KESHI: To be or not to be?

The proverbial cat with nine lives Stephen Okechukwu Keshi will make a return as the head coach of the Nigerian senior national team; the Super Eagles if ‘reports’ emanating from various online media is anything to go bye. Surprised? Shocked? Dismayed? Astonished? You can go on and on with the adjectives to describe how you felt upon receiving or listening to the news that the self styled Big Boss would be returning to complete the qualification phase of the 2015 AFCON slated for Morocco.

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It is no longer news that we have two factions in the new NFF with Amaju Pinnick and Ambassador Giwa both claiming and seeking legitimacy in running the affairs of Nigerian football for the next four years with a supposed FIFA ban dangling over our heads. Is the Amaju Pinnick led board conceding the reinstatement of Stephen Keshi as part of conditions to remain as the legitimate and duly elected board of the Nigerian Football Federation? Does this not not show that the Amaju Pinnick led board is incompetent? What does Ambassador Chris Giwa gain from relinquishing his purported mandate?

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What compensation packages were discussed in the so called peace talks? How far did the Presidency have to bend to stop this impending disaster that we call football administration? Does this not constitute Government intervention? These and many questions will either remain unanswered or we will have answers to them in the coming months; however, I would like to narrow my sights on the potential return of Stephen Keshi.

amaju Pinnick

In the eyes of many Nigerian’s this NFF board may already start looking incompetent, why? The sacking of Keshi was the major pronouncement of this board as it swung into action to move our football forward. I have in the past supported their stance to potentially replace Keshi with a foreign manager, which I think is right as we need to take our football to the next level. Now, this sole pronouncement has now being supposedly nullified by the presidency, it sends a wrong message to the populace and also to Keshi if he takes the job back.  Keshi may start to think that he his bigger than the guys in the NFF glass house and not answerable to them; on this basis he would have learnt well from the Clemens Westerhof school of how to manage the Super Eagles and the NFF,  taking his problems to a higher authority (the Presidency); since it is clear who dictates the tune.

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What’s even more amazing is the purported press release by Amodu Shuaibu asking for Stephen Keshi to return for continuity purposes, stating to be Keshi’s friend and how close they are. Is that supposed to be our business? Mr Man, you have been given a job to do, do it. The level of unprofessional conduct of our coaches, is quite alarming; little wonder why local coaches continue to get shrouded in one corruption rumour or scandal. Where is it done that you would be given an appointment, make some noise about how proud you are to get the job, only to come two weeks later and start campaigning for the return of your predecessor? Only in Nigeria. Come to think of it, whatever happened to the offers from Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia etc? Was Keshi using the press to his advantage?

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If I were Keshi, I would not accept the job without an agreed contract in place or at least reopen negotiations. Nigeria has just shown desperation with the recall of Keshi and in a situation like this he can do as he pleases. To manage the Super Eagles again, Keshi must only work on the basis of a contract, all the aces are in his hands; but then what is to say he won’t under the blind patriotism bull he tries to sell us all. Its time to be professional, let us do things the right way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halftimeng EPL Team of the week (25/10/14)

What a weekend and what a way to end the weekend football madness that with a goal right at the death to steal a point for Manchester United in a cagey affair against Chelsea at Old Trafford. The big Performances were not entirely at Old Trafford, but spread over the whole of England as we got off to an extraordinary start to the weekend at Upton Park where West Ham put up potentially their performance of the season, I am tempted to include the entire West Ham back five in my team of the week, three of them still found their way into recognition.

My team of the week is as follows in a 4-3-3 formation:

Adrian+West+Ham+United+v+Southampton+Premier+39uWgy_odT5l

Adrian

A game many would have picked Manchester City to potentially win comfortably, West Ham made it very difficult and held on for a famous win with the efforts and great saves of Adrian a key factor in grabbing the maximum three points that place West Ham in the top Four. How do you like Big Sam now guys?

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Calum Chambers

Chambers is potentially looking like a big steal at £16 Million for the Gunners, after another impressive performance at Right Back at the Stadium of Light, I see him playing at Defensive Midfield eventually for Arsenal once they get all the wounded bodies back and firing.

Cresswell

Aaron Cresswell

What a cross to Sahko to put West Ham two goals up against Manchester City, his performance was not just about the assist, but his calm and steady performance facing the bombardment from the right side of Manchester City. He makes it into my team of the week in back to back weeks.

Collins

James Collins

Another of the West Ham heroes who makes it into the team of the week for the second time on the bounce. Solid precise defending, throwing himself at every ball, blocking with precision and standing tall, through out to put Manchester City at bay.

hangeland

Brede Hangeland

A free transfer from across town Fulham and Hangeland seems to be finding his feet at Selhurst Park, producing performances that once made him the target of many big teams in the EPL. He capped his solid performance with a goal as he drove Crystal Palace to a draw at the Hawthorns.

