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WHO WAS THE STAR AS SUPER EAGLES HIT Q/F

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Kenneth Omeruo (C) got his first international goal and won Man of the Match




Kenneth Omeruo headed just over against Burundi in Nigeria’s opening game, but had much better luck on Wednesday as his glancing header secured all three points for Nigeria in addition to a place in the Africa Nations Cup round of 16.

The Leganes defender stole inside the near post to guide Moses Simon’s corner kick home and hand Nigeria all three points. But to be fair the Super Eagles should have been out of sight bythen. Alex Iwobi dallied on the ball and saw his pocket picked. Odion Ighalo had a chance to play in Ahmed Musa, but went for glory and Musa’s service to Ighalo was twice cut out by a solid Guinea defence. It was just the wrong side of being a rout as Super Eagles players posted big big performances.

So how did they fare?

AKPEYI 5
Barely tested, but looked nervy when he spilled a long range shot in the opening minutes. Then made a goalkick straight to the opposition. The Kaizer Chiefs goalie needs to talk himself out of this artificial funk.

AWAZIEM 7
Gave Francois Kamano very little space to breath, let alone operate. Cost him from an attacking sense, but he did shut down the Guinean

AINA 7 
Not the same man of the match performance he turned in on opening days, but Aina performance is exactly what the doctor ordered. Defensive,y strong, read the play, stepped up to make interceptions and still found an occasion or two to bound forward

BALOGUN 8
In for the rested William Troost-Ekong, Balogun was always one step ahead of Sory Kaba. When Iwobi gave away possession with only 12 minutes gone, it was Balogun who raced back with Kaba to make a timely clearance 

OMERUO 9
Flawless performance. Absolutely flawless performance. A 10/10 would not be out of place. Omeruo did everything, and then some. Even finding time to turn, dribble in the box and lay a square ball before finally capping his afternoon with a first senior international goal.



NDIDI 9
Similarly immense performance from the Leicester man. He won man of the match in the first game and was good for it again in this one. Were it not for Omeruo’s goal, he cou”d well have claimed consecutive honours. Highlight reel was when he twisted and turned away from tw9 defenders, going one way as they went cross eyed, to the other.

ETEBO 8
Pace, power passing. Etebo did it all along with Ndidi. He was the prophylaxis against Keita, and just about any other Guinean player who attempted to breach the blockade he had set up with Ndidi.

IWOBI 7
Not his best day by a long shot. Nightmare opening 15 minutes for him, especially when bisngiveaway almost led to a goal but for Balogun. Then he had a chance from a bpMusa. All to set up Ighalo and dallied until he was dispossessed. Picked up in the second half and was hooked when he tried out late in the game.

MUSA 8
Brought lace and invention into the side. Constant,y threatened to get in behind and create opportunities. Should have had a goal if Ighalo had looked up and squared for him. Set up Ighalo on two occasions but both chances went abegging. Threatened a goa, one end, then tacked all the way back the next minute to pick up a professional foul on the break away Kamano and accepted his yellow card with equanimity

SIMON 8
On for Chukwueze to provide tracking cover for Awaziem, Simon did his job to perfection 

IGHALO 7
Didn’t score on the day but his bruising strength, pace and skilled footwork meant the Burundi defenders could not dare step out of the line.

SUBS
CHUKWUEZE (ON FOR MUSA)
Did not do enough to rate 

Onuachu (ON FOR Ighalo)
Did not do enough to rate 


EXPLAINING THE SUPER FALCONS BONUS BROUHAHA

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Once again, Nigeria were the focus of global attention at a major tournament for the long reasons after the Super Falcons staged a sit-in protest to demand payment of outstanding bonuses.

After their defeat by Germany on Saturday night, the players met and demanded payment of their outstanding bonuses, some dating back to 2016.

By morning, and following meetings with the NFF officials who were with them in France, Aisha Falode and Suleiman Kwande, the players boarded their buses to the airport.


WHAT WAS BEING OWED?
According to the players, they wanted outstanding payment of two match bonuses. The first was from a home game against Senegal in 2016 and the second was another home game, this time against Gambia in 2018.

This was in addition to the daily allowance for the five additional days they spent in France, as well as their 30 percent share of the $1 million participation fee from FIFA.

The main bone of contention were those bonuses from 2016 and 2018. According to the players, they were due N1million for each game for a total of N2million, but were only paid half.

WHAT DOES THE NFF SAY?
The NFF agrees that the players were paid N1m and argue that that is exactly what they are due and not N2 million.
NFF President Amaju Pinnick says the confusion arises out of players expected thatchy were to be paid in US dollars, but under the foreign exchange restrictions of the current administration, that is no longer the case as even the Super Eagles are being paid in Naira for home games
“As far as we are concerned that is a non issue as the bonuses have been paid. The problem is that the players wanted to be paid bonuses for home matches in dollars, but that is no longer the rule under this current government.”
In effect, the players were calculating the amount based on US dollars while the NFF paid in naira.

As to their share of the FIFA participation fee, Pinnick says that will be paid once the NFF receives payment from FIFA, which would not be until after the tournament, around September.

The camp allowances for the five additional days as well as the $4000 match bonus for their win over South Korea are expected to be paid on Monday.

SO WHAT WAS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
It all comes down to mistrust and miscommunication. For one, it should have been made clear to the players that their home bonuses are not just in naira, but also the exact rate when converted into naira.
The players thought they were due N2million (perhaps from using black market conversion rates), while the NFF had it as N1million.

Second, trust issues remain as the players do not seem to believe that they will be paid unless they make a right stink. Apparently, some of their colleagues from that 2016 team had not received their money.

However, the issues have now been resolved, the air has been cleared and the players are expected back in Nigeria on Monday.



