The 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup breaks new ground as the Group C encounter between Curaçao and El Salvador marks the tournament debut at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.

The two teams meet again after facing each other in group action in the 2017 edition – a match El Salvador won 2-0 on its way to the quarterfinals.

Monday’s match is the second time the two sides have met at the Gold Cup after Curacao made their debut in the competition two years ago. The two nations have met seven previous times, with four going El Salvador’s way, while the other three ended in draws.

El Salvador Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos returns to the Gold Cup after managing the team at the 2007 and 2009 editions. He will likely look to Nelson Bonilla and Oscar Ceren, the country’s top scorers in Concacaf Nations League Qualifying, to help the team off on the right track.

Curacao will be looking for their first favorable result in the competition after going winless in their maiden voyage. Manager Remko Bicentini believes his team can be the surprise of the tournament and has called on 12 returning players from the 2017 roster.

Bayer Leverkusen have signed defender Daley Sinkgraven from Ajax.

The left-back has signed a contract until 2023 with the Bundesliga side, who have made him their third signing of the close-season ahead of a return to the Champions League in 2019-20.

Leverkusen brought in midfielder Kerem Demirbay from Hoffenheim and winger Moussa Diaby from Paris Saint-Germain, the latter filling the void left by Julian Brandt's move to Borussia Dortmund.

Sinkgraven was part of the Ajax side that won the Eredivisie and KNVB Beker double in 2018-19 while also reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League.

The 23-year-old made 11 appearances in all competitions last season, though he started just once.

He joins Frenkie de Jong in leaving Ajax, who are also expected to lose Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek from the side that stunned Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the last four.

Sinkgraven reunites with former Ajax coach Peter Bosz at the BayArena, with sporting managing director Rudi Voller confident his versatility will be a huge asset to Leverkusen.

"Daley was turned into a left-back in Amsterdam under Peter Bosz but he can also play in central midfield and wide on the flanks," Voller said.

"His versatility gives us further options. That is extremely important in terms of the opportunity to rotate with such a large number of games ahead of us."

Sinkgraven added: "Leverkusen have consistently been one of the best clubs in the Bundesliga for many years.

"I'm looking forward to playing in this league and, of course, to the challenges in the Champions League."

 

A brace from Frantzdy Pierrot allowed Haiti to showcase experience with a 2-1 win over Bermuda on Sunday evening at the Estadio Nacional of Costa Rica to open Group B of the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.

After both teams had a 50-50 ball possession for the first half, Bermuda responded with a total of two shots on target before the breaking the deadlock at the end of the first half. One minute was added when Dante Leverock found the back of the net with a header which was assisted by Osagi Bascome in the 45+1’.

Haiti looked to mount a comeback as the second half started with a very fast pace, which is when Pierrot waited for his chance, burying a shot in the 54’ with a header from the right side of the six-yard box allowing Haiti to tie the match.

Twelve minutes later Frantzdy was back at it in the 66’ with a right-footed shot that went straight to the center of the goal.

The historical night in Costa Rica was then capped by the Haiti defense finishing the match to pocket Les Grenadiers’ first three points of the Gold Cup.

Benfica have vehemently denied teenage star Joao Felix is on the cusp of completing a €120million move to Atletico Madrid.

Reports in Spain on Monday indicated that Atleti had triggered Felix's release clause and were set to announce the signing.

The 19-year-old is believed to be wanted by Europe's top clubs after scoring 20 competitive goals during an exceptional debut season in Benfica's senior squad.

Benfica insist no agreement is in place with any club, describing the reports as "fake news" in a statement issued on their website.

The Primeira Liga outfit further refuted claims that agent Jorge Mendes, whose clients include Cristiano Ronaldo, stands to make a considerable sum for arranging Felix's purported switch to LaLiga.

"In view of the news published in these last hours, Benfica clarifies that it is false that any negotiation process is currently underway regarding a possible transfer of the player Joao Felix," the statement read.

"The conditions for his negotiation are public and known, taking into account the termination clause defined in the amount of €120million.

"More serious, and that which deserves our most vehement repudiation and denial, is the fake news that refers to negotiations that involve commissions of 30 per cent and which, unfortunately, was echoed in Portugal by the newspaper A Bola, with intentions and goals that we do not understand.

