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 Crown Plans Total Overhaul

Crown FC technical adviser, Lawrence Akpokona has said his side will be overhauled for the second round of the Glo Premier League slated to commence after the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
The Ogbomoso based side is having its second spell in the elite league having been demoted just a season after its debut only to rerun to the top flight at the end of the 2012/13 season.
Failure to secure a single point from nine matches away from home as well as the inability to win all its home matches hag left the team placed at the lower rank of the table having garnered 24 points from 19 matches.
Apparently dissatisfied with the performance of the club in the first round, Akpokona, a veteran tactician plans to bring in new players into virtually all the department to strengthen the side ahead of the second stanza.
 “I discovered that we conceded lots of cheap goals in the first stanza of the league so as we head into the mid-season break we’ll overhaul the entire departments in readiness for the second stanza.
“We’ll beef up the defence, midfield as well as make the attack a bit sharper so that as we create chances we’ll be able to convert all of them,” said the former Enugu Rangers coach.

 Ex- Shooting Stars Strikers Lead Goal Chat

Warri Wolves striker Gbolahan Salami and Ighodalor Osagona of Enugu Rangers are the joint leading scorers of the Nigeria Premier League with nine goals each at the end of first round on Sunday.

Incidentally, both strikers featured for Shooting Stars, who were later relegated.

They are being closely followed by Mfon Udoh of Enyimba, Peter Ebimobowei from Bayelsa United and Bright Ejike, who features for Heartland, as they are all on eight goals each.

The following players have scored seven goals each –  Haruna Babalo, Adamu Mohammed (Gombe United), Aminu Isah(Kaduna United), Rabiu Ali(Kano Pillars) and Christian Pyagbara(Sharks).

Shuaibu Ibrahim (Giwa FC) and Ifeanyi Egwim (Dolphins) have hit the target six times each.

The second round will begin in July after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

  Babangida: Road Trips Affecting Taraba United

Chairman of FC Taraba, Tijjani Babangida, has blamed his team’s not too impressive performance on the long distances they have to cover to honour away games in the Nigeria Premier League.

The former Ajax of Holland star said in most cases his team cover over 1400 kilometres to play away matches which makes it difficult for his players to be at their best.

The former international said to make matters worse, the league accommodates midweek matches thereby making it even more difficult for the players to recover fully before their next game.

Babangida therefore said clubs in the South East have advantage over those in the far north because the zone boasts of more teams in the league and therefore enjoy the proximity to one another.

He reiterated that the long distances have really taken a huge toll on his team as the players are most times exhausted before they arrive at their match venues down south.

“I do not want to give excuses for our not too impressive performance, but I must say that the long distances we cover to attend away matches are not helping us,” he told AfricanFootball.com

“Most times we do over 1400 kilometres to honour away matches down south. Before we get to the match venues, our players are already worn out. They are usually left with little or no strength to confront our opponents.

“Most of the clubs in the league are from the south so the clubs in the South East and South South have advantage over us. They are close to one another and that makes it easier for them to travel for away matches.”

Sunshine Stars Officials Cheat Death

Two top officials of Sunshine Stars had a close shave with death, after they were involved in a ghastly motor accident on Monday.
Mike Idoko, the Executive Director of Ondo State Football Agency (OSFA) which is charged with supervising all football teams in the state, and Divine Benjamin, the team’s national coordinator were returning from Omoku were the team had played a 2-2 draw with Nembe City when the accident occurred.
Recounting their ordeal, Idoko said they were in top speed and suddenly they bumped on the bad portion of the road at the boundary between both states, forcing the car to somersault several times before facing the way they were coming from.
“After the match, we were returning to our hotel in Owerri but at the boundary between Imo and Rivers State, there is this bad portion of the road and we suddenly bumped on it and the car started somersaulting. While the car was tumbling, I was shouting blood of Jesus and helping Divine to control the gear before it went into the bus.
“As soon as the car went into the bus and face the side we were coming from, behold there was this tipper that was coming on top speed, and the place was a bend. Only God saved us. If you see the car, you will not believe somebody came out of it alive,” Idoko said.

