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Conte’s Inter stays perfect, follows up derby win with defeat of Lazio

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The Nerazzuri are humming.

Inter Milan beat Lazio on Wednesday to move to 5-0 in Serie A, continuing a perfect league start for Antonio Conte in his first job since leaving Chelsea.

[ ROUNDUP: Insane League Cup match day yields ‘cupsets’ ]

Not too far removed from winning the Premier League but skipping town under a label of “not attacking enough” for Blues owner Roman Abramovich, Conte is rolling with the big-investing Nerazzurri.

Danilo D’Ambrosio scored Inter’s goal on Wednesday, which came four days after a 2-0 defeat of derby rivals AC Milan.

“You won’t move my position,” Conte said of the club’s title possibilities in a league dominated by Juventus, who they play in two weeks.

“You saw the difficulties we had in the first half. At the same time, getting five wins out of five shows the hard work is paying off and the mentality is becoming consolidated. I am sure the moment we get a bad result, the critics will come piling on, but we are ready.”

Alexis Sanchez got onto the field in the win.

The 30-year-old has played just 18 minutes for Inter, eight of them coming Wednesday. That’s one day after Conte said this about the Chilean.

“For him it is worth the words I give for everyone else,” Conte said before the match. “When I see ready players, they will be inserted [into the starting line-up]. I have to work in the interest of Inter, not of individuals.”

Given Sanchez’s track record, it’s hardly a surprise to see Conte choose other players over the Chilean. Injuries and form limited him to five goals and nine assists in 45 career games for United, far off his 80 and 45 in 166 with Arsenal.

While Alexis could still rebound and snare his former status, it seems like he’s going to need to either rip up that big money contract — he’s on the books at Old Trafford until 2022 — and go somewhere that wants him. Otherwise, he’d have to go the China, MLS, or Chinese Super League route.

Knowing Alexis, the latter seems likely.

Chile, Argentina play to 0-0 dud in Los Angeles

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Chile and Argentina, in front of a crowd one writer described as “seventy-three people and a few dogs,” played to a 0-0 stinker at the LA Coliseum on Thursday night.

In what was billed as a matchup between two South American giants lost its luster when Lionel Messi, yet to play this season for Barcelona, withdrew from the Argentina squad days ago due to injury. No one was able to rescue the match, with the two teams combining for just two shots on target and 21 fouls in the first half. The second half was marred by mass substitutions commonplace in new-age friendlies, sapping the match of any flow it hoped to construct.

Both teams produced strong lineups, although Argentina rested a few first-teamers like Franco Armani, Marcos Rojo, and Manuel Lanzini. Still, the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Paulo Dybala, Giovani Lo Celso, and Charles Aranguiz were powerless to inject the game with any kind of cohesion or beauty.

All told, the two teams each shared 50% possession, there were four total shots on target, 39 fouls, and 10 yellow cards. There was one excitable moment in the final five minutes of the match as River Plate center-back Lucas Martinez – on his international debut – rose to head a corner off the crossbar, but that was as close as either side would come to an unlikely goal.

Next up for both teams, Chile takes on Honduras in San Pedro Sula, while Argentina meets Mexico in San Antonio on Tuesday.

Positive Alexis Sanchez injury update

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Manchester United expect to have Alexis Sanchez fit and raring to go for the start of their 2019-20 Premier League season.

The Chilean forward, 30, scored twice and played pretty well for Chile at the Copa America in Brazil over the past few weeks.

However, he did suffer a hamstring injury in their 2-1 defeat to Argentina in the third-place match on Saturday.

Speaking from United’s preseason tour in Australia, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Sanchez will be fit enough for the latter stages of preseason.

“I don’t think Alexis’s injury was too bad,” Solskjaer said. “When he’s due back is three weeks after his last game, so that will be just after we come back from tour. I would expect him to be fit enough to play straightaway and train straightaway.”

So, there you have it.

United are spending the next few weeks in Australia, Singapore and then China before heading back to Europe to end their preseason slate of games.

Sanchez was also going to miss the Far East and Australia portion of this trip, but it is a little disappointing he will not get a full rest and then a full preseason to impress Solskjaer.

Then again, he had the entire summer off this time 12 months ago and that didn’t really work out that well for him, did it?

Sanchez has a huge season ahead to try and resurrect his career which has stalled badly since joining United on a huge contract 18 months ago. He has scored just three PL goals in 32 appearances for United, compared to his 60 in 122 PL games for Arsenal. There were some reports he could leave United this summer, but there don’t seem to be many suitors out there after his form dipped badly and especially given the astronomical contract he signed in January 2018.

For him to be worthy of the reported $625,000 per week contract he’s on, he probably has to score at least 15 goals and add 10 assists in the Premier League alone this season. Considering he will battle it out with Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial just for playing time, that’s a big ask.

But, as has always been the case with Sanchez since he arrived at Old Trafford, we know there’s a superstar play in there somewhere.

Now is the time for him to rest up and be ready for the final weeks of preseason as United have a favorable run of games to start the new season.

If United, and Sanchez, can hit the ground running, Solskjaer has a decent chance of turning things around as the Red Devils push for the top four.

Imagine the damage a fully-fit, and focused, Sanchez could do alongside Martial and Rashford…

Copa America team of the tournament announced

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The 2019 Copa America team of the tournament has been announced, and Lionel Messi hasn’t been included in the best XI.

Hmm. I wonder why…

Messi slammed CONMEBOL officials and referees for “corruption” and said the tournament was “fixed” for Brazil to win it.

That led to South America’s governing body releasing a statement defending its officials and a ban is likely coming up for Mr. Messi. So, yeah, he’s not in the team of the tournament and his one goal in six games could also suggest why that was the case.

The Selecao did win the tournament, beating surprise finalists Peru 3-1 in the final, as the hosts were dominant throughout.

Five Brazilian players feature in the team of the tournament with Alisson, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Arthur and Everton all included. But Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino both had very good tournaments for the hosts, while Alexis Sanchez also had his moments before he suffered an injury.

Peru’s Miguel Trauco and Paolo Guerrero were also in the best XI, while James Rodriguez from Colombia, Leandro Paredes from Argentina, Chile’s Arturo Vidal and Uruguay’s Jose Gimenez are all the lone representatives from their nations.

Below is the team of the tournament in full.


2019 Copa America Team of the Tournament

Goalkeeper: Alisson
Defenders: Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Jose Gimenez, Miguel Trauco
Midfielders: Arthur, Arturo Vidal, Leando Paredes
Forwards: Everton, James Rodriguez, Paolo Guerrero

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.