Mane scoops player of month award – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Liverpool attacker Sadio Mane has been named as the PFA Fans’ Player of the month for March.

The Senegal intercontinental beat off opposition from fellow English Premier League players Lucas Digne, Wilfred Ndidi, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy and Aaron Wan-Bissaka to assert the prize for the 2nd time this season.

Mane received the similar award in August, obtaining scored 3 goals in his 1st two games of the league season.

The 26-year-old, who has been in superb form for the Reds this season, scored a few goals in 4 appearances previous thirty day period.

In complete, the Liverpool attacker has scored 20 goals in 40 appearances across all competitions this season, chipping in with a even more 4 assists.

Liverpool beat Porto in the 1st leg of the Champions League last night 2-0

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Comoros, Malawi holding hope – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

When Comoros and Malawi clash in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match on Saturday at the Stade de Moroni, the two will be holding hope that they can attain the match correct next year in Cameroon.

Kick-off is at 14h00 (CAT).

Group B of the 2019 Afcon qualifying campaign is delicately poised with the two Comoros and Malawi holding an outside likelihood of qualifying.

Cameroon leading the standings with 8 points from four games, adopted by Morocco in 2nd place on seven points. Malawi are third in group B with four points whilst Comoros are previous with two points.

Malawi’s only win in their Afcon qualifying campaign arrived around Comoros in their very first Team B match, beating them 1- back in June previous year.

Subsequent that victory Malawi endured an embarrassing 3- reduction to Morocco away from home in September of this year and then a 1- reduction to Cameroon on October 12, also away from home.

Malawi’s most modern qualifying match was a – draw at home to Cameroon on October 16.

Comoros, on the other hand, are however to win a game in Team B and have endured losses to Malawi (1- in June 2017) and Morocco (1- on October 13 of this year).

The Comoros’ only two points in Team B have arrive from attracts against Cameroon (1-1 at home in September of this year) and most recently a 2-2 draw against Cameroon on October 16.

So it is all to play for involving Malawi and Comoros with the two their Afcon lives on the line, but they could know their destiny ahead of the come across as the other Team B game involving Morocco and Cameroon takes place on Friday, November 16.

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Senegal best and worst case draw scenarios – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Sadio Mane of Senegal celebrates a goal with teammates during the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers football match between South Africa and Senegal at Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane on 10 November 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Graeme Jackson

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 18:30

Ahead of tomorrow’s draw for the 2018 World Cup, AfricanFootball looks at both the best and worst case group stage scenarios for Senegal’s Teranga Lions.

Which pot are Senegal in?

The West Africans are in Pot 3 due to their world ranking position (32) in October, which determined which section of the draw teams were assigned to.

Which teams can they be drawn against?

– One of the teams in Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France

– One of the teams in Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia

– One of the following teams in Pot 4: Serbia, Australia, Japan, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia

Which teams can they not be drawn against?

All of the other teams in Pot 3 – Tunisia, Egypt, Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden and Iran – as well as the two Africans teams in Pot 4: Nigeria and Morocco.

What’s their best-case scenario?

From Pot 1, Senegal will want to draw Russia. The 2018 hosts are easily the weakest team in that pool. Short of getting the home side, Belgium and Poland are probably a touch overrated and have traditionally struggled at big tournaments.

From Pot 2 they’ll want to draw Peru, who haven’t been to the World Cup since 1982, or one of England, Switzerland or Croatia – they’re all fine teams, but not as powerful and dangerous as the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Mexico.

From Pot 4 the Teranga Lions will want Panama, who are making their tournament debut, or the lowest ranked team, Saudi Arabia. Though none of the others – Serbia, Australia, Japan and South Korea – are particularly intimidating either.

Summary: Senegal’s dream group stage draw would see them pooled with Russia, Peru and Panama/Saudi Arabia.

And their worst?

As a combination, this is about as bad as it could get for Senegal: South American heavyweights Brazil from Pot 1, 2010 champions Spain from Pot 2 and Serbia from Pot 4. You could swap out Brazil for Argentina and it would be just as tough, or go with Germany from Pot 1 and Colombia or Uruguay from Pot 2. There are plenty of combinations to get African fans nervous.

Summary: A group with Brazil, Spain and Serbia would represent the worst case for the Teranga Lions.

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Cedric Bakambu becomes first African to clinch La Liga accolade – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Villarreal striker Cedric Bakambu

Bertin Basson

Wednesday Nov 29, 2017. 14:00

Cedric Bakambu became the first African player to receive Spanish La Liga’s Player of the Month award, following his exploits in the month of October.

The Villarreal forward was presented with the accolade on Sunday, ahead of the club’s 3-2 defeat to Sevilla in which he found the back of the net for his ninth goal of the league season.

The Democratic Republic of Congo international scored six goals in four league games during the month of October – netting a hat-trick Eibar.


