Ogenyi Onazi

Carlo Tavecchio in racism row after calling African players “banana eaters”

10 Comments

Who is Carlo Tavecchio, and why should I care if he’s a racist?

Well, beyond a general dread of racism, the reason to care about Tavecchio is because he’s about to become the next president of the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC). Currently he’s a vice-president, and he’s in charge of the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti (National Amateur League), which controls all amateur soccer in Italy.

Tavecchio caused a stir this weekend when he suggested that Italy implement England’s strict requirements for non-EU players, holding them to high standards of play and professionalism.

He went on to contrast that with the Italian attitude, saying:

Here instead we get Opti Pobà, who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player with Lazio. That’s how it is here. In England, you need to demonstrate what you have on your CV and your pedigree.

Opti Pobà is not, in fact, a person. He is an invention of Tavecchio’s, a way of referring to African players. Lazio have but one African player on their team. Nigerian Ogenyi Onazi arrived from Lagos club My People, joining the Lazio youth system in 2011.

Despite referring to Africans as banana eaters, Tavecchio remains in prime position to become head of the FIGC, after former president Giancarlo Abete stepped down following Italy’s early exit from the World Cup. Perhaps those prepared to vote for him believe what he said after his speech:

I can’t remember if I said the word ‘banana’ but I was referring to the CV and professionalism required by English football for players who come from Africa or other countries. If anyone has interpreted my speech as offensive, I offer my apologies.

Wanting to hold players to high standards before granting them work permits is one thing. Referring to them by use of a racial slur is quite another. Especially since Italy still grabs headlines for the racist behavior of its fans. They abused Mario Balotelli after the World Cup, the ultras regularly find themselves in trouble for racist chants or banners, and the fan curvas are often closed in punishment for behavior that abuses those of a different skin color — or even those from a different region of Italy.

This is the sort of behavior that Italy should be weeding out, not ushering up to such an influential position in the sport. Italy needs to take steps to address racism in soccer, not elevate a man that is likely to look the other way when players are abused.

Revisiting our Top 100; Who are the Top 100 knockout round players?

7 Comments

I love getting yelled at, and you guys sure gave it to me over the course of ProSoccerTalk’s four-part “Top 100 players of the World Cup” series before the tournament began. How could we possibly have Bastian Schweinsteiger, a guy who ended up starting one group stage game for Germany and played 20 minutes in another, at No. 77? Just absurd!

Oh, you mean you were saying that was too low? Oh, okay.

Anyway, we wanted to take a look at who remained. And I’m a glutton for punishment, so I figured I’d fill in the back end with players who are still active in the World Cup’s knockout rounds.

[ RELATED: Top five US performers during Group G play ]

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from USA-Germany ]

[ RELATED: Convinced? Klinsmann’s personnel moves keyed US advance ]

A remarkable 45 players have been either eliminated or injured, so we’ll bump all our pre-rankings forward and add in 45 newcomers.

