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WWC: Japan embarrasses Spain 4-0 to top Group C

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Japan scored three times from lightning breaks in the first half, once in the second and defended resolutely to trounce Spain 4-0 on Monday and top Group C at the Women’s World Cup.
Hinata Miyazawa scored twice, Riko Ueki scored once and both were instrumental in each other’s goals as Japan switched swiftly from defense to counter-attack and scored from its only three attempts on goal before halftime.

Mina Tanaka came off the bench to score the last in the 82nd minute as Japan, with only 22% of possession, turned on a counter-attacking master class in front of 21,000 fans.

Both teams had already clinched places in the round of 16, Japan for the fourth World Cup in succession, Spain for the second. Both had beaten Zambia 5-0 and Spain had the better goal differential after a 3-0 win over Costa Rica. A draw would have been enough to see Spain finish atop a group for the first time in its history.

But Spain has struggled against Asian teams in World Cup matches, losing to South Korea in 2015 and drawing with China in 2019.

Japan played with a strong and cold wind at its back in the first half and that added carry to long balls forward which helped catch the Spain defense in retreat.

Spain had an overwhelming majority of possession in the half; by the 25-minute mark it had enjoyed 68% and had more than 230 completed passes to Japan’s 43. But it was timid, reluctant to go forward and played mostly around the middle of the field, keeping the ball on the ground in the face of the wind .

Japan was content to defend in depth and to counter-attack. It sprang the trap for the first time in the 12th. From just inside the Spain half and wide on the left Jun Endo sent a long, curling ball forward which fell for Miyakawa, who neatly slipped her shot past Misa Rodriguez.

In the 23rd Moeka Minami cleared from the edge of the Japan area. Ueki nodded the ball back for Nagano to send Miyazawa away on the right. She passed across the goal to Ueki, who took the ball on her left foot, propped to her right and unleashed a shot which deflected off Irene Paredes and ballooned over Rodriguez.

Ueki celebrated the goal a day after her 24th birthday.

In the 40th it was Ueki’s turn to deliver for Miyazawa. She broke incisively on the left, passed across to the right as the Spain defense, backpedaling, tried to regroup and Miyazawa finished clinically with her left foot.

Each goal fell into the same pattern and each was executed with the same precision. Spain had few chances before halftime, perhaps its best was Jennifer Hermoso’s header from Ona Batlle’s cross.

Tanaka’s goal was a magnificent solo effort. She beat Rocio Galvez near halfway, eluded Batlle and Paredes and then drove the ball powerfully into the top left corner. Japan’s four goals came from only five attempts.

Among the fans at Sky Stadium were some from Palmerston North, the provincial town 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Wellington which was Spain’s base until they quit it suddenly last week.

Japan was a surprise winner of the World Cup in 2011 and runners-up to the United States in 2015. With 12 goals from three group matches this time, they again loom as a title contender.

Japan now will play Group A runner-up Norway on Saturday in the round of 16 and Spain will play Group A winner Switzerland.

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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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