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Tottenham players need to hear ‘truth’ to improve – Conte



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Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte stressed the importance of truthful communication with his players in the wake of Spurs’ 2-0 defeat in the first leg of a League Cup semifinal against Chelsea.

Chelsea, who dominated from the start and had enough chances to put the game beyond doubt, seized control of the two-legged semifinal thanks to an early goal by Kai Havertz and an own goal by Spurs defender Ben Davies.

Conte pulled no punches after the match, saying his Spurs side were nowhere near Chelsea in terms of quality, and on Friday, the Italian manager reiterated his desire to be honest with his players.

“My relationship with the players is based on the truth. Not only here, but also in the past,” Conte told reporters.

“When I was a player, I hated the coach that told me nice lies to keep me calm and relaxed in a good relationship. If you want to improve it’s important for players to hear the truth.

“My players know that I’ll always tell them the truth, because with the truth you can improve. With good lies I don’t think you have a chance to live.”

Conte added that the defeat against Chelsea would help Spurs gain a more complete understanding of their shortcomings.

Read Also: EPL: Rashford plays down talk of rift in dressing room

“We have space for improvement and we started to analyse the game after Chelsea, and it’s a good example of where we can improve, not just in a tactical aspect, but also in mentality,” Conte said.

“I think we can use this game an example to improve for the people to see outside. You learn more after a loss than a win.”

Spurs welcome third-tier Morecambe in the FA Cup third round on Sunday before games against Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester City over the next fortnight.



Burkina Faso, Gabon in Round of 16 tug-of-war



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Burkina Faso and Gabon get the ball rolling in the round of 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations when they square off at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium on Sunday.

This will be their first encounter since 2017 when the spoils were shared in a 1-1 draw, and Les Etalons will look to get one over their Central African counterparts having failed to win any of the last four meetings between the sides since 2013.

Match preview
Burkina Faso’s Hassane Bande celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on January 13, 2022
© Reuters

Burkina Faso secured their place in the knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations last Monday when they held on for a 1-1 draw against Ethiopia at the Stade Omnisports de Bafoussam.

read also:Nigeria battle Tunisia for AFCON q-finals ticket
After heading into half time with a one-goal lead through Cyrille Bayala, Getaneh Kebede restored parity from the penalty spot seven minutes after the interval but Les Etalons put on a defensive show of class to hold on to the point.

Prior to that, Kamou Malo’s men were welcomed to the tournament with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of host nation Cameroon on the opening day, before grinding out a 1-0 win over Cape Verde on January 13.

With four points from three games, the West African nation finished as runners-up in Group A, level on points with Cape Verde who also secured entry into the knockout stages as one of the four best third-placed sides and three points off group winners Cameroon.

Burkina Faso head into Sunday’s game unbeaten in all but one of their last nine games across all competitions, picking up four wins and four draws, while scoring 15 goals and keeping four clean sheets in that time.

While they will look to keep this fine run going and progress to the next stage of the competition, standing in their way is an opposing side who they have failed to defeat in each of the last four meetings between the teams.

Gabon’s Jim Allevinah celebrates scoring their first goal with Aaron-Salem Boupendza on January 18, 2022
© Reuters

Gabon, on the other hand, will be delighted with their performance at the Africa Cup of Nations as they enjoyed an unbeaten run in the group stages to clinch smooth passage into the last 16.

Les Pantheres opened their campaign with an impressive 1-0 victory over debutants Comoros on January 10 before holding Ghana to a 1-1 draw in their second group game four days later.

Patrice Neveu’s side turned in an eye-catching performance in their final group outing as they held a rampant Morocco side to a 2-2 draw when they squared off at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on Tuesday.

Gabon took the lead twice in the game through Jim Allevinah and an own goal from Stade Rennais’ Nayef Aguerd, but Sofiane Boufal and Achraf Hakimi were on deck to level matters on each occasion.

With five points from three games, Gabon finished runners-up to Morocco in Group C and two points ahead of Comoros, who picked up their first-ever win in the tournament and progressed to the next phase when they stunned Ghana to a 3-2 victory in a classic group finale.

Like Burkina Faso, Gabon have avoided defeat in all but one of their most recent seven games in all competitions, claiming three wins and three draws in that time.


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Nigeria battle Tunisia for AFCON q-finals ticket



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Africa Cup of Nations returns with another nerve-racking fixture as two African heavyweight in Nigeria and Tunisia go head to head at the Roumde Adija Stadium for a place in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

This will be the second knockout-stage encounter between the sides in three years after the Super Eagles secured a slender 1-0 victory in last edition’s third-place playoff tie in Egypt and this makes for an exciting watch.

Nigeria’s William Troost-Ekong celebrates scoring their second goal against South Africa on July 10, 2019
© Reuters

Nigeria have enjoyed a sensational start to the Africa Cup of Nations and head into the knockout stages as the standout side and team to beat at the tournament after a string of thrilling results.

read also:Awoniyi eyes victory over Tunisia after Berlin win
The Super Eagles kicked off their quest to conquer the continent for a fourth time on a brilliant note as they saw off fellow group favourites Egypt 1-0 on January 11 courtesy of Kelechi Iheanacho’s 30th-minute strike.

