Josip Drmic, Marcos Rojo

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′)

USC wins NCAA women’s soccer national championship

Southern California's Morgan Andrews celebrates after scoring a goal against West Virginia during the first half in the NCAA Women's College Cup soccer final, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
AP Photo/Tony Avelar
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Katie Johnson broke a tie in the 75th minute and Southern California won the NCAA women’s soccer title Sunday, beating top-ranked West Virginia 3-1 at Avaya Stadium on Sunday.

The second-seeded Trojans (19-4-2) also won the College Cup in 2007.

The Mountaineers (23-2-2) lost for the first time since a 1-0 setback to Georgetown on Sept. 18. West Virginia had a 17-game unbeaten streak snapped, and allowed three goals for the first all season.

Johnson, who also had the winning goal in USC’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Georgetown on Friday, was wide open in front of the net when Leah Pruitt took a pass up the left sideline, beat defender Easther Mayi Kith, and delivered a perfect cross. Johnson simply rolled the ball into the goal to the right of goalkeeper Rylee Foster.

Johnson scored again off an assist from Nicole Molen in the 87th minute.

The Trojans got on the board just 1:22 into play after Julia Bingham directed a corner kick to the top of the penalty box, where Savannah Levin headed the ball forward to Morgan Andrews, whose header from 5 yards eluded Foster.

West Virginia’s Ashley Lawrence, a member of the 2016 Canadian Olympic team, tied it in the 66th minute when she ripped a shot from the top left corner of the penalty box just inside the near post.

After USC took the 2-1 lead, the Mountaineers nearly drew even in the 81st minute on a shot by Heather Kaleiohi that was stopped on a diving save by goalkeeper Sammy Prudhomme.

The Mountaineers outshot USC 21-8 and held a 9-1 edge in corner kicks.

The Trojans joined North Carolina (21 titles), Notre Dame (3) and Portland (3) as the only multiple winners of the College Cup.

USC won its 126th national team title on the same day its men’s water polo team lost 10-8 to Cal in the NCAA final just 45 miles away in Berkeley.

West Virginia, in its first College Cup final, was hoping to claim its first NCAA title in any sport besides its co-ed rifle team, which has won 18 national titles.

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
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His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

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In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN