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Messi misses penalty, Iceland holds Argentina to 1-1 draw

By GRAHAM DUNBAR,  AP Sports Writer MOSCOW (AP) — Lionel Messi missed yet another penalty kick and Iceland held on for a 1-1 draw against Argentina in an impressive World Cup debut on Saturday. Messi failed to give his team the lead when his 64th-minute penalty was stopped by Hannes Halldorsson. The Iceland goalkeeper dived to his right and got two hands behind the ball. It was Messi's fourth missed penalty in his last seven attempts for Argentina and Barcelona. The Argentines took the lead in the 19th minute when Sergio Aguero scored with a rising left-footed shot. Alfred Finnbogason equalized for Iceland four minutes later after Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero pushed a low cross into the forward's path. The penalty was awarded after Aguero was pushed in the back by Hordur Magnusson as both chased Messi's floated cross in the 63rd. The small Nordic island nation's team created several first-half chances despite having only 22 percent possession, and pushed back Argentina's waves of second-half attacks. Messi had a final chance to redeem his team with the final kick of the game, but his free kick from 25 yards failed to clear a solid Iceland defensive wall. At the end, Messi retreated alone into the center circle with his head bowed and hands on his knees. Iceland played its debut on soccer's biggest stage like it belonged alongside the 2014 runners-up. Before trailing, Iceland could have taken the lead but Birkir Bjarnason side-footed a shot wide of goal when Caballero was exposed. That chance came in a nervous ninth minute for Argentina's defense, which seemed unsettled by Iceland's strength and their own unease with loose balls in the penalty area. No Iceland defender was at fault for failing to stop Aguero's goal. The forward executed a classy spin move to create his chance when a miscued shot by Marcos Rojo arrived at his feet near the penalty spot. It was a finish worthy of Argentina great Diego Maradona, who was watching in the VIP section at Spartak Stadium. The FIFA ambassador was puffing a large cigar despite smoking being banned in all World Cup venues. KEY TO SUCCESS Argentina fans booed and whistled when the giant stadium screen showed that Halldorsson was man of the match. But his faultless handling and excellent shot-stopping was deserving of the accolade. In contrast, Caballero caused uneasy moments for his defense in the first half. Iceland also protected Halldorsson well with swarming running and tackling to shut down Messi and Argentina's attacking lanes. Messi has missed more than 20 penalty kicks in his career, showing there is perhaps one flaw in his genius. GROUP DYNAMICS This was the first game in Group D, which looks even more evenly balanced now than it did at kickoff. Croatia and Nigeria are also in the group. Argentina will next play Croatia on Thursday in Nizhny Novgorod, while Iceland plays Nigeria on Friday in Volgograd......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 16th, 2018

Messi misses penalty, Iceland holds Argentina to 1-1 draw

By GRAHAM DUNBAR,  AP Sports Writer MOSCOW (AP) — Lionel Messi missed yet another penalty kick and Iceland held on for a 1-1 draw against Argentina in an impressive World Cup debut on Saturday. Messi failed to give his team the lead when his 64th-minute penalty was stopped by Hannes Halldorsson. The Iceland goalkeeper dived to his right and got two hands behind the ball. It was Messi's fourth missed penalty in his last seven attempts for Argentina and Barcelona. The Argentines took the lead in the 19th minute when Sergio Aguero scored with a rising left-footed shot. Alfred Finnbogason equalized for Iceland four minutes later after Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero pushed a low cross into the forward's path. The penalty was awarded after Aguero was pushed in the back by Hordur Magnusson as both chased Messi's floated cross in the 63rd. The small Nordic island nation's team created several first-half chances despite having only 22 percent possession, and pushed back Argentina's waves of second-half attacks. Messi had a final chance to redeem his team with the final kick of the game, but his free kick from 25 yards failed to clear a solid Iceland defensive wall. At the end, Messi retreated alone into the center circle with his head bowed and hands on his knees. Iceland played its debut on soccer's biggest stage like it belonged alongside the 2014 runners-up. Before trailing, Iceland could have taken the lead but Birkir Bjarnason side-footed a shot wide of goal when Caballero was exposed. That chance came in a nervous ninth minute for Argentina's defense, which seemed unsettled by Iceland's strength and their own unease with loose balls in the penalty area. No Iceland defender was at fault for failing to stop Aguero's goal. The forward executed a classy spin move to create his chance when a miscued shot by Marcos Rojo arrived at his feet near the penalty spot. It was a finish worthy of Argentina great Diego Maradona, who was watching in the VIP section at Spartak Stadium. The FIFA ambassador was puffing a large cigar despite smoking being banned in all World Cup venues. KEY TO SUCCESS Argentina fans booed and whistled when the giant stadium screen showed that Halldorsson was man of the match. But his faultless handling and excellent shot-stopping was deserving of the accolade. In contrast, Caballero caused uneasy moments for his defense in the first half. Iceland also protected Halldorsson well with swarming running and tackling to shut down Messi and Argentina's attacking lanes. Messi has missed more than 20 penalty kicks in his career, showing there is perhaps one flaw in his genius. GROUP DYNAMICS This was the first game in Group D, which looks even more evenly balanced now than it did at kickoff. Croatia and Nigeria are also in the group. Argentina will next play Croatia on Thursday in Nizhny Novgorod, while Iceland plays Nigeria on Friday in Volgograd......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 16th, 2018

Messi misses as Iceland hold Argentina, France down Australia

MOSCOW -- Lionel Messi fluffed his World Cup lines on Saturday, missing a penalty as Iceland held Argentina to a 1-1 draw after France benefited from the first use of the Video Assistant Referee system in tournament history to grind out a victory over Australia. Just a day after his….....»»