"We repeat: this information is totally false, absurd and has clear intentions for the reputation and dignity of Benfica."

Should Joao Felix eventually find his way to Atleti, it would likely be as Antoine Griezmann's replacement, the France forward having made clear his desire to leave the Wanda Metropolitano.

Diego Maradona slammed Argentina after their Copa America defeat to Colombia, claiming Tonga could beat Lionel Scaloni's side.

There was yet more international disappointment for Lionel Messi on Saturday as his side lost to goals from Roger Martinez and Duvan Zapata in Salvador.

Argentina have reached four of the past five Copa America finals, losing them all, but will need to improve in their remaining Group B games against Paraguay and Qatar if they are to reach the showpiece in Brazil.

Maradona, who inspired Argentina to glory at the World Cup in 1986, was unimpressed with the lack of physicality on show against Carlos Queiroz's Colombia.

"You realise that Tonga can beat us," Maradona told TyC Sports. 

"There is a prestige that we built with kicks, with punching." 

Argentina are seeking their first major international title since 1993.

Bolivia coach Eduardo Villegas hit back at social media criticism ahead of their second Copa America outing against Peru, adamant fans cannot expect immediate results from an unfamiliar squad after losing to Brazil.

La Verde were comprehensively beaten 3-0 in their Copa opener, offering precious little in attack as Tite's men took charge of Group A.

Although expectations of Bolivia were low, the performance did not see them put up much of a fight and the team were the subject of significant criticism of social media platforms.

But Villegas thinks Bolivia are being harshly judged, particularly given how inexperienced his squad is, with only five members of the selection having 25 or more caps to their name.

Speaking to Deporte Total ahead of Tuesday's clash with Peru in Rio de Janeiro, Villegas said: "I hope the people who write on social networks get good information from people who understand football, from specialists, and that they explain you cannot have results so soon when it is a different selection.

"I am convinced this group will evolve, but everything is step by step. We cannot jump two steps because we will fall.

"We are analysing all the options. We know Peru will not be Brazil and we are going to commit people [to attack], or try, to generate more depth than we had against Brazil. I see the group well motivated and with intentions to improve."

Peru's start to the campaign was less crushing, though hardly impressive, as they drew 0-0 with Venezuela in a match sorely lacking quality.

Ricardo Gareca's men were considered favourites to join Brazil in progressing from Group A, though the stalemate against Venezuela puts them in a slightly trickier position than they would have hoped.

But Andre Carrillo insists they are not feeling the pressure, and is confident they have the weapons to secure progression.

"There is no pressure, there is motivation," Carrillo told reporters at Peru's training base. "People have come to support us and we have more desire to go on to the field and win the game to move to the next phase.

"We're going to continue with the weapons we have. The team was good offensively, but we're going to have to create more chances.

"I think we're going to do what we have to do and we're going to work tactically well."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bolivia – Edwin Saavedra

Quiet against Brazil, Villegas will hope Saavedra is livelier in an eminently more winnable match. An explosive and decisive player on his day, the midfielder – who was formerly a full-back – will be expected to help provide the service to main striker Marcelo Martins.

Peru – Jefferson Farfan

With Villegas suggesting Bolivia will play on the front foot, Peru should have a lot more attacking space to work with and exploit. Farfan, as one of the more experienced players in the team, will be expected to provide the craft to punish La Verde.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Peru are unbeaten against Bolivia in Copa America games on neutral territory, winning four and drawing two of their six previous meetings.
- Bolivia have lost each of their past six Copa America games, conceding 18 goals and scoring just three.
- Peru are unbeaten in their last six Copa America games (W3 D3), their joint-longest such run in the competition's history (W5 D1 between 1937 and 1939).
- Bolivia have kept only one clean sheet in their past 22 Copa America games (W1 D7 L14), a 0-0 draw against Mexico in 2015.

Costa Rica’s attack led the way to a 4-0 victory over Nicaragua as it kicked off its participation in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup on Sunday night at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Costa Rica went ahead early on the scoreboard when just seven minutes into the match Bryan Oviedo poked it home to get a 1-0 lead.

With Costa Rica playing at home for the very first time in a Gold Cup match, Los Ticos captain Celso Borges doubled the side’s lead to 2-0 with a strong strike in the 19’.

