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Samuel Chukwueze: The one-v-one phenomenon in AC Milan



Football has always come easy to Samuel Chukwueze, but it hasn’t always been the game that he was destined to play.

“I got home from training really late again when I was 13”, he recalled in an interview with the Spanish football show El Dia Despues, “so my mother took my boots, my training top, put it all in a rubbish bag and burnt it all.”

A distraction from his studies, Chukwueze’s passion interfered with his future.

It was only his grandmother, eventually talking the family around, that allowed ‘Samu’ his shot at stardom. Trials close to home in Nigeria followed, with a trip to play a tournament in Portugal his reward for being one of the best players.

The first time that he had ever left his hometown, and with his mother’s blessing, Chukwueze dazzled with his dribbling and never looked back.

Just 10 years on from watching his only pair of boots smoulder, Chukwueze finds himself making a move to one of Europe’s most illustrious clubs, AC Milan, having already created history with another.

Aged 16, he signed a pre-contract with Spanish side Villarreal, after a deal with Arsenal fell through.

Five seasons and 207 appearances later, Chukwueze not only helped the Yellow Submarine to their first-ever major honour, lifting the UEFA Europa League in 2021, but he also fired them into the following season’s Champions League semi-final with an unforgettable breakaway goal at Bayern Munich.

“Everyone loves Samu”, a source at Villarreal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their position, told The Athletic. “No one at the club has a bad word to say about him.”

“He’s always really happy and in a good mood. His rise from the under-19s to the first team took less than a year, which is unheard of really.”

He is shy and grounded off the pitch, but he lets his football do the talking.

An admirer of Jay-Jay Okocha as he grew up, years of devotion to dribbling means that Chukwueze is one of few players in Europe that can consistently tie defenders in knots.

Operating primarily on the right flank, the 24-year-old often wastes no time in taking on his man, always looking to tempt the challenge with an attacking first touch before jinking away from the outstretched boot.

Even when opposing teams double up, Chukwueze’s commitment and creativity mean that he is still difficult to mark out of the game, as shown below against Real Sociedad, squirming between two challenges before bearing down on goal and forcing a good save from Alex Remiro.

The numbers paint a similar picture, showing Chukwueze to be one of the most efficient dribblers in La Liga. As the scatter plot below shows, Chukwueze boasted the second-highest success rate of any player to have attempted more than six take-ons per game last season, beating his man 49.1 percent of the time.

While not quite as relentless in the volume of his attempts as Vinicius Junior, Chukwueze was the closest player to the Brazilian in terms of the overall total of successful dribbles across the whole of 2022-23, having beaten his man on 86 occasions. Vinicius completed 112, but from 131 more attempts than the Nigerian. Quality enables Chukwueze to keep up with quantity.

More than ever, he is following up his take-ons with end product, especially when it comes to creating chances for his team-mates. Last season was the Nigerian’s most prolific in terms of assists — providing five killer passes, all from the left half-space.

His dribbling has been crucial for Villarreal to pick their way through stubborn blocks, like against the five-man defence of Getafe below.

As usual, Chukwueze receives the ball on the right and instantly squares up to his man. Aware of his ability to chop inside, striker Borja Mayoral drops deep to block Chukwueze’s route to a left-footed shot on goal.

Manipulating the ball with quick touches, Chukwueze feints to cut inside before producing a quick stepover and then ducking away to the right, leaving Gaston Alvarez wrong-footed, poking his boot at fresh air.

Having escaped the challenge, Chukwueze drives towards the byline and rolls the ball back for Jose Luis Morales to score.

When it comes to taking on the shot himself, Chukwueze has a trademark.

Much like Antony at Manchester United, the Nigerian often looks to cut in from the right and aim for the far corner. As the shot-location graphic below illustrates, Chukwueze isn’t afraid to try his luck from range, and particularly likes the zone to the right of the penalty area, allowing him plenty of distance to set the ball outside the post and bend it into the corner.

Most notably, Chukwueze scored a sensational winning goal at the Santiago Bernabeu last season, to top off the best individual performance of his Villarreal career.

