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Messi says he’s quitting Argentina national team after loss to Chile

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Lionel Messi put his penalty kick over the crossbar, grabbed his shirt, clenched his teeth and put both hands over his face.

A few minutes later he walked off the field, a dazed, pained look on his bearded face. The greatest player of his generation, perhaps soccer’s best ever, he was still without a title on Argentina’s national team.

“The national team is over for me,” he told the Argentine network TyC Sports after Chile beat Argentina for the Copa America title Sunday night. “It’s been four finals, it’s not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”

Chile beat Argentina in the final for the second straight year, 4-2 in the shootout following a 0-0 tie that ended an expanded 16-nation edition in the United States to mark the championship’s 100th anniversary.

[MORE: Messi, Argentina’s trophy-less drought continues| Chile wins 2016 Copa America final]

Messi, five-time FIFA Player of the Year, winner of four Champions League titles and eight Spanish La Liga crowns with Barcelona, was crushed. Much of his nation had counted on him to bring home its first major title since 1993.

Playing two days after his 29th birthday, Messi lost a final for the third year in a row and the fourth time overall with Argentina. There was also the 2007 Copa final with Brazil, when he was still a wunderkind, and then an extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup.

A crowd of 82,076 filled MetLife Stadium — the largest to see a soccer game in New Jersey — and many wore his No. 10 jersey in Argentina’s blue and white and Barcelona’s navy and red.

Francisco Silva converted the shootout finale for the fifth-ranked La Roja after goalkeeper Claudio Bravo — Messi’s Barcelona teammate — made a diving stop on Lucas Biglia’s attempt. Chile, ranked fifth in the world, upset the top-ranked Albiceleste.

On an ill-tempered evening that included a first-half ejection on each side and eight yellow cards, the game was scoreless through regulation and 30 minutes of extra time, with Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain missing a clear goal-scoring opportunity for the third straight final. Argentina outshot Chile 16-4 and La Roja collapsed three, four and even five defenders around Messi, then chopped down the diminutive attacker when he tried to accelerate toward the goal.

Messi, who scored five goals in the tournament, sent a free kick that Sergio Aguero nearly headed in 10 minutes into extra time, only to have Bravo jump and extend his right hand to tip the ball over the crossbar. Messi’s free kick in extra time went off the wall.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved the opening kick by Arturo Vidal, and up stepped Messi, considered alongside Brazil’s Pele and Argentina’s Diego Maradona as the sport’s greatest ever. While he won the titles at the under-20 and Olympic (under-23) levels for Argentina, in the minds of many he needs a championship with his nation’s senior team to solidify his place in history

Messi sent his shot over Bravo into the stands. Nicolas Castillo and Charles Aranguiz converted their kicks for Chile, and Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero made theirs, leaving the teams tied 2-2 after three rounds.

Jean Beausejour put Chile ahead, and Bravo dived to his right, saving Biglia’s shot and bringing up Silva, a 30-year-old midfielder. Messi briefly pulled his jersey of his face, as if not wanting to watch.

Romero dived to his left and the shot went in to his right, giving Chile another title.

Messi crouched over, as if in pain, then got up, took off his captain’s armband and walked to the bench, where he was consoled by Angel Di Maria. After Messi came back on the field, Aguero put a hand on one of Messi’s shoulders. And new FIFA President Gianni Infantino gave Messi a pat on the back when Messi came onto the podium with his teammates for his second-place medal. Messi almost immediately took it off.

The tournament’s average crowd of 46,119 was nearly double the 25,223 in Chile last year, and attendance will be used by the U.S. Soccer Federation as justification it deserves to host a World Cup again, likely as part of a bid for the 2026 tournament.

Brazilian referee Heber Lopes became the focus in the first half, ejecting a pair of defenders: Chile’s Marcelo Diaz in the 28th minute and Argentina’s Marcos Rojo in the 43rd. After issuing six yellow cards during a World Cup qualifier between the nations in March, Lopes handed out eight yellows, including one to Messi for diving in the 40th minute, and the two reds.

Diaz got his first yellow for hacking down Messi about 28 yards out in the 16th minute, then got his second for obstructing a charging Messi about 30 yards out. Rojo received a straight red when he slid into Arturo Vidal from behind and poked away the ball, but Vidal’s leg bent awkwardly under his body as he fell.

Higuain had the best first-half chance in the 21st minute when he picked up a giveaway from Gary Medel, dribbled in and chipped the ball over Bravo only to have it roll wide of the far post. It was almost the exact time he broke in alone during the World Cup final against Germany and also shot wide. Higuain also missed a tap-in of Ezequiel Lavezzi’s cross during the final minute of regulation in last year’s final, then sent his penalty kick during the shootout over the crossbar.

