Morocco picked 2025 Africa Cup of Nations host

Patrice Motsepe, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), announces the host countries for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations during a ceremony held in Cairo on Sept. 27, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 27 September 2023

Morocco picked 2025 Africa Cup of Nations host

  • The 2027 tournament was awarded to East African neighbors Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania
  • Morocco’s bid opponents were a Benin-Nigeria co-host plan and Zambia after Algeria this week withdrew

CAIRO: Morocco being picked Wednesday to host soccer’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2025 was expected.
It was a surprise, however, that the 2027 tournament was awarded to East African neighbors Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania when its bid rivals included soccer powers Senegal and Egypt.
The Confederation of African Football’s president Patrice Motsepe announced the winners after votes by its executive committee.
Morocco was heavily favored to get the 2025 AFCON, when the 2022 World Cup semifinalist is also currently part of an innovative Europe-led joint bid for the 2030 tournament with Spain and Portugal, and possibly Ukraine.
Morocco’s bid opponents were a Benin-Nigeria co-host plan and Zambia after Algeria this week withdrew its candidacy from both the 2025 and ‘27 contests. Guinea previously was picked for 2025 but was stripped of hosting by CAF.
East Africa has not staged the biennial tournament since Ethiopia was the 1976 host.
The delayed 2023 edition of the 24-team tournament kicks off in January in Ivory Coast.

Messi leaves door open to 2026 World Cup

Updated 02 December 2023

Messi leaves door open to 2026 World Cup

  • Messi: I’m not thinking about the World Cup and I’m not saying 100 percent that I won’t be there because anything can happen. Because of my age, the most normal thing is that I won’t be there. Then we’ll see.

BUENOS AIRES: Lionel Messi is not ruling out another bid for World Cup glory with Argentina in 2026 despite acknowledging that time is working against him.

Messi, who recently won his eighth Ballon d’Or, raised the World Cup almost a year ago after starring for Argentina in the final against France in Doha.

The 36-year-old had suggested at the time that the tournament in Qatar would be his last and that he wouldn’t be around for the next tournament which will be co-hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico.

But having moved to Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami and continued performing for the national team in qualifiers for 2026, he says the door remains open.

“I’m not thinking about the World Cup and I’m not saying 100 percent that I won’t be there because anything can happen. Because of my age, the most normal thing is that I won’t be there. Then we’ll see,” said Messi in an interview with Argentina’s Star.”

The Argentina captain said his focus is on June’s Copa America which will be held in the US.

“Maybe we’ll do well at the Copa America and everything will work out for us to continue. Maybe not. Realistically it’s difficult,” he said of the chance of a sixth consecutive appearance in the World Cup.

Messi said he would be “the first to know when I can be there and when I can’t. I’m also aware that I’ve gone to a lesser league. But it’s all about the personal side of things and the way you deal with it and how you compete.

“As long as I feel I’m well and can continue to contribute, I’m going to do it. Today all I’m thinking about is getting to the Copa America. After that, time will tell if I’m there or not.

“I’m going to arrive at an age that, normally, doesn’t allow me to play in the World Cup. I said I don’t think I’m going to be there. It looked like after the World Cup I was retiring and it was the opposite. Now I want to be there more than ever,” he added.

Mitrovic: ‘I don’t think I’ve played a better derby’

Updated 02 December 2023

Mitrovic: ‘I don’t think I’ve played a better derby’

Two-goal hero Aleksandar Mitrovic was full of praise for Al-Hilal fans after they generated an electric atmosphere in the 3-0 Riyadh derby victory over title rivals Al-Nassr.

Mitrovic snatched a late brace for Al-Hilal on Friday, adding to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s opener to put Luis Castro’s side to the sword at the King Fahd Stadium. The victory extends their lead at the top of the Saudi Pro League to seven points.

And Mitrovic, who played in the West London derby for Fulham, Tyne-Wear derby for Newcastle and Belgrade derby for Partizan, claimed that Friday’s clash between Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr was the pick of them.

“(It was) amazing, really amazing,” Mitrovic said after the match. “I played derbies in many countries, but for sure this is, if not the best, for sure top, top of the list.

“The pressure before the game, the build-up with fans before the game (was) really, really amazing, something special. To be honest, I don’t think I ever played a better derby.”

Mitrovic has quickly become a fan favorite at Al-Hilal, helped by his 20 goals in 20 games across all competitions for the Riyadh heavyweights. The double against Al-Nassr meant the supporters were serenading their Serbian striker again. 

“I’m lucky that everywhere I play, I always have a great relationship, but with these fans it’s amazing,” Mitrovic said.

“Since I arrived, from the first moment, we had a really special connection. They make me happy. I hope I will continue making them happy. It’s a happy marriage.”

Both sides had opportunities in the game, but it was the league leaders who were eventually more ruthless in front of goal, despite spurning some earlier chances.

“It was a very open game,” Mitrovic added. “From the beginning of the first half, we were better, we dominated; we had probably three, four clean chances to score goals, but we didn’t. We knew that of course, they have quality, a lot of experience.

