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Nigeria defeat South Africa to clinch AFCON 2019 semi-final spot

Three-time AFCON champions, Nigeria will clash against Algeria or Ivory Coast for a spot in the July 19 final

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Nigeria defeat South Africa to seal AFCON 2019 semi-final spot
Nigeria players celebrate their victory while South Africa's Bongani Zungu appears dejected after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations quarter final soccer match between Nigeria and South Africa at the Cairo International Stadium. Photo: Oliver Weiken/dpa

William Troost-Ekong’s late winner sent Nigeria through to the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday after a tense 2-1 victory over South Africa in Cairo.

Samuel Chukwueze fired the Super Eagles ahead in the first half in front of a healthy, largely pro-Nigerian crowd at the 75,000-capacity Cairo International Stadium.

But Bongani Zungu’s looping header brought South Africa level on 70 minutes, the goal awarded with the aid of VAR — introduced for the first time at the tournament from the quarter-final stage onwards — after it was initially ruled out for offside.

Centre-back Troost-Ekong then turned home at a corner a minute from time to set three-time champions Nigeria up with a clash against Algeria or Ivory Coast for a spot in the July 19 final.

Left-back Jamilu Collins made his first appearance in Egypt after shaking off a pre-tournament injury while Villarreal forward Chukwueze came in for Moses Simon in the Nigerian attack.

Nigeria defeat South Africa to clinch AFCON 2019 semi-final spot
Nigeria’s players celebrate their win during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) quarter-final football match between Nigeria and South Africa at Cairo international stadium. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

READ: Nigeria topple reigning champions Cameroon in AFCON classic

Stuart Baxter stuck with the same side that shocked hosts Egypt in the last round, as match-winner Thembinkosi Lorch retained his place despite Themba Zwane’s return from suspension.

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr had suggested South Africa were favourites in the build-up following their defeat of the record seven-time champions, a tag Baxter promptly rejected with Bafana Bafana’s lone competitive win coming in qualifying for these finals.

Odion Ighalo’s goals have been the driving force behind Nigeria’s run here but it was emerging young forward Chukwueze, coming off a solid debut season in Spain’s top flight, who struck just before the half-hour to end the impasse.

Alex Iwobi skipped past a couple of defenders down the left before pulling back for Chukwueze, who swept into the corner as the ball trickled back his way after a first shot was blocked.

Following a stodgy first half, Nigeria appeared the far sharper after the break, Peter Etebo rattling the crossbar with a superb 25-yard- free-kick destined for the top corner but for the fingertips of Ronwen Williams.

A number of promising attacks fizzled out for Nigeria and their lack of precision came back to haunt them when Zungu hauled South Africa level, nodding back across goal after a Percy Tau set-piece was shown upon a video review to have been flicked on by Ighalo.

But after their stunning elimination of Mohamed Salah’s Egypt there was to be no follow-up act from South Africa as Williams flapped at an inswinging corner and Troost-Ekong forced over the line to clinch victory for Nigeria.

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East Africa Sports News

Ineos 1:59 Challenge: Kenya’s Kipchoge says ready to “break the two-hour barrier”

Kipchoge, 34, went close to breaking the two-hour barrier when he was 25 seconds too slow in another staged run

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Ineos 1:59 Challenge: Kenya's Kipchoge says ready to "break the two-hour barrier"
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge poses for photographers prior to his press conference in Vienna on October 10, 2019, prior to his attempt to break the two-hour barrier on the October 12, 2019 marathon in Vienna. (AFP)

As he prepares for more assaults on the peaks of marathon running, Eliud Kipchoge stays true to an austere lifestyle despite his fame and fortune.

The Kenyan superstar, who holds the marathon world record and is reigning Olympic champion, hopes to become the first man to run the 42.195 kilometres in under two hours on Saturday in Vienna.

Despite his status and wealth, the 2018 world athlete of the year leads a monastic existence at a spartan running camp in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

With the 30 or so runners living at the camp, Kipchoge sets off at dawn for the first of two daily training sessions. 

The rest of his time is spent resting, reading and eating, with a focus on simple Kenyan food staples. 

“I don’t think I am different. I am trying my best to live a modest life,” he said.

“I am a simple person, I try to stay calm and focus on what I do. There are no distractions.”

The special event in Vienna, sponsored by British conglomerate Ineos, has been given a catchy marketing title: the “1:h59 Challenge”.

Kipchoge, 34, went close to breaking the two-hour barrier when he was 25 seconds too slow in another staged run, at Italy’s Monza race circuit in 2017. 

That time was not sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) because a vehicle and a squad of pacemakers aided Kipchoge in controlling his speed.

The same conditions will prevail for the Vienna attempt, preventing any potential world record from being validated.

