2019 COPA Preview: Messi looks to lead Argentina to elusive Gold Cup title

By Donald Oilver May 24, 2019

Argentina and Colombia favourites to advance from Group B.

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    Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic lead the names nominated for FIFA's Puskas Award, given to the scorer of the best goal of the season.

    A panel of FIFA and external football experts selected 10 goals to put to a public vote, with the efforts ranging from the sublime to the outrageous.

    Barcelona icon Messi is nominated for the fourth time in five years, while three female players are included after there were none up for the award last year.

    All goals selected for consideration were scored between July 16, 2018 and July 19, 2019, and we have the low down on each one, with voting open until September 2…

     

    Matheus Cunha (RB Leipzig) v Bayern Leverkusen – April 6, 2019

    Brazilian midfield Cunha dazzled the Leverkusen defence in April's 4-2 win as he latched on to a pass in from the left, beat a defender with a pirouette and then found the net with a sumptuous chip.

     

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) v Toronto – September 15, 2018

    Ibrahimovic has always been synonymous with the extravagant. His goal in last year's 5-3 defeat to Toronto is up there with his best. The Swedish forward got on the end of Jonathan dos Santos' lofted throughball and, despite initially looking set to take it down on his chest, he spun and guided the ball into the net acrobatically. His penchant for martial arts was immediately noticeable from the finish.

     

    Lionel Messi (Barcelona) v Real Betis – March 17, 2019

    We have become so accustomed to Messi's brilliance that he makes the extraordinary seem normal, but his hat-trick clincher in March's 4-1 win at Betis was pure genius. After receiving a cut-back from Ivan Rakitic, he caressed a first-time chipped effort over Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from about 18 yards when shooting through a crowded penalty area looked an impossibility.

     

    Ajara Nchout (Cameroon Women) v New Zealand Women – June 20, 2019

    Arguably the standout goal of the Women's World Cup was also a vital winner. With Cameroon being held to a 1-1 draw, Nchout – who also got her team's first – embarked on a mazy run, beating her marker twice with sharp turns before guiding a composed finish in to seal a late 2-1 win and book their place in the knockout phase of the competition.

     

    Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria) v Napoli – September 2, 2018

    Quagliarella went on to have the best season of his career at the ripe old age of 36 last term, scoring 26 times. We should have seen the early signs, as his first of the campaign was a truly special effort. Against his former club Napoli, Quagliarella met Bartosz Bereszynski's right-wing cross with an airborne back-heeled effort from 12 yards that left the goalkeeper helpless.

     

    Juan Fernando Quintero (River Plate) v Racing Club – February 10, 2019

    A former so-called 'wonderkid' who went off the boil before enjoying a resurgence, Quintero has had a fine couple of years. A playmaker with an eye for the spectacular, his free-kick against Racing in the 2-0 Superliga win in February was quintessential Quintero – from about 35 yards out on the right flank, his left-footed strike bent inside the top-right corner in a remarkable display of accuracy.

     

    Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals) v Sky Blue FC – June 16, 2019

    After picking up possession inside her own half, Rodriguez cleverly side-stepped a defender and burst into the attack. She got to the final third and, sensing little support, let fly with a left-footed screamer that nestled in the top-right corner.

    Billie Simpson (Cliftonville Ladies) v Sion Swift Ladies – August 9, 2018

    A truly ridiculous goal. Straight from the opposing goal-kick, Simpson volleyed it right back in the opposite direction, catching it perfectly with a ferocious volley that caught the goalkeeper completely off guard.

     

    Daniel Zsori (Debrecen) v Ferencvaros – February 16, 2019

    Eighteen-year-old Zsori announced himself to Hungarian football in astonishing fashion in February. On his league debut, the attacker met a cross from deep with an overhead-kick just inside the area, picking out the top-far corner in stoppage time to secure a 2-1.

  • Barcelona confirm calf injury for Luis Suarez Barcelona confirm calf injury for Luis Suarez

    Luis Suarez is out for an indefinite period after injuring his right calf in Barcelona's LaLiga loss to Athletic Bilbao on Friday, the club have confirmed.

    The 32-year-old striker had to be replaced before half-time at San Mames after receiving treatment following a shot that hit the post.

    Lionel Messi missed the match with a calf issue of his own suffered shortly before Barca travelled to the United States for two friendly matches against Napoli last week.

    Their absences were felt as Ernesto Valverde's men succumbed to a stunning late winner from Athletic veteran Aritz Aduriz.

    "Tests carried out on Saturday morning have confirmed Luis Suarez has an injured right calf," Barca said in a statement.

    "His recovery will dictate his return to action."

    Suarez's early withdrawal was the first time he has been substituted in the first half of a LaLiga game since he joined Barca from Liverpool in 2014.

    The champions suddenly look light on forwards, with Philippe Coutinho set to join Bayern Munich on loan with a view to a permanent deal.

    Antoine Griezmann debuted against Athletic, but Suarez's injury and Coutinho's departure could see Barca ramp up their interest in former player Neymar, who looks increasingly likely to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

  • Aduriz matches Messi feat with sensational winner against Barcelona Aduriz matches Messi feat with sensational winner against Barcelona

    Athletic Bilbao veteran Aritz Aduriz matched a Lionel Messi goalscoring feat with his sensational winner against Barcelona on Friday.

    Aduriz came off the bench in the 88th minute at San Mames and scored a spectacular overhead kick barely 60 seconds later to seal a 1-0 win over the champions.

    It means the 38-year-old, who plans to retire at the end of this campaign, has now scored in 15 consecutive seasons in Spain's top flight, something only Messi has achieved before.

    The Barca captain was missing from this match while he recovers from a calf problem.

    Barca's defeat marked the first time since 2008-09 that the reigning LaLiga champions have lost their opening match of the new season. Back then, Real Madrid lost 2-1 to Deportivo La Coruna.

    It was also Athletic's first victory over Barca in their last 12 meetings, although Ernesto Valverde has now lost five of his six LaLiga away games against his previous club.

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