Honduras

LANDOVER, MD - MARCH 27: Lionel Messi of the Argentinian national soccer team sits on the bench as his teammates practice on the field in preparation to take on El Salvador at FedExField on March 27, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

CONCACAF & CONMEBOL: Lionel Messi injured in final pre-Copa friendly

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A roundup of international friendlies as 16 North, Central and South American and Caribbean nations prepare for the 2016 Copa America Centenario…

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

Argentina 1-0 Honduras

Gonzalo Higuain, who recently set a brand new record for most goals scored in a single Serie A season (36 goals in 35 games played), continued his scintillating 2015-16 season by scoring the only goal in Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Honduras in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Friday (WATCH HERE).

The result obviously takes a backseat to news that Lionel Messi left the game injured midway through the second half. Following a corner kick that was cleared from the Honduras penalty area, Messi took a blow to the lower back and/or hip on his left side. The Barcelona superstar tumbled to the ground in a heap. He walked off the field under his own power, but was clearly in a great deal of pain before deciding he couldn’t continue.

That says Messi suffered an injury to his left side and that tests (MRI) are being done to determine the severity of the knock. La Albiceleste will kick off their Group D campaign against the reigning Copa holders, Chile, on June 6 in Santa Clara, Calif.

[ MORE: Preview — USMNT faces Bolivia in final Copa America tune-up ]

Uruguay 3-1 Trinidad and Tobago

With Luis Suarez currently on the shelf injured, it’s Edinson Cavani’s time to shine for Uruguay. The Paris Saint-Germain frontman — who’ll coincidentally also be “the man” for his club side with Zlatan Ibrahimovic heading for the exit door — bagged a first-half brace in La Celeste‘s 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Trinidad and Tobago. His first came from the penalty spot in the 26th minute, followed not long after by another from open play in the 40th minute. Matias Vecino added the third for Uruguay in the 52nd minute. T&T took an early lead through Jomal Williams’ opener on 7 minutes.

Cavani scored 19 goals in 32 Ligue 1 appearances this season, making him the league’s third-highest scorer, behind Zlatan (38) and Alexandre Lacazette (21). Suarez, on the other hand, won this year’s La Liga Golden Boot after scoring 40 goals in 35 league games. Uruguay will begin their Group C campaign against Mexico on June 5 in Glendale, Ariz.

[ MORE: Ranking Copa America contenders — what are USMNT’s chances? ]

Chile 1-2 Jamaica

No longer content as CONCACAF’s best-kept secret, Jamaica are took their upsetting ways to a different level on Friday, knocking off South America’s reigning champions, 1-2 in Viña del Mar, Chile.

Clayton Donaldson and Simon Dawkins scored for the Reggae Boyz either side of halftime before Nicolas Castillo pulled a goal back in the 82nd minute. Winfried Schäfer’s side will join Uruguay and Mexico in Group C, along with Venezuela, their tournament-opening opponents on June 5 in Chicago, Ill.

Elsewhere in international friendlies

Costa Rica vs. Venezuela (underway)

Croatia gets 2-match World Cup stadium ban for fascist chant

POZNAN, POLAND - JUNE 10:  Croatian fans light up flares during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C between Ireland and Croatia at The Municipal Stadium on June 10, 2012 in Poznan, Poland.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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ZURICH (AP) Croatia has been ordered to play two World Cup qualifying matches in empty stadiums for repeated cases of fans chanting fascist slogans.

FIFA fined the Croatian soccer federation 150,000 Swiss francs ($151,000), and ordered the stadium bans to take effect when Croatia hosts Turkey on Sept. 5 and Finland on Oct. 9.

Chile was also ordered to play one World Cup qualifier away from its national stadium over fans chanting anti-gay insults, FIFA said in disciplinary rulings announced Friday. FIFA also fined five Latin American soccer federations for “discriminatory and unsporting conduct by fans,” including anti-gay insults, at World Cup qualifiers.

[ MORE: USMNT-Bolivia preview | Castillo replaces Chandler ]

Croatia fans were guilty of discriminatory chants at friendlies against Israel and Hungary in March, FIFA said.

Croatia “had already been sanctioned for similar incidents by FIFA and UEFA” in previous seasons, the world soccer body said.

Before the 2014 World Cup, FIFA banned Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches for leading fans in a World War II-era chant used by the country’s then-puppet regime.

After incidents of anti-gay chants at the last World Cup in Brazil, FIFA has cracked down on insults aimed by Latin American fans at players on rival teams.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Chile cannot use its national stadium when it hosts Bolivia on Sept. 6 and must pay a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs ($30,250). A second stadium-ban sanction was deferred for a two-year probationary period.

In other sanctions for soccer federations, FIFA fined Honduras 40,000 Swiss francs ($40,300), Mexico and El Salvador 35,000 Swiss francs ($35,275) each, Paraguay 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150), and Peru 15,000 Swiss francs ($15,115).

Ex-president of Honduras admits to bribery in FIFA scandal

FILE - In this Sep. 20, 2006 file photo, Hondura's former President Rafael Leonardo Callejas gives a news conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The Honduran government announced Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 that the U.S. has requested extradition of Callejas on charges of taking bribes for television contracts through his position as head of the Honduran Soccer Federation. (AP Photo/Edgard Garrido, File)
AP Photo/Edgard Garrido, File)
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NEW YORK (AP) A former president of Honduras pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on Monday and admitted to taking bribes in the wide-ranging FIFA soccer scandal over lucrative broadcast rights.

Rafael Callejas, a member of FIFA’s television and marketing committee, entered the plea to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in federal court in Brooklyn. Each charge includes a maximum of 20 years in prison; he also agreed to forfeit $650,000.

He told the judge that he had accepted bribes and distributed some of the money to others. He said he knew it was wrong.

