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Nigeria is the first team to book 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup ticket

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Five-time world champions Nigeria became the first African team to book a 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup ticket after 1-0 defeat of Angola in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday.

Olakunle Olusegun earned the ticket to the tournament semifinals and to Brazil 2019 when he hooked a 21st-minute penalty to the roof of the net with Angola’s goalkeeper Geovani stranded.

But the Golden Eaglets were guilty of profligacy and the technical crew certainly has much to do still.

As happened against host nation Tanzania on Sunday, the Eaglets proved to be masters of the use of space and close control, but they mostly lacked the right ideas and punch in the final third, just as some passes went astray at critical moments.

Two-goal hero against Tanzania, Wisdom Ubani could have been on the scoresheet in the 11th minute but his fierce effort from a 22 –yard free kick went narrowly off target.

Angola were not to be brow-beaten, as Zito latched onto the ball a few metres from the centre and unleashed a rocket that goalkeeper Sunday Stephen, in for the jittery Suleman Shaibu, did well to punch away.

Three minutes later, Stephen had to be alert to push away another fierce Angolan shot, but two minutes later, at the other end, Ubani’s swift turn and shot came quite close with Geovani beaten.

An Angolan defender handled the ball in the box under pressure in the 21st minute, and Olusegun made no mistake from the spot to put Nigeria in front.

They could have had many more, but Shedrack Tanko bundled against the upright in the 42nd minute when it appeared easier to score, and Olusegun’s effort to chip Goevani from a swift counter was well –read by the goalkeeper.

In the second period, the Eaglets’ profligacy continued, even after the Angolans were reduced to 10 men in the 51st minute as Jose Cabincano earned a second yellow card.

In the 53rd minute, Ubani’s stinging shot from 25 yards went narrowly over, and on the hour, when it appeared easier to score, Ubani passed the ball to onrushing Olusegun who missed from close range.

Substitutes Ibraheem Jabaar, Divine Nwachukwu and Peter Agba could not effect any improvement in the Eaglets’ game, and Nwachukwu even missed a glorious opportunity with six minutes to the end.

The win means that the Eaglets return to the FIFA U17 World Cup after missing out of the last edition staged in India two years ago.

Nigeria will certainly finish at the head of Group A if they avoid defeat against Uganda at the same venue on Saturday.

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UFC middleweight interim champion, Israel Adesanya causes stir at Lagos airport

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Sixteen years after taking his martial arts skills to New Zealand, Nigerian-born current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya stepped his feet on his fatherland yesterday.

The arrival of Adesanya, who defeated America’s Kelvin Gastelum during a UFC 236 fight in Atlanta, USA a few weeks ago, caused a major stir at the Murtala Mohammed International airport yesterday afternoon as immigration officers and other security personnel at the airport scrambled to shake his hand.

After a brief stay at the airport, Adesanya and his accompanying team zoomed off to an unknown destination in Lagos.

His father, Femi Adesanya told The Guardian in a telephone chat yesterday that Last Stylebender, as Israel Adesanya is fondly called, was in Nigeria to feel the environment, which he left about 16 years ago.

“Israel came home just to feel the environment, eat the local food and meet with the people. The visit is just like a holiday for him,” the senior Adesanya revealed from his base in New Zealand.

Adesanya’s victory at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, earned him the interim middleweight championship belt in one of the best title fights ever seen in combat sports history.

The Nigerian won via unanimous decision. He moved to New Zealand when he was 13.

Adesanya had defeated Brazil’s Anderson Silva in February at UFC 234 contest in Melbourne, Australia, but his battle against Gastelum, a Mexican fighter in Atlanta, was fascinating.

It was not clear yesterday if Adesanya will appear at any public function, but a source close to the fighter hinted he might hold a meeting with Ogun State Governor Ibekunle Amusan before he returns to New Zealand. He hails from Odogbolu, Ogun State.

Adesanya trained in taekwondo briefly during his primary school days at Opebi, Lagos before he relocated to New Zealand at the age of 13.

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Van Dijk Crowned EPL Player Of The Season

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Liverpool defender, Virgil van Dijk has been crowned the Premier League’s Player of the Season, just days after he won PFA Players’ Player of the season.

The Holland international, 27, who has been Liverpool’s key player in the 2018-19 Premier League campaign is now the third defender to win the trophy after Nemanja Vidic and Vincent Kompany. 

The winner was decided by a mixture of votes from fans, the captains of the 20 Premier League clubs and a panel of football experts.

Van Dijk who was signed from Southampton in a world record £75m deal for a defender in 2017, has four Premier League goals this season has also helped Liverpool keep 20 clean sheets in 37 games so far.

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Bayern Munich star, David Alaba speaks on how refusal to pay bribe stopped him from playing for Nigeria

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David Alaba, Bayern Munich star, has accused coaches of the Golden Eaglets of denying him the opportunity to join the Nigerian squad at the 2007 FIFA World Cup in South Korea because he refused to pay bribe.

The late Yemi Tella was in charge of the Eaglets at the time.

In an interview with All Nigeria Soccer,  Alaba called the Nigeria U-17 coaches, “jokers” and vowed not to have anything to do with any of them in future.

He claimed to have trained with Palanga midfielder, Haruna Lukman Abdulkarim, UB Conquense forward, Macauley Chrisantus and Slovan Bratislava’s midfielder, Rabiu Ibrahim ahead of the 2007 World Cup.

The 26-year-old was eligible to represent Nigeria but he switched to Austria, his country of birth, after that encounter.

Alaba, who was born in Vienna, capital of Austria, has a Filipino mother and Nigerian father.

Alaba has earned 68 caps for Austria, scoring 13 goals and represented the country at the 2016 European Championship.

On September 9, 2007, the late Tella led a team of youngsters to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

That was the third time Nigeria had that title after previous wins in 1985 in China and 1993 in Japan.

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