Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 7th 2014 Contents A68
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt September 7, 2014
Scotland's national football team players exercise at the stadium in Dortmund, Germany, yesterday, prior to
the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying match between Germany and Scotland, today. AP PHOTO
CAPE TOWN---Defending champi-
on Nigeria threw away a 1-0 lead
in losing 3-2 at home to Republic
of Congo on Saturday at the start
of the final qualifiers for next year s
African Cup of Nations.
Ivory Coast came from behind to
beat Sierra Leone 2-1 with two goals
in five minutes, and Ghana had to
fight for a 1-1 draw at home to
Uganda as some of the continent s
top teams were given tough work-
outs. Cameroon and Algeria, Africa s
other two representatives at the
World Cup, both won.
Nigeria was ahead through
defender Efe Ambrose s 13th-minute
goal in Calabar.
Prince Oniangue equalized two
minutes later and a Thievy Bifouma
double put the game out of the
African champions reach in the
biggest surprise of the round.
Substitute Gbolahan Salami scored
in the final minute of normal time,
ultimately only a consolation for
Nigeria after it couldn t make six
minutes of injury time count.
Nigeria s troubled recent run con-
tinued, with the country threatened
with suspension by FIFA because of
problems within the football feder-
ation and still arguing over a new
contract for 2013 African Cup-win-
ning coach Stephen Keshi.
Republic of Congo made it to this
stage of qualifying only as a replace-
ment for Rwanda, which was dis-
Nigeria dropped behind early
pace-setters South Africa and
Republic of Congo in Group A before
travelling to play South Africa next
Ivory Coast scored two goals in
quick succession from Seydou
Doumbia and Gervinho in the 63rd
and 68th minutes to give new coach
Herve Renard a winning start in
Abidjan against Sierra Leone.
It didn t come without a struggle,
though. Sierra Leone---which picked
an entirely foreign-based squad
because of the deadly Ebola outbreak
at home---struck first through Kei
Kamara just before halftime.
Ghana almost followed Nigeria to
a shock defeat at home when Tony
Mawejje put Uganda ahead.
Andre Ayew saved the Ghanaians
with a 50th-minute penalty, but the
home crowd in Kumasi booed their
own players, in part for Ghana s poor
performance on Saturday but also
because of their World Cup failure.
"It was important to pick up a
point and then pick up the pieces
later," Ghana assistant coach
Maxwell Konadu said of the draw.
Guinea leads Group E after beating
Togo on Friday night.
Algeria, Africa s top-ranked team,
beat Ethiopia 2-1 to start the decisive
competition for Morocco 2015 with
three points. Cameroon won 2-0 in
Congo in its first game since its dis-
astrous World Cup in Brazil.
El Arabi Soudani and Yacine
Brahimi put Algeria ahead in Addis
Ababa after absorbing early pressure.
Saladin Said, who had gone close
twice in the first half before Algeria
went ahead, could only score a con-
solation for the Ethiopians with a
penalty in the fifth minute of injury
Cameroon began life without
retired striker Samuel Eto o by
rebounding from its three losses at
the World Cup with an impressive
win in Congo after Clinton N jie
gave the visiting team the lead in
first-half injury time and Vincent
Aboubakar added a second late on.
Cameroon leads Group D on goal
difference from Ivory Coast.
Zambia, the 2012 African Cup of
Nations winner, began with a 0-0
home draw with Mozambique, a
major disappointment for the Zam-
bians after the home strikers wasted
a succession of chances. Cape Verde
took advantage of Zambia s slip to
win 3-1 at Niger and lead Group F.
Cape Verde was 2-0 up after 14 min-
utes to cruise to victory in Niamey.
Burkina Faso beat Lesotho 2-0
and Gabon edged Angola 1-0 in
The final qualifiers see 28 teams
split into seven groups, with the top
two in each group winning places
at the Cup of Nations in Morocco
in January and February. There is
also a place for the best third-placed
South Africa, Senegal and Guinea
all opened the three-month quali-
fying competition with victories on
loses at home in
Ivory Coast's Gervinho scored in his
team's 2-1 win over Sierra Leone in
the final qualifiers for next year's
African Cup of Nations.
BERLIN---World Cup winner
Germany opens its 2016 Euro-
pean Championship qualifica-
tion campaign against Scotland
in Dortmund today, hopeful of
taking the first step toward back-
Scotland is arguably fighting it
out with Poland and Ireland for
second place in Group D, though
third place would also leave open
the prospect of qualification, most
likely through a playoff.
