Magical Messi served Chile pain again as Martinez misfires

By Sports Desk June 14, 2021

It was a modest record for a player as magnificent as Lionel Messi: three games, two final defeats, one red card, no goals.

But the Barcelona great's Copa America performances against Chile prior to Monday's curtain-raising clash were not entirely out of keeping with the rest of his Argentina career.

There have been moments of magic, of course, but just 15 goals across 46 Copa America and World Cup appearances ahead of this game. Meanwhile, not since 2007-08 has Messi fallen short of averaging a goal every two games for Barca, let alone one every three.

Even Messi himself could not reasonably argue his international displays have come close to the standard set at club level.

And while World Cup failures will always remain at the forefront of any such discussion – his achievements in contrast to Diego Maradona's one-man show in 1986 – the Copa America has provided its fair share of pain.

The final defeats to Chile in 2015 and 2016 were among three for Messi and four for Argentina since their 14th and most recent title in 1993.

Those two in consecutive years both came courtesy of penalty shoot-outs. Messi scored his spot-kick in the first match but missed the following year, setting his side on their way to another sore setback.

It was fitting then, it seemed, that this latest campaign – surely one of Messi's last – would start against Chile and initially start in much more encouraging fashion.

Neymar had set the standard against Venezuela the previous day.

In front of empty, hushed stands that make it impossible to ignore the influence of politics in football – a popular topic of debate in 2021 – the pace was ponderous until the world's most expensive footballer got to work.

Neymar scored one and created another in a 3-0 Brazil win. Along with five shots, he created seven chances – the most of any Selecao player in a Copa America match since his debut.

It took 33 minutes, in which the absence of an atmosphere again jarred, but Messi rose to that challenge when presented with a free-kick in a central position, dipped over the wall and beyond the grasp of Claudio Bravo.

That was one of seven Messi shots and he played four key passes, too. On paper, this ranked alongside Neymar's efforts.

 

By full-time, though, it was a frustratingly familiar tale, as the supporting cast proved unable to suitably assist their superstar.

Messi's excellence has excused a whole generation of Argentina internationals, absolved of blame because their great number 10 should have been able to win major tournaments alone.

Too many hugely talented players have misfired on the big stage; Lionel Scaloni sent out some past and present examples.

Lautaro Martinez is supposed to be the face of a young, new team. He had 11 goals in 23 prior internationals and should have added to that tally more than once in Rio de Janeiro.

The Inter forward failed to hit the target with any of his three attempts and optimistically appealed for a foul following two of them when he inexplicably missed from point-blank range.

And Martinez's frustration unfortunately came to the fore after 62 minutes when he lunged into an awful challenge on Charles Aranguiz under the nose of the referee and escaped with a booking.

The 23-year-old's evening might have ended early with a red card. Instead, it was cut short by the introduction of Sergio Aguero.

Chile had equalised five minutes prior to Martinez's moment of madness, one of a series of rash attempted tackles punished as a VAR review found Nicolas Tagliafico had made contact with Arturo Vidal in the area.

Vidal took the penalty and Emiliano Martinez turned it onto the crossbar, but Eduardo Vargas was on hand to nod in his 13th Copa America goal – staying three clear of Messi and climbing into the top 10 all-time.

Aguero followed Angel Di Maria onto the pitch as Argentina sought a response. Both players were not so long ago out of the picture under Scaloni, having previously been part of the Messi-led team that repeatedly came up short.

In each Chile final, Di Maria started. Aguero was introduced from the bench in one and in the XI for the other.

As on those occasions, there were no heroics from either on Monday. Di Maria, now 33, had two shots but neither troubled Bravo. Aguero, also 33, was caught offside once.

Messi will be the story if Argentina do not deliver silverware in the coming weeks, just as he will be should they finally get over the hump.

But the same problems persist. When Messi's free-kick set the stage, it was Martinez who could not step up, underwhelming again like too many past Argentina attackers.

If this is to be the tournament in which Messi reaches his promised land, he is going to need some help.

Related items

  • Juventus confident of landing Locatelli after tabling 'appropriate offer' – Nedved Juventus confident of landing Locatelli after tabling 'appropriate offer' – Nedved

    Juventus are confident of signing Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo after tabling what vice-president Pavel Nedved describes as an "appropriate offer".

