Pote bags brace as Benin hold Ghana and Cup of Nations comes alive


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Ismailia (Egypt) (AFP) – Veteran Benin forward Mickael Pote scored after 104 seconds and again in the second half as 10-man Ghana were held to a 2-2 draw Tuesday in a lively Africa Cup of Nations match.

Between the Pote goals, brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew netted in the opening half for Ghana, who had defender John Boye red-carded soon after half-time in Egyptian city Ismailia.

The last of the 12 first round games was also the most entertaining in the biennial tournament, which Egypt are staging after original hosts Cameroon fell behind with preparations.

Defending champions Cameroon scored twice within three minutes to beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 earlier and they top the table with three points while Benin and Ghana have one each.

Ghana are the bookmakers’ joint second favourites with Senegal, behind record seven-time champions Egypt, to win an Africa Cup enlarged to 24 teams from 16 in the Continue reading “Pote bags brace as Benin hold Ghana and Cup of Nations comes alive”

Martens penalty breaks Japan hearts as Netherlands reach World Cup quarters


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Rennes (France) (AFP) – Lieke Martens converted a 90th-minute penalty to break Japanese hearts and take the Netherlands through to the quarter-finals of the women’s World Cup with a 2-1 win in Rennes on Tuesday.

Barcelona star Martens had earlier given the Dutch the lead at Roazhon Park with a brilliant backheel flick, but that contender for the most eye-catching goal of the tournament was cancelled out before the break as Yui Hasegawa equalised for Japan.

The Nadeshiko were the better team in the second half but were undone by yet another penalty in a World Cup dominated by spot-kicks, with Martens scoring after a Vivianne Miedema shot had struck the hand of captain Saki Kumagai from point-blank range.

The Netherlands, reigning European champions, go through to a quarter-final on Saturday against Italy, who defeated China 2-0 earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, after winning the 2011 World Cup and losing Continue reading “Martens penalty breaks Japan hearts as Netherlands reach World Cup quarters”

Cameroon begin Cup of Nations title defence with victory


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Ismailia (Egypt) (AFP) – Stephane Bahoken scored two minutes after coming off the bench to seal a 2-0 win for defending champions Cameroon over Guinea-Bissau Tuesday in the Africa Cup of Nations.

There was little to excite the small crowd in Egyptian city Ismailia until the five-time trophy-holders struck twice within three minutes midway through the second half.

Giant defender Yaya Banana nodded Cameroon in front on 66 minutes and forward Bahoken struck from close range three minutes later in Group F, which includes Benin and Ghana. 

Cameroon were the fifth of the six top seeds after Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and Morocco to win their opening match at the tournament while Tunisia were surprisingly held by Angola.   

The Cameroon line-up included four starters from the 2017 final — centre-backs Michael Ngadeu and Ambroise Oyongo, midfielder Arnaud Djoum and forward Christian Bassogog.

Georges Mandjeck, who came off the bench Continue reading “Cameroon begin Cup of Nations title defence with victory”

Penalty drama as Chinese giants Evergrande reach Asia’s last eight


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Beijing (AFP) – Zhong Yihao netted the decisive spot-kick as Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande reached the Asian Champions League quarter-finals after a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out against Shandong Luneng on Tuesday.

Brazil international Paulinho scored twice as the second leg ended 4-4 on aggregate after extra time, but it was Zhong who struck the killer blow as Evergrande shaded their Chinese rivals 6-5 on penalties.

The 2013 and 2015 winners reached the last eight alongside reigning champions Kashima Antlers, who squeezed past fellow Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima courtesy of the away goals rule.

Evergrande were in the driving seat after their 2-1 home win in last week’s first leg, and Paulinho put them on cruise control when he struck in the 13th minute.

The ex-Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder was on hand to stab home the rebound when Yang Liyu’s shot cannoned off the base of the post.

However, Shandong’s high-pedigree strike Continue reading “Penalty drama as Chinese giants Evergrande reach Asia’s last eight”

Pamela Anderson splits with ‘monster’ French World Cup-winning boyfriend


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Marseille (AFP) – Former “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson has revealed she has broken up with France World Cup-winning defender Adil Rami, calling him a “monster” who “scammed” her.

Anderson’s two-year romance with the Marseille player 18 years her junior has been closely followed in France, especially when Rami became a cult hero of the 2018 World Cup campaign in Russia despite not playing a single minute.

But the couple’s romance appears to have ended abruptly, with Anderson accusing Rami of cheating on her.

“The last (more than) 2 years of my life have been a big lie,” Anderson, 51, said on Instagram. “I was scammed, led to believe… we were in « big love »?”