                       FEATURES

Super Eagles W/Cup Campaign, Fate Determinant

As Nigeria’s Super Eagles get ready to kick start their campaign in the Brazil 2014 World Cup, the expectations of Nigeria is very high in spite of the team’s not too impressive performance in its last three build up matches.
The Eagles held Scotland to 2-2 draw, forced Greece to a goalless draw before succumbing 1-2 to the United State of America, results that have created fears in the minds of many Nigerians who are afraid that the team may not be able to make a strong impact in Brazil.
With the Stephen Keshi tutored lads opening their campaign against Iran, the fates of some set of people are tied to the team as the performance of the team will go a long way in defining what the future holds for them.
Western Post Sport takes a critical look at those whose fate is tied to the Eagles as they begin the journey improving the performance of the country’s previous participation at the mundial.
Stephen Keshi: For the Super Eagles gaffer, the outing of the Eagles in Brazil will definitely decide what will happen in the future as far as his job is concerned.
While Nigerians are hoping that these set of Eagles would surpass the second round appearance of their predecessors in 1994 and 1998, the Big Boss as Keshi is fondly called would aim at becoming the first coach to lead the country beyond the second round.
Things have not been that rosy between Keshi and his employers, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), with the former Super Eagles captain already linked with moves to some countries notably, South Africa.
Not even 2013 Africa Cup of Nations triumph of the Eagles in South Africa could strengthen the relationship between the two parties as the victory was enveloped by crisis which almost led to Keshi throwing in the towel but for the intervention of powers that be.
With feelers already pointing at Keshi’s exit after the World Cup, this could change if the Eagles could shock the world with a convincing performance in Brazil. Just as his exit after the Nations Cup triumph was nipped in the bud, the same could happen should the Nigerian side prove doubting Thamasses wrong.
The coach was able to win the sympathy of many Nigerians after leading the Eagles to victory in South Africa. Otherwise, he would have been butted out even before the team arrived from South Africa had the team fail to win the trophy.
Such could be the scenario if the team performs well at the World Cup.
Nigeria Football Federation (NFF):  As for the current board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Brazil 2014 holds much. Not many Nigerians would have forgotten what the poor performance of the Super Eagles at the South Africa 2010 World Cup cost the then board headed by Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdulahi.
Incidentally, the next election of the NFF is expected to be held in August this year, a month after the Brazil 2014 would have ended.
Based on this, the incumbent board of the NFF led by Alhaji Aminu Maigari who like most of the other members is seeking re election into the board would rely on a good performance from the Eagles in Brazil to score a point on why they should be allowed to stay in office for another term.
The board might have recorded a number of achievements including the triumph of the Eagles at the 2013 AFCON, the success recorded by the Golden Eaglets at the FIFA U-17 World Cup held in Qatar, qualification of Nigerian national teams for major competition among others.
Despite all these, some people still believe that the NFF needs new hands to pilot the affairs of the country’s football.
Nigerians can easily forget past successes when something good fails to come out from a competition like the World Cup, hence, a poor showing by the Eagles in Brazil portends danger for the Maigari led board as such could swallow all what they have achieved so far.
Therefore, the board would be praying for a performance that would be satisfactory to all Nigerians so that they can win public support.
Little wonder the board had been doing everything within its power to ensure that the Super Eagles did not only participate in the mundial but post the country’s best outing since the Eagles debut at USA’94.
The Players:
Similarly, anything short of an outstanding performance by the Eagles would see some of the players ending their international career unceremoniously.
Even when the Eagles fails to go beyond the second round in USA, some players were shut out of the team not to talk of when the results or performance is disappointing.
Just like coaches were shown the way out aftermath of dismal performances, same usually happens to players.
To this end, the lucky 23 taken to the Samba land by coach Stephen Keshi would pray fervently for a successful outing in Brazil if they still nurse the hope of wearing the national colour in future international competitions.
What can guarantee this is a convincing outing in Brazil and this players are quite aware of hence, the need for them to lift their game and put a good fight, good enough to earn them the applause of Nigerians.