The 26-year-old edged Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Valencia’s Gonçalo Guedes to the accolade, that has been in existence since September 2013 as per BBC Sport.

“Very proud to be voted player of the month!,” Bakambu wrote on Twitter.

Bakambu has scored 45 goals in 101 appearances for Villarreal since his move to Spain in August 2015.

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South Africa captain confident of 2019 AFCON qualification – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Andile Jali, Thulani Hlatshwayoand Erick Mathoho during the South Africa Senior Men Team Morning © Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

Graeme Jackson

Wednesday Nov 29, 2017. 13:30

South Africa captain Thulani Hlatshwayo has expressed confidence that his side will qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Bafana Bafana endured a torrid 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign and finished bottom of Group D behind Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde.

Yet the team made a strong start to their 2019 AFCON preliminary group, defeating Nigeria 2-0 in Uyo back in June to put themselves in a strong position to finish in the top two of Group E, which also features Libya and Seychelles.

Hlatshwayo says Bafana will bounce back from their 2018 failure: “We know how disappointed the country is about the results and we as players take the blame,” he is quoted by Kick-Off.

“As the captain I take the blame. Unfortunately I could not play play those two games [against Senegal]. I am not saying if I was there I would have made a difference because the guys who played did well against Burkina Faso.

“We would like to urge the country to support because we don’t go into a game to lose. We are there representing our families and our communities.”

The burly central defender added, “We did well against Nigeria away from home, so that’s where we have to make sure we bring smiles to South Africans. We have to make sure we qualify for AFCON.”

He also gave his backing to coach Stuart Baxter, who has been a part of two failed World Cup qualification campaigns after also being at the helm of the team when they were unable to reach the 2006 finals.

“Yes, I have confidence in Stuart Baxter. He is our coach right now and we have to give him our all,” explained the defender.

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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Thomas Partey – Ghanaian continues to shine for Atletico – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Atletico Madrid‘s players Koke Resurreccion (R) and Thomas Partey during a training session

Bertin Basson

Wednesday Nov 29, 2017. 13:00

Ghana international Thomas Partey has continued his stunning run of form for club side Atletico Madrid, with the 24-year-old proving his versatility in a 5-0 walloping of Levante this past weekend.

Atleti remain unbeaten in this season’s Spanish La Liga, with Partey one of their outstanding players thus far.

The midfielder-come-fullback, held his own at right-back in the club’s 2-0 win over Roma in the UEFA Champions League before starring in the same position in league success on Saturday.

Having added goals to his game in a more advanced role in midfield, Partey has since proven his worth at fullback and surely if needed – he will play as a striker too!


The run of form comes as just reward for Partey who struggled for game time in the Spanish capital leading up to the current campaign.

In total, the former Mallorca and Almeria man has played 18 games this season across all competitions, scoring four goals.

Atletico return to action this evening in the Copa del Rey with a clash against Elche.

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Player Spotlight: Mario Lemina – Gabon star could start against Manchester City – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Manchester United’s Marouane Fellani (L) and Southampton’s Mario Lemina in action during the English Premier League soccer match between Southampton FC and Manchester United at Saint Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, Britain, 23 September 2017.

Austin Ditlhobolo

Tuesday Nov 28, 2017. 16:00

The highly-rated central midfielder made his first competitive appearance for his club Southampton in just over month on Sunday.

Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino introduced Lemina with 12 minutes left as the Saints beat Everton 4-1 in an English Premier League game at home.

The Gabonese international has recovered well from an ankle injury which he sustained after facing West Bromwich Albion in a league game on the 21st of October 2017.

Lemina has been one of the Saints’ best players this season having joined the club from Italian Serie A giants Juventus prior to the current campaign.

The Saints provided an injury update ahead of their away league game with high-flying Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

A club statement read: “Mauricio Pellegrino has no injury concerns for his team’s Premier League trip to Manchester City, with long-term absentee Matt Targett the only player set to skip Wednesday’s encounter.

“The Argentine has practically a full squad to choose from at the Etihad Stadium, with Mario Lemina having made his first appearance in just over month from the substitute’s bench against Everton on Sunday.

“Lemina completed the final 12 minutes of Southampton’s comprehensive 4-1 victory over the Toffees, his first sight of action since the home meeting with West Bromwich Albion on 21 October.

“Saints’ midfield options are set to be boosted further by the return of Oriol Romeu after a one-match suspension.”

Lemina, 24, has made eight league appearances for Southampton this season.

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Dembele agent hits back at Jean-Michael Seri – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Graeme Jackson

Tuesday Nov 28, 2017. 15:30

The agent of Barcelona midfielder Ousmane Dembele has hit back at Nice’s Ivorian star Jean-Michael Seri.

The Elephants player criticised Dembele for going on strike at Borussia Dortmund and forcing through a move to Barcelona this past European summer.

