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16-year-old Barca prodigy set to make history with Spain

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With his place in the first team of FC Barcelona now cemented beyond doubt, 16-year-old prodigy Lamine Yamal has already managed to turn heads from everywhere due to his immense footballing ability and understanding of the game at his very tender age.

The La Masia star has become one of the key assets under Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez this season and it is no secret that the Catalan coach looks to depend on him on various occasions during the ongoing 2023/2024 campaign.

However, Lamine Yamal looks set to take his qualities and talent to the International stage as well. According to Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo, the 16-year-old is set to make his International debut with the Spanish National Team in their upcoming clash against Georgia for the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

The 16-year-old, should he make his debut for Spain under coach Luis de la Fuente, will become the youngest-ever debutant for the Spanish National Team.

He would be overtaking the previous record held by Barcelona teammate Gavi, who was 17 years and 62 days old while Yamal would be 16 years and 57 days old if he makes his debut in the coming hours.

MD suggests that the most likely introduction of the player into this game will come as a substitute, given the intensity and importance of the clash in regards to Spain’s rather worrying struggles thus far in the group.

While de la Fuente is expected to field a more experienced lineup, it would still not exactly be too big of a surprise to see the Barcelona starlet making a start as Spain’s surprise asset. His contributions in training have been reportedly worth noting and it could lead to a place within the starting eleven.

The 16-year-old is expected to don the number 19 for Spain for the time being. His inclusion in the match will surely be one of the biggest attractions in regards to this European clash.

Spain would ideally need the win to keep their hopes of qualifying for the European championship steady, given that they thus far have managed a victory against Norway but also already suffered defeat at the hands of Scotland.

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How victor Osimhen Breaks CAF Awards For Nigeria since 1999

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Napoli and Nigeria’s forward Victor Osimhen has been crowned the 2023 African Footballer of the Year at the Confederation of African Football (Caf) awards ceremony in Marrakesh.

Osimhen, whom plays for Napoli in Italy beat Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi to the prestigious award – the first time a Nigerian has picked up the title since Nwankwo Kanu in 1999.

Nigeria enjoyed double success with Asisat Oshoala retaining the women’s award – the sixth time the Barcelona star has won the accolade.

The winners are voted for by a panel consisting of Caf’s technical committee plus African media professionals, head coaches and captains. Clubs involved in the group stages of Caf’s continental competitions also have a say.

OSIMHEN TRIUMPH

Napoli’s Osimhen, 24, was tipped to pick up the prestigious Caf award for the first time in his career after a stellar 2022-23 season.

He scored 26 times in 32 appearances, including the decisive goal that sealed the Scudetto in May and won Napoli their first Serie A title in 33 years.

The former Wolfsburg and Lille striker was also named the Italian footballers’ association player of the year earlier this month after an outstanding season.

Lagos-born Osimhen scored five goals in four Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification matches as his country reached next year’s finals.

He also became the first Nigerian to finish in the top 10 of the Ballon d’Or vote with an eighth-placed finish and was made a Member of the Federal Republic in his homeland.

Barcelona star Asisat Oshoala, 29, made it a night to remember for Nigeria, winning the women’s player of the year title for a record extending sixth time.

Oshoala – who went to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this year – retains the trophy she won last year.

She beat off competition from South Africa and Racing Louisville’s Thembi Kgatlana and Zambia and Shanghai Sengli’s Barbra Banda to lift the trophy.

World Cup recognition
South African Desiree Ellis picked up her fourth Caf coach of the year award after leading Banyana Banyana to their first World Cup.

The men’s award went to Morocco’s Walid Regragui on a great night for the Atlas Lions, who were named the national men’s team of the year.

Their heroics at Qatar 2022 – where they became the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final – also helped Yassine Bounou win the men’s goalkeeper of the year prize.

Nigeria’s Super Falcons won the women’s national team of the year with their Paris FC star Chiamaka Nnadozie picking up the women’s goalkeeper award.

Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa were named the women’s club of the Year after triumphing in the African Women’s Champions League for a second time.

Egyptian giants Al Ahly, who won a record 11th Champions League title in 2023, won the men’s club of the year award.

On a glittering night in Marrakesh, Caf also revealed who Africa’s players voted into the men’s and women’s Best XI line-ups, and Senegal President Macky Sall picked up the inaugural special achievement award.

2023 Caf awards winners:
Player of the Year (men): Victor Osimhen (Napoli & Nigeria)

Player of the Year (women): Asisat Oshoala (Barcelona & Nigeria)

Coach of the Year (men): Walid Regragui (Morocco)

Coach of the Year (women): Desiree Ellis (South Africa)

National Team of the Year (men): Morocco

National Team of the Year (women): Nigeria

Goalkeeper of the Year (men): Yassine Bounou (Al Hilal & Morocco)

Goalkeeper of the Year (women): Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris FC & Nigeria)

Young Player of the Year (women): Nesryne El Chad (Lille & Morocco)

Young Player of the Year (men): Lamine Camara (Metz & Senegal)

Club of the Year (women): Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)

Club of the Year (men): Al Ahly (Egypt)

Interclub Player of the Year (women): Fatima Tagnaout (AS FAR & Morocco)

Interclub Player of the Year (men): Percy Tau (Al Ahly & South Africa)

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Klopp hails Salah as Egyptian reaches 200 goals in English football

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Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah received high praise from manager Juergen Klopp after reaching yet another milestone in Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Brentford that propelled them to second spot in the Premier League.

The 31-year-old Egyptian scored in each half to reach 200 goals in English soccer — 198 for Liverpool and two for Chelsea — and became the first player ever to score in each of Liverpool’s first six home games of the season.

“Crazy,” Klopp said marvelling about Salah, who Liverpool reportedly received a £150m (R3.4bn) bid for from Al-Ittihad in the last transfer window.

