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2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled



2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 21

Out of the 32 teams gunning for Glory at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, 5 of them will represent the Confederation Of African Football (CAF) region.

Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, and Tunisia will be flying the African flags this year with usual big names who have participated in the past few world cups like Cameroon, Ghana, and Ivory coast missing out.

African appearance at the world cup started in 1934 when Egypt featured at the 2nd edition hosted in Italy, the pharaohs crashed out in the first round than where the competition was in the knockout format, the North Africans, however, have since only managed to qualify twice for the Mundial.

The next time an African team would later feature at the world cup was 36 years later in Mexico 1970 where Morocco featured. It was until Spain 1982 before Africa got 2 slots at the world cup and it was so until 1994 before it was raised to 3 slots and then raised up to 5 at France 1998 which has been upheld since then.

This year, Salah, Mane, John Obi Mikel, Mehdi Benatia will be hoping to lead their teams beyond the Quarterfinals which have been beyond the reach of the 13 different African teams that have at one time or the other participated at the world cup.

With less than 3 days left to the opening match of this year’s world cup, profiles the African representatives


2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 22

Captain: John Mikel Obi
Best World Cup Finish: R16 (1994, 98, 2014)
Manager: Gernot Rohr
Debut: USA 1994
No of Appearances: 6th

The Super Eagles endured a tough group for qualification to the world cup after drawing Cameroon, Algeria, and Zambia in group B but they made an easy work of their group qualifying with a game to spare although the last match against Algeria a 1-1 draw was overturned to a 3-0 win for the Algerians after Nigeria fielded an ineligible player.

However, that didn’t overshadow their impressive results during the qualifiers against Cameroon in Uyo which ended in an emphatic 4-0 win and another 3-1 win against Algeria at the same venue.

The team will, however, face tougher tests at the world cup finals after been drawn in Group D alongside Europeans Croatia, Iceland and familiar foes in Argentina whom they will be facing for the 5th time in the history of the competition.

Ranked as the underdogs in the group, the Nigerians have been unimpressive in their recent friendlies approaching the world cup losing to the Czech Republic, England and Serbia while drawing DR Congo.

The recent uninspiring performances have led to lowered expectations from fans which were previously high after a brilliant display in the 4-2 defeat of Argentina in a friendly in November 2017 and a resilient 1-0 win over a Robert Lewandoski led Poland in March this year.

Possessing a squad with a mixture of youthful talents and experienced veterans led by the likes of Mikel, Victor Moses, Echiejile and Onazi, Alex Iwobi, Iheanach, Tyronne Ebuehi the Super Eagles, however, lack trusted hands between the post as inexperienced rookie Francis Uzoho looks likely to be the Number 1 for the Nigerians, a situation which many have touted to affect the chances of the 3-time African champions.

Vincent Enyeama’s retirement from the national team and Carl Ikeme’s battle with leukemia has left Gernot Rhor searching for a reliable goalkeeper starting with Daniel Akpeyi, Ikechukwu before settling for Deportivo’s handler Uzoho.

However, with the Super Eagles unpredictable nature of rising to the occasion when least expected, one can expect the round of 16 finish from the West Africans.






2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 23

Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United).

Defenders: Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor), Tyronne Ebuehi (Den Haag), Elderson Echiejile (Brugge), Bryan Idowu (Amkar Perm), Chidozie Awaziem (Nantes), William Ekong (Bursaspor), Leon Balogun (Brighton), Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa).

Midfielders: John Obi Mikel (Tianjin TEDA), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Oghenekaro Etebo (Las Palmas), John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva), Joel Obi (Torino).

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Leicester), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone)


2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 24

Captain: Essam El Hadary
Best World Cup Finish: Group stage (1934, 1990)
Manager: Hector Cuper
Debut: Italia 1934
No of Appearances: 3rd

Despite being the record winners of the African Cup of Nations with 7 trophies to their cabinet, 2 runners-up medal and three 3rd place finishes, the Pharaohs have never passed the group stages in the last 2 appearances at the world cup. More surprising is the fact that during their six-year dominance on the African scene winning the AFCON from 2006 till 2010 they failed to appear on the world scene in Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.

Furthermore, both appearances at the world cup had a reasonably long period of absence in between them but after 28 years of missing out of the global fiesta Mohammed Salah rose up to be the savior, top scoring for Egypt with five goals during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification, including both goals in the decisive 2–1 victory over Congo, one of which was a penalty in the last minute to make the Pharaohs reach their first World Cup finals since 1990.