AINA PUTS ON A SHOW TO TOP RANKINGS

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Samuel Chukwueze terrorized the Burundi defence and earns high marks


Odion Ighalo stepped off the bench to shoot Nigeria to a hard-fought 1-0 win over newcomers Burundi to open their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

The big striker scored with only his second touch the game after coming on as a substitute for Paul Onuachu, braking the resolve of the debutants.

Despite the slim scoreline, there were some big performances all across the pitch for Nigeria



AKPEYI 7
Started off making a big point blank save from Cedric Amissi and then proceeded to make about four more in just the first half alone. But he was also guilty of some nervous, heart-stopping moments. The first when he miscontrolled a backless, and the second after Nigeria scored when he mishandled the ball. Twice

ABDULLAHI 5
Looked unfit from the get go and was no surprise when he pulled up with something and had to be substituted. Prior to that, he looked steady, comfortable and his usual aggressive self on the right side contributed to his injury

AINA 9 (MOTM)
Monster performance from the fullback, who started at left back only because Jamilu Collins got injured on the eve of the game. Anticipated well, defended strongly, read the play intelligently and attacked aggressively down the left channel. His cheeky reverse pass to Ighalo for the goal was reminiscent of the Austin Okocha  and Ben Iroha combination against Cote d’ivoire at Tunisia 94

OMERUO 8
Strong candidate for man of the match and but for Aina’s assist, could have claimed it. Was immense all game through. Smothered the threat of Fiston Abdul Razak, keeping Burundi’s danger man quiet for most of the game. Put his body on the line to make a crucial block. Almost broke the deadlock when he met Oghenekaro Etebo’s free kick at the far post.

TROOST-EKONG 7
Strong on the ball, won his battles with Abdul Razak and contested strongly in the air and tracked with pace. His partnership with Omeruo looks  toe blossoming nicely

MIKEL OBI 5
Not the best of days for the Super Eagles skipper. He looked off the pace, missed a header that he would normally have put away and looked relieved when his number was called for substitution.

NDIDI 8
Powerful running, strong tackling and and even an offensive foray or two were all part of the Leicester man’s repertoire on the night. 

ETEBO 8
Energetic, quick and incisive. Etebo’s dynamic play covered for the lapses ahead of him. He all but ran himself aground covering space and keeping Gael Bigirimana from running away with midfield control

IWOBI 8
Looked on the fringes of the play in the opening minutes but came into his own once he was moved centrally. His quick, one-touch passing opened up space upfront and helped keep Burundi pinned to their own half for the rest of the game


CHUKWUEZE 7
Looked fearless in his firs senior major tournament start and terrorised the Burundi fullbacks and genre backs no end. One deadly run in the second Hal left two players on their backsides and nursing their waists as the Villareal forward stood over them with an impish smile on his face

ONUACHU 6
Earned his place on the team on the back of that sensational performance and goal against Egypt. But against Burundi, as in subsequent games, has struggled to capture the same sort of form. A lack of service did not help.

SUBSTITUTES 
AWAZIEM 6
On for the injured Abdullahi, gave a steady perforce but one strewn with almost a foul a minute

MUSA 7
Changed the complexion of the game almost as soon as he came on. Ran at fullbacks, played combination balls and set up at least two superb low crosses that could have been turned in.

IGHALO 7
Showed once again that class is permanent. Threatened from the moment he stepped on the pitch and scored almost instantly. Could have scored even earlier but for a heavy first touch which took the ball away from him. But there was to be no mistake for the second.






FALCONS STAGE SIT-IN PROTEST OVER BONUSES

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Nigeria’s Super Falcons are refusing to leave their hotel in France until all of their outstanding bonuses are paid.

The team, who lost 3-0 to Germany on Saturday, say they will not leave until the monies have been paid. According to the players, they are being owed bonuses from two games against Gambia and Senegal from as far back as two years ago amounting to N2million 

“They paid us N1million and said that is all. We want them to pay the balance. And they are also owing us five days daily allowance here in France,” one player told me.

The players are also demanding their share of the World Cup participation fee from FIFA, even though that will not be paid by FIFA till September.


This is the second time in three years that Nigeria’s women will stage bonus protests. After winning the 2016 African title in Cameroon, the squad returned home and staged a public demonstration on the streets of the capital Abuja to demand payment of their outstanding allowances.

That demonstration led to the firing of the team’s coach and a lack of activity for the squad for a full year.

Prior to that, they sat in for three days at their hotel in South Africa after winning the same title in 2004 until the allowances were settled.


EXCLUSIVE: IHEANACHO ON STANDBY AS NIGERIA WAIT ON CAF OVER KALU

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Kelechi Iheanacho (R) could be on his way to join the Super Eagles in Egypt


Kelechi Iheanacho has been contacted and placed on standby as Nigeria await a decision from the CAF Medical Committee on Samuel Kalu’s participation at the Africa Nations Cup.

Kalu, 21, collapsed during training on Friday and was taken to hospital with NFF Communications Director Ademola Olajire saying it was a case of dehydration. 

But CAF officials say they are waiting on full medical report which will determine whether it was dehydration or a cardiovascular incident.

Since the incident happened within the 24-hour time window before a team is allowed before the kickoff of their opening game, Nigeria may be able to substitute the player if the CAF Medical Committee determines that he cannot compete at the tournament.
NFF officials have told me exclusively that Kelechi Iheanacho has been contacted and is on standby to join the team in that event.

However, the decision to substitute the player would have to be approved by the organising committee. Otherwise, Nigeria will be forced to prosecute the tournament with just 22 players instead of 23.

The Super Eagles kick off their tournament against Burundi at 6PM Nigeria time. 


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