Lionel Messi is "very excited" about the upcoming Copa America as Argentina eye a long-awaited title.

Argentina are set to host the 2021 Copa America after Colombia were stripped of co-hosting rights amid safety concerns in the country due to anti-government protests.

Messi's Argentina, who finished third in 2019 following back-to-back runners-up performances in 2015 and 2016, will open the South American tournament against Chile in Buenos Aires on June 13.

Argentina will also face Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia in Group A and Messi is relishing the Copa America as the superstar captain seeks his first senior trophy with La Albiceleste.

"I'm very excited and eager, I'll try to do things right," Messi said on Sunday, with Argentina riding an 11-match unbeaten streak.

"In the last Copa America we left a good image, but we cannot stay with that and we will have to continue growing.

"The last qualifying games we did well too, although it's been a long time since those games and we couldn't get back together, we'll have to get back on track quickly and keep growing."

"I'm always excited to compete with the national team, whatever game it is, we always want to win, it's always the same goal," added the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"The truth is that the youngest are eager and the oldest too, with the same or more eagerness. We are a very nice and united group with a good base that has already been working since [head coach Lionel] Scaloni started and some new ones who joined at the last moment. The important thing is to form a very strong group for the objectives that lie ahead."

Before their Copa America campaign, Argentina will meet Chile (June 3) and Colombia (June 8) in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc with matches postponed, but before COVID-19 led to suspensions, Argentina had won three of their first four games to be two points behind Brazil in second spot.

"I'm happy to be here with all my colleagues. It is a strange and different situation from what we usually live in and we cannot live in a normal way, but little by little we are getting together and working for the two qualifying games because both will be very difficult.

"All qualifying games are very tough. Chile are a great team with very good players, although they have a new coach and he didn't have many games, they have very experienced players base and many kids who are up to the task. They had a generational change like us and they are growing and preparing, it is a very competitive team.

"We try to comply with all the recommendations they give us, the last qualifying matches we had were very similar to what we are experiencing now, although now it is more serious due to the situation in the country. Unfortunately we are having a hard time, there are many infected, so we are trying to accommodate ourselves and comply with what they tell us to do everything well."

Colombia will be without star player James Rodriguez for their Copa America campaign, though the Everton playmaker claimed he has worked hard to be fit.

It was at an international tournament with Colombia that James rose to stardom. He won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup, scoring six goals – including a sensational effort against Uruguay – as his country made it to the quarter-finals.

His performances in Brazil earned him a move to Real Madrid, though injuries have since plagued his spells with Los Blancos, Bayern Munich and Everton, and now his hopes of starring for Colombia once more have taken a blow.

The 29-year-old missed the end of Everton's campaign due to a persistent calf injury which has limited him to 26 appearances in all competitions this season, though James has still played more minutes (2,045) in 2020-21 than in four of the previous seven campaigns since his move to Monaco in 2013-14.

Carlo Ancelotti confirmed before Everton's defeat to Manchester City that James had returned to Colombia to link up with their squad for the World Cup 2022 qualifiers against Peru and Argentina, and the Copa America.

However, Colombia confirmed on Friday that James would be unable to take part.

"The coaching staff of the Colombia men's senior team reports that the player James Rodriguez has been called off for the games against Peru and Argentina for the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and the CONMEBOL Copa America 2021," a statement on the Colombia team's official website read.

The statement went on to reveal that James, who netted six goals and provided eight assists in 2020-21, was "not at the optimal level of competition" following medical checks.

Yet it is a decision which has surprised and disappointed James, who says he has been focusing specifically on being fit for the tournament.

In a statement released on his official social media accounts, James said: "To the media, soccer fans and the general public I want to express my thoughts and feelings regarding the decision made by the coaching staff of the Colombian National Team regarding the next qualification dates and Copa America.

"I [am in] a recovery that is in its final part, in which I have taken enough time to fully integrate myself to the practice of football and in this way not affect my participation in the next commitments of our national team.

