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Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Messi's 109th Goal Leads Argentina over Canada 2-0, Into Copa America Final

09 July 2024, US, East Rutherford: Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his side's second goal with team mates during the CONMEBOL Copa America semi-final soccer match between Argentina and Canada at Metlife Stadium. Photo: Vanessa Carvalho/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
09 July 2024, US, East Rutherford: Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his side's second goal with team mates during the CONMEBOL Copa America semi-final soccer match between Argentina and Canada at Metlife Stadium. Photo: Vanessa Carvalho/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
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Messi's 109th Goal Leads Argentina over Canada 2-0, Into Copa America Final

09 July 2024, US, East Rutherford: Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his side's second goal with team mates during the CONMEBOL Copa America semi-final soccer match between Argentina and Canada at Metlife Stadium. Photo: Vanessa Carvalho/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
09 July 2024, US, East Rutherford: Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his side's second goal with team mates during the CONMEBOL Copa America semi-final soccer match between Argentina and Canada at Metlife Stadium. Photo: Vanessa Carvalho/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Lionel Messi and Argentina moved within one win of joining Spain as the only nations to win three straight major titles.
“It’s insane what this team has done, what the Argentina national team is doing,” Messi said Tuesday night after his 109th international goal sealed a 2-0 victory over Canada that earned a berth in this weekend's Copa America final. “For those who remain from the old guard, it’s beyond impressive that the national team is in another final.”
Julián Álvarez put the Albiceleste ahead in the 22nd minute, controlling a long pass from Rodrigo De Paul, taking two touches to get away from Moïse Bombito and slipping the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau for his ninth international goal, The Associated Press reported.
Messi redirected Enzo Fernández’s shot following a poor Ismaël Koné clearance in off the face of Crépeau from 4 yards in the 51st for his first goal of the tournament. Messi has 28 goals in his last 25 matches for Argentina and 14 in Copa America play, three shy of the record. He has scored against 38 different nations.
“I wasn’t sure if Enzo’s ball was going to get in,” Messi said. “It was a reflex.”
Only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo with 130 has more international goals than Messi, who turned 37 on June 24. Iran’s Ali Daei had 108 or 109 from 1993 to 2006, with a lingering dispute over whether a goal against Ecuador in 2000 occurred in a full international match.
With a victory on its independence day, Argentina extended its unbeaten streak to 10 games. The Albiceleste seek a record 16th Copa title when they play Uruguay or Colombia on Sunday at Miami Gardens, Florida.
“We have to enjoy every moment of what we’re are living," Messi said. "I'm conscious that these are the last battles.”
Trying to string together Copa America titles around the 2022 World Cup championship, Argentina hopes to match Spain's feat of winning the 2008 and 2012 European Championships along with the 2010 World Cup.
“These are statistics. I'm not really interested about it,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said through a translator. “The most important thing is to win.”
Making his 38th Copa America appearance, Messi had missed Argentina’s group stage finale with a leg injury and was subdued while playing 90 minutes in the quarterfinal win over Ecuador. He was much more agile and shot just wide in the 12th and 44th minutes.
Messi had 45 touches and a 79% pass success rate.
“They make us pay on small details,” Crépeau said.
MetLife’s temporary grass surface appeared heavy, with water splashing and sand popping up during dribbles.
“It’s has been a very difficult Copa América,” Messi said, “very competitive, bad surfaces, excessive heat.”
Argentina fans gathered in Times Square on the eve of the match and filled the streets on Manhattan before heading to MetLife Stadium. The crowd of 80,102 on a night with an 82-degree temperature and 82% humidity was overwhelmingly pro-Argentina, with only a few sections dominated by red-clad Canadian supporters.
It was among the biggest games for Canadian soccer, which went 0-6 in its only World Cup appearances in 1986 and 2022 and won its only major title at the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Argentina had beaten Canada 2-0 in the tournament opener on June 20.
“The tournament caught up with us a little bit,” Canada coach Jesse Marsch said. “There’s been heat, there’s been travel, there’s been a lot of challenges. ... We’re still at the beginnings of our process, right? Argentina’s maybe had eight years together, seven years together with this team, and so we need to develop more players that can contribute so that we can also rotate in tournament play, because eventually the physicality and the fatigue can catch up with you.”
Canada star Alphonso Davies limped off in the 71st minute after his right leg was caught in a clean challenge with Gonzalo Montiel.
"He’s getting an X-ray, so we’re hopeful he’s OK, but we’re not sure," Marsch said.
Canada had two shots on target: Jonathan David was thwarted by Emiliano Martínez from close range in first-half stoppage time, and Martínez made a kick save on Tani Oluwaseyi in the 89th.
“We started getting sloppy. We started getting away from the game plan,” said defender Derek Cornelius, who exchanged jerseys with Messi.
While Messi referred to “last battles,” Scaloni and fans hold out hope Argentina and Messi will return to MetLife for the 2026 World Cup final.
“We will never be the ones to close the door,” Scaloni said. “He can be with our team for as long as he wants to be.”