He also claimed that the mental and physical stress of this action led to Dembele’s early-season injury problems.

But Dembele’s agent Moussa Sissoko has now taken a swipe at the Nice player, telling L’Equipe: “When Seri discusses the attitude to adopt, I wonder if it would be appropriate for him to focus on how he could return to his best.

“His transfer to Barça was aborted and he may have remained on that disappointment.

“Since then, he seems missing in Nice where he is still under contract. And if I refer to his words given to Mundo Deportivo at the end of August, he himself confessed to having exploded with his leaders, whose office walls he shook after he realised he would not go to Catalonia.

“Now, rather than giving lessons wrongly or rightly, or negatively addressing Ousmane’s career, it may be time for him to focus on keeping his club in Ligue 1.

“I want to remind Seri and other critics that Ousmane Dembele went from his first professional contract with Rennes, Borussia Dortmund and FC Barcelona in less than two years.

“It’s a career plan that I wish for everyone.”

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Player Spotlight: Mohamed Salah – ‘The Egyptian winger’s goalscoring record is ridiculous’ – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

Austin Ditlhobolo

Monday Nov 27, 2017. 19:00

English international Joe Gomez has described Salah’s goalscoring record since his move to Liverpool as ‘ridiculous’.

This is after the Egyptian international hit the back of the net for the Reds in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at the Anfield Stadium in an English Premier League game.

Salah, who broke the deadlock in the 65th minute against his former side, netted his 15th goal of the season out of 20 competitive appearances for the Reds.

As a result, the 25-year-old is the league’s top goalscorer with 10 goals having joined Liverpool from Italian side AS Roma prior to the current season.

“He’s come in and he’s been a massive addition to us, unbelievable. The goals he has scored but also his general play, his link-up,” Gomez told Liverpool’s official website.

“Our whole attacking force is quality, everybody knows that, so hopefully he can keep doing it for us.”

Salah’s goal was ultimately cancelled out by a late goal from Chelsea substitute Willian, but Gomez remained keen to take the positives from an industrious performance.

“I think we battled well and were aggressive from the start. We dominated generally, created some good chances and Mo got another goal for us, then we looked like we were going to hold on,” the 20-year-old said about his club teammate.

“But it was a decent bit of a skill [from Willian], I don’t know whether he meant it or not but it’s unlucky for us and disappointing not to get all three points.

“We knew they’d have the wing-backs wide and Hazard and Morata would come and pick up the ball and do what they do,” he continued.

“We were wary of their threats and did our best to try and stop them. We had our fair bit of play as well – they had their chances but so did we.

“They’re a top side, they’re champions, so we’ve got to take the positives.”

Salah will be keen to continue his scoring form for Liverpool when they face Stock City away in a league game on Wednesday.

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Uganda name 2017 CECAFA Cup Squad – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Phumzile Ngcatshe

Monday Nov 27, 2017. 18:30

Ugandan national team coach Moses Basena has named his squad ahead of the 2017 CECEAFA Senior Challenge in Kenya.

Basena has assembled a squad of 26 players to start training on Wednesday ahead of the regional tournament.

The regional tourney kicks-off on Sunday, December 3 until December 17 as the Cranes will want to defend their trophy.


Uganda are in Pool B against Ethiopia, Burundi, South Sudan and guest team Zimbabwe.

The full squad:

Isma Watenga (Vipers SC), Benjamin Ochan (KCCA FC), Ikara Tom (Kirinya Jinja SS),Wadada Nicholas (Vipers SC), Joseph Nsubuga (Sc Villa Jogoo), Isaac Muleme (KCCA FC), Aggrey Madoi (Police FC), Juuko Murushid Simba-Tanzania), Timothy Awanyi (KCCA FC), Savio Kabugo (Proline FC), Bernard Muwanga (Sc Villa Jogoo), Tom Masiko (Vipers SC), Mutyaba Muzamiru (KCCA FC), Tadeo Lwanga (Vipers SC), Stephen Mugisha (Police FC), Karisa Milton (Vipers SC), Mucureezi Paul (KCCA FC), Allan Kateregga (KCCA FC), Allan Kyambadde (Sc Villa Jogoo), Nelson Senkatuka (Bright Stars FC), Derick Nsibambi (KCCA FC), Hood Kaweesa (Police FC), Batte Seif (Bright Stars FC), Saddam Juma (KCCA FC), Daniel Isiagi (Proline FC), Basse Methodious (Mbarara City FC).

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Aston Villa coach challenges Albert Adomah – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Aston Villa’s Albert Adomah

Graeme Jackson

Monday Nov 27, 2017. 17:00

Aston Villa coach Steve Bruce has challenged Ghanaian striker Albert Adomah to score 20 goals this season.