Receiving the ball on the corner of the box, he shuffles across the edge of the penalty area before guiding a perfectly placed shot beyond the despairing dive of Thibaut Courtois.

There have been some spectacular efforts along the way too, as against Sevilla below, where Chukwueze’s dribbling ability saw him burst past Marcos Acuna before unleashing an effort that bounced off the crossbar and away.

The data suggests that, while his shooting technique has undeniably improved, Chukwueze could benefit from varying his decision-making when he receives the ball with space to shoot.

Despite being his primary shooting zone, the below shot map outlines an area from which Chukwueze scored only once from 67 attempts on goal across his five seasons in the Spanish top flight.

All but one of those attempts were left-footed efforts, with 20 drifting wide of the left post and a further 24 being blocked, pointing to an insistence at finding that curled finish towards the far corner.

He can sometimes try to force the angle, leading to overhit shots as he tries to force a way through no matter what.

Here against Real Betis, for example, Chukwueze receives the pass and instantly sets up to cut inside, controlling the ball with the outside of his boot. Juan Foyth had made a storming underlapping run, but the winger has already made up his mind.

Having darted away from full-back Juan Miranda, Chukwueze is charged down by Andres Guardado, and elects to quickly take the shot before the shooting angle is closed. Leaning back, his rushed attempt flies over the bar and into the stands.

His dribbling was as incisive as always, drawing in three players and creating space for the simple lay-off, but Chukwueze would benefit from resisting his favourite shot more often, especially when the set-up is not quite right.

He certainly has the ability to mix things up — emphatically shown by his assist against Getafe — and he tends to be effective when he decides to drive to the touchline.

His attacking carries map below tells much the same story, affirming not only his productivity down the right-hand side with the ball at his feet but also his improved output when he releases it.

Chukwueze is too talented to stop taking on the spectacular shot, but slightly more variety in the final action would surely see his attacking output increase.

While generally a touchline-hugging winger, Chukwueze can be extremely effective when he wanders into smaller spaces in the middle of the pitch.

During a sizzling run of form between February and April last season, Chukwueze scored five, assisted three more and won a crucial penalty in the space of just eight games. Chukwueze was notably effective in central areas in this spell, from a first-time volley against Osasuna to a delicate dinked finish at Mallorca.

His opener at the Bernabeu highlighted how dangerous he can be from the middle, applying the effortless finishing touch to his dribble in one sweeping move.

Similarly, in a Champions League-chasing clash with Real Sociedad, Chukwueze picks up the ball further back, immediately looking to run at the back-line. First, he chops inside Igor Zubeldia and bursts through the gap…

Joining up with the similarly electric Rafael Leao at San Siro, you can be sure that Serie A full-backs and centre-backs alike will be drawing nervous red rings around their dates with the Rossoneri in 2023-24.

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Nigeria sweepstakes at African Para Championships




Nigeria emerged the overall champion of the 2023 ITTF African Para Championships which ended on Saturday September 23, 2023 in Giza, Egypt.

The three-day tournament had hosts – Egypt – Algeria, Nigeria, Mauritius, Cameroon, South Africa, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire competing in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles events.

Nigeria carted home 12 gold medals to dethrone Egypt as the new para table tennis champion in Africa. The Nigerians asserted themselves as the new heavyweights in the continent’s para table tennis by dominating the singles event to pick up most of the tickets to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

From the 14 tickets available for the Paralympic Games, Nigeria picked nine while Egypt settled for five in the singles events. However, the host team dominated the doubles and mixed doubles events with five gold medals while Nigeria picked two.