Although their recent friendly results have been poor with loses to Belgium, Portugal and Greece including draws with Kuwait and Colombia, Mohammed Salah’s recent fitness report should boost the Morales of the team and fans alike. The Liverpool forward was feared to possibly miss out of the world cup having being injured in the UEFA champions league final against Real Madrid in May.

With the new generation of talents coming from the North Africans led by legendary goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, Liverpool forward Mohammed Salah, West Brom’s Ahmed Hegazy, Arsenal’s Mohammed Elneny, the future looks bright and a round of 16 appearance looks possible after being grouped alongside the hosts Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia in Group.






2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 25

Goalkeepers: Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed El-Shennawy (Al Ahly), Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly)

Defenders: Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Saad Samir (Al Ahly), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Mohamed Abdel-Shafy (Al Fateh), Ahmed Hegazi (West Brom), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC);

Midfielders: Tarek Hamed, (Zamalek), Shikabala (Zamalek), Abdallah Said (Al Ahli), Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Mahmoud Kahraba (Al Ittihad), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Mahmoud Hassan (Kasimpasa), Amr Warda (Atromitos Athens)

Forwards: Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)


2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 26

Captain: Cheikhou Kouyaté
Best World Cup Finish: Quarterfinal (2002)
Manager: Aliou Cissé
Debut: Korea/Japan 2002
No of Appearances: 2nd

Senegal are one of the three African teams to go unbeaten during the qualifiers (others being Egypt & Nigeria) and that’s not to say their journey to the finals was devoid of drama.

A 2-1 defeat to the South Africans in their second game was later annulled when the referee was found to have manipulated the match by awarding a penalty for a non-existent handball.

Aliou Cisse’s team then drew their next two games with Burkino Faso before getting back on track with a 2-0 win in Cape Verde. Qualification was secured with a 2-0 victory in the rescheduled match with South Africa in Polokwane.

The Teranga Lions of Senegal will be appearing at their 2nd world cup after their debut in 16 years ago where they handed a shock defeat to the champion, France at the group stage before going further to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Led by the likes of Saido Mane, Keita Balde, Senegal finished atop their qualification group which had Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and South Africa and they will hope to replicate the records of the legendary team of 2002 which had current team coach Aliou Cisse, El Hadji Diouf, Papa Diop and co which went all the way to the last 8th of the competition.

Their warm-up matches to the world cup have not been impressive either drawing against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, and Uzbekistan while losing to Croatia before posting a morale-boosting 2-0 win against South Korea in their last warm-up game. They will face Poland, Japan and Colombia in Russia






2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 27

Goalkeepers: Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya AC), Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes), Alfred Gomis (Torino)

Defenders: Kara Mbodji (Anderlecht), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Moussa Wague (Eupen), Saliou Ciss (Angers), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux), Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor), Armand Traore (Nottingham Forest), Salif Sane (Hannover 96)

Midfielders: Pape Alioune Ndiaye (Stoke), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Cheikh N’Doye (Birmingham)

Forwards: Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Diao Balde Keita (Monaco), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes), Diafra Sakho (Rennes), Moussa Konate (Amiens), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke), Mbaye Niang (AC Milan).


2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 28

Captain: Mehdi Benatia
Best World Cup Finish: R16 1986
Manager: Herve Renard
Debut: Mexico 1970
No of Appearances: 5th

The Atlas Lions are Africa’s most in-form team ahead of the World Cup having gone 10 games unbeaten (winning 8 and drawing 2) in all competitions since their 1-0 loss to Cameroon in the 2019 AFCON qualifier played in June 2017.

More impressive is their qualification record where they got 4points each from their group opponents which consisted of Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Mali scoring 11 goals and conceding none, going undefeated throughout the qualifiers. Their form was translated to their home-based team who went on to win the 2018 Championship of African Nations (CHAN) on home soil defeating Nigeria 4-0 in the final.

Ayoub Elkaabi who was the top scorer in that competition earned a call-up from the national team which also includes Hakim Ziyech, Nordi Amrabaat and Achraf Hakimi by coach Herve Renard to the main team for the world cup; their first since France 1998. They may have defeated Slovakia, Uzbekistan, Serbia, and Estonia drew Ukraine in their warm-up games however, they face a mission impossible to qualify from Group B at the world cup where they are grouped alongside 2010 champions Spain, European champions Portugal and Iran.