“We knew that if we wanted to win the game, we had to keep a clean sheet. I think we scored the first goal on time, and we defended really, really well as a team.

“(With the) second goal, we killed the game, the third goal as well. I could even have scored a hat trick today with a little bit of luck. But overall, it was a great performance, a great game from us and a very big win for us and our fans.”

Newcastle demand UEFA apology as Eddie Howe shuts down discussion of Mbappe comments

Updated 02 December 2023

Newcastle demand UEFA apology as Eddie Howe shuts down discussion of Mbappe comments

  • The coach said the club has asked for clarity about a controversial late penalty decision against PSG that cost them 2 Champions League points
  • But he refused to be drawn on Mbappe’s post-match assertion that the Magpies ‘have nothing,’ which many considered disrespectful

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe on Friday demanded an apology from UEFA and called for fewer calls to be made by the video assistant referee after the club’s Champions League heartbreak this week.

The Magpies are still reeling from the injustice in France when a penalty was wrongly awarded to opponents Paris Saint-Germain and duly dispatched by Kylian Mbappe, robbing Howe’s men of two crucial points in Group F.

They will be looking to put that disappointment behind them on Saturday when Manchester United visit St. James’ Park for a Premier League fixture steeped in history, excitement and needle. Erik ten Hag’s men will be well aware of Newcastle’s capabilities and the threat they pose, having endured defeats on both occasions the sides have met since February’s Carabao Cup final.

PSG star Mbappe was unimpressed, however, and in his post-match comments said he knew the Magpies would offer “nothing” in their Parc des Princes showdown.

Howe had no interest in validation or otherwise from Mbappe, or anyone else outside the NUFC bubble for that matter. He does, however, want a response from UEFA about the refereeing error that could cost his side a place in the Champions League last 16.

“We have asked for clarity but the moment has gone … but obviously you’re trying to help the game reach better decisions,” said the coach, who this weekend will once again have to go into a match without the services of at least 10 first-teamers.

“But I think any football fan watching that — unless you’re from the PSG perspective — would probably say that’s not a penalty. You want the correct decision for the football match being given in most circumstances.

“I don’t think an apology would be meaningless. If there is an acknowledgment that there was a mistake, that this was why the mistake happened, I think that’s a good thing for the game. We all make mistakes.”

He added: “I don’t think we can look at football as if we’re robots. I make mistakes. The players make mistakes. Referees make mistakes. It’s part of the game. If I make a mistake, to a player or any situation, I’ll always apologize and hold my hand up to that mistake. I think that’s important. That’s the process we go down and I think that’s healthy. But then it’s about trying to improve the processes and trying to improve the decision-making to make sure they improve long term.”

After the match, having scored the controversial stoppage-time equalizer that rescued a point at home for PSG, many observers thought Mbappe was disrespectful toward the Magpies when he said: “They have nothing. We knew it was their game to have nothing.”

Howe was quick to shut down any discussion of that.

“We’re not seeking that validation of our performances from opponents,” he said. “We’ll seek it from ourselves and our own supporters and people based in Newcastle. That’s fine. I think everyone has got an opinion, everyone will have an opinion; it’s of no relevance to us what that is.”

Howe was praised for the respectful manner in which he conducted himself in the face of the injustice in Paris, which contrasts with examples from many other Premier League managers through the years who have been much more emotional in similar circumstances.

Mikel Arteta was the a recent example at St. James’ Park, and Ten Hag has tried to get under the skin of the Newcastle boss in previous clashes.

“It’s not an act, it’s my personality,” he said of his of his typically calm demeanor. “I can’t change my personality. I can’t change to be more angry ... I am angry but I might not necessarily show it.

“I try to keep my expressions and my emotions to me, unless I need to bring them out for a positive reason, which I will behind the scenes. I’ve always had the same mindset to these things, that’s just my character.

“I’ve also had criticism for it the other way. I remember someone telling me that unless you’re more demonstrative on the bench you’ll never manage in the Premier League. That was very early in my management career. I said I’m not going to change who I am, I’m not going to become someone else because that’s what I ‘need’ to do.

“I can only be myself, otherwise I’m going to turn into an act. It’s been used against me, negatively. I’m sure other people will have a different viewpoint (on) whether it’s a strength or a weakness. It’s not me trying to prove any point. I can only be myself.”

Newcastle will face Man United without a raft of key players. Sandro Tonali, who is serving a 10-month ban for violating betting regulations, is joined on the unavailable list by Sven Botman, Harvey Barnes, Callum Wilson, Sean Longstaff, Joe Willock, Elliot Anderson, Dan Burn, Jacob Murphy, Matt Targett and Javier Manquillo.

As a result, the same starting XI who defeated against Chelsea 4-1 last Saturday, had to put in 98-plus minutes in Paris in midweek. Squad rotation is not really an option at present.

“We want to get through the month, we want to do well,” he said. “I still think we’ve got a very good team on the pitch. I’ve said that all through this injury position we’re in. Yes we have some youth in it but we still have a very good team.

