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WWC: Renard heads late winner as France beat Brazil

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Captain Wendie Renard headed a late winner as France beat Brazil in a thrilling game in Brisbane at the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.

Eugenie le Sommer put the French ahead after 17 minutes, before Debinha pulled Brazil level in the second half.

There was end to end action as two of the pre-tournament favourites delivered a game which lived up to expectations.

But it was Renard – who had been an injury doubt – who headed in the decisive goal with seven minutes to go.

“She is the leader of the team,” France manager Herve Renard said of his captain. “If she was not able to play today then it wouldn’t be the same. We were lucky to have her today.”

Brazil would have qualified for the last 16 with victory but instead must wait until the final matchday to try to book a knockout spot.

Pia Sundhage’s side meet Jamaica in their final group match, while France take on Panama. Both games will be played on 2 August, kicking off at 11.00 BST.

Following a disappointing draw in their opening game against Jamaica and fitness concerns for key players – in particular Renard, who started having been touch and go with a calf problem – this was a make or break game for France.

The stakes were further heightened by a frenetic atmosphere in Brisbane, where the overwhelming majority of fans were in the yellow shirts of Brazil. When the Brazilian anthem was sung, you could have closed your eyes and imagined you were in the Maracana.

But France rose to the challenge, as their two on-pitch leaders – Renard, and all-time top scorer Le Sommer – took charge.

Their first goal was excellent. Sakina Karchaoui started the move with a left-footed cross from deep, Kadidiatou Diani kept it alive and Le Sommer was there with a perfectly cushioned header to steer the ball past Brazil keeper Leticia..

It was her 90th goal in 181 caps, and calms concerns about the French attack following the blunt showing versus Jamaica – which had led to recriminations among the squad, Le Sommer revealed.

“I think the turning point came from Jamaica,” she said. “Things got heated in the dressing room.

“Today we were up to scratch. We hope we can use this to improve even more so but it’s three points in the bag and we showed what we were made of.”

The celebrations after Le Sommer’s goal were telling. Goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin ran to the bench and jumped into a scrum of about 10 celebrating substitutes. Manager Renard joined in too, high-fiving everyone.

Then, as it appeared they would have to settle for one point, captain Renard arrived at the back post unmarked to head in Selma Bacha’s deep corner.

“I told you I trusted my girls,” manager Herve Renard said. “I was fully confident they were going to pull it out of the bag.

“Sometimes, it is good to get off to a shaky start as that sets the alarm bells ringing and then you can get back on your feet. We knew not to make any mistakes.”

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Nigerian League

There’s a twist’ – Springbok hopeful rejects South African homecoming

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Ruan Ackermann will not be returning to South Africa after signing a contract extension with Premiership club Gloucester Rugby.

 

The powerhouse forward’s contract was expiring at the end of the current season and looked set to return to South Africa but has instead opted to remain in the West Country.

 

The Sharks and his former employers, the Lions, were two of the teams that Ackerman was reportedly in talks with, but ultimately, he decided to remain at the club he joined back in 2017.

“I miss playing in South Africa, I see the stadiums are getting more and more full,” Ackermann told Afrikaans newspaper Rapport in January.

 

But on Thursday, Gloucester and Ackermann revealed that the player had changed his mind.

 

“There is a little twist, I can’t see myself leaving yet, I want to stay on, so we are staying on,” he said in an interview confirming his extension.

 

He added: “The players, the staff, the people, the coaches, everyone has been really good to me. It’s basically like a second home, so that’s what makes things, when it comes to a decision, so tough.”

His re-signing with the Premiership side means that he will head into his eighth season at Gloucester this year, having arrived along with his father Johan, who was head coach at the time.

 

The Kingsholm favourite is consistently one of the top players in the Premiership for carries and metres made and was voted Gloucester Rugby’s Players’ Player of the Season for 2021/22.

 

His ability to play across the back-row, and even at lock, is a huge asset for the Cherry and Whites, with director of rugby, George Skivington, hailing the club’s ability to retain his services.

 

“There was lots of competition for Ruan’s signature, so it’s a huge coup for the Club,” Skivington said.

 

“Ruan has been fantastic for us and to have a player of his quality committing his future to the Club is a massive statement of trust in the direction we are heading in.

 

“Everyone at Gloucester Rugby is delighted that Ruan will be in Cherry & White next season.”

International ambitions

Ackermann is qualified to represent England through residency and his potential move back to South Africa was seen as an attempt to better his chances of cracking the Springboks squad.

 

In fact, he was reportedly on the cusp of making the Red Rose squad before injury struck and ruled him out of the World Cup and a debut in the England jersey.

 

However, he still hopes to make it on the international stage.

 

“I just want to play at the highest level, it’s a dream of mine, but the Springboks are my first choice,” he said in an interview in January.

 

“I feel like I have been here [England] long enough to prove myself, and that chance or option never came. I think they have their eyes on other players.”

 

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Nigerian League

Sunshine Stars unveil Boboye, Oboabona

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Sunshine Stars FC on Thursday in Akure unveiled former Plateau United coach Kennedy Boboye and AFCON 2013 winner Godfrey Oboabona as the team’s coach and player respectively.

The club employed the services of the former Abia Warriors and Heartland manager following the sacking of Edith Agoye, who led the team to 14th place in the ongoing Nigeria Professional Football League season.

The appointments were contained in a statement issued by Sunshine Stars media officer, Michael Akintunde.

According to the statement, other technical crew members unveiled alongside Kennedy Boboye include Kayode Julius (chief coach), Nwachukwu Ifeanyi (assistant coach) and John Gaadi (goalkeeper trainer).

Oboabona, a member of the Super Eagles that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, has made a return to the team after playing for various clubs in Europe.

The statement read, “He (Oboabona) is expected to add his wealth of experience to the team as Kennedy Boboye gets set to lead the team back to winning ways.”

Boboye, in his remarks, thanked the management of the team for giving him an opportunity to serve and lead the team again, seeking the corporations of the stakeholders and promised to give his best with the support of everyone.

“I’m glad I’m back home, Sunshine Stars remain in my heart, with God and the collective support of everyone we shall succeed and achieve the desired results,” the coach stated.

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Nigerian League

NPFL Youth league finals hold in Benin

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(NPFL) Youth League

Benin, the Edo State capital has been announced as the host city for the Championship finals of the inaugural edition of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) Youth League.

The zonal qualifiers held in five centres from February 1-3 from where teams emerged for the championship finals.

Chairman of the NPFL YOUTH league Committee, Pastor Emeka Inyama, on Tuesday, confirmed that the championship finals will take place in Benin.

He also announced that the finals will be held from February 24th to March 2nd at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin.

Teams that progressed from the zonal qualifiers are Rangers International from the South East, Rivers United from South South, Remo Stars from the southwest, katsina United from North East/west and Plateau United from North Central.

“We expect the teams to arrive Benin on the 24th, and first rounds of matches will begin on February 25th,” Pastor Inyama told NPFL Media.

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