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…Salisu picks goalie, Ali, Okpotu, 20 others for tourney

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Super Eagles goalkeeper and CHAN Eagles captain, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, tops the list of the final 23-man squad that will represent the country at the fifth edition of the African Nations Championship starting in Morocco on January 13.

The coach of the team, Salisu Yusuf, on Tuesday released the final list of the players less that 24 hours to the deadline day given by the Confederation of African Football. Apart from Ezenwa, midfielder Rabiu Ali and marksman Anthony Okpotu were also listed as they were joined by Dele Ajiboye and Theophilus Afelokhai who are for the goalkeeping duties.

Defensive stalwarts Osas Okoro, Stephen Eze and Kalu Orji Okogbue also made the list, as well as midfielders Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Ekundayo Ojo with forwards Sunday Faleye and Emeka Atuloma in the final squad.

The players and their officials are expected to fly out of the country in a few days, to continue preparations in Morocco ahead of Nigeria’s first match of the campaign against Rwanda in Tangier on Monday, January 15. Meanwhile, MFM FC midfielder, Sikiru Olatunbosun, and Lobi Stars, Kingsley Eduwo, failed to make the cut likewise Nasarawa United goalkeeper, Suraj Ayeleso

 

FULL LIST

Goalkeepers:

Ikechukwu Ezenwa
(Enyimba FC); Oladele Ajiboye
(Plateau United); Theophilus
Afelokhai (Enyimba FC)

Defenders:

Osas Okoro (Rangers);
Daniel James (Plateau United);
Kalu Orji (Rangers International);
Ikouwem Utin (Enyimba FC);
Abdullahi Musa (Wikki Tourists);
Timothy Danladi (Katsina United);
Ifeanyi Nweke (Kano Pillars); Stephen
Eze (Kano Pillars)

Midfielders:

Ifeanyi Ifeanyi
(Akwa United); Rabiu Ali (Kano Pillars);
Augustine Oladapo (Enyimba
FC); Ekundayo Ojo (Sunshine Stars)

Forwards:

Emeka Atuloma
(Rivers United); Anthony Okpotu
(Lobi Stars); Eneji Moses (Plateau
United); Ibrahim Mustapha (Enyimba
FC); Emeka Ogbuh (Rivers
United); Sunday Faleye (Akwa United);
Nura Muhammed (El-Kanemi
Warriors); Okechukwu Gabriel
(Akwa United)

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Jesus looks forward to redeem Brazil

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Four years ago, when FIFA’s flagship tournament was held in his homeland, Gabriel Jesus was anonymous. A boy much like any other, he was out painting the streets – a Brazilian World Cup tradition – of Sao Paulo’s Jardim Peri, the neighbourhood where he grew up.
As the Selecao look to lift their sixth world title in Russia this summer, however, he will be front and centre.

As Tite’s undisputed first-choice No9, he will lead the line for the Selecao with his boundless, child-like energy and seamless ability to pop up in the right place at the right time.

He will be in focus off the field, too. Neymar aside, he is the most sought-after and reported-on Brazilian. If not already a world football icon, then Jesus is a superstar in waiting.

His apparent joie de vivre, cherubic looks and humble origins endear him to young and old, rich and poor.

The ‘Hi, Mum’ telephone goal celebration, his fairly unremarkable haircuts and the fact that when he doesn’t receive the ball he gets back in position and makes another run, rather than throwing his arms up in disgust, all seem to add to the boy-next-door appeal.

 

Even his name, in a deeply religious country like Brazil, enhances his charm. He is an anti-Neymar in the Neymar age, and people love him for it.

Recently, a huge, colourful mural of his smiling face was unveiled in Jardim Peri. In four years he has gone from painting the neighbourhood to having his image painted on it.

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W’ Cup : Messi may be unstoppable – Simeone

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Atletico Madrid Manager, Diego Simeone, has said the Super Eagles will need to work hard if they are to stop Barcelona’s talisman, Lionel Messi, at the World Cup next month.

Simeone, who was in Nigeria for a friendly match with Eagles Team B at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, said four-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, would be a hard nut to crack for the Eagles in Russia.

The Eagles are grouped with Iceland, Croatia and Argentina in Group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

He said Messi’s hunger for a World Cup trophy would make it difficult for the Eagles to stop him.

“If Messi is in a good shape, it will be very difficult to stop him. Messi is desperate to win the World Cup, so I don’t see Nigeria or any country stopping him,” he said.

“Nigeria has great players who can play at the top level at any time or against any country but at the moment, the Argentine side is a brilliant bunch. Argentina have very good players and they are a great team,’’ he said.

Argentina lost to Germany in last World Cup finals in Brazil with Messi as the captain. He consequently retired from the national team following the defeat and had to be persuaded return by his fellow countrymen and Argentine President Mauricio Macri who is his number one fan.

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Pogba seeks spiritual assistance, visits Mecca

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French midfielder Paul Pogba has posted a video of himself at the holiest site of Islam in Saudi Arabia, as he prepares to join his French squad for the World Cup next month.

“Only the person that comes here can understand the feeling,” the 25-year-old Manchester United star said in an Instagram video from the holy city of Mecca.

“This a beautiful place — beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And the feeling… I cannot even explain to you.”

The Frenchman posted the video of himself standing in front of the Kaaba, a black cube towards which Muslims turn for their five daily prayers.

Pogba, who will be a key member of France’s World Cup team in Moscow, made a similar pilgrimage last year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

 

He told the BBC last week that he and his France team-mates must approach the World Cup finals with the right mindset, as that counts more than technical ability.

The French — World Cup winners in 1998 and finalists in 2006 — are in Group C with Denmark, Australia and Peru and kick off their campaign in the Russian city of Kazan against the Australians on June 16.

Away from the World Cup, and despite speculation over his future at Manchester United, Pogba is determined to lift the Champions League with them in what is his second spell there.

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