MY THOUGHTS ON VAN BASTEN’S PROPOSED CHANGES TO FOOTBALL

So news broke sometime last week that Dutch legend and FIFA Technical Director, Marco Van Basten came up with his 8 point plan to revamp the rules of football which he feels will suit the modern era better and keep the game more attacking and intense, this radical proposal which stems from other sports like Basketball and Ice hockey follows swiftly after Fifa President Gianni Infantino’s obsession about expanding the World cup and pushing for a 48 team World cup (one this writer has objections to) which should start from the 2026 tournament got rubber stamped recently by the ruling council.

Now back to Van Basten’s ideas, a lot of bedlam and criticism from all corners have hit the social media since they got revealed, but before we go any further, here is a quick look at some of his suggestions;

• No offsides, he claims the rules are not clear enough and always lead to discussion.
• The introduction of Sin bins and orange cards, this is comparable to getting fouled out after 5 offences
and the player gets 10mins to cool off in the sin bin.
• No extra time, we go straight to penalties.
• Games split into 4 quarters rather than 2 halves, basketball lovers will understand this.
• Change in how penalties are taken, he wants it to be replaced with an 8 seconds run from 25 meters similar to what we have in Ice hockey and once experimented in the MLS.
• Only captains should be allowed to talk to Referees.
• The number of games played in a single season should not exceed 60 games.

“There is so much time wasting in football. We need new rules to do something against it…..” Van Basten

Image result for offside rule

 

Reactions

“We would return to the time of village versus village, and at the time, it ended with players being killed…… the offside rule is a manifestation of collective intelligence. There would be no more collective spirit if the offside rule was removed. The rule is fundamental, if you do not understand that, you do not understand football” – Rennes Manager, Christian Gourcuff

“For me the major one is the offside. I can’t imagine what football would look like, but my first reaction is it’s impossible. Everybody would love to have a rest by the goalkeeper and just tap in the ball”. West Ham Manager, Slaven Bilic

“I think the most important in my opinion is not to change the offside, but to get really important decisions in the game right, and for that we need technology, then we can discuss about offside and about penalties. It is important to look to different sports what we need to change but I don’t think we need to change a lot.” Everton Manager Ronald Koeman

“Some of the proposals are worth discussing, some I don’t see any big interest. The one I find interesting is to suppress offside. Offside is what makes the team good together, it is an intelligent rule as well, it is important to keep that in the game”. Arsenal Manager, Arsene Wenger

My opinion

Whilst one is inclined to agree with some of the Dutch master’s thoughts, you can’t help but forgive those who thinks his plans to overhaul the rules of the game are that of a man who seemingly wants to kill the game that made him famous.

Having no offside rule in football will completely change the way the game is played or prepared for before getting to the pitch, defenders will lose the joy and discipline of keeping the offside line, attackers will lose the challenge and intelligence of breaking the line created to stop them with amazing unseen runs, midfielders will lose that magic or minute of sublimity that we associate with the likes of Andreas Iniesta, Luka Modric, Cesc Fabregas to cave out that killer through pass that will split even the tightest of defense, technically inferior teams will easily leave a man close to the opposing goal keeper whilst putting 9 at the back, hoping to just clear the ball all the way downfield with no rule to guide them. Remove the offside rule and you have successfully removed the soul of the game, it would be a free fall and fans will no longer be on the edge of their seats when the game is played. I agree the rule does have its controversies and should be subject to clarification, but it will only give rise to a sport other that football if it is taken out of the game.

Image result for penalty shoot out

The 8 seconds run for penalties is a NO-NO, after playing for 90 minutes, these tired legs are expected to do further time just to try beat the goalkeeper? It was tested during the opening stages of the MLS but was binned after it didn’t quite work out well, a kick from the penalty spot remains a fine plan.

My vote is a stay on 2 halves over 4 quarters. The Sin Bin and Orange cards looks too unpredictable.

Not sure many would lose sleep if extra time is removed, even though there are some games where we have enjoyed that extra 30 minutes more and only captains talking to the Referee is one that gets my full vote, protects the match official more and reduces intimidation.