The 29-year-old netted a brace in Villa’s 2-0 win over Ipswich in the Championship this past weekend and has a tally of 10 league goals to his name.

“He’s had a wonderful return, as I’ve said now for the past few weeks,” Bruce said.

“At the start, because of the form of Andre Green, he wasn’t in the team, so it just shows you. He’s worked hard and he’s got his reward.

“Playing on the left he looks so comfortable coming in on his right foot and running across the line.

“He’s a threat and that’s 11 goals [across all competitions] he’s got which is a wonderful return.

“Long may it continue and there’s no reason now why he can’t set his sights to go and get another 10 at this part of the season.”

Villa are well in contention to make a return to the Premier League, as they are placed fourth on the Championship table.

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Player Spotlight: Cedric Bakambu – Congolese striker named best player in Spanish La Liga – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Villarreal striker Cedric Bakambu

Austin Ditlhobolo

Monday Nov 27, 2017. 16:00

The lethal striker has deservedly been named the best player in the Spanish La Liga for the month of October.

Bakambu, who was born in France to DR Congolese parents, has been in top form for Villarreal this season having scored 12 goals in 17 matches in all competitions.

The former Sochaux player grabbed a brace against Kazajistan’s Astana in an UEFA Europa League game on Thursday, before scoring against Sevilla in a La Liga match on Sunday.

La Liga announced that the DR Congo international was the October Player of the Month after scoring six goals during the month.

A statement read: “Cedric Bakambu named LaLiga Santander Player of the Month for October.

“The Villarreal forward picks up this accolade for the first time in his career after netting six times last month.

“Villarreal CF striker Cedric Bakambu has been named the LaLiga Santander Player of the Month for October.

“His goalscoring exploits last month helped Villarreal soar up the table into the Europa League qualification spots.

“The France-born Congolese star’s six strikes in October have seen him receive the award for the first time in his career.

“The 26-year-old scored a hat-trick against SD Eibar in a 3-0 victory, struck twice in a 2-1 away win at Girona FC and once in Villarreal’s 4-0 thrashing of UD Las Palmas.”

The 26-year-old collected the accolade before Villarreal’s clash with Sevilla on Sunday.

Bakambu, who was born in France to DR Congolese parents, has been in top form for Villarreal this season having scored 12 goals in 17 matches in all competitions.

The former Sochaux player grabbed a brace against Kazajistan’s Astana in an UEFA Europa League game on Thursday, before scoring against Sevilla in a La Liga match on Sunday.

La Liga announced that the DR Congo international was the October Player of the Month after scoring six goals during the month.

A statement read: “Cedric Bakambu named LaLiga Santander Player of the Month for October.

“The Villarreal forward picks up this accolade for the first time in his career after netting six times last month.

“Villarreal CF striker Cedric Bakambu has been named the LaLiga Santander Player of the Month for October.

“His goalscoring exploits last month helped Villarreal soar up the table into the Europa League qualification spots.

“The France-born Congolese star’s six strikes in October have seen him receive the award for the first time in his career.

“The 26-year-old scored a hat-trick against SD Eibar in a 3-0 victory, struck twice in a 2-1 away win at Girona FC and once in Villarreal’s 4-0 thrashing of UD Las Palmas.”

The 26-year-old collected the accolade before Villarreal’s clash with Sevilla on Sunday.

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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Christian Atsu – Newcastle need their Ghana star to return – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

Graeme Jackson

Monday Nov 27, 2017. 13:00

Ghanaian Christian Atsu was again absent as Newcastle United slumped to a fourth successive defeat on Saturday.

The Magpies were given a chastening 3-0 beating at home by Watford, with Atsu missing a second successive match following the thigh injury he supposedly aggravate while on international duty with the Black Stars.

The loss to the Hornets is a fourth in succession for Rafael Benitez’s side, who have also been beaten by Burnley, Bournemouth and Manchester United in the sequence.

The defeat to United at Old Trafford is to be expected given the difference in the respective teams’ ambitions, but the losses against the other three will be major worries for Newcastle fans.

The club has dropped to 13th place on the log and is just four points above the relegation zone.

The good news is that Atsu is nearing a return from injury, with Benitez revealing last week that the winger is making encouraging progress.

The Magpies may even be tempted to fast-track his return when they face West Bromwich Albion in a midweek Premier League clash at the Hawthorns tomorrow night.

Short of that, they’ll definitely want him for the high profile match away to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, December 2, where Atsu’s pace and penetration on the counter attack could be a key facet of their game plan.

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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: John Obi Mikel – Nigeria skipper criticised by academy founder – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

Mikel at his Chinese club Tianjin Teda

Staff Reporter

Monday Nov 27, 2017. 10:00

With Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel no doubt looking forward to learning his side’s group stage opponents for the 2018 World Cup when the draw is held this coming Friday, he has been criticised by the founder of an academy he attended as a youngster.

