Connect with us

Sports

Messi, Argentina on brink at World Cup

Published

on



DOHA:

It was not supposed to be this way. Before the World Cup started, hopes were high in Argentina that Lionel Messi was set for a glorious swansong.

The diminutive superstar with magic in his boots insisted he was in fine shape physically ahead of what he suggested would be his final tilt at World Cup success.

Advertisement

After winning La Liga 10 times, the Ballon d’Or seven times, the Champions League four times and the Copa America once, this trophy is all that is missing from Messi’s massive collection of personal and collective accolades.

Argentina came into the tournament on a remarkable 36-match unbeaten streak having stunned bitter rivals Brazil in their own back yard to win last year’s Copa America.

Pundits and fans the world over were proclaiming Argentina one of — if not the — favourites.

Argentines were allowing themselves to dream: one of the greatest players the world has ever seen was about to lift football’s greatest prize.

But Tuesday’s shock 2-1 defeat to a tactically superior and more athletic Saudi Arabia has brought them back down to earth with a bump.

Advertisement

The realisation is that far from coating an already delicious cake with icing, Messi’s World Cup story may just be about to end in ignominious fashion.

The autopsy has already begun in Argentina.

Football pundits and fans alike are speculating whether or not the ‘Pibe’ was truly fit.

He had sat out a couple of group training sessions, following his own personal programme apart, because of a knock on his calf.

A picture went viral on social media of his apparently deformed ankle — although he was merely wearing an ice pack.

Advertisement

Fingers were even pointed at his club Paris Saint-Germain, seemingly for daring to play him week in, week out rather than wrap him in cotton wool so he could arrive at the World Cup in the best possible shape to help his country.

Coach Lionel Scaloni also came under fire for his perceived inability to spring the Saudis’ high defensive line as his side were caught offside seven times in the first half.

He was also castigated for their inability to break down a stubborn defence that dropped deeper once they took the lead.

There was a sobering admission, though, that at 35, Messi might not be as great as he once was.

“He is not injured, but he does have several logical ailments due to his age and the number of minutes played this season,” said sports newspaper Ole.

Advertisement

Even so, Messi remains the darling of a nation upon whom their hopes rest.

Tales of his stirring speech to teammates on the bus after the Saudi game were quick to emerge.

At training the following he day he supposedly told them: “The people believe that this group will not abandon them.

“It is up to us, we know that we have no choice (but to win) but we’ve already played in these types of games before, it’s time to lift our heads above the water.”

Messi will have to lift himself above the poor fare produced against Saudi if Argentina are to beat Mexico on Saturday and keep their hopes of progressing alive.

Advertisement





Source link

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sports

Italy beat US in Davis Cup quarter-final

Published

on



PARIS:

Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli cruised to victory in the deciding doubles as Italy beat the United States 2-1 their Davis Cup quarter-final in Malaga on Thursday.

“I am really happy, I am here with my ‘brother’. We played really well,” said Fognini, after the pair beat Jack Sock and Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-4.

Advertisement

Italy, shorn of their two top players, world number 15 Jannik Sinner and 16th-ranked Matteo Berrettini, eliminated an American team led by ninth-ranked Taylor Fritz and Francis Tiafoe, who is in the top 20.

Lorenzo Sonego, ranked 45th, opened the tie by coming from a set down to beat Tiafoe 6-3, 7-6 (9/7).

Fritz levelled when he survived a tough first set to beat Lorenzo Musetti 7-6 (10/8), 6-3.

That set the stage for the first doubles match of the week. The first two quarter-finals were both settled after the two singles rubbers.

Fognini and Bolelli, the 2015 Australian Open champions, broke in the ninth game of the first set and the seventh game of the second to win.

Advertisement

Italy, the only one of the eight nations in Malaga whose football team is not at the World Cup, were roared on by strong support.

“I’m really proud of my team and of this crowd,” said captain Filippo Volandri.

“It’s like we are in Italy! All the players did an unbelievable job. Even Matteo who couldn’t play because of injury is here and Jannik is supporting from home.”

USA captain Mardy Fish did not enjoy his Thanksgiving.

“No doubt that was a tough day.” he said. “No doubt that they were the better team today.”

Advertisement

“Their doubles, they played phenomenally well. They’re a great team.”

On Saturday, Italy, whose only Davis Cup title came back in 1976, will face 2019 runners-up Canada or three-time winners Germany.

Jan-Lennard Struff, ranked a lowly 152 in the world, gave Germany the lead in their quarter-final with a stunning 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2) win over 18th-ranked Denis Shapovalov.

Struff has now defeated the Canadian six times in nine meetings and on Thursday survived an 18-ace barrage from the left-hander.

Later, Felix Auger-Aliassime, the highest-ranked man in Malaga at six in the world, levelled the quarter-final with a 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 win over Oscar Otte, Germany’s 65th-ranked player.

Advertisement

Auger-Aliassime unleashed 15 aces and 21 winners, converting the only break of the contest in the seventh game of the second set.

The tie will be decided in the doubles when Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz face Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil.

Krawietz and Puetz won the decisive doubles in the qualifying round earlier this year as Germany defeated France, Belgium and Australia.

On Friday, two-time champions Croatia face Australia, who have won the Davis Cup on 28 occasions, in the first semi-final.





