Shehu Amadu, a board member of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), has warned fans not to use the result in the friendly games as a yardstick to dismiss Nigeria’s World Cup chances. Nigeria have failed to win any of their pre-tournament friendlies, drawing 2-2 and 0-0 with Scotland and Greece respectively, while they lost 2-1 to the United States in their last warm-up game. But Amadu insists the harsh criticisms of the team are uncalled for, as he believes they will impress at the tourney. He further re-emphasized his confidence in the team selected by the Stephen Keshi-led technical crew. “We believe coach Stephen Keshi has selected the best for Nigeria and also for the continent. I have no doubt in my mind that Nigeria will do well at the 2014 World Cup,” the former Kaduna State Commissioner for Sports told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). “Keshi has only lost one match out of the friendly matches the team played in preparation for the World Cup, yet people are still criticising him. “You can’t judge the team by the friendlies, but by how many friendly matches they have won, drawn or lost. So, if you go by that statistics, we are in a better place to say that we have a team that is going to do well in Brazil. He assured fans that the Super Eagles will put up a performance expected of their status as the reigning African champions. (kickoffnigeria) France thrashes Jamaica 8-0 in final World Cup preparation France finalised their World Cup preparations in style, hammering eight unanswered goals past Jamaica in Lille on Sunday. Blaise Matuidi, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann bagged braces for the 1998 world champions, while Yohan Cabaye and Olivier Giroud were also on target at the Stade de France. Les Bleus – who has been rocked by the unavailability of Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery for Fifa’s flagship event, will open its Group E campaign against Honduras on 15 June. They then tackle Switzerland and Ecuador. (kickoffnigeria)
Nigeria’s World Cup profile
With just three days until the long-awaited showpiece in Brazil begins, KickOff.com continues our daily profiles of all teams participating at this year’s World Cup.
Today we take a look at Group F, beginning with African representatives Nigeria as the AFCON champions aim to take her continental success onto the international stage.
It’s been 16 years since Nigeria last made it to the knockout stages of the tournament, and Stephen Keshi’s men will be quietly confident they will be able to do so in Brazil, despite a tough group containing Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran.
Qualification: W 5, D 3, L 0
Previous World Cup appearances: 4
Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (1994, 1998)
Current FIFA ranking: 44
Coach: A hero back home, Stephen Keshi is one of only two footballers to have won the African Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach. The 52-year-old has been in charge of the Super Eagles since 2011, and is aiming to replicate his continental success on the world stage.
Captain: Lille’s Vincent Enyeama is a mainstay in the Nigerian line-up, and is fast-approaching 100 caps since making his debut 12 years ago. He will definitely be aiming to better his side’s 2010 performance, where Nigeria managed only one point in a group that again included Argentina, against whom they narrowly lost 1-0, Enyeama receiving the man of the match award in that game for a host of fine saves.
Key player: Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel is hoping to make a success out of his first World Cup appearance, having missed Nigeria’s campaign in South Africa four years ago due to injury.
Beginning his career in his native Nigeria, followed by short stints in Norway and South Africa at Ajax Cape Town, Mikel became highly sought-after and was captured by his current Premier League side Chelsea in 2006.
A hard-working midfielder, Mikel grew in leaps and bounds in London and has become a mainstay in the middle of the park for his club, featuring in more than 30 games in each of his eight seasons with the Blues. Deployed predominantly as a defensive midfielder, Mikel is aggressive and fearless in the tackle, breaking up play and hounding opponents in possession. His strength on the ball and good distribution make him useful in both the team’s defensive and offensive plays, yet his goal-scoring ability leaves much to be desired, scoring just nine for both club and country combined in over 350 matches.
The two-time African and Chelsea Young Player of the Year made his debut for Nigeria in 2005, and now at 27 years of age, is a senior in the national squad. He was part of the Super Eagles’ championship-winning Africa Cup of Nations squad in 2013, and also featured in all three of Nigeria’s Confederations Cup games in Brazil last year, snatching a goal in a loss to Uruguay as the African giants failed to progress from the group stages.
Check out the full Nigerian squad on KickOff.com’s new World Cup site.Key fixture: Nigeria will be looking for all three points over a tough Bosnian side in their second fixture as they target qualification for the knockout phase of the tournament.
