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Player Ratings: How the US fared in brave defeat to Belgium

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The U.S. fell 2-1 to Belgium and crashed out of the World Cup in Salvador on Tuesday.

However, in true American fashion, they didn’t go down without a fight.

[ RELATED: Belgium 2-1 USA, after extra time ]

Belgium were pressing to go ahead throughout regulation but came up against an inspired Tim Howard in goal for the USA as they game finished 0-0 and went to extra time.

However Romelu Lukaku’s introduction changed the match as his run set up Kevin De Bruyne for the opener, then the Chelsea forward put the USA 2-0 up. Right at the start of the second half of extra time, teenager Julian Green scored on his competitive debut to set up a grandstand finish.

Belgium held on, just, to make the quarterfinals at the USA’s expense.

U.S. PLAYER RATINGS vs. BELGIUM 

Tim Howard – 10  – STAR MAN

A good early save from Divock Origi settled the U.S. down and the rest of the first half saw Howard hardly tested. After the break he tipped one over the bar from Mertens and made a good stop from Origi in the 70th minute. Howard then made another fine stop from Hazard. Belgium peppered him with shots time and time again. Did not deserve to be on the losing side and had no chance on either goal. Made 16 saves, the most in a World Cup game since 1966. Epic. One of the best goalkeeping displays in WC history.

Fabian Johnson – 6

Some great early runs from the right back that really put Belgium pressure but he pulled up injured, clutching his hamstring, and was replaced by Yedlin in the 30th minute. Disappointing end to his World Cup.

Omar Gonzalez – 6

Quite a few shaky moments early on as Belgium pressed and got in-behind the U.S. defense. Gonzo kept calm and headed plenty of balls out. In the second half looked very flat-footed when Hazard moved to the center but cleared so many balls. Overall, defended everything when he needed to.

Matt Besler – 6

Typical tough-tackling display from the SKC skipper as he tried to stop the growing threat of Belgium’s attack. Tremendous last-ditch tackle late on in regulation as he held the U.S. defense together. However, Besler was brushed aside by Lukaku for the go-ahead goal and he slipped at the crucial moment. Lukaku does that to defenders in the PL week in, week out.

DaMarcus Beasley – 6

A great goal-lime clearance in the first half saved the USA’s skin as the Belgium offense started to click into place. Assured and mature performance form the veteran but his crosses in the attacking-third let him down.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from US v Belgium ]
[ RELATEDTim Howard’s heroics not enough ]
[ RELATEDKlinsmann: U.S. gave everything they had ]

Alejandro Bedoya – 6

You can’t question his industry out wide, but Bedoya failed to get past his marker and whip balls in. However, he ran himself into the ground for the cause before being replaced by Julian Green.

Geoff Cameron – 7

Early on he provided great cover when Gonzalez was caught out and even came close to scoring from a corner with a glancing header. Sat in front of the back four and stopped Fellaini from getting on the ball, composed and comfortable despite an early yellow card. Dug deep and didn’t let the side down in Beckerman’s role.

Jermaine Jones – 6

Didn’t have a huge impact on proceedings but once again worked incredibly hard in midfield. Jones didn’t have many touches on the ball but tried to drive the team on in extra time. A wonderful World Cup from Jones.

Michael Bradley – 6

Wasteful in possession in the earlier stages, Bradley settled down as the game wore on and his surging runs gave Dempsey plenty of support. Always tried to play the difficult pass and get the U.S. on the front foot. Delicious chip for Green’s goal as Bradley’s quality shone through.

Graham Zusi – 4

A bad giveaway midway through the first half almost cost the U.S. dear and Zusi failed to impact the game. Replaced by Wondolowski with 20 minutes to go.

Clint Dempsey – 6

Had his work cut out up top on his own against Van Buyten and Kompany,but Dempsey battled hard and forced Courtois into a smart stop in the first half. Influenced the game more when he dropped deeper. Almost scored the equalizer to make it 2-2 deep into extra time but Courtois thwarted Dempsey and the U.S. at the death.

Substitutes

DeAndre Yedlin – 7

The 20-year-old came on at RB in the biggest game of his career so far and didn’t look out at place. In the second half he whipped in some great crosses and was a threat going forward. Wonderful future.

Chris Wondolowski – 6

Gave the U.S. a different dimension up top and held the ball up well to ease the pressure. However THAT miss in the final seconds of regulation will haunt him, even if it was flagged offside incorrectly.

Julian Green – 7

Only played for the final 15 minutes but became the youngest player to ever play for the U.S. at the World Cup, then the youngest to score with a wonderful finish. What a huge goal and a great moment for Green.

Andy King: If Leicester can win PL, Wales can win EURO 2016

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 07:  Andy King of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Andy King is still riding high from Leicester City’s Premier League title, and that confidence is carrying over into EURO 2016.

The Foxes midfielder and Welsh international sees no reason why Wales can’t win the tournament, despite having 80-1 odds to do so.

[ MORE: England’s EURO squad ]

Of course, Leicester began the Premier League season as 5,000-1 underdogs to lift the trophy.

