Diego Godín

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Top Billing in South America: Argentina vs. Uruguay

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Lionel Messi is back for Argentina. And Luis Suarez is expected to return for Uruguay.

The two Barcelona teammates should be the focus on Thursday in South America’s most high-profile World Cup qualifier.

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With four rounds of qualifying remaining, Brazil has already advanced to Russia and leads the group with 33 points. The five-time World Cup winners are followed by Colombia (24), Uruguay (23), Chile (23), Argentina (22) and Ecuador (20). Peru and Paraguay have 18 points, and little chance to advance. Bolivia and Venezuela have been eliminated.

In addition to Brazil, three more teams will claim the remaining automatic berths, and one more South American team could also reach Russia in a playoff.

A look at the key games:

URUGUAY-ARGENTINA

Messi is back from a one-game ban for insulting a match official. It was originally four matches, but the Argentine soccer association appealed successfully.

That’s good news for coach Jorge Sampaoli, who will be on the bench for his first official game in charge. Without Messi, Argentina lost to Bolivia 2-0 in its last qualifier in March.

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez also needs Suarez. He has a right-knee injury, which Tabarez said will be evaluated in the run-up to the match.

With or without Suarez, Tabarez knows “it will be a very, very difficult match.”

Sampaoli replaced Edgardo Bauza in early June and has coached friendly wins over Brazil and Singapore. Sampaoli has left Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain out of the side, going instead with Paulo Dybala, who is seen as Messi’s heir on the national team.

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Tabarez is remaking the Uruguay side, which has been about the same since finishing fourth in the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 Copa America. New faces include Federico Valverde, Mauricio Lemos and Gaston Pereiro.

“It’s not just another game coming up,” Uruguay defender Diego Godin said. “It’s a classic, and we know who we’re playing.”

VENEZUELA-COLOMBIA

Colombia attacking midfielder James Rodriguez is out with a right thigh injury. His new club, Bayern Munich, has allowed him to travel, under the condition that he doesn’t play. He could be available for the Sept. 5 qualifier against Brazil.

The match takes place in San Cristobal, Venezuela, in the midst of the South American country’s deepening social and economic crisis.

Argentina-born coach Jose Pekerman should be able to get by without Rodriguez. Venezuela has only six points from 14 matches.

“Venezuela playing Colombia is always played as if your life depends on it,” Colombia winger Juan Guillermo Cuadrado said.

Colombia will rely on Radamel Falcao, who has scored seven goals for French club Monaco in only four games.

BRAZIL-ECUADOR

Brazil has advanced, winning eight straight qualifiers under coach Tite.

Tite will have Neymar, fresh off his record-breaking transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. The player most watched will be winger Philippe Coutinho, who has yet to play a minute with Liverpool. The English club says Coutinho has been out with a back injury. Meanwhile, Coutinho has been linked in a move to Barcelona to replace Neymar.

Ecuador needs a victory in the match in the southern city of Porto Alegre to stay in the race.

“It’s a tough challenge,” Ecuador coach Gustavo Quinteros said. “But Ecuador has shown when it plays well, it can beat anybody.”

CHILE-PARAGUAY

Chile’s hopes in Santiago against Paraguay probably ride with Alexis Sanchez, who played his first minutes of the season in Arsenal’s 4-0 loss to Liverpool. Sanchez missed the first two matches with an injury.

PERU-BOLIVIA

Peru and Bolivia play the other match with neither team going anywhere. Peru will be without captain and top scorer Paolo Guerrero, who is suspended. He is eligible for the next match against Ecuador.

Zuniga reported from New York.

Godin: Vardy good enough for “most teams in the world”

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So what if Jamie Vardy‘s 2016-17 season hasn’t come close to matching the dizzying heights that Leicester City’s leading man hit in last season’s title-winning campaign?

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Sure, Leicester only just recently did enough to stave off relegation and secure their status as a Premier League club next season — and Vardy’s production has dropped from 24 PL goals last season, to just 11 this term — but that doesn’t mean Diego Godin will be taking the reigning FWA Player of the Year lightly when Atletico Madrid visit the King Power Stadium in the two sides’ UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg on Tuesday.

In fact, Godin has revealed just how highly he thinks of Vardy’s game and the threat he’ll pose as the Foxes attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit and reach the Champions League semifinals — quotes from the Guardian:

“He would fit in at the vast majority of teams in the world. He works, sacrifices himself for the team, and on top of that scores goals. Who wouldn’t want a striker who kills himself for you, then gives you attacking solutions?”

“A striker like that is fundamental for a team like Leicester that plays the way that they do. If they didn’t have that kind of striker, maybe they wouldn’t be Leicester, the team we’ve seen. He’s a great player, who fights and competes. Against Sevilla [in the round of 16], every ball that went into the Sevilla half he fought for; he never gave a ball up for lost. At the Calderon he was virtually alone and if he didn’t touch the ball often that doesn’t mean he’s not a great striker, quite the opposite. It’s because we paid him so much attention. We were focused on not giving him space, cutting off access to him.”