Ireland plays Georgia in Tbilisi
and Gibraltar hosts Poland at the
Algarve stadium in Portugal, also
today. Here are five things to
know about the group:
Only France and Spain have
won a European Championship
as reigning World Cup winners,
in 2000 and 2012, respectively.
Germany is in a good position to
repeat that feat, despite the retire-
ments of World Cup-winning
captain Philipp Lahm, fellow
defender Per Mertesacker and
record goal-scorer Miroslav Klose.
Coach Joachim Loew has
always made a point of bringing
in new players. He handed out
72 debuts in 113 games since he
took over in August 2006, so
transition should not be a prob-
Germany boasts a wealth of
young talents pushing established
internationals for their places.
World Cup hero Mario Goetze is
yet to nail down a starting posi-
tion, Andre Schuerrle has grown
used to a substitute role, and
midfielder Christoph Kramer has
already impressed in a short time.
Loew s greatest challenge is
molding the talent at his dispersal
into a cohesive unit. He s got two
years to get it right again.
Germany s squad has been hit
hard by injuries, compounding
the loss of the retired Lahm,
Mertesacker and Klose. Loew
called up attacking midfielder
Sidney Sam on Thursday, in place
of Schalke teammate Julian
Draxler, who strained his right
thigh in Germany s 4-2 friendly
loss to Argentina on Wednesday.
Real Madrid midfielder Sami
Khedira, Arsenal midfielder Mesut
Ozil, Borussia Dortmund defender
Mats Hummels and Valencia
defender Shkodran Mustafi are
also out, while Bayern Munich
midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger
has an ongoing knee injury.
Thomas Mueller was rested
against Argentina and is likely to
start on Sunday, and Goetze
should be fresh after a substitute
role on Wednesday.
Mertesacker described Argenti-
na s 4-2 win over Germany in
Wednesday s friendly as a "wake-
up call" and Loew s side will be
fully focused and determined to
atone with a win against Scot-
Striker Mario Gomez, who
missed three clear chances against
Argentina before being jeered by
the home fans, will have another
chance to win back their trust.
Gomez has 25 goals in 60 appear-
ances for Germany but missed
the World Cup due to fitness con-
cerns after a long injury layoff.
"Mario had a tough time after
his injury and missing out on the
World Cup," Marco Reus said on
Friday. "He knows what he can
do, we know what he can do and
the goals will come by themselves
at some stage."
Reus also missed the World
Cup, due to a foot injury sus-
tained just before the tournament,
but the Borussia Dortmund
attacking midfielder is gradually
getting back to his best.
"The most important thing is
that I feel well. I was delighted
to be back," said Reus, who is
counting on vocal support in his
hometown stadium. "I m happy
the qualifier is in Dortmund."
Scotland has not been involved
at a major tournament since the
1998 World Cup in France. The
country s record against Germany
is good, though, with four wins
and five draws from 15 games.
However, the Germans have
yet to lose in six competitive
games to the Scots. Two of those
were draws played in Glasgow.
"The Germans come alive
when it becomes competitive,"
said Scotland coach Gordon Stra-
chan, who enjoyed the Germany-
Argentina friendly but is braced
for a backlash.
"It was a wonderful game to
watch from a neutral s point of
view but we didn t take anything
from it," Strachan said. "When
the Germans have to compete,
they re a different animal. I can t
remember the last time they
didn t qualify for anything."
Top three rewarded
With 24 sides competing at
Euro 2016 in France, qualifying
is theoretically easier. The sec-
ond-place finishers in each group
all qualify automatically, as does
the best third-place side from
the nine groups. The other eight
third-place teams can qualify
Scotland, Poland and Ireland
would be content with second
place, possibly even third, from
Group D, which is completed by
Georgia and Gibraltar.
Poland finished bottom of its
group at both Euro 2008 and
Euro 2012. Hopes are pinned on
captain Jakub Blaszczykowski and
former Borussia Dortmund team-
mate Robert Lewandowski to lead
the side further this time around.
Ireland also had an abject Euro
2012, losing all three games under
coach Giovanni Trapattoni. The
new coaching setup of Martin
O Neill assisted by former Irish
international Roy Keane led to
fresh optimism, tough it s tem-
pered by a dearth of talent at top-
level clubs. (AP)
Germany opens Euro 2016 qualifying campaign
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