    The 23-year-old midfielder has established himself with Sassuolo over the past two seasons in Serie A and is now on the radar of several leading European clubs.

    Locatelli's stock has risen even further after featuring five times for Italy in their successful Euro 2020 campaign, including an appearance against England in last month's final.

    He scored twice against Switzerland in the group stage and had the second best goals-per-90-minute ratio of any Italy player (0.66) in the tournament after Matteo Pessina (0.95).

    Former Milan man Locatelli also won more tackles per 90 minutes (2.32) than any Italy player at the Euros, followed by Marco Verratti (2.02) and Federico Bernardeschi (1.42).

    Arsenal have already made a bid for the midfielder, while fellow English side Liverpool have also been linked, but Nedved is positive Juve can win the race for his signature.

    "We spoke to Sassuolo and we made our offer, which we believe is appropriate for the current climate, with the way finances and the transfer market have been affected by COVID," Nedved told Sport Mediaset.

    "We are convinced this is a good offer and it is the right one. We are always confident. Naturally in negotiations there are things that must be clarified and resolved. When you want a player and that player wants you, it's clear..."

    Nedved's comments come after Sassuolo CEO Giovanni Carnevali revealed last week that Locatelli would prefer a move to Juventus.

    The Bianconeri, who reappointed Massimiliano Allegri in May after sacking Andrea Pirlo, have yet to make any new signings ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

    Juve face Barcelona in a prestige pre-season friendly next weekend before beginning their Serie A campaign away at Udinese on August 22.

  • Rays top Red Sox to move into first place, Mets win in Baez debut Rays top Red Sox to move into first place, Mets win in Baez debut

    Two key hits from highly touted rookie Wander Franco lifted the Tampa Bay Rays past the Boston Red Sox 9-5 on Saturday.

    Tampa Bay's third consecutive win and Boston's third straight loss moved the Rays into first place in the American League (AL) East by half a game.

    After the Rays' Francisco Mejia and Boston's Bobby Dalbec traded two-run homers in the fourth and fifth inning to leave the score tied 5-5, Franco's triple to right field in the sixth gave the Rays the lead.

    Franco would add an RBI single in the eighth and come home on Mejia's two-run single later in the inning as the Rays sealed the win.

     

    Baez homers in Mets debut

    Javier Baez homered in his first game with the Mets as New York rallied past the Cincinnati Reds for a 5-4 victory. Baez's two-run shot in the sixth drew the Mets within one after Eugenio Suarez and Kyle Farmer home runs had given Cincinnati a 4-1 lead. Dominic Smith's ninth-inning single sent the game to extra innings, where Brandon Drury won it in the 10th. Joey Votto went one-for-five with a single for the Reds, ending his streak of games with a home run at seven straight.

    Speaking of new New Yorkers, Anthony Rizzo continues to endear himself to Yankees fans. He reached base in all four plate appearances in a 4-2 win over the Miami Marlins, collecting two walks, a single and his second home run in as many days. According to Stats Perform, Rizzo is the first player in Yankees history to have at least two hits, including a home run, in each of his first two games with the team.

    The San Francisco Giants hit five home runs to slug their way past the Houston Astros 8-6 in a matchup of division leaders. Donovan Solano, Wilmer Flores, LaMonte Wade, Darin Ruf and Mike Yastrzemski went deep for the Giants, while Houston got two homers from Aledmys Diaz and one from Martin Maldonado in a losing effort.

    Kyle Hendricks is now the longest-tenured Chicago Cubs player after the team's sell-off this week, and he was his usual self in allowing one run in seven innings to beat the Washington Nationals 6-3 and win his 11th consecutive decision.

    Colorado Rockies All-Star pitcher German Marquez allowed two runs in six innings and provided one of his one, homering off Yu Darvish in the fifth as the Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 5-3.

     

    Rough Brewers debut for Curtiss

    Making his Milwaukee Brewers debut after coming over from the Marlins in a trade this week, reliever John Curtiss allowed four hits and a walk to Atlanta, punctuated by a Dansby Swanson grand slam that would give the Braves an 8-1 win.

