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Rediff.com  » Sports » World Cup chit-chat: Messi goalless; Van Persie injured

World Cup chit-chat: Messi goalless; Van Persie injured

Last updated on: June 05, 2014 18:26 IST

Messi kept scoreless in Argentina warm-up win

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Lionel Messi, looking to score his first World Cup goals since 2006 in Brazil this month, went scoreless as Argentina cruised to a 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup warm-up on Friday.

Messi missed several chances in the first half, was repeatedly fouled and hit the post with a free-kick from which midfielder Javier Mascherano tapped in Argentina's second goal.

Striker Rodrigo Palacio, replacing the injured Gonzalo Higuain, headed the opener in the last action of the first half and substitute Maxi Rodriguez completed the win in the 64th minute.

Prolific for Barcelona, Messi has only one goal to his name at two World Cups, scored in a 6-0 rout of Serbia & Montenegro on his tournament debut at the 2006 finals in Germany.

He went goalless in five matches at the 2010 finals in South Africa.

"We finished strongly, Trinidad and Tobago were opponents who closed up at the back like some teams in the group will do (at the World Cup)," Messi told reporters.

Argentina, looking to win their third world title at the June 12-July 13 finals in Brazil, cruised to victory after squandering a string of first-half chances with Ezequiel Lavezzi, replacing Sergio Aguero who was unwell earlier this week, the biggest culprit.

Argentina play a final warm-up at home to Slovenia in La Plata on Saturday before meeting Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria in Group F in Brazil.

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Image: Argentina's Lionel Messi (right) is challenged by Trinidad and Tobago's Khaleem Hyland.
Photographs: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters
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Van Persie injured as Dutch win

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Netherlands captain Robin van Persie suffered a groin injury in his country’s last World Cup warm-up match on Wednesday as the Netherlands beat Wales 2-0 a day before their departure for Brazil.

Van Persie was taken off at half-time after looking laboured and struggling in the first half of the warm-up game.

But officials told Dutch radio reporters the injury was not serious and that Van Persie should recover in time for the team's opening match at the tournament against World champions Spain next week.

Coach Louis van Gaal said the injury had come as a result of the training Van Persie has been putting in over the last weeks, combined with his return to playing after months on the sidelines at his club Manchester United.

“We took him off as a precaution because this was not an important match,” Van Gaal told Dutch Radio One after the game at the Amsterdam Arena.

“It was important rather to save him for the World Cup."

The 30-year-old Van Persie returned to play in United’s last three Premier League game of the season after two months out with a knee injury.

He took part in all three of the Dutch side's warm-up games against Ecuador, Ghana and Wales and scored against Ghana last Saturday to extend his record number of goals for his country to 43.

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Image: Robin Van Persie (left) of the Netherlands.
Photographs: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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Two sent off as England held by battling Ecuador

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An experimental England side gave a decent performance in a 2-2 draw with Ecuador who equalised through a superb strike by substitute Michael Arroyo before both sides were reduced to 10 men in an incident-packed World Cup warm-up match on Wednesday.

Arroyo had not been on the pitch long when he unleashed a fierce right-foot drive from 20 metres in the 70th minute that gave goalkeeper Ben Foster no chance after Rickie Lambert had put England 2-1 in front following a mazy run by Ross Barkley.

But tempers frayed nine minutes later when England's Raheem Sterling, who replaced Wayne Rooney just past the hour, flew into a tackle on Antonio Valencia. Ecuador's captain retaliated by grabbing Sterling around the neck and both were sent off.

"It (Sterling's red card) was harsh. It was a rash tackle but I thought Raheem was unlucky because of the way Valencia reacted like he did," England coach Roy Hodgson told reporters.

"I'm disappointed that a senior player like Antonio reacted in that way, but Raheem will learn from that."

There were also concerns over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who suffered a knee injury and is set to have a scan on Thursday with Hodgson saying he may have suffered ligament damage.

A lean-looking Rooney, who despite scoring his 39th goal for England never really stamped his authority on the match, was withdrawn after 64 minutes and replaced by Sterling.

England, who face Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in World Cup Group D, will play a final warm-up game against Honduras in Miami on Saturday before they leave for Rio de Janeiro. Ecuador return to Quito to prepare for their opening match against Switzerland in Group E before they face Honduras and France.

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Image: England forward Wayne Rooney,left, controls the ball as Ecuador defender Luis Antonio Valencia (right) defends the play
Photographs: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

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Gervinho, Drogba fire Ivory Coast to friendly win

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Goals from Gervinho and Didier Drogba gave Ivory Coast a comfortable 2-1 win over El Salvador in a friendly in Frisco, Texas on Wednesday.