“We’re trying to manage the squad as best we can and not pick up any new injuries. That would really hurt us, so we’re trying to rest the players between games and get players back who are injured. I don’t see any fatigue in the group, mentally. I think sometimes the mental fatigue is underestimated, because of the emotion the players give.

“I think we’re in a good place and, certainly, good results help that. At the moment, everything is positive but, certainly, we could do with more players back.”

Homeless Hilal shock Esperance in CAF Champions League

Updated 01 December 2023

Homeless Hilal shock Esperance in CAF Champions League

  • Hilal cannot play at home because of the armed conflict in Sudan
  • After playing a qualifier in Morocco, Hilal moved to Tanzania for the group phase

JOHANNESBURG: Homeless Sudanese club Al Hilal shocked Tunisian giants Esperance 3-1 on Friday in a CAF Champions League second-round Group C match in Tanzania.
After Yassine Meriah conceded an eighth-minute own goal, captain Mohamed Abdelrahman converted a 15th-minute penalty to give the Omdurman outfit a two-goal half-time lead.
Gambian Kebba Sowe halved the deficit in the Indian Ocean port city of Dar es Salaam on 59 minutes before Senegalese Pape N’Diaye restored the two-goal advantage 12 minutes from time.
Hilal cannot play at home because of the armed conflict in Sudan.
After playing a qualifier in Morocco, Hilal moved to Tanzania for the group phase, and their first match there delivered an unexpected success over four-time African champions Esperance.
Hilal are making a record 37th appearance in the premier African club competition and the closest they have come to lifting the trophy was finishing runners-up twice in the 1980s.
Hilal lost to Petro Luanda in Angola last weekend while Esperance won a Tunisian derby against Etoile Sahel, the only club to win all five current and past CAF competitions.
Etoile host Petro on Saturday near Tunis and should they win all four teams in the mini-league will have three points.
A Group D match also produced an upset as Medeama snatched a 2-1 victory in Ghana over Algerian visitors Chabab Belouizdad, quarter-finalists in the past three editions.
Mamudu Kamaradin scored in the fourth minute of added time in Kumasi for the home team, who came from behind to win.
Abdelraouf Benguit netted from a 39th-minute penalty and Daniel Lomotey equalized in the final minute of the opening half.
Success for Medeama came six days after a heavy loss at title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt while Belouizdad were comfortable first-round winners over Young Africans of Tanzania.
Medeama are Champions League debutants who surprised Remo Stars of Nigeria and Horoya of Guinea in qualifiers.
The other six second round matches are scheduled for Saturday, including Young Africans against Ahly.

Postecoglou’s bravery makes football better, says Guardiola

Updated 01 December 2023

Postecoglou’s bravery makes football better, says Guardiola

  • The Australian has drawn criticism for his refusal to adopt a more conservative style
  • Guardiola said: “I think he makes football a better place, people like Ange”

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola hailed Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou’s attacking approach as a blessing for the Premier League ahead of the first meeting between the pair in England on Sunday.
Postecoglou’s stunning start to his reign took Spurs to the top of the table, but Tottenham have since suffered three consecutive defeats to slip to fifth.
The Australian has drawn criticism for his refusal to adopt a more conservative style, even while Spurs are without a number of key players through injury and suspension.
James Maddison, Micky van de Ven, Rodrigo Bentancur and Richarlison will all be sidelined for the trip to the Etihad, while Sergio Romero completes a three-game ban.
But Guardiola said Postecoglou’s history of success in his homeland, at Yokohama Marinos in Japan and at Celtic, where he won five trophies in two seasons, proves he should stick to his beliefs.
“Every team plays to the desire of the manager,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“He’s done in the past in Japan and of course in Glasgow with Celtic and now. I think he makes football a better place, people like Ange.”
Spurs have taken an early lead in all three of their recent defeats to Chelsea, Wolves and Aston Villa.
And Guardiola believes only fine details have changed from a 10-game unbeaten run that gave Postecoglou the best start of any new manager to the Premier League.
“The courage,” added Guardiola on what he admires of Postecoglou’s style.
“So dynamic. It happened at Glasgow and now here. I know they lost the last games but did you see who they play?
“I see a lot of similarities when they were winning. Football is like that sometimes, two red (cards) against Chelsea, bad moments, but the dynamic is always positive.”
City head into the weekend one point behind leaders Arsenal after their 23-match winning streak at home was ended in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool last weekend.
Guardiola bemoaned the sleepy atmosphere at the Etihad for a lunchtime kick-off and has called upon the City fans to lift his side on Sunday.
“The stadium is all the time full and we have to play as best as possible and create as much as possible to energise and make our people with us,” added Guardiola.
“The games last season, semifinals, quarter-finals, important games like against Arsenal when we played for the Premier League, they were there like animals and we need that.
“In my humble opinion, to be successful we need our fans, all the time, being here. Thank you for coming, because without that it is impossible. Together we are stronger.”
Jack Grealish, Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes are expected to miss out for City due to illness and injury.
John Stones is nearing his comeback but is not yet fit to feature, while Guardiola is hoping Kevin De Bruyne will return early in the new year from a lengthy hamstring injury.