2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 29

Goalkeepers: Mounir Mohamedi (Numancia), Yassine Bounou (Girona), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger)

Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (Lille)

Midfielders: Mbark Boussoufa (Al Jazira), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Amine Harit (Schalke)

Forwards: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Aziz Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Mehdi Carcela (Standard Liege), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Youssef En Nesyri (Malaga)


2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 30

Captain: Aymen Mathlouthi
Best World Cup Finish: Group stage
Manager: Nabil Maaloul
Debut: 1978
No of Appearances: 5th

Russia 2018 is the fifth appearance for the Carthage Eagles at the world cup, despite their decent appearance record at the world cup the Carthage Eagles have failed to make any meaningful impact yet at the world cup, going out of the group stages on each occasion.

The North Africans had a relatively easy group during qualification after they were drawn with DR Congo, Libya, and Guinea. 6games 4wins and 2draws and an abysmal scoring record of 11goals in 6 matches were all they needed to for their first world cup in 12 years

Their top scorer Youssef Msakni has been ruled out with injury and it is left to see where Tunisians will draw their goalscoring inspirations from. Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri could be an alternative for set pieces but it is left to see what impact he will make against the likes of England, Belgium, and Panama in Group G.

However, they have posted impressive performances in recent friendlies, losing 1-0 to Spain, drawing 2-2 against Turkey and Portugal and posting 1-0 wins against Iran and Costa Rica.






2018 World Cup : African Hopefuls In Russia Profiled 31

Goalkeepers: Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab), Moez Hassen (Chateauroux), Aymen Mathlouthi (Al Baten)

Defenders: Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City), Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa), Dylan Bronn (Gent), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek)

Midfielders: Anice Badri (Esperance), Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (Al Ahli Riyadh), Ghaylene Chaalali (Esperance), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Saifeddine Khaoui (Troyes), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier), Naim Sliti (Dijon), Bassem Srarfi (Nice)

Forwards: Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ittifaq), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland)



1 – The only time Africa have hosted the world cup, in 2010 when South Africa had the honors. They could be joined by Morocco should the North Africans be awarded the rights on Wednesday 13th of to 2018 to host the 2026 world ahead of a joint bid from USA/Canada/Mexico.

2 – No African team has appeared at the quarter-final stage of the world cup on 2 different occasions, neither has any 2 African teams made the quarterfinals in one single world cup edition.

3- In fact since 1934 that Egypt made Africa’s bow at the world cup and despite 12 more teams following suit much later, only 3 teams from Africa have made the quarterfinals; Cameroon in Italia 1990, Senegal in Korea/Japan 2002 and Ghana in South Africa 2010

13- The number of African teams that have appeared at the world cup. The list is topped by Cameroon (7), Nigeria (6), Morocco & Tunisia (5), Algeria (4), Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa & Egypt (3), Senegal (2), Zaire, Angola & Togo (1)

19- is the age that makes Nigerian Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho the youngest goalkeeper to ever appear at the world cup. Nigeria’s team is the youngest team in this year’s tournament with an average age of just 25 years old.

45- the age that makes Egyptian legendary goalkeeper, Essam El Hadary the oldest goalkeeper and player to appear at the world cup eclipsing Colombia’s second choice goalkeeper to Brazil 2014 Faryd Mondragon’s record of 43 years old during the last World Cup.



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FIFA Congress To Decide Future Host Of FIFA Women’s World Cup™



FIFA Congress To Decide Future Host Of FIFA Women’s World Cup™ 34

Council assigns FIFA Women’s World Cup™ hosting decision to the football governing body’s Congress; also approves financial statements for 2020 and budget for 2022.

Meeting by video conference, the Council conferred to the Congress the decision to award Women’s World Cup™ hosting rights.

Until now, the decision has been taken by the FIFA Council, most recently in June 2020 when the hosting rights for the 2023 edition were awarded to Australia and New Zealand.

As the football governing body seeks to raise the profile of the women’s game, this represents a significant step to bring the Women’s World Cup in line with the flagship men’s competition.

The proposal will be put forward for a final decision by the 71st FIFA Congress, which will meet virtually (for the second time) on 21 May.

FIFA Congress To Decide Future Host Of FIFA Women’s World Cup™

International match calendar and release of players.

The FIFA Council received a report on the international football situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bureau of the Council had extended to April 2021 the temporary amendments to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players regarding the release of players for international duty, and FIFA, the confederations, and its member associations remain in dialogue with national authorities about exemptions from quarantine rules for national team players.

READ ALSO: Mosengo-Omba Is CAF New General Secretary

The FIFA Council recognized that the highest priority in football is the health of the players, and therefore the discussion around the release of players for international duty must maintain this perspective, especially as the public health situation develops around the world.

