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Heartbreak for Salah, Mane, as Real Madrid pip Liverpool to clinch 14th Champions League title

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It was heartache and anguish for the African soccer stars in Liverpool in their quest to pick up a second Champions League trophy in three years when Spanish giants, Real Madrid, pipped them 1-0 to clinch her 14th title in the final played at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday night.

The pulsating encounter which was delayed for about 40 minutes due to security concerns, was settled in the 54th minute when Brazilian winger, Vinicius Junior, netted the only goal of the match.

Jurgen Klopp had started the duo of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane who had several attempts on target but were frustrated by a brilliant goalkeeping display by former Chelsea man, Thibaut Courtois, who was in an inspiring form.

A little over a month ago, Liverpool were in the race for a rare quadruple which would have made them the first team in England to ever do so, but only ended up with the Carabao Cup and FA Cup having failed to beat Manchester City to the Premier League title penultimate week, with their incredible journey ending in tears on Saturday night in Paris.

How Liverpool lost the match is anyone’s guess and how they didn’t score should be the subject of future debates.

Salah and Mane did everything to get on the scoresheet with the Egyptian alone having six shots more than anyone has ever managed in a Champions League final, but he, and Liverpool, could find no way past the giant Belgian Courtois.

On three occasions in the second half, Salah thought he had found the back of the net but each time, Courtois came out with different spellbinding, crucial saves.

Mali captain Naby Keita who came off the bench in the second half had the chance to level the scores when he came face to face with Courtois in a one on one situation but yet again, the Belgian shot stopper proved to be up to the task.

At the end of the match, it was Vinicius Junior’s early second-half strike that settled the Champions League final, and ensured that for the 14th time, Real Madrid will get their hands on club football’s most famous trophy, handing ‘Don’ Carlo Ancelotti a second Champions League trophy as manager of the club.

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Three foreign-born players switch allegiance to Ghana: Can the trio help the Black Stars go far in Qatar?

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Three foreign-born footballers, Tariq Lamptey of Brighton & Hove Albion, Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu as well as Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish La Liga, have all switched allegiance to Ghana and are eligible to play for the Black Stars in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Europe-based trio are now eligible to represent the four-time African champions at senior level after initially shunning earlier invitations to play for the country, while holding out for invitations to the national teams of their birth countries.

While Lamptey and Salisu had hoped for call ups into the English national team setup, Williams had looked forward to moving from the Spanish Under 21 to the senior national team but with their chances being limited by the day, they have all decided to return to the country of their parents.

The switch of allegiance by the trio was confirmed by the President of the Ghana Football Association, Kurt Edwin Simeon-Okraku, via a post on Twitter on Tuesday night.

“Tariq Lamptey, Inaki Williams, Mohammed Salisu, Stephan Ambrosius, Patrick Pfeffer and Ransford Yeboah [are] available for national selection,” Simeon-Okraku wrote on the micro-blogging platform.

28-year-old Williams had represented Spain at U21 level before playing for their senior national team in a 3-1 friendly defeat of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016, but since then, has not had a look in from the Spanish team selectors.

Salisu was born in Kumasi but left for Europe, first to Spain where he played for Real Valladolid before switching to Premier League side Southampton.

He had previously rejected invitations to star for the Black Stars while hoping to get a call up by either Spain or England while Lamptey who was born in Hillingdon to Ghanaian parents has played for England at U18, U19, U20 and U21 levels but his chances with the Three Lions has been blocked by the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James.

Though the development is a big boost for the Black Stars ahead of the 2022 World Cup, the big question on the lips of soccer fans in the West African country is what the trio will bring to the Black Stars when the best footballing nations gather in Qatar for the World Cup in November.

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CAF postpones 2023 Afcon to January 2024 due to weather concerns

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF), has postponed the 34th edition of the African Nations Cup (AFCON), which was scheduled to hold between June to July of 2023 in Ivory Coast, to January and February, 2024.

The reason for the postponement, according to CAF President, Patrice Motsepe, is due to concerns over weather conditions in the West African country which experiences heavy rainfall during the period.

While addressing the CAF Executive Committee meeting in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday, Motsepe said the decision was also to align the continent with the European football calendars.

Motsepe also said the decision was further motivated by weather concerns following a report by the Ivorian Meteorological Agency which predicted heavy rainfall in many parts of the country designated for the tournament.

The agency, in a report presented to CAF, had noted that Ivory Coast which has a tropical climate, has the peak of its rain season between June and July and most parts of the country is always at the height of the rainy season.

This is the second time the AFCON will be rescheduled at the beginning of the year since it was moved from January/February to June/July by former CAF President Ahmad Ahmad.

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