The final of the Zenith Bank-sponsored Principals Cup Football Competition for all Secondary Schools in Delta State has been scheduled for March 3.
This is the Season 2 of the tournament. Final venue is the ultra-modern stadium at the Delta State Polytechnic in Ozoro. Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, and the Group managing Director of Zenith Bank, Peter Amangbo, are expected to lead other top dignitaries to the event.
Organisers of the event revealed the final date at the weekend after rolling out the fixtures for the zonal stage, quarterfinal, semis and the final. Head of the organising team, Tony Pemu, told journalists that the fixtures were released that way to exhibit transparency. Pemu said: “We preach fairness to the participating teams and we should be transparent in the discharge of our responsibilities.
All the teams from this stage know their potential opponents as they progress and so there is no issue of favouritism at all.
“There is still a long way to go but we are intensifying efforts on our operations because this is the last stretch to the final match.” Between January 23 and 25, zonal elimination matches involving all the Local Government champions will take place in 10 centres and only eight qualifiers will emerge for the quarterfinals slated for four different centres at venues yet to be determined from February 13 to 16.
The semifinals will take place on February 21 and 22 at venues also yet to be determined by the organising team while the final is March 3.
It will be recalled that the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, was among the top football personalities that witnessed the final of the inaugural edition, which was the first in 28 years. Former internationals like Victor Ikpeba, Victor Agali, Samson Ozogula, Sam Sodje, Humphrey Jebba, Edema Fuludu, Ifeanyi Udeze, Henry Nwosu and Alfred Anijeku were also on hand to witness the entertaining final.
Fulham promoted to the EPL
Fulham held off Aston Villa to win the play-off final 1-0 and return to the English Premier League for the first time since 2014.
With Wolves and Cardiff already having long since guaranteed their places in next season’s EPL it came down to Aston Villa and Fulham to fight it out in the play-off final for the last place.
The Cottagers beat Aston Villa in Saturday’s Championship play-off final at Wembley, courtesy of Tom Cairney’s first-half goal. Fulham had Denis Odoi sent off with 20 minutes remaining but the ten-men held firm to seal the club’s return to the top-flight after a four-year absence. Captain Cairney will claim the plaudits for scoring the winning goal but Fulham’s 18-year-old sensation Ryan Sessegnon was very much the architect.
Finding space outside the Villa box with 23 minutes on the clock, Sessegnon took one touch, evaded one challenge and played an inch-perfect ball between two defenders for Cairney, who didn’t have to break stride as he ran forward and cooly slotted past Sam Johnstone first time with his left foot.
Five teams good enough for gold in Russia
Every four years, the world practically gets taken over by football mania and this year is no different with the World Cup kicking off in Russia in just over 18 days time with 32 teams jostling for the top prize. Here, Tunde Sulaiman takes a look at five teams that, at least on paper, are good enough to be crowned champions on July 15…
After a qualifying campaign which featured 209 member associations and took for some, three years to complete, that number has been whittled down to 32 – including the hosts – for the first World Cup to be held in Europe since Germany 2006.
Of those that have made it to Russia, 20 were present at the 2014 finals in Brazil, including the holders, Germany, while two, Panama and Iceland, will be making their World Cup debuts – the latter becoming the smallest country to reach the finals.
However, a number of powerhouses are absent. For instance, four-time champions Italy, failed to qualify for the first time since 1958; so have back-to-back Copa America winners, Chile and United States.
Despite their absence, there will still be a lot of talent and title hopefuls on display in Russia, including 2010 winners; Spain, Euro 2016 winners; Portugal, five-time winners; Brazil, Belgium, Spain and, for the first time, four Arabic nations: Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.
So, with so many talents on display and only one winner to emerge after 64 games; who are the favourites to make it all the way?
The reigning world champions are clear favourites to retain the trophy. They won with so much swagger four years ago in Brazil. In fact, Die Mannschaft have quite simply only become stronger since their success then, which saw them humiliate pre-tournament favourites and hosts, Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals in one of the most comprehensive displays of attacking football ever seen.
