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Nigeria to face Ghana in WAFU Women’s Cup Semi-Final

The Black Queens defeated the Falcons at the same stage via penalties last year.

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Image credit: AFP

Nigeria will face old rivals Ghana in the semi-finals of the ongoing 2019 WAFU Women’s Cup. The Super Falcons defeated Mali 2-0 on Tuesday in their final Group B match at the Stade Robert Champroux in Abidjan to top the group with the maximum 9 points.

Second half goals from Rafiat Sule and Uchenna Kanu sealed the win. Burkina Faso thrashed Niger Republic 5-0 in the groups other game.

Thomas Dennerby’s side will face Ghana who are defending champions of the tournament in the semi final on Thursday. Hosts Cote d’Ivoire will take on Mali in the other semi final on the same day.

The Black Queens defeated the Falcons at the same stage via penalties last year. The Super Falcons are using the tournament as part of their preparations for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France which kicks off on 7 June.

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Herve Renard resigns from Morocco coaching job after AFCON flop

The Frenchman had been in charge of Morocco since February 2016 and led the nation to the 2018 World Cup in Russia

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Herve Renard resigns from Morocco coaching job after AFCON flop
Morocco ex-manager Herve Renard. (AFP)

Herve Renard has announced his resignation as Morocco coach after a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations campaign that saw his side knocked out by Benin in the last 16.

“It is time for me to close this long and beautiful chapter of my life, not without some emotion and sadness, but it is an inevitable decision taken well before AFCON 2019,” said Renard in a statement. 

“Yes, we had all hoped better for this AFCON 2019. But this is football.”

The Frenchman had been in charge of Morocco since February 2016 and led the nation to their first World Cup in two decades in Russia last year.

However, their shock penalty shootout defeat to Benin came against a side reduced to 10 men in extra time and after Ajax star Hakim Ziyech slapped a spot-kick of his own against the post in the final seconds of normal time.

Renard has managed national teams across Africa and is the only coach to have won the Cup of Nations with two countries — Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast three years later.

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Senegal and Algeria set for rematch in AFCON final

It will be the first final to feature two local coaches since 1998

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Senegal and Algeria set for rematch in AFCON final | News Central TV
Sadio Mane of Senegal is challenged by Riyad Mahrez of Algeria. (File photo)

Sadio Mane’s Senegal and an Algeria side captained by Riyad Mahrez will attempt to secure their place in Africa Cup of Nations history in Friday’s final in Cairo.

Senegal, the 2002 runners-up, are desperate to end a long wait for a first continental title, while Algeria are looking to add to the trophy they lifted as hosts 29 years ago.

For Senegal, Africa’s top-ranked side, the ride to the final has encountered its share of bumps in the road but there is little doubt the showpiece at the 75,000 capacity Cairo International Stadium will feature the tournament’s two standout teams.

A Youcef Belaili goal gave Algeria a 1-0 win when the countries met in the group stage, but this time, there is no second chance with Cup of Nations immortality awaiting the victor.

“If you get to the final, the aim is obviously to win it. The game in the group stage wasn’t decisive but now it is and that’s the difference,” said Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi.

Senegal’s coach, Aliou Cisse is on a mission for personal redemption as the skipper of the side beaten on penalties in the 2002 final, when his missed kick handed the title to Cameroon.

“Having lost that final, I still have it on my mind,” said Cisse. “What motivated me to become a coach was to be able to take Senegal to the final. My players told me they would do better than my generation.”

“Algeria are a great team and we respect them,” he added. “We’re in the final now and determined to win.”

Liverpool star Mane is hoping to fulfil his “wildest dream” as one of just a handful of Africans to win both the UEFA Champions League and Cup of Nations.

“I’m ready to even swap a Champions League for a Cup of Nations. Going to Dakar with the trophy would be extraordinary. It would be my wildest dream,” Mane told France Football ahead of the competition.

Standing in the way, however, is an Algerian outfit that has undergone a remarkable transformation since the arrival of the straight-talking Belmadi as coach a year ago.

Senegal missing banned Koulibaly –

The Desert Foxes crashed out of the 2017 edition in the first round and flopped badly in World Cup qualifying, but former Qatar boss Belmadi has healed divisions in the squad to lead his nation to the brink of a first continental crown on foreign land.

“To the Algerian people, I want to say I’m not a politician, not a miracle worker or a wizard, but that we will fight like we have fought to this point,” Belmadi said after the 2-1 semi-final win over Nigeria.

Algeria owed that victory to a stunning last-gasp free-kick from Mahrez, who is craving further honours here after a domestic treble with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

“We are very happy to be in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations because it is something very special,” said Mahrez.

“It was our goal to do it for the people and for our families. We know they are behind us all the way. It’s my dream to win the Cup of Nations.”

It will be the first final to feature two local coaches since 1998, when Mahmoud El Gohary’s Egypt defeated Jomo Sono and South Africa 2-0 in Ouagadougou. 

Senegal had already lost first-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to a broken finger and must now do without defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly, who is suspended after two yellow cards in the knockout phase.

The occasion will also mark the climax, not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands.

In April, long-standing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned after weekly Friday protests against his expected candidacy for elections, and football fans have been heavily involved in demonstrations.

Algeria will have the backing of an additional 4,800 supporters for the final. Some of them will arrive in Cairo on military planes organised by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who has also been a target of the demonstrations.

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Nigeria’s Mikel Obi retires from Super Eagles’ nest

Mikel won 89 caps and scored six goals between 2005 and 2019 for the Super Eagles

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Nigeria's Mikel Obi retires from Super Eagles nest
(File photo)

Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel on Thursday called time on his international football career after helping the Super Eagles to third place at the Africa Cup of Nations. 

“At the age of 32 it’s time for me to retire from the national team and let the youth take over, who’ve done an amazing job securing a bronze medal at AFCON 2019,” the former Chelsea midfielder announced on social media.

“Egypt is a country where I’ve started and have finished my national career. In 2006 I played my first official championship for my country.”

“The 2019 African Cup of Nations marks my last championship for national team with Super Eagles.”

Mikel won 89 caps and scored six goals between 2005 and 2019 for the Super Eagles during which he won a winners’ medal at the 2013 Africa Cup in South Africa.

He also led Nigeria to win a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil as one of the over-aged players.

He was absent in the qualifying tournament for this year’s Africa Cup in Egypt soon after the 2018 World Cup, but returned for the tournament proper, where he featured in two matches before he was sidelined by a knee injury.

He signed for Turkish club Trabzonspor as a free agent after he failed to win promotion to the Premier League with English Championship outfit Middlesbrough during the past season.

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