Category: newsSource:  journalRelated NewsJun 17th, 2018

Salah, Neymar, Messi, messy, messy: World Cup stars stifled

By Mauricio Saverese, Associated Press SARANSK, Russia (AP) — With nagging injuries, heavy marking from opponents and some simply uninspired play, the top stars of the 2018 World Cup have struggled to deliver on the impossible expectations they carried into the tournament, with one prominent Portuguese exception. Aside from Cristiano Ronaldo, who has all four of Portugal's goals in its two games, many of the biggest names are off to a shaky start. No one has had rougher treatment from the opposition than the world's priciest player, Neymar. During Brazil's opening 1-1 draw with Switzerland, the 26-year-old was fouled 10 times, the highest number on a single player in a single match since the 1998 World Cup, when England's Alan Shearer took 11 challenges against Tunisia. Overall, Switzerland fouled Brazil 19 times , with little intervention from the referee, and it worked — especially on Neymar. Brazilians suggested their opponents were too violent; Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes thinks Neymar has another problem. "He just falls too much," Fernandes said after the game in Rostov-on-Don. "Out of these 10, only seven or eight were fouls. We have to stop their star, and he is the star." Neymar felt the effects of the Swiss strategy long after Sunday's match ended, limping out of training Tuesday as he continues to recover from a foot injury he picked up before the tournament. He trained Wednesday and was confirmed as a starter for the match against Costa Rica on Friday. Superstar Lionel Messi did face heavy marking too, but he also had two uninspired performances for Argentina, which is now on the verge of early elimination after a 3-0 defeat against Croatia. Throughout the matches against Iceland and Croatia, disciplined defenders and midfielders stopped Messi from making his famous runs and getting one-on-one chances. Against Iceland, Messi saw his penalty spot kick saved by goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, and the game ended 1-1. Against Croatia, he crumbled with the rest of the team, which now desperately needs to beat Nigeria in the last round of group stage to have a chance of advancing to the next phase. "Messi is human," Aguero said after the Iceland match. "Sometimes things happen for a reason. We need to be with him. This was a bad day, but he can decide a match at any given moment. Hope he is better against Croatia." Croatia was taking note. "You can't stop him with one player, you have to defend like a team. You saw that with Iceland," defender Dejan Lovren said ahead of the Argentina clash late Thursday. Egypt striker Mohamed Salah set a Premier League scoring record for Liverpool and held all the hopes for a deep run by the Pharaohs in their return to the World Cup, until he injured his shoulder playing for Liverpool in the Champions League final in a clash with Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, of Spain. Salah sat out the opening 1-0 loss to Uruguay in Yekaterinburg, with coach Hector Cuper hoping to have him fit for Egypt's second match, against Russia. He made his World Cup debut in St. Petersburg and scored from the penalty spot, but only after the hosts led by three goals, and his mobility was clearly affected. He barely touched the ball in the first half and avoided physical contact with Russian defenders during the entire game, and Egypt was eliminated with one match left to play. Ronaldo isn't entirely alone in starting strong. Diego Costa has three of Spain's four goals, Harry Kane has both of England's, and Luka Modric scored one goal and set up the other in Croatia's 2-0 win over Nigeria. And there's plenty of time for others to turn things around. Kylian Mbappe, the 19-year-old striker at the center of the second-most expensive transfer in history, managed just one chance in France's 2-1 win over Australia in Kazan, but scored Thursday against Peru in front of an empty net. His famous runs and dribbles, however, were blocked by Australia's physical game. It's early, and the tournament has seen plenty of stellar play from lesser-known players, but many of the star scorers have work to do......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 21st, 2018

All those oh, so nears and more for England at World Cup

By Rob Harris, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — They sing of alcohol and agony, and of all those oh, so nears. The anguished English now have another line to add to the lyrics of "Three Lions": Football's not coming home. There was no penalty heartache this time, like in the semifinals at the 1990 World Cup or 1996 European Championship. But a 2-1 loss to Croatia in extra time stopped England from reaching its first World Cup final since 1966. "It hurts a lot," England striker Harry Kane said. "It's going to hurt for a while." The fans sang of 30 years of hurt in 1996. Two years later, they refreshed it to 32. But the Lightning Seeds, an English musical act, stopped producing updates after that. It's now 52 years and counting. England came very close on Wednesday. For more than an hour, Gareth Southgate's young team led Croatia before the weary, aging opposition sprung back into life at the Luzhniki Stadium. Now, on their way to St. Petersburg for a third-place playoff against Belgium, there are just so many agonizing misses to replay in their heads. Kane. Jesse Lingard. Raheem Sterling. Chances to build on the lead secured by Kieran Trippier's free kick in the fifth minute. While Trippier did Bend it like Beckham for his goal, this generation of England players is far removed from the celebrity-obsessed David Beckham-era that straddled the millennium. They even managed to win a game on penalties, breaking the streak of five tournament shootout losses, in the round of 16. "Wasn't to be this time," British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote on Twitter amid the latest Brexit turmoil within her government, "but it's been a great journey that's made the country proud." There is a genuine sense of warmth between this squad and its followers. The apathy of just four years ago — when the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium was more than half empty — replaced by a newfound affection for the national team under Southgate. Fans could relate to players like Kane, Trippier and John Stones, who toiled through lower leagues to eventually reach the pinnacle of the game. The coach even became an unlikely fashion icon. "If we have brought joy back home, which I know we have," Southgate said, "that has been worthwhile." Tens of thousands packed into Hyde Park in central London to watch Wednesday's match, roaring in delight and flinging beer in the air when Trippier scored. Thousands more made the journey from England to Russia, packing into the Luzhniki after shunning the group stage. Even after Mario Mandzukic's 109th-minute goal, a young squad was saluted for exceeding expectations with its deep progress in this year's tournament. "They are still maturing and Croatia have some hardened warriors," Southgate said. "They have broken through a number of barriers over the last few weeks. We have made such strides with our supporters." And still they sang , long after the final whistle as midnight approached, about "drinking all your vodka." There are sorrows to drown, but this was not an embarrassment for England. No need to rip up the script that has seen England recover from the humiliation of being denied a place at the 2008 European Championship by Croatia with a coaching blueprint instilled through all age groups winning titles. Champions last year at both the under-17 and under-20 World Cups, collecting the main prize will have to wait at least until 2022. A timepiece at the national team's St. George's Park base has been counting down to the final in Qatar. It was compared to the Doomsday Clock when new leadership took charge at the Football Association. But Southgate has real optimism that his team can hit its peak in the Gulf in four years — from Kane up front to Jordan Pickford in goal. "It's clear to everyone the progress that's been made in terms of the level of performances and the quality of the group," Southgate said. "This is a thoroughly different journey." English soccer has now had its reset moment. The country came to Russia to regain respect. From the ignominy of the failure to win a game at the 2014 World Cup to the meek collapse against Iceland in the round of 16 at Euro 2016. "This team has taken us to a place that we never thought we would ever have imagined we would get," Gary Neville, England's assistant coach during the Euro 2016 campaign, said on British broadcaster ITV. "They have taken the nation with them." For all the playfulness in practice with rubber chickens, splashing around with unicorns in a pool and the sense this was a group of friends having fun on an extended summer vacation, there was always a steely, winning mindset. There should be tinges of regret about falling short at a World Cup where defending champion Germany was eliminated in the group stage, and Argentina, Brazil and Spain fell before the semifinals. England does not appear in semifinals very often. Southgate was in the last one 22 years ago. A post-match news conference after the loss to Croatia looked like the last place he wanted to be. "I'm trying to get the balance right," Southgate said, "of recognizing that tonight was a wonderful opportunity for us and you can't guarantee that those opportunities will ever come again." Football will come home in two years when Wembley Stadium stages seven games, including the semifinals and final, at the 2020 European Championship. Southgate has to find a way to get his team one step further than in Russia. Without just coming oh, so near......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 12th, 2018