Then Elias Aguilar found himself at the right place and the right time shortly before halftime, as he made it 3-0 in the 46’ when he found the back of the net with a free kick.

Nicaragua who had several opportunities during the first half, but was not able to finish its chances. It continued to push until the final minutes with its best look in the 72’ from Jorge Betancur’s right-footed shot from the right side, but it was blocked by Costa Rica GK Leonel Moreira.

As the final minutes played out, Costa Rica’s attack continued to push forward for one last goal. MF Allan Cruz scored his first of the night in the 75’ to put the 4-0 on the scoreboard, which marked an unforgettable night for Los Ticos.

Antonio Conte agreed to become Roma's new coach before instead taking charge of Inter, according to Francesco Totti.

Giallorossi icon Totti announced his departure from the club, ending a 30-year association, at an explosive news conference on Monday.

The former Italy star, regarded among the greatest players in Roma history, fired a broadside at controversial club president James Pallotta.

Totti follows former team-mate and fellow club legend Daniele De Rossi out of the Stadio Olimpico, the midfielder having been released at the end of his contract.

Roma have appointed Paulo Fonseca from Shakhtar Donetsk as their new coach, succeeding Claudio Ranieri, who replaced Eusebio Di Francesco in May.

But Totti revealed Roma had sealed a deal with former Chelsea boss Conte to take over, only for the Italian to then choose Serie A rivals Inter.

"I spoke with Antonio Conte: he had given his 'okay' to become Roma coach," Totti told reporters. 

"Then, he went to Inter."

Maurizio Sarri was also linked with Roma, with the Italian having since taken charge of Juventus after leaving Chelsea.

But Totti denied having held talks with the 60-year-old, whose Napoli side finished second behind Juve in 2017-18.

"I never contacted Maurizio Sarri. I don't know what his objectives or evaluations were, just that Sarri was a favourite of Baldini," Totti added.

"Of course, he's a great coach who would have done well here, but he was under contract with Chelsea. Anyway, this is irrelevant. We should talk about the present.

"Fonseca has to find an environment that is relaxed, with a clear path ahead of him. 

"From what I've seen, he is a fine coach who can do well and was very impressive at Shakhtar."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insists the LaLiga champions have not spoken to Antoine Griezmann about a move to Camp Nou.

France star Griezmann appeared destined to join Ernesto Valverde's side after announcing his intention to find a new club after five seasons at Atletico Madrid.

The links went cold amid reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain until Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin reignited rumours of a done deal.

Gil Marin, in an interview with Movistar, claimed to have known about Griezmann's impending switch to Barca since March.

Bartomeu disputed that account, telling Spanish broadcast RAC1: "There's nothing to announce.

"We've always said the same. We haven't spoken to him. There's nothing to it.

"We'll see how the market changes in the next few days and weeks."

Barca have been quiet in the transfer market since the end of the season, while rivals Real Madrid have invested heavily in Zinedine Zidane's squad.

The Blaugrana cruised to the LaLiga title in 2018-19 but collapsed against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals, a defeat that led to speculation over head coach Valverde's future.

Paul Pogba's tempestuous second stint at Manchester United will end this close season if the France midfielder has his way.

Speaking over the weekend, Pogba stated it was time for a "new challenge", having been linked with a big-money move away from Old Trafford for several months.

The 26-year-old was the most expensive player in football history when he re-joined United from Juventus for £89.3million in 2016.

Despite scoring 31 goals in all competitions over the course of three seasons, Pogba's failure to consistently hit top form for a sustained period has invited regular criticism, while the collapse of his relationship with Jose Mourinho was an unseemly factor towards the end of the Portuguese's ill-fated reign as manager.

Nevertheless, United are reportedly in no hurry to sell and a £150m price tag means only a small selection of the game's elite can consider a move for Pogba. We look at where the 2018 World Cup winner might end up next.

Real Madrid

The Santiago Bernabeu has long been mooted as Pogba's next destination and the appeal of him linking up with France great and Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is an obvious one. Following an underwhelming campaign, club president Florentino Perez has bankrolled a considerable overhaul for Zidane, with Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao and Rodrygo all arriving at considerable expense. The coffers are not bottomless and the question is whether Pogba, after his mixed recent seasons, remains the most appealing use of Madrid's remaining funds.

