Nigeria may not be favourites for the World Cup, but they seem to have won fans over with their new kit for Russia.
Three million people pre-ordered replica shirts, according to the Nigeria Football Federation, and shoppers queued outside Nike’s flagship store in London on Friday to try to get their hands on the clothing.
The home and away shirts, priced at £64.95, were sold out on the sportswear giant’s website soon after they were released.
Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi is among the players who modelled the kit, which was first revealed back in February, along with Leicester’s Wilfried Ndidi, who wore a branded bucket hat and jacket for the promotional photos.
The makers describe the home kit as a “subtle homage to Nigeria’s ’94 shirt, with its eagle wing-inspired black-and-white sleeve and green torso”.
The away kit, meanwhile, is a “cool, refined vision” of a classic full-green strip.
Nigeria are set to wear their new shirt when they face England in their World Cup warm-up game at Wembley on Saturday (17:15 BST).
He left as he arrived, and as he had spent the last two-and-a-half years: with dignity.
Zinedine Zidane’s decision to quit Real Madrid just five days after leading the team to their third consecutive Champions League title has thrown the Spanish giants into turmoil.
Los Blancos president Florentino Perez was obviously stunned by the decision, which Zidane delivered with a notably open and revealing news conference on Thursday lunchtime, and now the Bernabeu top brass have to work hard and work fast to identify and pursue their preferred successor to the Frenchman.
The Spanish media was also taken aback, conveying a reaction of amazement: an article on Marca’s website claimed the news has “hit the dressing room like a bomb”, while El Mundo stated “the club have never believed there could be a better captain for such a difficult ship”.
Here BBC Sport reflects on the reasons for Zidane’s exit and what it means for the reigning champions of Europe?
Yes. The news clearly came as a total shock to Perez, who spent much of the news conference sitting at Zidane’s side with a vacant expression on his face, as though he was struggling to believe what he was hearing.
Perez announced that Zidane had only told him about his decision the previous day, and the outgoing coach revealed that the only member of the playing squad he had spoken to personally was club captain Sergio Ramos.
Zidane was unusually and commendably honest about his reasons for quitting, admitting he did not see clearly how he could keep the team winning next season, and repeatedly stating his belief that the team needs a “new discourse” as well as underlining the intense pressures and demands of the role.
He did not reveal when he had come to the conclusion that he should leave, but there were a couple of clues: when he was asked to identify his worst moment in charge, Zidane had no hesitation in pinpointing the Copa del Rey exit against Leganes in January.
And the last question he faced – before exiting the room and the club to a warm round of applause – asked Zidane whether winning his third consecutive Champions League title a few days ago convinced him that now was the right time to go. Zidane smiled ruefully, and responded: “Maybe. Maybe, yes.”
Fulham hit the Premier League promotion jackpot as Tom Cairney fired his 10-man team to a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Cairney struck with a cool finish in the first half at Wembley to earn Fulham a top-flight place worth an estimated £160 million windfall.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side played the last 20 minutes with 10 men after defender Denis Odoi was sent off for a studs-up lunge on Jack Grealish.
But they defended heroically to end the club’s four-year exile from the Premier League.
Fulham’s financial windfall from increased revenue could rise to £280 million if they go on to survive for one season among the elite.
Yet even their American billionaire owner Shadid Khan knows it is the prestige of playing Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool next season that matters far more than the extra cash in his bulging bank account.
It was an unforgettable evening for Fulham, who were making their first appearance at Wembley since losing the 1975 FA Cup final against West Ham.
And Khan was celebrating from the stands of what could soon be his personal property as he negotiates a deal to buy the iconic stadium from the Football Association.
There was only misery for Villa as they missed out on promotion on the 36th anniversary of the club’s famous European Cup final victory over Bayern Munich.
Villa, owned by Chinese businessman Tony Xia, paid the price for a limp first half and are faced with a third successive season outside the Premier League, a stark reality given a reduction in the parachute payments could lead to the sale of their stars.
Villa had received a good luck message from Hollywood actor Tom Hanks, a long-distance fan of the team, while Prince William, another celebrity supporter, was cheering on his team from a private box at Wembley.
No manager has won more promotions to the Premier League than the four amassed by Villa’s Steve Bruce, whose team included former Chelsea captain John Terry.
But although Fulham had an average age of three years younger than Villa, there was no sign of stage-fright from Jokanovic’s team.
Dominating possession for long periods, Fulham were the more adventurous side.
