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Gernot Rohr says Nigeria’s first half performance against Ukraine was the best the team has played since he took over as Nigeria coach.
The Super Eagles completely dominated the hosts, racing to a two-goal lead and should have been at least four goals up in the first half but for some great goalkeeping and wayward finishing.
But their performance in those first 45 minutes had Rohr buzzing
“It was a great performance against a very good team,” he said. “The best initial 45 minutes I saw since I am with the team.” 
Despite their dominance, the Super EAgles, playing without a posse of key starters, were to conceded twice late on and tie the game. Rohr pointed to the youthfulness off his side and explained that that may have been responsible for their giving up their two-goal advantage late in the second half
“Age average less than 23. That fact can also explain two minutes of nerves in the second half. And their second goal was clear handball.”
Rohr however was left pleased with the overall direction of the team 

“We saw some new faces and a come back of the goal keeper. The kind of modern football we played is promising for the future.”



Nigeria forward Odion Ighalo says he is standing by his decision to retire from international football despite an attempt by NFF President Amaju Pinnick to persuade him to change his mind.

Ighalo finished as both 2019 Afcon qualifying top scorer with 7 goals and tournament top scorer with five, helping Nigeria beat Tunisia 1-0 to claim bronze on Wednesday night, and then announced his retirement soon after.

On Saturday, leading African journalist Osasu Obayuwana reported that NFF President Amaju Pinnick had informed him that the striker had reversed his decision. But Ighalo said that was not the case

“It is not true that I have reversed my decision,” Ighalo told exclusively on Sunday morning. “The (NFF) president spoke to me and asked me to reconsider. Out of respect for him, I said I would think about it. I consulted with my family and we decided that the best thing for me now is to stand by the decision.
“I love my country and it was not an easy decision to make. But I believe the time is right. I am now out for eight weeks and my club are not happy about it, but I thank God for everything.”

Ighalo, something of a late bloomer, made his senior debut for Nigeria in 2015 as the Super Eagles lost 0-1 to Uganda in a friendly.

He finished with 35 appearances for Nigeria, scoring 16 goals, an average of just under a goal a game. 


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Super Eagles

8:58 National anthems are done, so are pre match formalities. And so I say, thank you for staying with me
Enjoy the game!

8:40 Warm ups are done. Teams have headed back into the dressing room. Algeria players got huge cheers when their lineup was read out. The Nigerians, apart from Ahmed Musa, barely got anything

8:10 The teams are coming out for the warmups now. First Algeria, then Nigeria. Alloy Agu, the Super Eagles goalkeeper trainer gives a big wave to the Nigeria fans in the stands and they respond with a huge cheer
The Super Eagles emerge from the tunnel to a big cheer. But the Algerians get an even bigger one. They have way more fans in the stands. They are the home team on paper. And it’s the same on the stands

7:30 The teams have arrived in the stadium

6:40 The Super Eagles have left their hotel and are on their way to the stadium.
For the superstitious amongst us, they will play today in their green away jersey. Make of that what you will

6:20 Dr Wiebe Boer is supporting the Super Eagles all the way from Trinidad and Tobago with his jersey on. Where are you supporting from?

And Gernot Rohr is naming an unchanged lineup from the one which beat South Africa in the last game. Do you like it?

6:11 Time for the ball kids to do their rehearsals

5:50 it’s just over three hours to the game. There are more media folks at the stadium than fans

4:00 Media folks are very upset. Their entrance gate was changed with no prior information. Now, journalists have to walk over half an hour, some lugging heavy equipment, to get to the Media Centre. In this heat! There are some very sweaty, sun-burned, angry people about

3:40 Time to stop and get some Papa John’s Chicken Wings before departure to the stadium 

3:00 In case you hadn’t heard, the Algerian military offered 6 military planes to airlift fans to Cairo for the game. This is in addition to the thousands who will be making the trip via chartered Air Algerie flights. Looks like Nigeria fans will be outnumbered. But will they be out-sung?