Brazil, Germany are now co-favorites on 2018 World Cup odds

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A dip in their price has brought Brazil level with defending champion Germany at +450, making them co-favorites on the odds to win the 2018 World Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

With the quadrennial competition for global soccer supremacy just more than one month away from kicking off in Russia, the top of the World Cup betting lines also includes Spain (+600), France (+700), Argentina (+900), Belgium (+1100), England (+1600) and Portugal (+2500).

While no nation has won back-to-back since Brazil did so with a young Pelé in 1958 and ’62, Germany remains the team to beat, with Leroy Sane of EPL champion Manchester City drawing into a lineup that includes main holdovers from their triumphant 2014 team.

Brazil has its strong history with a record five World Cup titles, but there is the troubling matter of star Neymar, of Paris Saint-Germain, having been sidelined since suffering a knee injury in February.

The debate over the joint favorites could draw heat away from Spain. The 2010 champion has a potential X factor in goalkeeper David de Gea of Manchester United and looks strong along the back line and through the midfield, where Andres Iniesta has one last shot at glory.

The major question about Spain is whether it will have enough natural offense, since neither striker option, Alvaro Morata or Diego Costa, has had much international success.

France has lost key defender Laurent Koscielny to a major Achilles tendon injury, which might be reason enough to fade Les Bleus. Argentina has the star power of Lionel Messi, but the manner in which it struggled just to qualify for the tournament – going down to the last game, in fact – hardly seems auspicious.

Each of the top six teams on the board has won the World Cup at least once. Belgium has the lowest odds of any non-champion, but it was a quarterfinalist in both 2014 and at Euro 2016 and has strong leadership from forward Eden Hazard. Belgium is worth considering for a darkhorse play.

England is in the same group with Belgium and last got past the quarterfinal in 1986. Similarly, Portugal has only been to the semifinals once in the last eight World Cups.

A true darkhorse worth considering is Croatia (+3300), whose price owes to being drawn into the tough Group D that also includes Argentina, Iceland (+15000) and Nigeria (+20000). Croatia, which has Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic shoring up the midfield, was undefeated at the group stage of Euro 2016 before losing out against eventual winner Portugal.

The World Cup begins June 14, with the final set for July 15 in Moscow.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

EPL Week Betting Preview: Man City Slim Favorite Facing Tottenham

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The recency factor might point to Tottenham Hotspur and Harry Kane instead of Manchester City, which is lagging after having run out front all season.

Manchester City is a super-slim +150 favorite with Tottenham Hotspur coming back at +160 and the draw offers +255 on the three-way moneyline for this English Premier League betting matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

However, Tottenham has yet to lose an EPL match since January 1, while Manchester City has lost three games in a row and has seen its ambition of an EPL/Champions League double go up in smoke.

Four of the last five matchups between the Citizens and Spurs have had at least three goals with both teams scoring. The over on the 3.0 total still offers +105. There should be scoring. Tottenham is also even-money on the draw no bet prop, offering a fallback to Spurs backers in the event of a tie.

The twist for the matchup between relegation-threatened Southampton (+345) and Chelsea (-120, +255 draw) is that the sides will soon meet again in an upcoming F.A. Cup semifinal. Southampton will have to play desperate attacking football, which makes both the over (2.5 total) and Chelsea on the goals line (-1.5) worth considering.

Burnley (+155) will not have captain Ben Mee in the center of its back four for a big match against Leicester City (+195, +210 draw). Each team is healthy up front, though, which means the over on the 2.0 total should hit. Both teams have scored in five of Burnley’s last seven home games and in 10 of Leicester’s last 12 away games.

Huddersfield Town (+160) and Watford (+180, +215 draw) are on five- and four-match winless streaks and have both been porous defensively. Neither team is more than a hunch play but taking the -140 over on the 2.0 total seems self-explanatory since eight of their last nine matchups have had three or more goals.

Swansea City (+150) catches Everton (+195, +210 draw), who is struggling to create scoring chances and has won just two of 16 away games in the league. Swansea City needs the full three points and also has Jordan Ayew back as a potential finisher.

Newcastle (+220) has won only one of its last 22 matchups against Arsenal (+115, +255 draw), whom it hosts in a Sunday betting matchup. Newcastle has an excellent chance to end the drought, since Arsenal seems to be saving itself for Europa League. Newcastle’s draw no bet price is a still-generous +135.

And West Ham United (-105) faces last-place Stoke City (+295, +240 draw) in a Monday betting matchup with a chance to solidify its place in the 2018-19 EPL. West Ham forward Marko Arnatovic is facing his former team, making him worth looking at in goal scorer props.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.