Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez face off in World Cup qualifying; Brazil could field teenager Endrick

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez face off in World Cup qualifying; Brazil could field teenager Endrick
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi heads the ball next to midfielder Rodrigo De Paul during a training session in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires Province, on Nov. 14, 2023, ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier football matches against Uruguay and Brazil. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 15 November 2023
Follow

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez face off in World Cup qualifying; Brazil could field teenager Endrick

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez face off in World Cup qualifying; Brazil could field teenager Endrick
  • Messi will likely be playing his last two matches of the calendar year against Uruguay and then Brazil next week at the Maracana Stadium
  • Brazil will travel to face Colombia in Barranquilla as they try to recover from a home draw with Venezuela and a loss at Uruguay in their previous two qualifying matches

SAO PAULO: Lionel Messi and Luiz Suarez, close friends and former teammates at Barcelona, will renew their on-the-field rivalry on Thursday in World Cup qualifying.

Messi, who appears to have recovered from a muscle injury in his leg, led Argentina to their third World Cup title last year and has his team in first place in the South American qualifying group for the 2026 tournament. The 36-year-old Suarez has just returned to Uruguay’s national team as he nears the end of a high-scoring season in the Brazilian league.

The Argentines will take on two-time World Cup champion Uruguay at La Bombonera Stadium in Buenos Aires.

Also Thursday, Brazil will travel to face Colombia in Barranquilla as they try to recover from a home draw with Venezuela and a loss at Uruguay in their previous two qualifying matches. Brazil coach Fernando Diniz, who recently won the Copa Libertadores with Fluminense, could use teenager Endrick after calling him up for the first time.

Argentina leads the 10-team South American qualifying group with 12 points from four matches. Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela have seven points each and are separated by goal difference. Colombia has six points, while Ecuador, Paraguay and Chile have four each. Peru has one point and Bolivia has zero.

The next World Cup in the US, Mexico and Canada will include 48 teams, meaning direct entry for the top six teams in South America. The seventh-place team will contest an intercontinental playoff for a berth.

ARGENTINA vs. URUGUAY

Messi will likely be playing his last two matches of the calendar year against Uruguay and then Brazil next week at the Maracana Stadium. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner finished his season with Inter Miami on Oct. 21.

Suarez, a teammate of Messi at Barcelona from 2014-20, will return to Uruguay’s national team for the first time under coach Marcelo Bielsa. The veteran striker earned his place despite knee pain, which he doesn’t hide during every match for Brazilian club Gremio.

Both Argentina and Uruguay are expected to qualify for the next World Cup, but Messi and Suarez are not guaranteed to be with their national teams in 2026.

Argentina left back Nicolas Tagliafico, however, is hoping Messi will stay in the mix if the team defends its Copa America title next year in the US.

“If we win, I think he might extend it a little more. If we didn’t win the World Cup in Qatar, he would leave. But he did it and wants to enjoy it,” Tagliafico told newspaper La Nacion. “If we win Copa America, I am certain that will be an incentive for Leo to continue.”

COLOMBIA vs. BRAZIL

Endrick, who is set to join Real Madrid in January, is expected to get some playing time at Colombia.

The 17-year-old forward is likely to join Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo — both already playing for Madrid — up front.

Casemiro and Neymar, two of Brazil’s key players in recent years, are out with injuries.

Brazil have had a tough time winning in Colombia in recent World Cup qualifying campaigns, and facing Argentina in the next match on Tuesday could make it more difficult.

“We know that Brazil versus Argentina is a different match because of it all,” Brazil midfielder Bruno Guimarães said Tuesday at the team’s training ground in Teresopolis. “We have a big focus on Colombia, it is a tough and physical match. We are giving due attention to Colombia and then we will give it to Argentina.”

Colombia will field a recovered Luis Diaz, who on Tuesday was reunited with his father. Luis Manuel Diaz Jimenez was kidnapped by a guerrilla group in late October. He was released last week.

Also Thursday, Bolivia will face Peru, Venezuela will host Ecuador, and Chile will take on Paraguay.


Newcastle United double injury boost for Arsenal as Eddie Howe snubs Man United chief’s comments

Newcastle United double injury boost for Arsenal as Eddie Howe snubs Man United chief’s comments
Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

Newcastle United double injury boost for Arsenal as Eddie Howe snubs Man United chief’s comments

Newcastle United double injury boost for Arsenal as Eddie Howe snubs Man United chief’s comments

NEWCASTLE: Alexander Isak and Joe Willock have handed Newcastle United a huge boost ahead of their trip to Premier League title challengers Arsenal.

