Messi the hero as playmaker and Di Maria’s extra time goal beats Swiss

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After 117 minutes of scoreless soccer, Lionel Messi fed Angel Di Maria, who scored the goal that made the Arena Sao Paolo erupt.

The goal also pushed Argentina to a 1-0 win over Switzerland and a berth in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Argentina will move on to play the winner of the Belgium and United States game, which kicks off at 4pm ET.

A fun, back-and-forth first half between Switzerland and Argentina gave way to a tentative, defensive second as the two sides searched for the goal that could lead them into the quarterfinals.

Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said on Monday that his team would show the way to stop Lionel Messi, and they punished the diminutive superstar with hard tackles and physical play. Messi’s chances were limited, and his team was frustrated.

Hitzfeld was presumably coaching with a heavy heart, as his brother passed away from leukemia hours before the match.

Meanwhile, first half counterattacks probably should’ve lead to goal for the underdogs. Granit Xhaka’s point-blank shot was saved by the foot of Argentine keeper Sergio Romero, while Josep Drmic’s cheeky chip didn’t get the height to soar above the keeper.

Here’s what we were saying at halftime.

In the second half, the chances were lesser. Marcos Rojo’s splendid cross was headed on target by Gonzalo Higuain, but Benaglio was able to tip it over the bar.

Benaglio made a diving stop on Messi in the 77th minute, able to get his right arm on the ball and thwart the shot.

And it was Messi magic again in the 89th minute, as his slaloming run ended with a pass for Palacio that was received poorly and skidded away from danger.

Extra time it would be. Of course.

The first period of extra time did not provide a wealth of prime chances, as the teams continued to beat each other about with hard fouls.

The second featured an early rip by Di Maria that Benaglio pushed over the goal, as Switzerland’s continued attention to Messi opened up some lanes for the Argentines.

With Argentina controlling possession and attack, it felt they were only team that could tally before kicks… and Messi found Di Maria for the goal.

Dzemaili headed a cross off the post in the 121nd minute before pushing the rebound wide with an off-balance touch. That was it for the Swiss.

LINEUPS

Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Fede Fernández, Garay, Rojo (Basanta, 105′); Gago (Biglia, 105′), Mascherano, Di María; Lavezzi (Palacio, 73′), Messi, Higuaín

Goals: Di Maria (117′)

Switzerland: Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Djourou, Schaer, Rodriquez; Shaqiri,  Inler,  Xhaka (Fernandes, 64′), Behrami, Mehmedi (Dzemaili, 112′); Drmic (Seferovic, 81′)

Mexico star Marquez back at Atlas after US drug sanctions

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexican soccer star Rafael Marquez is back with his club more than a month after the U.S. Treasury Department named him on a sanctions list for alleged drug trafficking ties.

Atlas said Monday that the 38-year-old defender is practicing with the team again.

In August, Marquez was among 22 people sanctioned by the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. He was accused of acting as a frontman for the Raul Flores Hernandez drug trafficking organization.

Marquez has denied any wrongdoing and said he will work to clear his name. He is not known to face any criminal charges in the United States or Mexico.

Atlas says Marquez will continue his legal fight while at the team.

Marquez has played internationally with AS Monaco, Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls.

Wolfsburg hires Martin Schmidt after firing Andries Jonker

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WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) Wolfsburg has hired Martin Schmidt to coach the Bundesliga side as a swift replacement for Andries Jonker.

[ MORE: PL Playback — Koeman, Everton facing significant pressure ]

Jonker was fired on Monday after less than seven months in charge, with Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Stuttgart leaving Wolfsburg with four points from its opening four league games of the new campaign.

The 50-year-old Schmidt has signed a contract through 2019 and he will take charge of Tuesday’s game against Werder Bremen.

The Swiss coach left Mainz by mutual consent in May after almost three years in charge. Mainz finished last season in 15th place in the Bundesliga, above Wolfsburg on goal difference. Wolfsburg only survived in the Bundesliga last season by a winning a playoff.

More AP German soccer coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/Bundesliga

Swapping cleats for gloves: Rio Ferdinand to become a boxer

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It wouldn’t be the first time a professional athlete has tried his hand at another sport, but this one is a bit surprising.

[ MORE: Leicester-Liverpool highlights Tuesday’s Carabao Cup action ]

The Telegraph is reporting that ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is poised to become a professional boxer and is expected to announce his decision on Tuesday.

The 38-year-old has been a pundit for BBC and BT Sport since retiring from soccer 2015, but the six-time Premier League winner appears ready to tackle a new venture.

Ferdinand will attempt to follow in the footsteps of former Sheffield United striker Curtis Woodhouse — who went on to become British light-welterweight champion.

Below is a video Ferdinand posted to his Instagram account on Monday which appears to show him practice dodging with a personal trainer.

Dodging Rain Drops…. Reaction Drill… Keep Moving!! 💧🎾 @chrisvarnavas

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Cavani, Neymar feud presents questions about PSG chemistry

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Paris Saint-Germain picked up its sixth consecutive win to start the Ligue 1 season on Sunday, but something else happened during the team’s 2-0 victory over Lyon that should be a show for concern.

[ MORE: Bayern keeper Neuer injuries foot, could miss months ]

In fact, two notable sequences occurred during the match that proved money cannot buy chemistry — or how the saying goes.

The issues on both occasions were between summer signing Neymar and Edinson Cavani — who has been with PSG since 2013.

First, a free kick situation arose where Cavani had appeared that he was going to take the set piece, until Brazilian defender Dani Alves stepped in and took the ball and proceeded to give it to his national and club teammate, Neymar.

The second occurence was even more embarrassing though, as Neymar and Cavani argued over who would take a penalty kick, which Cavani ultimately got his way before having his shot saved by goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.

Below is a video containing a piece of both instances.