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Falcons inch closer to Olympics after Cameroon win

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Nigeria will face either arch rivals South Africa or Tanzania for a place in the women’s football event of the 2024 Olympic Games, after scaling the hurdle of West African rivals Cameroon in the penultimate round of the qualifiers on Monday in Abuja.

Thanks to Esther Okoronkwo’s 15th-minute goal at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, the Super Falcons reached the final round of the African qualifying series with an aggregate 1-0 win over the Lionesses, who forced them to a goalless draw in the first leg last Friday on Douala.

Okoronkwo latched onto a ball which came back to her after goalkeeper Michaely Bihina had parried Rasheedat Ajibade’s chip.

After taking the lead, goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie did her bit to protect Nigeria’s advantage, as she stopped the Lionesse, who came close in the 32nd minute from a corner kick when Menene Meyong got her head to the ball.

In the second period, Bihina kept out all efforts by Ajibade, Echegini and substitutes Akudo Ogbonna as well as Asisat Oshoala.

Nnadozie was again called into action on the hour mark to deny Cameroon when Marie Ngah Manga got her head to a cross by the energetic substitute Marie Enganemben.

The Lionesses finished with 10 women when the volatile Enganemben was sent off over a push on Nnadozie during a bizarre rush by Cameroonian players to get the equaliser.

Randy Waldrum’s ladies now await the winners of the game between South Africa and Tanzania, which will be played on Tuesday (today) with the reigning African champions holding a 3-0 advantage from the first leg in Dar es Salaam.

The Falcons haven’t qualified for the Olympics since Beijing 2008 and the final clash to redeem that comes up in April.

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 Lamine Yamal gets new jersey number at Barcelona

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Hours after reports emerged regarding Lamine Yamal’s new shirt number at Barcelona, the club have officially confirmed that the teenage sensation will wear the No. 19 jersey next season.

The 17-year-old wonderkid wore No. 27 last season as he was still with a youth contract at the club.

But earlier this month, Barça confirmed his official registration as a first-team member with La Liga, which warranted a new squad number for the youngster.

There were speculations that Yamal could wear the No. 10 shirt but he has opted against it out of respect for Ansu Fati, who is back at Barça after a loan stint.

There was talk of him taking the No. 17 shirt vacated after Marcos Alonso’s exit, but Yamal has opted for No. 19 – a shirt that a certain Lionel Messi also wore in the early stages of his career at Barcelona.

Vitor Roque wore it briefly last season after arriving in January. Prior to that, players like Franck Kessie, Ferran Torres, Sergio Aguero, and Martin Braithwaite donned the No. 19 kit.

Yamal wore No. 19 with the Spanish national team as they won the UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany last week and will now wear it with the club as well.

With Yamal now taking over the No. 19 kit, Roque will have to change his shirt number, provided that he stays amid rumours of a departure.

 

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Luka Modric, 38, signs new Real Madrid contract

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Real Madrid extended Luka Modric’s contract on Wednesday, bringing the Croatia midfielder back for a 13th season with the club.

Madrid said it and Modric agreed to extend the player’s contract until June 2025.

One of Madrid’s captains, Modric didn’t play as often as a starter this season but is expected to have a greater role in Carlo Ancelotti’s midfield after the retirement of Toni Kroos.

He has won 26 titles with Madrid, the most in club history along with defender Nacho Fernández. Among those are six Champions Leagues and four Spanish leagues.

“Modric arrived at Real Madrid in 2012, and in his 12 seasons representing our shirt he has become a Real Madrid and world football legend,” Madrid said.

Modric won won the Ballon d’Or, the FIFA Player of the Year Award and was named UEFA Player of the Year in 2018, when he led Croatia to a runner-up finish at the World Cup.

Modric has made 178 appearances with Croatia and is the nation’s all-time record-holder for international caps. He has made 534 appearances for Madrid, having scored 39 goals.

 

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Inside Gareth Southgate’s decision to quit as England boss after Euro 2024 nightmare

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Albeit briefly, there was a theory that Gareth Southgate might stay on after all.‌ Let’s not forget this was the manager who had led England

Albeit briefly, there was a theory that Gareth Southgate might stay on after all.

‌Let’s not forget this was the manager who had led England to their first ever major final on foreign soil and the Football Association were desperate for him to remain in charge. And then came the fall-out. You would have to have been marooned on Mars to have avoided it.

The anger, bile and disappointment in the wake of England’s defeat in the Euros final. There was no way back. Southgate had insisted he was going to talk things through with his family on Monday night as he was in no mood to make a snap decision.

By 11am on Tuesday, the farewell statements were issued. Never mind that Southgate, in his eight years in charge, had gone to the latter stages of more tournaments than Sir Bobby Robson, Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle combined.

‌Or that Southgate had won nine knockout games during his tenure when England had won a grand total of seven in their previous years. England expects. And that is why they call it the Impossible Job.

No manager since Sir Alf Ramsey has come closer to ending 58 years of hurt than Southgate. England’s men have won just one major trophy – the 1966 World Cup at Wembley – and yet they were expected to play Spain off the park, win it in style and then lift the World Cup in two years’ time.

Instead, Southgate was accused of being over cautious, restricting world class talents like Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane and Phil Foden and holding England back. Holding them back? They have quickly forgotten the failures of the Golden Generation when Sven Goran Eriksson could not get past the quarter final stage with Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Gary Neville, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.

‌The players who flopped in major tournaments in the 1970s, 80s and 90s are the same ones who are now on TV slamming Southgate. This has been a golden era for England under Southgate. But, in reality, Southgate should have gone after Qatar. That was in his head.

It turned sour after Hungary in the Nations League at Molineux. He nearly announced in the autumn of 2022 he was going after the World Cup – and changed his mind. He then did soul searching after Qatar, thought about going and then decided to stay.

‌Looking at his body language in Germany, he was every bit as tired and exhausted as some of his players in the Euros. Just look at the season Declan Rice has had. Was he at his best? Of course not. He was shattered.

‌The same goes for Southgate who had reached the end of his tether. Going into the tournament, those around the camp felt he was going come what may. Then the conversation was that if he won it, he might yet stay on and oversee the World Cup.

That proved to be hypothetical in the end. But I think he would have quit even if they had won the Euros. Or, put another way, especially if they had won the Euros. What a chance to say: thanks, we did it – and now two fingers up to you lot!

The England job is so tough and unforgiving. Even in his departure, Southgate showed class by singling out the England fans – some of them have pilloried him, others have chucked beer cups and yet, ultimately, we are all them. Including Southgate.

‌Southgate said in his statement : “We have the best fans in the world, and their support has meant the world to me. I’m an England fan and I always will be. I look forward to watching and celebrating as the players go on to create more special memories and to connect and inspire the nation as we know they can.”

‌Southgate has done a remarkable job in his 102 games in charge. Summed up in his statement as he bid his farewells.‌ He added: “I have had the privilege of leading a large group of players in 102 games.

“Every one of them has been proud to wear the Three Lions on their shirts, and they have been a credit to their country in so many ways. The squad we took to Germany is full of exciting young talent and they can win the trophy we all dream of.

‌“I am so proud of them, and I hope we get behind the players and the team at St. George’s Park and The FA who strive every day to improve English football, and understand the power football has to drive positive change.”

-Mirror Football

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