Like all things is life, football is also subject to constant changes, but there is a reason why the sport is easily the most followed and this has to do with the simplicity of its rules, once we complicate this, we may just have another Cricket or Rugby where you see a player kicking a penalty with his leg yet making runs with the ball in his hands.

Football does not need wholesale radical changes.

MY CHELSEA/ MANCHESTER UNITED COMBINED XI

It is Week 9 in the ever exciting Premier League and the major battle ground shifts to Stamford Bridge this weekend in a game perfectly set up as Jose Mourinho returns to the ground where he has tasted both sour and glorious moments. It’s a fixture where big name players are on parade for both sides, De Gea or Courtois in one of the unending debates, Costa or Zlatan to lead the attack? Conte’s 3-5-2 formation or United’s 4-3-3. As we preview the weekend big games, Halftimeng has compiled a combined eleven of the two sides based on form, stats gathered and appearances thus far this season.

Goal Keeper – David De Gea (Manchester United)

There is an unending war on social media over how good De Gea really is, United fans loosely term him as the ‘best goalkeeper in the world’ whilst fans from the other side think he is still ‘learning work’ when compared to Belgian safe hands, Thibaut Courtois. This list is not one seeking to end that debate but stats shows that De Gea edges it this season, conceded a goal less than his Chelsea rival, and made twice as many saves in comparison, make of that what you will especially in the light of an unsettled back-line at the Bridge.

Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)

Again holding down the right back position is the Ecuadorian captain, Antonio Valencia, his opposite number Ivanovic has had a horrible start to the season, coupled with injury and has featured in less games. Valencia has earned this spot as he has been assured, solid and making decent forward runs.

Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Back in 2014 in preparation of a Champions league game, Jose in his post-match interview said ‘Azpilicueta is the kind of player I like a lot. I think a team with 11 Azpilicueta’s probably can win the Champions league’…. Two seasons later and these words still ring true as whilst the Chelsea defense has been in sixes and sevens especially after the injury to John Terry, Azpilicueta has been the Mr. Dependable and even when called upon to slot in at his favorite right back position in a 3-5-2 system, Cesar has been sterling.

Eric Bailly (Manchester United)

With every passing week, Eric Bailly seems to be the pick of United’s big summer spending this season, many swore that he would not go five games without amassing three red cards, but he has not only featured in all United’s game thus far, he has also fared exceptionally well with 29 interceptions, one of the highest by any defender in the league.

Daley Blind (Manchester United)

This is one position that will likely raise some form of arguments, but here are the facts. Based on stats, Blind is actually United’s highest rated player this season, factoring his tackles, interceptions, passes completion and the defender also has two assists to his name, the likes of Gary Cahill have not shown enough consistency or good performance thus far whilst David Luiz is yet to have enough games to stake a claim.

N’golo Kante (Chelsea)

The modern day Claude Makelele with modern day passing abilities, when Leicester City won the league, Kante was voted in some quarters as their player of the season ahead of the likes of Mahrez and Vardy, happenings at the Kings Power may have proved that right. The Frenchman whilst having been below par in some games has been an indispensable force for the blues this season, his ability to read the game well, interceptions and tackles, all round energy, ball retrieving and passing skills which many overlook makes him a solid weapon for any side.

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Ander Herrera (Manchester United)

My favorite United player makes the list based on his recent performances and more importantly aided by the fact that the likes of Fabregas and Oscar are yet to get their season going. Outside being the man of the match in the game against Liverpool, Herrera could easily lay claim to being the midfielder of the week following a season high 11 interceptions in a single game, seven tackles, six successful completed dribbles and a pass accuracy of over 70%.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Last week, I put the Frenchman in my Liverpool/ United combined XI and It led to a bit of debate in certain quarters, his two goals last night in the Europa league may have gone some way in calming the voices but Pogba has earned his place in this list and should have been credited with a glorious assist in the game against Liverpool if only Zlatan had his header properly directed.

Willian (Chelsea)

Almost tempted to go with Victor Moses on this one, following his last two starts as Conte’s team took a new shape and he capped it with his beautiful goal in the game against Leicester City but bar being allowed to go on leave following his family loss, Willian has been one of the Blues most consistent performers this season starting all seven games before last week and has created the most chances per game by any Premier league player this season.