Jokanovic had vowed to take advantage of Villa’s veterans, labelling them “an old and tired team, they are going to show some weaknesses”.
Villa failed to heed that warning and Fulham fulfilled their manager’s prediction as they took the lead in the 23rd minute.
Fulham winger Ryan Sessegnon has caught the eye of Premier League clubs during a dazzling campaign and the 18-year-old sensation was the catalyst for his team’s opener.
Coming in from the left flank to steal possession in midfield, Sessegnon showed maturity beyond his tender age as he looked up and slipped a pin-point pass to Cairney.
The Scotland midfielder had timed his run perfectly, leaving Villa’s defenders trailing in his wake as he slotted a cool left-footed finish into the far corner of Sam Johnstone’s net.
With emotions still running high after Cairney’s goal, Fulham got lucky when defender Ryan Fredericks avoided a red card after appearing to deliberately stamp on Grealish.
Sessegnon wasted a chance to double Fulham’s lead when he headed straight at Johnstone, while Grealish squandered Villa’s only decent first-half opportunity with a wild shot high over the bar.
Grealish fluffed his lines again early in the second half, heading over from a good position.
Villa were finally clicking into gear and Grealish embarked on a dazzling run through the Cottagers defence, but Fulham keeper Marcus Bettinelli was equal to his shot.
Fulham defender Odoi was dismissed when his reckless foul on Grealish earned a second yellow card in the 70th minute.
But Villa lacked the cutting edge to take advantage and Jokanovic’s men were soon celebrating their return to the big time.
Brazil star Neymar has paved the way for a potentially early departure from Paris Saint-Germain by declaring he “really wants to” work under Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola.
Speculation that Neymar could leave PSG only a year after signing a record-setting €222 million deal with the French league giants has been rife.
And the 26-year-old superstar, currently in Brazil training with the national team prior to the World Cup, has done little to quash the rumours.
Although linked with a move to European champions Real Madrid, Neymar told ESPN Brasil he wanted to experience working alongside Guardiola, having missed the opportunity when he arrived at previous club Barcelona a year after the Spanish coach’s departure.
“I’ve always wanted to work with Guardiola. He’s different. I arrived (in Barcelona) a year after he left,” said Neymar, who was interviewed for the programme by fellow compatriot and ex-Fenerbahce midfielder Alex.
“I really want to work with him.”
Guardiola quit Barcelona in 2012 after steering the club to 14 trophies in four seasons.
Neymar arrived a year later and went on to spend four seasons at the Camp Nou, before completing his record-setting move to the French capital.
Although PSG secured a French domestic treble of league, Cup and League Cup last season, Neymar missed the latter third due to injury.
Having suffered a foot injury in February, Neymar underwent surgery in Brazil.
However rumours suggest he is keen to leave Paris, with a preference to return to Barcelona’s arch rivals Real Madrid.
Super-agent Mino Raiola has launched a blistering verbal attack on Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, telling Dutch magazine Quote last week that he can never forgive him for his treatment of Zlatan Ibrahimovic while at Barcelona.
Raiola, who represents star players like Paul Pogba, Mario Balotelli and Romelu Lukaku, as well as Ibrahimovic, said that while he respects Guardiola’s managerial record, he had no time for him as a person.
“As a manager Guardiola is great, but as a human he’s a zero!” he said. “He said we had to talk to him if we had any complaints, but then he stopped playing Zlatan and ignored him. He didn’t even greet him.
“Guardiola is like a classic priest: Do what I say, don’t do what I do. I advised Zlatan to go to work in a Ferrari and to park it in his spot.”
Raiola revealed that he almost came to blows with Guardiola when he left out Maxwell for the 2011 Champions League final against Manchester United.
“Guardiola is a cowardly dog,” he added. “He pulled the same trick on Maxwell, who is a great guy. I went to London for the Champions League final and saw in the stadium that he wasn’t on the list. So that f—ing Guardiola wanted to let [Eric] Abidal make his re-entry [after recovering from liver cancer]. That was fine of course, and you can see why, but be honest about it.
“I was livid, almost went for him [Guardiola] in the catacombs, but luckily Adriano Galliani, AC Milan’s president, was able to stop me.”
Ibrahimovic and Guardiola did not see eye-to-eye during the Swedish striker’s one season at Camp Nou in 2009-10, before he was sent on a season-long loan to Milan — eventually joining them permanently in 2011-12.