The more Atleti sit back and defend with numbers, the less space Vardy will have to run into and terrorize Godin and Co. Given the fact they’re protecting they’re protecting a one-goal lead away from home, you can expect Diego Simeone’s side to nullify Vardy’s greatest asset, his speed, in that manner.

Mourinho turns to Godin? $37.5 million deal lined up

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Diego Godin is the only man who can save Jose Mourinho now…

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Okay, it’s not quite that drastic, but it is clear Manchester United needs to invest in defensive leadership and according to a report in the Sun newspaper, Mourinho is targeting a $40 million move for Atletico Madrid’s central defender Diego Godin.

Per the report, Godin has a $37.5 million release clause in his contract and United could trigger it in January.

Improvement in central defense was a clear target for Mourinho as he bought in Eric Bailly this summer for $37.5 million and the Ivorian defender has been a beast in the heart of United’s defense. He went down injured last month but is expected back in early December and on the face of things, his power combined with Godin’s exemplary reading of the game would be a fine partnership.

United’s defensive collapse at Chelsea two weeks ago highlighted some of the problems they’re facing with Chris Smalling and Daley Blind caught out of position and the likes of Marcos Rojo has also failed to grab his chance to impress Mourinho.

With all of his teams built on a solid defensive unit, Mourinho will be looking to shore up his United side to try and stay in touch with the top four in the Premier League.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - MAY 24:  Diego Godin of Club Atletico de Madrid celebrates scoring the opening goal with Gabi of Club Atletico de Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz on May 24, 2014 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Godin, 30, has vast experience in La Liga, the UEFA Champions League and internationally with Uruguay. He has been a standout performer for Atletico and is Mr. Consistent in defense. His influence on United could be huge and although he has a strong bond with Atletico, it is reported that United will blow his current wages out of the water and if they trigger the release clause surely Godin will have to think long and hard about it. At his age and the way he plays the game (not relying on pace but instead his positional sense and reading of the game) he still has four to five years left at the top.

United will offset Godin’s potential arrival by culling plenty of players. Memphis is set to lead the exodus with Morgan Scheiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo all on the outs, plus Michael Carrick, Ashley Young and Phil Jones all appear to be nothing more than squad players under Mourinho.

It is clear a massive shake up is coming up at Old Trafford. If that coincides with Godin’s arrival, it would be huge for Mourinho.

Atletico Madrid edges frame-rattling Spurs 1-0; Yedlin impresses at LB

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Diego Godin’s close range redirection gave Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in an open match in Australia on Friday.

The International Champions Cup match was missing several big names including Harry Kane, Koke, Dele Alli, and Antoine Griezmann, so it’s hard to make any judgments either way.

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Spurs rattled the post and banged one off the crossbar in the loss, which comes days after a 2-1 setback of sorts against Juventus.

USMNT back DeAndre Yedlin and American prospect Cameron Carter-Vickers started in the back line. Yedlin was again at left back, and impressed in 60 minutes of work.

Godin appeared to be well offside in the 40th minute when Anton Walkes’ ill-fated flick came his way inside the six.

Mexico’s Rafa Marquez scores late winner in Copa win over Uruguay (video)

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The last time someone had scored a goal against Mexico, the date was Oct. 10, 2015 and said goal proved futile for Bobby Wood and the rest of the U.S. national team in their 3-2 CONCACAF Cup defeat.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | Copa America 2016 ]

El Tri entered Sunday’s 2016 Copa America Centenario opener against (a Luis Suarez-less) Uruguay having not conceded a goal in 730 minutes of play (that’s eight full games, plus 10 minutes). At the final whistle inside the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., Juan Carlo Osorio’s side had finally conceded a goal but were 3-1 victors over the 15-time Copa America winners, their streak extended to 804 minutes (six minutes shy of nine full games) before it was broken by a late equalizer.

Mexico got on the board early, four minutes into the game, when Alvaro Pereira got onto the end of Andres Guardado’s cross and unknowingly headed the ball into his own net, scoring the fastest own goal ever score in the 100-year history over Copa America.

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21 minutes later, Guardado was perhaps lucky to not be sent off for a wild, sliding tackle that took out the legs of Carlos Sanchez (below video). No such luck for Uruguay’s Matias Vecino, who was shown his second yellow card of the game in the 45th minute. Down a goal, and now down to 10 men.

Uruguay had a brilliant chance for an equalizer that came and went in the 58th minute, when a turnover inside Mexico’s defensive half of the field launched a quick counter-attack the other way. Diego Rolan was the man who eventually fired the shot, but his left-footed strike bounced wide of Alfredo Talavera’s right-hand post.

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It was Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin who bagged the equalizer and broke Mexico’s streak. Coincidentally, the goal came off the restart after Guardado was shown a second yellow card and sent for an early shower.

Then, it was time for perhaps one of the last heroic moments of 37-year-old Rafa Marquez’s legendary career. It had to be Marquez. It just had to be. Hector Herrera added an insurance goal in the 90th minute, heading home from Raul Jimenez’s floated ball across the box.

When Group C play resumes on Thursday, Uruguay will face Venezuela at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Penn., with group-leading Mexico doing battle with Jamaica at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., later that evening..