Gonzalo Higuain will retire from professional football at the end of the 2022 MLS season, he announced on Monday.

The veteran striker, a 75-cap former Argentina international who was a member of the squad that came second at the 2014 World Cup, will bring the curtain down on a glittering 17-year career.

Higuain played over 100 games for each of Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus, having began his playing days with River Plate, while he also had brief spells with Milan and Chelsea before joining Inter Miami.

A six-time domestic league champion – with three LaLiga crowns and three Serie A triumphs – he signed for the MLS club in September 2020.

Higuain has been in top form for Miami in the second half of this season, scoring 12 goals and assisting a further two in the past 14 games.

Phil Neville's side are seventh in the Eastern Conference, clinging to the final playoff place with two games of the regular season remaining.

Victories over Orlando City on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Sunday would extend Miami's season and Higuain's career.

Jamaica Reggae Boyz goalkeeper Andre Blake admits to enjoying the encounter against top team Argentina and football great Lionel Messi, despite coming away on the other side of a 3-0 defeat.

After starting the game on the bench, Messi's introduction blew things wide open for La Albiceleste who had already taken a 1-0 lead in the first half courtesy of Julian Alvarez’s 13th-minute strike.

With only 10-minutes to go the Jamaicans seemed set to end their third straight encounter against the South Americans within a one-goal margin, but Messi had other ideas.

Blake initially foiled Messi twice but could not do much against the Paris Saint Germain midfielder’s blast from the top of the area in the 86th minute or his crafty free-kick three minutes later.

It’s a world-class team that’s the easiest way to put it.  It’s a different ballgame. The quality of play and the speed of play, everything is a different level. But I enjoyed every moment of it, and it was a great experience,” Blake told the Philadelphia Enquirer.

“He’s the best in the world,” Blake said in his assessment of Messi.

“I wish I was able to make those saves, but world-class players do world-class things. … it was definitely an honour and a moment I’ll cherish forever — not the moment that he scored, but being able to play against him and save a few of his shots.”

Lionel Scaloni is "excited and grateful" at the prospect of continuing as Argentina coach through to the 2026 World Cup.

Chiqui Tapia, president of the Argentine Football Association, stated an agreement had been reached between both parties for Scaloni to remain in his post for the next four years.

A new deal would be a fine reward for Scaloni, who replaced Jorge Sampaoli after the 2018 World Cup, where Argentina were beaten by eventual champions France in the last 16.

Under Scaloni, Argentina won the Copa America last year to end a drought at major tournaments dating back to the 1993 Copa.

A routine 3-0 win over Jamaica on Tuesday, in which Lionel Messi scored twice off the bench, also saw Argentina stretch their unbeaten run to 35 matches.

Scaloni is now focused on continuing his work with the national team.

"I'm excited and grateful," Scaloni said about Tapia's announcement.

"I want to continue, who wouldn't want to do it with the Argentine national team?

"I have the best relationship with the president, we met today, everything is on track."

The fixture against Jamaica was Argentina's penultimate game before the World Cup with a friendly against the United Arab Emirates to come before the tournament in Qatar.

Earlier this year, Argentina's planned friendly against Brazil – scheduled to take place in Australia – was cancelled.

Scaloni spoke about a lack of preparation against the more elite sides of international football but is confident his team will be ready based on their performances in the build-up to the tournament.

"The result is positive, not for the results, but because the players gave themselves to the maximum," he added.

"Sometimes things don't go well but this team knows that sometimes you can suffer, the rival can be better, and you have to stay entrenched and work.

"Don't forget that our idea of the game could be different from what was seen today You have to know what to do in the game and this team knows it."

Asked about his team's chances in Qatar, Scaloni added: "I do not go to Qatar with an inflated chest, there are great teams and it is very difficult to say who can win the World Cup.

"Whatever it has to be in the World Cup [it will be], but we are going to leave every last drop of sweat [out there]."

Argentina's first group-stage match takes place on November 22nd against Saudi Arabia.

 

Lionel Messi should be appreciated by fans of all countries at the World Cup as he will be missed like Roger Federer "and more" when he retires, says Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.