MIDFIELD

Alex Song

Alex Song

Barcelona to West Ham is obviously a number of steps down, but Alex Song has shown that he his willing to rebuild his career and what better way to do so that at a club on the up, playing some imaginative football with the physical approach still part and parcel of their fabric. Song’s performance is the closest I have seen of anyone muscling Yaya Toure in the midfield battle.

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Maroune Fellaini

Much Maligned, probably completely misunderstood and potentially misused. Fellaini went a long way in repaying the £27Million pounds United paid him in his last two games, to think it took Loui Van Gaal to get the best out of him as against a manager he worked with for a number of years is shocking to say the least. He kept Cesc Fabregas quiet through out and limited Chelsea’s fluidity in midfield, a top performance.

Sissoko Newcastle

Mohammed Sissoko

Worthy mention to Sammy Ameobi and Remy Cabella for changing the game as substitutes, but higher praise to Alan Pardew for having the guts to make a double substitution at half time. In all of this Mohammed Sissoko drove Newcastle forward from midfield whilst steadying the team in midfield when facing and onslaught from Spurs.

FORWARDS

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Alexis Sanchez

If player of the year awards were handed out now, I am sure Alexis would be one of those in contention. His quality just shines through and the gulf in talent and attributes continues to show when you look at the personnel around him; great performance gapped by a brace.

Mane

Saido Mane

Pace, trickery with an eye for goals. Mane has settled well into the premiership under the tutelage of Ronald Koeman. The former Red Bulls Salsburg player has also built a great understanding and relationship to Pelle and Tadic; this will continue to push the Saints in an upward trajectory.

Etoo Everton

Samuel Etoo

One of Africa’s greatest strikers. Talk about turning back the hands of time, such was the elegance and precision of Etoo’s performance that he came close to a hat trick but settled for a brace, both goals were great.

 

Manager of the Week

Big Sam Alladyce

If I find out Sam Alladyce went on some refresher course during the summer, I would not be surprised. West Ham are playing really good football, had a fantastic time in the transfer window with the quality brought in. All his detractors have taken a back seat now especially after the excellent performance in the win against Manchester City.

NPFL 2014 season; THE FINAL HOME STRETCH

When long distance Athletes hear the bell while running on the track, it only suggest one thing, Final lap! such is the case of the Nigerian Football Premier League. What makes a league competitive? Is it the amount of money in the league? Or is it the quality of players that ply their trade in the league? Yes, all these add up as incentives to make the league very competitive but nothing compares to having a league where the winner of it is not known until the final whistle is blown on the last day of the league.

Nwana

Fans are agitated, they go berserk for every goal scored, others go awry and gloomy when their hope is dashed. So much so have we seen so far in the NPFL, as the teams fighting for top spots as well as continental placement, slug it out on the field of play in the final three matches. As the Nigerian football professional League draws to a photo finish we take a look at the intricacies, the drama, the fear and the triumph that has characterized the league and will be in the offing when these three games are concluded in a fortnight. A conscious look at the those who can still make it to the top and maybe clinch the title for themselves and also those clubs that are confirmed for relegation.

Nembe

We kick off from the bottom half of the league where the battle to survive and avoid the drop is fiercely contested. Nembe city have been at the bottom of the league and consistently so as they have not for once moved out of the 20th position they are in since playing their first game in week five owing to the issues they had with the League Management Company on the remunerations of players. No wonder they were the first to be confirmed and condemned to play football in the second tier of Nigerian Football (NNL) next season. Twenty-eight points after thirty-five matches confirms their status as they await who joins them. Crown FC players might as well have given up hope as they lost scandalously at home to Enugu Rangers 3-nil in week 34.

Bayelsa United

The attitude and body language of the players suggest that they are just playing the remainder of the matches to fulfill all righteousness as even the Technical Adviser brought in to salvage any lingering hope, Bushari Akeem, said that he came in to see out the remaining fixtures of the 2013/2014 season. Kaduna United are placed 18th on the twenty-team log with are meager points of thirty-seven and they will need to win all their three remaining matches to have a realistic and mathematical chance of avoiding the drop. Taking a look at their final three games against Giwa FC at home, Sunshine Stars in Akure, and their home match to Rangers of Enugu, we can conclude that a team that has struggled away from home this season and with their team Manager in person of former Super Eagles player Garba Lawal already giving up hope and excuses for their dismal display this season, may just grab six points out of a possible nine and that will surely not save them from relegation.

Gombe-United-FC

 

So, who joins these three clubs for the last slot? Giwa FC (who have been banished to Abuja for their remaining home matches and still have two games in hand) will fancy their chances of avoiding the drop as they sit on 13th with 49 points. Elkanemi Warriors, FC Taraba, Gombe United and Bayelsa United have just six points separating themselves and with three matches to go and nine points available, there is still so much to do to avoid the drop. All other clubs above these teams mentioned have done enough to maintain their status in the league next season.

