'Devastated' Lionel Messi chases elusive World Cup glory

Updated 22 March 2018
0

'Devastated' Lionel Messi chases elusive World Cup glory

MANCHESTER: Lionel Messi begins his road to World Cup redemption on Friday as Argentina take on Italy in a glamor friendly at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, desperate to win a major international prize to crown his glorious career.
In Barcelona’s colors, Messi has experienced nothing but success, winning eight La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns, while earning FIFA’s Ballon d’Or award five times.
But pulling on Argentina’s blue-and-white striped shirt has brought the forward some of the most painful moments of his career.
Rarely able to hit the same heights with Argentina that he routinely scales with Barcelona, Messi has endured stinging
criticism from Albiceleste fans at times.
Nobody would dispute Messi’s status as one of the all-time greats, but many in Argentina believe he cannot be considered on the same level as Diego Maradona until he wins a major honor with his country, as his compatriot did at the 1986 World Cup.
Rubbing salt into those wounds, Messi has lost in three successive major finals with Argentina as the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 Copa America titles slipped from his grasp.
“I cried many times because of games like these, for lost finals, for what they mean and for not being able to achieve the dream of a country. It was a hard blow to take,” Messi recently told Argentine television program La Cornisa.
The last World Cup was devastating to Messi as he missed a golden opportunity to put Argentina ahead in the final against Germany, who went on to win 1-0 in extra-time.
As if that was not bad enough, for the first time in his career, he missed in a penalty shootout when Argentina were beaten by Chile in the Copa America final two years ago.
Although Messi is still in his prime, the 30-year-old realizes the World Cup, which starts in June, could represent his last chance to hoist the gold trophy.
He will be approaching the twilight of his career by the time the 2022 edition kicks off in Qatar.
Messi will have also noted that key Argentina teammates Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Nicolas Otamendi and Javier Mascherano will all be 30 or over this year.
“Obviously, we depend on results and therefore the thinking in this group is that having got to three finals and not being able to win and even then people say a lot of things about us, if we are not champions then we won’t have another one (opportunity),”
Messi said.
Having edged through to the World Cup thanks to Messi’s treble in a 3-1 qualifying win over Ecuador in October, Argentina are focused on peaking in Russia, where they will play Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria in the group stage. First up is an intriguing test against an Italy side that failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli believes the match at Manchester City’s ground will help to sharpen his side before a second friendly in Spain next week.
“Each match and training session is fundamental for us in preparation for the World Cup. Playing against Italy, in a venue as important as Etihad Stadium, is an invitation to a great event,” he said.
“Every Argentine in the world wants to be there when the national team plays. We are certain they will accompany us for this one.”


Francesco Molinari sees off Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods to win maiden major at the Open

Updated 22 July 2018
0

Francesco Molinari sees off Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods to win maiden major at the Open

  • At the age of 35, he becomes the first Italian ever to win a Major
  • Molinari had started the day three shots behind a trio of overnight leaders in Schauffele, Kisner and Spieth

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland: Italy’s Francesco Molinari emerged from the pack on a thrilling final day at Carnoustie to win the British Open on Sunday, seeing off the challenges of reigning champion Jordan Spieth and a revived Tiger Woods to win the first major of his career.
At the age of 35, he becomes the first Italian ever to win a Major, after keeping his cool in remarkable fashion when almost all around him seemed to be losing theirs on a windy afternoon.
A two-under-par round of 69 on the Scottish links allowed him to finish on eight-under, two shots clear of the quartet of Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner.
Molinari had started the day three shots behind a trio of overnight leaders in Schauffele, Kisner and Spieth, who were all nine under par when they teed off.
The latter had been hoping to become the first player since Padraig Harrington a decade ago to retain the Claret Jug, but he faded with a final-round 76 to finish on four under par.
Meanwhile Woods, who was playing with Molinari, was in the outright lead at one point on Sunday but ended with a 71 to finish in a tie for sixth with England’s Eddie Pepperell and Kevin Chappell of the United States.