Ivory Coast, who will face Colombia, Greece and Japan in Group C at the World Cup, moved the ball with confidence and purpose and grabbed an early lead in the ninth minute.

Drogba, dropping deep, threaded the ball through to Gervinho who coolly rounded El Salvador keeper Derby Carrillo and slotted home.

The roles reversed for Ivory Coast's second goal, three minutes before the interval, when the impressive Gervinho burst down the left flank and crossed low to Drogba who slid the ball home.

With the game firmly in hand, Sabri Lamouchi's team were content to play possession football while El Salvador struggled to create chances.

It was not until the 73rd minute that Ivory Coast keeper Boubacar Barry was truly tested when Darwin Ceren unleashed a left foot drive which was pushed wide.

Two minutes later, El Salvador were awarded a penalty after Kolo Toure recklessly charged into Jonathan Aguilla as they challenged for a header and subsitute Arturo Alvarez converted the spot kick.

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Image: Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba,centre, leaps in the air to celebrate his goal
Photographs: Mike Stone/Reuters

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Ronaldo trains separately again

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Cristiano Ronaldo trained separately from the Portugal team again on Wednesday as he continued his treatment for tendinosis in his left knee.

The Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) said that midfielder Raul Meireles and defender Pepe were also undergoing special training programmes as they recovered from injuries.

"Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul Meireles are undergoing a programme pre-established by the medical department for their injuries, specific treatment and sporting reintegration exercises, on the pitch," said the FPF in a statement. "

Pepe is undergoing treatment and specific exercises in the hotel."

Real Madrid forward Ronaldo, the World Player of the Year, is suffering from an injury to his left thigh as well as patellar tendinosis while Meireles has an injury to his left thigh.

Central defender Pepe has a muscular injury in his right leg, the FPF said. Portugal are training near New York and face Mexico in a friendly in Boston on Friday. Their opening World Cup match is against Germany in Salvador on June 16.

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Image: Cristiano Ronaldo,left, of Portugal stretches
Photographs: Ray Stubblebine/Reuters

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Cahill still a talisman for rank outsiders Australia

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Tim Cahill still belies his diminutive stature with his ability to leap above defenders and get his head on the ball and Australia hopes he will similarly help the Socceroos confound their lowly standing in Brazil.

The hard-tackling attacking midfielder will be playing in his third World Cup but Australia go to the 2014 finals as rank outsiders in one of the toughest first-round groups with world and European champions Spain, Netherlands and Chile.

At 34, Cahill is winding down his career at the New York Red Bulls after spending 14 years in England, first with Millwall and then Everton, but he remains a talismanic figure for his country as well as Australia's most prolific goal-scorer.

When Ange Postecoglou was appointed coach in October andpromised to give a new generation of players their chance, nobody for one second thought that Cahill would be among the old guard dispatched into retirement.

Two goals in a friendly against Ecuador in London in March made him his country's top marksman and he added another in the ‘farewell’ warm-up game against South Africa in Sydney to give him a tally of 32 in 68 appearances.

His scoring feat is impressive enough for a midfielder even before the importance of many of them are considered.

Cahill is the only Australia player going to Brazil who could possibly be described as world class, but his fierce competitiveness in an inexperienced squad might prove his biggest contribution.

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Image: Tim Cahill of the Socceroos controls the ball during an Australian Socceroos training session
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Honda carries burden of Japan's challenge

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If Japan are going to make a first World Cup quarter-final they will require Keisuke Honda to be firing on all cylinders.

The bleach-blond playmaker is the central figure in coach Alberto Zaccheroni's attacking plans with the Asian champions, who are competing at their fifth successive World Cup since their debut appearance in 1998, confident of improving on their last-16 exit by Paraguay four years ago.

Honda is one of the survivors of the 2010 campaign, when he played as the central striker and scored a long-range free kick to help the Blue Samurai beat Denmark 3-1 in their final group game to advance to the knockout stages for only the second time.

He also scored a penalty in the shootout defeat against Paraguay to further emphasise his set-piece skills in what was a strong tournament for both team and individual.

With the arrival of Italian Zaccheroni as coach, Honda was switched back to playing behind the main striker and given greater influence in matches, which the 27-year-old has enjoyed.

He was named most valuable player as Japan won a record fourth Asian Cup in January 2011 by beating Australia 1-0 in the final in Qatar.

The emergence of Shinji Kagawa in Germany with Borussia Dortmund gave Honda a creative foil and the two dovetailed brilliantly before Kagawa grew frustrated at being asked to play wide left.

Kagawa's form resulted in a move to Manchester United, but Zaccheroni refused to budge on his insistence that Honda remained his central playmaker.


Image: Keisuke Honda heads the ball during a Japan training session
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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