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AFCON: Egypt coach lauds Super Eagles’ quality but confident of victory

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Egypt coach, Carlos Queiroz, has admitted that the Super Eagles have a lot of quality. Still, he is confident that his side will beat Nigeria.

The Pharaohs will lock horns with the Super Eagles of Nigeria for the eighth time at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Both sides look evenly matched on paper, but judging by the history books, Nigeria have the upper hand with four wins and two draws.

However, the Egyptian side have had a better record against Nigeria at the AFCON in recent years. The last time both sides met in 2010, the Pharaohs beat Nigeria 3-1.

read also:AFCON: Nigeria ready for great triumph against Egypt – Musa

Going into the tie on Tuesday, Egypt coach Queiroz has praised Nigeria for the abundance of quality inherent in the side, but he still believes his team would emerge victoriously.

“It’s a great pleasure to face Nigeria in the opening game,” Queiroz said in the pre-match press conference, as per King Fut.

“We want to face the strongest teams in the tournament”

“Nigeria is a very strong team, but we have no objections. It’s always good to compete against football giants.

“We have a lot of players that are competing among themselves for a starting position, and that’s great because we came here to play seven games,” he was quoted by tribalfootball.

“Our ambition is very simple. Win all the matches,” he added

The games will hold at the Roumde Adija stadium, with kickoff set at 5 pm on Tuesday.

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Nadal beats Berrettini to reach Australian Open final

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Rafael Nadal marched into the final of the Australian Open to be just one match away from becoming the all-time men’s Grand Slam leader after overcoming Matteo Berrettini in their semi-final on Friday.

The 35-year-old Spanish great, seeded sixth, was too solid for the Italian seventh seed, winning 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in 2hr 55min, and will face either Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final.

Nadal is level on 20 majors with his golden era rivals Novak Djokovic, who was deported on the eve of the tournament, and Roger Federer, who is absent with injury.

It gives the Spaniard an opportunity to go clear at the top and add to his lone 2009 Melbourne Park crown in his sixth Australian Open final.

“For me it’s all about the Australian Open more than anything else, it’s an amazing event,” Nadal said.

“I have been a little unlucky during my career with some injuries and I played in some amazing finals here with some good chances against Novak in 2012 and Roger 2017, I was close a couple of times.

“I feel very lucky that I won once in my career in 2009, but I never thought about another chance in 2022.

“So I’ll just try to enjoy today’s victory and try my best in the final.”

It has been an extraordinary effort from Nadal at the year’s opening major, having to modify his game to compensate for a degenerative bone disease in his left foot that ended his 2021 season last August.

IT MEANS A LOT

He then caught Covid in December which, he said, made him “very sick”.

Yet Nadal brushed aside Berrettini’s challenge with precision shot-making, while last year’s Wimbledon finalist could not overcome his sluggish start.

The stark statistic confronting Berrettini was that Nadal had never lost in his 20 Grand Slam semi-finals after leading by two sets.

“I started the match playing great, the first two sets were one my best for a long time and I knew Matteo was a very solid player, very dangerous and I knew at some point in the third set he was going to go for his shots,” Nadal said.

“It means a lot to me to be in the final again here,” added Nadal who is now unbeaten in 10 matches to start the 2022 season after winning a warm-up event in Melbourne.

Nadal made the better start, breaking tentative Berrettini’s opening service game when the Italian’s backhand went wide.

Nadal solidly rolled through his service holds to claim the opening set on his fourth set point in 43 minutes.

Nadal was honing in on Berrettini’s backhand and got his reward with a double break to take a stranglehold on the second set.

Read Also: Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

He finished off a 10-stroke rally with a delicate slice that again exposed Berrettini’s backhand to consolidate the double break.

Berrettini, the first Italian man to play in the Australian Open semi-finals, raised his level in the third set.

He brought up his first break points in six sets in his two encounters with Nadal and broke with a forehand winner to 5-3 and served out to reduce the deficit to one set.

But the key break came in the eighth game of the fourth set, Nadal bringing up two separate break points and getting the crucial break when Berrettini netted a forehand before serving out for the match.

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Versatile Dane Wass joins Atletico from Valencia

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Denmark’s Daniel Wass has signed for Atletico Madrid from LaLiga rivals Valencia, the capital city side announced on Thursday.

