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ALGERIA FRIENDLY: ALL INVITED EAGLES LAND IN CONSTANTINE

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The Nigerian national team camp was thrown into jubilation following the arrival of duo goalkeeper Francis Uzoho and defender Ebube Duru in Constantine on Wednesday.

All the invited 24 players are now in the Super Eagles camp at the Marriott Constantine, ahead of Nigeria’s international friendly match on Tuesday September 27 in Oran.

Nigeria champions Rivers United left-back Duru was called up following injuries to a number of players, including defender Leon Balogun, and joined the team on Wednesday after returning from Liberia, where the Pride of Rivers reached the penultimate stage of this year’s CAF Champions League group phase.

Team captain Ahmed Musa and forwards Henry Onyekuru and Samuel Chukwueze are the others knocked out by injuries.

The number of national team stars rose from 18 to 21 following the arrival of Atalanta winger Ademola Lookman, Hapoel Jerusalem goalkeeper Adeleye Adebayo, and Portugal-based star Godwin Saviour on Tuesday evening.

Goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, defender Kevin Akpoguma, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and forward Chidera Ejuke are returning to the squad after some period out, while midfielder Richard Onyedika and forward Godwin Saviour are joining up with the big boys for the first time.

Israel-based keeper Adebayo was in the squad for the AFCON qualifying matches against Sierra Leone and Sao Tome and Principe but did not see action.

Tuesday’s clash will be only the second-ever friendly match between the Fennecs and the Super Eagles, with the two-time African champions edging a clash in Austria in October 2020 by the odd goal.

Hajduk Split defender Chidozie Awaziem was the first player to arrive at the Eagles camp.

Seventeen other Eagles including vice-captain William Troost-Ekong, Nottingham Forest’s Taiwo Awoniyi, and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi later joined Awaziem in Constantine.

The Eagles stars had their first training session on Tuesday under the watchful eyes of the team’s coaching crew.

Lookman, Adebayo, and Saviour walked in to join their international teammates not long after the training session began.

Leicester City forward Iheanacho arrived in Constantine on Wednesday afternoon, marking a return to international duty for Iheanacho, who was not in the Eagles squad that kicked off their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign against Sierra Leone and Sao Tome and Principe in June.

Without Iheanacho, Nigeria edged Sierra Leone 2-1 in Abuja before trouncing Sao Tome and Principe 10-0 away from home.

Iheanacho last featured for Nigeria when the Super Eagles failed in their attempt to overcome Ghana for a World Cup ticket in March.

Head coach José Santos Peseiro has approved that the three-time African champions have a training game against Algeria’s ‘B’ squad on Saturday in order to see a number of new and returning players in action, ahead of the official game against the Fennecs (Algeria’s ‘A’ team) in Oran on Tuesday evening.

The match against Algeria’s ‘B’ squad will start at 5.30pm on Saturday while the official game on Tuesday will commence at 8pm.

When both teams clashed in a 2006 World Cup qualifying match in Oran in September 2005, the Super Eagles ran out 5-2 winners.

ALL THE PLAYERS:

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho, Maduka Okoye, Adeleye Adebayo

Defenders: William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, Chidozie Awaziem, Olaoluwa Aina, Calvin Bassey, Zaidu Sanusi, Kevin Akpoguma, Valentine Ozornwafor, Ebube Duru

Midfielders: Wilfred Ndidi, Frank Onyeka, Alex Iwobi, Richard Onyedika

Forwards: Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon, Godwin Saviour, Ademola Lookman, Taiwo Awoniyi, Chidera Ejuke, Cyriel Dessers, Terem Moffi

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MARTINEZ A DOUBT FOR BARCELONA, SAYS INTER’S INZAGHI

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Lautaro Martinez is a doubt for Inter Milan’s crucial Champions League visit of Barcelona, coach Simone Inzaghi said on Monday.

Already without big summer signing Romelu Lukaku, Inzaghi may now have to do without Argentina forward Martinez for the first of two Group C matches with La Liga’s joint leaders.

