It’s been a summer of PR nightmare after PR nightmare for Lionel Messi.
First, he made headlines when he was indicted by the Spanish government for evading taxes through laundering processes overseas. The case was shadily ended with Messi proclaiming his innocence but paying up anyways.
Then, star players scheduled to play in his Chicago charity match dropped out in droves. He was forced to cancel the follow-up match in Los Angeles.
Now, he apparently skipped town on the “Messi and Friends” game after being substituted off the match in the 70th minute.
There’s not a large amount of information on exactly when he left and what he missed, but from what’s been floating around, Messi skipped ESPN interviews as well as autograph signings for fans who paid for special (and expensive) meet and greet tickets. A few media members in attendance made their feelings known on Twitter.
Unfortunately 140 characters isn’t quite enough to get the full gist of what happened, but with a black cloud over the match already, one can’t help but wonder what the new issue is now, especially this stunt at an event to benefit his own charity.
There was one spectacular moment to take away from Soldier Field. Northwestern alum Matt Eliason scored a ridiculous goal, chesting the ball down to himself before unleashing a bicycle kick that would have made Messi himself proud.
Watch the goal here.
Denmark and Australia settled for a 1-1 draw on Thursday, as this exciting Group C affair had nothing to separate the two nations at the end of 90 minutes.
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As it stands, the Danes lead the group with four points, while Australia earned its first point of the World Cup.
France will meet Peru later on Thursday, with Les Bleus having won its first match and Peru having suffered defeat to Denmark.
The Danes broke through after seven minutes when Nicolai Jørgensen picked out a perfect back-heel pass to Christian Eriksen at the top of the box, before the Tottenham Hotspur attacker volleyed home for a 1-0 lead.
Jørgensen nearly doubled the Denmark advantage in the 24th minute when the 27-year-old had an open header from close range that skewed just wide of the target.
Australia worked its way into the match following the opener, and were awarded a penalty kick in the 37th minute after VAR Mark Geiger altered an initial decision for a handball inside the box.
Mile Jedinak converted the spot kick to level the match at 1-1, giving the Socceroos life.
A dangerous free kick four minutes later almost gave Denmark the lead once again, however, Eriksen couldn’t get a crucial touch on the ball to knock it over the goal line before Ryan collected.
The second half continued with lightning pace from both sides, and Aaron Mooy‘s 71st minute blast came inches away from giving Australia an improbable lead.
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The two nations will conclude Group C play on June 26, as Denmark faces France and Australia takes on CONMEBOL side Peru.
The Socceroos battled admirably in the latter stages of the first half, and Australia was rewarded for their efforts.
Australia has leveled the match at 1-1 after a Mile Jedinak penalty kick cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s stunning opener in the seventh minute.
After an initial decision to play on by the head referee, VAR Mark Geiger opted to award a penalty kick to the Aussies after Yussuf Poulsen was caught with his hand away from his body on a Mathew Leckie header.
Poulsen was also shown a yellow card for the infraction, which rules him out for Denmark’s group-stage finale against France.
Denmark is well on its way to another three points on Thursday, and this time it’s Christian Eriksen who has finally broken through at the World Cup.
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Eriksen put the Danes in front in the seventh minute after a tremendous volley that gave Australia goalkeeper Maty Ryan no chance at keeping it out.
After a sloppy turnover in their own half, Australia could only watch as the ball fell to Nicolai Jørgensen, who cleverly back-heeled to Eriksen at the top of the box.
The Danes pulled off a 1-0 victory in their first Group C match against Peru, while Australia fell 2-1 to France.
Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic chose his words wisely when discussing their final Group D opponent, Argentina, but his side won’t be backing down when they take on Lionel Messi and Co.
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With three points already in the bag for the European nation, Croatia currently sits atop their group, however, Dalic recognizes the task that lies in front of him and his team on Thursday.
“I didn’t say that Argentina was the easiest opponent,” Dalic said. “I said that this was the easiest game for us. We have nothing to lose. We are playing against one of the best.”
Croatia does have the benefit of having won its first match in group play, which has given the side a decided enthusiasm heading into the meeting.
For Ivan Rakitic — who plays at Barcelona with Messi — he believes there isn’t much he or anyone on his team can say or do to further prepare themselves for the Albiceleste.
“What can I tell them that they don’t know?” Rakitic said. “The world knows. Messi is one of the best players in the world. He will have his moments, clearly. It is up to us to stop him, to play the right way against him, and to enjoy the match and play our best.
“It’s a beautiful thing to play against one of the best teams in the world. We are especially motivated.”
In four all-time meetings, Argentina leads 2-1-1 against Croatia, including a 1-0 victory during the 1998 World Cup in France.
The two teams last met in 2014 following Argentina’s World Cup final defeat to Germany, with Messi and Co. earning a 2-1 victory over Croatia.