100. Jasper Cillessen, Netherlands

99. Fabian Johnson, United States

98. Joel Campbell, Costa Rica

97. Ogenyi Onazi, Nigeria

96. Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria

95. Dimitris Salpingidis, Greece

94. Hector Herrara, Mexico

source: AP

93. Olivier Giroud, France

92. Teofilo Gutierrez, Colombia

91. Islam Slimani, Algeria

90. Ahmed Musa, Nigeria

89. Sofiane Feghouli, Algeria

88. Sergio Romero, Argentina

87. Stefan De Vrij, Netherlands

86. Gary Medel, Chile

85. Marcelo, Brazil

84. Pablo Armero, Colombia

83. Granit Xhaka, Switzerland

82. Andres Guardado, Mexico

81. Daniel van Buyten, Belgium

80. Gonzalo Jara, Chile

79. Kevin de Bruyne, Belgium

78. Mathieu Valbuena, France

77. Matt Besler, United States

76. David Ospina, Colombia

75. Jan Vertonghen, Belgium

74. Fred, Brazil

73. Fernando Gago, Argentina

72. Chares Aranguiz, Chile

71. Eduardo Vargas, Chile

source: AP70. Dries Mertens, Belgium

69. Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria

68.  Javier Mascherano, Argentina

67. Mamadou Sakho, France

66. Yeltsin Tejeda, Costa Rica

65. Juan Cuadrado, Colombia

64. Memphis Depay, Netherlands

63. Claudio Bravo, Chile

62. Jermaine Jones, United States

61. Giorgos Karagounis, Greece

60. Yeltsin Tejeda, Costa Rica

59. Angel Di Maria, Argentina

58. Mats Hummels, Germany

57. Daley Blind, Netherlands

56. Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico

————————————-

55. Rafa Marquez, Mexico

54. Diego Benaglio, Switzerland

source: AP53. Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica

52. Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Greece

51. Madjid Bougherra, Algeria

50. Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria

49. Clint Dempsey, United States

48. Ezekial Lavezzi, Argentina

47. Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland

46. John Obi Mikel, Nigeria

45. Fabio Coentrao, Portugal

44. Thomas Muller, Germany

43. Diego Forlan, Uruguay

42. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany

41. Diego Godin, Uruguay

40. Vasilis Torosidis, Greece

39. Jackson Martinez, Colombia

38. Stephan Lichsteiner, Switzerland

37. Blaise Matuidi, France

36. Thibault Courtois, Belgium

35. Gokhan Inler, Switzerland

source: AP34. Oribe Peralta, Mexico

33. Michael Bradley, United States

32. Mario Gotze, Germany

31. Dirk Kuyt, Netherlands

30. James Rodriguez, Colombia

29. Paul Pogba, France

28. Marco Reus, Germany

27. Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina

26. Tim Howard, United States

25. Hugo Lloris, France

24. Oscar, Brazil

23. Javier Hernandez, Mexico

22. Per Mertesacker, Germany

21. Romelu Lukaku, Belgium

20. Dani Alves, Brazil

19. Alexis Sanchez, Chile

18. Karim Benzema, France

17. David Luiz, Brazil

16. Pablo Zabaleta, Argentina

source: Getty Images15. Neymar, Brazil

14. Radamel Falcao, Colombia

13. Toni Kroos, Germany

12. Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands

11. Mesut Ozil, Germany

10. Arturo Vidal, Chile

9. Thiago Silva, Brazil

8. Manuel Neuer, Germany

7. Edinson Cavani, Uruguay

6. Philipp Lahm, Germany

5. Vincent Kompany, Belgium

4. Arjen Robben, Netherlands

3. Eden Hazard, Belgium

2. Robin van Persie, Netherlands

1. Lionel Messi, Argentina

 

Odemwingie’s goal holds up as Nigeria eliminates Bosnia and Herzegovina

Leave a comment

Claiming their first World Cup win since 1998, African champions Nigeria kept their knockout round hopes alive, while today’s loss in Cuiabá, Brazil, doomed tournament debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina’s to a group stage exit. Thanks to a 29th minute goal from Peter Odemwingie, the Super Eagles earned a 1-0 win at Arena Pantanal, moving the Nigerians into second in their group. Bosnia, on the other hand, sit at the bottom of Group F, with two losses in as many games eliminating their chance to advance to the knockout round.

That reality will be a controversial one thanks to two first half officiating decisions that went against . In the 21st minute, and Eden Dzeko goal was not allowed to stand, though replays showed the assistant referee’s offside call was likely incorrect. Eight minutes later, play was allowed to continue after Bosnia captain Emir Saphic’s leg tangled with Emmanuel Emineke’s. The resulting play saw Odemwingie score the game-winning goal.

Now behind Argentina in Group F, Nigeria face the Albiceleste on their group stage finale on Wednesday in Porto Alegre. Bosnia and Herzegovina will conclude their World Cup against Iran, kicking off at the same time in Salvador.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

A game that set up before kickoff as control versus counter played up to expectations over the first half-hour, with Bosnia’ss kill in the middle of the field pitted against the threat Nigeria posed in transition with its three-ponged attack. In the 21st minute, the balance appeared to swing in Bosnia’s favor when a quick movement from Miralem Pjanic, through Zvjezdan Misimovic, to Edin Dzeko produced an apparent goal. When the assistant referee’s flag went up, judging Dzeko offside, the match remained scoreless.

