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Posted by By DESMOND MGBOH, Kano on 2008/01/08 | Views: 418 |


Former Super Eagles old warhorse, Garba Lawal, has said it would be absolutely difficult to predict who wins the 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana.

**ÖFormer Super Eaglesí midfielder, Garba Lawal, says itís difficult to predict the winners of 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana

Former Super Eagles old warhorse, Garba Lawal, has said it would be absolutely difficult to predict who wins the 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana.

Lawal, who is a member of the 2009 Under-17 World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC), said it would be difficult to predict the winners because many good teams would be in the competition. He, however, envisaged that the lot might fell on Nigeria, hosts, Ghana, Mali, Cote díIvoire, Senegal or any other big team. On a second thought, he said he would rather wait until the competition kicks off for him to assess each of the teams on the field of play.

Lawal, a veteran of several Nations Cup, said the tournament would be a huge challenge to the present crop of Super Eagles, noting that the team had quality players.

"To win the Cup, I think we have the talents. All we need is prayers," he said at Bayero University, Kano playground, which will serve as one of the training sites for the visiting teams during the 2009 Under-17 World Cup tournament.

Lawal also used the opportunity to appeal to Premiership coaches to stop their recent criticisms on Africaís football calendar, stating that itís simply not their problem. He implored them not to interfere in the calendar, because itís not their right to tell Africans when to play the Nations Cup.
The ex-Super Eaglesí player, who was in Kano to inspect the existing facilities in the state added: "This is our system and they should just let us do our own thing."

Many Premiership sides had expressed strong displeasure over the Africaís football calendar, given the fact that they would lose a good number of their key players to the Nations Cup billed to flag off this month in Ghana.

Also, Lawal revealed that heís ready to serve the nation if invited, even as he admitted that someday one has to give in to a set of new players to continue. He was rather unwilling to join in the debate about the quality of the current Eaglesí midfielders and goalkeepers. According to him, "itís the duty of the coaching crew to decide who occupies which position in the team.

He, however, agreed that John Mikel Obi is doing a good job in the national team, but said the Chelsea star must sustain his effort because: "In Nigerian football, once you fumble, you are dead."
Meanwhile, Avram Grant has admitted that Chelsea are braced for an eventful transfer window after watching his depleted side defeat Queens Park Rangers 1Ė0 in the FA Cup.

The Cup holders were hit heavily by injuries and suspensions for the third round visit of their local rivals, but they still emerged triumphant, thanks to a moment of outrageous good fortune.
Claudio Pizarro, the Peru striker, saw his 29th-minute shot thud against QPR's left hand post, but the ball span up and rebounded in off the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Lee Camp.
Grant is set to spend heavily this month. The Israeli needs to bolster his squad during the African Nations Cup, which will rob him of four key players, and Nicolas Anelka currently tops his shopping list.

The France international was omitted from Bolton Wanderers' squad for their third round defeat by Sheffield United on Saturday, ensuring he will not be cup-tied should he complete an anticipated £15 million move.

Grant, who expects Mikel to be available for today's League Cup semi-final with Everton after being granted permission by the Nigerian FA to delay his departure for Ghana, refused to discuss individual targets, although he did admit new purchases were likely.

"Because of the injuries and the African Nations Cup, we are thinking about all the possibilities," the Chelsea manager said. "We are always thinking about this situation but there is nothing new to say about that.

"I won't speak about any individual players until they are joining. I am responsible for things only when they definitely happen. Lots of names are being talked about but that is natural."
Chelsea did not need to be at full strength to dispose of Rangers. This was ultimately a relatively comfortable afternoon for the Blues, even if the slender scoreline always ensured that a shiver of trepidation coursed through Stamford Bridge whenever Rangers forged into enemy territory.

Yet, for all the championship visitors' considerable effort, Hilario was rarely ruffled in Chelsea's goal.
Martin Rowlands sent a fierce half volley screaming just over the crossbar early in the second-half and then saw another effort comfortably saved, but in the main, the Portuguese was well protected.
Indeed, Chelsea could have won by a greater margin. Shaun Wright-Phillips clattered the crossbar and Steve Sidwell saw an effort rebound off the left-hand post as Grant's team threatened to overwhelm QPR at the tail end of the first half.

The Israeli shored up his side in Saturday's second period by introducing Michael Ballack, Joe Cole and Didier Drogba, making his last appearance before the African Nations, and the final 25 minutes passed largely without incident.

"It was a difficult Cup game, but we did our job, which was important for me," Grant said. "They were tactically very good and they closed the space very well. It was the game we expected."
For Rangers, there was the consolation of a determined display and the promise of better days to come.

The potentially huge financial backing from their new board, where Formula One supremo, Bernie Ecclestone and co-owner, Flavio Briatore, the Renault team boss, have been reinforced by an investment from the family of Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, could transform a club mired in mediocrity for far too long. But it will take time for Luigi De Canio's side to match Chelsea on the field.
"It was more or less the match we expected," De Canio admitted. "Chelsea showed they are a great team and they had the right attitude to the game, but we also did what we were expected to do," the Italian added. "We were tidy and we tried to make the most of every chance we made.

"Hopefully, it will not be long before we come here in the Premier League. But the issue isn't so much coming here to play Chelsea, but more to play them on a level playing field and match them. That is much more important and would be much more gratifying."

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