Football: Nigeria ring changes on return

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The Independent Online
NIGERIA RETURN to the African Nations Cup on Sunday after a two- and-a-half-year ban and are expected to ring the changes after the disappointment of their dramatic World Cup exit in July.

Nigeria were banned from the last two Nations Cup tournaments because they withdrew on the eve of the 1996 finals in a diplomatic tiff with the hosts South Africa.

Their Group Five away match against Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou on Sunday is one of 14 games around the continent at the start of the group qualifying competitions.

A total of 28 countries are divided into seven groups with the top two finishers in each group qualifying for the finals in Zimbabwe in 2000. The hosts and Egypt, the holders, have qualified automatically.

Shaibu Amodu, Nigeria's stand-in coach, has picked a much changed side from those on World Cup duty, when the Super Eagles were beaten 4-1 by Denmark in the second round in Paris. Amodu has been put in charge while officials attempt to lure the Dutchman Thys Libregts to take over the coaching job. However, yesterday it was still not sure whether he would make the trip with the squad to Ouagadougou.

Africa's four other World Cup representatives are also in action. Cameroon have a tough Group One opener against Ghana in Yaounde on Sunday and will be without their captain Rigobert Song, still serving a suspension carried over from the World Cup finals.

Guiseppe Dossena, the new Ghana manager, has tried unsuccessfully to lure the striker Tony Yeboah out of international retirement. Yeboah, who plays for Hamburg, said last week he did not want to risk injury at this late stage of his career.

Morocco have a home game against Sierra Leone while Tunisia host Liberia in Tunis.

Costa Rica has named the Colombian Francisco Maturana to coach its national team. Maturana coached Colombia's national side from 1987 to 1994.

Costa Rica went through four coaches last year in a failed attempt to qualify for France. The side has yet to rediscover the form that took them to the second round in the 1990 finals in Italy, beating Sweden and Scotland on the way.

Swiss authorities have threatened to sell Lothar Matthaus's alpine chalet unless the German pays SFr1,357.50 (pounds 600) in back property taxes. Tax collectors have placed the Bayern Munich player on an "official bulletin", giving him 10 days to oppose the notification or six months to pay the 1996 taxes still outstanding on his chalet in Crans-Montana.