Messi scored twice from the bench in Argentina's 3-0 win over Jamaica on Tuesday, their penultimate friendly before Qatar 2022.

The Albiceleste head to the finals as one of the favourites, having won the Copa America last year.

That was Messi's long-awaited first major international honour, and this could be the 35-year-old's last chance to win a World Cup, having lost in the 2014 final.

Although the Paris Saint-Germain superstar remains on top of his game, scoring six goals across his past four matches for club and country, Scaloni knows he cannot go on forever.

And the Argentina boss expects Messi's eventual retirement will be received with the same outpouring that met tennis legend Federer's decision to quit the sport last week.

"[Messi] is like Federer," Scaloni said after the Jamaica game.

"He retired and what happened when he retired? Everybody [was] excited, everybody is thinking, 'he won't be here anymore, he's not going to play anymore'.

"How many of us would like to see Federer play tennis? Because it was wonderful to watch him play. The same will happen with [Messi] and more, because football is a sport that moves much more.

"So, let's enjoy him. Everyone enjoys him regardless of the country, it's wonderful to see him.

"I have the possibility of training him, but I would be a fan, I would pay a ticket to see him and I would buy his shirt, regardless of the country.

"So, the only thing left is to enjoy him, because I don't know if something like this will ever be repeated. So, you have to enjoy him and nothing else."

Newly appointed Jamaica Reggae Boyz head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson believes a 3-0 scoreline might have flattered Argentina, insisting his team was made to pay for a loss in concentration in the defeat at the Red Bull stadium on Tuesday.

Argentinean superstar Lionel Messi came off the bench to score twice as the Albiceleste, who, in truth, looked comfortable despite holding a slim 1-0 lead, blew the game wide open in the last 10 minutes.

By the time the world-famous number 10 entered the fray, in the 56th minute, Argentina were already 1-0 up courtesy of Julian Alvarez’s tidy finish in the 13th minute. from there they had struggled to find real goalscoring momentum, that is until Messi entered the pitch.

After stinging the palms of Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake with an early attempt, the forward made no mistake blasting his shot well to the left of the keeper, when he got another opportunity, to double the lead in the 86th minute.  However, sloppy play in midfield led to the dangerous player taking possession at the edge of the area.

Three minutes later, there was real anxiety when the wily forward was brought down just at the top of the 18-yard box.  Those concerns were proven valid when Messi picked himself up and scored the resulting free-kick.  Again the Jamaicans might well feel dissatisfied with their defensive play, as Messi found space through a somewhat disheveled wall to beat Blake again.  The match was the first for Hallgrimsson and he believes despite the errors they were a few positives.

“We lost 3-0 and you are never happy to lose.  Three, zero is a big number but I don’t think it reflects the game on a whole,” Hallgrimsson said.

“It does not reflect the performance of our players, I think we showed an excellent team performance for 80 minutes and we lost a little focus in possession that led to the first and the second goal and then from that lost more focus for the third goal and that cannot happen,” he added.

“Those were the negatives from the match.  We kept them from creating goal-scoring chances, more or less, until the 80th minute.  After 10 minutes we were finding our feet but after that, we were comfortable with how we played our defensive game.”

Argentina were never in any danger during their 3-0 friendly win against Jamaica on Tuesday, played at a neutral site in the United States' Red Bull Arena.

Alvarez opened the scoring in the 13th minute thanks to some terrific work from Lautaro Martinez, who was able to snake his way into the box, beating multiple defenders to get to the touchline and drag one back along the edge of the six-yard box for a simple tap-in.

Argentina continued to create half-chances throughout the remainder of the first half, and it was more of the same to begin the second 45, with Martinez going close after a slick one-touch pass from Alexis Mac Allister gave him some space inside the box, but he pushed his shot wide of the far-post.

Lionel Messi was subbed on in the 56th minute, and just 10 minutes later he had his first chance after a one-two on the edge of the area allowed him to break into the left-hand side of the box, but his shot from a sharp angle was easily thwarted at the near post.

But fans in attendance would get what they came for in the 87th minute, when Messi picked up a deflected pass just outside the penalty area and fired his left-foot shot hard and low across his body into the bottom-right corner.