Eight minutes later, that changed, with another point of controversy breaking in Nigeria’s favor. Having drifted wide right, striker Emmanuel Emineke turned to take on Bosnia captain Emir Sephic. Approaching the Bosnian penalty area, Sephic went down, his feet tangling with Emineke’s as the duo pursued a ball rolled into the box. When no foul was called, Emineke was allowed to find Odemwingie in front of goal for the close-range finish.

Despite the deficit, Bosnia’s control of the ball persisted into the second, but matching their opponent’s chances, Nigeria were able to balance play in transition. When that balance continued into the 57th minute, Safet Susic changed his team, brining in a second forward (Vedad Ibisevic) as his team tried to avoid elimination.

Those changes couldn’t prevent the match’s next opportunity from falling to Nigeria, with Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic called into action when Michel Babatunde was allowed to take his chances from just outside the penalty box. After a parry from the keep, play eventually moved to the left of goal, where Begovic came off his line to cut down the angles for Emineke. Nigeria was prevented from doubling their league, but nearly 20 minutes into the period, the Super Eagles were creating the half’s better chances.

Bosnia’s next chance for an equalizer didn’t come until the 75th minute, when Ibisevic’s open header off a corner kick failed to draw a save from Vincent Enyeama.  In the 81st minute, however, Ogenyi Onazi drew a diving stop from Begovic, while, moments later, Emineke shot just outside the right post. Despite Bosnia’s increased urgency, the best chances were still falling to Nigeria.

In stoppage time, however, Dzeko nearly took a point for Bosnia. In the 91st minute, on the second ball in from a corner kick, Dzeko headed a seven-yard shot right to Enyeama, while a 93rd chance from the middle of the area saw the Nigerian keeper deflect the ball onto his right post.

Come full-time, the first half’s two moments of controversy were all that separated the two sides, leaving the Bosnians to rue what might have been. Nigeria, on the other hand, can build on their first World Cup win in 16 years as they prepare for their group stage finale against Argentina.

Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Oshaniwa, Yobo, Omeruo; Mikel, Onazi; Musa (Ameobi 65′), Odemwingie, Babatunde (Uzoenyi 75′); Enemike

Goals: Odemwingie 29′

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Begovic; Mujdza, Sunjic, Spahic, Lulic (Salihovic 58′); Besic, Medunjanin (Susic 64′); Pjanic, Misimovic, Hajrovic (Ibisevic 57′); Dzeko

At halftime: Odemwingie goal, officials’ decisions loom large for Nigeria against Bosnia-Herzegovina — FOLLOW LIVE

Leave a comment

Story of the half: A half hour of Bosnian control breaks Nigeria’s way when Peter Odemwingie’s set up for a 29th minute opener. With a goal of their own having been controversially waved off earlier, the Bosnian bench is left appealing for the same outcome. When the near-side official’s flag stays down despite contact in the buildup, the favorites are left with a 1-0 deficit at halftime.

FOLLOW LIVE: Soccerly’s real-time match center

Goals:

29′ – Bosnia tries to convince the assistant, but Odemwingie’s goal will stand. After getting his feet tied up with Emmanuel Emenike, Bosnian captain Emir Saphic is left on the ground as the Nigerian attacker moves toward goal. Drilling a pass to the edge of the six-yard box, Emenike sets up Odemwingie for an easy finish, giving the Super Eagles their first goal of the tournament.

 

Other key moments:

21′ – Finally taking advantage of their possession, Bosnia score the first goal of the match. Unfortunately, it won’t count. After a flick from Miralem Pjanic allowed Zvejzdan Misimovic to play Edin Dzeko through, the assistant referee’s flag goes up, though replays showed the Bosnian attacker was onsite. Three minutes later, Dzeko has another try, but Vincent Enyeama keeps Nigeria even.

