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2019 AFCON preparation: Super Eagles battle-ready for Warriors in Asaba

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World Cup qualifiers

Three-time champions Nigeria have a full house in Asaba, Delta State ahead of Saturday’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations send-forth friendly against the Warriors of Zimbabwe.

Since qualifying for this year’s AFCON finals following a 1-1 draw with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Johannesburg in November 2018, the Super Eagles have played two friendlies.

This was a 0-0 draw with the Cranes of Uganda in Asaba on 20th Nov. 20, 2018 and a 1-0 defeat of seven-time African champions Egypt also in Asaba on March 26, 2019.

Both teams are expected to offer a sneak preview of how prepared they are for the AFCON, with Nigeria seeded in Group B and rated to go far in the finals and Zimbabwe believing it can punch above its weight in a pool also having host nation Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

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While Egypt 2019 will be Nigeria’s 18th appearance at the AFCON, Zimbabwe’s Warriors are making only their fourth appearance, following group stage exits in 2004, 2006 and 2017.

Nigeria was instrumental to Zimbabwe’s crashing out at the group stage in 2006, when the Super Eagles defeated the Warriors 2-0 in Port Said, with one of the goals from Mikel Obi.

Incidentally, the midfield enforcer and 14 –year veteran of the Super Eagles is returning to the group on Saturday after one year out.

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He played no part in the AFCON qualifying matches and friendly games post-World Cup but is back in the flow for the finals.

Nigeria’s squad for the final phase of preparations also includes pacy winger Ahmed Musa, defenders Abdullahi Shehu, Leon Balogun, William Ekong and Jamilu Collins.

Others include; midfielders John Ogu, Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi, and forwards Moses Simon, Henry Onyekuru, Odion Ighalo, Samuel Kalu, Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze.

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa)

Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey); Chidozie Awaziem (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Semi Ajayi (Rotherham United, England)

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Midfielders: Mikel John Obi (Middlesbrough FC, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City FC, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassar FC, Saudi Arabia); Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi SC, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante FC, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray SK, Turkey); Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua, China); Alexander Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France); Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain). (NAN)

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PSG sign striker Icardi on permanent deal

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Mauro Icardi

French champions Paris St Germain have signed striker Mauro Icardi on a permanent deal from Inter Milan, the Serie A club said on Sunday.

Argentine Icardi, 27, joined PSG in September on a season-long loan with a buy-out option.

“FC Internazionale Milano announces the transfer of Mauro Icardi to Paris Saint-Germain FC; the striker, born in 1993, has permanently moved to the French club.

“The club thanks the player for the six seasons he spent with us and wishes him the best for his future professional career,” Inter said in a statement.

Icardi scored 20 goals in 31 matches in all competitions before the season was officially concluded on April 30, with 10 games remaining due to the COVID-19 crisis.

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He has been competing for a place in the side with Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, PSG’s all-time top scorer, whose contract expired on June 30.

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Ukrainian match postponed after footballers test positive for coronavirus

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Ukraine’s top professional soccer league said on Saturday it had canceled one of its first post-lockdown matches after several players and staff at Karpaty in the western city of Lviv tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The match between Karpaty and Mariupol from the Azov Sea port of Mariupol was supposed to be played on Sunday behind closed doors.

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The football authorities did not specify how many players had been affected by the virus and when a rescheduled match may be played.

“Those infected were immediately transferred to self-isolation. They had no symptoms,” the league said in a statement.

Ukraine’s government has started easing restrictions imposed in March to prevent the spread of the virus and allowed sports events to continue if all participants are tested and comply with other safety requirements.

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The soccer authorities decided to resume competitions in the Premier League and the Cup with no spectators. Two of Ukraine’s most famous clubs, Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk, are scheduled to meet on Sunday.

Ukraine has reported 23,304 cases, including 696 deaths from the coronavirus as of May 30.

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Tennis’ world number 11 undergoes surgery on both ankles

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World number 11 Fabio Fognini underwent surgery on both ankles on Saturday to cure a long-standing problem.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the 33-year-old Italian tennis player said he had hoped the two-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic would have improved his situation.

“I’ve been having a problem with my left ankle for three and a half years now and it’s an issue I’ve learned to cope with,” Fognini said. “Then my right ankle started playing up in the last two years as well.

“After a medical examination and a long discussion with my team, I decided to have arthroscopic surgery on both ankles.

“I believe it’s the right thing to do while the Tour is on an enforced break. I will have surgery today`(Saturday).”

No professional tournaments have been played since the start of March because of the pandemic, and the ATP Tour has been suspended until at least the start of August.

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