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AFCON 2019: How Leon Balogun, Shehu reacted to Super Eagles’ qualification

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Super Eagles defenders, Leon Balogun and Shehu Abdullahi have expressed joy as Nigeria qualifies for the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The Super Eagles qualified for AFCON after they were held to a 1-1 draw in their last Group E encounter with South Africa at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.

The Super Eagles launched themselves back to the continental championship after missing out on two consecutive editions since winning the 2013 edition.

Defenders Shehu Abdullahi and Leon Balogun reacting, appreciated the team’s gallantry.

@LeonBalogun on Twitter wrote: “We made it – AFCON 2019! South Africa really tried, but we are the Supereagles.

“I am really happy and proud to be part of this team that brought joy to so many Nigerians by “just chasing a ball.’’

“Not just back home but all over the world! Thanks for the amazing support and love always.”

Shehu on the other hand wrote: ” We made it. Qualified, AFCON 2019″.

Nigeria tops the group with 10 points ahead of South Africa, with nine points with Libya and Seychelles on seven and one point respectively.

Nigeria will face Seychelles in their final Group E game in March 2019, while Libya who must win to qualify for the 2019 AFCON will host South Africa in Sfax, Tunisia in their final game.

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‘He’s the best in the world’ – Rakitic would ‘love’ Griezmann to join Barcelona

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The Croatia international has given his seal of approval to the Atletico Madrid forward’s potential move to Catalunya.

Ivan Rakitic says he would “love” to play alongside Antoine Griezmann amid rumours the France forward could join Barcelona this summer.

Griezmann has already confirmed he wants to leave Atletico Madrid this summer after five years at the club.

Atletico have reluctantly accepted his request, though the fans have been left angry at the decision given Griezmann signed a new long-term contract just 12 months ago and booed him against Levante last weekend.

Barcelona have been heavily linked with a move for the France international, with boss Ernesto Valverde revealing earlier this week that the club had made contact with Atletico officials over a potential deal.

However, despite Valverde’s comments, Griezmann’s €125 million (£110m/$139m) release clause in his contract has yet to be triggered.

When asked about the prospect of playing alongside Griezmann at the Camp Nou next season, Rakitic was unequivocal in his praise for the player.

“I like him a lot. leaving aside last summer I when he ruined my dream [of winning the World Cup]. But he is a top level player, the best in the world, and of course I would love to play in my team,” Rakitic told Mundo Deportivo.

“He is a great professional who has won almost everything and that surely can add to any team.”

Rakitic also insists Griezmann will still be welcome at Barca despite turning down a move to the club last season.

The 28-year-old was heavily linked with a move to the Camp Nou prior to the World Cup in Russia but released a video shortly before the tournament confirming he had instead signed a new contract at Atletico.

“I congratulate him for that decision and now if I saw him here I would shake his hand and tell him that I respect him because it is not easy to make that decision, to stay then and to leave this year.

“All good players are welcome to us.”

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Puel hopes Leicester can maintain ‘big club’ run

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Leicester City manager Claude Puel believes his side will be inspired by facing the Premier League’s top teams as they begin a tough run of fixtures. First up for the Foxes is a trip to league leaders Liverpool on Wednesday, with in-form Manchester United visiting the King Power Stadium on Sunday before Leicester travel to London for a match against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on February 10.

But French manager Puel is buoyed by the way Leicester beat both Chelsea and champions Manchester City during the Christmas holiday period, having drawn with Pep Guardiola’s men in the League Cup earlier in December before losing in a penalty shoot-out. “The three next games is a fantastic challenge for them,” said Puel of the task now awaiting Leicester. “We have shown we can perform against good teams, we have won games also against good teams.

I hope we can continue in this way.” Puel said the better the opponent, the better his side performed. “My players prefer to play against good teams like this and to show their level. It’s less pressure, they can give their best with freedom. In this situation we can create an upset. “We know the difficulty, and people outside think we can not have a chance to win a point, but we are confident because we showed a lot of qualities in the last games against big teams and great teams.

“I hope that we can have the possibility of winning against Liverpool, and then United at home. I hope we can create an upset,” he added. Leicester is currently ninth in the table, 12 points above the relegation zone, but if the 2015/16 Premier League champions are to press on they could do with ridding themselves of their recent habit of conceding early goals.

The Midlands club has been behind before 11 minutes were on the clock in each of their last three matches, going on to lose every time — including a shock defeat in the FA Cup by Newport County. “We have some difficulties to start our games and after we have to chase the game against strong defensive units then it is always difficult, since the beginning of the season,” said Puel.

“Sometimes we manage our game at the beginning and it is a good performance. The most important thing is to have the right intensity, focus and concentration for the beginning.”

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Nigeria student athlete expelled for not reciting national anthem

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A Nigerian female athlete Esther Edet has been expelled from the ongoing 19th Nigerian Colleges of Education Games (NICEGA) at the Federal College of Education, Obudu, Cross River State for not reciting the Nigeria national anthem.

It was reported that while students and other athletes were in the rendition of the national anthem, Edet refused to and got expelled from the ongoing competition.

“All participants must obey the rules and play by them. Any athlete who goes contrary to the regulations of the Games will be shown the way out. And that is why I am expelling this participant for her attitude and disposition when the national anthem was playing,” NICEGA president, Sanusi Mohammed said after expelling Edet.

Mohammed said such attitudes would not be permitted in a national sporting event.

He noted that Edet’s expulsion from the competition “will serve as a deterrent to others to always obey the rules of the game.”

Mohammed added that “sports have been described as a source of fostering peace and friendship, as well as transforming society through healthy competition.”

The Provost, Federal College of Education, Obudu, James Ejue, urge the athletes to abide by the rules.

“If you are a disciplined sportsman or woman, you must be a disciplined person who abhors violence, cheating, drug abuse and cultism. In this competition, there must be winners and losers,” Ejue said.

Nigeria’s education minister Adamu Adamu, who was represented by the vice chancellor of the University of Calabar, Prof. Zana Akpagu, said sports have always served as a tool for national unity.

“Sports from ancient times has always provided the right atmosphere through which people of all races, colours and tribes gather together to foster friendship, peace and unity as well as boost their economy because of the massive economic activities it generates,” Adamu said.

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Arsenal set to complete Denis Suarez deal

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Arsenal are set to complete the signing of Barcelona midfielder Denis Suarez on loan.

The deal had stalled over Barcelona’s insistence to insert a compulsory purchase clause but with reports claiming the Spanish midfielder will sign a contract extension at Barcelona, a loan deal to Arsenal could be completed.

Suarez has struggled to make an impact at the Camp Nou, finding games hard to come by under Ernesto Valverde. He has made only eight appearances this season for Barcelona.

The 25 year old will hope to find his spark working again with Unai Emery, his former coach at Sevilla.

Arsenal also have hopes of signing Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic before the transfer window closes.

Suarez starred in Manchester City’s youth teams and made two League Cup appearances for City before he moved to Spain to join Barcelona B. He joined Sevilla on loan, then moved to Villarreal before a move to Barcelona.

According to reports, Suarez pleaded with Barcelona to join Arsenal despite interest from Sevilla and Real Betis, who were keen on a permanent deal.

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