“I’m devastated to find out in the last few days that he was living a double life.”

The actress and model said Rami “used to joke about other players who had girlfriends down the street Continue reading “Pamela Anderson splits with ‘monster’ French World Cup-winning boyfriend”

Nigeria’s Kalu ‘100% ready’ after collapse


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Alexandria (Egypt) (AFP) – Nigeria forward Samuel Kalu, who collapsed during training last week due to severe dehydration, is fully fit to play in Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations game against Guinea, coach Gernot Rohr said Tuesday.

“The very good news is that Kalu did again yesterday in Cairo an MRI and it is now 100% sure that he is fit and he will be available for the game,” he said.

“He already started training with the team so we are happy about that because everybody was a little bit scared when this happened.” 

The Bordeaux player was rushed to hospital Friday suffering from severe dehydration due to severe heat. Temperatures expected to hover between 35 and 38 Celsius (95-100.4 Fahrenheit) over the next month in Egypt.

He missed Nigeria’s 1-0 win over Burundi on Saturday in the opening match in Group B in Alexandria.

Haiti rally to beat Costa Rica 2-1 in Gold Cup


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New York (AFP) – Haiti rallied with two second-half goals to beat Costa Rica 2-1 Monday and reach the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup as winners of Group B.

Haiti right back Djimy Bend Alexis delivered the winner in the 81st minute with a right-footed blast that found the top right corner of the net and sent Haiti into a quarter-final clash with Group A runners-up Canada.

Costa Rica, who finished second in Group B, will take on Mexico, the Group A winners who are chasing an eighth title in the regional championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Alexis played a dubious role in the game’s opening goal, a header from Costa Rica veteran Alvaro Saborio deflected off him and into the Haiti net to put the Ticos up 1-0 in the 13th minute.

Haiti equalized from the spot in the 57th minute, Duckens Nazon converting Continue reading “Haiti rally to beat Costa Rica 2-1 in Gold Cup”

Japan coach Moriyasu says Copa exit a learning process


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Belo Horizonte (Brazil) (AFP) – Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said his team would learn from their Copa America heartbreak after missing out on a place in the quarter-finals following Monday’s 1-1 draw with Ecuador.

Shoya Nakajima gave the Blue Samurai a 15th minute lead in Belo Horizonte while substitute Daizen Maeda had a late chance to win it when put through one-on-one with goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.

Angel Mena’s equalizer on 35 minutes and teenage sensation Takefusa Kubo’s potential injury-time winner being ruled out by VAR meant Japan came up short.

“They’re learning to compete with top level opponents,” said Moriyasu, who brought a mostly under-23 team to Brazil as several clubs refused to release regular first choice players.

“Our players need to learn as much as they can, with great humility, respecting their opponents and understanding that they can develop our football.”

This squad will at least form the Continue reading “Japan coach Moriyasu says Copa exit a learning process”

Heartache for Japan, Ecuador as draw sends Paraguay into Copa quarters


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Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – Japan and Ecuador were left heartbroken as their 1-1 draw in Belo Horizonte on Monday saw them miss out on the Copa America quarter-finals, with Paraguay qualifying instead.

Uruguay, meanwhile, topped Group C as Edinson Cavani’s goal eight minutes from time gave them a 1-0 win over champions Chile, who also qualify, at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.

Japan and Ecuador faced a must win match in their bid to reach the knock-out stages as one of the two best third-placed finishers.

Peru had already secured their spot from Group A while Paraguay, in Group B, were left sweating on Monday’s result having finished their campaign on Sunday with two points from three games.

Shoya Nakajima gave Japan the lead on 15 minutes with a goal validated by VAR, but 10 minutes from half time, Angel Mena equalized for Ecuador.

Japan substitute Daizen Maeda was Continue reading “Heartache for Japan, Ecuador as draw sends Paraguay into Copa quarters”

Superstar Salah seeks first goal at Cup of Nations in Egypt


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Cairo (AFP) – Superstar Mohamed Salah gets a second chance to score his first goal at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations when hosts Egypt face the Democratic Republic of Congo in Group A on Wednesday.

The recent Champions League winner with Liverpool was unable to convert several chances against Zimbabwe last Friday as Egypt won 1-0 in the opening match of the tournament.

“Mohamed Salah was among those who missed chances, but I was satisfied with our performance,” admitted Mexican coach Javier Aguirre.

Victory over the Congolese, who performed poorly when losing 2-0 to Uganda, could clinch a last-16 place for the Egyptians with one match to spare.