Former Nigeria Football Federation technical director Kashimawo Laloko, who founded the Pepsi Football Academy at Agege Stadium in Lagos, believes Mikel – a product of the institution – has not done enough to give back to the youth in Nigerian football.

“Mikel was brought to limelight through our Jos centre around 1995 to 2002. We gave him the breakthrough that made Nigerians to know him,” Laloko is quoted by the Vanguard.

“He was unpolished when he came but we refined him. If not for us, maybe, he would not be where he is today but since he became a star, I have not heard that he visited the Jos centre to donate a pair of jersey to the players there. That is most unfair.

“Some former players give us money for the running of the centres but Mikel has not done such. Osaze is an example of a player who paid us because he recognised what we did for him.

“There was a time we wanted to use Mikel in a advertising campaign for the academy but he shunned us. His agent was asking us to pay a huge sum of money but Mr. Nelson could not believe it and that was how the deal fell through. I don’t think Mikel has done well for Nigerian youths.”

With Mikel currently enjoying the off season, following the completion of the Chinese Super League’s 2017 campaign earlier this month, perhaps he’ll make time to give back to those who helped his rise in the game.

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Nigeria’s Shehu Abdullahi linked to Merseyside duo – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

Scent ition

Sunday Nov 26, 2017. 13:00

Nigerian defender Shehu Abdullahi has been linked with Premier League duo Liverpool and Everton.

Abdullai, 24, plays for Cypriot club Anorthosis Famagusta and a source at his agent’s company has revealed growing transfer interest.

“Yes, we have offers from Spain, France, Italy and Merseyside clubs in England,” quote a source at player agency Mitem Sports Sprl.

“We will study which offer is best for our client, since he will be a free agent after the World Cup.”

Abdullahi is a versatile defender capable of playing right-back, centre-back and defensive midfield.

He has also represented Kano Pillars, Kuwaiti side Qadsia SC and Portugal’s Uniao da Madeira in his senior club career, and was part of Nigeria’s bronze medal-winning squad at the 2016 Olympic Games.

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Ghana’s Daniel Opare wanted by Stoke, Everton & Watford – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

Graeme Jackson

Sunday Nov 26, 2017. 12:00

The Premier League trio of Stoke City, Watford and Everton are reportedly keen on signing Augsburg’s Ghanaian defender Daniel Opare.

The Sun claims that Opare has a host of clubs hoping to sign him for a cut-price fee of £2.5million, given that his contract will expire at the end of the current season.

The Ghanaian’s fan club includes Stoke, Watford and Everton – who are all in need of quality full-backs – but they face stiff competition from across the continent.

The likes of AC Milan, Sevilla and Olympique Marseille are also tracking Opare, who has enjoyed a fine season for Bundesliga side Augsburg so far in 2017/18.

The German club wants Opare to sign a new deal to keep him at the WWKArena, but have so far been unable to reach any kind of agreement over terms.

Opare can play on either flank has also been on the books of Standard Liege, Porto, Besiktas and Lens in his senior club career.

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Internazionale eyeing Yohan Benalouane – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Graeme Jackson

Sunday Nov 26, 2017. 11:00

Italian giants Internazionale are reportedly keen on signing Leicester City’s Tunisian defender Yohan Benalouane.

The Leicester Mercury quotes Leicester manager Claude Puel as saying that he “didn’t know” if Benalouane had a future at the Foxes.

The French-born Carthage Eagles defender has yet to make a competitive senior appearance in the 2017/18 campaign.

The Sun reports that Benalouane may have a route out of the King Power Stadium, with Serie A heavyweights Inter keen to add to their defensive options.

Inter already have Milan Skriniar, Miranda and Andrea Ranocchia available in central defence, but Zinho Vanheudsen’s absence due to knee ligament damage, means they are keen to find reinforcements, and Benalouane would fit the bill.

The 30-year-old Tunisian has experience in Italian football, having played for Cesena, Parma, Atalanta and Fiorentina in his club career.

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Leicester City boss plays down Riyad Mahrez strop – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Leicester City star Riyad Mahrez

Graeme Jackson

Sunday Nov 26, 2017. 10:00

Leicester City manager Claude Puel has played down Riyad Mahrez’s angry reaction to being substituted in Friday night’s 1-1 draw at West Ham United.

The Algerian star was replaced in the 70th minute by Ben Chilwell and his unhappiness at the substitution was clear for all to see.

However, the Foxes’ French coach has shrugged off the incident, insisting most players are unhappy to be replaced during a game.

“When a player leaves the game they are disappointed – it’s not too important,” Puel said in the wake of the Premier League clash.

“It was hard to find Mahrez in the second half.

“We tried to play on the counter attacking with Demari Gray and Vardy against this team as they were playing with long kicks and winning the second balls.

