football Slides Sports News

Argentina qualify for World Cup after CONMEBOL rivals stumble

Argentina qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, despite playing out a goalless draw with CONMEBOL rivals Brazil.

Lionel Messi returned to the line-up but he was unable to inspire Argentina, who played out a stalemate against Qatar-bound Brazil in San Juan on Tuesday.

That underwhelming performance left Copa America champions Argentina waiting to discover their World Cup fate.

Argentina only had to wait less than an hour as 10-man Chile lost 2-0 at home to Ecuador, sealing La Albiceleste’s qualification after Colombia and Uruguay also failed to win.

Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina – riding a 27-game unbeaten streak – are second in the CONMEBOL standings with five matches remaining, six points behind leaders Brazil and six clear of third-placed Ecuador.

Argentina and Brazil have both played a game less following September’s qualifier in Sao Paulo, which was sensationally abandoned after Scaloni’s men left the field as Brazilian health officials tried to detain visiting players due to coronavirus regulations.

Having ended their 28-year wait for silverware via July’s Copa America, Messi’s Argentina will now look to conquer the World Cup.

Two-time champions Argentina – eliminated in the round of 16 at Russia 2018 – have not won the World Cup since Diego Maradona inspired the country to 1986 glory, though they reached the final in 2014.

football Slides Sports News


Peru missed a second-half penalty in a 1-0 loss to Argentina in Buenos Aires on Thursday, delivering another blow to their hopes of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Trailing to a first-half goal from Lautaro Martinez, Peru had a golden opportunity to level the score when substitute Jefferson Farfan was brought down in the box 19 minutes into the second half as he attempted to round keeper Emiliano Martinez.

However, Yoshimar Yotun’s penalty clipped the bar as the visitors fell to a seventh defeat in 12 qualifiers.

“Those that take penalties are the great players and the rest is luck,” said Argentine goalkeeper Martinez.

The win saw Lionel Scaloni’s side move on to 25 points, three behind leaders Brazil, who are playing Uruguay on Thursday. The top four qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 and the fifth-placed side goes into an inter-regional playoff.

Argentina’s Christian Romero had a headed goal disallowed for offside after 10 minutes and Angel Di Maria missed two good chances while Peru’s Gianluca Lapadula squandered an excellent opportunity after skilfully chesting down a cross just metres from goal.

Argentina deservedly took the lead three minutes from half-time when Martinez glanced a header into the roof of the net.

Peru fought valiantly in the second half but there was no way back after the penalty miss and Argentina had a second goal from Guido Rodriguez ruled out two minutes from time.

football Sports News


Argentina have called up three Premier League players for World Cup qualifiers in October, despite the country remaining on the United Kingdom’s travel red list.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero have been included in a 30-man squad for games against Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru between October 8 and 15.

Most English clubs refused to release players called up by South American countries for qualifiers staged earlier this month.

Argentine nationals no longer need to quarantine after travelling to their home country from overseas, if they are vaccinated and test negative for coronavirus.

But anyone arriving in the UK from Argentina must quarantine for 10 days.

Villa and Tottenham each have top-flight fixtures the weekend after the international break.

Dean Smith’s men are due to host local rivals Wolves on Saturday October 16, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s Spurs scheduled to play at Newcastle the following day.

Last month, the Premier League released a statement declaring clubs had “reluctantly but unanimously” decided not to release players for matches in red-list countries during the international break in September.

But Martinez, Villa team-mate Emiliano Buendia, Lo Celso and Romero were permitted to join up with their national team.

That led to farcical scenes during Argentina’s qualifier with Brazil in Sao Paulo as local health officials came on to the pitch to say the four England-based players were required to quarantine, leading to the game being abandoned after five minutes.

The quartet returned to the UK via Croatia to avoid having to quarantine.

football Slides Sports News


Lionel Messi has scored his 79th international career goal for Argentina, surpassing the South American men’s record held by Brazil legend Pele.

Messi scored all three goals in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Bolivia on Thursday in a World Cup qualifying match at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, giving him two more than Pele, who had 77 career goals in international play.

Messi trails Brazilian duo Marta (109) and Cristiane (96) for the overall record for most goals scored by any South American player at the international level.

Third on the men’s list is Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar, who has 69 international goals for Brazil.

“I was very nervous, I just wanted to enjoy the night. I waited a long time for this,” an emotional Messi said after the match. “We won the game that was the most important thing and now we can celebrate.”

Three-time World Cup winner Pele remains in hospital due to surgery for a tumor on his colon on Monday, although the 80-year-old said the operation was a “great victory.”

