Napoli star Victor Osimhen will miss the Africa Cup of Nations after undergoing surgery on broken bones in his face.

The forward was hurt in a clash of heads with Inter defender Milan Skriniar as the Nerazzurri ended leaders Napoli's unbeaten start to the Serie A season on Sunday.

He was substituted in the 55th minute and taken for tests, which the club later confirmed had revealed "multiple displaced fractures of the left orbit and cheekbone".

Osimhen had an operation on Tuesday that included the fitting of titanium plates and screws.

The club confirmed he will be out of action for three months, meaning he will play no part in Nigeria's AFCON campaign in Cameroon, with the tournament beginning on January 9.

Osimhen is Napoli's leading goalscorer in 2021-22, with five in Serie A and four in the Europa League.

He scored seven times in September alone, a tally matched only by Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema across Europe's top five leagues.

Only Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland was younger than Osimhen, who turns 23 next month, among players in the top five leagues to score 10 or more goals in both 2019-20 and 2020-21.

 

 

Holders Algeria have been grouped alongside two-time winners Ivory Coast following the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations draw ceremony held in Yaounde on Tuesday.

The delayed event, which will be hosted in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, features 24 teams for the second time with six groups of four.

Algeria, who triumphed in Egypt in 2019, are alongside 1992 and 2015 winners Ivory Coast as well as Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea in Group E.

Hosts Cameroon will open the tournament in Group A, where they were drawn alongside Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Cape Verde.

Record seven-time winners Egypt, who last lifted the title in 2010, are grouped with three-time champions Nigeria, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau in Group D.

Arsenal team-mates Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Partey will face off in Group C with Gabon and Ghana alongside first-timers Comoros and top seeds Morocco.

Debutants Gambia are alongside Tunisia, Mali and Mauritania in Group F, while 2019 runners-up Senegal are in Group B with Zimbabwe, Guinea and Malawi.

Africa Cup of Nations draw:

Group A: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Cape Verde

Group B: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Malawi

Group C: Morocco, Ghana, Comoros, Gabon

Group D: Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau

Group E: Algeria, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast

Group F: Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Gambia

The Czech Republic were no match for the United States as Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant starred in a 119-84 romp.

Team USA's emphatic victory sealed their place in the quarter-finals as the second-placed side in Group A and ensured they will not face one of the pool winners.

Durant put up 23 points and six assists, overturning an early deficit, while Tatum led the team with 27 points, including five three-pointers.

Team USA's 20 threes represented the fourth time they have managed as many in an Olympic game,  also doing so against Argentina in 2012 (20), Lithuania in 2004 (21) and Nigeria in 2012 (29).

Due to the margin of defeat, the Czechs – who threatened an upset before falling away dramatically – will not progress into the next round as one of the best third-placed sides.

ROTATION GAME

France were able to rest some star names as they progressed. Les Bleus had won their opening two games and completed a clean sweep in Group A with a 79-62 victory over Iran.

Only one player – Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot – played more than 20 minutes, with star men Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert given limited game time.

Nando De Colo enjoyed a highly efficient cameo in his 15 minutes on court, scoring 10 points on 100 per cent shooting while adding five rebounds and five assists.

Iran talisman Hamed Haddadi finished off his Olympic campaign with an 18-point showing, but it was not enough to keep his team in the tournament.

France have already beaten the United States, but Fournier dismissed the suggestion they are gold medal favourites.

"To be honest, I'm not even focused on the gold medal, just the quarter-finals," he said. "Any team that we are going to play there will have its strengths and weaknesses, but I can't tell you who I would prefer there because we don't even know who's going to be there."

AUSTRALIA CLAIM TOP SPOT

Patty Mills scored five threes in a haul of 24 points as he led Australia to an 89-76 victory over Germany.

The Boomers needed victory to secure first place in Group B and they did so with a 13-point margin to ensure they will be seeded in the quarter-final draw on Sunday.

Despite defeat, Germany will go through as one of the best third-placed teams.

Mills is heading into unrestricted free agency in the NBA, but his sole focus is on propelling Australia towards a medal.

"This is a lifetime of work in a matter of a couple of weeks. I'm making sure there are no distractions for me or my team-mates," he said.

