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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Nigeria’s FA chief upbeat on Super Eagles’ chances of qualification

LAGOS Nigeria (Xinhua) -- The Super Eagles of Nigeria still had chance to progress to the knockout stage of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup, Amaju Pinnick, President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) said Monday.

He said in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub that in spite of the Eagles’ 2-0 loss to Croatia, the team could still make something out of the Group D.

The Nigerian team faltered in their first match of the World Cup losing to Croatia via Oghenekaro Etebo’s own goal and Luka Modric penalty.

Pinnick said no team in Group D can yet boast of qualification, adding that in football, a lot is possible if the heart is there to go out and conquer.

“Losing your first match of a major competition is not an automatic exit ticket. Spain lost their first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals and still went ahead to win the tournament,” he added.

“We have a young team that can achieve so much with the right attitude and invention, and we must now reach deep down for those qualities when we play Iceland in Volgograd,” he said.

The NFF president and member of the CAF Executive Committee, also appealed to Nigerians back home to continue to support the young team with kind words.

The Super Eagles returned to their team base camp in Essentuki on Sunday, and have commenced training for Friday’s encounter at the 45,000-capacity Volgograd Arena.

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UPDATES:

Croatia send striker Kalinic hope after refusing to enter game as sub

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Croatian striker Nikola Kalinic was sent home from the World Cup in disgrace by head coach Zlatko Dalic on Monday after refusing to enter Saturday’s 2-0 win against Nigeria as a late substitute.

“In agreement with his coaching staff, Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic decided to exclude Nikola Kalinic from the World Cup squad. Kalinic leaves Croatia basecamp in Roshchino on Monday and returns to Croatia,” confirmed the Croatian Football Federation.

Dalic confirmed the decision in a news conference on Monday afternoon, when he told reporters that “during the Nigeria match, Kalinic was warming-up and should have come in the second half. However, he said he wasn’t ready to go on because he felt a back problem.”

“He did the same thing against Brazil and England, saying he wasn’t ready, and for yesterday’s training session too. I accepted it calmly, because I need ready and healthy players who can help their teammates. He’s not like that, on three occasions he hasn’t been ready, so I made this decision,” said the Croatian coach.

The 30-year-old is expected to join Spanish LaLiga side Sevilla next season on a loan deal which includes the option for Sevilla to make the move permanent for 20 million euros.

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Colombia star Rodriguez in doubt for World Cup opener against Japan

SARANSK Russia (Xinhua) -- Colombia superstar James Rodriguez is still doubtful for the team’s opening match against Japan in the World Cup Group H actions, coach Jose Pekerman said on Monday.

“We are still waiting to see what the doctors will say on James,” Pekerman said in a pre-match news conference on Monday. “We always wait until the very last minute before we decide. The World Cup is played after a busy season and it’s true some players arrived here in Russia not feeling very well, so we need to be very careful about players’ health.”

Rodriguez, 26, is still recovering from a leg injury but expected to spearhead the best generation of Colombian players since the 1990s at this year’s World Cup. He was the top scorer in Brazil World Cup 2014 with six goals in five matches.

“We have enough players for replacement. Our team is much richer and much stronger than in 2014,” the coach added.

Colombia is grouped with Japan, Senegal and Poland. The Colombia vs Japan match will be held on Tuesday.

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Poland count on team work rather than Lewandowski alone

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Robert Lewandowski is one of the best players in the world, but Poland will count on the whole team rather than any individual, coach Adam Nawalka said at a press conference on Monday, prior to the match against Senegal in World Cup Group H.

“Robert is a good captain who supports other members of the team, and the atmosphere in the team is excellent, each player contributes to the team,” Nawalka said.

“The scale and size of Robert’s talent are immense, besides that, a lot of work and time, professional attitude to football, as well as form and physical efficiency, are the composition of the reason for what he achieved, “ Nawalka said, praising the Bayern Munich forward as a “good example” for other players.

The Poland coach said that teams in this group are quite leveled in capabilities and skills, matches are going to be exciting and he considered Senegal as a strong opponent.

“Senegal is a team capable of attacking, very fast, and it has dangerous players, many of which play in good clubs. Tomorrow’s game will be difficult, but we believe that we will play better and come out victorious,” he said.

Poland will take on Senegal at Spartak Stadium in Moscow on Tuesday, while another showdown of the group between Japan and Colombia is to take place at Mordovia Arena in Saransk on the same day.

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Senegal coach Cisse piles praise on star striker Mane

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Senegal coach Aliou Cisse has piled the praise on striker Saido Mane ahead his side’s World Cup debut against Poland in Moscow on Tuesday night.

Speaking in his pre-game press conference, Cisse was asked about the player who plays for Liverpool in the Premier League and who scored their goal in the final of this season’s Champions League as Liverpool lost 3-1 to Real Madrid.

Mane netted 10 goals in the Premier League and 10 in Europe for Liverpool last season, while he has 11 goals in 32 appearances for his country.

“Sadio Mane is a unique player and he cannot be compared to any other Senegal player, even the best ones we’ve had in the past,” said Cisse, who said that despite the world-wide fame his move from Southampton to Liverpool has brought, the 26-year-old is the same as a person.

“He plays for one of the most famous clubs in Europe and he has been excellent for them... However, despite everything that has happened for him over the last two years, he hasn’t changed; he’s just as humble as he was when I first met him at the 2012 Olympics,” continue the Senegal coach.

