World Cup: Wednesday wrapup

World Cup: Wednesday wrapup

By Adam Vaccaro

What happened Wednesday: Argentina survived. England survived. Portugal, Ivory Coast, and Italy all survived. All of these 2010 favorites were able to escape their openers with a point or, in Argentina's case, even a win despite struggling in the attack during a remarkably low-scoring opening round. Today, Spain had the same finishing trouble as its elite brethren but suffered a much more drastic consequence. Switzerland shocked the star-studded Furia Roja, winning the contest 1-0. Spain controlled the game throughout but the Swiss defense was impenetrable and Gelson Fernandes's scrappy 53rd minute goal caught the tournament favorites by surprise in what is by far 2010's most stunning upset thus far.

Also Wednesday: June 16 marks Youth Day in South Africa, a celebration and memorial in honor of the youth that died in sparking the fight against apartheid. On such an important day for the nation, a Bafana Bafana victory on home ground would have made for an emotional and moving tale. Unfortunately for the Boys, Uruguay put forth the better effort. Diego Forlan, Los Charruas' top scoring threat, became the first player in the tournament to score twice in leading his team to a 3-0 victory. Things will get tougher for the hosts: keeper Itumeleng Khune was shown a red card and will be suspended for the team's final match against France.

As thoughts and attention shifted to group play's second set of matches, Chile made a statement in its debut as it put on one of the early tournament's most impressive performances against Honduras. The score was modest at 1-0 but Chile's 19-7 shot advantage and impressive possession rate line up with what the eyes told us: La Roja dominated. Chile's win was its first in the World Cup since 1962. Jean Beausejour got the first half goal but 21-year-old striker Alexis Sanchez put on a show that lived up to his Boy Wonder nickname. Maybe this isn't just a potential 2014 behemoth. Maybe it's a team to watch right now.

What it all means: Group H was supposed to be Spain and everyone else, but the favorites will have some work to do to win it now. Switzerland and Chile are both up-and-coming teams that now sit atop the group. Spain meets Honduras next week and will look to unload on the group's weakest to get back on track. If you're cheering for the underdogs, you'll hope to see La Furia Roja fall in even more shocking fashion and for the Swiss and Chile to draw. Such a result would bar Spain from the second round. It's unlikely, but that such a result can even be considered is testament to the gravity of Switzerland's win today.

Uruguay takes the lead in Group A and looked dominant in so doing. They'll see Mexico next week. The full implications of that one will be unknown until the end of tomorrow's tilt between France and El Tri, but we do know that a draw would advance the team out of the group. Uruguay did very well to score three times joining only Germany as having scored more than twice in the tournament as it gives Los Charruas an impressive goal differential, which could be an important factor in this still very undecided pool. As for South Africa, it was disheartening to see their supporters file out with fifteen minutes left to play.

Perhaps most importantly, Wednesday gave us the tournament's best full day of soccer yet. The quality of play has been criticized in the past week, but today featured three strong matches with important results. And the best news? The tournament's still just getting started.

What to watch on Thursday: Group B could see a reshuffling in its standings as Saturday's winners, South Korea and Argentina, will meet in the early match. The Taeguk Warriors currently sit atop the group as their two goals against Greece puts it ahead of Argentina on goal differential. South Korea's victory last week made advancing to the second round seem very possible. A decision against Argentina would make capturing the group's top spot probable. Albiceleste outplayed Nigeria last week but only scored once; look for emphasis in the finish from Lionel Messi and company.

Also Thursday: France has been in a rut for most of 2010 but Group A remains wide open. Les Bleus don't match up very well with Mexico, but they'll likely come into the contest determined. This will be France's most important and probably most difficult match, and a decision would put the team in great position to advance as they'll meet a weakened South Africa next week. For El Tri, a victory would keep the group's favorite on pace with Uruguay.

Both Greece and Nigeria still stand a shot of advancing from Group B, but if either team can get three points out of tomorrow's match, the feat for will be much more likely for the winner. Greece doesn't have much of a shot against Argentina next week and Nigeria won't be favored against South Korea. A draw against one another, then, won't do either side a whole lot of good. Both of these teams are talented and neither should feel done just yet, but only a win will do. Look for loads of urgency from either side in this match.

Question of the Day: Could Spain possibly be feeling the pressure of history? La Furia has never made it past the Cup quarterfinals and is known for falling short of expectations. The current squad, though, has been near unstoppable for over two years. Is the history of World Cup failure already in the team's head?

Full schedule (all times EDT): Argentina v South Korea Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg 7:30 a.m.; Greece v Nigeria Free State Stadium, MangaungBloemfontein 10:00 a.m.; France v Mexico Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane 2:30 p.m.

Quote of Note: They deserve to lose for taking Switzerland lightly. - New England Revolution striker and CSNNE World Cup analyst Taylor Twellman, via Twitter, on Spain's surprising loss.

Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team


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


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.