Messi, 34, has had a memorable summer — changing clubs from Barcelona to PSG in August and winning his first senior international football title in July. He and La Albiceleste claimed the Copa America from Brazil in a 1-0 win at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.

After Thursday’s result, Messi danced with his teammates and showed off the Copa trophy to the 21,000 supporters present.

“It was a unique moment [to win the Copa America] because of where and how we obtained the title,” Messi said.

“There was no better way to do it and been able to celebrate the title now, it’s incredible. My mother, my brothers are here in the stands. They have suffered a lot … I’m very happy.”

Thursday’s game also came days after Argentina’s World Cup qualifying match against Brazil — their first rematch since the Copa final — was controversially suspended. Brazilian health authorities entered the pitch at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena with the game in progress and accused four Argentina players of failing to follow Brazil’s COVID-19 protocols for entering the country.

With 26 goals in World Cup qualifying matches following his hat-trick against Bolivia, Messi also passes Uruguay star Luis Suarez — his former teammate at Barcelona — for most among CONMEBOL players.

With eight career goals vs. Bolivia in 11 games, it is Messi’s most goals against a single opponent while donning the Argentina shirt.

Messi is also his country’s all-time leading scorer, having moved past Gabriel Batistuta (54 goals) in 2016. He is also Argentina’s most capped player, with Thursday’s match against Bolivia marking his 153rd international appearance.

Prior to the Copa America victory, Messi had lost four major finals with Argentina’s senior side. They were beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and had lost in the final at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016.

He had won the under-20 World Cup in 2005 and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina’s U23s in 2008.

Messi joined PSG over the summer on a shock free-agent move after two decades with Barcelona. Messi had been with Barcelona since 2001, joining the academy the year before.

Messi played 778 games at Barcelona, breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record in the 2020-21 season. In addition, he scored 672 goals, another club record, and helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.

football Slides Sports News


World football’s governing body FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings into Sunday’s Brazil v Argentina World Cup qualifier which was abandoned after five minutes due to intervention by health officials.

Brazilian health authorities invaded the pitch to stop the game after accusing four of Argentina’s English Premier League players of violating the country’s COVID-19 quarantine rules.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham Hotspur duo Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso were on the Neo Quimica Arena field as part of Argentina’s team when officials from Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa halted the match.

“Following the analysis of the official match reports related to the FIFA World Cup qualifier match between Brazil and Argentina, FIFA can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened involving both member associations,” FIFA said in a statement.

“The two teams were asked to provide further information on the facts that led to the suspension of the match, which will be gathered and then thoroughly reviewed by FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee.”

Anvisa said Brazilian rules make clear that travellers who have been in the UK, South Africa or India during the previous 14 days are forbidden from entering the country unless they are Brazilian citizens or have permanent residency.

It said Argentine players had made false statements about their previous whereabouts on immigration forms. Brazil’s Federal Police said on Monday they had opened a formal inquiry into the actions of the Argentine players who, a spokesperson said, were deported.

Argentina’s Aston Villa midfielder Emiliano Buendia had also traveled from the UK and was in the stands.

football Slides Sports News


A World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina was suspended after Brazilian health officials objected to the participation of three Argentine players they say broke quarantine rules.

Just minutes after kickoff on Sunday at Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo, officials entered the pitch to stop the game, prompting players from Argentina to walk off the pitch.

“The referee and the match official will take a report to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and they will decide what steps to take,” said a statement issued by CONMEBOL.

In a subsequent statement, FIFA said it “confirm that following a decision by the match officials, the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying match Brazil vs. Argentina has been suspended. Further details will follow in due course.”

The players went to the dressing room, although the two coaches, along with Argentina captain Lionel Messi and Brazilian players, gathered at the side of the pitch a few moments later to discuss the stoppage.

“Why did they start the game and stop it after five minutes?” Messi said in comments heard on television. “We’ve been here at the stadium for an hour, they could have told us.”

Messi then returned to the dressing room, and at 5 p.m. local time, an hour after the game kicked off, the match was officially suspended.

Brazilian Football Confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues said he was “indignant” with the scenes that reverberated around the football world.

He criticised Brazilian health regulator Anvisa and said officials told him the Argentines who breached the country’s COVID-19 rules could have been deported after the game.

“I feel sorry for all the sports fans who wanted to watch the game on television,” he told Brazil’s Sportv. “With all due respect to Anvisa, they could have resolved this earlier and not waited for the game to start.”

Argentina’s FA expressed its “discomfort” over the situation, adding that “football should not have to go through these type of incidents that go against the sporting spirit of such an important competition.”