“Goal number 200 in England, right? Exceptional, played a super game today,” Klopp added. “Two players always around him, he kept the ball.

“We had so many good moments first half. [The] composure for the first goal is insane. No doubt in that area, you see it on the scoresheet. Special player.”

Liverpool have yet to lose at their Anfield fortress this season in all competitions, winning their sixth successive league game there on Sunday.

But while Klopp was thrilled with the performance he had strong words for the schedulers who have pencilled in their next game against leaders Manchester City as a 12.30pm kickoff at the Etihad on November 25, right after the international break.

“How can you put the Man City game on at 12.30pm?” he asked reporters after the game. “These people don’t know football.

“There could be a moment when these two teams have 30 international players, we pick up the South Americans on one plane to arrive here.”

Klopp was happy with his team’s bounce-back after their 3-2 loss at Toulouse in the Europa League group stage on Thursday.

“I’m very pleased to use that opportunity … to lose against Toulouse and then react in the way we did today.”

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From 6th to 18th: Wayne Rooney’s coaching ‘curse continues’ at Birmingham FC

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Garry Cook, Birmingham City’s chief executive, opted against restraint when welcoming Wayne Rooney to St Andrew’s last month.

“This is a defining moment for the football club,” he said in a punchy opening appraisal of the Championship club’s new manager.

Perhaps time will make a prophet of Cook, but the grand vision he was selling to supporters in the wake of John Eustace’s sacking is yet to crystalise. Five games under Rooney have so far yielded four dispiriting losses and one underwhelming point. All glitter, no gold.

Birmingham were fifth on the night of Eustace’s final game, a 3-1 home win against local rivals West Bromwich Albion, and sixth on the day Rooney was named his successor. A month on and they are 18th in the second tier, seven points adrift of the play-offs and sinking like a stone.

The three-and-a-half-year contract given to Rooney indicates judgments will not be made with haste, but Saturday’s 3-1 away defeat against Sunderland again revealed an uncertain team struggling to grasp the methods of a new manager.

The Gaffer’s take on this afternoon’s game in Sunderland. 🗣️

— Birmingham City FC (@BCFC) November 11, 2023

Rooney clung to the positives at the Stadium of Light, the scene of his first start for England against Turkey 20 years ago. He pointed to Birmingham’s best moments late in the first half and bemoaned their missed chances.

Yes, Birmingham might have scored three or four with greater conviction in front of goal, but it is little exaggeration to suggest Sunderland could have had twice as many. The abundant attacking threats of Tony Mowbray’s sixth-placed side exposed all the shortcomings of this evolving Birmingham one.

A work in progress would be the polite assessment.

Rooney has been tasked with transforming what has become a middling Championship club.

Co-owner and chairman Tom Wagner had no wish to see Eustace’s pragmatic reign unduly extended and instead went for the stardust of a man who is Manchester United’s record goalscorer and until this year held the same status for England, along with a stellar support staff that includes England cap centurion and three-time Premier League winner Ashley Cole and John O’Shea, who won even more caps with the Republic of Ireland and even more Premier Leagues (five).

They, Wagner felt, would change the dynamic at St Andrew’s, altering the club’s philosophy and style.

No easy task when arriving a quarter of the way into a season, especially when the new regime’s opening five games all came against teams among the Championship’s top 10.

Yet even with those allowances, it has been a start to test the bravado of Cook.

Only a draw at home against Ipswich Town, a result made less impressive by the concession of two late goals as a 2-0 lead went up in smoke, has snapped a pattern that has brought defeats to Middlesbrough, Hull City, Southampton and now Sunderland. In his five matches, Rooney’s Birmingham have conceded 11 goals and scored four.

“We can’t keep saying we’ve seen improvements, we have to start picking up results,” accepted Rooney, baseball cap pulled down low above his eyes. “I really believe we will. What I’m seeing from the players is really positive.”

Birmingham are a long way from the January transfer window, when the chance will come to recruit players to suit Rooney’s needs, and the short-term will need to bring better results. Their next two home games are against Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United, two of the current bottom three. Defeat in either of those fixtures will be much harder to explain away.

Rooney feels the timing of this international break has at least come as a blessing — a chance to work on the fitness of his players, who struggle to do all he asks of them across the full 90 minutes.

“The way they played before was completely different, sitting back a lot,” says the man who spent the previous 15 months managing DC United in MLS. “I’m asking players to be front-footed and to go and press high. It’s really intense. A different fitness level to what they’ve been used to. That’ll take a bit of time.”

Sunderland yesterday looked like a side that perhaps Wagner would like Birmingham to become.

The wide threats of Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts stretched play throughout, while Jobe Bellingham and Dan Neil were able to break the lines from midfield. Sunderland were often scruffy in a makeshift defence but Birmingham could have few complaints about their latest defeat.

Teenager Bellingham, sold by Birmingham’s new regime in the summer, opened the scoring from a corner that Rooney felt should have been a goal kick, then hit the same post his Ukrainian team-mate Nazariy Rusyn had earlier rattled. Birmingham responded well enough to equalise through Koji Miyoshi before half-time but a Dion Sanderson own goal and a third from Adil Aouchiche were enough to eventually see Sunderland win at a canter.

Rooney watched most of it from a default position in the technical area; feet planted and wide apart, arms folded.

“I enjoy it every day,” he insisted afterwards. “I enjoy working with the players. Of course, you get disappointment when you’re losing games of football but if you can’t enjoy coming in and doing what I’ve been tasked with doing for this club, then you’re never going to enjoy football.”

Birmingham’s new season was supposed to be different, but even with a name like Rooney in charge, it has begun to feel a lot like those that came before it.

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