Enyimba

Moving over to the top zone, where the battle to clinch the title Kano Pillars won in the last two seasons becomes fierce and raging. As much as eleven clubs still have a mathematical chance of toppling Kano Pillars who are seated in number one with 59 points. but lets have a look at just the top six teams and see how their last three matches could help their course.
Kano Pillars start off with an away match to Elkanemi Warriors home away from home as the Salisu Yusuf led team have adopted Sai Masu Gida turf as their home stadium and this might play well into the hands of the defending champion. But considering that Elkanemi Warriors are also trying to avoid the drop, they will fight to the last drop of their blood to maintain their status in the league. Kano Pillars then wait at home to already relegated club, Nembe City and their last match will be at the Aba international stadium with Enyimba FC in what might just be the deciding match.

Kano Pillars

For Warri Wolves who are seated in second with 58 points, they play Sharks FC  in Port Harcourt who are also in the running for a continental slot with their 51 points on 10th position, Paul Aigbogun then wait at home to play relegation strugglers, Gombe United in the penultimate match of the season in Warri before they travel to Lafia to play title contenders Nasarawa United.
Enyimba have their work cut out as they sit two places and two points behind league leaders and they play Nembe City away,Dolphins FC in Port Harcourt and Kano Pillars in Aba.

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Dolphins who are fourth on the log with 54 points play relegation strugglers Bayelsa United in Benin, home to Enyimba FC, and a final away game to Lobi Stars in Makurdi. John Obuh’s Rangers will want to keep hope alive as he still wants to finish in the top four but will have to scrape off points from relegation fighters Gombe United who will be at home, and then faceNasarawa United who also are contesting  for the title and a place in the continent at home before playing their final match away to Kaduna United.
Nasarawa United are placed sixth on the log with 53 points and still have a game in hand with Giwa fc; play Sunshine stars at home, then travel to Enugu to play Rangers before their final home match with Warri Wolves; it must however be said that Lobi Stars(53 points), Abia Warriors(52 points)Heartland(51 points), Sharks(51 points), Sunshine Stars(51 points), and Akwa United (51 points)still have something to fight for if they can get the desired result and hope that other results from other match centers go their way.

All in all, it leaves for an interesting final three games as these clubs chase continental slots and others avoid the drop.

Timi Owoeye (Pidgin Commentator)
Follow on twitter @timirhema

Its an El Classico Weekend

This is without a shadow of a doubt the biggest clash in club football, Spain remains the main attractions for the battle of two clubs that radiate varying political sentiments, but will the round leather game giving the victor the desired bragging rights and the necessary political will power. Many clashes hold varying importance in different countries, but none stands out like the clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona, this weekend gives us another installment of this colossal encounter.

This weekend we have big games, in Spain, England, France, Germany and Italy; we would as usual preview these games and also predict the likely outcome.

We start with the biggest game of the weekend with Spain our destination for this epic encounter:

Real Madrid v Barcelona:

Over the last four years or so; the El Classico has been mainly about the awesomeness of Lionel Messi and Cristano Ronaldo, everywhere you look, all you see is Ronaldo v Messi; however this clash is bigger that. Both teams are in imperious form going into this tie; Barcelona are yet to concede in La Liga, whilst Real Madrid are scoring for fun with Ronaldo in the form of his life and Messi is gunning for the record of La Liga’s all time leading scorer and we all know he loves to score against Real; he already has 21 goals against them. You will be forgiven if you expect this to be a training session of attack v defense; it will definitely be far from this.

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Luis Enrique has made this Barcelona side stronger defensively, not by virtue of the defenders that have been brought in, but by the level of protection offered as well as the compact nature of the team. Enrique knows Real Madrid quite well, having played there for five years; he will be relishing the opportunity of defeating Real at the Bernabeu. This game has the makings of a screen play, as added to the plot is the return of Luis Saurez from his ban for biting, he would be like a Lion that has been caged, ready to be let loose on the entire football world.

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From a tactical perspective, the major worry continues to be the work rate and defensive qualities of Luca Modric and Toni Kroos in the deep lying and pivot position for Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid; on the basis of this; I wont be surprised if a changed is made to a 4-3-3; with Isco dropping back to play just in front of the aforementioned two; but a more expansive plan and approach that may aid a counter attacking approach may be to drop both Isco and James Rodriguez into midfield forming a midfield square or a flat four in midfield; this keeps Ronaldo and Benzema upfront available to pounce to catch Barcelona on the break, even though we are all aware that the Bernabeu would not like a counter attacking approach; but then expect Real to give as much as they get. Playing with the midfield square takes care of Messi dropping into space in midfield(in Barcelona’s 4-3-3) trying to create as preferably Isco would pick him up; asking Isco or James Rodriguez to do this may to far fetched, so we may have a surprise inclusion from Ancelotti.

Halftimeng Prediction: There will be goals, high score draw expected like a 2-2 or 3-3.

 

Manchester United v Chelsea

Some have labelled this the master v the apprentice, Louis Van Gaal has played that down stating that Jose Mourinho made his own success all by himself. I am sure this is the first time, Jose Mourinho would be going into a big game without some intense mind games in full glare, this time around it has been quite subtle, demonstrating the enormous respect between both managers.