Cisse has brought 8 forwards to the World Cup finals as Senegal look to repeat their heroics of 2002, when they beat reigning World Champions, France and reached the quarter-finals in Japan and South Korea, but insisted Sane was “absolutely unique because he is so unpredictable and that’s what makes him great, he can make the difference with a pass or shot.”

However, despite praising Sane, Cisse insisted he was coaching more than a one-man team.

“Senegal isn’t just Sadio Mane, he has a good team built around him and I think it should be a positive that we are all supporting him,” he concluded.

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Saudi Arabia World Cup plane catches fire, no injuries

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- A plane carrying Saudi Arabia’s national football team at the World Cup in Russia caught fire mid-flight before landing at Rostov-on-Don airport on Monday, according to reports.

Footage uploaded on social media showed flames apparently coming from the engine of the Russian Airlines Airbus after it landed.

The Saudi Football Federation said in a statement that there were no injuries.

“The Saudi Football Federation wishes to reassure everyone about the safety of all members of the mission of the national team after a minor technical malfunction in an engine,” it said.

The plane was taking Saudi Arabia’s squad to Rostov for their next World Cup match against Uruguay on Wednesday.

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Iceland broadcaster reports record viewing figures for Argentina draw

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Iceland’s 1-1 draw with Argentina in their opening World Cup match on Saturday was the country’s most-watched sporting event in history, according to national broadcaster RUV.

Some 99.6% of Icelanders watching television at the time were tuned into the Group D fixture in Moscow, RUV said in a statement.

A goal from Alfred Finnbogason cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s earlier strike as the Nordic team secured their first ever World Cup point.

Ratings figures showed that 60% of Iceland’s 335,000 inhabitants were watching the match, beating the 58.8% that viewed the team’s Euro 2016 victory over England.

Finnbogason quipped on social media that the 0.4% that didn’t watch on Saturday was on the pitch at Spartak Stadium. 

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Aussie football fans left fuming as streaming service fails during World Cup

SYDNEY Australia (Xinhua) -- The chief executive of telecommunications giant Optus, Allen Lew, has continued to apologize to Aussie football fans on Monday, after its streaming service once again failed, for the third consecutive day of the Russia World Cup.

“I apologize unreservedly to all Australians,” Lew said.

“We should have done better, we can do better and we will do better.”

With the airing rights to all 64 matches, Optus charges mobile customers 15 Australian dollars (11 U.S. dollars) per month to stream the World Cup and the English Premier League.

But with droves of fans down under unable to watch the group matches, many of them took to social media to vent their anger and demand refunds.

Among the irate fans was former Socceroo Robbie Slater.

“We all just want to watch the FIFA World Cup but we can’t!” he tweeted.

“Shame on all of you! And you know who you are!”

A prominent sports columnist also chimed in to voice his frustration at the lack of coverage.

“Dear Optus Sport, the only way out is to hand over your World Cup coverage to a proper TV network,” Richard Hinds posted to Twitter.

“Surely, otherwise, the loss of goodwill is catastrophic. Not to mention the simple decency of allowing football fans to watch the world’s biggest sporting event. Please?”

During the first incident in the match between Egypt and Uruguay on Friday, the company blamed “an extremely high number of viewers” logging into the platform just before kickoff as the reason for the systems to overload, which caused playback errors and problems buffering.

But over the weekend, the issues have continued.

On Monday afternoon however there remains hope, with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull coming to the rescue of soccer fans down under.

“I have spoken with the Optus CEO, Allen Lew,” Turnbull tweeted.

“He assures me he is giving the World Cup streaming problems his personal attention and he believes it will be fixed this evening.” 

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Portugal expecting stern test against Morocco, says Andre Silva

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Portugal striker Andre Silva says the European champions are preparing for a tough assignment against Morocco when the teams meet in Group B of the World Cup here on Wednesday.

Portugal kicked off their campaign in Russia with a 3-3 draw against Spain while Morocco conceded a late own goal in a 1-0 loss to Iran.

“I think we are stronger than Morocco if we compare the two teams, but I’m not saying the game will be easy for us,” Silva told a news conference on Monday at Portugal’s base in Kratovo, 40km southwest of Moscow.

“We cannot underestimate them and must have respect for any opponent. Any game at the World Cup is difficult,” he added

“They lost their first game but it happens and now they will focus on winning and will try their best. They’re used to playing against European teams and will do their all to get this victory. There are no favourites. Morocco have excellent players and the result of their game against Iran could have been different,” he continued.

Silva, who was introduced as a late substitute against Spain in Sochi, said he was unsure if he will again be used off the bench on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old AC Milan forward formed a lethal attacking partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo during qualifying, as the pair scored 24 goals between them.

“As I’ve said it’s a big honour to play with him [Ronaldo], he’s the best footballer in the world,” Silva said.

“I’m very happy to be on the same team with him. When he needs me to do something I’m always where he needs me to be. And when I need him he’s always by my side. We always try to work together and in combination,” he said.

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More than 5,000 fans travel through Belarus to Russia for 2018 FIFA World Cup

MINSK Belarus (Xinhua) -- More than 5,000 fans have traveled through Belarus to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the State Border Service Committee of Belarus said Monday.

The majority of fans cross the border via Minsk National Airport. More than 3,400 fans have already traveled to Belarus this way. The second popular way is to travel by train, and the third one is by road, the State Border Service Committee said.

Foreigners can enter Russia without visas when they show their FAN IDs that are valid from June 4, ten days before the start of the game, through to July 25. To cross the Belarusian border, a foreign traveler must present a FAN ID and a valid passport.

On May 29, Belarus and Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement on the mutual recognition of visas issued to foreigners coming for the FIFA World Cup and European Games.

             

 

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