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Iwobi’ll be Eagles game changer in Oran ­­‑ Egwuekwe

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Alex Iwobi

FORMER Super Eagles defender Azubuike Egwuekwe has backed the national team to overcome their hosts Desert Foxes of Algeria when they faceoff at the Miloud Hadefi Olympic Complex in Oran on Tuesday (today), saying in-form Everton forward Alex would be the “game changer.”

The Eagles were held  2-2 last Friday by an Algerian side largely made up of domestic league players in a test game played behind closed doors in Constantine, with Iwobi scoring an amazing goal from outside the box.

AFCON 2013 winner Egwuekwe believes the Eagles can get a result against the Foxes despite the quality in the Algerian team.

“Of course, the Eagles can win; they are playing well under the new coach (Peseiro). But you know, Algeria is a very strong side, however, as a Nigerian, I have to support my country. I believe we are going to come out victorious,” Egwuekwe told PUNCH Sports Extra.

The former giant centre-back believes that the exploits of Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi will be pivotal in the game.

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“We have a lot of talents in Nigeria, but, for me, at this moment, Alex Iwobi will be the game changer, because he has been in top form since the beginning of this season in the Premier League. I believe that if he starts, he is going to make a difference for the team.”

Also, 2008 Olympics silver medallist Femi Ajilore said the friendly was an opportunity for new players to show the stuff they were made of.

“I am not expecting much from them, but I am expecting a little from the new players in the team. I am not expecting much because we have a lot of issues, when you look at the injured strikers (Victor Osimhen and Umar Sadiq) but of course, it’s an opportunity for some other young ones that are just entering the team to step in.

“Of course, the Algerians have been doing so well in recent times; they’re on a winning streak, so all I want to see is the introduction of the few new players in the team so we can access how good they are.”

The former Warri Wolves captain also spoke on emerging star Raphael Onyedika; the new boy in the Eagles camp.

“I am expecting a bit from him, this is his first time at the national level, and I am happy to see him because he has managed to shine at the same place where I shined; in Midtjylland, and now, he is in Club Brugge, playing in the Champions League, which has added more to his profile. I am expecting to see his integration in the team and also a good performance so that he can be a regular in the team,” Ajilore told The PUNCH.

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Germany Exit Qatar Despite 4 – 2 Win Over Costa Rica

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The Germans have been knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage for a second consecutive time despite a 4-2 win over Costa Rica on Thursday.

This was after the four-times champions were consigned to third place in the Group E following Japan’s victory over Spain.

Costa Rica deployed a five-man backline but Germany still found a way through in the 10th minute when David Raum made a cross that was headed home by Serge Gnabry.

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This restarted the game quickly fearing goal difference being a factor.

But after learning that Japan were leading Spain in the other group game, Germany appeared to have  let their guard down with Costa Rica scoring  twice with Yeltsin Tejeda arriving late to score the first before Juan Pablo Vargas bundled a second over the line.

Germany’s Kai Havertz grabbed a brace after coming on as a substitute to seal the three points before Niclas Fuellkrug added a fourth late in the game but the final results left Japan at the top of the group while Spain finished second having scored more goals than Germany.

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Ronaldo Misses Portugal Training Ahead Of South Korea Clash

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo did not train with his Portugal teammates on Wednesday ahead of their final World Cup group game against South Korea.

The Portuguese striker, 37, was doing “specific recovery work” according to a source from the Portuguese football federation.

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Ronaldo, without a club since leaving Manchester United during the tournament, scored a penalty in his country’s opening win over Ghana.

Portugal beat Uruguay 2-0 in their second match to qualify for the last 16, with Ronaldo appearing to claim a goal but he did not touch the ball and it was awarded to teammate Bruno Fernandes.

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Mexico exit World Cup despite beating Saudi Arabia

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Mexico suffered an agonising exit from the World Cup on goal difference on Wednesday despite beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a dramatic finale to Group C.

Second-half goals from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez secured victory for Mexico but they finished third behind Poland after Salem Al-Dawsari’s late strike.

Mexico desperately pushed for a third goal in an effort to improve their goal difference as they faced elimination on FIFA fair play rules.

Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina in their opening match was one of the World Cup’s great upsets, but they crashed back down to earth with a 2-0 loss to Poland in their second game.

Coach Herve Renard urged his players to show that was no flash in the pan and write themselves into Saudi football history by reaching knockout rounds for the first time since 1994.

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Having failed to win either of their first two group games for the first time in 44 years, Mexico knew victory was essential if they were to stand a chance of reaching the last 16 at an eighth successive World Cup.

Mexico boss Gerardo Martino ditched the back five he used in the 2-0 loss to Argentina and brought in Martin to lead the attack.

It almost reaped immediate rewards but Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais raced out to block Alexis Vega after he was slipped in behind the defence by Hirving Lozano.

Al-Owais, one of the heroes of the 2-1 win over Argentina, tentatively palmed away a bouncing cross ahead of a lunging Martin and held weak attempts by Chavez and Orbelin Pineda.

Mohamed Kanno whipped a free-kick just over for Saudi Arabia, who saw defender Ali Al-Bulayhi forced off with injury — adding to their mounting casualty list.

Mexico continued to attack without success and Ali Al-Hassan nearly sent the bulk of the largely Saudi crowd wild late in the first half with a diving header that flashed wide of the far post.

Chavez tested Al-Owais right after the interval and Martin soon broke the deadlock as he turned in from close range following Cesar Montes’ clever flick-on at a corner.

Mexico’s second goal arrived just five minutes later when Chavez sensationally curled a free-kick into the top corner from 30 metres.

Keeping an eye on the score between Argentina and Poland, Mexico pushed relentlessly for a third goal, with Lozano’s effort ruled out for a tight offside.

Martin blazed over when he had a glorious chance and Chavez had another free-kick turned away by Al-Owais, who also sprawled to his right to claw out a drive from Lozano.

Uriel Antuna then had another goal disallowed for offside before Al-Dawsari’s late strike put an end to the drama.

AFP

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