Ibrahimovic scored 11 goals in his first 14 league games at Barcelona, but his relationship with Guardiola soon deteriorated and he later wrote in his autobiography: “When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari. If you drive a Ferrari, you put premium petrol in the tank, you hit the motorway and you step on the gas. Guardiola filled up with diesel and took a spin in the countryside. He should have bought a Fiat.”
The falling out has likely ensured Raiola will not work with Guardiola again. When asked if he thought Manchester City would win the Champions League this season, the agent replied: “Yes, but I don’t want him to. Also because none of my players are with him.”
England forward Raheem Sterling has urged fans to “give love” to the team going into this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
They have three more warm-up games before the tournament, starting with Italy at Wembley on Tuesday, having beaten the Netherlands 1-0 on Friday.
Sterling told BBC Radio 5 live: “I feel sometimes there is too much negativity.
“I would love to hear some positive notes coming in, just to let the boys know everyone is behind them.”
England were unbeaten as they topped their World Cup qualifying group, winning eight out of 10 matches, but their recent performances have not always impressed the supporters.
Gareth Southgate’s team, who face Tunisia, Panama and Belgium in their World Cup group, have gone five matches without conceding a goal, but have scored only three times themselves in that period.
‘They are probably not doing it in a malicious way’
Sterling, 23, made his international debut in 2012 and has won 36 caps, although he has been subjected to boos at stages of his England career.
“If you want your country to do well as everyone says, bring a positive light to it,” the Manchester City winger said.
“Make the boys go off to the World Cup with a clear head, that everyone is behind them and everyone is with them, and trust me I think you would definitely see a better England.
“I think if we get behind those players, give them love, you wouldn’t know how much that will help them, how much that would boost their confidence.”
Asked about receiving criticism from the England supporters, he said: “Obviously it’s disappointing when you put on a shirt and get negative feedback, but at the same time it’s what the fans want to see, they want to see you perform well.
“They are probably not doing it in a malicious way, but doing it in a way to make you know you need to step up. In a way it’s good for someone like me, I kind of thrive on stuff like that to try to build.”
The pacy forward praised City manager Pep Guardiola, who has guided the team to a 16-point lead in the Premier League plus a place in the Champions League quarter-finals – against Sterling’s former club Liverpool.
Asked about the Spaniard’s leadership, Sterling said: “It’s fantastic because he is a great coach. He helps you in little details, nothing spectacular, it’s just getting you back to basics, doing simple stuff.
“And you realise doing the simple stuff how much it can affect the game. That’s what he has brought back to my game, try to simplify things and that’s what I give him a lot of credit for.”
He now focuses on boxing during morning sessions, with running or strength work later in the day. The reverse of his old routine aims to see him fresher when doing technical work under the guidance of trainer Rob McCracken at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
And Parker – undefeated in 24 bouts – has undergone changes of his own after having surgery on both elbows late in 2017, a move which his camp claim has led to a 20% improvement in his punching since he out-pointed Hughie Furyin September.
“He is dangerous,” added Joshua. “He’s a king where he is from so he has that pride on his back as well. He has to represent the heritage and that’s important.
“I just believe that when people come to fight me, they come 30% better. If he’s known to be quick, he will be rapid. If he’s known to take a punch, I will have to throw the kitchen sink at him.
“They all come with that bit more ambition. I have to make sure that when I’m throwing my best shots, that I’m confident to know who I am dealing with.”
‘I’ve fought them both’ – Analysis
GB Boxing super-heavyweight and Joshua’s sparring partner Frazer Clarke
I’ve boxed AJ and Parker. AJ and I boxed in 2009 at my local sports hall.
I was meant to box a guy from Nottingham as an amateur, a bit of a pudding if I’m honest. It’s common in amateur boxing you get pull-outs. I was on the scales, a few rolls of fat on me and this shadow comes over me, a guy who looks like he’s been chiselled out of stone. It’s Anthony Joshua.
We had a proper good tear up. Straight away I knew this was a proper fighter who would go a long way.
When I was on the Great Britain squad, I fought Joseph Parker in India. A good fight and I’m told he remembers it. It was close, he got it on points and was probably a little bit fitter at the time. He carries similar things now to then, a lot of combinations, fast hands, a vicious puncher. I think these two will gel and it will be one of the best fights yet.
I can’t look past Joshua. I have done the whole camp sparring with him. We have sparred 60 or 70 rounds in this camp.
