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Lionel Messi’s masterclass a joy to behold

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LONDON — At the home of world soccer the greatest individual player the world has ever seen put in a display worthy of winning any game.

Lionel Messi made Wembley Stadium, and Tottenham Hotspur, gasp and gawk in awe as he scored twice, hit the post twice, was involved heavily in the other two goals and led Barcelona to a thrilling 4-2 win in the UEFA Champions League.

Every single person inside Wembley felt lucky to be there to witness his brilliance up close and in the flesh. It sounds boring to repeat this because we’ve said this so many times about Messi over the past 15 years.

At many moments many Tottenham fans stood up and applauded his play. That tells you all you need to know.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned | Recap

“He‘s a fantastic player. The most important thing is why Lionel Messi in every game shows why he is Messi. His average performance is this type of game, above everything else,” Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino said as he tried to claim Messi wasn’t that dangerous in the first 45 minutes. That wasn’t the case.

The truth is that we are witnessing greatness and those at Wembley on Wednesday will tell their children and grandchildren about seeing him in full flow, ripping defenders apart and doing everything with both sublime ease and supreme skill.

In truth, the 4-2 scoreline flattered Tottenham slightly. Messi and Co. were guilty of toying with Spurs a little too much before they finished them off in the closing stages.

At the age of 31 Messi’s brilliance shows no signs of slowing down as he scored goals number 561 and 562 in his 647th appearance for Barcelona.

“He [Messi] was unbelievable. When he’s in that form he’s magic to watch,” Spurs defender Kieran Trippier added.

And Spurs’ entire team spent most of Wednesday watching the magician glide across the Wembley pitch past them.

Not even a dried out patch of dodgy grass around the center circle stopped him from finding spaces then ruthlessly exposing Tottenham’s makeshift midfield and defense as Pochettino had to deal with missing several of his regulars.

Had Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen been fit, it probably wouldn’t have made much difference with Messi in this form. Not only did he dazzle in attack but he chased back, dropped deep to start attacks and his understanding with Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho in particular made every player around him better.

Every superlative in the English language used one after another would not be capable of describing just how brilliant he is and what we witness on a weekly basis.

We aren’t sure if Messi will ever get to play at Wembley again. Given the fact that England don’t have any friendly games lined up against Argentina and Tottenham aren’t due to play any more UEFA Champions League games there after December, it seems likely he won’t be back at the iconic venue.

If that was to be Messi’s final game at the spiritual home of soccer, it was a fitting tribute to the true beauty of the beautiful game.

The truth is that magic like Messi’s is never likely to be seen again.

LIVE — USMNT seeks ‘payback’ v. Canada in CONCACAF Nations League

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The USMNT’s CONCACAF Nations League hopes are on the line when it meets Canada in Orlando at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.

[ FOLLOW: USMNT on Twitter ]

The Yanks seek to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Canucks in Toronto last month, one that heaped pressure on coach Gregg Berhalter.

If the USMNT fails to win on Friday, a match Canada also needs for its World Cup qualifying hopes, it will bow out of the tournament before the semifinal round.

There’s no place for DeAndre Yedlin in the back line, as Tim Ream‘s been chosen to play right back with a center back pairing of John Brooks and Aaron Long. Sergino Dest starts on the right.

The midfield will have Jackson Yueill lying deep, with Weston McKennie and Sebastian Lletget also getting the call.

Gyasi Zardes starts at center forward with Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola on the wings.

EURO qualifying wrap: Sweden joins Finland in qualifying

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Finland and Sweden have qualified for EURO 2020 after posting big wins on Friday, the former doing it at home to relative minnows Liechtenstein while the latter scored an impressive win away to Romania.

[ WATCH: G. Jesus’ comical penalty miss ]


Romania 0-2 Sweden

Marcus Berg and Robin Quaison scored first half goals as Sweden qualified for its sixth-straight EURO. Both are having decent starts to the club season. The veteran Berg has scored five times for Krasnodar, while the 26-year-old Quaison has scored four times for Mainz this season.

Spain 7-0 Malta

The Spanish had seven different goal scorers beginning with Alvaro Morata and Santi Cazorla providing a 2-0 halftime lead. Spain out shot Malta 25-1, with Pau Torres, Pablo Sarabia, Dani Olmo, and Gerard Moreno also scoring for an experimental squad.

And what if we told you Jesus Navas scored? Cause he did.

Denmark 6-0 Gibraltar

Christian Eriksen scored twice in the final five minutes after Robert Skov’s brace came sandwiched around Christian Gytkjaer and Martin Braithwaite goals. The Danes climbed to the top of Group D, one point better than the Swiss and three better than Republic of Ireland (who it meets on the last match day).

Switzerland 1-0 Georgia

Granit Xhaka went 90 minutes and Cedric Itten scored the game’s lone goal as the Swiss joined the Danes in climbing above Republic of Ireland.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-3 Italy

The Azzurri were clinical on Friday, with Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne, and Andrea Belotti bagging

Elsewhere
Norway 4-0 Faroe Islands
Finland 3-0 Liechtenstein — RECAP
Armenia 0-1 Greece

WATCH: Gabriel Jesus comically misses penalty; Messi pots winner on Argentina return

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As long as Lionel Messi is on the field, Argentina and Brazil is going to be must-watch no matter the location.

Messi converted a rebound of his own won and saved penalty to score his 69th international goal in Argentina’s 1-0 win in a Saudi Arabia-hosted friendly on Friday.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

It was Messi’s first match with Argentina since the summer, when he was banned three months for claiming the 2019 Copa America tournament was fixed for hosts Brazil.

Let’s be real, though: You should be here for this terrible penalty miss from Gabriel Jesus.

The Brazilian also won his penalty, but his miss was a dreadful dribble wide of the frame. It clicked three boxes of terrible: no direction, no conviction, no technique.

Pique: Griezmann growing into Barca role “little by little”

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This summer, there was plenty of talk that Barcelona’s players wanted Neymar in town and quite the opposite regarding Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid star was the player purchased by Barcelona.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

Griezmann, 28, has four goals and three assists in 15 matches, but the bulk of that outlay came in two matches and he’s without a goal or assist in the UEFA Champions League.

A bit different from his 21 goals and 10 assists in 48 matches last season, at least on the goals end, but the Frenchman is settling into a new club and city.

While it’s not like his new teammates think he’s garbage, they aren’t sugarcoating their opinion of his transition nor downplaying their lofty opinion of Barca.

Here’s Gerard Pique, via AS.com:

“Real Sociedad and Atlético were teams who played for Griezmann. That’s not the case at Barca, because the level is higher and he has to find his place in the side. Little by little he’s finding it. He’s got the quality and talent for it.”

Pique also blew off Barca’s extra rest before the new El Clasico date, and talked about Leo Messi’scontract talks as well as his relationship with Sergio Ramos. It’s all here.