Cup of Nations: Penalty kicks see Mali eliminate hosts South Africa

Leave a comment

Yaya Touré may still be the best player in this tournament, but contrary to what was written in this space at the Cup of Nations’ onset, the second-best player in this competition may not be Ivorian. While Didier Drogba may yet live up to his reputation in the knockout round (and he did have a goal in the final group game), he has not been able to match Malian Seydou Keita, another Europe-based player who made the move to China last summer.

On Saturday, Keita gave his third Man of the Match performance of the tournament, scoring a tying goal in the 58th minute that ultimately allowed his team to take the host nation to penalty kicks. There, three failed conversations from South Africa put Mali into the semifinals, 3-1 on kicks after a 1-1 result.

MORE: Ghana reverts advances past Cape Verde

The Bafana Bafana came out the stronger side and executed a near-perfect counter in the for Tokelo Rantie’s 31st minute opener. Shortly after half, Keita pulled Mali even after he headed home a Mamadou Samassa cross from just in front of the goal. A practically even final hour played out with Mali havin the better chances. South Africa head coach Gordon Igesund was late to put in players like Lehlohonolo Majoro and Siphiwe Tshabalala – player who could provide a bit of creativity or dynamism.

The shootout started with both teams scoring before South Africans Dean Furman and May Mahlangu failed to convert. Malians Adama Tamboura and Mahamane Traoré gave their side a 3-1 lead going into the fourth round of kicks. Lehlohonolo Majoro went well wide with South Africa’s final kick, seeing the hosts out of the tournament.

Despite the defeat, the effort was one of redemption for a team that can fallen so far since 2010. One of the lowest rated teams in the tournament, South Africa wasn’t expected to challenge any serious contenders, yet in closing  group play with wins over Angola and Morocco, the hosts showed more fight than many had predicted. Their first half of play on Saturday validated their place in the quarterfinals, even if that’s as far as they got.

Mali, in the interim, wait for the winner of tomorrow’s Cote d’Ivoire-Nigeria winner. Should Les Elephants advance, their win would set up a rematch a 2012 semifinal won by the Ivorians, 1-0.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
Leave a comment

West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

Leave a comment

In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.