Messi is running out of time to save Argentina’s World Cup

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia --- For Lionel Messi, the time is now. Time to score at the World Cup. Time to save Argentina from another crushing disappointment. Time to live up to his reputation as one of the world's best players. Time to end questions about his performance in the biggest games. One thing there isn't time for is celebration. Messi turned 31 on Sunday, two days before Tuesday's must-win game against Nigeria. Nigeria would advance with a win, and a draw might be enough for the Super Eagles depending on group leader Croatia's result against Iceland. Other stars have come through at this World Cup. Messi's great rival, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, has scored four ...Keep on reading: Messi is running out of time to save Argentina’s World Cup.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 24th, 2018

Atletico holds Real Madrid 1-1 in fight for 2nd place

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the 650th time in his career on Sunday but Antoine Griezmann responded with a goal of his own to leave Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid even in a city derby that allowed Barcelona to move closer to the Spanish league title. Atletico held Madrid 1-1 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to keep a four-point lead over its city rival in the fight for second place. Valencia later defeated Espanyol 1-0 to move past Madrid for third place, and within three points of Atletico. The draw at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium benefited league leader Barcelona, which defeated Leganes 3-1 on Saturday with a hat trick by Lionel Messi to stay 11 points in front of Atletico at the top with seven matches left. Atletico won La Liga in 2013-14 but has finished third behind either Barcelona or Madrid in all other years since 2012-13, which was the team's first full season under coach Diego Simeone. "I'm not happy because we wanted to win, we wanted the three points to try to stay close to Barcelona," Simeone said. "We needed more. Our goal is always to try to do the best we can against the powerhouses of Real Madrid and Barcelona. As an Atletico fan I would have been proud of how we have been competing against them." Madrid hasn't finished worse than second since 2014, when it trailed Atletico and Barcelona. Before then, the last time it failed to finish in the top two was in 2003-04, when it was fourth behind Valencia, Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruna. Ronaldo opened the scoring with his 650th career goal — for clubs and country — early in the second half with a shot from near the far post after a long cross by Gareth Bale from the left flank. Griezmann equalized less than five minutes later with a strike from near the penalty spot after a move started by Vitolo inside the area. "We deserved more, it's a shame," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "But in the end we also could have lost the match. This is how it goes in football." Of Ronaldo's 650 goals, 446 came with Madrid, 118 with Manchester United, 81 with Portugal and five with Sporting Lisbon. Ronaldo has scored 20 goals in his last 10 matches in all competitions, including his acclaimed bicycle kick in the 3-0 first-leg win at Juventus in the Champions League quarterfinals midweek. Zidane rested some of his regular starters ahead of the return leg against Juventus on Wednesday at Bernabeu, including midfielders Luka Modric and Casemiro. Striker Karim Benzema also started from the bench, replacing Ronaldo in the 64th. Atletico hasn't lost at Bernabeu in five seasons now in the Spanish league. Madrid, which had won six in a row, had the most dangerous scoring chances throughout. But the hosts brought out a great performance by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who made one of his best saves on a last-minute free kick taken by Sergio Ramos. "Oblak is a great player, he has been showing it game after game," Zidane said. ___ VALENCIA MOVES UP Rodrigo scored with a close-range header in the seventh minute against Espanyol and Valencia held on for its fifth straight victory. It was the sixth goal in the last five matches for Rodrigo, the Brazilian-born striker who is among Spain's attacking options for the World Cup in Russia. Espanyol, winless in three matches, stayed 14th. ___ HUGE WIN FOR LEVANTE Levante took a big step toward avoiding demotion by defeating Las Palmas 2-1 with an injury-time winner by Jose Campana, opening an eight-point gap to the relegation zone with seven matches left. Las Palmas is in second-to-last place and two points behind Deportivo La Coruna, which on Friday earned its first win in nine matches under coach Clarence Seedorf by defeating last-place Malaga 3-2 at home. Levante opened the scoring at Ciutat de Valencia Stadium with a goal by Jorge "Koke" Andujar in the 35th, but David Garcia equalized in the 50th before Campana calmly found the far corner for the winner in a late breakaway for the hosts. Levante's winner came while the team played with 10 men as Koke was sent off for a hard foul in the 86th. Levante also had Ruben Rochina ejected in the fourth minute of injury time. ___ SOCIEDAD THRASHES GIRONA Mikel Oyarzabal scored twice as Real Sociedad routed Girona 5-0 at home for its first win in four matches. The result moved Sociedad to 12th place. Girona, winless in three matches, is eighth......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 9th, 2018

