Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nigeria Starlet Stanley Okoro Wants To Make A Name For Himself At Under-17 World Cup

The star of the hosts and defending champions of the Under-17 World Cup has said the expectations are getting higher...

Oct 21, 2009 4:14:47 PM

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Nigeria Under-17 striker Stanley Okoro has admitted that expectations on the team to host and win the FIFA Under-17 World Cup have been very daunting.

"It is a very daunting task [to win the competition] and this is even more so with recent results of the other national teams, the Super Eagles and the Under-20 team," said the Heartland FC forward, who is nicknamed 'Little Messi' after the Argentine superstar.

"All the same, I wish to use this tournament to make a name for myself."

Okoro, 16, is a left-footed winger who is often played on the right flank. He is fast and blessed with a good dribble.

He is the most experienced player in the Nigerian squad having featured for Heartland in both the Premier League and the CAF Champions League, where the Owerri outfit have reached this year's final.

He has proved his class with goals during the team's pre-tournament matches in Qatar, Ghana and the Gambia.

This tournament has already produced several Nigerian players like Victor Ikpeba, Nwankwo Kanu, Celestine Babayaro and Wilson Oruma, who have gone on to establish themselves at full international level.

Coach John Obuh told that he would have done a great job if some of the boys in this team go on to star for the full international team as well.

"If I could have five to 10 players from this team in the senior national team in the next five years, then I’ll be a fulfilled man," said Obuh, who helped Kwara United win promotion back to the Nigerian top flight last season.

Nigeria open the tournament on Saturday against Germany, the team they defeated 2-0, twenty-four years ago in China to win the first of their three U-17 World Cups.

Samm Audu,

Nigeria Name Final Squad For FIFA U-17 World Cup

Coach John Obuh has packed his squad with some goal-hungry strikers...

Oct 15, 2009 4:11:27 PM

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Heartland's exciting youngster Stanley Okoro is top of a list of 21 players picked by Nigeria coach John Obuh for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, which kicks off on October 24 at the Abuja National Stadium.

Okoro has been in superb form for Heartland in this year's CAF Champions League and he has also been among the goals as the country's schoolboy team prepared in Qatar for the Under-17 World Cup.

Nigeria will therefore be counting on him for goals and inspiration as the Golden Eaglets defend on home soil the World Cup they won in Korea two years ago.

However, Okoro's Heartland team-mate, Orji Kalu, a left full-back, did not make the final party.

Coach Obuh has picked several other promising strikers for the tournament including Terry Envoh, who is on loan from FC Sports Jos to Mighty Jets; Olanrewaju Kayode, who is with the Red Bull Academy in Ghana, and Omoh Ojabu, who shone during the training tour of Qatar.

The Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Danjuma Paul, Amos Izuchukwu, John Felagha

Defenders: Aigbe Oliha, Mohammed Aliyu, Fortune Chukwudi, Kenneth Omeruo, Chukwujike Mgbam

Midfielders: Ogenyi Onazi, White George Agwuocha, Abduljelil Ajagun, Obinna Okoro, Deji Joel, Ramon Azeez

Strikers: Stanley Okoro, Olanrewaju Kayode, Terry Envoh, Omoh Ojabu, Sani Emmanuel, Yusuf Otubanjo, Edafe Egbedi

Parents can't join athletes in Nigeria

Earl Edwards Jr. and his teammates on the U.S. under-17 national soccer team started with a bus from their training base in Bradenton, Fla., to the Tampa airport. Then a flight to Atlanta. Then a seven-hour layover. Then an overnight flight to Lagos, Nigeria. Then another layover and another flight to Kano, in Nigeria's north.

Edwards is 17. He's the starting goalkeeper. The under-17 World Cup represents the culmination of two-plus years of residency camp in Florida and the pinnacle, so far, of an illustrious athletic career. If all goes well, the U.S. team could be in Nigeria for 26 days.

His parents aren't going with him.

“It's the most frustrating position I've ever been in as a parent,” said Earl Edwards Sr., the athletic director at UC San Diego. “He's going to the biggest stage, the (U-17) World Cup. We thought all along we'd be able to go, and the fact that we're not is very disappointing.

