made a lot of running though lacked no decisive bite going forward. (5/10)

Brian Idowu: Offered little on the left flank and did very little. (4.5/10)

Midfielders

Wilfred Ndidi: Dropped back brilliantly to shield his defence whenever Mikel ventured forward and though distribution left more to be desired. (6/10)

Oghenekaro Etebo: Full of energy and passing particularly during the first half. Diverted into his own goal from Mario Mandzukic’s header. (7/10)

Mikel Obi: Though he had his moments, he was outnumbered by the Croatian star midfielders. Most of his attributes were missing. (5/10)

Alex Iwobi: Had very little to work on was well kept in check by the Simë Vrsaljko. Tracked back a couple of times to help out defensively too. (5.5/10)

Victor Moses: Full of running and his trademark dribbling but end product brought nothing meaningful. (6/10)

Odion Ighalo: A few hold up plays and occasional crack at goal but nothing spectacular. He was isolated due to lack of service from midfield. Made way for Iheanacho. (5.5/10)

The Substitutes

Ahmed Musa: Did little when he was introduced partly due to getting very little service (4.5/10)

Kelechi Iheanacho: Offered a more attacking threat after coming on and had a shot to show for. (5/10)

Simeon Nwankwo: Merely offered fresh legs in the closing stages.

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Croatia beats Nigeria on own-goal, penalty kick

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Moscow: Luka Modric scored on a penalty kick after Croatia went ahead on an own-goal by Nigeria in a 2-0 victory in their World Cup match on Saturday night.
Nigeria’s Oghenekaro Etebo deflected the ball into his own net in the 32nd minute after two Croatia players had headed Modric’s corner kick.
Modric converted in the 71st minute when referee Sandro Ricci awarded a penalty after William Ekong held onto Mario Manduzik.
It was the fifth penalty awarded in four World Cup matches Saturday.
The win takes experienced Croatia to the top of Group D after Iceland held Argentina to a 1-1 draw earlier Saturday. Nigeria is the tournament’s youngest team.

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Super Eagles shot down by Croatia

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Nigeria’s 2018 World Cup got off to a terrible start after they were beaten 2-0 by Croatia in a Group D clash at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Saturday evening.

An own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo and a Luka Modric penalty took ‘The Blazers’ to three points and top spot in the group, while Africa is still waiting for it’s first goal – let alone a positive result – following 0-1 defeats for Egypt and Morocco on Friday.

Nigeria enjoyed plenty of early possession, but the first scoring chance went the way of Croatia, who put together a swift attacking move in the 14th minute which ended with Ivan Perisic firing a shot from the edge of the box just over the crossbar.

The European side claimed the lead just after the half hour mark. A corner kick was flicked on at the near post, Mario Mandzukic tried to score with a diving header and the ball was unwittingly turned into his own net by Oghenekaro Etebo.

It should have been 2-0 to Croatia in the 39th minute, with Ivan Rakitic whipping a fine cross into the box to find Andrej Kramaric, but the attacker put his glancing header over the target.

Nigeria started the second half strongly and gradually began to build some pressure in attack. However, they lacked the penetration to really trouble Croatia’s defence and goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.

‘The Blazers’ claimed their second goal in the 72nd minute, with Luka Modric scoring from a penalty. The spot kick had been awarded after defender William Troost-Ekong was guilty of wrestling Mandzukic to the floor at a corner kick.

Croatia were able to cruise through the rest of the game and pick up three valuable points which puts them top of the standings, ahead of their next match against Argentina on June 21. Nigeria’s next game will see them take on Iceland the following day.

Croatia (1) 2 (Etebo 32’ og, Modric 72’ pen)

Nigeria 0

Croatia: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic, Rakitic, Modric, Kramaric (Brozovic 60’), Rebic (Kovacic 78’), Perisic, Mandzukic (Pjaca 86’)

Nigeria: Uzoho, Abdullahi, Balogun, Troost-Ekong, Idowu, Etebo, Mikel (Nwankwo 88’), Ndidi, Moses, Ighalo (Iheanacho 73’), Iwobi (Musa 62’)

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Speaker Dogara’s Message to Super Eagles

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Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has urged Super Eagles players to make Nigerians proud as they prepare for the first match with Croatia in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
In a statement issued on Friday, Speaker Dogara called on all Nigerians to pray fervently for the success of the Super Eagles, while charging the players to put all they have got into ensuring that they win the group matches and advance to next stage of the competition.
He added that, “Over the years, football has been a major source of unity in Nigeria, we should, therefore, collectively pray for the Super Eagles as they brace up for their match against Croatia .
“Super Eagles proved to be a strong team during the qualifiers with their record and we expect them to replicate same zeal, spirit and patriotism in the World Cup.”
He said with team work and commitment the Super Eagles will surely triumph over their opponents in group and knockout stages of the World Cup.

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Player to Watch – Francis Uzoho

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The 19-year-old is being tipped to be the player that will be entrusted to guard the Nigerian goal against Croatia. Uzoho is very fresh at the international level and will need to be up to the task.
While many would doubt Uzoho’s ability to command the goal at such a young age and with not enough experience for an event as big as this, the Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper comes into the event on the back of a solid season with the Reserves while managing to make his senior debut for the club as well.

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Nigeria fired up for World Cup opener vs. Croatia

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Gbenga Adewoye

The Super Eagles are making their sixth appearance at the tournament and have sent a message of intent ahead of their tie with Zlatko Dalic’s men

Nigeria have announced their readiness for their opening 2018 World Cup game against Croatia on Saturday at the Kaliningrad Stadium.
The west Africans will be making their sixth outing at the global football showpiece and are aiming to surpass their previous performance in the tourney.
The three-time African champions last won their opening game at the quadrennial tournament in the 1998 edition against Spain.

