Napoli fan hospitalized, Roma fan under police guard after violence mars Coppa Italia final

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Napoli beat Fiorentina 3-1 in a frantic, fast-paced, attack-focused Coppa Italia final on Saturday night – but the play on the pitch has been overshadowed by the violence that broke out amongst fans in Rome prior to kickoff. A member of the Roma ultras  has been accused of attempted murder after allegedly shooting a Napoli fan in town for the Coppa Italia final.

Fans who tuned in to watch the game were met not with a soccer match, but with scenes of agitated fans, whispering officials, and police ensuring the situation remained under control. For a half-hour, confusion reigned, rumors abounded. Some media outlets reported that a Napoli fan was murdered prior to kickoff. Others reported that fan violence inside the stadium was what was delaying the match.

The delay was caused by Napoli supporters wanting confirmation that a fellow fan, known to be taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound, had not been killed. Without such confirmation, the ultras, who hold much influence in calcio, did not want the game to be played. Napoli captain Marek Hamšík negotiated with both officials and the visiting ultras, and in the end the match kicked off 45 minutes late.

But while it may be some time before we have a clear picture of what actually happened prior to the Final – if we ever get that clear of a picture – some details have emerged. Although it was originally reported that the shooting was not connected to fan violence, but was rather the act of an opportunist preying on visiting fans, the worst of the violence did occur between two rival fan groups.

The shooting was not a result of clashes between fans of the two teams in the final, but rather between visiting Napoli supporters and the Roma ultras. Some reports suggest that Napoli fans first assaulted Daniele De Santis, a well-known member of the Roma ultras. Others allege that De Santis, along with others, ambushed the Napoli supporters, and when they fought back, he pulled out a gun and started shooting.

It remains to be seen which version is true. What we know, however, is that a bullet went through the lung of Napoli fan Ciro Esposito, lodging in his spine. De Santis, too, is in the hospital, suffering from serious head injuries. In total, three supporters were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds. Five police, two stewards and a firefighter were also reported injured, in separate clashes, often involving fights between Napoli and Fiorentina supporters.

This was meant to be a fantastic night for Napoli, who lifted their second Coppa Italia in three years. Instead the match was marred by ugly violence, a painful reminder that Italy still has a long way to go when it comes to cracking down on the influence and sway held by the ultras – and above all, the methods they apply to remind others of their place in the calcio hierarchy.

 

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbal abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.

Arena speaks about USMNT turnaround, says “no secret formulas”

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It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.

[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.

He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”

Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.

Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”

“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”

Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.

Report: American teenager linked with Manchester United

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The U.S. Men’s National Team is always looking for more Christian Pulisic-like players, and another star-in-the-making could be on his way to Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Three keys for USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

American teenager Will Vint is reportedly being pursued by Premier League giants Manchester United after previously having trialed with Fulham and Everton.

Vint, the 15-year-old son Everton academy director Peter Vint, has reportedly impressed the Red Devils while on trial as of late. Additionally, the teen’s Instagram page describes him as a “Footballer at Manchester United.”

The number of Americans in England’s top flight have dwindled down over recent years, however, USMNT mainstays like Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan (moving to Atlanta United) still reside in the PL.

Chapecoense announces match against Colombia’s Nacional

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SAO PAULO (AP) Brazilian club Chapecoense will play Colombia’s Atletico Nacional on April 4 in what will be an emotional home match.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina XI to face Bolivia ]

In November, 19 members of the Brazilian team died in an air crash outside Medellin as they travelled to play Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final. Out of 77 passengers, 71 died in the incident, including players, journalists, and club officials.

Chapecoense says they will play at 22,000-seat Arena Conda in southern Brazil in the first leg of the Recopa Sudamericana.

The tragedy made Atletico Nacional pronounce Chapecoense as champions, and the South American confederation agreed.

The Recopa Sudamericana is between the champions of the Copa Sudamericana and the Copa Libertadores.