All fixtures16 June, 21:00 Iran vs Nigeria
22 June, 00:00 Nigeria vs Bosnia-Herzegovina
25 June, 18:00 Nigeria vs Argentina
Don’t miss the current edition of KICKOFF magazine for 16 pages of World Cup analysis, plus TWO World Cup wall charts, so you can follow every game of the world showpiece. (kickoffnigeria)
Suarez identifies England’s defence flaws
Uruguay and Liverpool striker, Luis Suarez has identified “weaknesses” in England’s defence, with the countries set to contest Group D spoils at the World Cup.
Suarez, the Premier League’s top act in 2013/14 with 31 goals, is hoping to recover from a knee injury in time for the competition, which kicks off in Brazil on Thursday.
“England have a nice mix of experience of youth this time. In previous years there were players who were maybe a bit past their best,” he told The Guardian.
“Now there are players coming through with hunger to succeed. We have to be very careful.
“But, they do have weaknesses at the back and I know what they are. I won’t be saying that in the paper but in the Uruguay squad I will.”
Suarez, though, revealed his admiration for Three Lions fullback Leighton Baines.
“Baines is a player I like a lot. His focus is more defensive than attacking but he has got the best left foot in the Premier League.
“He’s spectacular. He has a lot of quality, he strikes the ball very well and, with good players around him, England can benefit from that. We have to be very careful.” (kickoffnigeria)
Cafu sees Brazil meeting Germany in World Cup final
Former Brazil captain Cafu has predicted Germany will meet his country in the final of the 2014 World Cup.
The Selecao – record five-time world champions – will open the event on home soil against Croatia on Thursday, with Mexico and Cameroon completing the rest of Group A.
Germany, treble winners of Fifa’s flagship tournament, have been paired with Portugal, Ghana and the US in a formidable Group G.
“Germany are a very strong team,” Cafu, a two-time World Cup winner, told Sportinformations-Dienst.
“They are very highly rated here [in Brazil]. Germany have developed very well.
“We all believe in a final against Germany. They will definitely reach the final.”
The 44-year-old Cafu, who played for the likes of AC Milan and Roma, skippered the Samba Boys to a 2-0 victory over Germany in the final of the 2002 World Cup. (kickoffnigeria)
Ronaldo believes Neymar will be the best at World Cup
The Brazil legend has predicted his compatriot will live up to expectations and play a starring role in the tournament
Brazil legend, Ronaldo believes Barcelona forward, Neymar will be the best player at the World Cup this summer.
The 22-year-old will compete in his first World Cup on home soil when Brazil kick off the tournament against Croatia in Sao Paulo on 12 June.
Neymar scored 13 goals and 11 assists in La Liga and the Champions League for Barca last season following his big-money move from Santos in 2013.
And Ronaldo – who won the competition two times with the Selecao and still remains the tournament’s all-time record goalscorer – expects Neymar to rise to the occasion despite hosts Brazil being under huge pressure to achieve success.
“He’s very good,” Ronaldo said.
“Neymar is an incredible guy, a great player, a youngster like I was in the first World Cup I played, which was in ’98. In ’94 I was even younger but I didn’t play.
“I’m sure he’s very calm, he can handle the pressure well.
“He’s a player who’s shown that over and over. We have high hopes that he will be the best player in the tournament and that Brazil will be champions.”
Despite the country’s preparations for the World Cup being marred by public protests and issues over stadium delays and costs, Ronaldo is confident the South American nation will deliver a specatacular tournament.
“It’s fantastic to have the World Cup here in Brazil, which is one of the, if not the, biggest sporting events on earth,” the three-time World Player of the Year said.
“To have it here in Brazil is beyond deserved, because we’re known worldwide as the football nation. And now we’re going to show our culture, people and cities to the world.
“So it’s a marvellous opportunity to show our Brazil to the entire world.” (goal.com)
BBC, ITV, ARD and ZDF sign World Cup TV deals
Fifa has confirmed that it has sold the UK broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to the BBC and ITV.
The German rights to the 2022 tournament, due to be staged in Qatar, have been awarded to free-to-air broadcasters ARD and ZDF, which had already picked up the rights to Russia 2018.