Van Gaal

To the game proper, Chelsea remain undefeated in the Premiership dating back to April last season and some section of the media have said this Chelsea team can go undefeated for the whole season, just like the Arsenal invincibles of 2004 did. As is with most records, they are set just to be broken, with no other team more poised and competent to end unbeaten runs than Manchester United; you may say the composition of the team is different today, it still doesn’t change the fact that this is Manchester United, who are also due a really big performance to announce its top four ambitions.

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The core story in midweek for the game is the availability or otherwise of the Premier League’s top scorer, Diego Costa; believe me he will start for the blues. This Chelsea team can score goals a plenty,so also this Manchester United team, the only difference between both sides is the inability of Manchester United to not concede. Chelsea are undefeated in their last 6 games against Manchester United, this puts them in front has clear favorites. From a tactical perspective, the influence of Cesc Fabregas has been instant with 7 assist so far this season, meaning everything good about Chelsea’s play goes through him, so Van Gaal has to find  formula to limit his influence as well as that of the likes of Oscar and Hazard.

Halftimeng Prediction: Chelsea win looks very likely, but do not discount United for any reason.

 

Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayern Munich

Gladbach are undefeated in the Bundesliga after a series of great showings this early in the season lying in second place to Bayern Munich, this is a game where they can prove their early season form is not a flash in the pan. Bayern Munich are scoring freely and are fresh from the resounding Champions League victory where they put seven past Roma in Rome.

Pep Guardiola is spoilt for choice in virtually every area as well as with his choice of what system to play; the calming influence of Xabi Alonso and the intelligence of Phillip Lahm continues to drive the team from midfield. You really cannot look beyond Bayern Munich for this one with only two goals conceded and 21 goals scored so far in the Bundesliga; Bayern are imperious.

Halftimeng Prediction: Bayern to win

Sampdoria v Roma

What better way to enter a Serie A game for Roma than an away fixture to get their minds off the football lesson received in mid week in the Champions League from Bayern Munich. Sampdoria under Sinisa Mihajlovic  could not have wished for a better start to the season especially under their new ownership. Sampdoria have looked quite good this season rising to third so far, but in front of them lie a number of big games over the next couple of weeks, which would test their mettle.

Roma need to wake up and bounce back from the nightmare that was the Champions League, a game against Sampdoria, a team they have defeated in their last three encounters; however, Sampdoria are u defeated in their last three home games, so this should make for a feisty match.

Halftimeng Prediction: Score Draw

AC Milan v Fiorentina

The Viola have been greatly inconsistent this season with Five straight draws and a loss at home last week against Lazio in their last six games. Milan on the other hand have had a calm and steady start to the season; defeat to Juventus and unfortunately poor performances against Empoli and Cesena. Pippo Inzaghi has gotten Milan scoring goals, but defensively Milan continue to worry and capitulate.

Filippo_Inzaghi

Fiorentina continue to struggle with injuries and have had to convert Cuadrado to a striker to join youngster Babacar upfront, Montella has his work cut out to get a result at the San Siro, especially with the likes of Keisuke Honda showing great form for the Rossineri. Fiorentina have gotten the desired at the San Siro on their last three visits, so expect same of the same; although this may seem a difficult task in light of all the injuries and their inconsistent form thus far.

Halftimeng Prediction: Fiorentina to make it four wins on the bounce at the San Siro

 

Paris Saint Germain v Bordeaux

At the start of the season, Willy Sagnol along with Claude Makalele were singled out as new managers looking to earn their stripes on the big stage; Sagnol has done quite well keeping Bordeaux competitive and relevant in the title equation. Layrent Blanc welcomes his former side he led to a Ligue 1 title some years back without his two top strikers; Zlatan remains injured and Cavani is suspended for his Sniper like celebration.

Laurent Blanc might play without an out and out striker, but then has youngster Bahebeck available to lead the line with the likes of Pastore and Moura providing the necessary support. PSG have finally won two games back to back with their Champions League win, so confidence is definitely high and PSG have won their last five matches against Bordeaux.

Halftimeng Prediction: PSG Win

Lyon v Marseille

Call him what you like; Marcelo Biesla has gotten this Marseille side playing some good football and introduced some defensive solidity with the intense pressing game and style he has introduced with his 3-3-3-1 formation. Marseille look a different team from last season, moreso a lack of European distractions helps the team to focus on conquering the domestic terrain.

Lyon have been in good form lately, winning well and scoring goals, with Lacazette their stand out player thus far, two of Ligue 1’s in form teams go head to head in what promises to be an explosive encounter. Marseille have won 8 games in a row and Lyon also have won their last four games. Lyon are defeated in their last 9 games at home to Marseille, a very key stat.

Halftimeng Prediction: A score Draw

 

There goes my weekend preview, do not miss out on all the great action across Europe.

