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Super Falcons to play about 10 matches before World Cup

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Super Falcons of Nigeria

Super Falcons of Nigeria

The Nigeria Football Federation(NFF) has firmed up plans to provide African champions, Super Falcons, with what could turn out to be their best –ever preparation for the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals.

Participation in the Four –Nation Invitational Tournament in China, 17th – 20th January, will be followed by participation in the Cyprus Women’s Cup (25th February – 7th March), before planned friendly matches with Spain or Canada before a final training camp in Austria that could also take in two tune –up games.

On Tuesday, players and officials of the nine –time African champions were at the Embassy of China in Abuja for visa processing. The team is expected to fly out of Nigeria to China on Monday.

Hosts China, Romania and Korea Republic are the other teams taking part in the four –day invitational.

Overwhelmingly voted as the Women National Team of Year 2018 in Africa at the AITEO-CAF African Football Awards in Senegal on Tuesday, the Super Falcons are determined to adequately prepare and be competitive at this year’s global tournament – a championship in which they have only reached the quarter finals once before, 20 years ago.

Already, the Nigeria Football Federation has announced that the Falcons will have their final camping programme at the same Avita Hotel and Resort in Bad Tatzmannsdorf in Austria, where the Super Eagles stayed before flying to Russia to participate in last year’s FIFA World Cup finals.

On return from the invitational tournament in China, the Falcons will begin visa processing for Cyprus, where a 12 –Nation Invitational Tournament awaits between 25th February – 7th March.

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Italy, North Korea, Mexico, Slovakia, South Africa and Thailand are the other nations taking part. Of the lot, Nigeria, Italy, South Africa and Thailand will be going to France.

Spain (who play African team South Africa, as well as Germany and China in Group B) and Canada (who play African team Cameroon, as well as New Zealand and The Netherlands in Group E) have approached Nigeria for friendly matches. Jamaica, who play Australia, Italy and Brazil in Group C, have also written to the NFF expressing interest in playing the Super Falcons.

Nigeria, the only African country to have featured in all previous editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup since the competition was launched in China in 1991, will tackle host nation France, Korea Republic and Norway in Group A of this summer’s finals.

The Super Falcons will open their account in France against Norway, at the 21,000 –capacity Stade Auguste Delaune in Reims on 8th June, before matches against Korea Republic in Grenoble on 12th June and against hosts France in Rennes on 17th June.

The 8th FIFA Women’s World Cup finals will hold 7th June – 7th July this year, with France up against Korea Republic in the opening match at the Parc des Princes in Paris on 7th June.

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Ronaldo accepts prison sentence and €18.8m fine for tax fraud

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has accepted a 23-month prison sentence and an €18.8million fine for tax fraud.

The Juventus star attended a court in Madrid on Tuesday to ratify an agreement already reached with Spanish prosecutors.

The 33-year-old was accused of committing four crimes against the Spanish treasury between 2011 and 2014 while he was playing for Real Madrid.

Ronaldo is alleged to have concealed income earned through image rights by using offshore companies.

The Portugal international told reporters that “everything is perfect” after his short appearance in court, during which he accepted the charges as part of a plea deal with the prosecution.

Under Spanish law, he will not be required to spend any time in jail as it is a first-time offence.

Ronaldo was pictured smiling outside court, accompanied by girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez, having given a thumbs-up to waiting reporters upon arriving before signing some autographs for fans.

The forward, who left Madrid last year to join Juventus in a €112m deal, missed a penalty in his side’s 3-0 Serie A win over Chievo on Monday.

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2019 Access Lagos Marathon Expo begins

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Access Bank Marathon

Access Bank Marathon

Hundreds of runners from all walks of life including important personalities from within and outside the sports industry on Tuesday thronged the Molade Okoya Thomas Hall at the Teslim Balogun Stadium as the 2019 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon Expo got underway.

Marathon Expos are an integral part of big marathon races worldwide with major marathons like New York, Dubai, London, Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, Berlin drawing a lot of vendors and exhibitors annually.

The Expo has also been a regular feature at the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon since debuting four years ago.

At this year’s edition, a lot of companies are participating as they are showcasing their products and services to intending runners at the Lagos Marathon as well as the general public.

Some of the dignitaries at the opening day of the Marathon Expo include the Vice President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, NOC Chief Solomon Ogba as well the Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission Dr Kweku Tandoh.

Honourable Bukola Olopade was also present alongside other celebrities.

According to a statement issued by Olukayode Thomas, Head Communications and Media for the Lagos Marathon, a lot of VIP runners were also present on the opening day of the Marathon Expo.

The Access Bank Lagos City Marathon Expo will be running for the next 10 days.

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Battling Nishikori faces big test against Djokovic

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Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori’s fighting spirit could face the ultimate test at the Australian Open on Wednesday when he takes on world number one Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

Nishikori overcame Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in his third five-setter in four rounds on Monday and has spent nearly 14 hours on court at Melbourne, more than any other player.

Djokovic is aware of Nishikori’s battling qualities having lost twice to the Japanese in 17 career meetings, including a defeat in the 2014 U.S. Open semi-finals.

“He’s a talented player. One of the quickest players on the tour, hard worker… I expect a tough one,” Djokovic, who beat Daniil Medvedev in four sets to reach the last eight, said.

“I have lots of respect for him. Every year is different, so every match that you play against each other is different… I expect him obviously to come out, to try something new.”

Djokovic, who took a tumble during his match with Medvedev, was also hampered by a back strain towards the end but shrugged off the problem.

“It was not particularly the fall. It was just a little bit of fatigue, a little bit of back. Nothing major. But there are a couple of things that have surfaced after a match like this,” Djokovic added.

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