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Nigerian League

Hosts Ivory Coast to face Nigeria in AFCON group

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Fast-improving Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, who have qualified for a fourth straight edition, complete the mini-league.

Other heavyweight pairings included defending champions Senegal with five-time winners Cameroon, while Africa’s first World Cup semi-finalists Morocco face the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ivory Coast, seeking a third Cup of Nations title, will meet Guinea-Bissau in the opening match on January 13 in Abidjan, the economic hub.

The Ivorian clash with three-time champions Nigeria will attract most attention among the six Group A fixtures.

Nigeria were last crowned Cup of Nations winners in 2013 in South Africa and the Ivory Coast succeeded them two years later in Equatorial Guinea.

Morocco were drawn in Group F with DR Congo, Zambia and Tanzania.

The Atlas Lions have won the premier African football competition only once, in 1976. Their best performance since then was finishing runners-up to 2004 hosts Tunisia.

Defending champions Senegal are in Group C with five-time winners Cameroon, Guinea and the Gambia.

South Africa will face Tunisia, Mali and Namibia in Group E while Ghana take on Egypt, Cape Verde and Mozambique in Group B.

Group D, comprising Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Angola, completes the line-up for a tournament that will reach a climax with the final on February 11.

Senegalese-American singer Akon hosted the draw, assisted by current and former African stars Sadio Mane, Achraf Hakimi, Didier Drogba and Mikel John Obi.

Ivory Coast are hosting the premier African sport event for a second time, and hoping for much better results than in 1984.

Early elimination
Then, the Elephants began with a convincing victory over Togo, but losses to Egypt and eventual champions Cameroon meant elimination after the first round.

It was the only time in nine hostings of the Cup of Nations in west Africa that the home country failed to reach the knockout stage.

Just eight nations featured in that edition — a third of the number who will arrive in the west African country for the next edition.

The tournament should have taken place already as it was originally scheduled for June and July this year.

But had it gone ahead, matches would have been staged during the rainy season and CAF president Patrice Motsepe said “it was too great a risk to play matches in potential downpours”.

Former Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba took part in the draw
Former Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba took part in the draw © WIKUS DE WET / AFP
He admitted moving the two-yearly tournament to January and February was “not ideal as it clashes with the European club season”.

This means stars like Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and Victor Osimhen of Napoli could be absent from their clubs for five weeks, depending on how record seven-time champions Egypt and Nigeria fare.

Ivory Coast will stage the Cup of Nations at six stadiums — two in Abidjan and one each in Bouake, administrative capital Yamoussoukro, Korhogo and San Pedro.

Friendly fixtures meant many coaches, including Aliou Cisse of Senegal and Rigobert Song of Cameroon, were unable to attend the draw.

Draw

Group A

Ivory Coast (hosts), Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau

Group B

Egypt, Ghana, Cape Verde, Mozambique

Group C

Senegal (holders), Cameroon, Guinea, Gambia

Group D

Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Angola

Group E

Tunisia, Mali, South Africa, Namibia

Group F

Morocco, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Tanzania

— Group winners and runners-up and the four highest ranked third-placed teams qualify for knockout stage

— Tournament kicks off on January 13 and ends on February 11, with matches at six stadiums in five cities

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Nigerian League

Sporting Lagos to appoint Biffo as new head coach

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Sporting Lagos are set to appoint Abdullahi Biffo as their new head coach. Biffo will take charge from Paul Offor who was sacked on Wednesday night.

Sporting Lagos are set to appoint Abdullahi Biffo as their new head coach.

Biffo will take charge from Paul Offor who was sacked on Wednesday night.

The experienced tactician has managed a number of top sides in the Nigeria Premier Football League.

He once managed Kwara United, Katsina United and Niger Tornadoes in the top-flight.

The gaffer is expected to help improve the fortune of the modest side.

Sporting Lagos have moved to 11th position on the table following an improved performance in the second half of the season.

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Nigerian League

Sporting Lagos sack head coach Paul Offor

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Nigeria Premier Football League side, Sporting Lagos have parted ways with head coach Paul Offor. Offor was sacked

Nigeria Premier Football League side, Sporting Lagos have parted ways with head coach Paul Offor.

Offor was sacked following his side’s struggles in the NPFL.

The tactician’s departure was confirmed on the club’s X handle.

The statement reads “Sporting Lagos announces the departure of head Coach Paul Offor,”

“Coach Paul brought top-flight football back to our city and gave us the first piece of silverware in our history.

“Thank you for everything, coach Paul. We wish you the very best in your future endeavours.”

Sporting Lagos have penciled down former Kwara United coach Abdullahi Biffo as his possible replacement.

They occupy 11th position on the NPFL table with 38 points.

Sporting Lagos have recorded 10 wins, eight draws and 12 defeats in the current campaign.

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Nigerian League

Saviour relishes Rangers’ derby victory over Abia Warriors

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Rangers midfielder Isaac Saviour has expressed his excitement after scoring in the club’s oriental derby win against Abia Warriors.

Rangers midfielder Isaac Saviour has expressed his excitement after scoring in the club’s oriental derby win against Abia Warriors.

Saviour opened scoring for the Flying Antelopes in their 3-2 win at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium on Tuesday.

Kazeem Ogunleye and Chidozie Okorie were also on target for Rangers.

He revealed his plans to maintain his impressive performance for Rangers in subsequent games.

Saviour has netted three times in this campaign.

“I feel very excited,” he stated to the club’s media.

“I think that for some time I was out injured and coming back and got a chance to start a game and score against Katsina, I had it in mind that I had to continue scoring if at all, I wanted to make an instant impact in my team.

“I am very happy scoring against Abia Warriors after scoring in Katsina and I hope it goes on like that.

“It is always a joy to be selected as the man of the match and I feel excited and hopefully, more will come.”

Saviour will hope to add to his goal tally when Rangers battle Rivers United in their next league match this weekend.

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