By: Adeyinka Adedipe

THE Flying Eagles will depart for South Africa today for the African Youth Championship (AYC) slated for Johannesburg from this Sunday to May 3 with the hope of winning the trophy.

The Nigerian team will be hoping to qualify for the semi-final from Group B, which comprises world champion, Ghana, Cameroun and Gambia. The young Nigerians open their campaign against West African rival, Ghana, at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg on Monday.

Preparatory to the tournament, the Nigerians played a two-legged friendly against Libya (formerly designated host), before moving over to Turkey where they played a series of friendly matches before coming back home after the competition was postponed due to the political uprising in Libya.

However, that did not deter the team from rounding off its preparation with a 3-1 victory over Nigeria Premier League side, Sharks of Port Harcourt. After failing to make an impression at the last World Youth Championship (WYC) in Egypt, coach John Obuh is confident that his current squad will conquer Africa.

Speaking before the team’s departure, Obuh assured that his wards would play as a team and not as individuals to lift the trophy. He said: “What we want to do is to play like a team in all our games because that is the only way we can win, and we intend to stick to that game plan. And with the quality of individuals in the team, I hope we will do well.”

Already, the team will be without Joel Obi just as it is not clear whether Musa Ahmed would be with the squad after being listed. It was gathered that his team, VV Venlo of Holland, was bent on holding on to its Nigerian jewel.

The Eredivise side, which is battling relegation, is hoping that Ahmed would help it avoid the drop. Meanwhile, president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Aminu Maigari, will lead the Nigerian delegation to the competition.

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Nigeria climbed a step from the 39th position to 38 in the FIFA world rankings for the month of April released yesterday.

This minimal rise was on the back of victories against Ethiopia in the Nation Cup qualifiers and Kenya in an international friendly in Abuja last month.

Ghana move from the 16th position to 15 and maintained its top position on the African continent. Cote’d Ivoire moved four places to occupy the 21st position on the world rankings. Egypt continued its downward movement from 35 to 36. Nigeria is fourth on the in the continent where the biggest mover was South Africa.

They jumped seven places from 46 to 39 to make up the top five in Africa.
Spain maintained its number one position with Holland following closely thanks to victories in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying.

There was, however, significant movement below them on the latest instalment of the global ladder. Brazil (3rd, up 2) have reclaimed a podium position, while Germany (4th, down 1) and Argentina (5th, down 1) have lost ground.

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… Idah, ex-Eagles media officer, says the Swede’s coming brought confusion

The last is yet to be heard on what transpired between the Eagles and Coach Lars Lagerback at the just concluded World Cup in South Africa where the team performed woefully. According to the Super Eagles’ former media man, Peterside Idah, who resigned immediately the Eagles were booted at the competition, the coming of the Swede coach to the team, his fresh ideas and tactics spelt catastrophe for the team.

The Eagles’ former safe hands said until African nations learn to give long term contracts to national team coaches and embrace developmental programme, there may be little or no change that they are clamouring for.

Idah made the revelation recently during a television programme in Supersport, where he said that the confusion caused by Coach Lagerback nearly mar the team’s last match against South Korea at the FIFA World Cup.
“ Shame to those clamouring for change, Idah began. We have problem in this country; we are always in haste, we hardly want to give time for building of a team. What we experienced in South Africa during the World Cup was a result of our lack of patience.

The team was thrown into total confusion in an effort to obey the voice of people who where clamouring for change of technical crew and we paid dearly for it at the Mundial. For me, if the technical crew led by Shaibu Amodu was allowed to continue, without throwing him out disgratefully, we might not have experienced such dismal outing as we witnessed in the Mundial. The coming of Lagerback, instead of being a blessing, turned out to be curse to the team and all of us suffered it. To tell you the truth, there is nothing like continuity when Lagerback came.

In a bid to please Nigerians and impress the stakeholders, different methods, different ideas were introduced, which ended up in confusion that disorganised the team. I’m not saying that he got it all wrong, but for the timing, it could not work. Looking at the time he was employed, it would be difficult for him to make any meaningful change. Infact, at a point, some of the players were finding it difficult to cope with his pace which resulted in what we saw at the World Cup. It got to a point the players were more or less choosing who to play and who not to play just to achieve result which they could not achieve.

What happened in Nigeria was not peculiar, it is a problem faced by most African nations African nations hardly stick to a coach for a long time without calling for change and they always pay dearly for it. They do it mostly to indigenous coaches. Change is good but not when it is wrongly done. We have to learnt from our last mistakes and are ready to introduce the real change, so that things will work out for us.

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By Jide Alaka

The Super Eagles have to dig deep today as they will be Yusuf Ayila for the friendly match against Korea Republic. The Russia based player called in to inform team handlers of an injury he sustained in a league match at the weekend.