Name still written in Gold

Arrogant, confrontational, edgy, selfish etc, call him whatever you want, use any adjective to describe Stephen Okechukwu Keshi; it does not take anything away from the success that characterized the Keshi era as manager of our dear Super Eagles of Nigeria.

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I have gone on various media outlet, radio and here on; www.halftimeng.com asking for the sack of Stephen Keshi, the reason was simple, I felt we had come full circle and the big boss had taken the team as far as he could. Once, this happens as is common in football the manager takes the blame and eventually gets the boot; however I struggle with the stats or historical data of how many managers have lost their jobs immediately after a victory; I am sure they are few, very few in fact.

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The sacking of Stephen Keshi did not come as a shock, it was the announcements afterwards that were shocking, but then that is a matter for another day. Keshi really should have left immediately after the World Cup since contract talks were not concluded (that’s if it commenced at all); it was the professional thing to do, but then what ensued afterwards as far as I am concerned is nothing but blind patriotism. On what basis, was Keshi being patriotic at the expense of been professional especially since he dealt with an unprofessional FA that has consistently failed to put its house in order. Keshi would have left the job with his head held up high, leaving when the ovation is loudest is an essential commodity and quite invaluable too, a number of great men have suffered the same fate and will continue to suffer the same fate.

I am fully behind the idea of getting a first class foreign coach (as said by the new NFF President), now the issue with this are quite extensive, but can be narrowed down to the following:

  1. What is the definition of a First class foreign coach?
  2. Can we afford it?
  3. Is the Nigerian environment enabling?
  4. Will this foreign coach be willing to get down and dirty?
  5. What does this portend for the NPFL Players?
  6. Are we willing to give him time to develop our game?

For all of Keshi’s shortcomings, he provided us answers to all of these and no other local coach does that, forget the so called consortium of coaches, who for me you can not quantify their achievements in actual trophies and laurels over at least the last five years.

keshi3

The Big Boss’s cup was fully, public opinion was swayed against him from the World Cup and the record on the pitch didn’t do much to inspire confidence in the populace. Two wins in Thirteen matches does not make good reading on the pages of newspapers or on your Radio or Television Sports shows. It was time to go and the time was now; even if Keshi had the aces in his hands at some point. As they say in Poker, the NFF read and called his bluff as he had dealt a wrong hand and was not in any position to actually bluff.

Keshi Patriot

Its time for Nigeria to move on and charge a new course for our football, focus on providing a new long term plan, setting milestones for reviews and appraisals with minimum requirements in place. Creating a blue print to develop grass roots football to evolve in the development of youth football, eliminating age cheating and the so called win at all cost syndrome with a view of ensuring that over a space of five to ten years; we can see that an appreciable number of our youth internationals have made the necessary step up to the Super Eagles. All this will only be achievable if we continue to fund our league properly and make it attractive for players to continue to compete in it with the view of being considered eligible to play for the Super Eagles.

Keshi_ChallengeCup2013

Whether we like it or not the Stephen Keshi legacy remains intact as he has left an indelible mark on our game, made us interested in our League again with the emergence of the likes of Mba, Agbim, Ogbabona, Egwueke etc. He has achieved the minimum requirement of success for a Nigerian coach, joining greats like Clemens Westerhof, Bonfrere Jo, Otto Gloria; interestingly he is the only ‘Local’ coach to in such exalted company; hence his name will forever be written in Gold.

Halftimeng EPL Team of the Week (19/10/14)

What a goal laden weekend we have just had. From the north to south, it was goals galore this weekend with Saint Mary’s of all places taking centre stage. We chronicle the performances that left us on the edge of our seats and the ones that will make us ask for more next weekend from the English Premiership.

Halftimeng.com EPL Team of the week in a 4-3-3 formation is as follows:

Hart

Joe Hart

In a quite open and attacking game at the Etihad, the citizens goalie was the difference between his team going behind early with a string of solid saves, he also went on to save a penalty for good measure.

coleman

Seamus Coleman

His injury over the last few weeks deprived Everton of a solid attacking treat from his Right Back position, upon reintroduction to the side, he capped a wonderful performance with a goal. Everton arguably have the deadliest attacking full back duo in the Premiership.

Cresswell

Aaron Cresswell

It was a tough call picking the best left back this past weekend, as the perennial custodian of the position Leighton Baines had another great weekend, but Aaron Cresswell put in a solid, composed performance for Big Sam’s rejuvenated West Ham, also helping the team’s course with an assist.

Collins

James Collins

Big, Tall defender; prone to the odd mistake here and there; just the kind of defender in the Big Sam mould, but on this occasion he stood tall with a solid performance for West Ham to continue its impressive start to the new campaign.

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Marc Wilson

Stoke have struggled to find consistency early on this season, however Marc Wilson has been impressive in his defensive position forming a great partnership with Ryan Shawcross to lead Stoke to victory over Swansea.

