Lionel Messi has reportedly revealed that today will not be the last time he plays in an Argentina shirt, even if La Albiceleste fail to make the World Cup knockout stages. They will secure qualification for the last 16 if they record a win over Nigeria, who Argentina have beaten in all four previous World Cup meetings, and if Iceland do not defeat already-qualified Croatia in the other Group D game today. Even if Iceland claim a first World Cup victory, Argentina could still progress on goal difference or even goals scored. There are plenty of ifs, but one thing appears certain: Messi will not consider international retirement for the second time just yet. The Barcelona star, who turned 31 on Sunday, will be 35 when the next World Cup comes around. Many observers, including former team-mate Pablo Zabaleta, believe Messi will not feature in Qatar 2022 if he faces disappointment today. But the five-time Ballon d'Or winner will keep dreaming of winning a first major trophy with his country.
Argentina have cancelled their final World Cup warmup match against Israel, striker Gonzalo Higuain said on Tuesday, as political pressure grew ahead of Saturday’s scheduled fixture in Jerusalem. “They’ve finally done the right thing,” Higuain said in an interview with ESPN, confirming reports the game had been cancelled. The match at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium was to be Argentina’s last before they kick off their World Cup campaign in Russia on June 16. There was no initial reaction from the Israeli FA or from Israeli politicians. Reports said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called Argentinian President Mauricio Macri to ask him to persuade the team not to cancel their visit. Israel Radio quoted an unnamed diplomatic official who said the chances of salvaging the fixture were very slim. The visit of twice world champions Argentina has attracted huge interest among Israeli fans, mainly because of Barcelona great Lionel Messi’s planned participation. Palestinians celebrated the cancellation. In Gaza, people cheered and in Ramallah in the West Bank, the Palestinian FA issued a statement thanking Messi and his colleagues for cancelling the game. “The Palestinian FA thanks Argentina’s players led by star Messi for refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal.” Palestinian FA chairman Jibril Rajoub said: “Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game.” Rajoub called a news conference for Wednesday in Ramallah, which he will hold outside the Argentinian representative’s office. On Sunday, he called for Palestinians to burn replica shirts and pictures of Messi. The stadium that was to host the match is in west Jerusalem. The Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state that will include the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. However, the status of Jerusalem is highly sensitive. The match was originally slated to be played in Haifa but Israeli authorities contributed funding for it to be moved to Jerusalem, irking Palestinians further following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. The U.S. embassy was moved there last month. The cancellation is just one more obstacle for Argentina, who were beaten finalists at the World Cup in Brazil four years ago and whose preparations have been troubled this time around. They suffered a heavy defeat to Spain in a friendly and lost their first-choice goalkeeper to injury, giving little encouragement to fans who watched the team struggle to qualify for the tournament in Russia. The twice World Cup winners face Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia in what is considered to be one of the hardest groups in the tournament. [i]Source: Agencies[/i]
Cristiano Ronaldo cast doubt over his future with Real Madrid after they won the Champions League for the third consecutive season on Saturday in a 3-1 win over Liverpool. "Now is the time to enjoy this," Ronaldo said on television after the game in Kiev, Ukraine. "And in the coming days you will have my answer to the fans, the ones who have really been on my side. It has been very nice being at Real Madrid." Told that it sounded like he was saying goodbye, Ronaldo said: "In the coming days you will have my answer. Now we must just enjoy this moment. The future of one player is not important. We have made history." Ronaldo then tried to clarify his comments in a subsequent interview, though he also stood by his original comments that he could leave Real Madrid. "I am not saying I am going, in the coming days we will see," he said. "They took something out of context, that I should not have said. I did not know it would be so strong. I prefer not to talk and to enjoy this lovely moment to the maximum. "I didn't want to say that, but I'm not sorry either. These are situations which have been coming a long time and you put up with it, but sometimes you lose control. Things are not fixed with money, I have that, that is not a problem for me. "I cannot guarantee that I will stay at Real Madrid, but this is not the moment to talk, as Madrid have made history, but neither am I going to hide. It is difficult to be at a better place than Madrid, the best club in the world, but life is not just