• Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

Pick of the week: Celtics win NBA 18th championship, Battle for continental ticket settled with Rangers as champions, Nigeria falls in Fifa ranking, CAF announces dates for Afcon 2025, Epl unveils 2024/25 season fixtures as Verstappen denies Norri a comeback.

From the pitch to the court and beyond, this week’s sports highlights had something for every fan, including football, basketball, tennis, and more.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles faced a harsh reality check in the latest FIFA rankings, plummeting to 38th globally and 5th in Africa, following a dismal display in the World Cup qualifiers. This downward spiral was anticipated by many, as the team’s struggles on the international stage continued to mount. The significant drop from their previous 30th spot, achieved after a commendable showing in the 2023 Afcon, highlights the depth of their current challenges. Morocco, Senegal, and Egypt now lead the African rankings, leaving Nigeria to confront the bitter consequences of their disappointing performances.

The Super Eagles’ bid to qualify for the 2026 World Cup hangs in the balance after a dismal start in Group C, with three draws and a loss putting them in fifth place.

Whereas, speculations as to Afcon 2025 and Wafcon 2024 came to an end as the Confederation of African Football announced the 2025 Afcon to be hosted by Morocco will begin on the 21st of December and the final will be on the 18th of January 2026. It will be the first time in history that the Nations Cup tournament will kick off in December amidst the Christmas festivities and New Year. The 2024 Wafcon set to be held in Morocco will take place between July 5th and 26th, 2025.

The English Premier League revealed its fixtures for the upcoming season, with the 2024/25 campaign set to kick off on Friday, August 16th. FA Cup holders Manchester United will take on Fulham in the season opener, followed by the newly promoted teams, Ipswich Town and Southampton, making their Premier League debuts over the weekend starting Saturday, August 17th. Last season’s runner-up, Arsenal, and title holders, Manchester City, will also begin their journeys.

The season will span 33 weekends, four midweek rounds, and one bank holiday match week, culminating on Sunday, May 25th, 2025.

In addition to the Premier League fixtures, key competition dates were also announced: Community Shield: Saturday, August 10th
FA Cup final: Weekend of May 17th (preceding the Premier League finals day). Champions League final: Saturday, May 31st. Europa League final: May 21st. UEFA Conference League final: May 28th.

Still in Europe, since the Euros 2024, started in Germany, it has impressed and left up to billing with some big guns having a mark in the competition. After the first two rounds of matches, some teams have already booked their place in the knockout stage while others are waiting to discover their fate. Germany has booked their place in the round of 16 regardless of their game result in their last group fixture. They have had a thunderous start defeating Scotland and Hungary 5-1 and 2- 0, respectively. Spain also confirmed their place in the knockout after beating Italy 1-0. Ronaldo’s Portugal feel at home as they have also progressed after a 3-0 win over Turkey. Meanwhile, most groups are still open, especially the competitive group E where all teams Slovakia, Belgium, Ukraine, and Romania are tied at three points but Poland has been eliminated after their nightmare start to the competition.

Diving into the world of unlimited sports, in Basketball, the journey was complete for the Boston Celtics just as Jayson Tatum walked up to the bench and wrapped his arms around Joe Mazulla who had become the youngest coach at age 35 to lead a team to championship since Bill Russel in 1969. In the game, Jason Tatum scored 31 points 11 assists and 8 rebounds, and the Celtics won the Dallas Mavericks 106-88 to win their 18th championship moving ahead of L.A Lakers for the most league in history. Jaylen Brown added 21 points, 8 rebounds and six assists, and was voted the NBA finals MVP. Whereas, after Luca Doncic finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds and Kyrie Irving with 15 points, Irving and Mavs coach Jason Kidd believes there are better days ahead of them and the team will grow from the NBA finals experience.

Conversely, in the F1 Spanish GP, Lando Norris is currently left to rue a poor start, which saw him drop the lead from the pole position. Norris attempted to get back ahead, as Mclaren delayed his timing for both pit stops compared with Verstappen and Redbull. Despite strategy and relentlessly catching up with Verstappen, Norri ran out of laps to finish 2.2 seconds behind in circuit De Barcelona Catalunya as Max Verstappen got his seventh win of the competitive season. Lewis Hamilton ended his wait for a first podium finish in 2024 with a drive to third and his teammate Rusell fourth.

In Nigeria athletics, the week was characterised by the national trials and athletes arriving in Douala to compete for the 23rd African athletics championship. However, officials of the athletics federation confirmed that Tobi Amusan after arriving in Douala took ill but there is no cause to worry as she is currently responding to treatment and will be back in training ahead of the Olympics. Also, the controversy surrounding the duo of Tima God Bless and Ella Onojuvwevwo was cleared as it was stated that due to logistics reasons they had to make separate arrangements for both and not that they were ruled out. In a turn of events, it was reported that Favour Ofili and Rosemary Chukwuma pulled out of the 100m semi-final event, and the AFN is currently looking into the situation although reports have it that it may be due to the organizer’s failure to put things properly as Ivorian Sprinter Ta lou  Smith also pulled out of the semi-finals.  Subsequently, further updates will be given.

In women’s football, with the U17 Nigerian girls sealing their ticket to the FIFA women’s u17 World Cup finals with a 6-1 aggregate against Liberia last week, this week, the draws were conducted. The flamingoes have been drawn into group A of the FIFA u17 Women’s World Cup, and they will battle the host Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and New Zealand. The tournament is slated for October 16th to 3rd November 2024.

Further, the grand finale of the President’s Federation Cup men’s games will take place on the 29th of June with Abia warriors trading tackles with Elkanemi warriors after Both teams had a hard fight with their different opponents which was separated by penalty kicks to get them to the finals.

On the other hand, with Enugu Rangers emerging as NPFL champions for the 8th time, and featuring in next season’s Caf Champions League, the battle for continental football was also settled as Remo Stars and Enyimba Fc secured tickets for the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup, but it was the end of the road for Sporting Lagos, Doma United, Heartland FC, and Gombe Utd as they are now relegated.

As the Euros continues on a blitzing form, there are more exciting moments awaiting us in the next couple of days as we set our eyes on what the week has to unpack — anticipate another exhilarating recap from the ever-busy world of unlimited sports

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