And, although, they failed to convince in their build-up to the tournament, team captain John Obi Mikel John Ogu, William Troost-Ekong, Elderson Echiejile and Joel Obi have taken to Instagram to herald their readiness for the crunch tie with the Zlatko Dalic’s men.
“We’re ready to go,” Mikel posted.

After their encounter with Croatia, Gernot Rohr’s side next trade tackles with Iceland before they take on Argentina for their last group D game.

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World Cup Preview: Croatia v Nigeria

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Croatia and Nigeria open their World Cup campaign in Kaliningrad on Saturday 16th June. With Argentina the clear favourites to win Group D, both teams need a result here to keep realistic hopes of qualification alive.
Croatia vs Nigeria
Qualification
Croatia finished second behind Iceland in Group I, qualifying via the runners-up playoff. There, they breezed past Greece to secure their World Cup spot. Despite having a wealth of attacking options, Croatia scored only 15 goals in qualifying. This was the second lowest in teams to finish in the top two. After a disappointing run of qualifying results, manager Ante Cacic was sacked, replaced by the less experienced Zlatko Dalic. Dalic was able to guide Croatia through their final group game and the playoffs.
Nigeria cruised through qualifying, topping their third round qualifying group by six points. The Super Eagles were undefeated in a potentially tricky group containing Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia. Their squad, which contains six Premier League players, is captained by former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.

Croatia

Croatia have played 4-2-3-1 for several years. Critics argued that this didn’t get the best out of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, who played alongside each other. Dalic changed this in his first game, moving Modric to a more attacking role, playing closer to the striker. This move has allowed Rakitic to dominate the midfield, playing alongside a more defensive midfielder, usually Milan Badelj.
Croatia play with two strikers, who alternate between the right wing and traditional striker role. Andrej Kramaric and Mario Mandzukic are very different in style, which can give defenders a headache. Mandzukic, Croatia’s second all-time top goalscorer, netted five times during qualifying and has a strong physical presence. Kramaric has enjoyed an excellent season for Hoffenheim and scored in Croatia’s play-off win. The technically gifted, lethal finisher, plays high up the pitch on the right wing and has license to drift into the box
Inter’s Ivan Perisic lines up on the left wing and Croatia play to his strengths. When Croatia have possession, Perisic hugs the touchline to create space for his teammates. When he receives the ball, his teammates’ movement often leaves Perisic in a 1-on-1 situation. His pace, dribbling and intelligence allow him to usually dominate in these moments. He benefits from having two very strong feet, which leaves defenders uncertain as to whether he will move inside or out.
However, Croatia’s attacking strength can leave them vulnerable defensively, although they only conceded four goals in qualifying. Their ffull-backsare given little support by the wingers and are often left in 2-on-1 situations, particularly down their left. Left-back Ivan Strncic has looked exposed at times and Nigeria will look to isolate him on Saturday.

Nigeria

Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr has experimented with formations since taking over in 2016, but favours 4-2-3-1. With ball winners Wilfried Ndidi and Ogneyi Onazi sitting in front of the defence, Nigeria’s backline is difficult to penetrate.
The Super Eagles are heavily reliant on the counter attack. Chelsea’s Victor Moses is their main threat, playing as a true winger for his country. His pace and experience are heavily leaned on, with Nigeria looking to him for inspiration. Moses was their top scorer in qualifying and will likely look to target Strncic and Croatia’s left.
Nigeria’s attack is spearheaded by former Watford striker Odion Ighalo. Ighalo is a smart finisher who has scored 22 times for Changchu Yatai since joining in January 2017. He holds the ball up well, but Nigeria will need to provide him with adequate support in Russia else he could be isolated. Premier League talents Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi will be attacking options from the bench but neither enjoyed good form this season and can’t be depended on.
Nigeria’s success will be dependent on how well they can transition from defence to attack. Mikel’s box to box ability will be important and if they can offer enough going forwards they have the potential to cause an upset.
The Last Word
Croatia are heavy favourites and will dominate possession but if Nigeria get the first goal, they could be in for a frustrating night.

Prediction: Croatia 2-1 Nigeria

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Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi wants to forget ‘feeling of shame’ after Russia defeat

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Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi described a “feeling of shame” after his side suffered a 5-0 hammering at the hands of hosts Russia.
No host team has lost a World Cup opening match and Russia kept up that tradition with goals from Yury Gazinsky (12), Denis Cheryshev (43, 90+1), Artem Dzyuba (71) and Aleksandr Golovin (90+3).
“The opposing team really didn’t have to make a huge effort to win this game,” said Pizzi.

“We have now to forget this feeling of shame and start thinking about the next match.”
Yet given Saudi Arabia’s high turnover of coaches, including a previous mid-World Cup sacking, the Argentina-born Pizzi could well be on his way before he gets a chance to try and rectify the situation.

He conceded questions about his future following the heavy defeat were justified.
“The way I feel right now makes that a valid point but whatever happens I’ve got my philosophy and I’ll try to do as best I can. I trust in our plans and I trust in my players and I trust we’ll have a better performance in our next game,” he said.
Pizzi was appointed to the job after Saudi Arabia qualified last year for the finals. They sacked Bert van Marwijk despite a successful campaign and then his successor Edgardo Bauza before the World Cup draw in November.
Pizzi has been in charge for the last seven months and insisted the Saudis had shown much improvement since.

“This game should not be a point of reference. We didn’t play the way we planned to. It is left to us to be positive and start thinking about the next match,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s next Group A encounter is against Uruguay in Rostov on June 20.
“I believe that we came into this tournament well prepared and the players were ready to show that they could play at the World Cup. We did not show today what we have done in our previous games,” Pizzi said.

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