The deals were confirmed following a meeting of Fifa’s executive committee in São Paulo on Saturday, just days before the start of this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
No financial details were immediately available, although when ARD and ZDF acquired the 2018 rights, in April 2012, they were believed to have paid €200 million. The UK rights to the 2010 and 2014 tournaments are believed to have sold for UK£220 million in total.
In the UK, the BBC and ITV have shared the rights to world soccer’s biggest competition since 1966, when the tournament was staged in, and won by, England. The broadcasters have split the group stage games for Brazil 2014, with both set to broadcast the final.
BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said: “It is fantastic news that the pinnacle event in world football will continue to be available free of charge for everyone in the UK.”
Her equivalent at ITV, Niall Sloane, added: “The excitement building on the eve of this summer’s tournament in Brazil demonstrates how the World Cup offers a shared, collective experience for people across the UK.
“So we’re thrilled to be able to look forward to bringing the next two World Cups free to air to viewers in 2018 and 2022.”
The 2014 World Cup begins on Thursday, when hosts Brazil play Croatia. ITV will broadcast the game in the UK. (goal.com)
Brazilians back Argentina to win the World Cup
The social disquiet surrounding the staging of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil has led to some natives supporting their arch-rivals.
By Paul Macdonald in Rio de Janeiro
The World Cup is here – whether people like it or not. The political and economic undertones have left a sour taste on the local palate; so much so that there is an undercurrent that reckons the country would be better off if Argentina, not Brazil, collect the trophy.
To idealistic football fans, it might destroy their idyllic image of what a World Cup in Brazil represents. Everyone should be dancing in the streets, surely? It’s not the case. The endemic dissatisfaction for this government outweighs Neymar collecting the trophy. For now, at least.
“We have a population that believes that a victory for Brazil endorses the current administration,” I was told by a local journalist, who did not want to be named.
And that seems to be the general attitude. President Dilma Rousseff’s election campaign culminates in October, and the success or failure of the Selecao is deemed to have an overwhelming bearing on her success.
If Neymar lives up to expectations, the knock-on effect might be another term of ignorance towards the needs of the many, with bus fares remaining an ongoing issue. Last summer, the price was raised by 9% for the local services, leading to much public dismay.
By the time the rest of the supporters and journalists arrive, the cavalcade of street vendors and opportunists might fabricate a feeling of togetherness, but this is a country unsure of whether it is comfortable hosting this event or not.
Indeed, Brazilians that I’ve spoken to in the region prefer that Argentina, and Lionel Messi, are triumphant. Firstly, it would strike a blow to Rousseff’s regime, in a country where Romario is a congressman and Ronaldo, Il Fenomeno, is looking to become a politician. It would mean a government defined by an unequivocal failure on home soil is a government that is voted out at the end of the year.
Secondly, because commentator/celebrity Galvão Bueno has long held a grudge against Argentina, to comical levels. He has decreed that this World Cup will be his swansong on the microphone, and, for the dissenters, an Argentina victory over Brazil in the final, with Messi shining, would be the ultimate gesture to the establishment.
Away from the politics, there is a feeling that Felipao, Brazil’s coach, is too loyal to certain players, and that his 2002 victory in Korea-Japan was based purely on the talents of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho. Indeed, in their most recent friendly, the team was booed from the pitch on the way to an agricultural 1-0 victory over Serbia.
Oscar, Hulk, Neymar, Fred. There is little desire to change that front four and it has bred a belief that Scolari’s team are functional, not full of flair. Every previous World Cup victory has been blessed with genius; Pele, Garrincha, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Romario, Ronaldo. If Neymar doesn’t produce, this team struggles to get anywhere close to previous generations. They may win matches, but it will be with substance ahead of style.
Not all Brazilians are of this mindset, of course, and a considerable number will change allegiance as soon as Brazil’s first victory is on the board. Then, a groundswell of support will likely emerge, expressing their love for the country, the team, and the colours. The key is that the streets are not yet painted, banners remain inside. Is the tournament days way? In Rio, it’s not.
But these are the floating voters that the more politically-attuned are anxious about. Political merit and football accomplishment are inextricably linked. Selecao winning their sixth World Cup might leave cities like Rio de Janeiro worse off as a result. (goal.com)