LOOK: Six must-see matches at 2018 World Cup

By James Ellingworth, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Next year's World Cup sees an old rivalry revived as Spain and Portugal meet in the group stage. Defeat for either 2010 World Cup winner Spain or reigning European champion Portugal means they would need to be careful against fellow Group B nations Morocco and Iran to avoid early elimination. Meanwhile, reigning champion Germany starts its defense against Mexico at Moscow's vast Luzhniki stadium in another centerpiece game. Here are six World Cup group stage games to watch: ___ RUSSIA vs. SAUDI ARABIA June 14, Moscow It may look more like a friendly than a show-stopping World Cup opener, but the first game of the tournament is always special. Ranked 63rd and 65th in the world respectively, the Saudis and Russians are the worst teams in the tournament according to FIFA. At least they're evenly matched, which could make for an exciting spectacle. Saudi Arabia won their only previous meeting 4-2 in a 1993 friendly. ___ PORTUGAL vs. SPAIN June 15, Sochi For many, this will be the game that really kicks off the World Cup in style — Cristiano Ronaldo against Andres Iniesta, the reigning European champion against the 2010 World Cup winner. Spain beat Portugal at the 2010 World Cup, and again in the semifinals of the 2012 European Championship, going on to win the tournament both times. Their World Cup meeting on the Black Sea coast may not be a thriller, though — the 2010 games finished 1-0, and the second was a goalless draw decided on penalties. ___ ICELAND vs. ARGENTINA June 16, Moscow The smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup has a huge reward. Lionel Messi's Argentina risks becoming the latest victim of the Icelanders, who beat England and drew with Portugal at last year's European Championship, winning the hearts of neutral fans across the continent along the way. If Argentina drops points, it will be under more pressure to beat tenacious Croatia and Nigeria in its next games. The stadium in Moscow has a capacity of 45,000 — or more than 10 percent of Iceland's population of around 330,000. If last year is anything to go by, there will be a huge exodus of Icelanders heading to Russia. ___ GERMANY vs. MEXICO June 17, Moscow The title defense begins here for Joachim Loew and Germany. The venue — Moscow's 81,000-capacity Luzhniki — befits a world champion, while Mexico brings quality opponents like forward Javier Hernandez and midfielder Giovani dos Santos. Anything less than a win will be a disappointment for Germany, which beat Mexico 4-1 in the Confederations Cup semifinals in June. Germany showed its immense strength in depth by winning that tournament with an experimental team lacking some of its biggest stars. Sweden and South Korea are on hand in Group F to take advantage of any dropped points. ___ SERBIA vs. SWITZERLAND June 22, Kaliningrad Switzerland is a long way from the Balkans, but there could be a Yugoslavian rivalry in Group E. The Swiss have several players of Kosovan and Albanian heritage in their squad, such as midfielders Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, while the coach is Vladimir Petkovic, who comes from a Bosnian Croat background. That won't escape the attention of the Serbian fans, whose games against other Balkan nations routinely require heavy security because of the region's long-running rivalries between ethnic groups. With Brazil the heavyweight in Group E, both teams will likely fight for second place, with Costa Rica also in the mix. ___ ENGLAND vs. BELGIUM June 28, Kaliningrad It's almost an English Premier League game when England meets Belgium in their final group stage game. England coach Gareth Southgate predicts "banter" at various Premier League clubs, thanks to Belgium's Premier League stars like Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku. Belgium's coach Roberto Martinez is a Premier League fixture too from his time with Everton and Wigan. If both England and Belgium have won their preceding games against Panama and Tunisia, the meeting could lose its edge — but if either team risks elimination it will be a crucial fixture......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 2nd, 2017

A look at the road out of the World Cup’s round of 16

MOSCOW --- No more ties, or tiebreakers. The World Cup is into the knockout stage, and every match will end with someone going home. On Saturday, that meant two of the greatest players of the era followed each other out of the tournament. Lionel Messi and Argentina lost 4-3 to France, which got two goals from teenager Kylian Mbappe. Four hours later, Cristian Ronaldo and his European champion Portugal team lost 2-1 to Uruguay. France and Uruguay were the first teams to reach the quarterfinals, and they'll meet on July 6. On Sunday, for the first time at a World Cup since 1986, two games were decided on penalty shootouts. The net result: Russia and Croatia will meet in a July 7 quart...Keep on reading: A look at the road out of the World Cup’s round of 16.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJul 2nd, 2018

France beats Argentina 4-3, into quarterfinals

Teenager Kylian Mbappe struck twice inside five second-half minutes to ensure France beat Argentina 4-3 and became the first team to qualify for the World Cup quarterfinals. Following an exhilarating display between two former champions, France came from behind to defeat Lionel Messi's Argentina. And Les Bleus owed their triumph to the 19-year-old Mbappe. Always a threat to Argentina with his speed and power, Mbappe was at the heart of France's performance. France took an early lead after Antoine Griezmann broke the deadlock from the penalty spot in the 13th — after Mbappe drew the penalty — with Angel Di Maria leveling the score with a thunder strike just before the interval. Messi set-up a goal for Gabriel Mercado to give Argentina a 2-1 lead just after halftime but Argentina's defense cracked to concede three goals in the space of 11 minutes. Defender Benjamin Pavard equalized with his first international goal, Mbappe then scored with a cool finish from a tight angle and netted again in the 68th with some help from Olivier Giroud. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero pulled one back in the third minute of added time with a header from Messi's pass......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 30th, 2018

Messi, Ronaldo gear up for World Cup knockout phase

  MOSCOW, Russia – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi take center stage as the World Cup shifts into high gear at the weekend with the start of the knockout matches in the loaded top half of the draw.  Football heavyweights France, Argentina, Portugal and Brazil are all clustered in one section ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJun 30th, 2018