Lineups:

Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Oshaniwa, Yobo, Omeruo; Mikel, Onazi; Musa, Odemwingie, Babatunde; Enemike

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Begovic; Mujdza, Blcakcic, Spahic, Sunjic; Medunjanin, Besic; , Misimovic, Pjanic Hajrovic; Dezko

Key Players:

  • Miralem Pjanic, Bosnia and Herzegovina – The Roma midfielder has had room to create in front of the Nigerian defense but has yet to craft a goal. Given how many times he’s played teammates through (as well as his part in the team’s waved off goal), it’s only a matter of time. John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi need to keep better tabs on Bosnia’s best player.
  • Emmanuel Emineke, Nigeria – Bosnia’s controlling possession, but thanks to Emenike (as well as Odemwingie and Ahmed Musa), the Nigerians have been just as dangerous. Per Opta, Emineke has already created three chances for his teammates – only one less than Pjanic.

Question for the second half:

  • Can Bosnia’s defense take care of the ball – Emineke has been good, but the defense has made it easy. Four giveaways deep in their own end have made Bosnia their own worst enemy. Well, other than …
  • Have the officials decided this match? – It’s not the worst officiating we’ve seen in this tournament, but based on replays, the score should probably be reversed. Can Bosnia persevere, or will we be left to discuss the controversy instead of the result?

At halftime: Chances scarce as Iran, Nigeria reach intermission scoreless — FOLLOW LIVE

Leave a comment

Story of the half: One-way traffic saw Nigeria shake off the sluggish form of their final warmup match to control play against Asia’s surprise qualifiers. With only one good, early chance, however, the Super Eagles didn’t give Carlos Queiroz’s man any reason to change-up. At halftime, the teams are still level, even if the Iranians have scarcely seen the ball.

FOLLOW LIVE: Soccerly’s real-time match center

Goals: Yeah, right.

Other key moments:

9′ – Controlling play from the opening kickoff, the Nigerians looked good for a quick opener in the thanks to Emmanuel Emenike. Going wide into the left in Iran’s penalty area, the Super Eagles’ number nine stretched his opponents’ defense before firing a ball just above the six-yard box. Ahmed Musa, coming in from the right, couldn’t get there in time to beat Alireza Haghighi, with the followup from Ogenyi Onazi pulled wide of the left post.

34′ – Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama gets awoken from his slumber with the best chance of the match, a header from Reza Ghoochanneijhad that almost converted Iran’s first corner. Hit to the near post, the restart saw the Charlton striker redirect his shot down toward the middle of goal. Unfortunately, the ball was also pushed straight at Enyeama, whose right hand kept two zeros on the scoreboard.

LINEUPS:

Iran: Haghighi, Heydari, Haji Safi, Hosseini, Sadeghi, Nekounam, Timotian, Montazeri, Ghoochannejad, Dejagah, Pooladi

Nigeria: Enyeama; Ambrose, Omeruo, Oboabona (Yobo 29′), Oshaniwa; Onazi, Mikel; Musa, Azeez, Moses; Emenike

Numbers to know:

69% – Nigeria’s possession over the first 45 minutes.
6 – Number of Iran fouls. Nigeria had seven. Though they’ve dominated the ball, the Super Eagles have been unable to inspire any urgency from their opponents.
19 – The number of passes Iranian defender Andranik Teymourian made in the first half, leading his team. Six Nigerians bested that mark.
0 – Accurate crosses Nigeria completed before halftime.

Questions for the second half:

  • Will Iran find their moment? Except for a nervous moment in the ninth minute, the match has gone as Iran may have imagined. They don’t have the ball, and Nigeria’s been able to generate more shots, but Iran’s been relatively comfortable while waiting for their moment. The question is whether that moment will come.
  • Is one enough (for either team)? With Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina ahead for each team, this is Iran and Nigeria’s easiest game of the tournament, making it difficult to reconcile a draw with hopes of advancing past the group stage. Will either of these teams press for full points, knowing this is their best chance to claim them? Or will they be conservative and hope fortune favors them when they’re asked to be braver?