Martinez, who has scored three times this season, ended Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat by Roma in poor condition but Inzaghi said that tests on Monday morning “revealed nothing”.

“He was tired at the end of the match, today he’ll do some light training and we’ll see what kind of shape he’s in,” Inzaghi told reporters.

Another Argentinian Joaquin Correa will start up front alongside Edin Dzeko should Martinez not make the starting line-up.

Inzaghi, 46, also said Andre Onana would start in goal ahead of Samir Handanovic as in Inter’s first two group fixtures, and midfield lynchpin Marcelo Brozovic would miss the match injured.

The two sides sit three points behind group leaders Bayern Munich after both were beaten 2-0 by the German champions in the opening two rounds of the competition.

Inter have lost five of their 10 fixtures in Serie A and Europe and the pressure is on both Inzaghi and the team to not fall further behind.

However they have a daunting task ahead of them as Barca have kept a clean sheet in each of their last five league matches.

Barcelona also have one of the world’s most deadly strikers in Robert Lewandowski ready to pounce on any errors.

“Barcelona are very good, they play some of the best football in Europe. We know how important this match is,” said Inzaghi.

“They’re a complete team, they can do everything.

“They’re well organised, they recover the ball better than any team in Europe, they know what to do in and out of possession and now they’ve even got Lewandowski.”

Inter travel to the Camp Nou for the return fixture next Wednesday.

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GUSAU PLEDGES TO FOCUS ON TEAMS WELFARE

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The new President, Nigeria Football Federation, Ibrahim Gusau, has pledged to run an inclusive administration, in which all stakeholders will be welcome to make suggestions and recommendations on the best way to deal with issues.

“Administration at every level, that of football inclusive, requires the wisdom to be able to listen to everyone who has an idea and then pick the very best to deal with each situation at hand. Those of us in the Executive Committee (of the NFF) are only privileged to be representing the entire fraternity.

“We will run an inclusive administration in which ideas and advice will be welcome from all quarters, and will be guided in our resolutions. It is very important to resuscitate the League and engender a massive football economy from which every stakeholder can benefit and also be happy to contribute to its growth.”

A former Chairman of the Zamfara State Sports Commission, Gusau served as a member of the Organising Committee for the African Nations Championship, and is a member of the CAF Organising Committee for Youth Competitions.

He is also a Safety and Security Officer of the Confederation of African Football.

Having served two terms as Chairman of Chairmen and member of the NFF Executive Committee under the Amaju Pinnick administration, Gusau says he is determined to focus on the welfare of players and officials of the various national teams.

“It is important to prioritise grassroots football and youth development, and that we will take to heart. It is also important to win trophies, and both can go side-by-side. Winning trophies is good for our country’s image in the international sphere and also helps to motivate the upcoming stars at the grassroots level.”

The new NFF Executive Committee will holds its first meeting in Abuja in a few days.

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OSIMHEN TO MISS NAPOLI’S AJAX CLASH

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Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen will not be available for selection when Napoli take on Calvin Bassey’s Ajax in their UEFA Champions League group stage game on Tuesday (today), our correspondent reports.

The Super Eagles striker was expected to be on the bench for the Partenopeans’ clash at Amsterdam, but reports from Italy indicate he is not fully fit yet.

Osimhen has been on the sidelines since Sept 7, when he sustained a hamstring injury in Napoli’s 4-1 victory over Liverpool.

The injury was supposed to rule him out of action for four to six weeks and saw him miss Nigeria’s friendly against Algeria last month.

There were earlier reports that the former Lille man would be available for selection when Napoli squared off against Ola Aina’s Torino, but he could make only a cameo appearance from the stands.

However, the Nigerian striker may have to wait till next weekend before he can make his comeback.

According to Napoli Magazine, Osimhen is very close to full recovery, but considering Giovanni Simeone and Giacomo Raspadori’s form, they are in no haste to throw the Nigerian striker into the thick of the action and risk further injury to their star man.

Nonetheless, Osimhen would likely make his return at Cremonese against countryman Cyriel Dessers on Saturday.

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