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2026 World Cup Will Feature 48 Teams in 12 Groups, FIFA Confirms



The expanded 2026 men’s World Cup in North America will start with 12 groups of four teams in a change from the original planned format of 16 groups of three, football’s world governing body FIFA announced on Tuesday.

The next World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico will be the first to feature 48 teams, a sharp increase from the 32 sides at last year’s tournament in Qatar.

“The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams,” FIFA said.

It means that there will be 104 matches, a huge rise compared to the 64 games played in the 2022 tournament and an increase even on the original plan that the 2026 World Cup would feature 80 matches.

FIFA’s initial plan for 2026 was for 16 groups of three teams, from which the top two countries would advance to the last 32.

The new decided format means the top two in each group will go through to the knockout round along with the eight best third-placed sides.

As a result, the finalists, and the teams finishing third and fourth, will play a total of eight games instead of the current seven.

The decision comes after a dramatic and entertaining group stage at the tournament in Qatar convinced FIFA that a rethink to its original 2026 blueprint was needed.

“The groups of four have been absolutely incredible until the last minute of the last match,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in December.

Tuesday’s decision was announced following a FIFA Council meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali, at which it confirmed the next men’s World Cup final will be played on Sunday, July 19, 2026.

FIFA said that the total number of days between when clubs must stop playing and release players for international duty, and the final, would be 56, identical to the previous three tournaments.

Nevertheless the World Cup itself may be played over a longer period, after Qatar 2022 was held over just 29 days.

– Expanded Club World Cup –

Infantino is expected to be waved in for a new four-year term as president as he stands unopposed for re-election at Thursday’s FIFA Congress.

Expanding the World Cup had been a priority for Infantino following his election in 2016, when he took over from the disgraced Sepp Blatter at the head of world football.

The last World Cup in North America, in the United States in 1994, featured just 24 teams before it grew to feature 32 teams in France four years later.

The number of venues for the 2026 finals will double, from eight stadiums in Qatar last year to 16.

Eleven venues will be in the USA, with three in Mexico and two in Canada.

FIFA has projected a huge increase in revenues in the four-year cycle leading up to 2026, up to $11 billion from $7.5 billion in the four years up to 2022.

The body is also hoping that a new, expanded 32-team Club World Cup will boost revenues too.

FIFA said Tuesday the competition will start in June 2025 and will be held every four years with club rankings determining qualifiers.

However, an annual competition will also be held, similar to the existing seven-team Club World Cup which is to be discontinued after the 2023 edition.

The yearly competition will involve the six continental club champions and conclude with a final at a neutral venue between the winner of the UEFA Champions League and the winner of play-offs between the other teams.

The annual tournament was approved “given the need expressed by the confederations for the champions of their premier club competitions to play each other annually to stimulate competitiveness”, FIFA said.

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These Flying Eagles Can’t Fly at All, Nigerians Knock U-20 Team




Football-loving Nigerians have slammed the Flying Eagles following their lethargic display against The Gambia in Monday’s U-20 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final clash at the Cairo Stadium, Egypt, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

Adama Bojang scored the winner for the Junior Scorpions after seven minutes after he raced onto a defence-splitting pass from Ebrima Singhateh.

Despite trailing by the early goal, Ladan Bosso’s team dominated possession but lacked the brilliance in midfield to create chances and score.

Forwards Ibrahim Muhammad, Samson Lawal, Haliru Sarki and Francis Abubakar all failed to get their strikes on target, while substitute and Belgium-based forward Ahmed Abdullahi, who won a penalty in the dying minutes of the game, watched agonisingly as his spot kick hit the left post and rebound into play in the 85th minute.

Gambia’s goalkeeper Ebou Dampha, who was adjudged the man of the match for his brilliant display in goal for the Junior Scorpions, is yet to concede a goal in the tournament after five games.

The Flying Eagles recorded 21 shots in the encounter four on target while Gambia had three shots and scored from one of the two shots they had on target.

Fans back home were left furious by the team’s performance and took to social media to unleash their anger. While some feel the team won’t go far at the U-20 World Cup in Indonesia billed to kick off from May 20 to June 11, others are of the opinion that the team should be disbanded.

Eddie Ekpo wrote on Twitter, “These Flying Eagles squad should be disbanded and that includes the coaching crew. Terrible squad all round. Are there no coaches in the Nigerian Professional Football League that can handle this squad? Must it be Ladan Bosso crowding the squad with northerners?

Jumoke Josh-Falade @FaladeJumi added, “This flying eagles team should be disbanded! No tactics, useless long balls and an outdated coach!”

Jamiyu Ganiyu does not want the team to represent the country at the World Cup in Indonesia.

