Cameroon first African team to taste victory against Brazil at a World Cup

Cameroon first African team to taste victory against Brazil at a World Cup
Cameroon team members celebrate at the end of their World Cup Group G football match against Brazil at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 03 December 2022

Cameroon first African team to taste victory against Brazil at a World Cup

Cameroon first African team to taste victory against Brazil at a World Cup
  • Despite the victory on Friday, Cameroon finished third in their group and was eliminated

AP LUSAIL, Qatar: Cameroon coach Rigobert Song came full circle on a memorable and bittersweet night for African soccer.

Jerome Ngom Mbekeli, the only member of Cameroon’s team who plays for a Cameroonian club, made an inspiring run and cross to set up Vincent Aboubakar’s header and stoppage-time winner in a 1-0 victory to make the Indomitable Lions the first African nation to beat Brazil at a World Cup.

Despite the victory on Friday, Cameroon finished third in their group and was eliminated.

The 24-year-old Ngom Mbekeli was Cameroon’s final substitution, coming on four minutes from time. Song credited his own former coach, Henri Michel, for giving him an opportunity in 1994 when he played for local club Tonnerre Yaounde as he was making his World Cup debut.

“You need to trust youth,” Song said through a translator. “Henri Michel gave me an opportunity. He saw the potential in me. Now I’m the coach and I see potential in my young players.

“I knew (Ngom Mbekeli) was a good, quality player. He just needed an opportunity to show that. Hopefully his performance can motivate other local players.”

Goalkeeper Devis Epassy — thrust into action after usual starter Andre Onana was sent home for disciplinary reasons after a dispute with Song before Cameroon’s previous game — earned player of the match honors for a series of difficult saves.

“No one knew me — even in Cameroon — until I started playing for the national team a year ago,” Epassy said through a translator. “We can be proud of what we’ve done tonight. We showed that we can also be a top team.”

Both Epassy and Aboubakar play for clubs in Saudi Arabia.

With eight goals in seven games, the 22-year-old Aboubakar was the top scorer at the African Cup of Nations in January.

Song and Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon’s soccer federation president, are instilling a strict discipline policy modeled after the European clubs that they once played for — Song as a reliable defender and Eto’o as a standout striker.

“That’s where we let ourselves down in the past,” Song said. “Perhaps we didn’t do everything right, so we’re focusing on discipline.

“The team always needs to take precedent over individuals. When you play for the national team you need to do what’s expected of you.”

While Brazil had already advanced and used mostly reserves, Cameroon still became the first team to beat the five-time champion in the World Cup group stage since Norway did it at the 1998 tournament in France — ending an unbeaten run of 17 group matches.

“We realize now that we could have done better,” Song said. “But we’re a young team and today we’ve seen a young team getting stronger and stronger, and they should be congratulated on their performance.

“It’s a real shame that we have to go home now,” Song added. “But we are going to keep working and keep improving.”


Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
Updated 28 January 2023

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
  • Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th

LEIPZIG, Germany: Two sweetly hit shots from Dominik Szoboszlai lifted Leipzig to a 2-1 win over Stuttgart to close within a point of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Friday.

Szoboszlai had not scored in the league since September before the Hungarian midfielder gave his team the lead with a swerving, dipping free kick in the 25th minute that goalkeeper Florian Muller could only push into his own net.

Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th, using one touch to control a header from teammate Andre Silva on the edge of the penalty area before letting the ball drop and striking a half-volley that left Muller no chance.

Embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation, Stuttgart had plenty of chances to exploit defensive errors from Leipzig but couldn’t convert enough of them.

Shortly before Szoboszlai’s second goal, Stuttgart’s Niklas Nartey could have leveled the score when he was one-on-one with Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich, but his shot bobbled wide of the far post instead. Stuttgart finally scored when Chris Führich powered a penalty past Blaswich in the 68th after a handball by defender Joško Gvardiol. That ensured a tense finish for Leipzig but the hosts largely kept Stuttgart at bay in the closing stages.