Diego Costa (Chelsea)

Again this is not a list over who a better player is but one strictly guided by form and consistency, so it should come as a no-brainier really for Costa to take this place ahead of the big man Zlatan. I watch Costa play every week and despite many not liking his person based on his physicality or antics, the Brazilian who chose to play for Spain is the man you would want leading the front-line for your favorite team. He can play effectively as a lone forward with his strength and ability to hold up play, also good playing in a two man attack and with seven goals and two assists to his name already including the beautiful curler in the last game, no one is taking that number nine shirt from him.

Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

The golden boy of two seasons ago where he was the star when Jose Mourinho led the team to their last league title is slowly rediscovering that form that earned him his player of the season award. He seems to be flourishing in his new found free role, three goals to his name already and his runs keeping defenders on the edge.

AFCON 2015 TEAM-BY-TEAM GUIDE – GROUP B

Zambia – Fifa ranking: 46 – ACN best: Winners 2012

zambia

The core of the 2012 team is still in the current squad and they continued their run of consistency by qualifying for their fourth consecutive Africa Cup of Nations. Coach Honour Janza who claims he is honoured to be handling this team is looking at fresher prospects this year. Talents such as Ronald Kampamba and Evans Kangwa can add vitality to a Chipolopolo attack, while Emmanuel Mayuka looks to be the only experienced “Goto-Man”. In this group, they have been dubbed as outsiders but they will be looking to prove bookmakers wrong.

Tunisia – Fifa ranking: 22 – ACN best: Winners 2004

African Cup of Nations: Tunisia v Morocco

Since taking over a litle over a year ago, Coach Georges Leekens has effected a remarkable twelve-month turnaround for the Carthage Eagles. Leekens seem to have found the crux of this team and has instilled a solid approach that births victory. Champions 11 years ago, their preparations have been hit by a last-minute striker shortage. Edem Rjaibi and Ahmed Akaichi have come in to replace injured Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and Saber Khalifa, who both suffered muscle injuries but the North Africans are still one of the tournament favourites. They have much quality their squad, star player is Jamel Saihi and they came through qualification unbeaten in a group that included fellow finalists Senegal and Egypt.

Cape Verde – Fifa ranking: 40 – ACN best: Quarterfinals 2013

CapeVerde1-Getty

Cape Verde were the surprise package of the 2013 AFCON, they finished top of Group F and were the first team to qualify for the 2015 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. Look for Lille striker Ryan Mendes to have a particularly good tournament. I won’t be surprised this time if the Islanders make it at least that far this time with manager Rui Aguas banking on the likes of 26-year old midfielder Heldon Ramos – who was a revelation in 2013 and the striking force of Ryan Mendes and Ze Luis.

DR Congo – Fifa ranking: 56 – ACN best: Winners 1968, 1974

DR-Congo-National-Football-Team

Florent Ibenge’s side qualified luckily for this tourney as the best third-place side during the qualification campaign. They also have good players in Jeremy Bokila and Yannick Bolasie who will always provide an attacking threat to their opponents. DR Congo won the inaugural AFCON tournament and a victory over tournament favourites Ivory Coast in qualifying is proof of their ability to stun any team, so don’t rule them out of qualifying from this group.

Fixtures:
18 January 2015 – Zambia v DR Congo (Ebebiyin) | Tunisia v Cape Verde Islands (Ebebiyin)
22 January 2015 – Zambia v Tunisia (Ebebiyin) | Cape Verde Islands v DR Congo (Ebebiyin)
26 January 2015 – Cape Verde Islands v Zambia (Ebebiyin) | DR Congo v Tunisia (Bata)

HalftimeNG Prediction: Tunisia and Cape Verde Islands

AFCON 2015 TEAM-BY-TEAM GUIDE – GROUP C

Group C produced the last winners (Nigeria) at the last tourney, this group sure looks like it will produce this year’s winners. 

