Friday, July 13, 2007

A Key Test for South Africa & Nigeria Advances

Football stars past and present will be on hand in Cape Town, South Africa next Wednesday for the "90 Minutes for Mandela" match to be played in honor of the great Nelson Mandela's 89th birthday.

The match will feature an African XI tackling a World XI and feature the likes of former South African captain Lucas Radebe, three-time African footballer of the year Samuel Eto'o, former European player of the year Ruud Gullit, and former Spanish star Emilio Butragueno (also known as "The Vulture"). Also on hand will be quite possibly the greatest player of all time, Pele.

2010 World Cup Chief Organizer Danny Jordaan said next week's match in Cape Town is a 'key test' for the city ahead of the World Cup.

Jordaan was addressing the media regarding the match. ‘As we move towards preparing for and hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we celebrate Madiba's (Mandela's nickname) birthday in recognition of his personal contribution and sacrifices to help South Africa and the African continent host its first World Cup.'

Let's hope the game goes off without a hitch. According to reports, only 10,000 tickets out of 50,000 have been sold. If you're in Cape Town, get to the stadium!! It's for a good cause (proceeds from the game will go to programs which use soccer to develop educational, health and social programmes among the young), it's in honor of one of humanity's greatest gifts (Nelson Mandela) and Pele will be there!

Just look at these lineups, courtesy of the BBC:

Africa XI

Coaches: Jean Manga (CMR) Jomo Sono (RSA)

Goalkeepers: Badou Zaki (MOR) Jacques Songo'o (CMR)

Defenders: Austin Eguavoen (NGA) Mark Fish (RSA) Stephen Keshi (NGA) Doctor Khumalo (RSA) David Obua (UGA) Stephen Tataw (CMR) Okechukwu Uche (NGA)

Midfielders/Attackers: Abedi Pele (GHA) Daniel Amokachi (NGA) Kalusha Bwalya (ZAM) Samuel Eto'o (CMR) Hossam Hassan (EGY) Lomana LuaLua (DRC) Rabah Madjer (ALG) Pedro Mantorras (ANG) Phil Masinga (RSA) François Oman Biyik (CMR) Dennis Oliech (KEN) Samson Siasia (NGA) George Weah (LBR)

Team colours: White/White/White

Rest of the World XI

Coaches: Roy Hodgson (ENG) (current Finland coach) Claude Le Roy (FRA) (current Ghana coach)

Goalkeeper: Andoni Zubizaretta (ESP)

Defenders: Zoubaier Baya (TUN) Christian Karembeu (FRA) Gary Mabbutt (ENG) Patrick M'Boma (CMR) Santos Muntubile (DRC) Lucas Radebe (RSA)

Midfielders/Attackers: Ali Daei (IRN) Emilio Butragueno (ESP) Stéphane Chapuisat (SUI) Youssouf Fofana (FRA/CIV) Julen Guerrero (ESP) Ruud Gullit (NED) Joo Sung Kim (KOR) Leonardo Nascimento de Araujo (BRA) Pele (BRA) Fernando Redondo (ARG) Wynton Rufer (NZL) Iván Zamorano (CHI)

Team colours: Black/Black/Black

Kudos to the Nigerian U-20's, who successfully made their way to the quarterfinals of the Under-20 World Cup by defeating fellow continent mates Zambia, 2-1.
The eagerly-anticipated all-African showdown in Ottawa, Canada did not take long to get going.

Nigeria, runners-up at Netherlands 2005, struck the first blow after just three minutes, a powerful header from Uwa Echiejile doing the damage.

Zambia, meanwhile, appeared somewhat out of their depth, keeper Jacob Banda having to be at his agile best to prevent the Flying Eagles extending their lead.

However, a moment's indecision in the Nigerian backline let in Emmanuel Mayuka, who crossed for Rodgers Kola to level the game on the 33-minute mark.

The stormy conditions that had plagued the first half eased after the interval, the sun finally emerging from behind the clouds.

And with it came the decisive goal, Chukwuma Akabueze powering home a strike on 57 minutes worthy of winning any game. 'I'm very happy to have scored. I'm always trying to catch keepers out from distance, but it hadn't worked for me until now. We want to win the title,' said Akabueze, pictured celebrating.

The scoreline would stay that way, despite the host of clear-cut chances that fell to both sides before the 90 minutes were up.

Next up for the Flying Eagles is a trip to Montreal, where they will face Chile in the quarter-finals.

The Copper Bullets, for their part, can make the long journey back to Lusaka with their heads held high.

Meanwhile, Congo are also heading home following their 3-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico in the other game on Thursday.

Nigeria is the lone African representative. Go on, lads!

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