about glory." Ronaldo said in December that he wanted a raise after helping Real win the Club World Cup. A month later, he felt betrayed by the Spanish giants for not getting an improved contract, according to reports in Spain that were later confirmed to ESPN FC by a source close to the player. Ronaldo at that time told several Real teammates of his intention to leave Madrid at the end of the season, AS reported, after club president Florentino Perez promised Ronaldo a new contract shortly after he helped Los Blancos retain the Champions League last season. However, sources close to Manchester United said in January they doubted any claims that Ronaldo really wants to leave Real Madrid to return to Old Trafford and that he was merely trying to force a better deal out of his current club. The story was much the same last June as well, after widespread reports, including from ESPN, said Ronaldo had made up his mind to leave Madrid over issues with Spanish tax authorities. The Portuguese superstar, 33, has played for Madrid since leaving Manchester United in 2009. He signed a contract until June 2021 in November 2016 and said then it would not be his last as a player. Manager Zinedine Zidane didn't understand why Ronaldo raised fresh doubts over his commitment, saying: "He must stay. He will stay with us." Real Madrid president Florentino Perez played down a public rift with Ronaldo when asked about the comments, but said the interests of the football club remained above those of any individual. "Don't ask me these things on a day like today," Perez said in the mixed zone. "Everyone has the right to talk, but the most important thing here is the club, and we are all celebrating a Champions League win. "I do not get into a player's personal things. He has been happy, is happy, and will remain happy. It is not that he might stay, it is that he has a contract. Madrid is the most important, an institution with 13 European Cups." Asked about his relationship with Ronaldo, the long-serving club president pointed out that they had one thing in common -- five victories in the Champions League over their careers. "I am delighted that Cristiano has 5 European Cups, like me," he said. "My relationship with Cristiano is very good. Three in a row, four in five years, and I keep to the script. They are all happy, you only have to look at how they played." Ronaldo won the European title for the fifth time in his career -- the first player to do so in the Champions League era. Overall, he now only trails Paco Gento, who won six European Cups with Real Madrid from 1956 to 1966. Madrid became the first team to win three consecutive European Cups since the mid-1970s. Though he didn't find the net against Liverpool, Ronaldo finished as the top scorer in the Champions League this season with 15 goals. He has owned at least a share of the scoring title in each of the last six campaigns, and even suggested that they should rename the competition after him. "For a sixth year in a row I am the top scorer in the best competition," Ronaldo said. "I am not annoyed as when you do everything with your heart, you are not sorry about anything. I don't want to take over from the unique moment of my teammates who deserve it, who are real champions. Thanks to them I have won so much." However, Ronaldo came up one goal behind Lionel Messi, who scored 45 times in all competitions, to lead all players from Europe's top five leagues. [i]Source: ESPN[/i]
Neymar has left hospital after undergoing a "successful" operation on his injured right foot. The Paris Saint-Germain forward fractured his fifth metatarsal during his side's 3-0 defeat of Marseille in Ligue 1 on February 25 and is expected to miss the next three months. The Brazilian checked into the Mater Dei hospital in Belo Horizonte on Saturday for surgery and has now left to begin his rehabilitation, which will be overseen by Brazil and PSG physiotherapist Rafael Martini, who has been working with Neymar since he started his career at Santos. A statement on the club's website on Saturday read: "Neymar Jr underwent surgery today at the Materdei Hospital in Belo Horizonte. "The operation, conducted by Doctor Rodrigo Lasmar, was successful. The operation consisted of the laying of a screw associated with a transplant fixed at the level of the lesion of the fifth metatarsal of the right foot. "Re-education will begin immediately under the direction of a club physiotherapist. Neymar's injury will be assessed in six weeks' time to establish a possible date for his return to training." Neymar is ruled out of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid and now faces a battle to regains sharpness ahead of the World Cup.
Bangladesh girls thrashed India by 3-0 goals in their final group league game of the SAFF Under-15 Women’s Championship at the Kamalapur Stadium on Thursday. Anuching Marma scored the first goal for Bangladesh at 32nd minute. Defender Shamsun Nahar netted the ball taking 2-0 lead in first half. And finally Monica Chakma scored the third one. Becoming group leader, Bangladesh girls left the field. Earlier, Bangladesh beat Nepal 6-0 in their opening game and then beat Bhutan 3-0 in their second fixture of the regional age-group championship.