The Magpies head to the Emirates Stadium in the late kick-off on Saturday hoping to net their first win at the venue for more than a decade. You have to go back to 2010, for an Andy Carroll header in a 1-0 smash-and-grab to find the last time Newcastle left the red half of North London with three points.

Coach Eddie Howe has confirmed his injury-ravaged squad will be boosted by the return of top-scorer Isak and former Gunners’ midfielder Willock, who has barely kicked a ball for Newcastle in the last 10 months.

“They’ve trained this week, it’s been good to see them back on the grass,” said Howe.

“It’s been a long time for Joe but he’s a huge player for us. It’s been great to see him back among the group, he’s a very popular member of the squad. Really pleased for him.

“He was battling so hard to come back and then he had a couple of setbacks along the way, they’re difficult moments because a player just wants to play, be fit and express themselves in a positive way.

“Joe has had that limitation placed upon him with his body and it’s been very difficult for him. I think he has handled himself really well. I think we’ve seen him mature in the last few months where he’s had to show a different side of his character to come through this period and I think as long as he comes back full pelt, we’ll see a better Joe Willock for that experience.”

On Isak, Howe says he will be careful, especially with the player repeatedly missing so much football this campaign due to a groin problem.

“With Alex again, a really important player, he’s trained well so we’re happy with both players. We’ll have to wait and see, we’ve got one more training session but I’ve been pleased with their progress.

“We’ll only play him if we feel he is fit to play. We won’t take any risks. We’re in the hands, really, of Alex and the medical team and we’ll make the right decision for both the short and long term.

“I hope the best is yet to come (from Isak). It’s a difficult one. People will talk about his injuries but he’s still contributed massively. He’s an incredible player, there’s nobody else like him in the Premier League in my opinion. He has talents that can transform our team and I’d love to see him stay fit and get the goals he’d love to score for us.”

Meanwhile, Howe was asked about the situation in relation to the club’s soon-to-depart sporting director, Dan Ashworth.

This week, newly rubber-stamped Manchester United shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe described any talk of Newcastle not allowing Ashworth to switch to Old Trafford in a timely manner as “silly” and batted away suggestions he would sanction the Red Devils paying a huge fee to cut short any waiting period.

Ashworth was this week placed on gardening leave by the Magpies after an official approach by Manchester United. However, it is understood that period of leave extends to 2026, as well as his contract containing a substantial compensation fee. Newcastle could be tempted to cut that short, if Ratcliffe coughs up yet more cash to free Ashworth up — although, that is very much at the Magpies’ discretion.

When asked if the Ashworth talk has been unsettling or disruptive this week, Howe said: “The day-to-day running of the football club, not at all. It’s something that has happened away from the players and training ground. It’s been business as usual for us. A normal week.

“Certainly the events this week have given that certainty. I said in my press conference last week is what we needed as a football club. We’ve got that now and look forward to the future.”

When asked about Ratcliffe’s comments on Newcastle’s demands being “silly” and “absurd,” Howe responded: “I don’t think I can respond to that. I don’t think that’s for me. I’m not involved in those discussions and I’ll stay well away.

“In these situations it’s about Newcastle from our perspective. But that is for other people to make those decisions, I’m not involved in that in any way, shape or form. I’m preparing the team to play Arsenal.”

Newcastle’s move to recruit Ashworth’s successor is already underway, with talk of the likes of Monaco’s Paul Mitchell in the frame.

Howe does not expect to be consulted on the process, even if he does have a clear opinion about what should happen next.

He said: “I don’t think I’ll be involved in the decision-making process but I think we will have discussions on the role and how I see that. But again I don’t think that will be definitive, it’ll be the club’s decision and rightly so. But of course it won’t just be my opinion that they will listen to, they’ll be listening to lots of different opinions from lots of different people.

“Hopefully at the end we just come to the right solution for the football club because hopefully the next person that comes in will be at the club for many years and will be able to take the club in the direction everyone wants it to.”