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Muhammed Diame

Beast of a midfielder, has settled down effortlessly at Hull City and was colossal at the Emirates to keep the more illustrious Arsenal Midfielders at bay. Strong on the ball, driving runs from deep midfield and with a keen eye for goal, an all round midfielder.

Sigurosson

Gylfi Sigurosson

Even in defeat Gylfi was involved in all that made Swansea tick in their loss to Stoke at the Britannia. Since his return to the Welsh club he as slotted in effortlessly and is involved in all their incursions forward.

Oscar

Oscar

There must be something about that number 8 jersey, what a strike to open the scoring for the Blues from a dead ball situation reminiscent of his predecessor.

tadic

Dusan Tadic

We can make a list of players that have moved from the Eredivisie to the Premiership that have failed to make the grade, we can also compile another vice versa; Dusan Tadic continues to show that the talent from the Dutch game remains excellent; crowing a great performance against Sunderland with a goal and 4 assists.

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Sergio Aguero

What more can I say that has not being said already about Kun Aguero; four goals that could have been 5 with a minutes to goals ratio of  108 minutes per goal. The top scorer’s chart is gradually shaping up.

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Graziano Pelle

I am tempted not to write anything on him because I may have used his lines to credit Tadic, but then the new Italian international follows the foot steps of the likes of Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Jon Dahl Tomasson to have made the move to England with ease. Two great goals to his credit over Sunderland over the weekend and a potential goal of the season some weeks back.

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Manager of the Week:

Ronald Koeman

A lot was said about his inability to keep hold of the Saints better players from last season, after overseeing a clear out of some sorts, he got down to business to sign his own players and the rest they say is history. Southampton’s great start has been quite encouraging and thrilling, the brand of football played is excellent.

This Weekend (17/10/2014)

Its the weekend after another long and torturous International week, that seemed like it would never end. Well fear no more as League Football returns to your screens with all the excitement we have come to know and cherish about football between our favorite clubs across the world.

This week, we will make stops in England, where Manchester City look to close the gap on table topping Chelsea; when they welcome Tottenham Hotspurs; in Italy we have a double dose of big games as Fiorentina host Lazio on the back of an impressive home win over Inter Milan before the International break and Inter look to bounce back as they host Napoli at the famous San Siro with stops in Holland and Germany.
Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspurs

Manchester City have mid week distractions with a CSKA Moscow double header to worry about, however the bread and butter of League Football should remain their key focus as Tottenham Hotspurs come visiting at the Etihad. Tottenham under Pochettino have had a Jerkyl and Hyde type season so far especially with the inconsistent form of the likes of Christian Eriksen and Emmanuel Adebayor. Manchester City have won their last 4 matches against Tottenham Hotspurs and have looked quite comfortable in the games between both sides lately. The Citizens can close the gap on Chelsea with a win here and most be considered favorites to win this one as they have put eleven goals past Spurs in their meetings last season even though Spurs were under a different manager.

Verdict: City to win comfortably.

Internationale v Napoli

Inter Milan look like a strange side these days, two straight loses against Cagliari and Fiorentina; with the defeat to Zeman’s Cagliari side at the San Siro a major worry. Walter Mazzarri’s Inter look a shadow of the team that started the season on a fine note and are struggling defensively with seven goals conceded in their last two games with a number of injury worries. Napoli, on the other hand have bounced back from a rather mucky period of time with seven points from their last three games steadying the ship and reducing the pressure on Rafa Benitez.

The battle between managers who have coached both sides at previous times looks like a draw; but both teams with their managers need a win to reduce the pressure that they are currently under.

Verdict: High scoring draw expected.

Fiorentina v Lazio

Fiorentina are a team that continue to impress me with their tactical approach and application under Montella. The Viola will be going into the match on the back of an impressive performance against Inter Milan before the international break and are currently on an unbeaten streak of 5 games in the League, but are just behind Lazio on the table by goals difference. Lazio have had some good visits to Fiorentina with victory on the last visit by a solitary goal, even though the head to head between both sides is quite close. Lazio go into the clash with a number of absentees with Fiorentina still missing Guiseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez; so Montella will call on youth prodigy, Khouma Babacar who scored a stunning golazo against Inter Milan.

This is another clash that looks like a draw is very likely but then I would not rule Montella’s Fiorentina to get a result.

Verdict: A draw looks most likely, but I think Fiorentina can nick this.

Twente v Ajax

Ajax haven’t had the best start to the defense of their Eredivisie title with PSV leading the way in Holland, a visit to tricky Twente( the last team to win the title prior to Ajax recent dominance) who are still undefeated in the league thus far, but Ajax are undefeated in their last 6 matches against Twente in all competition; so they most go into this game as clear favorites, but continental distractions in mid week may be their undoing.

Verdict: Ajax to get the result on the road.

Bayern Munich v Werder Bremen

In years past this would have been a title game or title decider; but currently this is first vs last in Bundesliga; but you cannot take away the antecedents of Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich look impeccable and are clear favorites for this tie, with eight wins from the last nine matches against Bremen.