MANNION SEALS FOURTH-QUARTER FIGHTBACK

Italy clinched a spot in the last eight by overturning an eight-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to beat Nigeria 80-71 in Group B.

Nico Mannion scored 14 points in 16 minutes, including a vital late effort from deep to help seal Italy's comeback success as Nigeria ended winless following a 24-8 fourth quarter.

"I think everybody is surprised with the way he's playing, he's showing everybody that he's a great player. Also, he's only 20 years old," Achille Polonara said of Golden State Warriors guard Mannion.

"I hope that he can help us like this in the next game, too. He's a great guy, he's very happy to stay with us, and we're very happy to have him."

Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare has been provisionally suspended after a positive test for human growth hormone. She was due to run in the semifinals of the women’s 100 meters at the Olympics on Saturday.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said Okagbare tested positive in an out-of-competition test on July 19. The AIU says it was only informed of the finding on Friday, after Okagbare had already run in the 100-meter heats at the Tokyo Games.

The AIU informed Okagbare of the finding and her provisional suspension on Saturday morning.

Okagbare won her heat in 11.05 seconds at the Olympic Stadium to progress to the semis.

The United States saw a 25-game winning streak in men's basketball at the Olympics come to an end as they were beaten by France in their first outing at Tokyo 2020.

Team USA arrived in Japan looking to strike gold for a fourth straight Games, yet their build-up had been anything but straightforward. Exhibition defeats to Australia and Nigeria raised concerns before travelling, while COVID-19 protocols ruled out Bradley Beal and Kevin Love was replaced at late notice by JaVale McGee.

Still, a squad including Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Jayson Tatum – as well as Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday from the Milwaukee Bucks, the newly crowned NBA champions – saw the reigning champions listed as favourites.

France, though, caused an early upset at the start of the tournament. Evan Fournier starred with 28 points to help his team triumph 83-76 at the Saitama Super Arena.

There were wins for Australia and Italy too on Sunday, as well as a victory for the Czech Republic.

 

Big names come up short in shock defeat

Team USA had rounded out their build-up to the Games by beating Spain, yet there will be concerning signs for head coach Gregg Popovich following a flat performance against France.

They were successful with just 41 per cent of their two-point attempts and landed only 10 of the 32 shots put up from beyond the arc. Despite the shooting issues they still led 45-37 at half-time, only for the game to turn in a third quarter where they mustered a paltry 11 points.

Durant finished up with 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, while Lillard had 11. The latter's slip that caused a turnover in the closing seconds when down by four rather summed up a disjointed performance from the entire roster, leading to a first loss at the Olympics since going down to Argentina at Athens 2004.

Devin Booker, who had helped the Phoenix Suns reach the NBA Finals, landed only one of his six attempts from the field, with Holiday (18 points) finishing as the USA's leading scorer having only joined up with the team on the day of the game.

Also in Group A, the Czech Republic recorded an 84-78 victory over Iran.

Ingles impressed, but Nigeria come up short

Nigeria had defeated both Argentina and the United States ahead of the Games, raising hopes of making an impact in Japan.

However, able to knock down just 29 per cent of their attempts from deep, they struggled to keep pace with Australia, scoring only 27 points in the entire second half as they went down 84-67.

Still, Joe Ingles – who had 11 points for Australia – praised the Nigerians for their display, particularly on defense as they forced 21 turnovers. Patty Mills was the leading scorer in the game, finishing with 25.

"You have to give a lot of credit to Nigeria, with how they played and the style they play," Ingles said. "They are up and in, they are athletic and get up the floor, and they obviously have a great coach [in Mike Brown].

"I think a lot of people underestimate the team and the country. They are a really good basketball team."

Meanwhile, Italy opened their Group B campaign with a 92-82 victory over Germany. Simone Fontecchio led the way with 20 points, including landing all five of his three-point attempts.

The United States are always favourites at the Olympic Games – and rightly so. In 18 entries to the men's basketball event, Team USA have collected 18 medals, 15 of them gold.

But those three defeats serve as a warning for Gregg Popovich's side.