A shellshocked Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni agreed.

“It makes me so sad, I am not looking for guilty parties, whatever happened or didn’t happen, this wasn’t the time to do it,” he told Argentine broadcaster TyC Sports.

“We wanted to enjoy a game between the best in the world and it ends up like this.”

“As a coach I am going to defend my players. If people come and say we want to take this guy or deport this guy there was no chance of that,” he said. “Because at no time were we told we couldn’t play the game.”

The incident occurred just hours after Brazil’s health regulator, Anvisa, said four Argentine players must isolate and could not play in the match. The four Argentine players — Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez of Aston Villa, and Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham Hotspur — play in England’s Premier League.

Under Brazilian rules, visitors who have been in the U.K. in the 14 days before entering the country must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Anvisa was tipped off that the four did not state that information on their immigration forms, and on Sunday said they confirmed the details given were “false.”

“Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil,” Anvisa said in a statement.

Nevertheless, no action was taken and the four players were allowed to travel with the Argentine team from the hotel to the stadium. Martinez, Lo Celso and Romero were in the starting lineup.

The confusion comes amid continuing anger in South America over rules that have disallowed several teams from using key players for this month’s three World Cup qualifiers.

Brazil are without nine key men for the Argentina game, and other South American sides have also lost players due to a decision by some European clubs not to let their players travel to the continent.

They would have to quarantine on return, and the clubs do not want to lose their players for subsequent league games.

Aston Villa said Buendia and Martinez had agreed to return to their club after the Brazil game and will miss Argentina’s game against Bolivia on Tuesday. Martinez and Romero had also played in Argentina’s 3-1 win over Venezuela last week.

Brazil currently lead the South American qualifying group for Qatar 2022, six points ahead of second-place Argentina. The top four qualify automatically for Qatar.

football Slides Sports News


An emotional Lionel Messi sank to his knees before being mobbed by his teammates as Argentina ended their long wait for a major title by beating Brazil in the Copa America final.

After losing four Copa America finals since their last triumph in South America’s showpiece tournament – including three finals involving Messi – Argentina were finally crowned continental champions as Angel Di Maria’s wonderful first-half lob was enough to give them a 1-0 victory over Brazil at the Maracana.

Argentina captain Messi had a quiet game by his lofty standards and missed a late chance to wrap up the game, but dropped to his knees on the final whistle before being smothered by his teammates.

The title is Argentina’s first since their Copa America triumph in 1993 and their 15th Copa America in total – a joint record with Uruguay.

La Abliceleste lost back-to-back finals against Chile on penalties in 2015 and 2016 as well as suffering defeats against Brazil in 2004 and 2007, but now finally have their hands on the famous old trophy again.

Argentina’s title in front of empty stands at the Maracana caps a controversial tournament which was moved to Brazil after initial co-hosts Argentina and Colombia were stripped of the hosting rights due to the Covid-19 situation and political unrest respectively.

Brazil was a contentious choice considering the nation’s own coronavirus and political turmoil, but the event went ahead despite widespread protest and reported doubts among the Brazilian players themselves.

The hosts were ultimately unable to defend their title, despite piling on the pressure in the second half and ending with five strikers on the pitch.

Messi had a subdued game by his stellar standards, although Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni later revealed that the star had been playing with a hamstring problem in the semi-final and final.

Messi still ended the competition with four goals and five assists and was named joint player of the tournament with Brazilian ace Neymar.

Many tipped Messi to be well on the way to a seventh Ballon d’Or accolade now that he had ended his lengthy wait for a senior title with Argentina, having previously won the U-20 World Cup and Olympics.

“This is a very big title,” said Argentina coach Scaloni. “I hope that Argentines can enjoy it. The fans love the team unconditionally and I think they identify with this side that never drops its guard.”

The scenes back in Buenos Aires suggested fans would revel in the triumph as they filled the streets in celebration, while there were also joyous scenes back in Barcelona.

Messi meanwhile was seen sharing a videocall with his family on the Maracana pitch and was also pictured deep in conversation with former Barcelona teammate Neymar at the final whistle.

Attention will now to turn to Messi’s club future after he officially became a free agent when his contract with the Catalan club ended last month.

All the signs are that Messi, 34, will re-sign with the Catalans, although they will need to get their finances in order first.

Should he rejoin Barcelona as expected, Messi will finally do so as a Copa America champion.

football Slides Sports News


It will be Lionel Messi’s Argentina against Neymar’s Brazil in the Copa America final on Saturday.

Argentina won its semifinal against Colombia 3-2 on penalties after three saves by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. Regular time ended 1-1 at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia on Tuesday.