Bayern has drawn both of its opening games of 2023, including one against Leipzig last week, as it adapts to life without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has a broken leg. Bayern can restore a four-point lead if it beats fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.


Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
Updated 28 January 2023

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
  • England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester City issued a statement of intent by knocking out Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup on Friday.

Nathan Ake’s 64th-minute goal settled the fourth-round match at Etihad Stadium and the result may yet reverberate through the rest of the season.

Arsenal lead City by five points at the top of the English Premier League, but their seven-game unbeaten run was ended by City, who have three straight wins in all competitions.

England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15. For now, City manager Pep Guardiola has gained an edge on his former assistant, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

“I know how difficult it is to beat Arsenal. They lost one game in the Premier League, so I know how difficult it is,” Guardiola said.

Defender Ake was the unlikely match-winner after curling a low shot past goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Arsenal had chances while enjoying the better of the first half. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Leandro Trossard forced saves from City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, and Eddie Nketiah fired narrowly wide from close range.

The visitors were made to pay when City improved after the break and Ake produced the decisive strike.

“(I’m) really disappointed,” Arteta said. “We could have got much more out of the game. In the big moments in big matches you have to make the difference.”

While a place in the fifth round of the cup was at stake, it was impossible to ignore the wider context of a match between the teams who are the front-runners in the league race.

Arsenal have been in outstanding form, picking up 50 points after 19 games and playing with a confidence not seen since Arsene Wenger’s title-winning teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As if to underline the fact that the cup is neither team’s priority, Guardiola and Arteta left key players out of their lineups.

Guardiola benched Ederson, Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva.

Arteta left out Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, William Saliba, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Arsenal’s new signing, Trossard, was given his first start since joining from Brighton last week.

Despite the changes, Arsenal created the better chances in the first half but could not make them count.

City began to control the game after the break without creating many clear-cut openings until Ake broke the deadlock.

Substitute Alvarez’s strike from outside the box beat Turner, but came back off the post. Jack Grealish picked up the rebound and laid off to Ake, who hit a first-time effort low into the corner.

Elimination gives Arsenal one less distraction in its bid for the title and Arteta hopes to strengthen his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

The London club has been linked with a $74 million move for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, but Arteta would not answer specific questions about the player.

“We have been pretty active in the market. We have some necessities,” he said. “If something else is available, the club is willing to try to do it when it is reasonable and hopefully he’s a player that can improve our squad.”


Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG
Updated 27 January 2023

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG
  • Navas has been linked with a move after losing his starting position to Gianluigi Donnarumma
  • “Keylor is a great competitor," Galtier said

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier is unsure if he can retain goalkeeper Keylor Navas amid reported interest from Premier League club Nottingham Forest.
With the January transfer window closing soon, the 36-year-old Navas has been linked with a move after losing his starting position to Italy’s European Championship-winning goalie Gianluigi Donnarumma. Navas only plays in the French Cup.
“Keylor is a great competitor. He has been exemplary in terms of his work since the start of the season. I have total faith in him,” Galtier said Friday. “But you have to consider what he’s feeling and the directors and president are attentive to his needs.”
French sports daily L’Equipe’s website reported Friday that the Costa Rica international has agreed to terms with Forest.
Galtier suggested he would not try to block a move.
“Because of the person he is and his career, we must respect him and listen to him,” he said.
Navas joined PSG in 2019 from Real Madrid, where he won the Champions League three times, and has played 108 games for the French champions. He was outstanding during the 2020-21 season, when he stood out with remarkable performances in the Champions League against Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
Navas has played 110 times for Costa Rica.


Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading
Updated 27 January 2023

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading
  • Sancho has struggled to reach peak form since moving from Borussia Dortmund
  • Sancho last played for United in October's 1-1 draw at Chelsea and was left out of England's World Cup squad

LONDON: Erik ten Hag is set to end Jadon Sancho’s Manchester United exile as the England forward eyes his first appearance in 14 weeks against Reading in the FA Cup fourth round.
Sancho has struggled to reach peak form since moving from Borussia Dortmund and Ten Hag claimed he was not mentally or physically ready to feature for United earlier this season.
The 22-year-old was sent to do an individual fitness program in the Netherlands rather than travel to the squad’s training camp in Spain during the World Cup last year.
But Sancho resumed group training last Tuesday having returned to Carrington earlier in January and could be involved when second tier Reading visit Old Trafford on Saturday.
“He is training with the team and we will see,” Ten Hag told reporters on Friday.
“So, he’s improving, he’s making steps and we will make the decision after training.”
Sancho last played for United in October’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea and was left out of England’s World Cup squad.
He has failed to justify the hype that saw him hailed as one of Europe’s brightest young stars when he moved to United in 2021.
“I said he’s on the way back, he’s making steps. He’s back in team training and now we have to see when he’s ready to go back into the games,” Ten Hag said.
United have flourished in Sancho’s absence, climbing into the Premier League’s top four and advancing in both domestic cup competitions.
Chasing the club’s first major trophy since 2017, United won 3-0 at Nottingham Forest in the League Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday.
That result means Ten Hag could rest key players in next week’s second leg, but the Dutchman will also be tempted to rotate against a Reading side managed by former United midfielder Paul Ince.
“Football is never decided on paper, we have to be ready for every game, every opponent will be tough and especially in the cup,” Ten Hag said.
“That is, for them, a perfect chance. We have to be aware of that. We have to be on the front foot, fully focused and full of energy.
“I think tomorrow we will have a strong selection for this game.”


Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers

Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers
Updated 27 January 2023

Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers

Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers
  • United have suffered just one defeat all season under Howe and remain in contention in all three domestic competitions

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe admits improving his Newcastle United starting XI could prove difficult to do in the January transfer window.
Although, that does not mean he will not try to at least steady up his Magpies squad, with the club set to be fighting it out on three fronts heading into 2023.
The last two transfer windows have proved transformative for Newcastle and Howe: From the likes of Bruno Guimaraes dragging the Magpies away from the relegation zone 12 months ago, to the summer rebuild which has seen a shift into the Champions League places.
United have suffered just one defeat all season under Howe and remain in contention in all three domestic competitions, making them one of the country’s form teams. And adjusting and adding to the side with the right level of quality does come with its own pitfalls, of which Howe is only too aware.
“I’m always watching players with the view to signing them,” admitted the head coach ahead of Sunday’s return to league action at Leicester City.
“I’d like to think I’m an honest guy, but I don’t know whether we can get the right player. Improving our starting XI is very difficult without spending vast sums of money that we don’t have. Improving the squad is maybe a different thing, but do we want to improve the squad or do we want to improve the team.
“There are lots of different things, for example, injuries change things, and we always need to be careful with what we can do within Financial Fair Play regulations.”
More than $200 million has been spent by the Magpies’ majority owners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, in the last two transfer windows. Howe does not expect next month to see anywhere near that level of expenditure.
He said: “We’re in a very different position to where we were last year.
“We knew we needed to act (last January) and we knew we needed some good numbers through the door to try and lift the group. Now, we’re in a different position. And also, we are in a different position with Financial Fair Play than we were last year where we didn’t have a legacy of transfer fees, so we had a gap there we could attack.
“Not avoiding your question, but we’re not sure what we want the window to look like because we’re not sure what is going to happen.”
One player heavily linked with a move to United next year is France international Marcus Thuram, fresh from his defeat in the World Cup final.
The player is a close friend of Newcastle star Allan Saint-Maximin, with the French winger admitting recently that he’d spoken to Thuram about a possible switch.
The Borussia Monchengladbach man is out of contract in the summer and is thought to be available for a knockdown fee in January. Bayern Munich are said to be interested, however.
Recently, Saint-Maximin said: “Yeah, I will be honest, I have chatted with him. For me, he’s a great player. I’ve known this guy a long time. I played football with him when I was very young. I know all his family. He has great parents. He’s an incredible guy.”
And when asked about his player’s words, Howe joked: “Well done, Maxi! He’s a top player. But yeah, no more than that. He’s one that I watched in the World Cup, for sure, but no more than that.”