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Atlanta’s Martinez scores as Venezuela shocks Argentina

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It was supposed to be Lionel Messi’s big night in his return to the Argentine National Team after a nine month break. Instead, it may have reminded him why he left in the first place.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez scored a second-half penalty, Newcastle United’s Salomon Robson opened the scoring and the Vinotino of Venezuela shocked Argentina, 3-1 in a friendly match played at the Wanda Metropolitana in Madrid. For all the starpower of both sides, MLS was represented, as Martinez’s club teammate Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez started for Argentina alongside Messi.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The result was another blow to coach Lionel Scaloni as he tries to rebuild an aging Albiceleste side with a frail defense. Meanwhile it is a huge boost for Venezuela ahead of this summer’s Copa America in Brazil.

It only took six minutes for Rondon to put Venezuela on the board. Tottenham’s Juan Foyth was unable to deal with the Newcastle striker as a terrific direct pass from leftback Roberto Rosales found its way to Rondon, who provided a calm finish.

Just before halftime, Jhon Murillo curled home a delightful strike to put Venezuela up 2-0. Pity Martínez was substituted at halftime and while Lautaro Martinez pulled a goal back for Argentina, it was not to be Argentina’s night. Foyth again was to blame as he took down Darwin Machis in the box, setting up Josef Martinez to put the final nail in the coffin.

Icardi ends six-week exile at Inter as he resumes training

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MILAN (AP) Mauro Icardi has resumed training with his Inter Milan teammates, ending a six-week exile.

Icardi has not been on the field in more than a month, since being stripped of the captaincy amid protracted contract negotiations.

The 26-year-old Icardi has said he has a knee injury, although the club has said tests did not reveal any problem.

The Argentine forward returned to team training on Thursday with others who had not been called up for international duty.

Icardi could be called up for Inter’s next match on March 31, at home to Lazio in Serie A.

With 29 goals, Icardi was the joint top scorer in Serie A last season, sharing the honor with Ciro Immobile of Lazio. He has nine goals in 20 Serie A appearances this season.

Fellow Argentine Lautaro Martinez has stepped up in his absence, weighing in with four goals in his past nine matches.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Diego Maradona reveals he has three children in Cuba

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So, Cuba should have a pretty good national team in a few years…

All joking aside, the lawyer of Argentine legend Diego Maradona has released a statement confirming that his client has three children in Cuba that he is willing to recognize.

Maradona, 58, spent five years living in Cuba from 2000 to 2005 as he underwent treatment for drug addiction. During his time in Cuba he became close friends with Fidel Castro and has a tattoo of the former President of Cuba on his leg.

His lawyer Matias Moria released the following statement about the previously unknown children of Maradona.

“Maradona has three children in Cuba and they are going to be recognized. There are three children from two women. There has never been any problem. A claim has been lodged, but with lots of respect. Diego is going to take charge of whatever he has to take charge of.”

Maradona now has eight children, one of whom, Gianinna Maradona, joked on Instagram: “You only need three more to make 11, you can do it!”

Dalma Maradona, Diego Sinagra, Giannina Maradona, Jana Maradona and Diego Fernando Maradona Ojeda are the children we previously knew about, and they are aged 31, 32, 29, 22 and six respectively.

He currently coaches a second-tier team in Mexico, Dorados de Sinaloa.

Emotional funeral for Sala held in his Argentine hometown

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PROGRESSO, Argentina (AP) Family, friends, supporters and former teammates paid tribute to striker Emiliano Sala in his small Argentine hometown on Saturday, almost four weeks after he died when the plane he was in crashed into the English Channel.

The 28-year-old Sala’s body received a hero’s welcome in Progreso where much of the grieving population paid their last respects to their soccer idol before the body was taken away for cremation.

“It is something that I still cannot understand or accept because it hurts so much,” said Progreso resident Lucia Torres, who was in tears. “My town shut down on Jan. 21 and remains shut down to this day.”

Sala was the best-known figure from Progreso, a town of several thousand inhabitants in Argentina’s Santa Fe province, and was adored by many. He had been known since childhood here as “Emi.”

A post-mortem found that Sala died from injuries to his head and torso when his plane crashed in the channel.

The single-engine aircraft was flying from the French city of Nantes to Cardiff where Sala was due to start a new career playing for the Welsh capital’s Premier League club. Among those in attendance at Saturday’s funeral were Cardiff City’s manager Neil Warnock and his Nantes teammate Nicolas Pallois.

Sala’s body was recovered from the seabed wreckage last week but the plane’s pilot is still missing. Authorities have said that the Air Accidents Investigation Branch investigation could take up to 12 months. A pre-inquest review hearing was set for Nov. 6.

“He is my player, he’s signed for me,” Warnock said of Sala, adding that he’d met with striker’s family. “And then you look around the whole village here. It’s like the whole village is part of it; I’ve never known anything like it. People showed me pictures where he was 4 years of age and then 7 years and I spoke with his teacher.”

Sala’s body was flown to Argentina and arrived in Buenos Aires on Friday before being driven to Progreso, where Sala grew up.

2030 World Cup bidding heats up with joint bids

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A World Cup across the southern half of South America is very much in the cards, according to multiple reports.

Chile has joined Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina in the bid to host the 2030 tournament.

[ MORE: McKennie, Adams star in Germany ]

Once 2030 hits, the World Cup will not have been hosted in South America since 2014 (three World Cups) and Europe since 2018 (two).

Here’s what Chilean president Sebastian Pinera said in a Friday Tweet.

“A few months ago I proposed to the presidents of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay to incorporate Chile, and jointly, to apply for 2030. They agreed to present their joint candidacy to organise the 2030 World Cup.”

Joint bids look to be the way of the future, with Canada, Mexico, and the United States hosting in 2026 and partners potentially joining Qatar in 2022. South Korea and Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup.

Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Serbia are considering a combined bid for the 2030 tournament, with England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland also in play.

An expanded field would mean given each of the hosts a place in the tournament wouldn’t be as detrimental to qualifying (though it would make for a bizarre CONMEBOL qualifying field should all three South American teams host).