Algeria – Fifa ranking: 18 – ACN best: Winners 1990 – Nickname: Desert Warriors

Algeria's national soccer team players celebrate after the match against Russia at the 2014 World Cup Group H soccer match at the Baixada arena in Curitiba

Rightly dubbed as the group of death especially when it is seen that all the teams in this group are former winners. Starting with Africa’s number 1 team – Algeria have been impressive lately on the international scene and their clubsides have done brilliantly well in inter-clubs competition. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic guided them to the knockout rounds for the first time at the World Cup in Brazil last year narrowly losing to Germany – the eventual winners. A new manager in Christian Gourcuff has taken charge and if they continue with such a high-level performance in Equatorial Guinea, it might just be enough to see them take home the trophy. With experienced and quality players like Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli and Sporting Lisbon’s striker, Islam Slimani, skipper Madjid Bougherra and Djamel Mesbah, their chances in this tourney is by no means limited.

Ghana – Fifa ranking: 37 – ACN best: Winners in 1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982 – Nickname: Black Stars

ghana-players-enjoying-moment

One of the favourites are Ghana but it wasn’t an easy ride for the Black Stars during the qualifiers even though they still managed to finish top of Group E. Some unconvincing displays by the team that probably led to the appointment of Isreali coach, Avram Grant. They can still look up to players like Asamoah Gyan – who is currently suffering from a knock but his experience in this tourney will be very much needed, Andre Ayew and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu to lead them out of this tough exciting group.

Senegal – Fifa rankings: 35 – ACN Best: Runners-up in 2002 – Nickname – Teranga Lions

Senegal_team_web

Finished as runners-up in a tough qualifying group that houses two North African teams with Tunisia topping the group and Egypt missing out. Impressive during the qualifiers and fortunately for the Nation, their big players are up and running pretty well with their respective clubsides. Algeria and Ghana no doubt will be given a good run for their money by the Alain Giresse tutored side. With interesting players like Cheikhou Kouyate, Alfred Ndiaye, Mame Birame Diouf, Moussa Sow and Papiss Demba Cisse, you can’t rule them out of qualifying from this group.

South Africa – Fifa rankings: 52 – ACN Best: Winners 1996 – Nickname – Bafana Bafana

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There will be no time for teams to get comfortable in this group, with every point key given the competitive nature of the competition, and the opening game of the pool on January 19 could well prove to be the decider as the group pans out. South Africa take a resolute defensive side to Equatorial Guinea, where their so-called revival will be put to the test. Bafana Bafana will have to make do without captain and goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa who was tragically murdered several weeks ago. However, Mashaba has turned around the nation’s fortunes, having topped their qualifying group and prevented Nigeria from defending their title. The team had remained unbeaten since he took charge in his fourth spell with the team. Tokelo Rantie is a star player that needs to be watched carefully by opponents and Dean Furman is also another player to watch.

Fixtures

19 January 2015 – Ghana v Senegal (Mongomo) | Algeria v South Africa (Mongomo)
23 January 2015 – Ghana v Algeria (Mongomo) | South Africa v Senegal (Mongomo)
27 January 2015 – South Africa v Ghana (Mongomo) | Senegal v Algeria (Malabo)

HalftimeNG Prediction: Algeria and Senegal to qualify

AFCON 2015 TEAM-BY-TEAM GUIDE – GROUP A

SuperEagles1It’s no longer news that the defending champion of the Africa Cup of Nations will not be a part of the 30th edition of the continental showpiece due to her lackluster performance during the qualifiers that saw them crash out on the final match day to South Africa (who finished unbeaten in the group) and Congo Brazzaville. Another drama en-route the tournament was Morocco’s refusal to host the showpiece due to the Ebola outbreak in some parts of the continent and stepping up as replacements were Equatorial Guinea – who had initially been disqualified in the qualification series for fielding an ineligible player.

Away from all of the sitcom-like happenings, the Nations Cup is here and starting from Saturday, 17th January, 2015, one team will be looking to be victorious after six matches on 8th February, 2015 to be crowned as African champions.

afcon-groups1Bata, Malabo, Mongomo and Ebebiyin are the host cities of this year’s tournament.

The Equatoguinean government have taken measures to prevent Ebola from reaching their soil, including hiring the expertise of a team of Cuban doctors, but as for the football, many matches are likely to be played in front of largely empty grounds which has a total population of just over 700,000. The country does have experience of organizing the Nations Cup, having co-hosted the 2012 tournament with Gabon. The capital Malabo, on the island of Bioko in the Gulf of Guinea, and the largest city Bata, on the African mainland, both hosted games then and will do so again, with Bata the venue for the final.