The 32-year-old utility player, who can play in midfield or defence, “signs for the remainder of the campaign and another season,” Atletico said without giving details on the transfer.

“He is a very versatile player who can play in several areas of the field,” the club continued.

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Read Also: Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

“In his early days, he started playing as a full-back and a defender, but then moved to midfield, where he played both in the centre and on the sides”, before returning “to the back to play as a right-back again,” said Atletico.

During his three and a half seasons at Valencia, Wass scored 15 goals and provided 20 assists.

Capped 41 times for Denmark, Wass’s career has included stints with Danish club Brondby, French side Evian, Benfica in Portugal and Spanish outfit Celta Vigo.

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Bundesliga: Ambitious underdogs Freiburg eye UCL debut

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SC Freiburg are punching above their weight in the Bundesliga this season, with Christian Streich’s ambitious underdogs from the heart of the picturesque Black Forest eyeing a first appearance in the Champions League.

Freiburg have been perennial mid-table finishers in recent Bundesliga seasons, aside from their relegation in 2014-15 before coming straight back up.

Streich is the Bundesliga’s longest-serving current coach after more than a decade in the job.

Under his stewardship, Freiburg’s performances have fuelled dreams of a top-four finish and qualification for the Champions League for the first time.

“If that should happen, I think the party would really kick off in the city,” club captain Christian Guenter told AFP.

“It’s never happened before in the club’s history, but there is still a really long way to go.”

It’s 08:45am local time on a bleak morning, yet Guenter, 28, is fresh-faced and ready for training, clearly enjoying his football.

His performances at left-back earned him a Germany recall last November, seven years after his international debut.

RETAINING TALENT

Freiburg usually struggle to keep their best players, most recently when Germany defender Robin Koch left in 2020 to join Leeds United.

“Almost 10 years ago, we qualified for the Europa League and five important players left that summer,” sporting director Klemens Hartenbach told AFP.

“It’s always a bit related to sporting success — the exodus after the good work.”

However, Freiburg managed to keep their squad intact going into this season and have racked up league points.

“We simply know that we have great potential in the team,” added Guenter.

“There is always a lot of energy in training, everyone is very ambitious and wants to win.

“That’s what really distinguishes us this season: we never give up, no matter what the score is.”

Freiburg have no big-name stars, yet shocked Borussia Dortmund in their first home match on the way to remaining unbeaten in their opening 10 league games to set a club record.

Freiburg became the last Bundesliga side to lose their unbeaten status only after a narrow defeat at mighty Bayern Munich in November.

A win over Bayer Leverkusen before Christmas meant Freiburg finished the first half of the season third in the table — another club best.

Despite a 5-1 thumping a fortnight ago at Dortmund, when Erling Haaland ran riot, Freiburg bounced back with a win over Stuttgart to currently sit fifth, just a point outside the Champions League places.

Striker Nils Petersen, who spent two seasons at Bayern until 2013, loves the atmosphere in the Freiburg dressing room.

EVERY WIN IS SPECIAL

“Every win is something special for us, where as at Bayern you are expected to win,” Petersen told AFP.

“We’re enjoying it right now, we like to ride the wave of success, but the fear is always that it can go in the other direction again.”

At 33, Petersen is in the twilight of his career and out of contract in June, but hopes to be offered an extension.

“The club has already said they can imagine extending with me,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to watch the team be successful next season at home on the television.”

He has strengthened his case by proving his value as a substitute.

He holds the record for the most Bundesliga goals as a sub and his late winner at Hertha Berlin last October was his 30th after coming off the bench.

Read Also: Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

“If it gets you in the history books at some point, I’m not going to say no and I quite enjoy making an impact,” he added.

The club is also branching out off the pitch, moving from their iconic Schwarzwald Stadion to the state-of-the-art Europa Park Stadium, which holds around 35 000 people.

February’s fixtures against Cologne, Mainz, Augsburg and Hertha Berlin offer chances to again climb the table and boost their Champions League ambitions.

“Maybe we are a very small dot on Europe’s football map now,” added Hartenbach. “And that could lead to us maybe becoming something bigger.”

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