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Burkina Faso threatens to boycott AFCON opener

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Burkina Faso have threatened not to play the opening game of the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations against hosts Cameroon on Sunday if Covid-19 tests are not redone by independent doctors in the presence of their medical staff.

About five players and coach Kamou Malo Saturday tested positive in the run-up to Sunday’s opener against hosts Cameroon.

In a protest letter to CAF, the Burkinabè Football Federation has said they are suspecting manipulation in the tests done earlier on Saturday night which results show nine members, including five players and the head coach tested positive.

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The pandemic has remained one of the major challenges of the continental soccer tourney as at least seven of the 24 participating teams have already been affected by the pandemic including Senegal, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Cape Verde, Tunisia and The Gambia.

CAF had authorized participating teams to increase the number of players from the usual 23 to 28 to ensure there would be substitutes in case of Covid-19 positive cases.

During the pre-match press conference, the assistant coach of the Stallions Firmin Sanou already argued that his players who had been declared positive for the virus were actually not positive.

“We cannot be told at the eve of the game that they (players) are positive. This is unacceptable,” Sanou said, adding that: “Officials need to think and bring a transparent team from CAF to come and conduct the tests so that we will be sure the players will not participate in the match.”

Skipper Bertrand Traore has deplored as “a scandal” coronavirus testing procedures at the Africa Cup of Nations. The Aston Villa forward told a press conference in Yaounde on Saturday: “It’s a scandal, we cannot be deprived of first team players 24 hours before the match.”

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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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EPL: Man City held by Southampton

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Aymeric Laporte spared Manchester City’s blushes as the Premier League leaders were held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton on Saturday.

City were rocked by Kyle Walker-Peters’ first ever top-flight goal in the opening minutes.

After a poor first half by their high standards, Pep Guardiola’s side kicked into gear after the break.

Spain defender Laporte headed the equaliser, but City could not extend their winning streak in a one-sided finale that saw the visitors lay seige to the Southampton goal.

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Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte

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

The champions had to settle for a result that left them 12 points clear of second-placed Liverpool, who have two games in hand and face Crystal Palace on Sunday.

For the first time since they were beaten 2-0 by Palace on October 30, City finished a league game without all three points.

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Comoros hit by Covid-19 outbreak at Cup of Nations

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The Comoros Islands have been hit by an outbreak of Covid-19 in their camp, including their coach and two available goalkeepers, two days before they are due to meet Africa Cup of Nations hosts Cameroon in the last 16.

A total of 12 cases have been reported in their camp, the Comoros Football Federation said on Saturday.

They now face a crisis in goal with first choice Salim Ben Boina injured and their other two keepers, Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseni, now forced to isolate.

Coach Amir Abdou, who has been in charge for the last eight years and credited for his country’s giant-killing run, is now also in quarantine.

The Comoros qualified for the last 16 against all expectations after a shock win over Ghana on Tuesday but now have a major crisis on their hands some 48 hours before the biggest game in their footballing history.

CAF has laid down strict rules regarding Covid-19 at the Cup of Nations finals.

Read Also: EPL: Lindelof given time off by Man Utd after home burgled

If a player tests positive he will not be authorised to go to the stadium or participate in the match, while teams must play as long as they have a minimum 11 players available.

If they have no goalkeeper available, another player must play in that position.

Teams that do not have a minimum of 11 players available will be considered to have lost the match 2-0, according to CAF.

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