Here is a daily team-by-team guide to Africa’s best soccer festival.

Equatorial Guinea – Fifa ranking: 120 – African Cup of Nations best: Quarter-finals 2012

ez-2Hosts Equatorial Guinea have dodged the biggest names in the tournament, but still find themselves in a tricky group. The Central Africans have limited time to prepare for the tourney but they have quite a handful of foreign based stars to bolster their chances. Their Coach, Esteban Becker was hired only a few days before the Jan. 7 deadline to submit a squad of 23 players. However, the Argentinian coach was employed as Equatorial Guinea’s technical director, so he has good knowledge of his players. Becker has also found success with the national women’s team, winning the 2012 Africa Women’s Championship.

Star Player is Juvenal, who was Equatorial Guinea’s standout player in 2012. A very good passer of the ball, Juvenal no longer has the legs to cover the ground he used to, but his 28 caps are a team high, so his accrued experience will be vital in Group A.

Burkina Faso – Fifa ranking: 63 – ACN best: Runners-up 2013

photo_1360564740036-1-0Burkina Faso have benefitted from a spell of stability and continuity as Paul Put renewed his contract with the Black Stallions. Put understands the importance of fielding a balanced outfit with talented forwards. He will pin his goalscoring hopes on Jonathan Pitroipa who led the continent in scoring with six conversions during qualifiers. Banished from his native Belgium in a match-fixing scandal, Coach Paul Put has found a second home in Burkina Faso and he has managed this side for about five years, guiding them to a second-place finish in the Cup of Nations two years ago, and just narrowly missing out on a World Cup appearance.

Star Player is Jonathan Pitroipa. The wiry winger has been a talismanic figure for the Black Stallions for several years now. Now Pitroipa seems to be in the form of his life, leading the continent in scoring during qualifiers with six goals. Aristide Bance is another striker to watch out for.

Gabon – Fifa ranking: 65 – ACN best: Quarterfinals 1996, 2012

615x340_foot_gabon_teamGabon are undoubtedly this tournament’s dark horses. The Black Panthers have quality up their spine from Bruno Manga in defence, to Ibrahim Ndong and Andre Poko in midfield, to Malick Evouna and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in attack. Coach Jorge Costa has revived the excitement around the Gabonese national team. Known as “The Tank” or “The Animal” in Portugal, Costa should be commended for developing a tricky 4-3-3 that makes Gabon Africa’s best counterattacking side.

Star Player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one of the best players in the world at using his pace on the counterattack. His sheer speed and complementary relationship with Malick Evouna are sure to cause countless defences problems at the Afcon.

Congo – Fifa ranking: 61- ACN best: Winners 1972

congoCongo can count themselves lucky to be in Equatorial Guinea. Were it not for Rwanda fielding an ineligible player, Claude LeRoy and his men would have been eliminated in the preliminary rounds. Nevertheless the Red Devils bounced back admirably and with talented individuals they just might be able to spring a surprise. In Claude LeRoy, Congo has the most experienced tournament coach in Africa. His previous success with Cameroon inspires his players, who will make their first appearance at a Cup of Nations in 15 years.

Star Player: The arrival of striker Thievy Bifouma lifted Congo and his impact was immediately felt in the qualifiers.

FIXTURES

17 January 2015 – Equatorial Guinea v Congo | Burkina Faso v Gabon (Bata)
21 January 2015 – Equatorial Guinea v Burkina Faso | Gabon v Congo, (Bata)
25 January 2015 – Gabon v Equatorial Guinea (Bata) | Congo v Burkina Faso (Ebebiyin)

HalftimeNG Prediction: Burkina Faso and Gabon to qualify from this group.

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

African Women Championship: Match Day 1 wrap

Zambia-Women-TeamThe Championship kicked off on Saturday at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek, Namibia.

In Group A , the hosts got their campaign well underway in front of their supporters in the opening game against Zambia with Rita Williams and Thomalina Adam’s first half goals enough to hand them a two-nil win. The TN Mobile Woman of the Match was awarded to Thomalina Adams (Namibia).