“I hope this is not the team going to the world cup? I have never seen a poor and technically deficient U-20 team like the current one. The coach did not try at all in his selection.”

Gbolahan Philips stated, “The Flying Eagle U-20 are not good at all. They are just kicking the balls instead of passing the ball around and keeping possession. @thenff. I expect something better from Ladan Bosso. Don’t mind the NFF I’ve not seen any one of these guys who can transcend into the senior team. Plus the age palava. These guys look older than me and I’m in my thirties. I’m just angry with everything boss. How can you lose to the Gambia, with an overage team? Nawa…”

Damilola Adenusi insisted coach Bosso was not good enough for the team.

“Lasan Bosso is not a good coach. He has impacted nothing in the team. The current Flying Eagles is just lucky to qualify. They lack quality and the coach lacks the ability to impact technical and tactical knowledge.”

With this disappointing result, the Flying Eagles will face Tunisia in the third-place match on Friday, while Gambia battle Senegal, who beat Tunisia 3-0 in the other semis, in the final on Saturday.

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Victor Osimhen: When Napoli Gets Another Maradona




By Eric Elezuo
The growing influence of Nigerian-born football icon, Victor Osimhen, who plies his trade with wave-making Serie A side, Napoli, has become a subject of discourse in the football world. And among greats, who know one or two things about the sensational game of football.
Touted to break more records, having shattered a whole lot so far, the face-masked Osimhen has risen from a very humble beginning, and determined to change the face of the good game. raising the bar since his inclusion into the Napoli of Italy lineup in July 2020. Ever since, the 26 years old Nigerian striker has in no small measure resurrected the Maradona magic in the iconic Italian city.
Born Victor James Osimhen on December 29, 1998 to parents of Edo roots, the playmaker is regarded as one of the best strikers in the world today. Before berthing in Napoli, Osimhen had seen soccer actions in different countries and teams, among which is Germany, where he started his senior soccer career, playing for VfL Wolfsburg in 2017. After a season and a half with the club, he moved to Belgian side Charleroi on loan in 2018–19, before moving to France at Lille. In 2020, from where he transferred to Serie A club Napoli for a club-record fee of €70 million. He sent a message to the world when he won the Serie A Best Young Player award in the 2021–22 season.

Earlier, he had won the Golden Boot award at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, straight from his Ultimate Strikers Academy, based in Lagos, which Nigeria won. He made his senior international debut in June 2017 and played at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He is currently the ninth all-time highest goalscorer of the Nigeria national team.

Osimhen earned his full Bundesliga debut on 28 January 2018 against Hannover, playing the full 90 minutes in their 1–0 win. Osimhen made two more starts the rest of the campaign, playing the full match against Werder Bremen on 11 February 

On 22 August 2018, Osimhen joined Belgian club Charleroi on a season-long loan deal. He made his debut on 1 September against Excel Mouscron, entering as a late substitute for Jérémy Perbet. Osimhen made his full debut on 22 September, scoring his first goal as a professional with a backheel against Waasland-Beveren. He also scored twice in the last five minutes in a 3–2 win over Zulte Waregem on 21 October, after Hamdi Harbaoui had given Waregem a 2–1 lead with a second half brace. Osimhen was not dropped from the side until 25 November, when he scored a goal off the bench in the club’s 4–2 win over Lokeren. After the game, Osimhen told BBC Sport that he had “found his happiness again”. Osimhen finished the first half with 8 goals in 16 games, second only to Cristian Benavente in the team.

After a successful spell with the Belgian side, playing 36 games and scoring 20 goals, Charleroi activated their option to acquire Osimhen following his satisfactory performances while on loan.

In July 2019, Osimhen signed for Lille. On August 11, 2019, he made his Ligue 1 debut for the club, scoring a brace in a 2–1 win against Nantes.

Osimhen was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Month for September 2019, having scored two goals and assisted two more in Lille’s five league matches. On 2 June 2020, he was awarded Lille’s Player of the Season, having secured the highest number of votes from fans.

Osimhen scored his first goal in the UEFA Champions League on 2 October 2019, coming in a 1–2 home defeat to English side Chelsea. The Nigerian finished the season as Lille’s top scorer, with 13 goals in 25 Ligue 1 matches, and 18 goals across all competitions. His strong goalscoring performances saw Osimhen tipped by many to be in running for the African Footballer of the Year award in the near future.

On July 31, 2020, Serie A club Napoli announced the signing of Osimhen, for a club-record fee of €70 million potentially rising to €80 million with add-ons, making him the most expensive African transfer to date.