Stephen Keshi and the Huge Task

By now, Stephen Keshi should have been looking forward to his third appearance at the mundial but for fate, which had him replaced after helping to qualify Nigeria for the 2002 World Cup as assistant to Amodu Shuaibu, suffering similar fate in 2006 after surprisingly helping Togo to book her place in the Gernany 2006 World Cup.
After hanging his boots, Stephen Keshi opted for coaching by going for coaching course in the United State of America. He did not spent much time searching for job after he completed his studies as he took up coaching jobs with various national teams of Nigeria.
He was the chief coach of the country’s U-20 national team and was also assistant coach of the senior national team, the Super Eagles
Stephen Keshi has been a part of the coaching staff for the Nigerian national team, most notably as head coach for the Junior Eagles at the 2001 African Youth Championship which also served as qualification for the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship, without success.
He alongside Joe Erico assisted assiated Dutchman Bofrere Jo as Nigeria lost the Nations Cup via penalties to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun on home soil in the year 2000.
Between 2004 and 2006 Keshi coached the Togo national football team, unexpectedly bringing them to their first World Cup tournament, Germany 2006, a year that Nigeria failed to qualify for the mundial. Having secured Togo’s unlikely qualification, he was promptly replaced by German coach Otto Pfister prior to the World Cup finals, after Togo showed a dismal performance and failed to advance to the knock-out stage in 2006 African Cup of Nations held in Egypt due largely to a dispute with top Togo’s national team players .This prevented the 51-year-old from leading the tiny West African nation to her first appearance at the Germany World Cup..
However, Pfister did not last beyond a controversial World Cup campaign that nearly resulted in a player’s strike over pay and Togo remained without a manager until February 2007 when they re-engaged Keshi in time for a friendly against Cameroon.
It will be noted that Keshi as assistant to Amodu Shuaibu had similar experience as the Amodu led coaching crew was dropped from leading to team to Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup despite being in charge through the qualifying series.
In April 2008, Keshi became the manager of the Mali national football team, after being appointed on a two-year deal but was sacked in January 2010, after Mali’s early exit in the group stages of the Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Angola.
Although the team failed to go beyond the group stage having missed qualification to the next round by the whiskers, the Malians recorded as astonishing result, coming from four goals down against the host Angola to tie the encounter 4-4.
Keshi became coach of the Nigerian National Team in 2011. He led Nigeria to qualification for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, which they went on to win, defeating Burkina Faso 1–0 in the final. The following day Keshi handed in his resignation, only to reverse his decision the day after. Keshi led Nigeria to the 2013 Confederations Cup, defeating Tahiti 6–1, and lost 1–2 to Uruguay in the second game, and also lost 0–3 to World Cup winners, Spain in  their final group game.
On November 16, 2013, Keshi led the Super Eagles to secure qualification to the 2014 World Cup by beatingEthiopia 4–1 on aggregate in a play-off.[9]
The Big Boss faces a huge task as he leads the Eagles to Nigeria’s fifth participation at the World Cup with expectation of Nigerians still high despite fears about the caliber of players the team will parade.
To many, the recent friendly matches played by the Eagles, preparatory to Brazil 2014 are enough conviction that Nigeria will just end up making up the numbers in Brazil but Keshi thinks otherwise as he still expressed that self believe in himself and his wards.
Just as many were skeptical about his team to the 2013 AFCON in South Africa which Keshi sand his squad surprisingly won, most Nigerians sees no hope in these Eagles as they get set to face the rest of the world.
However, the former Super Eagles captain sees something different entirely, expressing high hope that these Eagles will shock not only Nigerians but the entire world.
‘’I have picked the players I believe can do it, it was not easy arriving at the final list because all the players were great. By the time the World Cup begins, I am sure I will be justified with my decision to go with these set of players,’’ he said.
As Keshi leads his wards to war in Brazil, the question is will he become the first man to take Nigeria beyond the second stage. Only time will tell.