NigeriaSix time winners, Nigeria Super Falcons and Ivory Coast produced a six-goal thriller with the Super Falcons emerging victors of the game. Nigeria’s goals came through Esther Sunday, Mariam Diakite’s own goal and Desire Oparanozie’s brace with Fatou Coulibaly Tiegnou and Christine Lohoues Yeble’s getting the two goals for the Ivorians. Ngozi Okobi (Nigeria) bagged the TN Mobile Woman of the Match award.

Raissa-Feudjio-WithJeaninevaWyk-141012BPP300On Sunday afternoon, matches in group B took center stage as both Cameroon and Algeria left it late in their opening group games against South Africa and Ghana respectively with one-nil wins. The goals were scored in the 88th minute of both games. Raissa Feudjio for the Lioness against the Banyana Banyana and Horiya Affak finished well to ensure their shock win over Ghana.

Match day 2 matches:

Tuesday 14 October 2014
Zambia vs Nigeria Sam Nujoma Stadium
Ivory Coast vs Namibia Sam Nujoma Stadium

Wednesday 15 October 2014
Cameroon vs Algeria Independence Stadium
Ghana vs South Africa Independence Stadium

AFRICAN WOMEN CHAMPIONSHIP: NAMIBIA 2014 PREVIEW

Equatorial Guinea lifted the trophy in 2012.
Equatorial Guinea lifted the trophy in 2012.

I love female football no doubt, especially when it is being played at the highest level. I am a big fan of the Super Falcons and the fact that they have won six (6) of the last eight (8) editions on the African continent makes it even more exciting.

Here is a quick preview of the 9th edition of the African Women Championship. The 2014 African Women’s Championship is scheduled to be held in Namibia between the 11th and 25th October and it also serves as a qualification tournament for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the top three qualifying for the finals in Canada. The tournament matches will be held in two stadiums in Windhoek with different capacities, Independence stadium (25,000) and Sam Nujoma stadium (10,300).

large_l_NamibiaThe host nation, Namibia is making her first appearance in the African championship and also for the first time the defending champions, Equatorial Guinea, are not taking part after failing to win their last qualifying round match. Namibia were awarded the hosting rights in October 2011. Preparation has been slow and there’s been a lot of criticism, another interesting fact is that the national women’s league will be suspended this year because all money is used for hosting the continental event – It will be nice if they qualify for the World Cup proper though. Meanwhile, Minister of Sport Jerry Ekandjo called on Namibians to support the championships, adding that it would transform Namibia.

Participating eight teams are Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Cameroon, Algeria and Ghana. Favourites to win this tournament will definitely be the Super Falcons of Nigeria. South Africa and Cameroon.

large_l_Nigeria teamIn Group A, Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria and Ivory Coast will trade tackles. The Super Falcons are currently camped in Abuja, Nigeria and will begin her campaign against Ivory Coast this weekend, the southern part of the continent has been a good hunting ground for the Falcons winning on three occassions in 2000, 2004 and 2010. Here’s another big chance and the Edwin Okon led team that comprises of six foreign based professionals including veteran striker Perpetua Nkwocha and FIFA U20 Women’s world cup MVP, Asisat Oshoala are all determined to regaining the trophy they lost two years ago and also pick up a World cup ticket.

Host Nation, Namibia who are fondly called the Brave Gladiators are featuring in the tournament for the first time and their coach, Jaqueline Shipanga announced her final squad for the Championship last week with no surprises in the 21-member squad, with the regulars such as captain and defender Uerikondjera Kasaona, playmaker Zenatha Coleman and midfielder Thomalina Adams making the final cut. She’s praised the commitment of the senior players and she’s hopeful that the team will progress beyond the first round.

defaultFor Cote d’iviore, they surprisingly edged out defending champions Equitorial Guinea in the final round of the qualifiers and preparations have been going on smoothly since they opened camp in South Africa some weeks ago. This will be the Ivorians second appearance in the tournament and they are battle ready to go past the group stages this time around.

Zambia-women-team-300Finally in group A is another debutant, Zambia. The She-polopolo move into residential camping on 1 September 2014 and have been involved in some friendly games to wrap up their preparations. They will be hoping for a good start against the Host nation on Saturday.