Argentina hasn’t captured a major title since 1993 when it won Copa America. On that occasion, the team eliminated Colombia on penalties 6-5 in the semifinal after a goalless draw.

Brazil beat Peru 1-0 on Monday to advance to the final.

It took Argentina only seven minutes to open the scoring. Rodrigo De Paul found Messi in the penalty box with a through pass. The star earned his fifth assist in the tournament with a pass to Lautaro Martinez, who put the ball in the right corner past Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina.

A more aggressive Colombia, led by Juan Cuadrado, hit the bar and the post in the second half before it leveled in the 61st minute with Luis Diaz, who received the ball on the left of Argentina’s box shot almost with no angle to beat Martinez.

The last big opportunity in regular time came with Messi hitting Ospina’s right post in 81st minute from short range.

Martinez saved the shots taken by Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona in the shootout. Messi converted his opportunity from the spot and was one of the most joyous players in the celebrations. He seeks his first major title with Argentina against favorites Brazil.

In tears, Martinez said after the match he wanted to face the Brazilians in the final in the Maracana Stadium.

“It is a great team, the favorite. But we have a great coach, we have the best player in the world and we will try to win it,” he said.

football Slides Sports News


Lionel Messi scored a free kick and served up two assists as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 on Saturday to set themselves up for a Copa America semifinal against Colombia.

Messi missed a golden chance in the first half but set up Rodrigo De Paul five minutes before half-time and then did the same for Lautaro Martinez five minutes from the end to give Argentina a deserved victory.

The Barcelona player then got his second free kick off the tournament in stoppage time to round out a scoreline that was more convincing than the performance.

It was his 76th goal for Argentina, taking him to within one of Pele’s South American record.

“I’ve always said that individual prizes are secondary, we’re here for something else,” Messi said. “We have an objective and we’re focused on that.”

“It was a hard match, we know how difficult an opponent they can be. The important thing is we’ve taken another step forward.”

Argentina were unbeaten in 17 games coming into the game and they should have put the result beyond doubt earlier than they did.

Martinez and German Pezzella both came close in the opening 20 minutes and Hernan Galindez made one superb double save from Nicolas Gonzalez with the score at 1-0.

More surprisingly, Messi missed the best chance of the game when he was through on the keeper but saw his shot come back off the post.

However, the diminutive striker made up for it five minutes before half-time when, with the Ecuadoran goalkeeper stranded after making a tackle outside the box, he fed De Paul, who stroked the ball into the net for his first international goal in 25 appearances.

Messi then set up Martinez to finish clinically five minutes from the end, before stepping up himself to curl home a free kick in stoppage time, after Piero Hincapie hauled down Angel Di Maria and was shown a red card.

Underdogs Ecuador came into the match without a win in their last six games but they had chances to score against a team seeking their first Copa America triumph since 1993.

Enner Valencia in particular will be angry at himself for sending two glancing headers wide from close in during the first 45 minutes.

The result means Argentina will face Colombia, who overcame Uruguay on penalties earlier in the day, in the second Copa America semifinal on Tuesday.

Brazil play Peru in the first semifinal 24 hours before.

football Slides Sports News


Lionel Messi scored twice in Argentina’s Copa America win over Bolivia to move into the top 10 men’s international goalscorers.

The 34-year-old’s achievement follows his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo matching Ali Daei’s all-time record last week, scoring five in Portugal’s Euro 2020 campaign.

Messi’s historic goal came in trademark fashion, a delicious 20-yard left-footed lob from Sergio Aguero’s lofted through-ball.

He had earlier netted a penalty, meaning his second goal of the game was his 75th in international football, moving him into a four-way tie for ninth place on the list – alongside Hungary great Sandor Kocsis, Japan’s Kunishige Kamamoto and Bashar Abdullah of Kuwait.

Messi has played more games than any of that trio – indeed, the goal was his second statistical achievement of the evening as he also became Argentina’s most-capped player with 148 appearances.

He has a long way to go to catch Ronaldo, who has 109 goals and counting to tie the record set by former Iran striker Daei.

The pair are 20 clear of ex-Malaysia striker Mohamed Mokhtar Dahari, with Ferenc Puskas – a long-time colleague of Kocsis in the ‘Magical Magyars’ team of the 1950s – fourth on 84 goals.

Godfrey Chitalu scored 79 for Zambia and Hussain Saeed Mohammed 78 for Iraq, leaving the pair just ahead of Brazil great Pele.

Current United Arab Emirates striker Ali Mabhkout has 76, edging him ahead of Kocsis, Kamamoto, Abdullah and Messi.