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : US Men's Basketball Team Builds Gig Lead then Holds off Australia for 98-92 win in Olympics Tuneup

Jock Landale scored 20 for Australia, which got 17 from Josh Giddey and 14 from Dyson Daniels, The AP reported. The AP
Jock Landale scored 20 for Australia, which got 17 from Josh Giddey and 14 from Dyson Daniels, The AP reported. The AP
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US Men's Basketball Team Builds Gig Lead then Holds off Australia for 98-92 win in Olympics Tuneup

Jock Landale scored 20 for Australia, which got 17 from Josh Giddey and 14 from Dyson Daniels, The AP reported. The AP
Jock Landale scored 20 for Australia, which got 17 from Josh Giddey and 14 from Dyson Daniels, The AP reported. The AP

There was a lot for the US Olympic team to like on Monday. And a lot not to like.

Anthony Davis scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Tyrese Haliburton came up with a pair of late 3-pointers that helped stop a freefall by the Americans, and the US beat Australia 98-92 on Monday to improve to 2-0 in its five-game slate of exhibitions leading into the Paris Olympics.

Devin Booker scored 16 for the US, Anthony Edwards scored 14 and three players — LeBron James, Bam Adebayo and Joel Embiid — finished with 10 for the Americans, who are playing host to a pair of exhibitions at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this week. They'll play Serbia there on Wednesday.

Jock Landale scored 20 for Australia, which got 17 from Josh Giddey and 14 from Dyson Daniels, The AP reported.

The US led by 24 midway through the third quarter, yet saw that lead cut to six with 5:05 left after Australia went on a 39-21 run. But Haliburton had the next six points on his 3s, pushing the lead back to 92-80.

Australia cut it to four on two separate occasions, but Booker went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 8 seconds to ensure the US would escape.

“Third quarter, we started turning the ball over," US coach Steve Kerr said. "We gave up a ton of points at the basket. Back cuts, offensive boards and so, the game shifted. It's a good lesson for us. Better to learn that lesson now than later. And this will be a good tape for us to watch. But I give Australia a ton of credit. They were great. They fought. They were really physical. Took it to us in the last quarter and a half and really made it a game.”

Second unit, again Just like in the Canada game, the so-called second unit — Haliburton, Jrue Holiday, Adebayo, Davis and Booker — changed the game.

That was the group on the floor when the Americans took a game that was tied at 19-19 with 3:15 left in the first and turned it into a 39-23 lead — a 20-4 run in a span of just over 5 minutes.

Kerr used that group as his starting five to open the second half. But it’s become a clear trend already: when the US goes to its bench and can replace All-Stars with other All-Stars, it’s just going to be a massive problem for opponents who don’t have anywhere near that same level of depth.

“The strength of our team is our depth and we have to utilize our depth,” Kerr said.

It’s been something the Americans have used to their advantage in the past. Dwyane Wade led the gold-medalist 2008 US Olympic team in points, even though he was sixth in minutes on that team and came off the bench in all eight games.

Turnovers Here’s the big trouble sign right now for the US: turnovers.

FIBA games are shorter than NBA games, 40 minutes instead of 48 minutes. That means there are fewer possessions and makes it even more imperative to not give the ball away.

Which the Americans did. A lot.

After committing 15 turnovers in last week's exhibition win over Canada, the US had 18 giveaways on Monday and Australia used them to fuel the comeback effort — getting 25 points off turnovers in the second half alone.

“Our turnovers, it's all about focus and execution,” Davis said.

Injury watch Kevin Durant missed his second consecutive game because of a calf strain, and with only one practice between games it wouldn’t seem likely that he plays Wednesday against Serbia either.

Derrick White, who arrived in Abu Dhabi over the weekend and got into his first practice with the team on Sunday, also didn’t play. White replaced Kawhi Leonard — who deals with knee issues — on the US roster after the Americans determined last week that it wasn’t in Leonard’s best interest to play this summer.