HalftimeNG prediction: The Super Falcons will qualify alongside another team but i’m tipping Namibia to qualify alongside the six-time winners.

Group B looks more tighter as three big teams are involved, South Africa – beaten finalists in the last tournament, Cameroon – who are making a record 10th appearance and finished third at the last tournament, Ghana – who have been beaten finalists thrice in the competition and Algeria – who are making their 4th appearance and are seeking to go past the group stages for the first time.

248ee2f7-7d82-4e11-8811-99083870cac5Algeria are the first team to arrive in Namibia for the TN Mobile 9th African Women Championship Namibia 2014 on 28 September 2014 with a 38-member delegation including 21 players, who will do battle for the Algerians.

Coach Azzedine Chih had explained that the reason behind their early arrival is to acclimatize and continue with preparations for the tournament.

GHANA Queens2Another team that arrived early was the Black Queens of Ghana. The determined team have been in camp since 29 July 2014 preparing for the final tournament. Ghana team coach Yussif Basigi says his side aim is to win the Championship and book their place in next year’s FIFA World Cup after naming a strong 21-man squad for the tournament.

large_l_BanyanaFor South Africa, The Banyana Banyana have probably been the busiest team in terms of preparations. The South Africans, have played series of test games as coach Vera Pauw fine-tunes her side for the tournament. They have played eight international friendly matches, winning seven and playing to a goalless draw against Zimbabwe. Star player Portia Modise who is now a veteran interestingly will be playing in this tournament, she recently scored a hat-trick in one of the test games. Goalkeeper, Roxanne Barker is the only overseas based player included in the squad. Vera Pauw believes her current group of Banyana Banyana players can go all the way to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup in Canada next year – She’s already looking beyond the AWC in Namibia.

Lionesses-En-route-to-NamibiaFinally in group B, we have the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon, currently ranked third in Africa and 51 in the world. They have competed in nine of the ten finals of the Africa Women’s Championships to date, reaching the knockout stages on eight occasions. Cameroon’s women’s football team has an impressive record on the African continent and the international arena. They were runners-up twice, finished third twice and fourth on four occasions. Besides that, they won the gold medal at the 2011 All Africa Games while they also qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Cameroon reached this year’s Africa Women’s Championship finals after beating Senegal 2-1 on aggregate. Some of their most influential players are striker Madeleine Ngono, who has scored 26 goals in 42 appearances for Cameroon, midfielder Francoise Bella who has 53 caps and defender Christine Manie who has 40 caps.

HalftimeNG Prediction: Tough group no doubt, tipping South Africa and Cameroon to progress.

==> The winner, runner-up and third-place team will represent Africa at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada next year.

Not a good day for the Masterchef

Disappointing look..
Disappointing look..

“Time to go shopping, not bought a player for 50 days, window shuts in 15 days, what are we waiting for?”

The most entertaining league football is back coupled with its high intensity and drama. And on its full swing, the 23rd Premier League season have started with a major headline already.

Bad day for the Masterchef (Louis Van Gaal) as his unbalanced personnel lost their opening game at home to Garry monk’s Swansea. The experience LVG was playing against Monk – who made his Swans debut ten years ago in League 2 against Nottingham Forest. One would have thought this would be a stroll in the park for the Reds but on seeing the line ups, one needs to have a rethink.

sigurddddalleryImage_epa04356358_Manchester_UnThe very organized swans were brilliant and very adventurous especially with Ashley williams – who was rightly judged as the MOTM following his brilliant display in the defense.

sportUnited’s new captain, Wayne Rooney scored a spectacular goal to level things up after Sung Yeung Ki had put the visitors ahead in the first half before Sigurdsson wrapped things up for the Swans with a little over a quarter of an hour left in the game after an unconvincing defensive display by the United personnel.

After losing it’s opening day game at home for the first time since 1972/73 season, manager LVG has agreed that quality additions are needed if they are to finish well come May 2015. Some players will leave before the transfer window is closed and i’m looking forward to seeing three players at least to bolster the squad:

Angel Di Maria –

In action against Manchester United
In action against Manchester United

who will help create more lively chances and can take advantage of long distance shots and set pieces.