Here, AFP Sport previews the Group A double-header with Uganda playing Zimbabwe in the first match in Cairo, and the Group B showdown between Nigeria and Guinea in Alexandria.

Egypt v DR Congo

After four days of small crowds, a capacity Continue reading “Superstar Salah seeks first goal at Cup of Nations in Egypt”

Paraguay through to Copa quarters as Japan, Ecuador draw


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Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – Paraguay became the final qualifiers for the Copa America quarter-finals without even playing on Monday as the two teams who could deny them, Japan and Ecuador, drew 1-1 in Belo Horizonte.

Uruguay topped Group C as Edinson Cavani’s goal eight minutes from time gave them a 1-0 win over champions Chile, who also qualify, at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.

Japan and Ecuador faced a must win match in their bid to reach the knock-out stages as one of the two best third-placed finishers.

Peru had already secured their spot from Group A while Paraguay, in Group B, were left sweating on Monday’s result.

Shoya Nakajima gave Japan the lead on 15 minutes with a goal validated by VAR, but 10 minutes from half time, Angel Mena equalized for Ecuador.

Japan substitute Daizen Maeda was put clean through late on but saw his effort saved Continue reading “Paraguay through to Copa quarters as Japan, Ecuador draw”

Rapinoe hoping for ‘wild’ World Cup France clash after firing USA past Spain


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Reims (France) (AFP) – Megan Rapinoe is already looking forward to the United States’s mouth-watering quarter-final date with Women’s World Cup hosts France after her two penalties squeezed her side past resilient Spain 2-1 on Monday.

The reigning world champions will face the French in Paris on Friday in a match that could well decide the destiny of the tournament after Rapinoe struck from the spot in the seventh and 75th minutes to decide a last-16 contest played in sweltering conditions in Reims, and Rapinoe hopes it becomes the big moment for women’s football.

“I hope it’s wild and crazy and the fans are crazy and that there’s tonnes of media around it and it’s just a big spectacle,” Rapinoe said of Friday’s match.

“I think it’s going to be incredible for the women’s game. You have two heavy hitters meeting in the knockout rounds and this is everything you Continue reading “Rapinoe hoping for ‘wild’ World Cup France clash after firing USA past Spain”

Tunisia first Cup of Nations top seeds not to win


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Suez (Egypt) (AFP) – Tunisia became the first 2019 Africa Cup of Nations top seeds not to win their opening match when Djalma Campos cancelled out a Youssef Msakni goal and earned Angola a 1-1 Group E draw on Monday.

Hosts Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Senegal won their first matches of the 24-team tournament and the other top seeds, Cameroon, debut Tuesday against Guinea-Bissau.

Tunisia led when Msakni blasted a penalty into the net on 34 minutes only for Campos to punish a blunder by goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha in the 73rd minute.

It was the second time Angola and Tunisia met at the biennial African football showpiece and the second time they drew after a goalless deadlock in Ghana 11 years ago. 

The stalemate offered former runners-up Mali or newcomers Mauritania a chance to lead Group E later Monday by winning the second match in a double-header at Continue reading “Tunisia first Cup of Nations top seeds not to win”

Heart issue rules Cameroon player out of Nations Cup


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Cairo (AFP) – Cameroon forward Joel Tagueu has been forced to withdraw from the squad ahead of their opening game at the Africa Cup of Nations due to an irregular heart condition.

The Cameroon team doctor detected “an abnormality in the coronary artery” that could lead to “sudden death”, the Cameroonian football association said in a statement on Monday.

“The coach has decided not to take any risk on the player, who will leave the team 24 hours before its first game.”

Reigning champions Cameroon, coached by former Dutch star Clarence Seedorf, are due to begin the defence of their title against Guinea-Bissau in Ismailia on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old Tagueu has spent the past 18 months on loan at Portuguese club Maritimo from Brazil’s Cruzeiro.

‘We belong here’: South Africa’s Baxter defiant in defeat


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Cairo (AFP) – South Africa coach Stuart Baxter said his team’s display in a 1-0 loss to Ivory Coast on Monday showed they could provide a tough test for any opponent at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Nicolas Pepe twice went close with free-kicks on another hot afternoon in Cairo but it was Jonathan Kodjia’s goal on 64 minutes that gave 2015 champions Ivory Coast victory in the side’s opening Group D match.

“I think we dealt with them quite well in first half and it was an even game. In the second half the heat affected both teams and the tempo dropped, but I think we were comfortable in the game,” said Baxter, as temperatures again peaked around 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit).