“But it was not possible to find them in the second half.”

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Roy Hodgson: Bakary Sako can play as a striker – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Crystal Palace attacker Bakary Sako

Graeme Jackson

Sunday Nov 26, 2017. 09:00

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has revealed that he plans on playing Malian winger Bakary Sako as a striker.

With the Eagles fighting against the prospect of relegation from the Premier League, former England manager Hodgson is looking for creative solutions to improve the team’s attack.

The return from injury of Belgian striker Christian Benteke is certainly a major boost, as is the continued excellence of Ivory Coast attacker Wilfried Zaha.

And rather than spend millions of pounds in the January transfer window to boost their striker options, Palace manager Hodgson reckons Sako is showing signs in training of being able to switch to a centre-forward.

“Sako has made enormous strides as a forward,” said the veteran manager.

“He sees himself as a left-winger, but we have actually been doing a lot of work with him as a centre-forward and he is a player who has definitely shown in the training sessions he is really picking up on what we are looking for.”

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Fourth successive draw for Chiefs – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

Bernard Parker of Kaizer Chiefs FC and Paulus Masehe Captain of Free State Stars FC compete for the high ball during the Absa Premiership 2017/18 game between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars at Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban on 25 November 2017 © Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Graeme Jackson

Saturday Nov 25, 2017. 20:07

Kaizer Chiefs racked up a fourth successive draw in the Absa Premiership after they were held 1-1 by Free State Stars at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.

The Amakhosi had to fight back from a goal down to salvage a share of the spoils, with Bernard Parker’s equaliser cancelling out an earlier strike from Nhlanhla Vilakazi which found the net via a massive deflection from Daniel Cardoso.

Stars created the early scoring chances, with Sinethemba Jantjie shooting wide of the target from a third minute free kick, while four minutes later Thabo Maphakisa fired a dangerous ball across the face of goal which only needed the slightest touch to be turned home.

Chiefs gradually found their footing in the match and on 21 minutes they made their first clear opportunity, with the good movement of Gustavo Paez allowing him to tee up George Maluleka, but the midfield pulled his effort wide of Badra Ali Sangare’s right-hand post.

On 37 minutes they had another chance through Siphiwe Tshabalala, who cut inside from the right and beat the goalkeeper with a low shot, but the retreating Sifiso Mbhele was able to clear the goal-bound effort with a clever back-heel.

However, the defender soon succumbed to a hamstring injury and was replaced by Rooi Mahamutsa with just a few minutes to the half-time break.

The first chance of the second half went the way of Ea Lla Koto, with Jantjie opening up space for a shot from the edge of the penalty area on 53 minutes, but goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune pulled off a fine save.

Yet there was nothing the Chiefs ‘keeper could do to prevent Stars taking the lead in the 64th minute: midfielder Nhlanhla Vilakazi let fly from long range and his effort deflected off the head of Daniel Cardoso, totally wrong-footing Khune before finding the back of the net.

Stars were only ahead for three minutes, as the Amakhosi hit back through a well-worked passing move which saw Willard Katsande set up Bernard Parker, who beat Sangare with a right-footed shot.

On 78 minutes Chiefs needed Khune to make another important save, as he palmed away a sliced effort from Nyiko Mobbie which looked destined for the back of the net.

The Soweto giants ended the stronger of the two teams as they pushed hard for a winning goal, but they found Stars’ defence in an uncompromising mood. The result sees Chiefs move up one spot to sixth place, while Ea Lla Koto also improve one position to go ninth.

Kaizer Chiefs (0) 1 (Parker 67’)

Free State Stars (0) 1 (Vilakazi/Cardoso [og] 64’)

Chiefs: Khune, Cardoso, Hadebe, Ngezana, Zulu (Jayiya 70’), Katsande, Maluleka, Molangoane, Parker, Tshabalala, Paez (Zuma 65’)

Stars: Sangare, Mobbie, Keita, Mbhele (Mahamutsa 41’), Phungwayo, Masehe, Vilakazi, Maphakisa (Potsane 81’), Dlamini, Jantjie, Abrahms (Mthembu 56’)

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‘Devastating penalty miss helped Senegal’s Mane improve’ – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Austin Ditlhobolo

Saturday Nov 25, 2017. 14:00

Legendary Senegalese midfielder Salif Diao believes that Sadio Mane has improved since missing a crucial penalty against Cameroon earlier this year.

Mane inspired Senegal to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) quarter-finals where they faced Cameroon, who held them to a goalless draw and a penalty shootout followed.

Liverpool FC forward missed Senegal’s fifth penalty and eventual tournament winners Cameroon advanced to the semifinals, while the Lions of Teranga bowed of the competition in Gabon.

Diao, who played for English sides Liverpool, Stoke City and Birmingham City during his playing career, has stated that Mane, 25, has since gone to another level.