Presently, no-coach can match the depth that Jogi Low has at his disposal as was reinforced at last summer’s World Cup dress rehearsal, the Confederations Cup.
Many football buffs felt Low, who has just signed a contract extension, had taken a big gamble when he took a second-string squad to the tournament; but he still easily ended up winning it.
Timo Werner’s emergence as a clinical striker and Leroy Sane’s progression adds real electric pace – something Spain lacks – to the guile of Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil; Joshua Kimmich continues to emerge as one of the world’s best full-backs also. The only question mark is over Manuel Neuer’s fitness, although Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a more than capable deputy.
FIFA Ranking: 1
World Cup Appearances: 18
Star Man: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
One to Watch: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)
Often the perennial firm favourites of football fans around the globe for every World Cup, the Seleção have often flattered to deceive once they get to the big stage – as was the case when they hosted the tournament four years ago and were blown away by Germany.
However, this time around, the optimism might not be completely displaced as the five-time winners have looked very impressive in the run up to Russia 2018; and even got a measure of revenge over Die Mannschaft when they beat them 1-0 in a friendly played in March.
But ironically, the only team to have taken part in every single World Cup final since the first one way back in 1930, unbelievably almost did not make it to Russia!
In fact, Brazil’s qualification campaign can be looked upon in two parts: Before the arrival of coach Tite (BT) and After Tite (AT): BT was a time of misery and darkness, AT was a return to jogo bonito, of a system built around playing with passion and flair, rather than fear.
Having languished sixth in South American qualifying when Tite arrived in June 2016, they went on to win 10 of 12 – drawing the other two – scoring 30 times, conceding just three and rampaging to top spot. Playing 4-3-3 with Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho as the preferred front trio, they were mightily impressive once he took over from Dunga.
Brazil’s frontline contains the two most expensive players of all time; Neymar and Philippe Coutinho. This is complemented by one of the tournaments strongest defences backed up by the exceptional AS Roma safe hands, Alisson.
However, where the Brazilians may struggle is in midfield where Casemiro, Renato Augusto and Paulinho provide plenty of energy but may lack the quality to control matches against the best teams in the competition.
But one player who could make the difference in this area is Shakhtar midfield player, Fred. The Manchester City target played more forward passes and created more chances per 90 minutes in the Champions League this season than both Casemiro and Paulinho, despite playing for an inferior team. He may provide a little extra quality on the ball in deeper areas for the Seleção if their midfield lacks inspiration.
FIFA Ranking: 2
World Cup Appearances: 21
Star Man: Neymar (PSG)
One to Watch: Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Although their FIFA ranking put them outside the top five, one cannot dismiss the La Roja (The Red Ones) in Russia, especially in the wake of recent performances of the team including the emphatic March friendly 6-1 thumping of Argentina – which was impressive even if Lionel Messi didn’t play for the visitors.
Besides, Spanish teams have also dominated in European club competitions – the UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup.
Real Madrid has won the last two of the world’s premier club competition and played England’s Liverpool in the final of this year’s competition, yesterday; while the other club from the Spanish capital, Atletico Madrid has already won the Europa Cup.
Besides, Spain is one of eight national teams to have been crowned FIFA World Cup champions, having won the 2010 tournament in South Africa, defeating the Netherlands 1–0 to become the first European team to win the title outside Europe as well as having won back-to-back European titles in Euro 2008 and Euro 2012.
Spain has perhaps the best strength in depth of any squad in the competition. In midfield, they can call upon Busquets, Isco, David Silva, Koke, Saul, Thiago and Andrés Iniesta.
The Spanish are also strong in defence; any side that gets beyond the dependable duo of Pique and Ramos will have to find a way past David De Gea in the Spain goal.
Promoted U21 coach, Julen Lopetegui, has added key players from his successful youth teams to the spine that won Euro 2012, adding a vital bit of extra pace to the side that disappointed in 2014. The Spanish are primed to make a deep run into the competition.