     

    Zavala's first, second and third career homers

    Entering Saturday, Chicago White Sox catcher Seby Zavala had played 17 major league games between 2019 and this season, collecting three singles, two doubles and one RBI. You could say he had a career game in Chicago's 12-11 loss to the Cleveland Indians, as the 27-year-old went four-for-four with three home runs, including a grand slam. Zavala is the first player in MLB history to collect his first three career home runs in the same game. 

     

    Saturday's results 

    Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 Philadelphia Phillies
    Chicago Cubs 6-3 Washington Nationals
    Toronto Blue Jays 4-0 Kansas City Royals
    New York Mets 5-4 Cincinnati Reds
    New York Yankees 4-2 Miami Marlins
    Tampa Bay Rays 9-5 Boston Red Sox
    Baltimore Orioles 5-2 Detroit Tigers
    Atlanta Braves 8-1 Milwaukee Brewers
    Texas Rangers 5-4 Seattle Mariners
    Cleveland Indians 12-11 Chicago White Sox
    Minnesota Twins 8-1 St Louis Cardinals
    Los Angeles Angels 1-0 Oakland Athletics
    Los Angeles Dodgers 8-3 Arizona Diamondbacks
    San Francisco Giants 8-6 Houston Astros
    Colorado Rockies 5-3 San Diego Padres

     

    Red Sox at Rays

    The Tampa Bay Rays (63-42) will look to hold onto first place on Sunday with a sweep of the Boston Red Sox (63-43) at Tropicana Field. 

  • Tokyo Olympics: Phelps, Spitz, Dressel and the most successful swimmers at a single Games Tokyo Olympics: Phelps, Spitz, Dressel and the most successful swimmers at a single Games

    When you're being tipped as the heir apparent to a legend like Michael Phelps you must be talented.

    And there is no doubting Caeleb Dressel's supreme skills in the pool, which have been on display all week at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

    Dressel finished up on Sunday with a new Olympic record to win the 50m freestyle, while he and his United States team-mates broke the world benchmark in taking out the 4x100m medley.

    In total, Dressel leaves Tokyo 2020 with five gold medals – collecting individual accolades in the 50 and 100m free races and 100m butterfly as well as winning two relay events.

    Swimming has a proud history of producing athletes who leave a single Games with multiple gold medals and Stats Perform takes a look at some of the previous stars of the pool to have done so.

    MICHAEL PHELPS – 8 (BEIJING, 2008)

    Quite simply an Olympics legend. With a mind-boggling 23 golds and 28 medals in total, the American great is the most successful Olympian of all time.

    His most lucrative Games came at Beijing in 2008, where Phelps won a remarkable eight gold medals in the pool – the most collected at a single Olympics.

    Phelps' haul included the following events: 4x100m medley, 100m butterfly, 200m IM, 4x200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 200m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle and 400m individual medley.

    It must have been one heavy carry-on bag on the way home! But Phelps made a habit of racking up the golds. He won six at the 2004 Games in Athens and earned five at his final Olympics at Rio 2016.

    MARK SPITZ – 7 (MUNICH, 1972)

    Before Phelps came along to destroy all the record books, it was Mark Spitz who held the benchmark for most golds at one Games with his incredible effort of seven at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

    The American, who had earned a couple of relay golds in Mexico City four years prior, won every race he entered, setting a world record in each.

    He took out the butterfly and freestyle in the 100 and 200m categories, while clinching relay golds in the 4x100m freestyle, 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle.

    KRISTIN OTTO – 6 (SEOUL, 1988)

    Representing East Germany at the 1988 Games in Seoul, Otto took home six golds – the most of any woman at a single Olympics.

    Otto did so swimming three different strokes - freestyle, backstroke and butterfly. Her gold medals came in the 50 and 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley.

    She retired a year later and Otto is now a prominent pundit in Germany.

    MATT BIONDI – 5 (SEOUL, 1988)

    At the same Olympics, another American legend of the pool Matt Biondi had a Games to remember.

    Biondi won the 50 and 100m freestyle races and a further three relay golds, while he lost out by just one one-hundredth of a second when favourite in the 100m butterfly.

    He famously said of that defeat: "One one-hundredth of a second - what if I had grown my fingernails longer?"

    In total he won seven medals in Seoul, only Phelps and Spitz have won as many at a single Games.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.