Southern Conference

 

Crown 1-0 Go-round

Bendel Insurance 1-0 Heartland

Akwa starlets 1-0 Osun utd

Bayelsa 1-0 Ikorodu

Warri Wolves 1-0 Unicem Rovers

AS Racine 1-0 My People

Delta Force 2-0 Gateway

First bank 1-1 Nnewi utd

Abia comets 0-0 Pappilo

Northern Conference

FRSC Abuja 2-1 Yobe Stars

Jigawa G'Stars 3-0 Taraba utd (W/O)

Mighty Jets 1-0 Sokoto utd

Kaduna utd 1-0 FC Abuja

Kwara uts 3-0 Adamawa utd

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has picked former 1st Vice President of Nigeria Football Federation, Mazi Amanze Uchegbulam and seasoned sports journalist, Morakinyo Abodunrin as part of its strong official delegation to the forthcoming Total U17 Africa Cup of Nations (Gabon 2017) to be held 14-28 May.

 

The high-calibre delegation to the 12th continental cadet competition is led by newly-elected CAF President Mr. Ahmad from Madagascar along with a member of the Executive Committee, Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi from Ghana, and also includes 1988 African Player of the Year, Kalusha Bwalya who would preside over the organising committee.

 

In a letter dated April 20th and signed by CAF’s Acting Secretary General, Essam, Uchegbulam is designated as the vice-president of the of the Appeal Board while Abodunrin, the media officer of Nigeria U17 team (Golden Eaglets), would serve in the media as the English Editor for the competition. 

 

Meanwhile, fast-rising arbiter Ferdinand Anietie Udoh would be the only Nigerian referee at the event, and this would be his second successive attendance at the U17 AFCON after he made his debut in Niger Republic in 2015.   

 

NFF President Amaju Pinnick, a member of the CAF Executive Committee and also member of the influential Organizing Committee for FIFA Competitions, described the various appointments as a welcome development, saying he was confident the trio would bring their experience to bear towards a successful event in Gabon.

Nine different coaches have won the FIFA Confederations Cup but, so far, none have managed to repeat the feat.

 

The youngest winning coach was Dunga, who guided his native Brazil aged 45 to triumph at South Africa 2009 after a dramatic 3-2 win against USA in the final. Next youngest was Alfio Basile, who won the debut Confederations Cup in 1991 at 48 years of age, and then Jacques Santini, who celebrated victory with France in 2003 when he was 51.

 

Theoretically, only New Zealand head coach Anthony Hudson, who turned 36 in March, could better Dunga’s achievement at the 2017 Confederations Cup. Nevertheless, even if Dunga loses this record, he has gone down permanently in the tournament’s annals as the first and, to date, only person to lift the Confederations Cup trophy as both a player (in 1997) and a coach.

16 teams to fight for the U-17 European title from Wednesday 

Five places at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 on offer

Tournament newcomers the smallest nation ever to participate

Venue: Croatia (3-19 May 2017). The games will take place in Zagreb and Rijeka.

 

Reigning champions: Portugal, who beat Spain on penalties in the 2016 final in Azerbaijan.

 

This year, however, Portugal will not be present to defend their title. They failed to progress from qualifying Group 3, a difficult pool that included Poland, Greece and Spain, ending up on four points and in second place behind the latter.

 

Format: There will be four groups of four, with the top two from each section reaching the quarter-finals for the knock-out phase of the tournament.

 

Group A: Croatia, Spain, Turkey, Italy

Group B: Scotland, France, Hungary, Faroe Islands

Group C: Germany, Republic of Ireland, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group D: Netherlands, England, Norway, Ukraine

 

Reasons to watch

The level of technical and tactical play of the U-17 teams is remarkable and in this age category the players take huge steps forwards in terms of athleticism. Countless stars have participated at U-17 European Championships, including current household names such as Renato Sanches, Memphis Depay, Paul Pogba, Mario Gotze, Thiago Alcantara, Eden Hazard, Toni Kroos, Cesc Fabregas and Cristiano Ronaldo.

 

"Tournaments like this help you to develop and grow," said Sanches, who won UEFA EURO 2016 with Portugal last summer and now plays for Bayern Munich. "You shoulder a lot of responsibility. I only have positive memories when I think back on those moments." 

 

World Cup dreams

In odd-numbered years the U-17 continental competition doubles up as the qualifying campaign for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which will take place in India from 6-28 October. 

 

The four semi-finalists automatically book their tickets to the global showdown. Of the four losing quarter-finalists the two best teams, which are determined according to detailed criteria, contest a play-off for the fifth and final European qualifying spot.

 

Newcomers and underdogs

Norway and Faroe Islands will make their U-17 EURO tournament debuts. The latter – a nation with a population of approximately 50,000 – are competing at the finals of a UEFA competition for the very first time, having qualified as one of the best second-placed teams after Croatia.

