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Qatar 2022 Race: Rohr set to feature Ighalo against Sharks

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Odion Jude Ighalo, who was unable to play any part in Saturday’s encounter in Tangier because he arrived in Morocco two days before the match, is likely to be involved against the Sharks at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.

 

It would be his first run-out with the squad since he announced his retirement from the international scene after the 2019 AFCON, where he was tournament top scorer.

Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks, who lost 1-2 to the Eagles on their own soil two months ago, are staying at the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja.

Head Coach Gernot Rohr, who will be in charge of his 54th game for the Nigeria senior men’s team on Tuesday, expressed confidence that the three-time African champions will collect all three points against the Sharks, just as they did when both teams met at the Estadio Municipal Adérito Sena on the island of Mindelo on 7th September.

“We have a job on our hands and that is to win tomorrow. It is important to win so as to be sure of where you will be at the end of the day. We are top of the table now and a win keeps us there and sends us to the final knockout round.

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“I really don’t think we are under any pressure. We have 12 points, two more than the opponents. They are the ones with the big pressure to come out and look for a win. Our approach for tomorrow will be to win. The players are looking forward to doing that.”

Meanwhile, Captain Ahmed Musa has assured that the Super Eagles are matured, professional and ambitious enough to deal with any pressure when taking on the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in Tuesday’s ultimate game of Group C of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying African series.

“There will always be all kinds of pressure when you are out there on the football field, as a professional sportsman or woman. You just must have strong fibre to cope with the pressure from everywhere, focus on getting the result and get the job done. Pressure is never an excuse not to put out your best; sometimes, it helps you to get beyond your level best,” Musa told thenff.com just before the Super Eagles had their last training session at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Monday evening.

At a pre-match press conference earlier in the day, Nigeria’s record international caps’ holder also said the big motivation to go all out in Tuesday’s encounter is that a number of players in the squad are yet to feature at the FIFA World Cup finals.

“The FIFA World Cup is the biggest stage for every professional football player. They all want to be there; you don’t need any more motivation than that. We said after the match with Liberia in Tangier on Saturday that we will not be going for a draw against Cape Verde. Nothing has changed.”

Musa also assured that the Eagles will not be under-rating the Sharks but will go all out as from the first whistle of Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal.

 

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Bundesliga: Marsch leaves role as Leipzig head coach

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RB Leipzig, last season’s Bundesliga runners-up, have mutually agreed to part company with head coach Jesse Marsch after a poor start to the season, the German club said on Sunday.

Leipzig suffered a 2-1 defeat at Union Berlin on Friday, a third consecutive league loss that left them 11th in the standings and piled pressure on American Marsch who was not at the game due to being in COVID-19 quarantine.

Marsch, who joined this season to replace Bayern Munich-bound Julian Nagelsmann, has led his team to only five wins in 14 league games.

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“RB Leipzig and head coach Jesse Marsch have mutually agreed to part ways. The decision is the result of an in-depth analysis and intensive discussions after the Bundesliga match against Union Berlin,” the club said in a statement.

Assistant coach Achim Beierlorzer will take charge for their home game against Manchester City in the Champions League, a competition in which they reached the semifinals in 2020 but have already been eliminated from this season.

“I keep only positive thoughts in my mind and wish for the club, the team, the staff and all the fans that RB Leipzig finds its way back to its old strengths very quickly,” Marsch said.

“Given the quality in the team and in the club, I am sure that the club will achieve its goals.”

Former US international Marsch, 48, made his name in Europe when he guided Leipzig’s sister club RB Salzburg to the Austrian league and Cup titles twice.

He became the first American to coach a team in Europe’s elite club competition.

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“It was not easy for us to part company … because I hold Jesse in high regard as a person and as a coach,” Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff said.

“Unfortunately, the development we were hoping for and the results needed to achieve our goals for the season have not been achieved.”

Leipzig said Marsch’s successor would be announced in the near future.

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Bundesliga: Dortmund defend Bellingham amid possible sanctions

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Borussia Dortmund said on Sunday they would stand by England midfielder Jude Bellingham, who faces potential sanctions and even legal consequences after he made explosive comments about the referee after his side’s 3-2 defeat to Bayern Munich on Saturday.

“The boy is 18 years old and was speaking after a heated and emotional game. We will stand by him,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc told AFP-subsidiary SID.

Bellingham risks being punished by the German Football Federation (DFB) after claiming costly decisions by referee Felix Zwayer were to be expected given he was implicated in the worst match-fixing scandal in German history.

The 18-year-old England international was furious that Zwayer had not awarded a penalty to his side in the second-half, before giving one to Bayern which allowed Robert Lewandowski to score the winner in the top of the table clash.

“You can look at a lot of the decisions in the game. If you give a referee who has match-fixed before the biggest game in Germany, what do you expect?” Bellingham told Norwegian channel Viaplay.

He was referring to Zwayer’s alleged role as a 23-year-old linesman in the scandal involving referee Robert Hoyzer.

The latter confessed to taking Croatian mafia money in return for affecting the outcome of German Cup and lower division matches including awarding penalties for fictitious offences.

Hoyzer was jailed and Zwayer suspended for six months for keeping silent though he knew what the referee was doing and for accepting 300 euros ($340).

No definitive link between the match-fixing and Zwayer has ever been established and he has always said he was innocent.

POSSIBLE SANCTIONS

The DFB told AFP-subsidiary SID they would be reviewing whether Bellingham’s comments were “relevant from a sport sanctions perspective”.

Bild tabloid also reported Sunday that one of the DFB’s official observers had pressed libel charges against Bellingham, but Dortmund insisted that they saw no reason to fear legal consequences.

“I don’t see anything problematic from a legal perspective,” Zorc told SID.

“What he said isn’t wrong, even if he didn’t have to say it. You have to put it down to the emotions of an 18-year-old. Jude didn’t insult anyone, he stated a fact. I can’t imagine there will be any penalties for that,” Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told Kicker magazine.

Bellingham could face a heavy punishment if the DFB do decide to impose sanctions, as the federation has previously taken a dim view of referees being subjected to what they see as defamatory statements or accusations they judge offensive.

The England midfielder also faced criticism for his comments, which Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn said were “a step too far”.

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“I can’t ever remember a player making a comment of that kind before,” Kahn told Sky on Saturday.

Bellingham was not alone in questioning Zwayer’s decisions in a heated game on Saturday evening.

Dortmund coach Marco Rose was shown a red card after arguing with Zwayer over his awarding of the penalty 12 minutes from time.

“His performance wasn’t good enough for a game of this level, he was overwhelmed. It was a great game, which was decided by the referee,” Zorc told SID.

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Pep Guardiola calls on City to keep winning momentum going

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola described the run-up to Christmas as the toughest part of the season and called on his players to continue their winning momentum in what is shaping up to be a three-way title tussle.

Guardiola’s City claimed top spot in the league for the first time this season after a dominant 3-1 victory at Watford, with their fifth straight win lifting them to 35 points — one ahead of Liverpool and two in front of Chelsea, who lost 3-2 at West Ham United.

“Today one team dropped points, next week it can be us or Liverpool. Many things can happen,” Guardiola said.

“I’m more than pleased with what the guys have done in this tough period and now comes the toughest one for the amount of games, weather, injuries. We (will) keep going with this rhythm and try to play well.

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“The result can be random but consistency is the most important thing to help us be a stable team… There’s many games to come and it’s the toughest part of the season.”

City will take on RB Leipzig in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday, kicking off a run of seven games in all competitions culminating on New Year’s Day.

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