“These things happen in football and the most important thing is how you bounce back,” Diao told BBC Sport.

“It was a hard situation for him but sometimes at the top level, you need to get hurt before you grow.

“He has gone to another level since that episode,” Diao, who played 39 times fpr Senegal, added.

Mane recently played an instrumental role in helping Senegal qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals and he has also been nominated for the 2017 CAF African Player of the Year accolade.

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Nigeria not afraid of anyone, Echiejile warns Brazil and co. – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

Monaco’s Nigeria full-back Elderson (left)

Austin Ditlhobolo

Saturday Nov 25, 2017. 12:00

Nigerian international Elderson Echiejile has fired a warning to the world’s best football national teams ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals which will be hosted by Russia.

World champions Germany, European giants Spain, France, South American giants Brazil and Argentina will be amongst the favourites to win next year’s tournament.

Echiejile, who plays for Turkish side Sivasspor, believes that the Super Eagles can beat anyone with the draw for the global tournament set to take place on the 1st of December 2017.

“We are not afraid of anyone, any team,” Echiejile told

“We just want to keep our preparation in top form, play quality friendly games and we will be ready for anyone in our group.

“This could be our time, Right now we have things going well with the team, so we are not afraid of anyone” he continued.

Nigeria came back to stun Argentina 4-2 in an international friendly match earlier this month and Echiejile stated that it is just a tip of what the Super Eagles will do in Russia.

“The win is enough motivation for everyone in the team that we can actually dispose any team at the World Cup without fear or jittery,” he added.

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SA’s Ndlovu hits out at poor officiating in UEFA club games – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

Chelsea‘s Cesar Azpilicueta (L) and Qarabag’s Dino Ndlovu (R) in action during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Chelsea FC and Qarabag FK

Austin Ditlhobolo

Saturday Nov 25, 2017. 11:00

South African international Dino Ndlovu is unhappy with the state of refereeing during his club Qarabag’s UEFA Champions League match against Chelsea.

Azerbaijan champions Qarabag suffered a 4-0 defeat to the English champions at the Baku Olympic Stadium with Chelsea receiving two penalties during the Group C game on Wednesday.

Ndlovu has since taken to the club’s social media account to express his frustrations. He was also given a red card against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid for an apparent dive in a Group C match.

“It was a good game in the first 20 minutes, but the referee solved the problem for us. I cannot blame anyone though, it’s futile, anything can happen,” he said.

“What can we do? It’s a good experience for the team, make no mistake. I’m not a UEFA official, I do not want to talk about refereeing.

“It’s not my problem, but they did what they did… We get red cards in the Champions League games,” the 27-year-old continued.

“And I do not understand the reason, maybe because we’re a small club, so I’m sorry.”

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Hodgson: Ivorian winger Zaha will be a wanted man in January – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha

Austin Ditlhobolo

Saturday Nov 25, 2017. 09:00

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson believes that Ivorian international Wilfried Zaha will be a wanted man during the January transfer window.

Zaha is enjoying his football at the moment having scored three goals in his last five English Premier League (EPL) matches for Palace.

Hodgson, who is a former England head coach, has stated that the London-based side will receive offers for the 25-year-old winger-cum-striker.

“You can’t ever dismiss interest in any of your players,” Hodgson told the media.

“Wilfried Zaha is an obvious name, but there are other players that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other clubs interested in.

“And we have to be prepared for that going into January.

Zaha was linked with a possible transfer to Tottenham Hotspur earlier this year, but Palace managed to keep him.

“If offers come along for players who are doing well for us and we are not particularly anxious to lose them,” he continued.

“Then we will have to make decisions on what offers are to be turned down and what could be accepted.”

Zaha and his Palace team-mates will face Stoke City in an EPL match on Saturday.

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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Riyad Mahrez – Will he be tempted to join Pep Guardiola at City? – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Leicester pair Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy celebrate

Phumzile Ngcatshe

Friday Nov 24, 2017. 19:00

Manchester City are reportedly battling it out against Arsenal for the signature of Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez.

The Algerian has been a subject of speculation in recent times, with more clubs linked with the left-footed winger.

Media reports in Spain suggest that City manager, Pep Guardiola is reportedly an admirer of the tricky midfielder and is hopeful of adding more attacking talent to his squad.

Meanwhile, Mahrez has also been linked with moves to the Gunners and Chelsea, but insists he is ‘settled’ at King Power Stadium, despite an attempt to leave in the last transfer window.

To add fuel to the speculation, Guardiola was spotted chatting with the Desert Foxes international at the end of the Blues’ 2-0 victory over Leicester last weekend.

“Everyone knows that I had desires to leave, except that it did not happen. I do not want to think of the transfer window at the moment. We still have 12 games to play until January, so if I thought of the transfer window now, I will not play football anymore,” Mahrez recently told the Daily Star.