Bangladesh under-16 boys relished a historic win on Sunday, beating Qatar 2-0 in the Group E match of the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers. In FIFA rankings, Qatar’s position is 111 notches ahead of Bangladesh. Hosts Qatar stay at 85th position while Bangladesh are at 196.However, Bangladesh teens did not look like underdogs in the last night’s match. Dipok Roy and Faisal Ahmed Fahim scored in the second half of the match at Doha's Grand Hamd Stadium to beat the hosts Qatar 2-0. Both teams came into the match after being defeated by group favourites Yemen. While Qatar were defeated 6-1 by Yemen, Bangladesh lost against Yemen 0-2 on Friday.
Neymar is gearing up for his final training session as a Barcelona player as his drawn-out move to Paris Saint-Germain edges closer to completion. The Brazilian, Goal understands, will be present on Wednesday to be put through his paces along with the rest of the Blaugrana squad. But it will be the final time he practices with the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, and he will use the opportunity to say goodbye to his team-mates ahead of his introduction as PSG's world-record signing. The deal is now expected to be finalised before the end of the week, with all in place for a rapid final resolution of terms. Neymar's move to PSG has become the transfer saga of the current window, surrounded by conflicting reports and assertions leaving his future unclear. Just last week, Gerard Pique had stated in no uncertain terms that the forward was staying, although Neymar himself has long kept his silence on the matter. What is clear is that when the move does go through, he will become the world's most expensive player ahead of previous record holder Paul Pogba. PSG are expected to meet the full cost of Neymar's €222 million release clause to force Barca into a sale, an outlay that dwarfs that which brought the French midfielder to Old Trafford. Additionally, Neymar is reported to earn €30 million per year as the Ligue 1 side's new marquee name, with father Neymar Sr. said to be expecting his own €40m windfall as part of the deal.
Cristiano Ronaldo said that his "numbers don't lie" after his goals helped Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid side beat Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff. Strikes in each half took Ronaldo to 105 Champions League goals as Real became the first side since AC Milan in 1990 to win back-to-back cups. "This is one of the best moments of my career but it seems I am able to say that every year," he said. "People won't be able to criticise me because the numbers don't lie." Juventus were on top for large periods of an entertaining and open first 45 minutes, as Ronaldo's opener was cancelled out by Mario Mandzukic's superb overhead kick. But Real were dominant after the break as goals from Casemiro, Ronaldo again and substitute Marco Asensio sealed a 12th European Cup win and a third in four seasons. Ronaldo has now scored at least twice as many Champions League goals as any other player in the quarter-finals (20), semi-finals (13) and finals (4). He has won the Champions League on four occasions and has now scored 11 more goals in the competition than Barcelona's Lionel Messi - his nearest challenger. Success capped an incredible start to management for former Real playmaker Zidane, who last month guided the club to a first La Liga title since 2012 and became the first French coach to win the Champions League twice. "I feel like dancing," he said. " I consider myself a man of this house (Real Madrid). "This club is really in my heart and we are going to enjoy this. Today is a truly historic day for Real Madrid, for all Madrid fans."
The hosts prevailed over their neighbours 4-2 after remaining deadlocked one-all in 90 minutes of normal time at the Sylhet District Stadium on Tuesday. Having won all their group matches, Bangladesh became the undefeated champions in this edition of the tournament. After a goalless first half, Bangladesh took the lead in the first minute after the break. Midfielder Mohammad Shawon's cross into the box found Fahim Morshed who fired it into the back of the net. India equalised in the 62nd minute with Avinash Morajkar's long-range effort. Bangladesh kept pressing high up the pitch as the game headed towards the shootout. In the first ten minutes of the match, the teams were more focussed on possession rather than attack but the wet and slippery field made it difficult for the players. After the visitor's goalkeeper fended off Morshed's shot from inside the box in the 23rd minute, Bangladesh launched a wave of attacks but failed to breach the Indian defence. The holders’ attacks relied on long passes in the remainder of the first half but Bangladesh held them off with timely interceptions. Shawon broke down the left flank to cross and it brushed the head of a defender on its way to Morshed in a melee. He turned and fired to break the deadlock. Bangladesh, who beat India 2-1 in the group tie, pressed high up the pitch in a bid to extend the slim lead. They almost did so when Saad Uddin surged through and found himself in the box with only the goalkeeper to beat, but his shot lacked power. They survived a scare when goalkeeper Faysal Ahmed made an amateurish mistake in the 59th minute. He picked the ball with his hands after his teammate had passed it back to him. India scored from the free kick inside the box but it was ruled out for an offside. The visitors, however, soon equalised with midfielder Avinash's spectacular goal from outside the box. The teams desperately looked for a winner in the remaining time. India's Mohammad Shahjahan and Morshed both shot over the post from close range as the partisan crowd held their breath. There was more drama as a power failure plunged the stadium into darkness in the injury time. Play resumed 10 minutes later, and the referee soon blew the whistle for penalty shootout. Bangladesh's Morshed and Jahangir Alam Sajeeb scored from the first two shots of the tiebreaker while Sourav and Mohammad Rakib drew level for India. The hosts went ahead again through Atiquzzaman Atiq but India’s Abhijit Sarkar hit the woodwork. Saad Uddin, too, scored from Bangladesh's fourth spotkick while Faysal dived to his right and held on to Saqlain Khan's shot to spark wild celebrations around the country. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has congratulated the Bangladesh colts on their historic triumph.