Paris Saint-Germain

Indeed, glances have probably been turned from the Spanish capital and towards the French one by Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi saying star forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe – along with the rest of the squad – must "work more", adding: "I no longer want to have superstar behaviour," in an interview with France Football. Pogba's detractors would argue such a policy change might rule him out, but PSG are light in central midfield and Al-Khelaifi will be aware of the commercial bounty to be made from bringing one of Les Bleus' 2018 heroes back to his home city. Links between PSG and Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt also suggest the lines of communication between the club and Pogba's agent Mino Raiola are open.

Juventus

Pogba's standing in the eyes of the United faithful has dwindled over recent months and he must long for the esteem in which he was once held in Turin. Four Scudetti in as many seasons preceded his second act in Manchester, although those did come in a talent-stacked midfield alongside the likes of Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio. Juve are approaching a new era under Maurizio Sarri and Pogba would be a statement signing to bolster their Champions League ambitions alongside the evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo.

Barcelona

Pogba was widely considered to be on Barcelona's radar in the aftermath of Russia 2018, however that ship appears to have sailed. Arthur adapted impressively to life in LaLiga last term and Frenkie de Jong will arrive on the crest of an Ajax wave. On the other hand, recent speculation linking United with an interest in Barca duo Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho means a lucrative game of musical chairs might not be out of the equation entirely.

Neymar was not forced to join Paris Saint-Germain and he understood what he was signing up to, club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said amid increased speculation over the Brazil star's future.

A report in L'Equipe claimed PSG are willing to sell Neymar, though they would not accept less than the world-record €222million fee they paid to sign him from Barcelona in August 2017.

Neymar's time at PSG has been largely defined by injuries and talk of dressing room discord. He argued with Julian Draxler, who has since played down the incident, and is said to have criticised Presnel Kimpembe and Alphonse Areola in the wake of their Coupe de France final loss to Rennes in April. 

Al-Khelaifi told France Football he will no longer put up with any "celebrity behaviour" at the club.

In the same interview he said of Neymar: "I want players that are ready to give everything to defend the honour of our shirt and who sign up to the club's project.

"Those who do not want to, or do not understand it, we meet and we speak. There are of course contracts to respect, but the priority now is complete commitment to our project.

"Nobody forced him to sign here. Nobody pushed him to. He came with a full understanding of the cause to sign up to a project."

Neymar this month suffered an ankle injury that ruled him out of Brazil's Copa America campaign.

While speculation swirls over Neymar's future, Al-Khelaifi is adamant PSG will not sell Kylian Mbappe, saying he is 200 per cent sure the France forward will not be leaving.

Francesco Totti has left his post as a director at Roma, ending a 30-year stay at the club.

Totti joined the Roma board after retiring as a player in 2017, but reported differences between the former attacker and the club's board are said to have resulted in him leaving.

Tensions are said to have become particularly strained between Totti and club owner Jim Pallotta since March, when Monchi quit as sporting director and coach Eusebio Di Francesco was sacked.

Speculation went into overdrive after Totti failed to appear at Roma's club meeting in London last week, where new coach Paulo Fonseca was presented, with Pallotta insisting the Azzurri icon was invited.

Pallotta was unsure why Totti decided against attending but insisted he would be given "time", and now the two parties have separated.

He recently claimed Totti was offered the role of technical director. However, in a news conference Totti said: "I never had the chance to express myself. I was never involved in a genuine technical project.

"In the first year, that can happen. In the second, I realised what I wanted to do and we never got together, never helped each other.

"They knew my intentions and what I wanted, to give so much to this club and team, but they never wanted me to, in all honesty. They excluded me from every decision.

"I will now take other paths. At the moment another club owner wants to trust in me, I'll always be ready.

"I am not here to point the blame towards one or the other. We had started a journey, it was not respected, so I am moving on.

"Everyone knows they made me stop playing. I had a six-year contract already as a director. I started quietly, realising it's a completely different sphere to being on the field. Many promises were made and they were never kept.

"The main focus of certain people has been to remove Romans from Roma. Over the last eight years, since the Americans came in, they tried in every possible way to shove us to one side.

"As the years went on, they tried everything they could… It's what they wanted and in the end, they succeeded.