With his future remaining unclear, will Mahrez be tempted to join the title changing City and possibly add to his EPL gold medal?

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Eden Hazard lavishes Mohamed Salah with praise – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Bertin Basson

Friday Nov 24, 2017. 18:30

Chelsea winger Eden Hazard has reserved special praise for Liverpool‘s Mohamed Salah ahead of this weekend’s much anticipated English Premier League showdown.

Hazard believes that Salah – a former teammate of his at Stamford Bridge – deserved more time to prove himself with the Blues, having since gone on to star in the Italian Serie A and now at Anfield.

Salah has scored nine goals in his opening 12 top-flight games for the Reds, following his move from Roma in the off-season.

The Egypt international struggled for game time in London before eventually returning to England following successful stints in Florence and Rome.

“He is still my friend,” Hazard is quoted as saying when asked about the 25-year-old. “We are still in contact together. He’s a top, top, top player.

“He did not get his chance at Chelsea but we know, in the team, the quality he has. He is a fantastic striker and this season he has scored a lot of goals.

“He did not get the chance [at Chelsea]. Maybe because of the manager, because of the players, I don’t know. But he is a top player for sure.

“In training he did everything. Even in the games when he was playing, sometimes he scored goals, so we know the quality he has,” Hazard concluded.

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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Sadio Mane – Quiet in the dressing room, but a real fighter – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates with teammate Sadio Mane

Phumzile Ngcatshe

Friday Nov 24, 2017. 16:00

Sadio Mane’s Senegal teammate Pape Souare says the Liverpool forward is always quiet and prefers to let his feet do the talking on the field of play.

The Crystal Palace defender in the English Premier League reveals that they were always driven by the dream to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.

Mane was only 10-years-old when the Lions of Teranga reached the knockout stages of the 2002 edition in Japan and South Korea.

Coach Aliou Cisse, who was part of the 2002 heroes team, will now pin his hopes on the ‘Smiling Assassin’ to carry the team’s hopes heading to Russia next year.


“In the dressing room, he is a quiet guy but he’s a very nice guy and a good character to have around,” Souare told BBC Sport.

“Sadio is a complete player. He is very fast, has quick feet and can change direction very quickly.”

On the other hand, Liverpool fan Gareth Roberts, who is the editor of The Anfield Wrap podcast, added that the 25-year-old is a real fighter.

“One thing I like about Mane is that he’s got real fight, real character,” added Roberts.

“If the game is not going your way, you can always rely on Mane to keep going, keep plugging away, keep trying to win the match – he’s got that fighting spirit.

“While there’s been huge debate about Philippe Coutinho potentially leaving, actually Sadio Mane is arguably Liverpool‘s most important player right now.”

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Senegal coach Aliou Cisse irked by Keita Balde’s discipline – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse

Phumzile Ngcatshe

Friday Nov 24, 2017. 13:30

Media reports in Senegal have revealed the reasons why striker Keita Balde was a notable absentee when they faced South Africa in this month’s 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

It is reported that the AS Monaco player’s disciplinary issues could cost him a spot in the World Cup squad as coach Aliou Cisse is unhappy with him.

Reports emerging from the Senegal Football Federation reveal that Balde’s conduct forced Cisse to axe him from the starting line-up for the double-header against Bafana Bafana early this month.

It is reported that Balde was summoned by the president of the federation to explain his sulking during the game against Cape Verde, but the player took it personal and reportedly insulted Cisse.

“After the match in Dakar, Balde travelled to France and three days later he was line up in a Ligue 1 match in Amiens,” FSF said.

“His overall behaviours also annoyed his teammates as he never interacts with anyone at locker room nor during meal times.”

Furthermore, the French-based attacker went on to fake an injury and wanted to go back to his club.

After that incident, the 22-year-old player refused to train with his Lions of Teranga teammates and faked an injury even during the match against Bafana in Dakar.

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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – All eyes on Dortmund ace – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Borussia Dortmund star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Bertin Basson

Friday Nov 24, 2017. 13:00

Eyes will be fixed on Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when the German Bundesliga club welcome fierce rivals Schalke 04 to the iconic Signal Iduna Park this weekend.

The Gabon international missed the club’s 2-1 defeat away to Stuttgart after being axed from the squad due to a reported breach of team protocol, but made his return in a midweek UEFA Champions League tie.

The 28-year-old finding the back of the net in a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur as Dortmund’s struggles in Europe’s premier cup competition continued.

That, though, will be quickly forgotten with victory over the ‘Royal Blues’ in the The Revierderby on Saturday, as Dortmund aim to resurrect their season having initially gotten off to a blistering start.


Aubameyang has scored 16 goals in 18 appearances across all competitions this season, but hasn’t found the back of the net in Germany’s top-flight since mid-October.

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