In the build-up to this, the Klitschko and Takam fights have done so much for him as a boxer. They have taught him being big, strong and fit is not enough at world level. You have to have a brain, know what to do when times get tough. He also learned the importance of patience and I think he has found his optimum boxing weight. Look at him now, he’s gliding, flowing, fast. This man can do it all.
Mohamed Salah’s stunning four-goal display in Liverpool’s 5-0 win over Watford at Anfield drew comparisons with Lionel Messi.
Even Jurgen Klopp refused to pour cold water on them, saying that Salah is “on his way” to being mentioned in the most exalted of company, while Steven Gerrard — one of the finest to ever pull on the famous Red shirt — gushed: “We are witnessing the start of greatness.”
Salah’s first and third were the kind of goals we’re used to seeing only Messi score. Given they occupy the same area of the pitch, are of similar height, build and are both left footed, comparisons are only natural. They are also misguided.
The Barcelona man is not only the best player on the planet, but many would say that he’s the greatest there has ever been.
Salah is a wonderful player in his own right but attempting to put him in the same bracket at Messi at this stage is akin to anointing a tennis player “the new Roger Federer” after one good year on the ATP Tour.
Salah is certainly the best “Messi tribute act” out there though, which in itself is quite the compliment. Some of the things he does and the goals he scores are undoubtedly Messi-like, but the Argentinian is the undisputed king of football and has been for the last decade (sorry Cristiano Ronaldo fans, but you know it’s true).
Salah is enjoying a phenomenal breakout season and he may even be in the Ballon d’Or conversation this year, alongside Messi. If Liverpool were to somehow triumph in the Champions League then he even could win it (as Liverpool’s cup treble in 2001 secured the award for Michael Owen), but as of now he’s probably a bit of a long shot.
A more apt discussion therefore is whether Salah will win the Premier League’s Footballer of the Year award. The next couple of months will go a long way towards deciding that but as of now he appears to be neck-and-neck in a two horse race with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane could still force himself into the reckoning if he recovers quickly from the injury that is sidelining him and if his goals were to secure the FA Cup for Spurs. Salah’s four-goal salvo last weekend opened up a significant gap between him and Kane in the race for the Golden Boot (he has 28 league goals to the Tottenham man’s 24) so the more interesting contest now is between Salah and De Bruyne as to who will be named Footballer of the Year.
Both are undoubtedly worthy but choosing between them is tough because it is not an apples to apples comparison. De Bruyne is an attacking player but his primary job is to create chances rather than take them. This puts him at something of a disadvantage when someone like Salah, who is not even a No.9, is scoring at an almost unprecedented rate.
De Bruyne has been phenomenal this season and is the brightest jewel in City’s glittering crown. Yet Salah has scored 36 goals in just 41 matches and in his scoring form, he might even be averaging a goal a game or more come the end of the season. Goals win games and goalscorers win the most headlines.
With Liverpool and City scheduled to meet in the Champions League quarterfinals that might go a long way toward settling the outcome. If De Bruyne pulls the strings as City progress to the semifinals that ought to be enough for him to secure the award. If Salah’s goals allow Liverpool to upset the odds then it would surely be impossible to overlook him.
Nobody, not even Klopp, had any idea that Salah could have made the kind of stunning impact he has. The signs were there in preseason but that was dismissed as “only preseason”. When the real action got under way Salah got off to a blistering start, but we were rightly told that it was “a good start, nothing more.” The real acid test would be whether he could sustain it. He has.
For eight months the Egyptian has kept scoring goals at a rate that few before him have managed. Liverpool have been blessed with countless great forwards over the years but Salah’s strike record compares favourably with any of them.
He’s closing in on 40 goals for the season and only two Liverpool players have ever reached that landmark before. Ian Rush hit 47 goals in 65 appearances in 1983-84 and then three years later found the net 40 times in 57 games.
Before that Roger Hunt tallied 42 goals from just 46 games in 1961-62, although that was in the old Second Division.
The 40 goal milestone is certainly within reach for Salah but he will be hard pressed to catch Rush. He is nine goals short of the mark set by the Welshman with a minimum of nine games to play.
If the Reds can get past City then they will have a further two games and hopefully even a third, so while it will be difficult it is not inconceivable that Salah could chase down Rush.
Should that happen then it would be the single greatest goalscoring season in club history, and perhaps even the greatest individual season by a Liverpool player full stop.