Just two minutes later Argentina were awarded a free kick in the same spot, and Messi again converted, this time around the wall into the bottom-left corner.

What does it mean? Argentina now two games away from history

With this result, Argentina are now unbeaten in their past 35 games dating back to their loss in the 2019 Copa America semi-final against Brazil. 

Italy holds the record at 37 games without a loss – which they set just last year. Argentina's next two games will be in the World Cup against Saudi Arabia and Mexico, and if they make it through unscathed, they will play Poland for the new record.

Messi the super sub

Despite only playing 35 minutes, Messi led all players with five shots, four shots on target and three successful dribbles. Only Alvarez (three) created more chances than Messi's two, and he scored two goals for his second consecutive international fixture after also netting a double against Honduras this past weekend.

Reid struggles with Argentinian physicality

Bobby Reid had a difficult outing down the left-hand side, being credited with only two duels won from 11 tries – the lowest percentage on the pitch. He also had a passing accuracy of 77 per cent, which was one of the lowest marks from either side, while attempting no shots and creating no chances.

What's next? 

Argentina will take their unbeaten streak into the World Cup, where they will play Saudi Arabia first up. Jamaica do not have any fixtures scheduled until March's CONCACAF Nations League.

 Jamaica Reggae Boy forward Leon Bailey is convinced the unit can produce plenty of quality once they get things right, but admittedly expects a tough outing against Argentina.

The Jamaicans will clash with Argentina, at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, for only the fourth time in the team’s history and the debut outing for new head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, who officially took over the post last week.

The Reggae Boyz have lost all three previous encounters but performed creditably in the team’s last meeting at the 2015 Copa America Centenario, where they narrowly lost 1-0 to the Lionel Messi-led outfit.  Bailey is looking forward to his first taste of the high-profile fixture.

“There are a lot of quality players in the team, we just need to put together, obviously it’s a system that the coach will be improvising but we should be able to do good things and hopefully come away with a result,” Bailey said.

“It’s going to be a good game, the first game for the manager as well, but it should be exciting for everybody playing against a good opponent and I think we just have to be focused and work hard for the whole game.”

Reggae Boyz starting line-up

Andre Blake

Leon Bailey

Daniel Johnson

Ravel Morrison

Shamar Nicholson

Bobby Reid

Damion Lowe

Michael Antonio

Adrian Mariappa

Javain Brown

Amari'i Bell

 

Reggae Boyz central defender Damion Lowe said the team is in good spirits and looking forward to their friendly against two-time world champions Argentina in New Jersey on Tuesday.

Newly appointed Jamaica Reggae Boyz head coach Heimir Hallgrímsson is hoping to conduct a valuable assessment during the team’s upcoming friendly international against Argentina.

The Reggae Boyz and the Albiceleste, led by football superstar Lionel Messi, will lock horns at the Red Bulls Stadium in New York, on Tuesday, for the fourth time in history.  Hallgrímsson, who officially took charge of the team last week, admits the former world champions are a difficult prospect to face on his debut but hopes to gleam some valuable insights.

“It going to be a good contest and at least we’ll know where we stand and what we need to improve," Hallgrímsson said.

“For me, it’s a time to learn, a time to observe, time to evaluate.  Then after this camp, we can see what we need to change if we need to change anything.  Find out what is working and what is not working.”

In three matches Jamaica has not managed to secure a result against Argentina losing all three matches that the teams have played.

 

Waterhouse defender Ricardo Thomas has been drafted in to replace injured Ipswich Town defender Greg Leigh ahead of Jamaica’s friendly international against Argentina.

Leigh was expected to join up with the rest of the team in the United States on Friday but suffered an injury in the team’s 2-2 draw against Sheffield Wednesday earlier this week.  Initially, the defender was thought to have just suffered a bruise to the area but subsequent scans revealed a compression fracture.

The injury is now expected to keep the player out of action for an extended spell.

“He, unfortunately, picked something up at the back end of the Sheffield Wednesday game, which was initially thought to be bone bruising,” the team’s manager Kieran McKenna said.

“At that point, it was touch-and-go whether he was going to go away for international duty.