 

"The Faroes are the smallest nation ever to have qualified for this tournament," said Christian Andreasen, president of the Faroe Islands Football Association. "It's a very talented group of players and we expect great things of them in the future."

 

The hosts

Croatia traditionally have very technically gifted teams and in the current crop of players it is Dinamo Zagreb left-back David Colina who stands out. He is the most experienced member of the side and uses his pace and crossing ability to good effect on the wing.

 

Croatia played well in two friendlies against Spain in February, recording a 1-0 defeat and a 2-1 victory, kindling hope that on home turf they could improve upon reaching the semi-finals in 2005, which stands as the nation's best-ever finish at an U-17 tournament. Croatia were knocked out in the quarter-finals when they last took part in the competition in 2015.

 

"The players can demonstrate their quality and steer their careers in the right direction," said Croatia U-17 coach Dario Basic. "Some people might think that we're under extra pressure but we'll have the fans behind us and will be in familiar surroundings."

 

The favourites

England, France, Spain and the Netherlands have all won the U-17 European title twice so far, and a third triumph for any of them would set a new record. That quartet are, naturally enough, among the favourites to lift the trophy this time. 

 

For Spain, all eyes will be on captain Abel Ruiz, who laces his boots at Barcelona. He was also involved in 2016 when the Iberians lost to Portugal on penalties, and scored four goals at those finals to finish as the tournament's second-top scorer. This time the Spaniards will be hoping his firepower can lead them to glory.

 

Italy are also among the favourites, although they are yet conquer Europe in this age category. Among their squad is pacey Juventus forward Moise Kean, who even made his UEFA Champions League debut against Sevilla last November.

 

Germany, who were top scorers in qualifying with 19 goals, likewise have designs on the title. "We've got a lot of players who are good in front of goal, we've got good tacklers and a team structure that works," said U-17 coach Christian Wuck. "We can travel to Croatia full of confidence."

Kumi Yokoyama a key figure in Japan's new-look side

Yokoyama is one of the few females to be shortlisted for a FIFA Puskas Award

The 2011 world champions are rebuilding under new coach Asako Takakura

 

If Kumi Yokoyama's scoring form is anything to go by, it seems that the 23-year-old forward looks set to continue her new-found role as the talisman of Japanese women's football.

 

The No9 finished as joint-top scorer in March's Algarve Cup alongside Denmark's Pernille Harder with four goals. But all the more impressive was the way she played. The diminutive 155-cm striker dazzled spectators through her mazy runs and finishing. Yokoyama opened her account in the 2-1 loss against eventual champions Spain in the opener, grabbed a brace as they beat Norway 2-0 before wrapping up her campaign with goal in a 3-2 loss to Netherlands. Japan may have finished with a modest fifth place, but Yokoyama's eye-catching performances have truly established her as a key player in Asako Takakura's new-look Nadeshiko.

 

Such displays may be pleasing and encouraging for most emerging players. Yokoyama was, however, far from satisfied reflecting on her performances in what was her first international tournament with the senior national team. "My aim was to score in every match," she told FIFA.com with an air of disappointment in her voice. "But I failed to make it because I couldn't find the back of the net against Iceland. This shows that I have to train harder. Of course, I wanted to score and my team won. So it was disappointing that I scored and my team didn't win."

 

For Yokoyama, it was the collective lessons learned and experiences gained during the tournament that is most important. "After playing in the Algarve Cup, we know what we are capable of and meanwhile, we are aware in which areas we need to improve,” she said. “We are clear about our place in the world of women’s football."

 

Maradona-like goal 

It wasn't the first time that Yokoyama impressed the watching world through her goal-scoring talents. She exploded on the international scene in the 2010 FIFA U-17 World Cup, managing to score six times as Japan finished second in Trinidad & Tobago. Notably, she scored in the semi-final victory against Korea DPR with a slalom run reminiscent of Diego Maradona in his pomp. So impressive was the goal, that it was eventually short-listed for the FIFA Puskas Award.

 

Despite the significance and stunning visual impact of the goal, Yokoyama maintained that her best is yet to come. She said: "My career is still running, so I wouldn't single out a goal as the most memorable until after my retirement."

 

The 2010 FIFA U-17 World Cup proved a launching pad for Yokoyama’s emergence. Yokoyama figured prominently as Japan stormed into the last four at the 2012 FIFA U-20 World Cup on home soil, before graduating into the senior side three years later. However, she didn't earn a regular place until Takakura assumed the reins last year.

Midfielder Sarpreet Singh is aiming to help New Zealand achieve new heights at this month’s FIFA U-20 World Cup

The teenager received financial support and mentorship from New Zealand captain Winston Reid

Singh says ‘playing professional football is all he ever wanted to do’

New Zealand youth international Sarpreet Singh was an impressionable ten-year-old when Winston Reid scored a famous last-gasp equaliser against Slovakia to earn the All Whites their first-ever point at a FIFA World Cup™. Now 18, Singh is well advanced down the path towards his own success in the game. And New Zealand’s South Africa 2010 hero Reid - the current senior national team captain - has played an important role in that journey.