2020 financials and 2022 budget

The Council also approved the organization’s Annual Report, which contains the financial statements for 2020 and the budget for 2022.

The FIFA Annual Report 2020 focuses on the role played by world football’s governing body in the fight against COVID-19, primarily through the unprecedented COVID-19 Relief Plan, which has made available USD 1.5 billion to support FIFA’s 211 member associations and the confederations through times of financial uncertainty.

The FIFA Annual Report 2020 is available on the official site.

FIFA Arab Cup 2021™

The Council approved the competition regulations for the FIFA Arab Cup 2021, confirming the match schedule and draw procedure for the competition taking place in Qatar from 1 to 18 December this year.




Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Fédération Internationale de Football Association.





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Paul Onuachu: A Victim Of Tactical Deficiency



Paul Onuachu: A Victim Of Tactical Deficiency

Ever wondered why Genk forward Paul Onuachu has always been a prolific figure for his club and find it hard to replicate that form with the Super Eagles when invited?

The Nigeria international has been in awesome form for the Blue-White, scoring 26 goals in the Jupiler League this season for Genk, while his scoring prowess at his club has been a contrast to his form with the national team under Gernot Rohr scoring just once in 9 games despite being a top performer at club level.

Ahead of the AFCON qualifier doubleheader against Lesotho and the Benin Republic, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr named his 23 man list with the inform former Midtjylland forward listed as one of the standby players.

Onuachu’s struggles with the Super Eagles in previous games he featured is quite baffling, considering the excitement that greeted his first appearance with the national team plus the impressive form he’s currently in.

The job of every manager is to find a suitable position or fashion out tactics that would be suitable for their players in other to blend with the team approaches to every match. In Onuachu’s case, he hasn’t been fortunate enough to blend in with Rohr’s tactics. While at club level, Midtjylland plays to his strength.

Paul Onuachu: A Victim Of Tactical Deficiency

However, due to Napoli’s players been restricted from traveling, the Genk forward made it through the backdoor to replace Gernot Rohr’s number one forward Victor Osimhen who hasn’t really hit the ground running with the ‘Partenopei‘, but when with the Eagles, he never fails to deliver.

It’s no doubt that the lanky striker has failed to deliver in his previous games, disappointing the ever-demanding Nigerian football enthusiasts with unforgiving backlashes from the fans. However, his prolific prowess with his club suggests otherwise and consistently makes a case for him to be integrated into the team with a different tactical approach that suits his style.

The era of a target man may have been long gone in football due to the advent of new tactics that have brought about a series of changes in the game. With managers preferring to go with a fast, skillful, or makeshift winger- kind of striker, instead of a target man.

READ ALSO: Super Eagles: 9 Players Who Netted On Debut

Looking at how Paul Onuachu plays with Genk upfront shows he’s one of the best target men in football, despite been perceived by many as a slow and old-fashioned kind of forward. However, John van den Bromm has been able to carve out a tactic that suits him which has been evident with his prolific form irrespective of his style of play.

Onuachu’s Super Eagle future might be on the knife-edge with Gernot Rohr not finding the right tactics that suit the Genk forward, especially with him not been consider as the go-to man despite his blistering runs of form in Belgium.

In recent times Rohr’s philosophy of vibrant attacking football with an emphasis on passing in the final third which requires the expertise of brilliant players to implement such tactics hasn’t really favored him.

Paul Onuachu: A Victim Of Tactical Deficiency

Having a player in the mold of Onuachu gives Rohr another tactical option and an alternative style of play should the initial approach fails to work as expected, but the German tactician hasn’t really taken advantage of what the man could offer with a different opponent.

Onuachu’s presence in the Super Eagles team should be an added advantage in terms of variety when the normal approach of the manager fails. With an in-form striker on the bench, it could prove valuable, but in the former Midtjylland’s case, Gernot Rohr doesn’t seem to see him as a player that has a future with the national team.

Players in the mold of the Nigerian are quite physically imposing as the point man, though they may not offer the team excellent off-the-ball movement in some cases. However, they often find a way to provide an opportunity which the team could utilize when attacking or defending.

Onuachu’s inability to show a good turn of pace and smart footwork may have been one of the deficiencies that are affecting his chances of blending perfectly into the team.

However, the job of a manager is to help players blend in perfectly, and that’s exactly what Gernot Rohr should be doing. Not only for Onuachu but for every other player who are always finding it hard to replicate club form with the National Team.





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