And any remaining complacency heading to Tokyo 2020 – in pursuit of a fourth straight title – should have been shifted by their initial pre-tournament exhibitions.

The United States lost to Nigeria last Saturday and then to Australia two days later, their third and fourth defeats in exhibitions since first fielding NBA players with the formation of the 'Dream Team' in 1992.

"It was better," as Popovich said, in Tuesday's win over Argentina – "bit by bit, every day, I hope," the coach added – but the pressure is still on, as consistent results must follow when the real action begins.

 

TOUGH START FOR TEAM USA SUPERSTARS

Of course, Team USA have never failed to advance from the preliminary round and that spotless record is highly unlikely to change this year. A kind draw has thrown up only one true test, but it comes first up: against France.

Indeed, Les Bleus dealt the United States their humiliating quarter-final exit at the FIBA Basketball World Cup two years ago.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year – put up a game-high 16 rebounds in that France victory and his size is a real problem for familiar opponents.

Gobert led the league with 2.7 blocks and 10.1 defensive rebounds per game in 2020-21, snaring 33.5 per cent of defensive boards while on the floor for the third-best mark in the NBA.

Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green might be versatile but, as the two preferred American options at the five, finding joy in the middle seems unlikely, while Team USA might also struggle to stop 7ft 1in Gobert on defense. His 67.5 per cent shooting was another benchmark.

However, the talent elsewhere in the Team USA lineup should ensure they have enough to win most matchups.

Kevin Durant shot 52.3 per cent from the midrange and 45.0 per cent from beyond the arc in the regular season; only two players made more threes than Damian Lillard (275), who then broke Klay Thompson's record with 12 makes from deep in a single playoff game against the Denver Nuggets.

The opener could either see Durant and Co lay down a marker for the rest of the tournament or provide other contenders with a blueprint for beating the United States.

 

BOOMERS BANG UP FOR MEDAL PURSUIT

Australia are far from the biggest team at the Games, but they have already shown the joy that can be found in the paint against Team USA, scoring 44 points from inside the key in their exhibition win.

The Boomers' effective, well-executed gameplan was all the more impressive given the unsettled nature of their team.

They have changed coach three times since the World Cup, and star name Ben Simmons is absent – working to "develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas", Brian Goorjian said, after averaging an awful 9.9 points per game in the playoff series defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.

But Philadelphia 76ers team-mate Matisse Thybulle is still on hand to provide defensive energy, having led the NBA in steal percentage (3.9), while Patty Mills remains more reliable at international level than for Popovich's San Antonio Spurs.

Four times beaten in the bronze medal game, Australia will expect to finally secure some hardware, yet Group B also contains a dark horse in the form of Nigeria, who followed up their own victory against the United States by dominating Argentina.

Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent had 21 points against the country of his birth, a total he has only once topped in his NBA career to date.

Nigeria have chemistry, talent and, in Golden State Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown, coaching experience. They have also played so far like they have a point to prove.

 

DONCIC DRAWN INTO GROUP OF DEATH

Second and third pool games against Iran and the Czech Republic respectively should see that there is no jeopardy for the United States early on, but Group C shows how tough this tournament can be.

There will be a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final between Spain and Argentina, while hosts Japan will hope to make some noise. Then there is Slovenia, led of course by Luka Doncic.

One of the most exciting young talents in the world, Doncic has already shown himself capable of dragging a team to against-the-odds victories single-handedly.

The 22-year-old, whose 36.0 per cent usage rate led the NBA this year, was unsurprisingly named the MVP at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Kaunas just three weeks after forcing the Los Angeles Clippers to go to a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs.

Doncic has averaged 33.5 points across his 13 career postseason games – all of which have come against the Clippers. No player in NBA history has played 13 playoff games or more and averaged more, with Michael Jordan second on 33.4.

But Doncic has lost both of those series to date and is now faced with some hugely experienced players at this level. Argentina's Luis Scola and Spain's Pau Gasol – who moved to Barcelona specifically to prepare for the Games – are both in their 40s.

Should Doncic guide his country into the knockout stage, though, Team USA would undoubtedly be wary of taking on the two-time All-NBA First Team selection.