On October 17, 2020, Osimhen scored his first goal for Napoli in a 4–1 win against Atalanta. Upon scoring, he held up a shirt calling for the ending of the ongoing police brutality in his home country of Nigeria.

While recovering from the shoulder injury, Osimhen contracted the COVID-19 virus, as he tested positive upon returning to Naples. This positive test, together with his shoulder injury, kept him away from action until his return to the side on January 29, 2021, when he was subbed on for around twenty minutes of Napoli’s Coppa Italia win against Spezia.

On October 29, 2022, he scored his first Serie A hat-trick in a 4–0 win over Sassuolo.

On November 11, 2022, he scored a goal and assisted another to help Napoli win 2–1 at Atalanta, becoming Nigeria’s highest goal scorer in the Italian Serie with 32 goals, and surpassing Simy’s record of 31. On 13 January 2023 Osimhen scored two and assisted another as Napoli beat Juventus 5-1.

On February 17, 2023, he scored his 100th career goal to help Napoli win 2-0 at Sassuolo. He also became the first-ever player in the history of Napoli in the three-point era to score in seven league games in a row.

It is believed that with his exploits so far, he is definitely tipped to win this year’s African Footballer of the Year award provided his club can win Serie A this season. Bookmakers have have permuted as follows:
“1. George Weah was crowned African Footballer of the Year in 1995 without winning AFCON title but his performances across both PSG and Milan in 1995 saw him awarded the Africa football’s most prestigious individual honour.
2. Samuel Eto’o was crowned African Footballer of the Year for 4 times without winning AFCON title in any of those four years (2003, 2004, 2005, 2010).
3. Didier Drogba was crowned African Footballer of the Year Award in 2006 & 2009 without winning the AFCON title with his country in those two Occasions. But he was crowned African Best based on his performance with Chelsea.
4. Yaya Toure was crowned African Footballer of the Year for 4 consecutive years without winning AFCON title in any of those four years (2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014) But he was crowned African Best based on his performance with Manchester City.
5. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was named 2015 African Football Player of the Year when Ivory Coast won the Afcon tournament. But he was crowned African Best based on his performance with Borussia Dortmund.
Now let’s come back to Victor’s case; If Napoli can win the Serie A for the first time in 30 years and Osimhen ends the season with highest goal scorer in Serie A award, nothing will stop him to be the number one contender for the African Footballer of the Year Award.
You can criticize the above facts and figures, come with your own points and let’s handle it in a matured manner!” – Àlàbí Tolúlọpẹ́ Michael ATM
It is on record that the last time Napoli has had this good was when the hand of God crooner, the indefatigable Diego Amando Maradona, was in the team. Maradona’s exploits while with the team prompted his immortalization as a huge statue of his has been erected at the club’s stadium.

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Ghanaian Footballer Atsu Found Dead, Chelsea, Newcastle, Others Mourn




The body of former Ghana international Christian Atsu has been found after a devastating earthquake in Turkey, local media reported Saturday, quoting his manager.

Atsu, 31, was caught up in a 7.8-magnitude quake that rocked Turkey and Syria on February 6, killing more than 43,000 people in both countries.

There were initial reports the former Chelsea and Newcastle player had been rescued a day after the quake, but these turned out to be false.

His manager in Turkey, Murat Uzunmehmet, told DHA news agency on Saturday that his body had been found under the rubble in the Turkish southern province of Hatay.

“We have reached his lifeless body. His belongings are still being removed. His phone was also found,” Uzunmehmet told DHA.

Ghana’s ministry of foreign affairs said it had “received the unfortunate news”.

“The elder brother and twin sister of Christian Atsu and an officer of the (Ghanaian) embassy were present at the site when the body was recovered,” the ministry said in a statement.

Ghana said it was working with the Turkish government to organise the transport of the body back to Atsu’s home country for burial.

Midfielder Atsu spent four seasons at Chelsea before a permanent transfer to Newcastle in 2017.

He signed last September for Turkish Super Lig side Hatayspor.

Chelsea issued a statement declaring, “It is with enormous sadness that Chelsea Football Club receives the news that Christian Atsu is confirmed as one of the many victims of the dreadful earthquake in Turkey and Syria.”

Newcastle also paid homage to “a talented player and a special person”.

The club added, “He will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters.

“Initially joining on loan, he played a key role in the Magpies squad that secured the Championship title in 2017 before making a permanent move to help us establish our place back in the Premier League.”

Search and rescue workers found Atsu’s body where he was staying at Ronesans Residence, a block of high-rise luxury flats that toppled over in Antakya city in Hatay.

Turkish police arrested the building’s contractor at Istanbul airport last week as he appeared to be heading to Montenegro, according to state news agency Anadolu.


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