Gary Medel

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Messi handles fine, ban for Copa America outburst

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You could probably call this a slap on the wrist for Lionel Messi, but it’s probably more like a tickle of his ear.

CONMEBOL have decided to fine the Barcelona and Argentina star just $1,500 for his explosive outburst after being sent off in the 2019 Copa America tournament earlier this summer.

That hefty fine will teach him…

Messi, 32, has also had his one-match ban (for being sent off) upheld and he will now miss Argentina’s first 2022 World Cup qualifier.

Following his red card for a clash with Chile’s Gary Medel during the third-place playoff match, both players were sent off and it’s safe to say Messi was far from happy with how everything went down as he criticized the refereeing and quality of the pitches in Brazil.

“We don’t have to be part of this corruption,” Messi said. “They have showed us a lack of respect throughout this tournament. Sadly, the corruption, the referees, they don’t allow people to enjoy football, they ruined it a bit. I think the cup is fixed for Brazil. I hope that the VAR and the referees have nothing to do in this final and that Peru can compete because they have the team to do so although I think it’s difficult.”

Messi has since apologized for his comments and this punishment is the end of the matter. At least for him…

CONMEBOL have taken Argentina FA leader Claudio Tapia off their seat in the decision-making FIFA council. Tapia followed Messi as he hit out at CONMEBOL in an open letter following their semifinal defeat to hosts Brazil.

Messi: Copa America ‘corrupt’ and ‘fixed’ for Brazil

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Lionel Messi received his first red card in 14 years on Saturday, and it was just the second of his glittering career.

The Argentina and Barcelona star didn’t accept his sending off quietly. At all.

Speaking to reporters after Argentina beat Chile 2-1 to seal third place at the 2019 Copa America in Brazil, Messi revealed that he believes the referees and CONMEBOL aren’t being fair and that everything is set up for Brazil to win the final against Peru on Sunday.

“We don’t have to be part of this corruption,” Messi said. “They have showed us a lack of respect throughout this tournament. Sadly, the corruption, the referees, they don’t allow people to enjoy football, they ruined it a bit. I think the cup is fixed for Brazil. I hope that the VAR and the referees have nothing to do in this final and that Peru can compete because they have the team to do so although I think it’s difficult.”

Messi’s lost his cool along with Chile’s Gary Medel in a heated confrontation which involved plenty of shoulder barging, but both players deserved probably a yellow card each and a stern talking too. The red card was harsh and Messi is feeling rightly aggrieved.

But he seems to have taken it a little too far with these comments, as a statement from CONMEBOL (which didn’t name Messi directly) said that “unfounded accusations have been launched that lack the truth and question the integrity of the Copa America. These accusations represent a lack of respect for the competition, all the participating players and the hundreds of professionals of CONMEBOL.”

You can’t help but feel that over 15 years of close calls, and ultimate failure, for Argentina are weighing heavy on Messi’s shoulders. They’ve now lost in a World Cup final, three Copa America finals and a Copa America semifinal with Messi, who has come out of international retirement, as their main main.

Until he wins some silverware on the international stage, those questions will always be asked about how good he actually was compared to Pele, Diego Maradona and even Cristiano Ronaldo who have all led their nations to silverware.

Messi, 32, probably has one last crack at winning the World Cup with Argentina in 2022 before he calls it quits. The clock is ticking and Messi is feeling the pressure, with his presence at the 2020 Copa America, joint hosted by Argentina and Colombia, now far from certain after this outburst.

Messi sent off for first time in 14 years for… this?!?

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It was the rematch many wanted, just not in the appropriate venue.

Argentina and Chile met for placement in their third-straight Copa America, but this time it was for third place and not the final.

So, in an odd twist for a third-place game, the greatest player in the world was sent off for the first time in 14 years.

[ MORE: USMNT-Mexico preview ]

Tempestuous early and then firmly in Argentina’s hands at 2-0 after less than 22 minutes, the match hit a new flashpoint as Messi and Gary Medel were both sent off the pitch by referee Mario Diaz de Vivar after a perceived head-to-head incident between the Argentine captain and Chile’s hatchet man.

It was Messi’s first red since an Argentina friendly against Hungary on Aug. 17, 2005. He has never been sent off for Barcelona.

And are we being naive if we say the twin red cards were awarded for a whole lot of nothing? Astoundingly, VAR reportedly had a look at the fouls and said, “Yeah, sure. Keep it.” You be the judge:

 

Chile won as hosts in 2015 as well as in the United States-based 2016 Centenario, both after 0-0 results led to penalty kicks.

The 0-0 was eliminated early on Saturday, as Lionel Messi took a quick free kick to Sergio Aguero. The Man City man danced around the keeper to slot for 1-0.

This turn from Dybala, however is the real beauty. Spurs target Giovanni Lo Celso slid a pass between two defenders, and his Juventus receiver brought the ball in front of him with perfect touch.