Deneisha Blackwood found redemption after missing a first-half penalty when she scored the only goal of the match in Jamaica’s 1-0 win over Nigeria in the opening match of the 2021 WNT Summer Series in Texas yesterday.

Blackwood scored in the 51st minute after Vyan Sampson collided with a Nigeria defender causing the ball to slip through past the far post. Jody Brown chased it and passed it back to Blackwood, who slammed it into the upper left corner from eight yards.

She would have been relieved after missing a penalty after Jody Brown was taken down inside the 18-yard box by past midfielder Rita Chikwelu. Expected to score, Blackwood kicked a tame shot directly at goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi, who kneeled to effect an easy save.

Just before Blackwood scored what proved to be the game-winner, Ijeoma Okoronkwo seemed to have scored but she was ruled offside.

Nigeria almost pulled level in the 83rd minute, when forward Michelle Alozie’s shot struck the crossbar with a left-footed shot from outside the box.

Jamaica also came close to scoring again in the dying moments of the game when Tiffany Cameron got loose on a breakaway but Oluehi closed her down and went to ground to save Cameron’s shot.

A 23-member Reggae Girlz squad assemble in the United States tomorrow without inspirational captain Khadijah Shaw for two upcoming international friendly games as part of the 2021 Women's National Team Summer Series hosted by the US Soccer.

The local delegation from Jamaica will depart on Thursday, June 3 out of Montego Bay at 2:20 pm.

The squad will have a camp in Houston from June 4-7 after which it will relocate to the host hotel.

Jamaica will play number 38 ranked team Nigeria on June 10 and World champions the USA on June 13. Both games will be played at the BBVA stadium in Houston, Texas. The games will be the first for the Jamaican team since they participated in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers in February 2020 and they will do so without their prolific striker Shaw.

Jamaica's number-nine, the leading scorer for Bordeaux in the Division 1 Féminine, the highest division of women's football in France, has reportedly asked for time to recover from what was an intense season in which the team fought successfully for a Champions League spot.

Shaw was the joint-leading scorer, alongside PSG’s Marie-Antoinette Katoto, with 21 goals for Bordeaux, which finished third in the division.

Meanwhile, five new players have been named to the squad including Rebecca Spencer of Tottenham Hotspur, Drew Spence of Chelsea, and Shania Hayles of Aston Villa as well as Mikayla Dayes of the University of Maryland and Satara of FC Austin Elite.

They will join 14 veterans who represented Jamaica at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

According to the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), once the teams arrive in Houston both for training camp as well as the tournament, they will operate under a highly controlled environment that will include testing on arrival for the camp and testing at the host hotel.

The staging of the official training and matches will fall under the comprehensive US Soccer Return to Play Protocols and Guidelines and in accordance with CONCACAF Return to Play Protocols. The JFF has also developed protocols for the training camp in keeping with these guidelines.

The full squad comprises Sydney Schnieder (Washington Spirit FC USA), Rebecca Spencer (Tottenham Hotspurs FC), Chantelle Swaby (Glasgow Rangers) Konya Plummer (Orlando Pride), Allyson Swaby (AS Roma), Deneisha Blackwood (Houston Dash), Havana Solaun (Carolina Courage), Chinyelu Asher (Washington Spirit FC), Olufolasade Adamamouken (University of Southern California), Drew Spence (Chelsea FC), Peyton McNamara (Ohio State University), Sashana Campbell (Petah Tikva), Tiernny Wiltshire (Maccabi Emek Hefer), Jody Brown (Florida State University), Shania Hayles (Aston Villa WFC), Gabrielle Gayle (South Alabama), Kayla McCoy (Training with Glasgow Rangers), Vyan Sampson (Charlton FC), Cheyna Matthews (Racing Louisville), Yazmeen Jamieson (Unattached) Tiffany Cameron (Ferencvaros), Mikayla Dayes (University Of Maryland), and Satara Murray (FC Austin Elite).

The pre-tournament camp which is mainly financed by the JFF has received support from the Bob Marley Foundation, the Reggae Girlz Foundation, Cool Runnings based in Houston, Arm Wave and Wisynco with its Wata brand.

 

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