Colombia’s Martinez and Zapata stun Messi’s Argentina at Copa

Colombia's Yerry Mina, top, heads the ball during a Copa America match against Argentina on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 17 June 2019

Colombia’s Martinez and Zapata stun Messi’s Argentina at Copa

  • Both Argentina and Colombia are trying to end title droughts, with the Argentines winless since the 1993 Copa America
  • Argentina lost the finals of the World Cup in 2014 and the Copa America in 2015 and 2016

SALVADOR, Brazil: James Rodriguez got the best of Lionel Messi in the Copa America, leading Colombia to a 2-0 win over Argentina in their opening game in the South American tournament on Saturday.

Rodriguez set up Roger Martinez’s opening goal in the second half with a high, diagonal pass across the field, and substitute Duván Zapata scored late to seal the victory that allowed Colombia to end a 12-year winless streak against the Argentines.

Messi had missed a chance to put Argentina in front, sending a close-range header off target as his team opened the tournament with a loss for the first time since 1979.

“Our best player was the entire team,” Colombia coach Carlos Queiroz said. “The next match will certainly be more difficult, this is only the beginning.”

Both Argentina and Colombia are trying to end title droughts, with the Argentines winless since the 1993 Copa America and the Colombians without a trophy since the 2001 edition.

Argentina lost the finals of the World Cup in 2014 and the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, where it lost both of the latter in penalty shootouts against Chile.

Colombia’s last win over Argentina was in South American qualifying for the World Cup in 2007.

“It had been a long time (without beating Argentina),” Zapata said. “Everyone in Colombia is very happy, but there is still a long way to go in the Copa, we still have important matches ahead.”

Messi and Rodriguez had a mostly quiet match in Salvador, although Rodriguez provided the assist for Martinez’s 71st-minute opener.

The playmaker gained possession inside Colombia’s own half before picking out Martinez with a long pass. The forward brought the ball down on the left flank before cutting into the penalty area and shooting into the far corner of the net.

“We are disappointed because they scored a great goal when we were playing better,” Messi said. “It will take some time to accept this defeat, but we have to take the positives from today and move on to try to win the next match. We still have plenty of chances.”

Argentina’s first loss in a Copa America game in regulation time since 2007 was confirmed in the 86th minute.

Five minutes after entering the match, Zapata converted from Jefferson Lerma’s cross.

Argentina striker Sergio Aguero and Colombia veteran Radamel Falcao also could not do much to help their teams break through their opponents’ defense in a tense opening match in Group B.

“We improved in the second half and created chances,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni, who complained of the bad field conditions at the Arena Fonte Nova. 

“We still have two matches left and if we win them we will certainly advance.”

Earlier Saturday, Peru were held by 10-man Venezuela to a 0-0 draw in Group A, a result that left both teams two points behind host Brazil, which opened with a 3-0 win over Bolivia on Friday in Sao Paulo. Argentina will next play against Paraguay in Belo Horizonte, while Colombia will face Qatar in Sao Paulo.

Paraguay and Qatar meet in the other Group B match on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. 


World number five Medvedev topbills first international tennis tournament in the Kingdom

Updated 19 November 2019

World number five Medvedev topbills first international tennis tournament in the Kingdom

DUBAI: Some of the greatest men’s players on the planet can use the upcoming $3 million Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia as ideal preparation for the Australia Open, says one of its big-name competitors.

World number five Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, is one of six confirmed names heading to the Diriyah Arena in the UNESCO world heritage site for the first international tennis tournament to be staged in the Kingdom, presented by Saudi Aramco on December 12 to and 14.

It has been a breakthrough year for the fan favorite, reaching six consecutive tournament finals, including one at the 2019 US Open and two at Masters 1000 events with a career high ranking of number 4.

Now Medvedev believes the competitive nature of the Diriyah Tennis Cup can provide an ideal platform to build on that success, especially with the first Grand Slam event of 2020, the Australian Open taking place a little more than a month after the Saudi tournament.

Medvedev said: “Saudi will be a big part of my preparation for the new season. Coming to Saudi the heat and conditions will be similar to Australia. It will be a great test for us.

“It’s in our pre-season so we’ll want to get that match time in to prepare for the new season – but the fans should expect us to fight hard like in any tournament. It will be competitive and hopefully they’ll be lots of fans coming to support us there.

“Hopefully I can play some great tennis, help the country raise awareness of the sport and inspire people to play. Looking at the players confirmed it’s a really great field.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Saudi Arabia. I’m excited to promote tennis there especially as it’s the first tournament.

The tournament is part of the Diriyah Season, an epic month of showcase sports events being hosted by the GSA. 

The Diriyah Tennis Cup showdown has confirmed six leading players to date for the inaugural tournament. As well as Medvedev this includes three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.

World number 12, Fabio Fogini, who was the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title this year in Monte Carlo and highly-rated David Goffin (Belgium), the former world number 7 will also present in Diriyah.

The big-serving American John Isner, with over 10,000 aces on tour, and five-time ATP champion Lucas Pouille of France, an Australian Open semi-finalist this year complete the current line-up. Officials will name the final two players in the coming weeks.

Medvedev will go into tournament with confidence after a great year, in the past week missed out on closing rounds of the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals which also included another epic showdown with World Number One, Rafael Nadal in London.

He said: “It’s been a great year for me, especially the second half. The highlights were in Washington and then finishing in Shanghai and winning that title. With six titles and two of them Masters titles, it wasn’t something I expected if I’m honest with you.

The 23-year-old Russian also gave some insight into what it has taken to reach the top echelon of the men’s game, as he closes in on ‘The Big Three’; namely Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. 

“To be successful in tennis you need to fight hard and play with passion. You need to fight hard on every single point. Look back on the times it doesn’t go well and always try to improve and always get better. Self-reflection is important. That might sound a bit tough for the kids, but that’s what it takes to break through."

Tickets are now available at www.diriyahseason.sa with nine different ticket categories available to suit all budgets – the perfect event for groups of friends and families.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is taking place at the 15,000-seater Diriyah Arena being purpose built at the ancient site of the Kingdom’s first capital, known as the home of kings and heroes. The tournament will happen just a week after the same venue plays host to the Clash On The Dunes, the world heavyweight title fight between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua OBE.