“He (Ayila) will not be available for the match. But our team doctor is speaking with the Dynamo Kiev doctor to determine what the real situation is,” Robinson Okosun, acting media officer of the NFF said.

Okosun also said coach Augustine Eguavoen has other players to fill the void.

“The coach has said he is not particularly worried as he is covered in that department and will not be calling up any other player.”

Ayila’s absence has increased further the number of missing Eagles. Others staying away include goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, Chinedu Obasi, Mikel Obi and Obinna Nsofor. The players have advanced different reasons ranging from club commitments to injury for staying away.

Obafemi Martins who was expected to join his team mates yesterday finally did so in the evening after making his debut for his new club Rubin Kazan in their 2-1 win over Tom Tomsk in the Russian League on Saturday.

But Eguavoen is optimistic of a good outing and that much was revealed in an interview with the BBC. The caretaker coach is happy with the composition of the squad and hopes that the new players will afford themselves the opportunity to shine.

“I’m happy we have other players here who can use this platform to prove themselves. We have to make do with what we have; we will be parading a mix of experience and youth in Korea.

“It is a big chance for the local stars to shine and the foreign ones to atone for the World Cup disappointments.”

The need for the match

Former international Garba Lawal is of the view that though the match is a friendly, the players should take it seriously.

“Every match is important for a footballer but ideally, I would say it is opportunity for the players to get to play together and know each other,” he said.

With so many absentees, Lawal does not foresee a good match: “The available boys can only plan to do their best but if there is no coordination between the boys, no matter the strategy, they may not be able deliver. As a Nigerian, I hope they win but it is not a confident hope,” said Lawal who hopes young players will be called more often.

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Eagles technical adviser, Lars Lagerback said that there will be no automatic shirt for any of the players invited to the Eagles camp.

The Swede-born coach who was in Europe to see top Nigerian players said that all the 44 players he invited to camp for South Africa 2010 World Cup have equal opportunity to make his final list of 22. He promised to pick the best players for the world soccer show piece beginning June 12 for Nigeria with a match against Argentina.

“We have been able to pick Nigerian players from all over the world. We have decided not to favor any of the players who would make the World Cup team,” he said.

Lagerback said that he would leave nothing to chance to ensure a formidable team that would do the nation proud in Nelson Mandela’s country.

The soccer tactician said throughout the duration of the camping, he would adopt an approach where experience, consistency and talent would be the criteria for selecting players for the biggest soccer fiesta.

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South Africa’s beleaguered football team has been offered R1-million (about US$135 000) a goal to share at the forth coming World Cup finals, irrespective of whether the team wins any points, a senior official said on Wednesday.

But the South African Football Association said it still had to conclude negotiations with players over a payment and bonus structure for the team at the tournament, chief executive officer, Leslie Sedibe, said.

“We want our team to play with pride and passion, we want to inspire the players,” he told South African television as he detailed the offer for goals. This is on top of an appearance fee and bonus for points gained during the tournament, which starts next month.

Sedibe said he would negotiate with a six-man player’s committee headed by Captain Aaron Mokoena including Everton’s Steven Pienaar and have the matter concluded by May 31.
“It won’t be a blank cheque,” he added.

The issue of player payments is traditionally contentious in South Africa, where there have often been threatened strikes by thenational team players not happy with money offered.
The odds on the cash for goals offer are firmly in the association’s favour. South Africa average just over 1,1 goals per game in 250 internationals since returning to world competition in 1992.

The country has played 34 internationals over the last two years, but scored just 32 times.

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Super Eagles assistant captain Joseph Yobo has said the team is lacking in world-class talent as they head towards the 2010 FIFA World Cup.The Everton centre-back says the side are going through a transition period, with younger players being blooded into the side, and he admits they have not reached the heights fans would expect.

After being asked why no Nigerian players had been in contention for the recent African Footballer of the Year award that was won by Didier Drogba of Cote d’Ivoire, Yobo was cutting in his assessment.

“It is a transition, you know?” he told Hi magazine. “I think that the players we have now, to be realistic, are not meeting up to standard. I think to win that award you have to be a key player either a top striker or a midfielder.”

The 29-year-old, who will be a key man for the Super Eagles if fit in South Africa, has also praised the view of new Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback that no player is guaranteed a place in the country’s squad for the World Cup.

Yobo feels the comment from the Swede might well be a spur for those players who may have been coasting ahead of the tournament.

“I think there is going to be a good response. It gives everybody the opportunity to prove himself, those that are not playing work hard, and it is also a good challenge for the players – as they now need to get used to one another,” Yobo said.

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