Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast triumph in first leg of African World Cup qualifying

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On Saturday, Africa kicked off its third and final round of World Cup qualifying. Ten countries remain in the running, playing two-legged, home and away ties. The five teams that come out on top book their spots in Brazil.

(MORE: A closer look at Africa’s third round of World Cup qualifiers)

Tonight, it’s Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast that hold the advantage. The first match was a thriller, with the hosts taking it right down to the wire in Ouagadougou against Algeria. The visitors were slight favorites, as Burkina Faso have never qualified for a World Cup, but the Stallions were out to prove that their impressive finish in January’s Africa Cup of Nations was not a fluke. Jonathan Pitroipa opened the scoring just before the halftime whistle, but Algeria came back with an equalizer from Sofiane Feghouli just after the restart. Djakaridja Kone put Burkina Faso back ahead in the 65th minute, but it took less than five minutes for Carl Medjani to put the visitors on equal footing once more. In the end it was an 86th minute penalty, converted by Aristide Bance, that gave Burkina Faso the win.

Things went a bit smoother for Ivory Coast, who’d had their win wrapped up by the 50th minute. Senegal, the clear underdogs against a team that included Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho, conceded a penalty before five minutes were up. It was Drogba that stepped up to bury the shot. Things went from bad to worse for the Lions of Teranga when, just ten minutes later, defender Lamine Sané put the ball into the back of his own net. All hopes of a comeback were squished early in the second half, when Salomon Kalou put in the third for Ivory Coast. The three goal deficit will certainly be difficult for Senegal to overcome when the two sides meet again in November.

On Sunday, Ethiopia host Nigeria before Cameroon visit Tunisia. Monday’s football free, but Africa swings back into action on Tuesday when Ghana play Egypt.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.