Werder Bremen have the worst defense in the Bundesliga after eight games, how they would restrict the game being a white wash will be Robin Dutt’s major headache. Bayern are missing a number of players especially midfield, but their strength in depth will see them through this tie comfortably.

Verdict: FC Hollywood to win comfortably.

African Women Championship: Match Day 2 Wrap

large_l_Nigeria celebrateA total of 14 goals were scored in 4 games on match day 2 at the ongoing African Women’s Championship in Namibia with Nigeria responsible for 6 of the goals against Zambia and became the first team to qualify for the Semi finals.

Here is a quick summary of what went down on Match day 2:

nigeriaIn group A, Nigeria proved too strong for Zambia, as the Super Falcons ran out 6-0 winners on Tuesday amassing a total of 10 goals scored in two games and conceding just 2 goals. A brace from Desire Oparanozie (taking her tally to four goals) and further strikes from Ngozi Okobi, Ohale Osinachi, Asisat Oshoala and Perpetua Nkwocha ensured a comfortable win for the six time winners. Ngozi Ebere was voted as the TN Mobile WOTM.

The other game in group A left the Brave Gladiators heartbroken late on as the Elephants ran out 3-1 winners to silence the home crowd and pick up their first win of the tournament. Captain Estelle Nahi was on target as well as Ines Tia who bagged a brace on the night. Impressive Zenatha Coleman had equalized for the host but it wasn’t enough. TN Mobile WOTM was Fatou Coulibaly.

On Friday, the final round of group matches will be played and Nigeria’s Super Falcons will come up against their Namibian counterparts in a game that the hosts need a result to keep qualification hopes for the next round alive. In the other game that will be played simultaneously, Les Elephantes will be looking forward to picking up their first ever last four with a win over Zambia who are also hoping to bow out of the competition on a high after suffering two losses.

cameroonIn group B, Cameroon secured a comfortable win over Algeria and qualified for the semi finals with a game to spare with Deborah Enganamouit who was voted as the game’s WOTM scoring in each half to record their second win of the tournament. Algeria finished the game with ten players after Fethia Bekhedda was given her marching orders.

Meanwhile, Ghana and South Africa couldn’t go past Algeria on the log as both sides shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw. South Africa’s Mpuni Nyandeni was making her 100th appearance for the team and she was voted TN Mobile WOTM after a good performance. Elizabeth Cudjoe scored for the Black Queens after Octovia Nogwanya had given Banyana Banyana the lead.

On Saturday, West African side Ghana face a big task when they meet Cameroon in their last Group B clash with a much needed win and will be hoping for a favorable result in the other group game that will see South Africa take on Algeria.

PLAYER RATINGS: NIGERIA 3-1 SUDAN

Eagles-Getty-images-e1413400518702Nigeria boosted her chances of qualifying for the 2015 African Nations Cup yesterday after downing Sudan by 3 goals to 1. The Eagles did raise their game on a rainy night in Abuja and the fans were not disappointed at the end of proceedings but the Press was because the winning coach and his players failed to show up for Post-match briefings.

Ahmed Musa had given Nigeria the lead when he pounced on a great move from Mikel Obi, to give the Eagles the lead. Minutes later, the Nigerian defense were caught napping and the visitors equalized through, debutant Aaron Samuel also capitalized on a mix-up in the Sudanese defense to score Nigeria’s second and then Musa sealed victory with his second of the night when he stole the ball from a defender and smashed home expertly.

Nigeria is now third on the log in group A with four points, three and four points adrift of Congo and South Africa respectively while Sudan returns to the bottom with three points.

Here is a quick review of the Nigerian players that featured in the game.

My player ratings:

STARTERS:

Vincent Enyeama (8): Despite not being able to keep a clean sheet, the shot stopper did enough on the night.

Juwon Oshaniwa (6): justified the coach’s decision to play him rather than Eldesrson Echiejile.

Kenneth Omeruo (6): Omeruo had a fair game, was ball watching when the visitors equalized

Godfery Oboabona (5): Also culpable of ball watching alongside Omeruo, yet to get back to his best.

Ogenyi Onazi (7): Good game he had, played more adventurous despite been asked to play in the right back position (Can’t blame him much though) He was less aggressive on the night as well.

Mikel Obi (7): He was efficient for the team.

Raheem Lawal: (7): With more good performances like this, he might soon become a regular starter, Played well.

Hope Akpan (5): Fair game.

Emmanuel Emenike (7): Didn’t get on the score sheet, showed some desperation at some point in the game, work rate was high but most of his final balls were very disappointing.

Aaron Samuel (7): Looks like the China-based player will soon be a regular based on today’s performance, scored a good goal as well.

MUSAAhmed Musa (9): Provided a man of the match performance with two well taken goals.

SUBSTITUTES:

Gbolahan Salami (4): Nothing much from the Warri wolves’ striker.

