Meet the young American who graced the World Cup final… Lionel Messi’s mascot

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On Sunday there was one American on the pitch at the Maracana Stadium in Rio di Janeiro for the 2014 World Cup final.

Lionel Messi’s mascot.

That’s right, as the Argentine captain led his team out for the biggest game of his career, the four-time World Player of the Year was holding the hand of a Richmond, Va. native, eight-year-old Kaylie-Jade Plott.

[ RELATED: Messi wins Golden Ball ]

Plott was picked at random as the only American child to be one of the player mascots in the final, and was handed a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Below are pictures of Kaylie-Jade, sent along by the company who organized the trip in conjunction with McDonald’s USA and U.S. Soccer as 26 young American kids were player mascots at the World Cup

The American youngster retells her experience of standing side-by-side in the tunnel at the Maracana with Messi, then walking out into the World Cup final with one of the greatest players the planet has ever seen. Plott and her mother, Jamie Williams, revealed plenty about the electric atmosphere inside the stadium, plus their sadness that Messi and Argentina couldn’t pull out the win.

Below, in her own words, the young American describes how the moment she realized Messi would walk her out onto the pitch. Take it away, Kaylie-Jade.

Let’s hope sooner rather than later (hopefully Russia 2018) many more Americans can repeat your feat of being involved in a World Cup final!

I was waiting in the tunnel and kept looking around to see when the Argentina team was coming in, which was so exciting. I knew I was walking out with them, but didn’t know I got him [Messi]. And then he was there, standing next to me but I still didn’t know he was my player…the one I would walk with out of the tunnel. It wasn’t until he looked over at me and then I realized “Oh my goodness, it’s Messi!” I knew he was one of the biggest soccer players in the world because of the magazines. Before we walked out, he was quiet but he smiled at me and even helped me on the field by turning me the right way, which was really cool!”

PHOTO GALLERY

Kaylie-Jade finds out in the tunnel that she will be walking out with Messi…

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Plott waiting in the tunnel with Messi as both teams heads out…

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The Argentine and American duo walk down the tunnel…

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Plott enters the famous Maracana stadium alongside Messi for the World Cup final…

source: Getty Images

Both teams stand for the national anthems…

source: Getty Images

Messi and Plott standing together in the Maracana…

source: Getty Images

Copa Sudamericana finals, leg 2: Flamengo vs. Independiente

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Germany’s players have big-money incentive to win World Cup

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BERLIN (AP) Germany’s players will each receive $410,000 bonus if the team defends its World Cup title next year in Russia.

The German soccer federation says it has agreed to a performance-related bonus system for the team, as it did for the successful 2014 World Cup campaign and the last two European Championships.

Bonuses will only be paid upon reaching the quarterfinals, when each player would receive $90,000. That will increase to $150,000 for reaching the semifinals, $175,000 for third place and $235,000 for reaching the final.

Only Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) have won back-to-back World Cup titles.

West Ham targeting Wilshere transfer in January

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David Moyes has stated his desire to sign Jack Wilshere during the January transfer window, as West Ham United battle relegation and attempt to secure their Premier League status for next season.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale closer after improved bid of $400 million ]

Wilshere, who’s made just five PL appearance (all as a substitute) this season for Arsenal, after spending last season on loan at Bournemouth (27 appearances, including 22 starts), will be out of contract with the Gunners in the summer and it’s looking less and less likely that the 25-year-old has a long-term future at the club. Thus, he would almost certainly be allowed to leave and recoup something — anything — next month.

As such, Moyes, whose West Ham side currently sits 19th in the league table after a disastrous start to the season which ultimately saw Slaven Bilic fired, sees an opportunity to bring in an international-caliber player, on the cheap, at exactly the right time — quotes from the Guardian:

“You’d hope that if you took a player from another Premier League club it’d be much easier for him to go right into the team and play well. Jack Wilshere would be someone who we’d have to look at if he was available.

“I do believe the transfer window could be the difference between relegation and staying up. If we can get the right players, that’s the big part of it.

“I also want to make sure we’re looking at players who’ve got time and who can be at the club for a long period and not just in for a short period. Then there’s also the short-term fix for me which is, how do we get enough wins between now and the end of the season? There’s a balance between that.”

Wilshere’s (waning) chances of making the England team for next summer’s World Cup undoubtedly hinge upon him playing a majority of minutes during the second half of the season and finding a patch of remarkably good form. Suffice to say, he’d likely to be quite interested in a move — especially one that would keep him in London.

Dyche: “Football is about dreams,” and this is Burnley’s

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Burnley challenging for, and ultimately finishing in, a top-four place in the Premier League would be the most unexpected outcome in England’s top flight since… well, Leicester City won the title 18 months ago.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale closer after improved bid of $400 million ]

While the Foxes might have desensitized us with regards to what constitutes a feel-good story, one cannot simply ignore the astonishing, unexpected nature of the Clarets currently occupying fourth place in the PL table, just shy of the season’s halfway mark.

Sure, all three of Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have a game in hand (all to be played on Wednesday) and would overtake Sean Dyche‘s side with a win, but even then “seventh-place Burnley” is a phrase that is only slightly less remarkable.

Following his side’s 1-0 victory over Stoke City on Tuesday, Dyche something like a romantic, referring to Burnley’s run as a “dream” given those lofty levels of overachievement — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s a run of results and a start which the fans are enjoying and rightly so.

“Football is about realities but also about dreams. It’s a tough task for us winning games at this level, but Leicester blew the roof off dreams in football.”

“We found a way to win and a fine goal. We’re not the real deal, we’re a side that are improving.

“I keep reality because this division will eat you alive. We’re having a real go at what we can achieve this season.”