2:30PM One thing that has been very noticeable is that the Super Eagles players have been off social networks since last night. Only one player - and I won’t say who - updated his Snapchat late last night and that was just listening to music.
On WhatsApp, there has been no status updates. 

2PM An early picture of the stadium and this is what it looks like. No indication of the din and bedlam that is just hours away now

1PM: As is to be expected for a game that is now 8 hours away, everywhere is quiet but we will bring you some pictures from Nigeria training on Saturday

Super Eagles training at the Aero Sports Complex in Cairo on Saturday afternoon

It is semifinal day at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, and Nigeria’s Super Eagle go up against Algeria’s Fennecs in what should be a battle for the ages. 

A budding Nigeria side who have already despatched Cameroon and made light work of South Africa, now face arguably their biggest test of the tournament so far, a resurgent, organized and very disciplined Algeria side who are yet to taste defeat and conceded only their first goal of the tournament against Cote d’Ivoire in the quarterfinals.

The winners, of course, will play for the big prize. Nigeria are seeking a fourth title. Algeria, only their second. Both sides won their first ever titles against each other. Nigeria beating Algeria 3-0 in Lagos to claim their first win in 1980, and the Algerians returning the favour in 1994 via a 1-0 win in Algiers.

Recenteetings have gone the way of the Super Eagles, who have six wins from their last eight meetings.

Kickoff is at 8PM Nigeria time from the Cairo International Stadium. But we will have over eight hours of buildup here on so feel free to chirp in on Twitter (see what I did there), Facebook and Instagram.

So away we go, then.


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Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi

It was perhaps the first press conference involving Nigeria at this Africa Cup of Nations where the pre-match vibe quickly turned adversarial. Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi took exception to being asked by Nigerian journalist Chisom Mbonu if he condoned the behavior of his player Ramy Bensebaini, who tried to get Wilfred Zaha sent off, by grabbing the Ivorien’s arm, using it to slap his own face then going down theatrically.
"I'm not really sure this is the place to talk about this," was his response. ”If you try to put pressure on us, it is not the right way. There is a referee for that and VAR for that and it's not your job to talk about this.”

Algerian journalists at the pre-match press conference broke out in applause.

Belmadi subsequently fielded soft ball questions from the Algerian media, but his hackles were already up and the coach finished the rest of the event unsmiling.

If that answer was an attempt to deflect attention away from the Algerians’ penchant for the dark arts, it was not entirely successful as much of the pre-match reporting around the world has been focused on his refusal to answer the question.

This, inspite of Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr, who until then appeared unaware of the incident, trying to play down the incident
“We didn’t see that. We watched the tactical situations of the match, we continue to analyze the tactical things.”

But it definitely set the tone for Sunday’s game between these two old adversaries, who have met multiple times in both Africa Cup of Nations and in qualifying.

The Super Eagles dominate their recent meetings, with six wins from eight confrontations. That is a record that riles the Algerians and one they are keen to flip, and join the team which won their sole title on home soil in 1990

"The one that we won was in 1990, a long time ago when it was at home. We've never won since. This is away from home, it's more difficult of course," said Belmadi.
"This is our target, we want to write our history and the players want to write their history as well. It's not far - two more steps, but two very difficult steps to this great achievement. We will try our best.”

For Rohr, who has been under some pressure from the start of the tournament, scaling his semifinal bar has taken a lot of that load off his shoulders, but defeat will still not be countenanced, as Nigeria set their sights on a fourth trophy.

Out of 24 have emerged four, and these two richly deserve their place. Hopefully, they will serve up a treat devoid of gamesmanship or worse, those aforementioned dark arts.