‘Landing on the moon’ –

“This is about history,” he said. “It’s about leaving a legacy. It’s about inspiring people,” he said of the Vienna event.

“My main message to the 7.5 billion people in the world is that no human is limited.”

“Breaking the two-hour marathon barrier would be like man landing on the moon,” he said.

He added that it would “show to the world that when you focus on your goal, when you work hard and when you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”

Kipchoge was born in Kapsisiywa, Nandi County in western Kenya. 

At 18, he beat two legendary runners, the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, to became 5,000-metre world champion in Paris in 2003.

In 2012, after failing to qualify for the London Olympics, Kipchoge switched to marathon running.

With his compact silhouette and unwavering stride as the miles tick by, Kipchoge is perfectly suited to the longer distance. 

Out of 12 marathons, he has lost just once: in his 2013 debut in Berlin, against compatriot Wilson Kipsang, who broke the world record that day. 

Kipchoge set his world record, 2hr 1min 39sec, in the Berlin race in 2018.

He had met coach Patrick Sang in 2001 and joined the fabled running stable in the foothills of the Rift Valley a year later.

‘Sense of sacrifice’ –

Kipchoge enjoys no privileges at the Kaptagat camp where he is nicknamed the “philosopher” for his love of reading. The camp is a few hours’ walk from his home village, Eldoret. On weekends, he returns to his family.

Coach Sang, an Olympic runner-up in the 3,000m steeplechase in 1992, remains impressed with his student’s determination.

“He has continued to amaze me with his self-sacrifice and dedication. He has given 100 per cent of his ability and total commitment to what he does,” he told reporters.

The champion’s often mischievous gaze hardens when the subject of doping arises. Kipchoge has never been caught up in scandal, but the reputation of his Kenyan compatriots has raised questions.

Kipchoge, who will defend his Olympic title in Tokyo next year, is fixated on Saturday’s challenge.

“I have visualised it. I have put it in my heart and my mind that I will break the two-hour barrier,” he said.

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North Africa Sports

Egypt’s star Mohammed Salah set to miss friendly against Botswana

Salah finished fourth in the balloting for the FIFA best player award last week

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Salah set to miss Egypt friendly against Botswana
African Footballer of the Year, Egypt and Liverpool striker Mohammed Salah. (Photo by CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / AFP)

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah “must rest” and will miss Egypt’s friendly against Botswana on October 14, national team coach Hossam El Badry said Thursday. The announcement came days after Salah raised eyebrows by changing his Twitter bio to say he only played for Liverpool, removing any mention of his affiliation to Egypt.

Salah finished fourth in the balloting for the FIFA best player award last week, with two of Egypt’s votes rejected by football’s governing body after they were signed in capital letters. El Badry said he spoke to Salah following a report from the national team doctor on the fitness of the squad’s overseas-based players.

“I agreed with him that it is in his best interests and those of the national team that he rests,” El Badry told local channel MBC Masr. “He won’t be with us at the training camp for Botswana, but God willing, he will be with us for the official matches.”

Salah scored twice on Wednesday as holders Liverpool defeated Salzburg 4-3 at home in the Champions League group stage. 

Salah and the Egyptian FA have butted heads before several times, most prominently when a photo of him was plastered on the squad’s plane ahead of the 2018 World Cup, causing sponsorship problems for the star.

El Badry will take charge of his first match as Egypt coach against Botswana following his appointment last month. Egypt begin their qualifying campaign for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations at home to Kenya in November.

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Kanu tells Nigerians to shrug Tammy and Tomori England call-ups

Gareth Southgate rewarded Abraham for his fine start to the season by naming him in his squad

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Kanu tells Nigerians to forget about Abraham playing for England

Former Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu has told the Super Eagles to shrug off the disappointment of seeing Chelsea stars Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori called up by England.

Gareth Southgate rewarded the pair for their fine start to the season by naming them in his squad for Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria later this month.

Former Arsenal favourite Kanu insisted Nigeria should “move on” and still had enough top players to cope with missing out on the two Premier League stars. “That’s football and I think we have enough quality and we can win matches without them,” he said.

“We can’t continue to beg one player to play for us. Nigeria cannot beg, players have to beg Nigeria.”

Abraham, 22, who has won two caps for the Three Lions in friendlies against Brazil and Germany in 2017, had flirted with switching his international allegiance to the country who he qualifies for through his father. Centre-back Tomori, 21, is also eligible to represent Nigeria and Canada at international level.

Nigeria Football Federation officials had repeatedly tried to convince Abraham to change his international allegiance but he looks set to slip through their grasp by playing a competitive match for England.

In the past the Super Eagles have convinced players like Victor Moses and Sone Aluko, who played for England at youth level, to represent the West African nation.

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