Chile feeling rejuvenated in search for third straight Copa America crown

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With all eyes on Tuesday’s heavyweight bout between Brazil and Argentina, Chile is pumping its chest as two-time defending Copa America champions, but there’s an unexpected feeling of rebirth around the aging squad as well.

Alexis Sanchez, who struggled through last season at Manchester United, has suddenly returned to form at the competition with a pair of goals and an assist. According to Chile head coach Reinaldo Rueda, there’s one secret ingredient Sanchez is missing at Manchester United which has seen him back to his best this summer.

“Love,” Rueda tabbed as the special sauce in his pre-match press conference. “In the national team and because of the attention they receive, the players don’t want to leave. Despite not playing for their clubs, they come here with commitment and forge a strong group.”

Rueda pointed to others in the South American competition who struggled at their clubs this season and are experiencing a rebirth at the Copa America. “That’s why players like [Barcelona’s Philippe] Coutinho, [Real Madrid’s] James [Rodriguez], or Alexis, who didn’t have a great season, become themselves again with the national team.”

Midfielder Arturo Vidal is on board with that mentality, motivated not only by the camaraderie among the players and adoration fromt he fans, but the goal in front of them: a historic third straight Copa America.

“We want to leave our legacy as triple champions, that’s our dream,” Vidal said. “That’s why we want to play our best match of the Copa against Peru. It would be something historic for us to get to the final and that’s our aim.”

Argentina is the only country to ever win three straight Copa America titles, securing it between 1945-47. Even as Uruguay and Argentina dominated South America in the 1910’s, 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s and the competition was held on a more regular basis, it was still difficult to sustain repeated success.

As Chile meets a Peru side that held Uruguay off the scoresheet before winning on penalties, the old guard in Sanchez, Vidal, Jean Beausejour, Mauricio Isla and captain Gary Medel – all over the 30-year-old mark – has to continue tapping into its youthful edge to attain a period of domination unmatched in over 70 years.

Alexis Sanchez secures win for Chile over Ecuador

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Chile wasn’t exactly at its attacking best they displayed against Japan in the opener, but it got the job done as Alexis Sanchez and Jose Fuenzalida provided the firepower in a 2-1 win over Ecuador. The three points moved Chile into sole possession of the lead in Group C and secured a spot in the knockout stage for the defending champions.

The game had an edge from the opening whistle as Sebastian Mendez, newly installed into the Ecuador midfield after riding the bench for the opening loss to Uruguay, received a third minute yellow card for barging through the back of Charles Aranguiz. That spurred Chile on and they opened the scoring before the 10-minute mark, the second early goal Ecuador has conceded in its two Copa America matches.

Fuenzalida was the man to finish it off as a corner swung in and the ball pinged around the box until it rolled out to the 34-year-old where he fired a shot that found the inside of the far post. It put Ecuador behind early again after they shipped a sixth-minute opener to Nicolas Lodeiro and Uruguay a few days ago.

The game ground to a halt past the 20-minute mark as Chile settled in with the lead, but Ecuador found a moment with Chile a bit too relaxed. With Jefferson Orejuela on the ball in midfield and staring at acres of space down the middle, he burst forward and lofted a ball over the top to Romario Ibarra. The Minnesota United frontman lifted his leg up to tap the ball out of the air and to his teammate Mendez charging into the box. With Gary Medel left in Mendez’s wake, Chile goalkeeper Gabriel Arias came out of net and looked to smother the chance but instead chopped down Mendez and the referee awarded the clear penalty. Enner Valencia stepped up and blasted the ball through for Ecuador’s first goal of the tournament, leveling the game at 1-1.

In a tournament marred by constant VAR controversies, the problems continued as the referee initially gave nothing for a clear dive by Romario Ibarra under pressure from Arias. In a replay review that took nearly five minutes, the referee decided to change his decision and give a yellow card to Arias instead of carding Ibarra for simulation. All in all, it was the first yellow for Arias after he was not cautioned for the penalty earlier – which he should have been – so the farcical VAR booking thankfully did not see him sent off.

The second half started drab, but Chile bided its time and grabbed the lead in the 51st minute as an Aranguiz cross came in from the end line right of net and sailed the scrum in front of goal, only to fall at the back post where Alexis Sanchez was waiting. The Manchester United attacker delivered a pinpoint volley that chipped Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez and found the top-right corner.

Both sides had chances after Chile went ahead, but the defending champions looked more likely to score. Erick Pulgar nearly put Chile 3-1 up in the 65th minute but his bullet header off a corner was athletically saved by Dominguez with a diving stop to keep the ball from sneaking in under the crossbar. With time winding down, Ecuador’s job became monumental after Gabriel Achilier was sent off with a straight red card after a stray forearm caught Arturo Vidal in the head on an aerial challenge, and the referee immediately had his decision made.

Ecuador had little left to offer as Chile successfully saw out the game and picked up its second win of the group stage, securing a spot in the next round and eliminating Ecuador. Chile will round out the group stage with a match against Uruguay that will mean something for their opponents who have not yet secured a spot in the knockouts after slipping to a draw with Japan.