We’ve got to win six or seven games compared to 38.

80-1 against 5000-1. You know which one you would rather back. We are a talented group and I believe we have the best player in the tournament.

Gareth [Bale] is probably the best player in the tournament in many people’s opinion, so why can’t we go there and do something? We are confident we can do that.

If Wales were to win the EURO this summer, the story truly would rival that of Leicester. The Dragons have never played in a European Championship before, and the nation’s only other appearance at a major tournament came back at the 1958 World Cup.

[ MORE: Payet, Milner make top-five of UEFA’s “player barometer” ]

You may not agree that Gareth Bale is the best player in the tournament, but he is surely near the top of the list. Bale’s play will likely determine how far Wales can go, drawn into Group B alongside England, Slovakia, and Russia.

Report: West Ham offer $22 million for AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca

MILAN, ITALY - MARCH 20:  Carlos Bacca of AC Milan celebrates his goal during the Serie A match between AC Milan and SS Lazio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on March 20, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
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West Ham’s search for an elite striker continues, with their newest target AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca.

According to Sky Sports, the Hammers have bid $22 million for the striker, who led Milan with 18 goals in Serie A play last season.

However, after paying $34 million to sign the striker last summer, it is believed Milan would be unwilling to sell their top scorer for less than $30 million.

MORE: All 2015-16 PL season reviews ]

At 29-years-old, Bacca has been one of Europe’s most consistent forwards over the past few seasons. After bagging 49 goals in 108 appearances for Sevilla, he earned a move to Milan last July, finishing third in Serie A scoring in his first year with the club.

West Ham’s chairman David Gold has been open about his desire to sign a world-class striker, with Lyon confirming that they rejected a $45 million bid from the Hammers for Alexandre Lacazette.

VIDEO: Neymar takes batting practice before New York Mets game

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31:  Brazilian soccer player  Neymar Jr stands in the New York Mets dugout before the game against the Chicago White Sox at Citi Field on May 31, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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We all know Neymar’s skills with a soccer ball, but what about with a baseball bat?

Spoiler alert: He’s better with his feet.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Copa coverage ]

The Barcelona and Brazil superstar was in New York on Tuesday night and hit up the batting cages at Citi Field before the Mets game against the Chicago White Sox.

Taking swings lefty, Neymar made some contact but didn’t necessarily have the smoothest stroke…

He then hit the field and got back to his roots, showing off some footskills while juggling a baseball.

I’m not too sure if Neymar is a baseball fan, but this may make him the Mets’ newest, most famous supporter (sorry Jerry Seinfeld).

Neymar is in the United States as he has some time off after the long Barcelona season. He is not playing in the Copa America with Brazil, but will instead play in the Olympics in August.

Messi’s tax fraud case begins with player avoiding court

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 17:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on  during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou on April 17, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Lionel Messi’s tax trial began Tuesday with the player deciding not to appear in court for early proceedings.

Messi is facing a prison sentence of nearly two years on charges he failed to properly pay taxes for part of his earnings from Barcelona from 2007-09.

[ FOLLOW: All of PSTS’s Copa coverage ]

The Argentina playmaker is not obligated to appear in the Barcelona court until Thursday, when he is scheduled to testify before a judge. Sentencing is not expected until next week.

Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, have been charged with three counts of tax fraud for allegedly defrauding Spain’s tax office of 4.1 million euros ($4.5 million).

Because of the trial, Messi is missing Argentina’s preparation for the Copa America Centenario, which begins Saturday in the United States. He is expected to fly straight to the U.S. to join his teammates after the trial ends. Argentina debuts in the tournament on Monday against defending champion Chile.

Even if found guilty, it is highly unlikely that Messi or his father will face any jail time. They have denied wrongdoing.

[ COPA AMERICA PREVIEWS: Group A | BC | D ]

“Everything is good. Everybody is calm,” said Messi’s lawyer, Enrique Bacigalupo, as he arrived at the Barcelona court on Tuesday.

The trial is centered on alleged unlawful activities of Messi’s father, but authorities said the player knew enough to also be named in the case. Officials said that although Messi was mostly unfamiliar with tax issues, there was sufficient evidence to believe he could have known and consented to the creation of a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income from his image rights.

In addition to each facing a prison sentence of 22 months and 15 days, Messi and his father could also be fined in the amount defrauded and ordered to pay all legal proceedings and the loss of any possible tax benefits for a year and a half.

Messi is just the latest high-profile player to have to deal with Spain’s tough tax system. Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Adriano and Xabi Alonso also were targeted by authorities recently.

[ MORE: Marcelo giving away UCL winners’ medal…on Facebook ]

Mascherano, Messi’s teammate with Argentina and Barcelona, earlier this year was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence for not paying nearly 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in taxes for 2011 and 2012. Brazil striker Neymar recently had to testify before a judge because of alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona. He and the club were accused of withholding the real amount of the transfer fee, in part to avoid paying the full amount of taxes.

Messi was also being investigated by Spanish tax authorities after his name was among those released in the probe of international offshore accounts, known as the Panama Papers, although he was not charged for those allegations.