World Cup: Friday wrapup

World Cup: Friday wrapup

By Adam Vaccaro
CSNNE.com

What happened Friday: The Twitterverse read like an obituary for American soccer during and immediately following halftime as the United States came out flat against Slovenia and suffered for it, going down early 2-0. But just minutes into the second half, Landon Donovan dismissed such notions with a beautiful individual effort to get the Yanks back into it. The American attack heightened as the half wore on, culminating in a sliding goal by Michael Bradley to complete the spirited comeback and tie the match. The 2-2 score would hold.

The draw was a thriller, but the bad taste in the collective American mouth spawns from a horrible (and frustratingly undefined) called foul that disallowed a Maurice Edu game-winner. Replays show nothing indicating a foul, but the call cost the United States the victory regardless. The Yanks, however, have only themselves to blame for how gut wrenching the call proved. The match showed what the US is capable of when firing on all cylinders, but it especially underscored how crucial it is that the team gets out to better starts. Look for more defensive intensity early on against Algeria on Wednesday.

Also Friday: Americans quickly shifted focus to England's tilt with Algeria and they got the result they wanted. England was unable to take control of the game and Algeria, like Slovenia earlier in the day, proved to be a threat by holding the Three Lions to a scoreless draw. Les Fennecs played surprisingly well defensively and were able to possess the ball and England just couldn't put together much in the way of opportunity. The Three Lions have put themselves in a tough spot, but they're still quite alive moving into the final stage of group play.

Serbia whetted our collective appetite, kicking off a big day of soccer by upsetting Germany 1-0. In a match perhaps too full of bookings, Die Mannschaft saw the worst of it, losing striker Miroslav Klose in the 37th minute after two cautions. Almost immediately, Liverpool's Milan Jovanovic collected the game's only goal from a beautiful Serbian set-up. The Serbs came through in a match they needed to win and Group D will see quite a final week as a result.

What it all means: Things still look pretty good for the Stars and Stripes. Group C is going to go down to the wire, so here's the deal: if the United States beats Algeria it will advance to the second round. It's a can't-lose match, but America has to look at it as a must-win; victory could give the team the group's top spot, and relying on a draw in the other match is not ideal. England finds itself in the same spot. It's possible that the Three Lions get away with a draw (if they score a few goals to break a tie with the United States), but a win would put the team right into the Round of 16. The US and England were supposed to breeze through Group C, but Algeria and Slovenia have hindered those plans. Still, strong showings from the two favored sides on Wednesday will send them both forth.

Group D is now anyone's for the taking. Australia and Ghana will dictate the entire landscape as the group's final matches approach, but Serbia's win today makes things very interesting. The result alerts the soccer world that the Serbs are still a threat after many dismissed the team following its disappointing loss on Sunday. Next Wednesday will mark the deciding matches in both Groups C and D and should make for a fantastic day of soccer.
What to watch on Saturday: Group D is undecided as is, but if Australia could win against Ghana, it would mean chaos. Under such circumstances, each team would enter the final set of matches locked at three points apiece. The Aussies will be without their best player Tim Cahill was sent off against Germany with a red card and their minus-four goal differential will need to be substantially improved on should the group come down to tiebreakers, but a victory tomorrow would put the all four teams in a win-and-in situation next week. If you don't want to see that...well, I guess you're probably Ghanaian, in which case that's totally reasonable.

Also Saturday: Japan and the Netherlands should put on a very entertaining match in the early morning. It will also go a long ways towards determining Group E, as the two teams currently sit atop its standings. A win for either side will give it a very clear advantage going into the final week of group play. Japan impressed in upsetting Cameroon last week, but containing Holland will be a tough task for the Blue Samurai.

Cameroon and Denmark will look to get back into the competition. Three points would undoubtedly be huge for either side regardless of how the early match goes. Samuel Eto'o said this week that he aims to be more central to the Cameroon attack than the Lions' game plan called for against Japan, so look to see the star and captain with the ball frequently.

Question of the Day: Will Harry Kewell play for Australia? The Socceroos are a defense-first type of squad but they must win Saturday's match if they want to stay even with the rest of the group. Goals, then, are in serious demand. Cahill's suspension leaves the team without its most consistent scoring threat. Kewell can provide offense even in advanced age and claims to be fully recovered from a groin injury, but the Aussie medical staff isn't so sure. If he does go, his presence will be a huge boost for a 'Roo squad that's been granted second life in the wake of Friday morning's madness.

Full schedule (all times EDT): Netherlands v Japan Durban Stadium, Durban 7:30 a.m.; Ghana v Australia Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg 10:00 a.m.; Cameroon v Denmark Loftus Versfeld Stadium, TshwanePretoria 2:30 p.m.

Quote of Note: Our goal was to win, but it was still a situation where we couldn't lose ... at the end of the day a tie keeps us alive. - US coach Bob Bradley following his team's match against Slovenia.

Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

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Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina's national team.

Argentina and Messi lost a final for the third year in a row, with Chile winning the Copa America 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

His nation's career scoring leader with 55 international goals, Messi sent Argentina's first penalty kick over the crossbar.

Messi tells the Argentine network TyC Sports "the national team is over for me. It's been four finals, it's not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over."