"With surprise I receive the statement from the coaching staff, stating that they do not count on me and wishing me a full recovery. A recovery that I have already made and in which I have sacrificed a lot.

"The above fills me with deep disappointment, for what it means to me playing for my country. Not receiving the trust of the coaching staff breaks with everything and causes me enormous pain.

"For my colleagues the best energy and best wishes. I will support with passion as always."

Despite managing 26 matches – and 24 of those coming as starts – James still finished as Everton's second-highest chance creator in all competitions, crafting 54 opportunities, trailing only Gylfi Sigurdsson (60), who made 18 more appearances. On average, he created two chances per 90 minutes.

James teed up 11 big chances, which Opta classify as opportunities from which a player would be expected to score, in the Premier League, with only 10 players managing a higher total.

Colombia face Peru and Argentina on June 3 and June 8, before starting their Copa America campaign against Ecuador on June 14.

Manchester United midfielder Fred has been called up to the Brazil squad for the first time since 2018 for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers with Ecuador and Paraguay.

The most recent of Fred's 11 senior international caps came in a 2-0 friendly win over Saudi Arabia two and a half years ago.

He has featured regularly for club side United once again this season, however, and has been included in Brazil's 24-man squad for their next set of Qatar 2022 qualifying fixtures.

Fred wrote on Twitter: "A great joy to represent my country again. Always proud to be called up. Let's go again!"

The 28-year-old was criticised by a number of pundits for his performance in Thursday's 4-2 Premier League defeat to Liverpool, but United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has regularly stood by the midfielder.

Fred has attempted 3.08 tackles per 90 minutes in the Premier League this term, the sixth highest average among all players to have played at least 20 times.

His 59.04 successful passes per 90 minutes, meanwhile, is behind only Nemanja Matic (76.56) in terms of United players to have played eight or more league games in 2020-21.

The ex-Shakhtar Donetsk player's passing has also improved during his time at Old Trafford, with Paul Pogba (9.47) the only United regular averaging more passes into the final third than Fred's 9.41 per game.

Asked at a news conference on Friday about his decision to recall Fred, Brazil head coach Tite said: "He has been included because of his high-level performances at United, the team that is second in the Premier League."

Fred is joined in the squad by veteran full-back Dani Alves, who last featured for Brazil in October 2019, while Lucas Paqueta, Gabriel Barbosa and Everton Ribeiro are also included.

The Selecao were last in action six months ago when seeing off Uruguay 2-0 to make it four wins from four in their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying group.

The fifth and sixth rounds of fixtures were scheduled to take place in March, but all the games were called off due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

Brazil are gearing up for a busy period as the Copa America - originally due to be held last year - takes place between June 13 and July 10.

Tite will name his squad for the tournament on June 9 and is hoping to continue building momentum over the next couple of games.

"We have a very high expectation," Tite said. "It is a difficult moment for everyone. These games give us a chance to be in contact with the players.

"We will look at continuing with our performances and results. Right now it is only possible to think about these two games and nothing else."


Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Alex Sandro (Juventus), Dani Alves (Sao Paulo), Danilo (Juventus), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Lucas Verissimo (Benfica), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Chelsea); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fabinho (Liverpool), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon); Everton (Benfica), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Barbosa (Flamengo), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Richarlison (Everton), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid).

Chile have announced Reinaldo Rueda's tenure as coach has come to an end following an underwhelming start to World Cup qualification. 

Rueda had been in the post since early 2018, replacing Juan Antonio Pizzi after he failed to lead the team to the 2018 World Cup. 

Chile lost their Copa America crown under Rueda in 2019, having won each of the previous two editions, though they did get to the semi-finals. 

But Rueda's spell in charge has been largely unimpressive, with the team winning just nine of his 27 matches in charge, suffering 10 defeats. 

Rueda leaves Chile having only been able to accumulate four points from as many games at the start of qualification for the 2022 World Cup. 

His final game was the 2-1 defeat away to Venezuela on November 17.

Page 8 of 8
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.