Sone Aluko (5): Has got the spark, more playing time probably needed and fair game for the Hull City man.

Osaguona Ighodaro (4): Bright prospect no doubt…couldn’t do much as well

The King is dead, long live the King

It is no longer news that our darling Super Eagles are bottom of the AFCON 2015 qualification group with only one point from a possible nine. I cannot remember any time in the history of the Super Eagles that this has happened. As the saying goes, ”if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”; this has continued to be the focal point of Nigerian Football. The problems are more deep rooted than the reaction most Nigerians are giving, for me it is not about the coach and players alone; the team’s failure is our collective responsibility from the fans, the pundits and football administrators; we are all responsible for the current decay that is the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

For as long as I can remember under the guidance of Stephen Keshi and probably other coaches, it has been reported in various circles (however unconfirmed) that the composition of the Super Eagles continues to be self interest laden and not based on any form of merit or player’s individual form with consistent allegations of bribery, financial gratification and continued frosty relationship with some certain players. How on earth did we at anytime think we will get away with these kind of persistently lingering issues? All these blame pushing will get us no where. We need to tell ourselves the truth; why are we in this situation? The problems are deeply rooted, but our concern as always in Nigeria remains short sighted, we are where we are today because of the following:

keshi 5

Is Stephen Keshi solely to blame:

Yes!!!!! Why you may ask? Well he is to blame because if I were him I would have packed it in immediately after the World Cup when is contract had expired. Who carries on after his contract expires? First and foremost that is completely unprofessional and please there is no sentiment in business. Keshi’s relationship with the NFF and the Nigerian Football loving fraternity is purely a business transaction and should have been left as such; devoid of all this patriot nonsense that is been peddled around.

If he had left then, he would have left with his reputation intact, his head held up high as having matched and achieved minimum standard of previous Nigerian managers. A Nations Cup victory, World Cup Qualification and second round qualification at the World Cup is only matched by Clemence Westerhof; on this basis Keshi should have left, sailed into the sunset and would not have to be taking the heat he is receiving now.

Delayed and Denied Contract negotiations

The continued on and off contract talks between Keshi and the NFF continued to be an unwelcome distraction. If you ask me, the NFF should have extended his contract from February 2013 immediately after the Nations Cup Victory that would have saved us from this heart ache that we are currently going through. Even if the Nations Cup victory was not good enough reason to extend his contract, World Cup qualification was achieved as another incentive or opportunity to seal the deal. I know Keshi’s supposed demands may not have helped, but in any contract negotiation, there is always a middle ground and that middle ground could have been attained at that period.

amaju

To Sanction or not to Sanction

In the last three months, we have flirted with expulsion from Fifa. As at today we have two NFF boards; even though an election was duly conducted as per assigned and ascribed FIFA guidelines; but then due to the selfishness of a few as well as the supposed marginalization of a certain ethnic group; two Boards exist. Also, there is the matter of that court injunction; that still remains an unresolved issue.

So tell me how do you expect to get results when the house is completely upside down and undecided. How do we expect the team to be properly administered?

Unusual Call ups and Complacency

During the Keshi Era, it was riddled with a number of unusual call ups and invitees to the National team. Enroute to AFCON 2013, Keshi named a large contingent of debutants for the tournament; a big gamble that paid off. He was praised for giving the home based lads a chance to show their worth; it was a welcomed injection of fresh blood to an otherwise lethargic bunch that failed to qualify for the tournament in 2012. Whilst this was heralded as a step in the right direction, it has become quite an unconvincing project with strange names joining the fold at the expense of more qualified and in form players.

Lets look at it critically, with the absurd call ups and continued consistent invitation of some players it led to complacency as certain players continued to feature with little competition for these positions, this is a recipe for disaster. For example, are we saying we do not have more than 7 defenders in Nigeria and Diaspora? Obagbona, Ambrose, Omeruo, Odunlami, Egwueke, Echiejile, Juwon Oshaniwa continue to get invited; we play the same back four all through with the exception of at the World cup when Elderson got injured. Our centre back pairing are now so complacent; no competition for their positions; hence the comfort and complacency.

oLISEHsiasia

All these sum up where we are right now and there is no hope that we will find a direction soon; different solutions have been proffered; however, if we think the problem is the coach, fire him by all means; oh!! sorry, he is not contracted to Nigeria, so he his not obligated to us in anyway and neither is Nigeria; but then the names being brandished are not the answer. Siasia and Oliseh have been mentioned; I ask again, what have they done to warrant their names showing up on different media; ,maybe its time to go foreign.

We have a new NFF Board right? Which ever one has legitmacy, should have a program to move our football forward. Meanwhile, maybe its time we move to the area where we have comparative advantage at least in Africa; the women’s game has been starved of funding compared to the men’s game, but these ladies continue to bring honour to this country; maybe its high time we focused on them; at least the Men are well paid at their clubs.

The current Kings of African Football seems to be on their way to the Mortuary, maybe its time for a new king to be crowned.