“We had a conference call with the people from the U.S. national team, and they were explaining the conditions. It's pretty bad, I guess. They said there will be plenty of security for the kids, and the rest of us would pretty much be on our own. So it was pretty clear to us that we shouldn't go for security reasons, and so the kids wouldn't be worried about us.”

It's been a raw deal for this group of U-17 parents. The CONCACAF region's qualifying tournament was in Tijuana last spring during the height of narco-violence. Some parents went anyway, staying in San Diego and traveling across the border for games on a bus arranged by Edwards while their kids were holed up in a Tijuana hotel.

The Americans reached the semifinals, only for the remainder of the tournament to be canceled by the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico.

The 2009 U-17 World Cup, held every two years, has been an on-again, off-again proposition in Nigeria. At this time last year, the Nigerian government refused to bankroll the 24-team tournament because it was no longer a “priority.” That was smoothed over, only for the rebel group MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) to warn FIFA in June to “rethink” going forward “as the safety of international players and visitors cannot be guaranteed at this time.”

U.S. Soccer knows the drill. The under-20 World Cup was in Egypt last month. The full national team just played a World Cup qualifier in Honduras amid heightened political tensions.

“It sounds like essentially the experience will be go to the stadium, play and get back to your compound,” Edwards Sr. said. “I feel they'll be well taken care of, in terms of the numbers and who will be doing it — they're the top security people in the country and the world . . . But I don't understand why it's OK for (FIFA) to put our children in an environment like that. Why would you play games there?”

It is the first U-17 World Cup for coach Wilmer Cabrera, the former Colombian star who is the first Hispanic head coach of a U.S. national team. He has changed the makeup of the roster at the under-17 residency program in Florida, populating it with players who compensate with foot skills what they may lack in raw athleticism. This U.S. team might actually knock it around a bit.

They open Monday at Kano's Sani Abacha Stadium against Spain (11 a.m. PDT), followed by group games against Malawi and United Arab Emirates. The U.S. games will be televised on ESPNU and Spanish-language Galavision.

EJ, as Earl Jr. is called, phoned his parents before leaving Atlanta last night and told them not to worry. No other parents are going, either.

“It's unfortunate that they're not going to make it,” said Edwards Jr., who played for the La Jolla Nomads club and has committed to UCLA. “I know they were upset after all the hard work I've put in for the last two years, and wanting to see the outcome of it all. But FIFA and US Soccer, between the two of them, I think we'll be safe.

“As players, we haven't thought about (the security) at all. We're just focused on doing well in this tournament, seeing what we can do. The team is really confident. We have played in a bunch of international games, and we know what we can do.”

Hosts Nigeria & Gambia Carry Africa's Hopes At FIFA U17 World Cup African football will again be the focal point

when the U-17 World Cup kicks off on Saturday with hosts Nigeria among the favourites to win the tournament.

Oct 22, 2009 12:50:31 PM

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Africa will be represented by a record five teams at the 2009 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, which kicks off on Saturday with hosts and defending champions Nigeria, Gambia and Burkina Faso expected to be the standard-bearers for the continent.

Africa boasts a fine record at this level of world football with Nigeria winning the competition thrice, Ghana were champions in 1991, while the likes of Burkina Faso and Guinea have also reached the latter stages.

Nigeria's Golden Eaglets won their third tournament in Korea two years ago, and now playing at home, a lot is expected of them. But first they have to be able to handle the pressure of playing in front of their own crowd and also go past a first round group widely dubbed "Group of Death", which has Germany, Argentina and Honduras.

Build-up to this tournament though has been chaotic for the hosts. Coach John Obuh is the third man to take charge of the team after Alphonsus Dike failed to take the team to the African Junior Championship and the performance of former international skipper Henry Nwosu was also found unsatisfactory.

Less than three months to the World Cup, as many as 15 players were dropped after a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test showed they were above the age allowed for the competition, meaning Obuh had to start almost from scratch to raise another team.

The Eaglets embarked on playing tours in Gambia and Ghana before they rounded up their preparations with a training stint in Qatar.

Heartland winger Stanley Okoro will carry on his slim shoulders the high expectations of an entire country, at a time when the fans have been far from impressed with the recent showings of the full international team as well as the team in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt.