"What I can say is that I will never hurt Roma. This is far worse than retiring as a player. Leaving Roma is like dying. I feel like it'd be better if I died."

Totti spent the entirety of his professional career at Roma, making 786 appearances in all competitions, scoring 307 goals and winning one Serie A title in 2000-01.

He is both Roma's all-time leading appearance maker and scorer, with most regarding him as the greatest player in the club's history

Kylian Mbappe will have to "go and get" more responsibility at Paris Saint-Germain but is certain to be at the club next season, according to president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

France forward Mbappe put Real Madrid on alert last month when he declared a "new project" might resolve his wish for greater authority.

LaLiga giants Madrid have since been linked heavily with the 20-year-old amid a squad overhaul that has seen Zinedine Zidane sign Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy.

Al-Khelaifi, however, insists Mbappe will not be allowed to join the influx at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"He wants to be more involved in the PSG project, to grow with the team, the club," Al-Khelaifi told France Football.

"I explained to him that you do not ask for responsibility, you go and get it. Sometimes, you have to take it.

"I am not 100 per cent sure, but 200 per cent sure that he will be here next season!"

Mbappe has spent two seasons at PSG, amassing 46 goals in Ligue 1.

Luka Jovic is adamant playing in the European Under-21 Championship with Serbia will not impact negatively on his pre-season preparations for new club Real Madrid.

Jovic enjoyed a stellar campaign on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt from Benfica in 2018-19, scoring 27 goals across all competitions as the German side finished seventh in the Bundesliga and reached the Europa League semi-finals.

The striker's form attracted interest from a host of major European clubs, but Madrid were the ones to take the plunge, shelling out a reported €60million on the 21-year-old less than two months after Frankfurt triggered their apparent €7m purchase option on him.

Jovic is one of the most notable stars at the European Under-21 Championship in Italy, which began on Sunday.

And ahead of Serbia's Group B bow against Austria on Monday, Jovic is certain his participation will not be a problem for the remainder of the close-season.

"A lot of players wouldn't be here now if they were me," he told UEFA. "But I already missed out on the [Under-20] World Cup because of injury, so I was completely sure I wanted to join my team here.

"I knew instantly that, if it were up to me, I would participate in this tournament. I'm not worried – I'll have enough time to rest and get ready for next season."

Expectations of Jovic are particularly high at the tournament, though he insists he is able to detach himself from the pressure.

"I had a really good season and I'm satisfied with my achievements," he added. "I can always do better, of course, but let's leave that for the future.

"With regards to the pressure, I don't feel it's grown. I've disconnected myself from it all and I'm fully concentrated on the game and giving my best so that we, as a team, can achieve the best result possible."

 

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez applauded the commitment of his team after opening their Copa America campaign with a 4-0 win over Ecuador despite pre-tournament injury worries.

The 15-time Copa champions were in fine form in Belo Horizonte on Sunday, sweeping 10-man Ecuador aside with minimal fuss to move top of Group C.

Nicolas Lodeiro gave them an early lead before Jose Quinteros was sent off, and Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez scored before the break to capitalise on the numerical advantage. Arturo Mina's second-half own goal wrapped things up. 

Uruguay's victory was as emphatic as their preparations were worrying, with key players suffering injuries in the first half of 2019.

Tabarez subsequently paid tribute to the team's professionalism for coming through such issues and securing a strong start to the Copa.

"I always expect the best from these players here in the national team, because they have a huge commitment to the team," he said.

"But there were some cases like Suarez, this is the first game he plays after his injury, he played just some training matches we did.

"Cavani, he also had an important injury and just played the last games in his league. [Cristhian] Stuani, Jonathan Rodriguez [also had problems] – there was a lot of uncertainty.

"We can almost be completely happy about this win, but [Matias] Vecino has a muscular pain and we will look at the nature of it [on Monday] in Porto Alegre.

"Football always carries its surprises, we must be ready for everything. Maybe we should have rested those players I said, but just when I was going to change Suarez, we got this [injury] with Vecino.

"However, we are glad about this [win] because we assumed this game was going to be hard, as every game is in South American competitions, and this win is something important for us, it is what we wanted."

Uruguay will face Japan in Porto Alegre in their next match on Friday.

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