Radamel Falcao

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Colombia downs Argentina 2-0 after big Messi miss

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A miserable opening 45 minutes gave way to a more exciting second half, and Roger Martinez came off the bench to win the day with a 71st minute stunner to give Colombia all three points in Bahia, supported by a late cherry on top from Duvan Zapata.

The goal came just minutes after Lionel Messi missed a golden opportunity to give Argentina the lead during a spell of serious possessional domination midway through the second half. Once again, the Argentinian collection of star forwards came up empty, a drought that continues to plague the side in big matches.

The first half, largely, was a physical mess with very few real chances on net. The possession was nearly even between the two sides, neither team registered a shot on target, and there were just five shots overall in the first half, including just one for Argentina.

Early on, Lionel Messi was at the heart of Argentina’s best chance as he delivered a stunning long ball forward for Sergio Aguero, but with David Ospina coming acres out of his net to challenge with a flying karate kick, the offside flag went up to end the chance. Colombia was dealt an early blow as Luis Muriel was forced off with an early thigh injury, replaced by Martinez in a move that would eventually prove critical.

Argentina suffered a near-disaster when Nicolas Otamendi delivered a dangerous back-pass to goalkeeper Franco Armani who sent it right back to his defender with both under heavy pressure, but they escaped just conceding a corner and it came to nothing for Colombia.

After the break, the game opened up a bit but there were still few chances on net. Messi nearly weaved his way through the entire Colombian defense, nutmegging Davinson Sanchez before Wilmar Barrios came in to cut the ball off, but the referee made a controversial decision not to award an illegal back-pass as Barrios then touched back to Ospina who collected in his arms. Instead, he showed a yellow card to Leandro Paredes for dissent after the action arguing his case.

The two teams burst into a scuffle when Messi was hacked down by Juan Cuadrado past the hour mark as Argentina began to grab hold of the game. Cuadrado received a yellow of his own and was withdrawn shortly thereafter. On the hour mark, Messi had a golden opportunity to give Argentina the lead, but as Paredes saw his effort saved, the rebound came to Messi but he headed wide right from point-blank range despite the goal gaping.

Minutes later Colombia took the lead through a simple yet stunning move as Martinez burst down the left and cut inside just outside the top of the penalty area, unleashing a fabulous strike that left a diving Armani with no chance as it buried into the side netting inside the far post.

Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni somehow decided that 31-year-old Matias Suarez was the choice for a last throw of the dice off the bench, choosing the man with two prior international caps over the likes of Paulo Dybala and Lautaro Martinez. Instead, Colombia went down the other end and eviscerated the Argentina defense with a vicious counter down the left as Roger Martinez combined with Jefferson Lerma. The latter crossed to the doorstep and Zapata – who came on just five minutes earlier for Radamel Falcao – somehow beat the napping center-back pairing of German Pezzella and Otamendi.

The win for Colombia gives them an early advantage in Group B, while Argentina can still rescue its situation with matches remaining against Paraguay and Qatar. The loss marks the third in Argentina’s last four competitive matches, with losses to France and Croatia in World Cup play prior to this defeat.

Copa America preview: Can Messi’s men stop the hosts?

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Several massive names in CONMEBOL are looking at what could well be their final Copa America, beginning tonight in Brazil (Watch live on Telemundo Deportes).

And whereas Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez enter the competition knowing they’ve mastered it once or twice, the window is closing for Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguero, and a man with the last name Messi.

[ STREAM: Copa America on Telemundo Deportes ]

That’s also true for most of the Brazil players aside from captain Dani Alves. The Selecao have not won the Copa America since 2007, and will be the favorites to lift the trophy on home soil.

Yes, even without Neymar, though his absence certainly allows Colombia and Argentina to claim somewhat equal footing in the favorites’ category.

Brazil’s status as hosts means winning Group A would allow them to avoid the Group B and C winners until the final. Group C, however, is a top-to-bottom bunch and it wouldn’t be surprise for it to sort itself in any permutation.

Group A

  1. Brazil
  2. Venezuela
  3. Peru
  4. Bolivia

This one is a battle for second, even without Neymar, and Venezuela’s showing against the United States was not simply a function of American dysfunction. Peru’s question remains in defense, and not being able to handle Salomon Rondon has us putting them third.

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Colombia
  3. Paraguay*
  4. Qatar

Messi and Co. will enjoy this draw, though both Paraguay and Colombia have the chance to give them fits. The Argentine megastar has the spotlight and the burden, though, as he’s yet to supply international honors to his nation and is coming off a disappointing end to his club season (team-wise, not player-wise, it should be noted).

Group C

  1. Uruguay
  2. Japan
  3. Chile*
  4. Ecuador

Where do you go here? Every country in this group is within 22 spots on the ELO ratings, from Uruguay’s 10th to Ecuador’s 32. Japan can tempt the heights of the group and tournament, but how quickly will it adjust to Brazil? The Asian nation finished fourth in manageable Group C at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, hammered 4-1 by Colombia in a must-win finale.