           Super Eagles World Cup Fact File

Nigeria’s Super Eagles will heading to Brazil for their fifth World Cup appearance since the tournament was first hosted by Uruguay in 1930.
Together with Argentina, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group F, Stephen Keshi will hope to lead his wards into the second round for the third time, but for the first time since France 1998 when the Super Eagles were hammered 4-1 by Denmark.
This will be Keshi’s second outing at the World Cup tournament, but first as a coach even though he qualified Togo for the 2006 edition, before he was replaced by Otto Pfister prior to the tournament.
Vincent Enyeama will be his third tournament, the highest among the active players and might be in line to break Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha’s record as the Nigerian with the highest amount of minutes spent on the pitch at the FIFA World Cup.
                               Nigeria vs Argentina
Nigeria will be meeting Argentina at the World Cup for the fourth time in five appearances having met the Albiceleste at USA ’94, Japan/Korea 2002 and South Africa 2006. The Super Eagles will also look to do better as she has a 0/3 record against the South American powerhouse.
Nigeria’s participation at the tournament has been a roller-coaster for fans and players alike. Supersport.com takes a look at some interesting numbers involved as we chronicle Nigeria’s participation at the FIFA World Cup since making their debut at USA ’94.
                            Numbers, facts and bits
1 Since making their debuts at USA ’94, the Super Eagles have missed just one edition, Germany 2006.
2: Emmanuel Amuneke, Daniel Amokachi, Kalu Uche are Nigeria’s highest goal scorers at the mundial, the trio have three goals each to their credit
3 This will be Nigeria’s fifth appearance at the World Cup finals. 1994,1998,2002,2010 and 2014.
4 Austin Okocha has the most appearance for Nigeria at the World Cup having played nine matches for the Eagles.
5 Eleven (11) players have scored for Nigeria at the mundial.Rashidi Yekini, Daniel Amokachi, Tijani Babangida, Victor Ikpbea, Emmanuel Amuneke, Kalu Uche, Samson Siasia, Julius Aghahowa,Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Mutiu Adepoju, Sunday Oliseh.
6 Going into Brazil 2014, a total of 64 players have featured for Nigeria at the World Cup.
7 Nigeria’s biggest win remains a 3-0 victory over Bulgaria at USA’94
8 The 1-4 loss to Denmark in a second round match at t France ’98 is the heaviest defeat suffered by Nigeria so far.
9 Peter Rufai at 34 years, two months and 16 days is the oldest Nigerian player to appear at the World Cup (France 1998).
10 Femi Opabunmi is the youngest Nigerian player at the World Cup. He was 17 years, three months and 15 days old (Japan/Korea 2002).
11 Nigeria has Played  14 matches at the World Cup, Won four, drew two and Lost eight,
12 The Eagles have scored 17 goals and concede 21
13 Only Cameroon, with seven outings, has the highest number of appearances ahead of Nigeria’s five among African nations.
14 Nigeria has failed to win a game in her last eight matches at the World Cup. The Super Eagles’ last win was against Bulgaria in 1998.
15 Stephen Keshi will be the second indigenous coach to handle the national team at the FiFA World Cup. The first person was Chief Adegboye Onigbinde who led the team to Korea/Japan 2002.
16 USA 1994 was Nigeria’s highest goal scoring tournament. The Super Eagles scored seven goals.
17 France 1998 was the worst in terms of goals conceded. The Super Eagles let in nine goals.
18 The 2014 World Cup holds much promises for the Super Eagles, hopefully the numbers will change for good when hostilities begin in Brazil. Hopefully, Keshi and his boys will come good after all has been said and done.
19 Nigeria exited the World Cup at the second round stage on two occasions, USA ’94 and France ’98 while she has failed to go beyond the preliminary stage twice, Korea/japan 2002 and South Africa 2010.
20 Three foreign coaches have led Nigeria to her previous World Cup outings. They are; Clemens Westerhof (USA ’94,) Bora Milutinovic (France ’98) and South Africa 2010.
Additional facts courtesy; Supersport.com

                       INTERVIEW

Emmanuel Emenike: Brazil; 2014 World Cup is a Dream Come True

 
To many Nigerians, AFCPON 2013 top scorer, Emmanuel Emenike carries the burden of ensuring that Super Eagles’ opponents at the Brazil 2014 World Cup retrieve that ball as many time as possible, he has therefore, been tagged as the team’s messiah. However, in this recent interview, the Fenerbahce of Turkey star striker plays down such expectations, stressing that the job of seeing Nigeria performing well in Brazil is a collective responsibility of the entire team. He also revealed that making it to the World Cup is fulfillment of a long time dream.

