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World Cup awards: Rodriguez, Neuer, Pogba, Colombia all honored

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Just after the final whistle was blown at the Maracana Stadium to bring the 2014 World Cup to a close on Sunday, FIFA began to dish out the awards.

Lionel Messi grabbed the Golden Ball award for the best player in the tournament (many would suggest that he didn’t deserve it…) and soccer’s world governing body also gave out the awards for the top scorer, goalkeeper, young player and a fair play gong.

Colombian star James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot after scoring six goals and two assists in five games, Germany’s victorious ‘keeper Manuel Neuer won the Golden Glove award as the best goalkeeper following four clean sheets, plus Frenchman Paul Pogba picked up the Young Player of the tournament award for some superb displays.

There was also special praise for Colombia who were handed the FIFA Fair Player award.

FIFA published the following statement on their website on Sunday. Congrats to all the winners.

Golden Boot: James Rodriguez (Colombia) – 6 goals, 2 assists
Colombia’s No10 made an instant impact at Brazil 2014, setting up Los Cafeteros’s opening two goals and scoring in the last minute in their 3-0 win over Greece, earning the Budweiser Man of the Match Award in the process. He picked up the same accolade in the next match, a 2-1 win over Côte d’Ivoire, having provided an assist for Juan Fernando Quintero and found the target once more. The Monaco man was at it again in the final group game against Japan, entering the fray as a second-half substitute, yet making time to create two goals for Jackson Martinez and score himself. Rodriguez then made history when he scored twice in the 2-0 win over Uruguay, ensuring Colombia qualified for the quarter-finals of a FIFA World Cup for the first time. There he tasted defeat for the first time against Brazil, but converted a consolatory penalty and earned a standing ovation from the crowd in Fortaleza for his efforts.

Silver Boot: Thomas Muller (5 goals, 3 assists)
Bronze Boot: Neymar (4 goals, 1 assist)

Golden Glove: Manuel Neuer (Germany) 

After winning the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup with Bayern Munich, the 28-year-old now has the adidas Golden Glove to add to his growing collection. The Germany No1 was in fine form for the Nationalmannschaft during Brazil 2014, conceding just four goals in seven games and impressing FIFA’s Technical Study Group with his shot-stopping ability, his commanding presence and his ability to start attacks from his own penalty area. Indeed, he has been dubbed a ‘sweeper-keeper’ by sections of the media for his performances at this World Cup, featuring plenty of evidence of his desire to come off his line and play accurate passes when under pressure.

Young Player Award: Paul Pogba (France) 

The France midfielder was considered to be the pick of the players born after 1 January 1993 at this World Cup. The Juventus midfielder played in all five of Les Bleus’ games, having an impact in the 5-2 win over Switzerland by creating a goal for Karim Benzema and then scoring in the 2-0 win over Nigeria, in which he was named as the Budweiser Man of the Match. In winning this award, he becomes only the second player to be named as the Golden Ball winner at the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the senior equivalent in successive tournaments, following in the footsteps of Robert Prosinecki.

FIFA Fair Play Award: Colombia 

The Group C winners who reached the quarter-finals were given this award, not only for collecting just five yellow cards in their five matches at Brazil 2014, but for scoring highly in the criteria set by FIFA’s Technical Study Group, which includes positive play, respect towards the opponent and match officials, as well as the behavior of their team officials and supporters.

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.