 

As a starry-eyed youngster, Singh had two main dreams – becoming a professional footballer and wearing the national team colours. He is now on the verge of achieving both those ambitions within a matter of months, as New Zealand prepare for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which commences later this month in Korea Republic.

 

Mentoring and friendship 

Singh was a scrawny schoolboy when his unexpected break came in the unlikely setting of Samoa. The then Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick picked out Singh during the 2015 U-17 World Cup qualifiers as being worthy of a spot in the club’s academy side. A rough diamond for sure, but one that could be polished to shine even brighter.

 

But then there was the problem of finance, and schooling. Raised in Auckland to Indian-born parents, Singh needed to move south to the capital. That was when Reid stepped in, as Singh and fellow teen Max Mata became beneficiaries of the first-ever Winston Reid scholarship.

 

“Winston Reid played a big part in that whole process,” Singh told FIFA.com. “He helped with the financial side of things, helping me go to school here [in Wellington] and set up a homestay. He looked after me with all that, for which I’m really grateful.

 

Since I started playing, all I ever wanted to be was a pro footballer and play for the national team, and I’m slowly working towards that.

 

New Zealand U-20 midfielder Sarpreet Singh

 

“I haven’t actually met Winston in person, but we have Skyped and I still email him on occasions, if I need something. I can go straight to him, and I also have other people I can go to.”

 

A stylish attacking midfielder, Singh is well on the way to achieving his football aims. He recently made his senior debut for the Phoenix – New Zealand’s only professional club. It was an experience that was both gratifying and eye-opening. “The intensity is a lot higher, and your decision-making needs to be quicker, but I enjoyed it,” Singh said. “On one level, it is almost easier in a way, because more things open up for you.”

 

Dreams can come true 

New Zealand have been drawn in an intriguing group for Korea Republic 2017, with Group E’s football mix as diverse as its cultural flavour. The Kiwis will tackle Vietnam and Honduras, before rounding out their group-stage commitments with a meeting against France.

 

New Zealand boast some solid results at U-20 World Cups in recent years, notably reaching the knockout round on home soil two years ago. They reprised that feat a few months later at the U-17 World Cup, where it took a somewhat unlucky 1-0 defeat against Brazil to suffer elimination in the Round of 16 – a team Singh was part of.

 

Singh believes that experience at Chile 2015 will stand the side in good stead when they enter the heat of battle in Korea Republic. Darren Bazeley’s side is also well stocked with senior internationals - Clayton Lewis, Henry Cameron, Dane Ingham, Moses Dyer and Logan Rogerson among them.

 

“Getting that exposure to the world stage obviously stands me in good stead, as it does all players that have played at that level," said Singh. “There is nothing to be scared of. We know what a threat they [our opponents] can be, but as long as we prepare well, we should be OK.”

 

Singh’s schoolboy day-dreaming from back in 2010 seems a long time ago now, but the 18-year-old is aware of the significance. “It is the kind of thing you dream of as a kid,” he said. “To actually do that, really is a dream come true.

 

“Since I started playing at a young age, all I ever wanted to be was a pro footballer and play for the national team, and I’m slowly working towards that.”

 

Perhaps one day that will include playing in a World Cup alongside Winston Reid. What a story that would be.

Ibom Angels head coach, Whyte Ogbonda has said his side are determined to end their search for away win at neighbours, Bayelsa Queens.

 

The Uyo landladies are guests of the Yenagoa outfit in Wednesday’s Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL) matchday 6 clash at the Nembe City Stadium.

 

Ogbonda said the side target is to end the first stanza top-flight campaign with a minimum of eleven points.

 

“We are working very hard to get an away win in the on-going Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL).

 

“A rare opportunity is on the table when we visit hosts, Bayelsa Queens in NWFL matchday 6 clash in Nembe.

 

“Our target is to end the first stanza on 11 points and for us to achieve the mark we must beat Bayelsa Queens as well as Heartland Queens to amass six points to add to the four in our kitty.

 

“The players know the importance of victory as they have already missed several match bonuses due to poor results.

 

“Bayelsa Queens are always strong side and they actually fortified the side for the on-going season.

 

“We must strive to close them up in the middle to neutralise their potency and strength,” said the former Rivers Angels coach to supersport.com.

 

Ogbonda said he has marshalled out other players to ease off unnecessary attention on NWFL leading scorer, Charity Reuben.

 

“We have other strikers that will help Charity to fence off undue attention on her, she is our top striker and leading goal scorer we will rally round her to achieve her aim.

 

“We will spread and share the burden among the players so that it will not be only on her,” said Ogbonda.

 

Ibom Angels are fifth on the Group A log on four points four behind league leaders and champions, Rivers Angels.

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