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Messi, Argentina favorite to win Copa America Centenario Tournament

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Lionel Messi ought to be motivated heading into the last four of the Copa America Centenario, since the world’s greatest soccer player has his first chance to win a major international trophy with Argentina as the betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Argentina, which has outscored their four opponents 14-2 ahead of Tuesday’s game, plays the upstart United States in the semifinal at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Argentines are listed at -175 on the tournament champion board, with the United States listed as the +800 long shot. Chile and Colombia, who meet in the second semifinal on Wednesday at Soldier Field in Chicago, have odds of +325 and +500.

For Tuesday’s semi, Argentina is the heavy -220 favorite, with the underdog United States at +650 and a draw at +330. They are 6-2-2 all-time against the Americans, and Messi will be complemented by other threats such as striker Sergio Aguero of Manchester City. It is a safe assumption that Argentina will control the possession time.

The wild card will be the stout back line that the United States has built under coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Like many North American or northern European teams, they have a size advantage that can keep skilled opponents from completing plays in the 18-yard box. The likes of D John Brooks and D Geoff Cameron will pose an obstacle to Messi, which will assist in the Americans’ effort to stretch out the scoreless portion of the match, and perhaps force Argentina to go to extra time or penalty kicks.

Meanwhile, Chile is listed as a slight +150 favorite to prevail on Wednesday, with Colombia at +195 and a draw at +215.

Chile is minus a critical element, since MF Arturo Vidal, of Bayern Munich, is suspended for accumulating too many yellow cards. Lacking Vidal will affect Chile somewhat, but the world’s fifth-ranked team isn’t exactly lacking for depth. Bettors should try not to fixate on how good Chile looked during their 7-0 quarter-final win against Mexico, since margin of victory in the previous game is not necessarily predictive.

Colombia, conversely, prevailed against Peru in their quarter-final after a penalty shootout. Colombia’s lineup has been in flux throughout the tournament, and it has not won outright in either of its past two games. Striker Carlos Bacca, of AC Milan, has said he will play in spite of an ankle injury. In David Ospino, Colombia also has one of the best goalkeepers still active in the tournament.

The Copa America final is on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

English Premier League betting: Liverpool small favorite over Arsenal

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Based on their recent history, one relative certainty when Arsenal plays Liverpool is that they might hit the over.

Ahead of their match on Saturday, Liverpool is even-money at +105 for the win with Arsenal a +240 underdog and a draw listed at +255 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The English Premier League rivals, who are in a five-team race for three spots in next season’s Champions League, have combined for 13 goals in their past two matchups.

Arsenal, which is 15-5-5 (wins-draws-losses) in the Premiership, will be trying not to concede three points. Key playmaker Mesut Ozil (illness) may be something of a match-day decision for manager Arsene Wegner, and Ozil’s absence would affect Arsenal’s ability to create opportunities for striker Alexis Sanchez.

Liverpool, which is 14-7-5, is dealing with a varied list of injuries. Captain Jordan Henderson (foot) is out , while the status of defender Dejan Lovren (knee) and forward Daniel Sturridge (illness) seems shaky.

Saturday’s fixtures also feature a matchup of two teams drawing bettors’ attention for trending in opposite directions, with Manchester United a -425 favorite against +1100 underdog Bournemouth (with a draw listed at +500).

Manchester United, at 13-9-3, is only two points adrift of a coveted top-four spot. With 35-year-old Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring at an impressive rate, Man U has lost only one of its last 26 matches and has won its last six across all competitions.

They are 4-3-0 (wins-draws-losses) in their last seven matches at Old Trafford against mid-table teams such as Bournemouth, but totals bettors should know that they have scored three goals in only one of those matches.

A continued skein of wins would further lower Manchester United’s price on the top-four finish odds board at the sportsbooks. One of their central playmakers in the midfield, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, should be back from a leg injury, which would help with generating a more flowing attack.

Bournemouth, 7-5-14 in the league, has lost six of its last seven matches in all competitions and has been outscored 12-4 in their last four Premiership matches. The Cherries have also allowed a league-most 30 goals in 13 away matches.

Bournemouth are still four points ahead of the bottom three with 14 matches left, but need to win one soon.

17 trampled to death by stampeding crowd at Angola soccer stadium

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JOHANNESBURG — A crowd stampeded at a football stadium in Angola on Friday, leaving at least 17 people dead and dozens injured.

The accident happened in the northwestern town of Uige when hundreds of people rushed at one of the stadium gates, causing some to fall and be trampled underfoot, according to Angolan and Portuguese media.

Some of the dead were children who suffocated in the stampede, the Portuguese news agency Lusa said. Lusa and Angop, Angola’s state-run news agency, reported a death toll of 17.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (pictured above) expressed condolences to the families of the victims, and instructed officials to assist the injured and open an investigation, Angop reported.

Spectators had gone to the stadium to watch the inaugural game between home team Santa Rita de Cassia and Recreativo de Libolo in the national Girabola competition.