Nigeria complains about video review call against Argentina

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — After going out of the World Cup, Nigeria complained about not being awarded a second penalty in a 2-1 defeat to Argentina on Tuesday. There were about 15 minutes of a tense game remaining, and Nigeria was enjoying a strong spell of pressure at St. Petersburg Stadium, when the latest video review talking point of the tournament came. Marcos Rojo was the only Argentina defender in the penalty box, and under pressure from striker Odion Ighalo lurking behind him, when he jumped high to head Ahmed Musa's deflected cross away from danger. He didn't succeed. Instead, the Manchester United defender completely mistimed the header and the ball ended up glancing off his left arm, and then falling invitingly to Ighalo near the penalty spot. Ighalo had lots of time to pick his spot, but blazed the ball wide of the left post. Nigeria's players were sure it was a penalty, however, and Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir — who awarded Nigeria a penalty early in the second half — used video to review this one and stood by his initial decision not to award a spot kick, much to the frustration of Nigeria's players. "I don't understand how that was not a penalty," captain John Obi Mikel said. "It was a clear handball. If you look at this game yesterday against Portugal, this was even worse." Mikel was referring to Iran's late penalty against Portugal in a 1-1 draw on Monday — awarded for a handball after a video review — and he felt Rojo got away with it. Rojo went on to score Argentina's late winner to send his side through, and put Nigeria out. "He (Rojo) had the ball and it hit his hand and it was open. Maybe the referee didn't want to give a second penalty," Mikel said. "For us, we've seen the replay, it was a clear handball. He looked at the VAR, the ball hit the hand." Mikel added: "I asked him for explanation, did the ball hit the hand? He said 'Yes." Why is it not a penalty? He did not know." But video replays suggested that there was no intent from Rojo to move his arm anywhere near the ball, as he was looking in a different direction when he headed it sideways. It thus appeared unintentional as Rojo headed the ball inadvertently down onto his arm. While Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr also believed the penalty should have been awarded, he was more understanding of Cakir's position. "I believe it was a hand," he said. "I didn't see the video. It is difficult for a referee to make a good interpretation." But aside from blaming video review, the Super Eagles may also want to look at their own poor finishing at the end......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 27th, 2018

Messi, Argentina come alive, beat Nigeria 2-1 at World Cup

PETERSBURG, Russia --- Lionel Messi and Argentina finally came alive at the World Cup.   Messi scored an exquisite 14th-minute goal to give the two-time champions the lead Tuesday, but it wasn't until Marcos Rojo's 86th-minute strike that Argentina was assured of a place in the round of 16.   Victor Moses scored a penalty in the 51st minute for Nigeria, putting Argentina in danger of being eliminated without winning a match in Russia.   It took an unlikely goal by Rojo to save Argentina and give it second place in Group D.   Diego Maradona, in the stands at the St. Petersburg Stadium, celebrated both goals wildly.   Argentina wil...Keep on reading: Messi, Argentina come alive, beat Nigeria 2-1 at World Cup.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 26th, 2018

Argentina coach plans major changes to team at World Cup

BRONNITSY, Russia --- Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli is planning major changes to his team for the South Americans' next World Cup match. In the team's first training session since a disappointing 1-1 draw against Iceland, Sampaoli tried a different tactical approach Monday, with an eye toward the clash against Croatia on Thursday. He tested a system with three central defenders: Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi and Nicolas Tagliafico. Mercado was replacing Marcos Rojo, who put in a poor performance against Iceland in a line of four defenders. The other notable change in training was that the coach dropped midfielders Lucas Biglia and Angel Di Maria, who also failed to im...Keep on reading: Argentina coach plans major changes to team at World Cup.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 19th, 2018

Brazil held to 1-1 draw by Switzerland at World Cup

By DEREK GATOPOULOS ,  Associated Press ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Brazil joined the list of big teams struggling to win their opening matches at the World Cup in Russia. The five-time champions were held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland on Sunday, a few hours after four-time champion Germany was beaten by Mexico 1-0. Philippe Coutinho gave Brazil the lead in the 20th minute with a volley that bounced in off the right post. Steven Zuber then headed in the equalizer in the 50th. Mexican referee Cesar Ramos dismissed complaints that Zuber had shoved defender Miranda before getting to the corner from Xherdan Shaqiri. Besides Brazil and Germany, Argentina was held to a 1-1 draw by Iceland on Saturday and Spain and Portugal played to a 3-3 draw on Friday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2018