Arturo Vidal – angrelc2e129c5a96_vid His offensive midfield brilliance was key to Juventus’ success last season and also helped his National side to qualify well for the World Cup that was held in Brazil. He can help win more balls, he can be creative and very skillful and that’s an added advantage that will leave your opponents scratching their heads.

Finally, established defenders – Marcos Rojo, Matt Hummels or Benatia – definitely, these established defenders can help the likes of Jones and Smalling mature well since the exit of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

After the loss, LVG has a message for all United faithfuls and football fans across the globe. He said – “We make steps and you have to learn from your steps. We are not the champions. Swansea are not champions because they have beaten us. At the end of the season, we will know who is champion and who has learned from the steps we’ve made.”

So the table is set by the chef, the meal is not user-friendly, everyone attached to Manchester United is wearing a long face, they have endured a torrid time last season, don’t want to experience it this time around, the chief takes a look at Ed Woodward with a strong message on his face – “Time to go shopping, not bought a player for 50 days, window shuts in 15 days, what are we waiting for?”

Weekend Review: PSG and Monaco fails to win, Ajax starts title defence on a good note.

hooray-the-football-is-back-onWant to believe you enjoyed seeing some games at the weekend no doubt with some exciting goals scored in the league games and also not forgetting the Falconets’ win against Korea Republic at the ongoing FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in Canada with Nigeria’s Courtney Dike setting a new record as the first woman to score the fastest goal in the history of FIFA Women competitions. (Yaay!!!! “singing Happy by Pharell Williams) *winks*

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Meanwhile, Last weekend’s matches in France was an eventful one no doubt. Champions PSG were held by Reims, runners-up Monaco were beaten at home and a riot at the Bastia vs Marseille match that left Forty-four French riot and para-military police officers injured when clashes broke out after the game. A source close to the case said scores of supporters of the Bastia team attacked police officers outside the stadium, pelting them with stones and explosive devices. (Not good for the game). In that game, Marseille were pegged back 3-3 by Claude Makelele’s men and there were also opening day wins for Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux, Nice and Nantes while Champions League hopefuls Lille were held to a 0-0 stalemate at home by Metz.

Falcao's penalty wasn't enough to save his team.
Falcao’s penalty wasn’t enough to save his team.

Twenty-year-old Valentin Lavigne scored with three minutes left to hand unfancied Lorient a shock 2-1 victory over Monaco in the final match of the opening weekend in Ligue 1 action on Sunday. Colombian striker Radamel Falcao had appeared to salvage a point for new coach Leonardo Jardim with a controversial penalty on 78 minutes, following Ricardo Carvalho’s sending-off. Cameroon international Vincent Aboubakar made no mistake from the spot as he planted a low shot past Subasic to put Lorient 1-0 in front.

Seven-time French champions Lyon began their campaign in fine style as they defeated Rennes 2-0 at the Stade Gerland. Table toppers, Caen won 3-0 win at Evian on Saturday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrating
Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrating

It wasn’t the ideal start for the champions Paris Saint-Germain as they were held to a 2-2 draw at Reims in the curtain raiser on Friday with Zlatan Ibrahimovic getting a brace. And starting slowly is nothing new for PSG, who have now failed to win their opening match in any of the four seasons since Qatar Sports Investments began their revolution at the club in 2011.

Ajax players thank the fans after win over Vitesse.
Ajax players thank the fans after win over Vitesse.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, New coach Marco van Basten got off to a winning start with AZ Alkmaar as they won 3-0 at Heracles Almelo, Steven Berghuis opening the scoring before Guus Hupperts and Muamer Tankovic added two more. A late equaliser saw Twente Enschede draw 1-1 at SC Cambuur, Heerenveen suffered a surprise 2-1 loss to newly promoted FC Dordrecht who marked their return to the top flight following a 19-year absence, while fellow league newcomers Excelsior earned a 1-1 draw at NAC Breda. Defending champions Ajax Amsterdam began the defence of their title with a comfortable 4-1 win against Vitesse Arnhem while Feyenoord edged ADO Den Haag in the last minute with a Mitchell te Vrede goal. There were also wins for PSV Eindhoven and FC Groningen against Willem II and Go Ahead Eagles respectively.