10 Jan 1973: Nigeria 2 Algeria 2 – Lagos (All-Africa Games)
28 July 1978: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 – Algiers (All-Africa Games Final)
22 March 1980: Nigeria 3 Algeria 0 – Lagos (AFCON Final)
10 Oct 1981: Nigeria 0 Algeria 2 – Lagos (World Cup Qualifier)
30 Oct 1981: Algeria 2 Nigeria 1 – Constantine (World Cup Qualifier)
10 March 1982: Algeria 2 Nigeria 1 – Benghazi (AFCON)
11 March 1984: Algeria 0 Nigeria 0 – Bouake (AFCON)
15 Jan 1988: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 – Annaba (Olympics Qualifier)
30 Jan 1988: Nigeria 2 Algeria 0 – Enugu (Olympics Qualifier)
23 March 1988: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 – Rabat (AFCON semi, 8-9 penalties)
2 March 1990: Algeria 5 Nigeria 1 – Algiers (AFCON)
16 March 1990: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 – Algiers (AFCON Final)
13 July 1993: Nigeria 4 Algeria 1 – Lagos (World Cup Qualifier)
8 Oct 1993: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 – Algiers (World Cup Qualifier)
21 Jan 2002: Algeria 0 Nigeria 1 – Bamako (AFCON)
3 July 2004: Nigeria 1 Algeria 0 – Abuja (World Cup Qualifier)
4 Sept 2005: Algeria 2 Nigeria 5 – Oran (World Cup Qualifier)
30 Jan 2010: Algeria 0 Nigeria 1 – Benguela (AFCON)
12 Nov 2016: Nigeria 3 Algeria 1 – Uyo (World Cup Qualifier)
11 Nov 2017: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 – Constantine (World Cup Qualifier). Match later awarded 3-0 to Algeria as Nigeria fielded ineligible player. 


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Stuart Baxter and then Gernot Rohr both opened their pre-match press conference in some accord. 
Both men were a few minutes late to the event and were quick to apologise and of course, blame Cairo traffic and the convoluted maze leading to the press centre.
That was as far as it went. Within the opening few questions, each man was at pains to disrobe himself of the toga of “favourite” as they looked ahead to Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinal.
Baxter, unlike his usual brash self, seemed keen to not talk up his side or talk down the Nigerians, instead all but pointing to Rohr as playing mind games when asked about the Nigeria coach’s comment from the day before
“Nigeria have been a powerhouse of African football for a long time and one game doesn’t makes us favourites. 
I think he’ll love to have that tag as underdogs and in that way, slip the pressure from you guys but I don’t think he’s fooling anybody to tell you the truth
“We will go into the game as we do with every game. When we hit that balance between good organisation and still play with pace and closing people down with pace and using that natural mobility with technique, we can give anybody on this continent a good game. Therefore we go into every game knowing that we have a chance to win and a chance to lose
“And that is how we will approach this game. We will be respecting Nigeria but not fearing them
And we will absolutely not think that we are the favourites. We will have to produce a very good South African performance if we are to win this game.”
Rohr was having none of that 
“No, we don’t play this (mind) game,” he said. “We are realistic. We believe that we still have to improve. We had very difficult games. We lost against Madagascar, we suffered against Cameroon, made a lot of mistakes so we are realistic. South Africa played so well against Egypt and they have also the advantage that they know already this stadium and they had success here. We arrived yesterday from Alexandria, not so hot like here. All is different here.
“We have only one day to adapt but I think we will be ready.”
And then he threw in the uppercut
“Also they beat the favourites, the number one team. When you beat the favourites, you become the favourites.”
And then they found common ground again, admitting that it would be no walk in the park
“It will be a tough game,” said Rohr. “They did really well against Egypt and they are very fast.”
Baxter was just as complimentary
“Yes we have done very well against Nigeria recently. But we should be under no illusions that Nigeria are one of the best teams on the continent. It will be a massively difficult game for us and we have to get the mental strength right.”
Perhaps the highlight of the day was Baxter bristling when told to put his results over Nigeria in context, as the Super Eagles were weakened by injuries and suspensions on both occasions. And when they were not, his side needed help from the referee chalking off two good goals
“This is not about prestige for me,” he retorted. “It is about South Africa against Nigeria. Both coaches played to win, and the Nigeria coach played the best team he had available. I am sure he wanted to win. And in that game in Johannesburg, I had six players missing.”
Now, that was the real Baxter almost breaking through. The usual tough talking seemingly tempered by a desire not to give Nigeria any more motivation to want to win.
But favourites or underdogs, one team is certainly going home tomorrow.

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