 “He’s had some scans this week, just to make sure, and unfortunately he has a compression fracture of his leg and will be out for a longer period of time. That’s a disappointing one for Greg and for us as well," he added.

The 29-year-old has made 8 appearances for the Jamaica national team and last played against Honduras in March.  Thomas has played 10 matches for the national team and was last on the bench in the team’s Nation’s League match against Mexico in June.

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber accepts his team have plenty of room for improvement with just under a year to go until their Rugby World Cup defence gets under way.

The Springboks could only beat Argentina 38-21 in the final match of the Rugby Championship on Saturday, and that meant New Zealand took the trophy.

South Africa required a try-scoring bonus point plus a winning margin of at least 39 points at Kings Park in Durban, but the Pumas would not be rolled over in such a manner.

The daunting title target for the Boks had been set when the All Blacks posted a crushing 40-14 victory against Australia earlier in the day.

Before their 2019 World Cup win, the Boks won a three-match Rugby Championship. The 2020 championship was cancelled due to the pandemic, but the All Blacks have now carried off the title in 2021 and 2022, this time around serving to ease some of the pressure on coach Ian Foster.

It was tight this year, with New Zealand and South Africa both winning four of six games, but the All Blacks managed one more bonus point and a superior points difference.

Nienaber is already looking forward to November away games against Ireland, France, Italy and England, as South Africa look to gather themselves for a big push into next year. The World Cup begins in September 2023 in France.

"We are not there yet, we need to find consistency," Nienaber said. "In that regard, we will get a good idea where we are on the end-of-year tour.

"We play the number one [Ireland] and number two [France] in the world in the first two games of the tour. So it will be a challenging tour for us."

South Africa had not scored 39 points in a match, let alone won by that margin, since a 40-9 defeat of Georgia in July 2021.

They last beat Argentina by such a hefty points margin in 2013, when posting a 73-13 landslide win, but the Pumas are far more competitive nowadays, as wins over Australia and New Zealand in this championship showed.

Nienaber said his players still felt they could pull off the improbable against Argentina when they took to the field.

"We saw it as a realistic target, we took on the task full on," Nienaber said, quoted by Supersport. "We needed to get a 39-point winning margin to win the trophy, and we all bought into it.

"In the end we came up short, but you can never take a win in the Springbok jersey for granted, victory is always special. We are glad we came out on the right side of today's result, even if we didn't get what we needed to win the championship."

New Zealand retained the Rugby Championship title after South Africa could only beat Argentina 38-21 in the final match of the tournament on Saturday.

The All Blacks' dominant 40-14 defeat of Australia had set the Springboks the sizeable task of securing a bonus-point win by at least 39 points to be crowned champions in Durban.

And Ian Foster's side could ultimately watch on with some degree of comfort early on Sunday morning back home, as the world champions could not prevent them from claiming a fifth title in six championships and had to settle for second place.

An 11th-minute Springboks try was ruled out as Eben Etzebeth had stripped the ball from team-mate Siya Kolisi in an offside position, although their pressure soon told with a yellow card for Marcos Kremer.

South Africa made the most of their numerical advantage when Jasper Wiese scored the first and surely easiest try of his international career, walking the ball over at the back of a scrum.

No sooner had Kremer returned than Juan Martin Gonzalez headed for the sin bin, and it was captain Kolisi's turn to capitalise as he powered through for the second, before Frans Steyn dispatched a long-range penalty.

But Gonzalo Bertranou lunged for the line on the stroke of half-time to silence the Kings Park crown, then Gonzalez raced down the left for the first try of the second period.

Argentina had designs on winning the match, yet they conceded pivotal penalty tries either side of Matias Moroni's score in a half that saw two yellow cards for each side, with the Springboks forced to scrap for their victory as Etzebeth and Faf de Klerk were off the field at the same time.

Kurt-Lee Arendse's last-gasp try at least allowed South Africa to finish with a flourish, with the Pumas consigned to finishing bottom of the table.

First-half frustrations again

If South Africa were to hold any hope of stealing the championship from New Zealand, they needed a strong start. However, three of their previous six home Tests against Argentina – despite all ending in victory – had seen the Springboks fail to take a lead into half-time.