Knockout Rounds

Quarterfinals
Brazil defeats Chile
Colombia defeats Venezuela
Argentina defeats Japan
Uruguay defeats Paraguay

Semifinals
Brazil defeats Colombia
Argentina defeats Uruguay

Final
Brazil defeats Argentina

Ligue 1: PSG hit 80-point mark; Monaco lose again, stuck on 30

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Kylian Mbappe scored his 27th goal as runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain won 1-0 at Toulouse to post an eight consecutive league win.

Facing a depleted PSG side, Toulouse defended well throughout and PSG looked to the individual brilliance of its star striker to bag three more points in its march toward the title.

Mbappe, the league’s top scorer, broke the deadlock in the 74th minute from Thilo Kehrer’s cross. He controlled the ball in the area with a smart touch and fired the ball into the net with the outside of his right boot.

PSG has a 20-point lead over Lille in the standings and is all but guaranteed to win a sixth title in seven years.


Forward Enzo Crivelli scored the winner as Caen upset Monaco 1-0 to move out of the automatic relegation zone.

Caen had started the day bottom of the standings but Crivelli made the most of a superb cross from captain Faycal Fajr to beat goalkeeper Danijel Subasic with a header in the 23rd minute for his sixth goal this season.

The result lifted Caen to 18th place, seven points behind Monaco.

The hosts enjoyed most of the possession in the first half but were only able to pepper Caen’s area with inoffensive crosses as Radamel Falcao was too often left on his own in the box.

Monaco improved after the interval and Caen goalkeeper Brice Samba pulled off three decisive saves to deny efforts from Kamil Glik, Carlos Vinicius and Stevan Jovetic.

Luck was also on Samba’s side when Gelson Martins hit the post with a right-footed shot and Jean-Eudes Aholou saw his volley crash onto the Caen crossbar.

Friendly roundup: Falcao gives Colombia win in Japan, and more

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Colombia beat Japan 1-0 in Yokohama and South Korea beat Bolivia 1-0 in Ulsan in friendlies on Friday.

Radamel Falcao converted a second-half penalty after a handball by Takehiro Tomiyasu, to give Carlos Queiroz a win in his first match as Colombia coach.

[READ: Adams leaves USMNT camp for Leipzig]

Colombia earned a measure of revenge for losing to Japan in the World Cup pool stage last year, although both teams advanced, and Queiroz also earned some revenge as his eight-year tenure in charge of Iran was ended by Japan in January in the Asian Cup semifinals.

Japan failed to find the target despite 17 attempts in its first game since losing the Asian Cup final to Qatar.

Japan, joining Colombia at the Copa America in June in Brazil, gets another taste of South American action on Tuesday against Bolivia.

South Korea struggled to make its domination count against Bolivia. Son Heung-min wasted several chances before a header by Lee Chung-yong scored the winner with five minutes remaining.

The Koreans welcome Colombia to Seoul on Tuesday.

Ligue 1: Mbappe scores two more for PSG before Man Utd visit

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CAEN, France (AP) Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe rescued a 2-1 win at Caen for the runaway French league leader to avoid embarrassment on Saturday before Manchester United’s Champions League visit.

Mbappe scored twice for the second league match in succession to take his tally to 24 goals in 21 games in the competition, his 87th-minute winner helping PSG open a 20-point lead over Lille.

Thomas Tuchel’s side can now turn attention to United’s trip on Wednesday, when the French team will defend a 2-0 lead from the first leg of the last-16 tie.

Mbappe has scored in all five domestic league games since PSG lost forwards Neymar and Edinson Cavani to injury, and the 20-year-old’s second-half double in Caen took him to 53 goals in the league since bursting on the scene with Monaco three years ago.

He was already the youngest player to reach 50 league goals in French league history.

But PSG was given a fright by plucky Caen, which is fighting relegation. The visitors were shocked when Casimir Ninga fired the home side ahead early in the second half.

The goal frames had seen plenty of action in the first half. PSG defender Layvin Kurzawa set the tone when he struck the crossbar in the third minute and Enzo Crivelli was similarly denied at the other end.

Marquinhos then struck the crossbar again for PSG, and Angel Di Maria’s effort was deflected by Caen keeper Brice Samba onto the post.

Ninga scored in the 56th minute when he took Faycal Fajr’s free kick on his thigh before dispatching the ball past Alphonse Areola and inside the far post with his next touch.

The lead only lasted three minutes, Mbappe equalizing with a penalty.

Di Maria had the next chance, again striking the post, before Mbappe came to the visitors’ rescue when he stabbed home the rebound after Samba parried Thomas Meunier’s initial effort.

Both the late games finished 2-2. Radamel Falcao scored twice in the second half, one a penalty, as Monaco drew at Angers to stay unbeaten since Leonardo Jardim returned to take charge, while Amiens drew at Reims.