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Africa Cup of Nations

This Week In Football: The Gambia return to AFCON, Juventus out of the Champions League & more

The men’s international break was fairly entertaining last week as we enjoyed quite a few dramatic matches in decisive qualification tournaments, while the club action started to kick into gear in European women’s football. Here are five of the biggest matches and results:

🌍 AFCON 2023 Qualifiers: Gambia 2-2 Congo

There were still a few final spots to decide on the final matchday of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers ahead of the tournament in Côte d’Ivoire in early 2024, so there were several decisive matches.

Among them were Cameroon keeping Burundi at bay, Mauritania getting the better of Gabon and Ghana surviving a scare against the Central African Republic. All of those were solely focused on the on-pitch action, but sadly there was one shaken by some off-pitch events.

The Gambia and Congo were set to square off in their Group G decider in Morocco on Sunday night, which meant that both teams were in Marrakesh when the devastating earthquake hit the city.

Thankfully, none of the players or staff members suffered any injuries, but of course, they were quite shaken by the incident.

Both parties wanted the fixture postponed at such a time, but CAF insisted on playing the game so it went ahead.

The Gambia qualified for a second-consecutive (and second-ever) AFCON thanks to a late comeback with goals from Yankuba Minteh and Mohamed Badamosi, while Congo missed out for the fourth straight time despite being two goals up at half-time.

🌍 Women’s Champions League Qualifiers: Juventus 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt (4-5 on penalties)

The first qualifying round of the Women’s Champions League produced a couple of big shocks, including Arsenal’s elimination at the hands of Paris FC.

Perhaps an even bigger story was the elimination of Italian giants Juventus at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt.

The two sides played out a 1-1 draw at the end of the 90 minutes and kept the scoreline unchanged in extra time, so they went down to penalties. Juventus had the chance to win it with their fifth effort, but it was saved and they then went on to lose!

So, for the first time since their foundation, Juventus will not appear in the knockout or group stage of the UWCL proper.

🌍 Euro 2024 Qualifiers: Switzerland 3-0 Andorra

There were far more important, entertaining and dramatic European Championship qualifying matches this week than a routine Swiss win over Andorra, but this match marked the end of a fascinating story.

Ildefons Lima called a day on his remarkable international career, which started in 1997! The centre-back ended his senior international career not only as his country’s record appearance-maker and top scorer but also as the player with the longest international career spanning 26 years and four different decades!

It is safe to say that Andorran football will never quite be the same without him on the pitch.

🌎 CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers: Peru 0-1 Brazil

Over in South America, Diniz-mania has firmly gripped Brazil.

Fluminense head coach Fernando Diniz has been drafted in to take interim charge of the Brazilian men’s national team, bringing his unique style of play to the Seleção.

The 49-year-old tactician affords more positional freedom to his players than we generally see in professional football these days, letting them move around all over the pitch and link up with one another to create devastatingly effective attacking moves when they come off.

Bolivia certainly got a taste of what the hype was about as they were thrashed 5-1.

The match against Peru proved much tougher, but Brazil emerged victorious again thanks to Marquinhos’ late header, which kept them on top of the very early table.

As expected, another World Cup already looks on the cards for Brazil, but who will lead them into it?

🇳🇴 Toppserien: Vålerenga IF 2-2 LSK Kvinner

The Toppserien title race took a significant twist over two-thirds of the way into the season, and in the country’s biggest derby no less!

LSK Kvinner started the derby five points behind second-placed Vålerenga, who were looking to retake top spot ahead of Rosenborg with a win.

They seemed well on course to do just that as they took a two-goal lead into half-time but had their deficit halved soon after the break and ultimately dropped points by conceding an equaliser in stoppage-time.

This result keeps things very spicy at the top of the table, where we have a three-way title race at best as defending champions Brann seem too far adrift.

Will Rosenborg hold on for their record eighth title? Will Vålerenga win their second league title? Or will LSK Kvinner race ahead of both and win their eighth title?

Either way, a thoroughly entertaining end to the Toppserien season is on the cards.

Stats courtesy Transfermarkt and FotMob.

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