“We can’t complain about losing the game but I thought the players put in a great performance and it’s a great learning curve for us.”

Continue reading “‘We belong here’: South Africa’s Baxter defiant in defeat”

Rapinoe fires USA into World Cup quarters clash with France


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Reims (France) (AFP) – The United States will take on France in the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup after two Megan Rapinoe penalties squeezed them past Spain 2-1 on Monday.

The reigning world champions will face the hosts in Paris on Friday in a match that could well decide the destiny of the tournament after Rapinoe struck from the spot in the seventh and 75th minutes.

Spain had got themselves back into the game two minutes after Rapinoe’s opener through a fine lob from Jennifer Hermoso following sloppy play at the back from the Americans.

The USA thought they were ready for an easy afternoon when Tobin Heath was brought down by Maria Leon after brilliantly collecting Abby Dahlkemper’s searching long pass.

Rapinoe lashed home the subsequent penalty to send the overwhelmingly American crowd wild, but Spain stunned them back into silence shortly afterwards.

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher played a Continue reading “Rapinoe fires USA into World Cup quarters clash with France”

Jordan Ayew, the stagnation of a one-time Ghana prodigy


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London (AFP) – After a turbulent spell in England resulting in relegation with two different clubs, former Ghana prodigy Jordan Ayew will attempt to relaunch his stuttering career at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Since leaving France in 2015, little has gone to plan for the son of Marseille great Abedi Pele, the three-time African footballer of the year.

Following his move from Lorient to Aston Villa, the forward enjoyed a relatively successful debut season with seven Premier League goals although the 1982 European champions were relegated and Ayew’s own form has taken on a similar trajectory.

He spent a season in the second tier before Swansea signed him to play alongside his elder brother, Andre. It took Jordan six months to break into the first team, but the following season was again largely productive with 11 goals in all competitions. However, it too ended in relegation.

It Continue reading “Jordan Ayew, the stagnation of a one-time Ghana prodigy”

England ready for Norway test after coming through Cameroon battle


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Paris (AFP) – England captain Steph Houghton brushed off concerns about the manner of her team’s win over Cameroon at the women’s World Cup as Phil Neville’s side prepare for a testing quarter-final tie against Norway.

A 3-0 victory for England in Valenciennes on Sunday was largely overshadowed by Neville’s post-match tirade saying he was “completely and utterly ashamed” by Cameroon’s behaviour.

That included threatening to stop playing on two separate occasions in protest at decisions made by the Chinese referee, while Neville also said forward Toni Duggan had been spat at on the pitch in one of numerous flashpoints.

However, England did not look completely at ease before Ellen White’s strike to make it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time and were fortunate not to concede in the second half, being opened up at the back on several occasions after a Cameroon goal had been disallowed for offside.

“You have Continue reading “England ready for Norway test after coming through Cameroon battle”

Benitez to leave Newcastle after talks over new deal collapse


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London (AFP) – Rafael Benitez’s three-year reign as Newcastle manager will come to an end next week after failing to agree terms on a new contract, the club confirmed on Monday. 

Benitez was a hugely popular figure among the Newcastle support after stabilising the Magpies in the Premier League and the news is likely to spark more protests aimed at the club’s owner Mike Ashley.

“It is with disappointment that we announce manager Rafael Benitez will leave Newcastle United upon the expiry of his contract on 30th June 2019,” Newcastle said in a statement.

“We have worked hard to extend Rafa’s contract over a significant period of time, however it has not been – and will not be – possible to reach an agreement with Rafa and his representatives.”

Despite failing to keep Newcastle in the top flight shortly after taking over in March 2016, Benitez earned hero Continue reading “Benitez to leave Newcastle after talks over new deal collapse”

Juventus, the beating heart of Italy’s Women’s World Cup team


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Rome (AFP) – The goalkeeper, the captain, the playmaker, the centre-forward — Juventus are the beating heart of Italy’s Women’s World Cup team.

In Italy, it has been coined the “Juve Block” and on Tuesday in Montpellier eight players from the Turin club will face China for a place in the quarter-finals. 

It would have been nine but for a serious injury picked up by defender Cecilia Salvai before the tournament.

Italy have been the dark horse of France 2019 having topped a group that included Australia and Brazil to reach the knockout round for the first time since 1991.

A 5-0 rout of Jamaica in Reims ended with seven Juventus players on the pitch at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in northern France. 

The predominance of players from the Turin club, similar to that of Lyon in the French women’s team, also mirrors Italy’s men’s team.

Italy coach Milena Continue reading “Juventus, the beating heart of Italy’s Women’s World Cup team”