This was followed by an even more dominant display in their second group outing as they cruised to a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Sudan four days later, when Samuel Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi and Moses Simon netted before Walieldin Khidir pulled one back from the spot in the 70th minute.

Nigeria wrapped things up in the group stages last time out when they claimed a comfortable 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau when the sides met at the Roumde Adjia Stadium last time out.

With the Djurtus needing all three points to secure passage into the knockout stages, it was Augustine Eguavoen’s men who took the lead through Umar Sadiq’s goal 11 minutes after the interval before William Troost-Ekomg made sure of the result with a 75th-minute strike.

With three wins from their first three games, Nigeria clinched top spot in Group D, three points ahead of second-place Egypt, and are the only side with a perfect record at the tournament so far.

The 2013 champions head into Sunday’s game unbeaten in each of their last six outings across all competitions, claiming five wins and one draw since a October’s 1-0 loss against Central African Republic in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

On the other hand, Tunisia, who have barely caught the eye at the tournament, head into the round of 16 as one of the four best third-placed sides in the group stages.

The Eagles of Cartage were denied a dream start to their Africa Cup of Nations campaign when they fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Mali at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium in their opening game on January 12.

Like all good sides do, Mondher Kebaier’s men responded in fine fashion as they steamrollered Mauritania 4-0 in their second group outing four days later, when veteran forward Wahbi Khazri put on a clinic, scoring two goals and registering one assist.

However, the 2004 champions were stunned by an inexperienced Gambia side who secured a 1-0 win when they met in their final group game last time out, when Ablie Jallow scored a dramatic 93rd-minute winner to send the Scorpions through to the knockout stages in their first-ever appearance at the tournament.

Tunisia’s struggle for form so far has been in no small part owing to the lack of sting at the attacking end of the pitch as they have now failed to score in three of their last four games across all competitions.

They will now look to bounce back once again and get one over their West African counterparts who snatched a 1-0 victory courtesy of Odion Ighalo’s third-minute strike when the sides went toe to toe for Bronze in Egypt three years back.

Looking at past results between Nigeria and Tunisia, we can expect a cagey contest on Sunday as the results have been split right down the middle in the history of this fixture, with both sides claiming six wins apiece, while the spoils have been shared on eight different occasions.



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Serie A: Dzeko strikes late to save Inter against Venezia



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Edin Dzeko made sure that Inter Milan would hold off their Serie A title rivals on Saturday with a last-gasp strike which gave the league leaders a 2-1 win over Venezia.

The Bosnian’s first goal in nine matches in all competitions put the champions five points ahead of AC Milan, who now need to beat Champions League-chasing Juventus on Sunday night to make sure that their local rivals don’t start to pull away from the chasing pack.

With the Milan derby next up after the coming international break, Dzeko’s bullet header relieves the pressure on Inter, who were below their best against spirited opposition who had come into the game hit with a host of Covid-19 cases.

Third-placed Napoli are now seven points behind Simone Inzaghi’s side before they host bottom-side Salernitana on Sunday afternoon.

Defeat was a crushing blow for Venezia, who opened the scoring through Thomas Henry but sit 17th, two points above the relegation zone.

Henry gave the away side a shock lead in the 19th minute when he met Ethan Ampadu’s deep cross with a powerful header that flew past Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

From that moment on it was almost entirely one-way traffic, with a well-organised Venezia holding off a wave of Inter attacks which lacked their usual incisiveness.

A home crowd limited to 5 000 by Covid regulations grew frustrated as hosts struggled to break down their relatively lowly opposition, with Lautaro Martinez sending a bicycle kick way over the bar 10 minutes before the break.

However they did find the breakthrough five minutes five minutes later when after Ivan Perisic’s fizzing volley was pushed away Nicolo Barella lashed home his second league goal of the season on the rebound.

A baffling Dzeko miss left fans opened-mouth just before the hour mark, the Bosnia striker somehow poking over the bar from inches away after Luca Lezzerini fumbled the ball into his path from Stefano de Vrij’s header.

Inter created little after Federico Dimarco’s powerful free-kick was pushed away but Dzeko made up for his earlier miss by meeting Denzel Dumfries cross with a header to which Lezzerini couldn’t get near.

Earlier Genoa played out a goalless draw with Udinese in the struggling Serie A side’s first match under new coach Alexander Blessin.

Blessin, a top-level novice, arrived on the Italian riviera from Belgian team KV Oostende on Wednesday as Genoa try to climb out of the drop zone.

Genoa performed with more verve than under his predecessors Andriy Shevchenko and Davide Ballardini but missed some presentable opportunities.

They kept pushing for their first league win since mid-September after Andrea Cambiaso was sent off with 11 minutes remaining.

Read Also: AFCON: Moses Simon, Troost-Ekong listed in CAF Best XI

However they stay second-bottom in Serie A after their 20th match without victory, on 13 points, five behind Venezia.

Blessin was a left-field name for Genoa, as Oostende was Blessin’s first senior coaching position after coming up through the academy system at RB Leipzig.

He took over at Oostende in 2020 and led the team to fifth in the Belgian top flight. His former team sat 15th in the 18-team league, four points above the relegation play-off spot, when he departed for Genoa.


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