 

 


Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16

Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16
Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16

Liverpool to face Sparta Prague in Europa League last 16
  • Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will be strong favourites to reach the quarter-finals
  • Leverkusen, led by Xabi Alonso, are unbeaten in 32 matches in all competitions this season, and will again face Qarabag

NYON, Switzerland: Three-time winners Liverpool were drawn to face Sparta Prague in the Europa League last 16 on Friday, while unbeaten Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen will take on Azeris Qarabag.
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will be strong favourites to reach the quarter-finals as they bid for a quadruple in the German's final season before stepping down as manager.
The first leg will be played in the Czech capital on March 7, with Anfield hosting the return game a week later.
Leverkusen, led by Xabi Alonso, are unbeaten in 32 matches in all competitions this season, and will again face Qarabag, having already seen off the Azeri champions twice in the group stage.
Also renewing acquaintances will be last year's Europa Conference League winners West Ham and Freiburg, after David Moyes' side's brace of victories against the Bundesliga club in Group A.
"It's kind of stupid that you can come back against your group opponents in the round of 16," said Freiburg captain Christian Guenter.
"You could already tell that some of us were upset."
Seven-time European champions AC Milan continue their bid to win a maiden Europa League title against Slavia Prague after their knock-out round play-off win over Rennes.
Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers, losing finalists in 2022, take on Portuguese Primeira Liga pace-setters Benfica, still chasing a first European trophy since 1962.
Premier League club Brighton continue their first ever European adventure at last season's runners-up Roma.
First legs to be played on March 7, second legs to be played on March 14.

Full last-16 draw
Sparta Prague (CZE) v Liverpool (ENG)
Marseille (FRA) v Villarreal (ESP)
Roma (ITA) v Brighton (ENG)
Benfica (POR) v Rangers (SCO)
Freiburg (GER) v West Ham (ENG)
Sporting Lisbon (POR) v Atalanta (ITA)
AC Milan (ITA) v Slavia Prague (CZE)
Qarabag (AZE) v Bayer Leverkusen (GER)


Palestine beat Syria to reach semifinals of 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship

Palestine beat Syria to reach semifinals of 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship
Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Palestine beat Syria to reach semifinals of 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship

Palestine beat Syria to reach semifinals of 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship
  • A 1-0 win secured maximum 6 points from 2 matches in Group B and spot in the last 4

JEDDAH: Palestine on Thursday night advanced to the semifinals of the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship after defeating Syria 1-0 at the reserve pitch of King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.

Miral Qassis scored the winner in the 85th minute with a powerful shot from outside the penalty area, leaving Palestine with a maximum of six points from two matches, and second in Group B only on goal difference to Nepal.

Palestine had won their opener 3-0 against Iraq and will now face the group leaders on Saturday. With no points, Syria and Iraq sit in third and fourth respectively, and meet each other in a dead rubber on the same day.


Chelsea’s Sterling eyes history against Liverpool in Carabao Cup final

Chelsea’s Sterling eyes history against Liverpool in Carabao Cup final
Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Chelsea’s Sterling eyes history against Liverpool in Carabao Cup final

Chelsea’s Sterling eyes history against Liverpool in Carabao Cup final
  • England international is seeking a record 6th winner’s medal alongside former teammates Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho

Raheem Sterling is targeting a personal piece of history in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

The England forward won the competition five times in seven years at Manchester City before he joined Chelsea for $63 million (£50 million) in 2022.

And if he can help the London side overcome former club Liverpool at Wembley, he will join former City teammates Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho with a record tally for most wins at six.

“It would be a massive achievement to do that,” said the 29-year-old, who spent five years at Anfield. “But I think you have to always keep going. Once it comes, you have to try to get another one.

“When you’ve had that taste for it, you always want more, and this game will be the exact same thing.

“We’ve got a great test this week against Liverpool. It’s a good challenge against one of the most dominant teams in the last few years. For sure, it would mean a lot to win that trophy again. But competing for it, I think that’s the most important thing.”

It has been struggle to get to this stage for Sterling and Chelsea since he became the club’s first signing following the takeover by a consortium led by US businessman Todd Boehly.

Chelsea were Champions League and Club World Cup winners only three years ago, and lost both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals to Liverpool in 2022 on penalties, but this will be their first chance of silverware under the new ownership.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side will be underdogs against the side that beat them 4-1 at Anfield last month and have a record nine League Cup wins compared with Chelsea’s five.

But despite inconsistent performances this season, the Blues are in the FA Cup quarterfinals, and also have gained an impressive 4-1 league win at Tottenham and drawn with title hopefuls Liverpool and Arsenal at home, and twice held defending champions Manchester City.

Sterling scored his eighth goal of the campaign in the 1-1 draw at City last weekend and believes his side can upset the leading teams.

“I wanted to show myself against City and we were unlucky we couldn’t get the win against them,” he told Arab News exclusively.

“We’re a young group and that performance will build confidence going forward.

“But I’ve always said these are the challenges that we need to step up to. Against some of the top-four teams this season we have shown ourselves.

“Liverpool away was obviously a disappointing one, but against Tottenham, Arsenal and City we have shown ourselves — and we have to keep building.