Angel di Maria scored twice as Argentina crushed Paraguay 6-1 early on Wednesday BdST in Concepcion to book their place in the final of the Copa America against hosts Chile. Defender Marcos Rojo and midfielder Javier Pastore gave them a 2-0 lead within the first half hour, both goals set up by an inspirational Lionel Messi. Paraguay pulled a goal back through Lucas Barrios before half-time. But the Argentineans ran riot in the second half as Di Maria scored twice in six minutes before strikers Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain added their fifth and sixth. Argentina will meet Chile in final in Santiago early on Sunday BdSt while Paraguay will face Peru on Friday in the third-place play-off.
It was the second tournament in succession that Paraguay have beaten Brazil on penalties at the quarter-final stage after 2011 when they went on the reach the final. The face Argentina on Wednesday BdST for the second time in the tournament, having fought back from two goals down for a 2-2 draw in the teams' opening group match. Gonzalez netted the decisive Paraguayan penalty with the fifth spot kick having scored his team's equaliser during normal time. Robinho started and finished a fine move in the 15th minute to put Brazil ahead before Gonzalez equalised with 20 minutes to go when he converted a penalty after a hand ball by Thiago Silva. "Unfortunately, our game dropped in the second half," said Robinho. "We had chances to kill the game off. "Paraguay with all respect aren't one of the best sides. We didn't kill the game and unfortunately we lost a goal with a silly mistake and we lost." Brazil, who had won 12 of their previous 13 matches since Dunga took charge after last year's World Cup, had more possession in the first half and weaved some good attacks but Paraguay were quick and dangerous on the break. Paraguay became more adventurous in the second half and winger Edgar Benitez soon won a free kick when he was brought down by Dani Alves, though goalkeeper Jefferson parried the ball away from Roque Santa Cruz's attempt. With an hour gone, Jefferson made a diving reflex save from centre back Paulo Da Silva's header and later made a similar save from Gonzalez in a counter-attack. Paraguay captain Justo Villar then had to make a scrambling save from a Philippe Coutinho shot as Brazil piled on late pressure. In the shootout, the writing was on the wall for Brazil from their second penalty which was put wide by Everton Ribeiro and another substitute, Douglas, missed their fourth to give Paraguay two penalties to settle the outcome. Santa Cruz then skied his penalty, Philippe Coutinho gave Brazil hope by netting his but Gonzalez made no mistake. Hosts Chile meet Peru in Tuesday's other semi-final.
The defeat was Brazil's first in 12 matches and the first game coach Dunga had failed to win since taking over following their disastrous 2014 World Cup. The scrappy game threw up few clear chances but Colombia put away the one that mattered to get the win over their illustrious rivals and record only their second victory in 10 Copa America encounters against the five-times world champions. Colombia were the better side throughout with defender Murillo seizing on a loose ball to get the all-important goal nine minutes before half time after a Juan Cuadrado free kick had bobbled around in the box. Scuffles broke out at the end of the match and Neymar and Bacca were both shown red cards. The Brazilian had already been given a yellow and will miss Brazil's next match against Venezuela and probably at least one more game. The striker was a different man from the one who turned on the style in previous matches for club and country and his team mates blamed the referee for singling him out. "Referees need to show Neymar more respect," Willian told television reporters after the game."He is always being targeted." Brazil's Roberto Firmino should have equalised 13 minutes into the second half but he skied a golden chance over the bar with the goal gaping. The result leaves Colombia and Brazil tied at the top of Group C along with Venezuela, who play Peru on Thursday.