Getty Images

Messi, Suarez both score in pre-Copa America friendlies

Leave a comment

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are both in typical goalscoring form as their international sides ramp up for the imminent 2019 Copa America.

Messi bagged a quickfire brace in the first half of Argentina’s 5-1 beatdown of Nicaragua, scoring in the 37th and 38th minutes to key the win. The first was a classic Messi stunner where he dribbled past nearly the entire Nicaragua defense, skipping by no less than four defenders before depositing the ball in the back of the net with ease.

His second came as Argentina went right back on the attack with Sergio Aguero rifling a shot on net that was saved by Nicaragua goalkeeper Justo Lorente, only for it to fall right at the feet of Messi who completed a sliding finish under pressure. The Barcelona superstar was withdrawn at halftime for Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala.

Overall, it was a dominating performance from Argentina, holding 67% possession and putting eight of their 19 shots on target. Electric 21-year-old Inter striker Lautaro Martinez scored a second-half brace to double Argentina’s lead, a positive sign for the country that has searched far and wide for someone to share the goalscoring load with Messi. Roberto Pereyra completed the scoreline with a late tap-in, while the back line that consisted at times of Nicolas Otamendi, Juan Foyth, and Ramiro Funes Mori held Nicaragua to a measly two total shots with zero on target until stoppage time when Juan Berrera put Nicaragua on the board from the penalty spot.

While Messi was clowning the Nicaragua back line, his Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez was on target as Uruguay had no trouble dispatching Panama 3-0. The 32-year-old came off the bench alongside Edinson Cavani in the 63rd minute and six minutes later, he dispatched a Messi-like free-kick that found the top-left corner and left Panamanian goalkeeper Luis Mejia no chance, making the game 2-0 at the time.

The Uruguay defense looked tournament-ready as well, holding Panama to just one shot on target and five overall efforts on net. The game was a foul-fest, with the sides combining to produce 43 whistles, although only one yellow card was issued. Uruguay dominated the attacking play, holding 64% of possession and earning 10 corners while Panama did not take a single one.

Argentina will begin Copa America play next Saturday as it takes on Colombia in group stage play. Uruguay, meanwhile, gets under way a day later, set to face Ecuador before a meeting with AFC guest Japan.

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

Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Photo by DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

AP Photo
Leave a comment

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”

Photo by Joan Valls/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.