How ready are you for the big challenge of the World Cup?

I am very ready for the World Cup. I am physically and mentally ready but the fans should be patriotic enough in any situation. Every player here is ready to give their best to see that we keep the flag flying. We will so much appreciate the fans to count on us.

Obviously, you will be Nigeria’s top marksman in Brazil and so you will be a marked man

I will like to keep my plans to myself. I know what to expect, I know the battle ahead of me and the team, but I am banking on team effort, that’s the only way to succeed. Like I keep saying, once the team do well and succeed, individual glory will come.

Any personal target for Brazil 2014?

At a tournament like World Cup, there is always set goal for every team, those that reach the quarterfinal, will hope for semi-final, those who have reached the semis before want to reach the final. We just need to be proactive and be ready to fight and I believe we will achieve the impossible in Brazil.

Your regular partner at AFCON 2013 was Brown Ideye, but he won’t be in Brazil, who will be your preferred strike partner in Brazil?

I am just one of the 23 players in this squad. I am ready to partner anyone upfront, it’s all about giving our best and understanding. I don’t expect all my goal attempts to turn goals, and don’t expect my partner to score from all my passes. But I appreciate urgency, that’s what we need in front of goal.

Super Eagles drew two and lost one of their World Cup warm-up games. Were those games a true reflection of what this team is all about?

Losing to USA should not be the yard stick to measure the team. The Americans were mobile and energetic against us, but we hope to do better as players and as a team in Brazil. We shouldn’t be written off because we lost a game.

What can you say about the opening game against Iran?

I don’t want to be too boastful because it’s Iran. They are here at the World Cup because they are a good team. I won’t write them off. We will be at our best to start on a winning note. Looking down on them won’t be good for us.

Iran have nothing to lose against us, we must be up and doing because there are great expectation. I am not promising anything for now, it’s too early but we need to fight.

As an ambassador of two major corporate brands, are you under extra pressure to perform at the World Cup?

I’m not under pressure being an ambassador to score goals, but my legs should speak better for me.

How does it feel that you will play at the World Cup?

Playing in World Cup is a dream come true. I sacrificed a lot and worked hard work to get to this stage. I started dreaming of playing in World Cup as a kid following USA 1994, and here I am today fulfilling my dream. I believe so much in hard work as the key to success. I have a formula now – focus plus hard work is equal to success.

My wish for Eagles is beyond personal glory and the fans should be patient.

Some predict the Eagles will beat Iran and Bosnia to qualify to the next stage, do you share the same view? 

That’s patriotic talk and I like that, but our own is that we want to fight hard on the pitch and win, this is football, Bosnia can beat Argentina in their opening game too.

What I know is that our first match against Iran is very crucial. Right now, I am thinking about Iran, not Bosnia or Argentina.

This World Cup is going to be interesting and full of surprises. There are so many wounded lions going to Brazil.

A lot has already been said about the Nigeria vs Argentina game. Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero have said they bring down the Eagles (cuts in)

They should wait till we meet. The Argentines are too boastful and disrespectful. As a professional, you should always respect your opponents irrespective of their qualities. They think they can beat us because they have individual players? But football is beyond that stage now. As I said earlier, I will think of them after Iran and Bosnia. Messi is an exceptional player, but football is a team game.

Millions of fans are relying on you (cuts in)

No, that is wrong. I appreciate the fans for their love. I am not the Messiah in Eagles, I am here to contribute my quota to the team. If I am opportuned to score, I will, and if it is any of my teammates, I will celebrate because what matters is the result and not goal scorers. So, I need them and they need me to make the team great. I will not bow to any opponent until the final whistle.

Have you ever being to Brazil?

No, I have not being to Brazil, but this first one will be a memorable and successful visit.
Courtesy: Africanfootball.com
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