Source link

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Sports

Richarlison’s World Cup dream comes true

Published

on



DOHA:

Richarlison reflected on his tears when he feared he might miss the World Cup after scoring both goals as Brazil opened their bid to win a sixth title with a 2-0 win over Serbia in Doha on Thursday.

“It is a boyhood dream come true,” the Tottenham Hotspur forward told Brazilian broadcaster TV Globo after netting a second-half brace in the Group G match at the Lusail Stadium.

Advertisement

“We played well, especially in the second half when our opponents started to tire and we took advantage of that.”

Richarlison opened the scoring just after the hour mark, following in to net after a Vinicius Jr shot had been saved.

But he saved the best for the 73rd minute, when he scored with a stunning acrobatic scissor kick after controlling a Vinicius cross.

There had been fears the 25-year-old would not make the Brazil squad for the tournament after he came off with a calf injury playing for Spurs in a Premier League game against his former club Everton in mid-October.

“Four weeks ago I was crying, doubting whether I would come. The day I went for tests was one of the slowest of my life because I was there on the stretcher, waiting to get the results,” he said.

Advertisement

“The doctors were going past and I was just nervously waiting.

“It was worth all the effort I put in to my recovery. Three sessions a day. I was determined to come to the World Cup.”

Tite’s side are next in action on Monday when they face Switzerland, who beat Cameroon 1-0 in the other Group G game earlier on Thursday.

“We did the main thing, which was win the first game, which was very important. Now we need to rest and focus on the next one because we still have six important games to come.”

Asked about his stunning second goal, which was his 19th in 39 appearances for the Selecao, Richarlison said he had been practicing scoring in such fashion during Brazil’s pre-tournament training camp.

Advertisement





Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Croatia ready as Canada test looms

Published

on



DOHA:

Croatia’s World Cup appearances have all resulted in group-stage exits or expectation-busting runs to the semi-finals or beyond, and while just one game into Qatar 2022 Sunday’s match against Canada already has a make-or-break feel about it.

A 0-0 draw against Morocco on Wednesday, in which Zlatko Dalic’s side had only two attempts on target, has already left them two points adrift of group leaders Belgium, who eked out a 1-0 victory over the Canadians in their opener.

Advertisement

A draw or defeat against Canada will therefore leave Croatia needing to get something from their final group game against the second-ranked Belgians.

Dalic will hope that their performance against Morocco, in which they seemed to lack sharpness going forward, was down to early-tournament teething problems rather than something more fundamental.

Yet after their superb run in Russia, it is inevitable that comparisons will be drawn with the side that were eventually beaten 4-2 by France in the final in Moscow.

Dalic was keen not to look back when he spoke to reporters following the draw at Al Bayt Stadium, with the need to move forward a repeated refrain.

“Four and a half years have passed and Croatia has almost a whole new national team … we cannot draw comparisons between the two generations of players,” he said. “This is another World Cup we have prepared. We know we are good, we know we can do it. We are prepared to fight on.”

Advertisement

There were some positives to take from the game against Morocco, principally in defence, where they were largely untroubled throughout.

Twenty-year-old centre back Josko Gvardiol looked totally unruffled in his World Cup debut and his partnership with veteran Dejan Lovren looked good.

Yet Dalic has work to do going forward if they are to challenge again, and history says the tournament will only go one of two ways.

Croatia are making their sixth World Cup appearance, having bombed out in the group stage on three occasions and twice embarking on stunning runs, reaching the semis in 1998 and the final last time around.

If they were unsure what sort of side they were going to face in Canada they will have a much clearer idea after John Herdman’s team gave Belgium a run for their money.

Advertisement

Alphonso Davies’s missed penalty let Belgium off the hook before Michy Batshuayi’s goal against the run of play sealed the points.

Japan have last 16 in sight

Few would have given Japan much chance of getting out of a group that included Germany and Spain when the World Cup draw was made but a win over Costa Rica on Sunday would leave Hajime Moriyasu’s side on the brink of the last 16.

The Japanese came from behind to beat four-times champions Germany on Wednesday and will face a Costa Rica side reeling from their 7-0 thrashing by Spain in their Group E opener.

For Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez, rebuilding his side’s shattered confidence is the priority.

Advertisement

“I’m worried that mentally the team won’t get out of this slump, this bad result,” he said after the defeat. “Logically, that’s the first thing I have to try to solve. We have to take responsibility for what happened but once we all talk about it, we need to forget about it.”

To help him lift the side, the coach will turn to the few veterans from their 2014 campaign when they reached the quarter-finals after topping a group that also featured England, Italy and Uruguay.

Things look much more promising for Japan, who produced the second major shock of the 2022 World Cup so far with their 2-1 comeback win over Germany.

The Japanese were helped by six Bundesliga players and one more playing in Germany’s second tier, as strikes from Freiburg’s Ritsu Doan and VfL Bochum’s Takuma Asano gave the Asian side their first ever win over Germany.

Costa Rica, who suffered their heaviest ever defeat at the World Cup finals, are unlikely to provide as stiff a test as the Germans. Spain lie in wait for Japan in their final group game but Moriyasu knows Sunday’s result may mean there is little riding on it.

Advertisement





Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2017 ShayanXtreme