Israel in uproar over Argentina pre-World Cup friendly snub

By Aron Heller, Associated Press JERUSALEM (AP) — The sports-crazed nation of Israel was in uproar Wednesday over Argentina's abrupt cancellation of a World Cup warmup match following pro-Palestinian protests, with some of the country's leaders accusing Lionel Messi and his teammates of caving to terrorism. Israel was eagerly awaiting the sold-out international friendly scheduled for Saturday night at Jerusalem's Teddy Kollek Stadium and the arrival of some of the world's best players. Argentina is one of the most popular national teams among Israelis and fans had been scrambling to get a chance to see Messi in person. But after a fierce Palestinian campaign, which included images of Argentina's white and sky-blue striped jersey stained with red paint resembling blood and threats to burn Messi posters, Argentina's football federation announced it was skipping the event. Claudio Tapia, president of the Argentine Football Association, apologized for cancelling the match but said the safety of the players was at stake. "What has happened in the last 72 hours, the actions, the threats that have occurred have led us to take the decision not to travel," he said during a news conference in Barcelona, where the Argentine team is training prior to the start of the World Cup next week. "(We) apologize to the Israeli community. It's nothing against the Israeli community, the Jewish community and I would like everyone to take this decision as a contribution to world peace," he said. "In the end, they've done the right thing, and this is behind us," Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain told ESPN. "Health and common sense come first. We felt that it wasn't right to go." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentine President Mauricio Macri and urged him to intervene, to no avail. Later Wednesday, Israel's Sports Ministry said a "negotiation" about the match was underway, perhaps in hopes of salvaging it, but gave no further details. "It's unfortunate the soccer knights of Argentina did not withstand the pressure of the Israeli-hating inciters, whose only goal is to harm our basic right to self-defense and bring about the destruction of Israel," said Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "We will not yield before a pack of anti-Semitic terrorist supporters." The head of the Palestinian football association, Jibril Rajoub, had called on Arab soccer fans to burn Messi posters and T-shirts if he participated. He has long tried to get soccer's world governing body, FIFA, and the International Olympic Committee to impose sanctions against Israel. Rajoub believes Israel should be punished for restricting movement of Palestinian players, and for forming teams in West Bank settlements. Rajoub had also objected to holding the match in Jerusalem, whose eastern sector the Palestinians claim as their capital. Although the Kollek stadium is in west Jerusalem, it is located in a neighborhood built where a Palestinian village once stood before it was destroyed in the war surrounding Israel's independence in 1948. Following the move, he held a press conference in Ramallah featuring a picture of him with Messi and a sign reading: "From Palestine, thank you Messi." Rajoub had accused Israel of playing politics with the game, by moving it from its original location in Haifa to Jerusalem, and by trying to link it to celebrations surrounding Israel's 70th anniversary. He called it a victory for "ethics and values" of sports. "They tried to use sport as a tool for political ends, and for this I think, they failed," Rajoub said. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said it was a sad morning for Israeli sports fans, including his own grandchildren. "But there are values that are greater than even Messi. The politicization of the Argentinean move worries me greatly," he said. Opposition figures, however, accused Israel's headline-seeking sports minister Miri Regev of bringing on the politicization of the sporting event by insisting on moving the game from Haifa to contested Jerusalem and by trying to orchestrate a politicized photo-op with Messi. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognized. Israel considers the entire city to be its capital, while the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Regev rejected the backlash at a press conference Wednesday evening saying "there is no bigger lie" than claims her decision to hold the match in Jerusalem aided in its cancellation. She said the Argentinians had not objected and that Messi himself had wanted to visit sacred Christian and Jewish sites in the holy city. Regev said the match was canceled following "threats by terror elements sent to Messi and his family and to other players." Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called the snub a "spectacular own goal" by Regev that delivered victory to boycotters of the Jewish State. Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay called for a police investigation into Regev's "corrupt conduct." "We just absorbed a shot in the face. This is not just sports," he tweeted. "This, unfortunately, could start an international tsunami." Regev claimed that "terrorist" groups had made threats against Argentina's players and their families, sending them images of dead children, though she gave no further evidence. She accused members of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, of backing the boycott advocates. "Unfortunately, we have Trojan Horses in the Knesset who give headwind to terrorism," she said. The Palestinian militant Islamic group Hamas praised Argentina for canceling the game. Spokesman Husam Badran said Hamas "applauds" the move and reiterated its position that rejects "all forms of normalization" with the Jewish state. A senior official at the Argentine Football Federation said the national team decided to call off the match with Israel after receiving threats from Hamas. The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns, did not provide evidence or details of the alleged threats. A Hamas official mocked reports that the group had threatened the players, calling them unrealistic, and saying they don't deserve a comment. The Hamas official was not authorized to comment in the issue and also spoke on condition of anonymity. Hamas is sworn to Israel's destruction and has ruled Gaza with an iron fist since it took over the territory in 2007. Israel and the United States consider it a terror organization for its bombings, shooting and rocket attacks targeting civilians. Israel has largely fended off the boycott campaign with only a small number of artists and organizations shunning the country. Argentina's snubbing would appear to be the boycott movement's greatest achievement thus far. The grassroots movement advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel in what supporters say is a way to promote Palestinian rights through nonviolent means. Israel says the campaign goes beyond Israeli occupation of lands claimed by the Palestinians and masks a deeper aim of delegitimizing or even destroying the country. It has formed a government ministry whose primary mission is to combat the boycott movement. The Argentinean move, which featured on the front pages of all the major Israeli dailies, raised fears that it could serve as a template for future boycotts of Jerusalem, most notably next year's scheduled hosting of the popular Eurovision song contest. The Palestinians celebrated the cancellation as a major triumph. Israeli organizers said an offer had been floated to have the game played in Barcelona instead, but it was highly unlikely. "I think sports should never be involved with politics," said Shahaf Ashraga, a fan in Jerusalem. "It just makes me sad to think that the game has to be canceled because of the Palestinian pressure." Argentina opens its Group D campaign in Russia against Iceland on June 16. It then plays Croatia on June 21 and Nigeria on June 26. It is unclear whether Argentina will play another warmup, or if it will arrive in Moscow ahead of schedule. ___ Associated Press writers Debora Rey and Victor Caivano in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 7th, 2018

Icardi left out of Argentina s World Cup squad

By Debora Rey, Associated Press BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Serie A co-top-scorer Mauro Icardi was left out of Argentina's World Cup squad on Monday. Icardi, also the Inter Milan captain, was the most notable absentee from coach Jorge Sampaoli's 23-man list. Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, who has not played since March and is recovering from a knee operation, was picked. Sampaoli said in a news conference his choices were based on "players that can do many functions to give us different characteristics." "Those players in the final list are closer to the idea we are implementing. They are closer to the opposition's goal line than to their own." Icardi was part of Sampaoli's preliminary list of 35 players announced on May 14. He scored 29 goals in Serie A, one of them on Sunday when Inter secured a spot in the Champions League for the first time since 2012. Aguero had a great season with English Premier League champion City, scoring 31 times until he was injured. It is still uncertain when he will be back in action. Also injured, defender Gabriel Mercado and midfielder Lucas Biglia were in the squad. Mercado's injury opened a door for Torino left back Cristian Ansaldi, who can also play on the right. Asked about the risks of taking recovering players to the World Cup, Sampaoli said he will take full responsibility for his choices. "We need to face the World Cup without fear," he said. "In this list there are players with a lot of skill. The ones that understand our game better will be closer to being starters." Argentina is grouped in Russia with Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria. ___ Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Wilfredo Caballero (Chelsea), Franco Armani (River Plate). Defenders: Cristian Ansaldi (Torino), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune), Federico Fazio (Roma), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Marcos Acuna ( Sporting Lisbon), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax). Midfielders: Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Lucas Biglia (Milan), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica). Strikers: Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2018