Sterling admitted the defeat at Anfield “hurt,” and said the players are looking to redeem themselves in the final.

“I think that first trophy would definitely build the belief for the group. If you win that one trophy, it gives you that sniff, that feeling and you want more.

“I think we’re getting stronger and the most important thing is to try to compete — and this week we have a great opportunity to do that and I’m looking forward to it.”

Reports suggested Sterling rejected a move to a Saudi Arabian club last summer, and he is determined to stay and prove his worth.

The iconic venue would be the perfect stage for him to do that after having grown up near Wembley and won 82 caps for his country.

“That’s my home,” said Sterling with a smile. “I’m really looking forward to it. When I go to Wembley, I get a different feeling; I can’t wait to get on the field.”


Messi impact: Apple boss urges MLS clubs to sign more stars

Messi impact: Apple boss urges MLS clubs to sign more stars
Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Messi impact: Apple boss urges MLS clubs to sign more stars

Messi impact: Apple boss urges MLS clubs to sign more stars
  • Miami’s recruitment of big-name international players is unprecedented in MLS with Messi having been joined initially by two former Barcelona team-mates in Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquet
  • Apple TV chief Eddy Cue said he had been surprised by just how big a difference Messi had made to the numbers

Miami’s recruitment of big-name international players is unprecedented in MLS with Messi having been joined initially by two former Barcelona team-mates in Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. (USA TODAY Sports)

 

FORD LAUDERDALE, Florida: The head of Apple TV’s collaboration with Major League Soccer has urged clubs in the league to follow the example of Inter Miami’s deal with Lionel Messi and sign more top stars.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services, told reporters at Inter Miami’s 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday that Messi had made a huge impact on subscriptions bringing in new viewers from Europe and South America as well as North America.

“I’m excited that there are teams that are definitely pushing hard. Obviously what Inter Miami has done is an example of that and I think there needs to be more teams doing that and I think there will be,” Cue said.

“At least I’ve seen it enough now that there’s a level of excitement... when anybody asks what do I want from anybody, any of the teams, I’m like, sign some more players!” he said.

Miami’s recruitment of big-name international players is unprecedented in MLS with Messi having been joined initially by two former Barcelona team-mates in Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets.

In December, Miami added another top international with the acquisition of former Barca and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.

Getting MLS clubs to open up their wallets to spend big on international talent would require a shift from clubs that have focused mainly in recent years on bringing in lower cost, young talent from South America.

MLS commissioner Don Garber, speaking earlier, said he was aware of reports suggested changes could be coming to the league’s salary cap and roster rules that could make it easier to bring in big players but said the league was aware it had to remain smart in how it approaches growth.

However, he acknowledged that Inter Miami had been able to generate what are widely expected to be record revenues from the Messi deal.

“If we thought every team could deliver that by signing players, I can assure you that MLS would adapt its rules to be able to deliver that,” he said.

“Our thinking in terms of strategic player spending — we will do whatever we need to do to grow our fan base, to grow the competitiveness of our league, and to grow our revenues and ultimately the credibility and viability of MLS on a global stage,” he added.

“Nothing is going to stop us from doing that. We just want to be thoughtful about it,” he said.

Cue suggested there may be different views among the 29 club owners in the league.

“There’s a lot of owners, there’s a lot of teams and so in life when you have that many, it’s always hard to move everybody in the same direction. (Don Garber) does that very well but it’s a tough job and so I try to help because I bring a sort of either different or at least another perspective on it,” he added.

But Garber did paint a positive picture of MLS’s growth.

“Season tickets are up, our overall ticket sales are up, our sponsorship is up, social media and our media coverage is up. All of that is bringing global recognition to the league,” he said.

Apple have not released subscription numbers for their first season of their subscription broadcast service MLS Season Pass but Sports Business Journal reported this month that they had reached two million — with the numbers doubling after Messi signed for Miami in July.

MLS season ticket holders are given free access to the service while there were a number of special offers available for fans. The report did not state what proportion of the two million subscribers had paid the full fee.

Cue said he had been surprised by just how big a difference Messi had made to the numbers.

“I was shocked. I had no idea because I knew it would make a difference but I thought it would take time. He just moved the needle really fast on a global perspective and the US perspective,” he said.

“So, no, I did not appreciate the power and the reach that he had... it’s amazing to see,” he added.

Cue said Messi had also managed to attract an audience for MLS games from outside the United States and Canada.

“I won’t give you the exact number but I will tell you pre-Messi it was very US top. Post-Messi it was it changed materially because he added a significant number of subscribers from South America and from Europe, so it was a big change,” he said.