Okoro's trusted left foot has produced goals and assists for both club and country that he has now been nicknamed "Little Messi" after the Argentine superstar.

The team's attack also parades several fine prospects like Terry Envoh from Mighty Jets of Jos and Lanre Kayode, who is with the Red Bull Academy in Ghana. Kayode was a last-minute inclusion after he showed he knows his way to goal in a handful of warm-up matches.

Nigeria open their campaign on Saturday against Germany.

"We are ready for the World Cup, and on Saturday, Germany will fall," boasted Obuh.

Two-time African champions Gambia and Burkina Faso are also tipped to do well at this championship.

The Young Scorpions won the continental trophy on home soil in 2005, and in Algeria earlier this year, they again prevailed. Coach Tariq Saigy’s young charges won all the games en route to their second African crown.

Players to watch are striker Ebrima Bojang, who netted five times in Algeria, and Saihou Gassama, who takes charge of affairs in midfield.

The Gambians, who created a major upset at the 2005 World Cup by beating eventual finalists Brazil 3-1 in a group game, have the talent to again excel, but have to first get past the likes of the Netherlands and Colombia in the first round.

They will be desparate to avenge a 2-0 loss they suffered at the hands of the Dutch four years ago.

The Young Stallions of Burkina Faso finished third at the African Junior Championship and were also third at the 2001 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago after they lost by a lone goal to Nigeria in the semi-final.

They accounted for Ghana in the qualifiers for this year's African Junior Championship.

Brazilian coach Roberto Danton has since been fired but will line up a proven scorer in Jerome Ouiya, who netted a hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing of Zimbabwe at the African Junior tournament.

Ouiya's goals should help them go beyond a group that has Costa Rica, Turkey and New Zealand.

Algeria and Malawi are the other African teams at Nigeria 2009. They will both be making their debut at the world stage.

Algeria, hosts and beaten finalists at the African Junior Championship, face a very daunting task against the likes of Italy, South Korea and Uruguay in Group F, while Malawi are not expected to emerge from a group that includes USA and Spain.

Samm Audu,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ghana U-20 3–2 Korea Republic U-20: Black Satellites Earn Semi-Final Spot

Both teams began well at the Mubarak Stadium, with referee Joel Aguilar of Slovenia getting things underway in the first of the quarter-final matches, with an Asia versus Africa battle to see which nation would become a semi-finalist.

Korea had beaten Paraguay in the previous match, while Ghana disposed of South Africa in a tight round-of-16 encounter. Ghana was the more physical of the two teams, using their strength to gain control of the midfield, and an early goal fell the way of the Africans in the 8th minute.

Dominic Adiyiah was the man to get on the score sheet for Ghana, before Ransford Osei extended Ghana's lead in the 28th minute. Korea did not give up however, and they soon cut the deficit by one as Hoo Seong Park scored just after the half hour mark.

Three yellow cards were handed out in the first half, with Hee Seong Park and Young Cheol Cho being booked for Korea, while Ghana’s Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu collected a card for his infringement on 22 minutes. The play was energetic rather than rough, with a few hard challenges thrown in for good measure.

The second half would bring with it a renewed sense of hope for the Koreans, aware that a single goal separated them from a draw with the Ghanaians. Korea Republic monopolized the possession in the second half, showing an impressive array of passing but failing to capitalize in the final third of the pitch.

In the 66th minute Osei came close to doubling his tally in the game with a fantastic strike from distance, but the Korean keeper gave an indication of his talents with a fine save to keep the Asians in the game.

Time was not on Korea’s side however, and in the 77th minute Adiyiah scored his second of the game, as he calmly slotted past Seung Gyu Kim from within the box.

Korea pushed forward in search of a comeback, and with ten minutes remaining substitute Kim Dong Sub found the back of the net with a header, sending the Korean fans into a frenzy, bringing back memories of the 2002 World Cup hosts and their singing supporters.

An exciting finish was in store for those inside the Mubarak Stadium, with attacks flying at both ends of the pitch and the Black Satellites hitting the post with a well-hit shot from the edge of the box, but in the end desperate defending and Ghanaian resolve held strong and the Africans won 3-2, allowing them to progress to the semi-finals of the competition.