FIFA Ranking: 8
World Cup Appearances: 10
Star Man: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
One to Watch: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid)
The French have one of the strongest squads in the tournament, at least on paper. The likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba certainly offer attacking threat and are supported by the pace of Thomas Lemar and Ousmane Dembele.
A defence featuring Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane is one of the most dynamic in the tournament and they can select from an embarrassment of riches in midfield.
However, Didier Deschamps has so far failed to consistently select a settled team. The French have the talent to win the tournament but lack of a clear game plan may be detrimental to their World Cup chances. They will need to find a system that gets the most from their outstanding talents by the time they face more organised teams that can match their quality.
Although Les Bleus (The Blues) have tasted glory on the international stage before, having won the World Cup as hosts in 1998 and Euro’84 also as hosts, they have failed to do well outside their ‘comfort zone’.
FIFA Ranking: 7
World Cup Appearances: 15
Star Man: Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
One to Watch: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)
Often flattering to deceive, Belgium goes into the World Cup as one of the favourites because of the number of top stars in the ranks of The Red Devils’ golden generation.
For the likes of Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen, this may be their last opportunity to win something with their country.
The Belgian squad has a lot of individual quality with some of the best players from Europe’s major leagues. Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne provide creativity whilst Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi are golden boot candidates.
Belgium has lacked dependable full backs which has caused them to play central defenders out of position in big games. To cover for this deficiency, they typically set up in a 3-5-2 formation with Thomas Meunier taking up a right wing-back position with one of Jordan Lukaku or Yannick Carrasco on the other side. Meunier is an excellent player in both attack and defence but whoever plays on the left is likely to be a defensive weak link other teams will be eager to exploit.
Manager, Roberto Martinez, has struggled to convince that he has the coaching skills to match the talent at his disposal. Belgium’s hopes will rest on him providing the right foundation for their stars to shine.
FIFA Ranking: 3
World Cup Appearances: 13
Star Man: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
One to Watch: Thomas Meunier (PSG)
(With additional reports from bleacher report and theguardian.co.uk)
Next Week: The African Challenge
Crespo arrives Nigeria, hails Okocha
Argentina ex-international Hernán Jorge Crespo, on Saturday in Lagos said that he was delighted to be in Nigeria for the first time as a guest of the Heineken Group. Crespo along with Nigeria’s exinternationals — Taribo West, Augustine Eguavon, Mutiu Adepoju and Samson Siasia — were invited by Heineken for an interactive session with newsmen in Lagos. Crespo attributed the success of his over 18 years football career to respect for others which, he said, was one of the fundamental values of life.
“As a young player, I love the game of football but one fundamental thing I learnt along the way was respect for the game, my team mates and fans of football.
“As I grew older in football, I also learnt that it was very important to respect my opponents as well; indeed, it has been a worthwhile experience for me.
“In my career I met a lot of players I had respect for and I would never forget players like West, Babayaro, Emmanuel Amunike, Daniel Amokachie, Sunday Oliseh and Geoge Finidi. “However I think the greatest player so far in Nigeria was Austin Okocha,” he said.
Similarly, his counterparts from Nigeria, West, Siasia, Eguavon, Adepoju, eulogize Crespo’s perfection and credibility as a great football legend and appreciated his coming to Nigeria.
News14 hours ago
Nigeria more transparent under Buhari –Lai Mohammed
News14 hours ago
2nd Niger Bridge: Julius Berger will demobilize from site in June –Reps
News13 hours ago
Jonathan warns Buhari against rigging Ekiti poll
Politics15 hours ago
Anyanwu: Nigeria’s democracy is in great danger
Politics14 hours ago
My plans for Oyo State, by Obisesan
News14 hours ago
Don’t vote APC, PDP in 2019, Ezekwesili tells Nigerians
Columnists15 hours ago
Reps disappointing outing on Peace Corps
Politics14 hours ago
APC’s three years in the saddle