They had to stay patient again in this encounter, frustrated in front of the posts against 15 men, but two tries with men in the sin bin looked to have kept South Africa just about on course until Bertranou dealt the home crowd a blow shortly before the interval.

Seven-try repeat a step too far

South Africa had not scored 39 points, let alone won by that margin, since a 40-9 defeat of Georgia in July 2021.

The last victory the Springboks celebrated that would have been enough to take the title in these circumstances was a 66-7 success against Canada at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, while the last against Argentina was a 73-13 win in 2013.

There were seven second-half South Africa tries in that thrashing of the Pumas, but a repeat never appeared likely this time.

Argentina star Lionel Messi believes he is beginning to find his feet at Paris Saint-Germain, having required a year to settle in after his move to France.

Messi scored just 11 goals in 34 appearances during his first season at PSG in 2021-22, but has already struck six times in 11 outings for the Ligue 1 giants this campaign.

The former Barcelona man is also enjoying himself on the international stage, scoring twice and adding an assist as Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 34 matches with a 3-0 friendly win over Honduras on Friday.

Messi led his team for shots on target (three), touches in the opposition box (nine), crosses (three) and successful dribbles (two) in Miami, completing the scoring with a sumptuous 20-yard chip in the second half.

Speaking to TyC Sports after the victory, Messi compared his current form favourably with that of last season.

"I feel good, different from last year and I knew it was going to be like that," Messi said.

"Last year, as I already said, I had a bad time, I never finished finding myself and this one is different.

"I arrived with a different head, more accommodated to the club, to the locker room, to the game, to my team-mates.

"The truth is that I feel very good and I have enjoyed myself again."

Friday's brace took Messi to 88 goals in 163 senior international caps, and he will join a select group of players to have appeared in five separate World Cups when Argentina begin their campaign against Saudi Arabia on November 22.

The PSG forward believes Lionel Scaloni's men are in a good place as their trip to Qatar approaches and is trying not to think about the possibility of his team suffering injuries before the event.

He added: "It is complicated - there are many games and little rest time, but you have to face it as always.

"If you are going to play matches thinking about the World Cup, taking care of yourself or not messing up, then in the end it can be worse. 

"I am one of those who think that things happen because they happen and if things have to happen they will happen. God willing nothing happens to anyone and we can all arrive at the World Cup as we are.

"We are enjoying every moment that we are together and seriously preparing ourselves when it is time to work, working on many things because it is the last time that we all have to be together, and there will not be much time before the first World Cup match.

"So, we took the opportunity to continue growing what we know and trying new things as well."

Argentina were too good in their dominant 3-0 friendly win against Honduras on Friday, with two goals and an assist from Lionel Messi in a starring performance.

Messi set up a goal and finished a penalty in an excellent first half, before capping off the outing with a long-range chip to capitalise on a defensive mistake.

Julian Alvarez and Giovani Lo Celso also manufactured openings as Argentina racked up 17 shots to Honduras' two, but ultimately this would be the Messi show.

Argentina opened the scoring in the 16th minute, when Messi delivered a spectacular ball from the centre of the park to find Papu Gomez on his run into the box from the left wing, giving him the chance to roll a simple squaring pass to Lautaro Martinez in the six-yard box for a tap-in.

Messi's creativity was on full display again to create the second goal, with an almost identical pass finding Lo Celso breaking into the box from the left wing, before the desperate Honduran defence pulled him down for a penalty.

Messi stepped up to the spot himself and made no mistake, calmly sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and rolling the ball into the bottom-right corner.

Argentina took their foot off the pedal in the second half, but when a mistake in defence saw a loose ball fall for Messi just outside the edge of the penalty area, with no defender between him and the goal, he caught everyone off guard with an audacious and picture-perfect first-time chip over Luis Lopez's head.

What does it mean? Unbeatable Argentina's streak remains intact 

With the win, Argentina remain undefeated in their 34 matches since last losing to Brazil in the Copa America semi-final back in 2019. They are three matches away from tying Italy for the longest international unbeaten streak – a mark they set just last year.