Peter Pedroncelli,

Nigeria 1-0 Mozambique: Last-Gasp Winner keeps Nigeria In World Cup Race

Nigeria on Saturday only just kept alive their dreams to feature in next year's World Cup finals after they pipped a resolute Mozambique 1-0 at a deserted Abuja National Stadium.

The match was in stoppage time and looked like Nigeria were crashing out of the World Cup qualifiers, before substitute Obinna Nsofor headed home from six yards after goalkeeper Joao Kapango had first kept out Obafemi Martins close-range shot, before the ball was hooked back into the box for Nsofor to head home

Tunisia remain at the top of Group Two with 11 points after the beat kenya at home also by a lone goal, while Nigeria are second on nine points, meaning the last round of matches next month will now have to determine who qualifies for the World Cup.

Mozambique were resolute from start to finish to the utter frustration of the Nigerians, whose fans showed their disappointment for last month's 2-2 draw with Tunisia at the same venue by staying away from the stadium.

Under-fire Nigeria coach, Shuaibu Amodu, made seven changes from the team that started last month's qualifier against Tunisia with Everton striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Elderson Echiejile from Rennes and Switzerland-based Yusuf Mohammed among the changes.

The game got off to a slow, cautious start as Nigeria went on the attack from the first whistle, while Mozambique tried to keep their shape in defence. After 10 minutes of action, there was very little to choose between the two teams.

It was not until the 18th minute that the first real shot at goal came, and it was the Mozambicans, who would have opened the scores when skipper Tico Tico let fly a powerful shot inside the box only for Nigeria to be saved by the crossbar as the shot crashed against the woodwork and back into play.

The visiting Black Mambas appear to gain in confidence after this close effort as they began to pass the ball between them so much so that it was not after that they enjoyed more ball possession.

The Super Eagles were forced to make a change in the 29th minute when right fullback Yusuf Mohammed limped out to be replaced by Bolton defender Danny Shittu.

As the match wore on, Nigeria began to really threaten the vistors' goal. First, in the 33rd minute Michael Eneramo delivered low cross from the right flank, which took a slight deflection inside the box but goalkeeper Joao Kapango did well to get a hand to it to deny a lurking Osaze Odemwingie a chance to make hay.

Three minutes Odemwingie dribbled into the Mozambican 18-yard box from the left only for his final ball to be cleared out for a corner by an alert defence. Groningen midfielder Oluwafemi Ajilore then cracked a powerful shot from the edge of the box which the agile Kapango kept out and ensure the first half ended without a goal.

A minute after the break, Odemwingie's curling free kick was punched away from danger by Kapango. The Locomotiv Moscow striker had a good chance to get on the scoresheet from another free kick after Eneramo was brought down by Mano, but again Kapango was alive to his responsibilities.

Besides a 61st minute Obafemi Martins, which brushed against the crossbar, the Black Mambas kept their shape, stringing passes between themselves and even sometimes having the confidence to launch a few counter attacks, one of which forced enyeama to tip a dangerous shot for a corner.

A left-footed shot by Odemwingie in the 82nd minute was blocked by the impressive Mozambican goalkeeper. In the 87th minute, Martins failed to tap home from less than five yards to sum up a sad day for Nigerian football.

But in time added on, the prayer of millions of Nigerians was answered through Nsofor's last-gasp winner.

Nigeria U17 Spank Qatar Sports Club 14-1

Nigeria's Under-17 team, the Golden Eaglets, continued their winning run on training tour of Qatar with an emphatic 14-1 thrashing of local side, Qatar Sports Club, with Omo Ajabu netting five of the goals.

The first half ended in 4-1 in favour of the Nigerian schoolboys, before they went on a shooting practise in the second 45 minutes with 10 goals.

Hat-trick heroes were Emmanuel Shehu Sani and Yusuf Olaitan, while James Segun grabbed a brace.

Heartland forward, Stanley Okoro, who scored thrice in the team's first warm-up match in Qatar, was on the scoresheet once.

The team are expected to play more tune-up matches before they return to Nigeria on Friday in time for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, which they will host from October 24.

They open the tournament against Germany at the Abuja National Stadium.

Samm Audu,