Madrid draws at Villarreal 2-2 before Champions League final

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid showed Liverpool its strengths and weaknesses a week before their Champions League final. Madrid squandered first-half goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in drawing at Villarreal 2-2 on Saturday in its last match before attempting to win Europe's most coveted trophy for a third year in a row. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane aligned what could be his starting 11 for the final against Liverpool, except for giving 20-year-old son Luca Zidane his competitive debut in goal. Zidane left striker Karim Benzema on his bench in favor of starting Ronaldo and Bale alone up front and playing Francisco "Isco" Alarcon along with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos as playmakers in front of holding midfielder Casemiro. Madrid showed the same dominant form that has taken it to another Champions League final in the first half at Villarreal. But after Ronaldo and Modric were replaced by Benzema and Lucas Vazquez with half an hour remaining, Zidane's bunch displayed the same complacency and faulty defending that scuttled its Liga title defense months ago. The draw in the final round meant Madrid finished the Spanish league in third place behind Atletico Madrid and champion Barcelona. Bale opened the scoring with a solo effort in the 11th minute, and Ronaldo headed in a superb cross by Marcelo just after the half-hour mark. Fifth-place Villarreal outplayed the visitors in the second half and leveled through goals by substitutes Roger Martinez in the 70th and Samuel Castillejo in the 85th. "We played a very, very good first half, with determination, scoring goals, but the second half was the exact opposite," Zidane said. "The important thing is that we didn't have any injuries and can now rest well for next weekend. We are only thinking about winning the final." Bale, who struggled for most of the season to make Zidane's first-choice 11, has finished the season strong and appears to have earned a spot in the Champions League final. His opener against Villarreal, created when he let Modric's pass run through as he spun around his marker, was his 14th goal in the last 10 rounds. "Gareth has never given up," Zidane said. "He has trained well. Nothing has changed. The only difference is that now he is scoring." Ronaldo's goal was his 26th in the league. Barcelona's Lionel Messi leads the competition with 34. Castillejo snatched the draw after he raced behind Marcelo to receive a lobbed pass from Rodrigo Hernandez. Luca Zidane, who normally plays for Madrid's reserve team in the third divison, stopped his initial chipped shot but Castillejo slotted the rebound into the open net. Saudi Arabia midfielder Salem Al Dawsari made his Liga debut as a second-half substitute for Villarreal. ASPAS MAKES HIS CASE Iago Aspas made the most of his last chance to show Spain coach Julen Lopetegui that he deserves a spot on his World Cup squad. The striker scored twice to lead Celta Vigo's 4-2 win over Levante, taking his season tally for the league to 22, the most by a Spanish player. Aspas was regularly chosen by Lopetegui during World Cup qualifying. Celta announced after the match that coach Juan Carlos Unzue will leave the club and break his contract by mutual agreement. OTHER RESULTS Uruguay striker Christian Stuani scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season to lead Girona's 2-1 win at Las Palmas. Leganes fought back while playing with 10 men for over an hour to beat Real Betis 3-2 in a farewell of coach Asier Garitano, who won't stay on after a good season for the modest Madrid club. Wissam Ben Yedder gave Sevilla a 1-0 win over Alaves, and Loic Remy converted a penalty for Getafe to beat Malaga 1-0......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2018

Injured Aguero and Biglia in Argentina World Cup squad

By Debora Rey, Associated Press BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Injured striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Lucas Biglia were included in the preliminary, 35-player Argentina squad for the World Cup in Russia on Monday. Also, four players with few or no games for the national team were picked. The final 23-man squad will be announced next Monday. Aguero has not played for Manchester City since March because of a left knee injury and had surgery in April. Biglia broke two vertebrae in April, missed three AC Milan games, and was injured again on Sunday after an Atalanta player hit him in the operated area. Coach Jorge Sampaoli considers Aguero and Biglia as likely starters in the World Cup for the opening match against Iceland in Moscow on June 16. The two will be closely followed when the squad gathers. Lionel Messi, the captain, was confirmed to play his fourth World Cup. Aguero's likely replacement is Gonzalo Higuain, but the Juventus scorer has not showed the same efficiency for Argentina. Inter Milan top scorer and captain Mauro Icardi and Racing's Lautaro Martinez were also picked. Striker Paulo Dybala, also of Juventus, was included despite recently saying it was difficult to play with Messi. Rodrigo Battaglia of Sporting Lisbon, yet to be capped, and Guido Pizarro of Sevilla were possible substitutes in case Biglia does not fly to Russia. River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani, a fan favorite, convinced Sampaoli and was included. Manchester United's Sergio Romero, a starter in the two last World Cups, has not played much in England. Racing midfielder Ricardo Centurion has been called as a possible substitute for Angel Di Maria because of his speed. Torino defender Cristian Ansaldi received a spot after Sevilla's Gabriel Mercado was injured. Mercado will be evaluated by Argentina doctors. Nine of Sampaoli's squad reached the 2014 World Cup final won by Germany: Messi, Romero, Rojo, Biglia, Mascherano, Perez, Aguero, Di Maria, and Higuain. Argentina is in Group D with Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia. ___ Argentina Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Wilfredo Caballero (Chelsea), Nahuel Guzman (Tigres), Franco Armani (River Plate). Defenders: Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Federico Fazio (Roma), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon) Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Cristian Ansaldi (Torino). Midfielders: Angel Di Maria, Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Leandro Paredes (Zenit St. Petersburg), Diego Perotti (Roma), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente), Enzo Perez (River Plate), Ricardo Centurion (Racing), Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Guido Pizarro (Sevilla), Rodrigo Battaglia (Sporting Lisbon), Cristian Pavon and Pablo Perez (Boca Juniors). Strikers: Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Lautaro Martinez (Racing), Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2018