Messi and Argentina lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa final and to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final. They lost last year's Copa final to host Chile on penalty kicks.

The 29-year-old Messi has led Barcelona to four Champions League titles.

Chile wins 2nd straight Copa America title as Messi misses

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Chile wins 2nd straight Copa America title as Messi misses

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Lionel Messi still awaits his first title with Argentina's national team.

Messi put his penalty kick over the crossbar, Francisco Silva converted Chile's shootout finale and La Roja won their second straight Copa America title by beating Argentina 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

Playing two days after his 29th birthday, Messi lost a final for the third year in a row following an extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup and a penalty-kicks loss to host Chile in last year's Copa America. The five-time FIFA Player of the Year has won four Champions League titles and eight La Liga crowns with Barcelona, but has never taken a trophy with Argentina's senior team.

For its 100th anniversary, South America's championship was expanded to 16 nations and played in the United States, and Argentina was hoping to win its first major title since 1993.

In an ill-tempered match that included an ejection on each side and eight yellow cards, the match was scoreless through regulation and 30 minutes of extra time, with Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain missing a clear goal-scoring opportunity for the third straight final. Argentina outshot Chile 16-4 and La Roja collapsed three, four and even five defenders around the bearded Messi, then chopped down the diminutive attacker when he tried to accelerate toward the goal.

Messi, who scored five goals in the tournament, had a free kick 28 yards out in the 115th minute after Francisco SIlva fouled him, but the ball deflected off the wall and over the crossbar. Messi's 35-yard free kick was headed on target by Aguero in the 10th minute of extra time, and Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo jumped extended his right hand to tip the ball over the crossbar.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved the opening kick by Arturo Vidal, and up stepped Messi, the best player of his generation and considered alongside Brazil's Pele and Argentina's Diego Maradona as the sport's greatest ever. While he won the titles at the under-20 and Olympic (under-23) levels for Argentina, in the minds of many he needs a title with his nation's senior team to solidify his place as one of the greats.

Messi sent his shot over Bravo — his Barcelona teammate — and into the stands. Messi turned, bowed his head and clenched both fists in frustration.

Nicolas Castillo and Charles Aranguiz converted their kicks for Chile, and Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero made theirs, leaving the teams tied 2-2 after three rounds.

Jean Beausejour put Chile ahead, and Bravo dived to his right, saving Lucas Biglia's shot and bringing up Silva, a 30-year-old midfielder. Messi briefly pulled his jersey of his face, as if not wanting to watch.

Romero dived to his left and the shot went in to his right, giving Chile another title.

Messi crouched over, as if in pain, then got up, took off his captain's armband and walked to the bench, where he was consoled by Angel Di Maria. After Messi came back on the field, Aguero put a hand on one of Messi's shoulders. And new FIFA President Gianni Infantino gave Messi a pat on the back when Messi came onto the podium with his teammates for his second-place medal. Messi almost immediately took it off.

It was the fourth final loss for Messi, who also played for Argentina in its penalty-kicks loss to Brazil in the 2004 final.

A crowd of 82,076 at MetLife Stadium — the largest to see a soccer game in New Jersey — raised the tournament total to just under 1.48 million. The average of 46,119, nearly double the 25,223 in Chile last year, will be used by the U.S. Soccer Federation as evidence it deserves to host a World Cup again, likely as part of a bid for the 2026 tournament.

Brazilian referee Heber Lopes became the focus in the first half, ejecting a pair of defenders: Chile's Marcelo Diaz in the 28th minute and Argentina's Marcos Rojo in the 43rd. After issuing six yellow cards during a World Cup qualifier between the nations in March, Lopes handed out eight yellows, including one to Messi for diving in the 40th minute, and the two reds.

Diaz got his first yellow for hacking down Messi about 28 yards out in the 16th minute, then got his second for obstructing a charging Messi about 30 yards out. Rojo received a straight red when he slid into Arturo Vidal from behind and poked away the ball, but Vidal's leg bent awkwardly under his body as he fell.

Higuain had the best first-half chance in the 21st minute when he picked up a giveaway from Gary Medel, dribbled in and chipped the ball over Bravo only to have it roll wide of the far post. It was almost the exact time he broke in alone during the World Cup final against Germany and also shot wide. Higuain also missed a tap-in of Ezequiel Lavezzi's cross during the final minute of regulation in last year's final, then sent his penalty kick during the shootout over the crossbar.

Revolution shut out by D.C. United, 2-0

Revolution shut out by D.C. United, 2-0

WASHINGTON -- Lamar Neagle had a goal and an assist to give D.C. United an early lead that stood up in a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday night.

D.C., after being shut out in its two previous games and four of six, opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Luciano Acosta chipped a perfect pass over the defense to the foot of Neagle, who volleyed it in from 10 yards out.

Sean Franklin scored the second goal, his first of the season, when he knocked in Neagle's cross. Albaro Saborio sent a long ball down the right sideline that Neagle ran down and crossed to Franklin for the easy counter.

D.C. (5-6-5) leapfrogged the Revolution (4-5-7) into fifth in the Eastern Conference with its fourth shutout in the last seven games and improved to 2-0-1 in the series this season.