[ USMNT: Why a Tuesday win would make everything pretty alright ]

Callejas, who was president of Honduras from 1990 to 1994, will be sentenced Aug. 5.

Initial arrests in the case last May resulted in charges against 14 people, including seven top FIFA officials arrested at a Swiss hotel.

His surrender came after 16 additional defendants, most from Central and South America, were charged in the fall in a second wave of the prosecution that focused on a generation of soccer leaders in South America, a bedrock of FIFA and World Cup history.

In that crackdown, five current and former members of FIFA’s ruling executive committee were arrested at the same Zurich hotel where the similar raid on FIFA officials occurred a half-year earlier.

[ MORE: Herzog confident U.S. will qualify for Olympics on Tuesday ]

Those arrests came just before FIFA’s executive committee met to approve reform and transparency measures that gained support after the scandal was revealed.

In all, about 20 soccer officials have been indicted on charges related to the U.S. investigation of corruption in the sport.

An indictment returned in Brooklyn in November charged Callejas for his alleged role in a bribery scheme involving lucrative broadcasting and hosting rights for the World Cup and soccer’s other biggest events.

In a lengthy indictment, prosecutors allege that hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal payments made over the past quarter-century involved the use of U.S. banks and meetings in the United States.

The Justice Department has said that numerous guilty pleas in the case have resulted in agreements to forfeit over $190 million, and another $100 million has been restrained in the U.S. and abroad. The U.S. has sought to restrain assets in 13 countries.

Litmus test time in all three groups of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 03:  Michael Bradley #4 of the United States chases a ball during the first half of an international friendly match against Guatemala at Nissan Stadium  on July 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
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The masks come off after “middle pair” of group matches in the third round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.

That’s when possible pretenders who slid through the first two matches may meet the toughest foe of the group, or powers who got a tough road match out of the way might get a home-and-home with group minnows.

[ USMNT: Scouting Guatemala ahead of the qualifiers ]

As it stands now, Canada and Trinidad & Tobago would be new Hex teams for this year’s qualifying, while Honduras and Jamaica would fall out of the mix. It’s litmus test time for the Canucks and the Soca Warriors.

Group A

After easing past El Salvador, Mexico got a hassle from Honduras before picking up a pair of second half goals to win on the road. They now get a tricky match-up with Canada.

SEATTLE, WA - JULY 11: Nikolas Ledgerwood #2 of Canada heads the ball against Marco Fabian #10 of Mexico at CenturyLink Field on July 11, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Mexico doesn’t always fare well when heading far North, and BC Place in Vancouver is a tricky outing against a well-coached Canada. No one’s expecting the Reds to win in Mexico next week, but keeping within two points of Mexico is not out of the question.

It’s do-or-die for Honduras, who gets El Salvador for a pair of matches. The Hondurans finished 30th and 31st at the last two World Cups, and have never made it to three-straight tourneys. That could be impossible after this week. On the flip side, El Salvador hasn’t been to a World Cup in eight cycles and could make it nine.

Standings (points / goal diff)
1. Mexico — 6 / +5
2. Canada — 4 / +1
3. El Salvador — 1 / -3
4. Honduras — 0 / -3

Group B

Costa Rica Jamaica in their CONCACAF Gold Cup Group B match at StubHub Center on July 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
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Looks like there isn’t a walkover in the group, as Haiti dropped a pair of 1-0 decisions to Costa Rica and Jamaica and now faces Panama for two-straight matches.

This week’s matches carry all sorts of unpredictability, as Jamaica and Haiti home wins on Friday would overturn the group apple cart and put pressure on the opposition for Leg No. 2.

Standings (points / goal diff)
1. Costa Rica — 6 / +2
2. Panama — 3 / +1
3. Jamaica — 3 / -1
4. Haiti — 0 / -2

[ MORE: See the USMNT training camp roster ]

Group C

In the United States’ case, it’s somewhere in the middle. Beating up St. Vincent and The Grenadines at home was expected, and picking up a draw at Trinidad and Tobago isn’t a problem.

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 03: Mix Diskerud #10 of the United States chases Jairo Arreloa #7 of Guatemala during the first half of an international friendly soccer match at Nissan Stadium on July 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Guatemala is somewhere in the middle, not the easiest win on the road, and an expected three points on home soil.

[ USMNT: Dortmund’s Pulisic could join up for second match ]

Losing points at all will likely have the Yanks behind T&T when this international break is through, as the Soca Warriors should have little problem taking six points from St. Vincent and The Grenadines.

Standings (points / goal diff)
1. USMNT — 4 / +5
2. T&T — 4 / +1
3. Guatemala — 3 / +3
4. St. Vincent and The Grenadines — 0 / -9

Honduran midfielder Arnold Peralta shot to death in mall parking lot

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JULY 29:  Arnold Peralta of Honduras celebrates after the final whistle during the Men's Football first round Group D match between Spain and Honduras on Day 2 of the London 2012 Olympic Games  at St James' Park on July 29, 2012 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
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Arnold Peralta, Honduran international and former Rangers midfielder, was shot and killed in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Honduras today, according to multiple reports.

The incident was a drive-by shooting, according to the reports, as a gunman drove by on a motorcycle and shot Peralta at the Uniplaza mall in his hometown of La Ceiba. His death was confirmed by his father, and police were reportedly searching for one or two suspects, having ruled out robbery as a motive because his belongings were not taken.

Peralta played 31 matches for Rangers between 2013 and 2015 before being released this past January. He signed with Club Deportivo Olimpia in Honduras, where he’s made 23 appearances and guided the team to the league semifinals where they were eliminated last week.

The 28-year-old was has 24 caps for the Honduran national team, and was in the squad for the friendly match with Cuba scheduled for next week. Peralta was in the Honduran squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but did not make an appearance.