Madrid wins with Ronaldo rested for Champions League semis

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid rested Cristiano Ronaldo and other regulars for the Champions League and still got the win it needed to stay in contention for second place in the Spanish league. Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral scored first-half goals as Madrid defeated Leganes 2-1 on Saturday to move within a point of second-place Atletico Madrid, which plays at Alaves on Sunday. Ronaldo and captain Sergio Ramos weren't included for the match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, while Marcelo, Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez stayed on the bench. Madrid defeated Bayern Munich 2-1 in Germany last week to take the edge going into Tuesday's second leg of the Champions League semifinals at the Bernabeu. Madrid is trying to return to the European final for the fourth time in five seasons. Bale and Karim Benzema, who didn't start in the first leg against Bayern, were in the lineup against Leganes. Casemiro was the only player to start in both matches. "I'm happy with the attitude of my players, it was exemplary," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "The first half was phenomenal." Darko Brasanac scored midway through the second half for Leganes, which earlier this season eliminated Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. The southern Madrid club dropped to 16th in the 20-team standings and is not fully clear of relegation with three matches left. Leganes midfielder Gabriel Pires was sent off in injury time. Barcelona needs a draw at relegation-threatened Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday to win its third La Liga in four seasons. "We can't be happy with how things unfolded in La Liga," Zidane said. "We lost too many points in the beginning." Madrid has a game in hand, at Sevilla. Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella was fired on Saturday because of poor results, and replaced by Joaquin Caparros, who coached the team in the early 2000s. VILLARREAL WINS Villarreal strengthened its grip on sixth place and a Europa League spot by defeating Celta Vigo 4-1 at home thanks to a first-half hat trick by Carlos Bacca. The win gave Villarreal a six-point gap to seventh-place Sevilla, which holds the final Europa berth. Villarreal is two points behind fifth-place Real Betis, which hosts last-place Malaga on Monday. Villarreal has a game in hand, at Barcelona. BASQUE DERBY Real Sociedad defeated Basque Country rival Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to keep alive its chances of earning a Europa League spot. The host took advantage of two own-goals by Athletic defender Mikel San Jose. Mikel Oyarzabal also scored for Sociedad, while Raul Garcia put Athletic on the board by converting a second-half penalty kick when his team already trailed by three goals. Sociedad midfielder Ruben Pardo was sent off near the end only a few minutes after being substituted in. Sociedad moved to 10th place, two points from Sevilla in the Europa League qualification zone. ESPANYOL DRAWS Espanyol was unable to secure its salvation after being held at home by already relegated Las Palmas 1-1. A victory would have been enough for Espanyol to stay in the first division, but it needs to hope Deportivo La Coruna loses points against leader Barcelona at home on Sunday to be able to guarantee its salvation this weekend. Espanyol is 12 points in front of Clarence Seedorf's Deportivo, the first team inside the relegation zone. There will be three rounds left after this weekend. Espanyol is winless in seven games and had lost four in a row entering the weekend......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Argentina s destiny tied to Messi

By Debora Rey, Associated Press BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Without Lionel Messi, would Argentina even be going to the World Cup? The team’s destiny is more closely tied to the Barcelona forward than ever before. There are plenty of doubts for coach Jorge Sampaoli ahead of the tournament in Russia. Defender Javier Mascherano is reaching the end of his career, while striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Lucas Biglia both experienced injury problems recently. Paulo Dybala is yet to deliver for his country despite all the promise on display at Juventus. Much of the squad also carries the burden of mass disappointment, following three successive losses in finals: the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America Centenario. Argentina secured its spot in Russia in the last round of South American qualifiers thanks to Messi’s hat trick against Ecuador. The deficiencies in the team were underscored in a 6-1 loss to Spain in a friendly in March. Here’s a closer look at the Argentina team: COACH The 58-year-old Sampaoli took over in June 2017 to replace Edgardo Bauza when Argentina was on the verge of missing a World Cup spot. Sampaoli was never a footballer and didn’t manage a first division club at home, developing his career in Peru and then Chile. His success at Universidad de Chile pushed him to the Chilean national team in 2012. At the 2014 World Cup, Sampaoli’s Chile reached the round of 16 but lost to host Brazil on penalties. But a year later, Chile won its first-ever title while hosting the Copa America. Sampaoli’s first experience in European football came with Sevilla in 2016, but he quickly left to carry Argentina to the World Cup in its last four games of the South American qualifiers. Drawing inspiration from Marcelo Bielsa, Sampaoli likes his teams to attack as a block to impose their superiority. But Argentina is still to implement his style after 10 matches. GOALKEEPERS Sergio Romero was set to be Argentina’s No. 1 in his third World Cup. But River Plate’s Franco Armani has become a competitor. Although Romero has World Cup experience, being David de Gea’s understudy at Manchester United hasn’t given him much playing time. Armani has not played for Argentina, but is now a people’s favorite at home. The team’s other options are Nahuel Guzman (Tigres, Mexico) and Wilfredo Caballero (Chelsea). DEFENDERS Manchester City center back Nicolas Otamendi is the only player assured of a spot in the backline, with a likely partner in Roma’s Federico Fazio. Marcos Rojo (Manchester United) and Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton) are still improving after being sidelined with knee injuries. Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla) and Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisboa) are ahead in the preferences to be on the right and left flanks, respectively, with Fabricio Bustos (Independiente) and Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax) behind. MIDFIELDERS Until the dismal loss to Spain, Sampaoli’s preferred option in the center was Lucas Biglia, but the AC Milan player will be racing to be fit for the World Cup after injuring his back. Biglia’s injury raises the stakes for veteran Javier Mascherano, who will go to his fourth World Cup at the age of 33. The lack of better options should present opportunities to Ever Banega (Sevilla) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham). Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente) and Matias Kranevitter (Zenit) could also feature. FORWARDS Expect Messi and Angel Di Maria to make the team sheet. Aguero is expected to be center forward, but Sampaoli has to consider other options since the Manchester City forward injured his knee. Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain is an option, but he was wasteful in the three finals Argentina lost. Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi could make it to the squad due to the doubts over Aguero. Juventus’ Dybala has never recovered from saying it was hard for him to play with the best player in the world. Sampaoli now considers him as a natural replacement for Messi or a potential No. 9. GROUP GAMES Based in the Moscow region, Argentina opens its Group D campaign in the capital against Iceland on June 16. Then there’s a trip to Nizhny Novgorod to play Croatia on June 21, followed by a meeting with Nigeria in St. Petersburg on June 26......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 2018