Messi magic at the centre of Argentinian attack

The Paris Saint-Germain star led his team in nearly every important statistical category, including shots on target (three), touches in opposition box (nine), crosses (three) and successful dribbles (two).

His ability to pick out smart runs from the left wing behind the defence was directly responsible for both of the first two goals, and his chip finish for the third was sublime.

Lonely day up top for Quioto

Honduras striker Romell Quioto had very little supply all day as his side finished with 33 per cent possession, but he did himself no favours.

Of his four passes in the final-third, only one found a teammate, and he finished with no shots and no chances created before being subbed off in the 83rd minute.

What's next?

Argentina are scheduled to take on Jamaica in their next friendly on Tuesday in what will be their last match before jetting off to Qatar. Honduras will host Guatemala, also on Tuesday.

The final round of Rugby Championship fixtures are upon us and two teams are realistically left standing in the battle to be crowned 2022 champions.

In what has been the most competitive tournament since Argentina joined a decade ago, all four teams have at one point looked good value to finish top.

New Zealand are level with South Africa at the summit, but they have the advantage in terms of the sides' net points difference, which may be used as a deciding factor.

The All Blacks therefore know a bonus-point win over Bledisloe Cup rivals Australia in a repeat of last week's classic will all but land them an eighth title in 10 years.

South Africa play Argentina, the only side entirely out of the running, later on Saturday and will know what they have to do to have a chance – if any – of overtaking New Zealand.

Here, Stats Perform previews the weekend clashes in round six of the championship using Opta data.


NEW ZEALAND v AUSTRALIA

FORM

New Zealand beat Australia 39-37 in last week's thrilling Test in Melbourne through a hugely contentious late try to make it four wins in a row in this fixture – their best such run since winning seven on the bounce between August 2015 and August 2017.

The All Blacks' record on home soil against Australia is even better, having won each of the last 22 Tests in Auckland by an average margin of 18 points per game. The last time Australia got the better of their neighbours in that city was in September 1986.

Australia therefore have a huge task on their hands at Eden Park as they aim to avoid losing three Tests in a row in the Rugby Championship for the first time since September 2013, with this current run following a streak of six wins from their previous seven matches in the competition.

The Wallabies, who need a bonus-point win and would then hope South Africa fail to get the result required against Argentina, will look to exploit any ill-discipline from their rivals. Their goal-kicking accuracy of 92 per cent on place-kicks this year (33/36) is some 11 percentage points higher than any other Tier One nation.

ONES TO WATCH

Will Jordan has made 10 line breaks for New Zealand across 2022, which is the most of any player from a Tier One nation. To put that into some further perspective, it is double the tally of Tom Wright (five), Australia's best performer in that area.

Australia wing Marika Koroibete could hold the key to breaking down the hosts. The 30-year-old has beaten 23 defenders in 2022 – the most of any player from a Tier One nation and two more than New Zealand's best Rieko Ioane.

 

SOUTH AFRICA V ARGENTINA

FORM

Following last week's 36-20 bonus-point triumph in Buenos Aires, South Africa have won their past five Tests against Argentina. However, a win alone may not be enough on Saturday and the Springboks could find themselves going all out for an emphatic victory in pursuit of New Zealand.

The Boks have some much-needed momentum on their side thanks to two wins in a row – matching the number they managed in their previous seven games in the competition – with those victories coming by a margin of exactly 16 points.

Argentina cannot be written off, though, having already defeated New Zealand and Australia during the first half of their championship campaign. Los Pumas have lost back-to-back matches since then, as many as they lost in their six games prior.

Turnovers could be a huge factor in this contest as Argentina and South Africa have won the most of any teams in this year's tournament with 22 apiece, while also making the most and second-most tackles with 706 and 600 respectively.

ONES TO WATCH

Springbok lock Lood de Jager has played a big part for his country this campaign and is second only to Italy's Federico Ruzza for line-outs won among players from Tier One nations in 2022 with 36.

Matias Moroni was among the try scorers for Argentina in last week's loss when finishing off a well-worked set-piece and is among the starters for this latest tussle. He has made dominant contact on seven tackles this year, placing him second only to Italy's Monty Ioane (eight) among elite nations.

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