In the overall medals table, Nigeria picked 12 gold while Egypt won 10 to surrender their dominance to the West African nation..
The medalists are: GOLD MEDALS: . Faith Obazuaye (women class 10)
Kehinde Lawal (women class 9)
Ifechukwude Ikpeoyi (women class 5)
Femi Alabi (men class 10)
Biola Adesope (men class 9)
Victor Farinloye (men class 8)
Kayode Alabi (men class 6)
. Bolawa Akingbemisilu (men class 5)
Isau Ogunkunle (men class 4) and the silver medalists are;. Shoremekun Ganiyat (women class 6 – 8)
, Faith Obiora (women class 5),Chukwuemeka Francis (men class 9),Femi Fabiyi (men class 8), Mustafa Isa (men class 6)while the silver medalists are; Kate Oputa (women class 5),Tajudeen Agunbiade (men class 9),Nasiru Sule (men class 5).
Reacting to this develo9ment,the president Para table tennis federation who also doubles as President,Paralympic Committe Nigeria (PCN),Sunday Odebode who expressed his excitement on the results commended the players for making the country proud and urged them to set their gaze on winning medals at the Paralympic games in Paris next year.

“We thank God for His goodness and thank you all for your prayers and support”,he said.

President, African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), Khaled El-Salhy commended all the participating teams and described the tournament as a success, especially with the facilities and hospitality provided by the Egyptian Table Tennis Federation (ETTF).

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Ese Brume’s Podium Finish At Diamond League Excites Sports Minister Enoh




Ese Brume's Podium Finish At Diamond League Excites Sports Minister Enoh

The Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh has congratulated Nigerian long jumper, Ese Brume for her silver medal achievement in the long jump event at the Diamond League, in Eugene, Oregon.

Brume came close to winning her first Diamond League title after leaping 6.85m, just as Ivana Vuketa, who won gold. The Minister lauded the Nigerian for finishing strong, despite missing out of first place by very small margins.

“Ese Brume has continued to make us proud time and again. From the Olympics to the Commonwealth Games, to Diamond Leagues, Ese has consistently ranked amongst the top athletes in her sports, globally.”

“While it is disappointing that she narrowly missed out on the Diamond League title, I want to state that the country remains proud of her achievements. I am sure that she will bounce back and take her rightful place. I urge her and other athletes likewise to stay focused on the bigger picture as we draw closer to the 2024 Olympic Games.”

Brume won a bronze medal at the last Olympic games in Tokyo, before going on to win silver medals at the 2022 World Athletics Championships and World Indoor Championships in Eugene and Belgrade respectively. In the summer of 2022, she won gold in Birmingham, during the Commonwealth Games.

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Germany sack head coach Hansi Flick after Japan thrashing




Hansi Flick was fired as Germany head coach on Sunday, the country’s football federation (DFB) announced, one day after a 4-1 loss to Japan deepened the gloom around the squad ahead of hosting next year’s European Championship.

The DFB said director Rudi Völler would be one of three coaches taking joint charge of the next game, a friendly against France on Tuesday in Dortmund.

Germany have not won any of their past five games and were eliminated in the group stage at last year’s World Cup.

Flick said after the loss to Japan that he wanted to remain as coach and insisted he was the right person for the job. Sunday’s announcement came hours after he led the team in a public training session attended by fans.

Flick won the Champions League with Bayern Munich in 2020 and took the Germany job the following year. He started by winning his first eight games — without facing any of Europe’s top teams — but has just four wins from 17 matches since then.

Germany captain Ilkay Gündogan backed Flick to remain after the Japan game but said the team sorely lacked cohesion.

Hansi Flick coached Germany at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where the country exited at the group stage. Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images
“A lot of our players, they are in a mental fight with themselves. There’s no confidence, there’s no understanding for the timing, for the right decisions on the pitch,” Gündogan told broadcaster beIN.

The interim coaching staff faces a tough task against France, who have won all of their five Euro 2024 qualifiers without conceding a single goal since losing the World Cup final on penalties to Argentina last year.

A likely permanent replacement could be Julian Nagelsmann. He was Flick’s successor at Bayern until the club replaced him with Thomas Tuchel in March. After the France game, Germany are next in action Oct. 14 against the United States, and Mexico four days later.

“Now, us in charge, have to act in order to be able to play next year at the Euro the demanding and ambitious role of hosts that we are hoping to play. That is what German fans rightly expect from us,” said Völler, who was national team coach from 2000 to 2004.

“The most urgent thing is then to bring in a national team coach who at short notice can redirect and prepare our team for the big Euro tournament next year.

“We expect from them, as does the whole country, positive impulses. A coach who can lift our level to where we know and expect it to be.”

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