Messi Receives FIFA’s Golden Ball Award After This Year’s World Cup

World Cup 2014

Despite a heartbreaking loss in the World Cup final, Lionel Messi is still a golden boy.

The soccer star and captain of the Argentina national team was awarded FIFA‘s Golden Ball award as the best player of the FIFA World Cup after leading his team to Sunday’s final.

Lionel Messi

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who kept a clean sheet as his side beat Argentina 1-0 in extra time at the Maracana to claim their fourth World Cup, was awarded the Golden Gloves as the tournament’s top keeper.

“It is a sad prize that I won because we wanted to lift the trophy for Argentina,” Messi said of his consolation prize, as if the look on his face had not already said it all.

Four-times World Player of the Year Messi had a quiet game by his standards on Sunday but was the driving force behind Argentina’s push to their first World Cup final since 1990.

He scored four of their six goals in the group stage, set up Angel di Maria‘s winner in the last 16 against Switzerland and shouldered the burden of slotting home Argentina’s first penalty in their shootout win over the Netherlands in the semi-finals.

Messi also won four successive man-of-the-match awards against Bosnia, Iran, Argentina and Switzerland.

While some pundits thought Messi looked jaded after the group stage and did not influence his team as much, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said he was a deserving winner.

“I think Lionel reached the pantheon of the greats a while back,” Sabella told reporters. “Yes, I think he deserved it. He played a great World Cup to get us where he did.

“I think it’s very deserved.”

Germany forward Thomas Mueller was runner-up to Messi and Netherlands winger Arjen Robben was third.

France midfielder Paul Pogba was named young player of the tournament, while Colombia took the Fair Play Award after receiving just five yellow cards in five matches in Brazil.

FIFA also praised their positive play and the behavior of their players and officials.

Shakira Performs “La La La (Brazil 2014)” at the FIFA World Cup Closing Ceremony

World Cup 2014

It’s a red-hot record-setting performance for Shakira in Brazil…

The 37-year-old Colombian singer performed “La La La (Brazil 2014)” at the closing ceremony of this year’s FIFA World Cup.

Shakira

Banging on a Carnaval drum while sizzling in a red dress made up of sequined straps and a revealing fringe skirt, Shakirae was accompanied by samba dancers, Brazilian percussionists and Brazilian collaborator Carlinhos Brown, wearing a black tie and an Indian headdress.

It was the third consecutive appearance at the World Cup for Shakira, a first for a musical act.

Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” feat. Freshlyground, was the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and she also performed “Hips Don’t Lie” at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Berlin.

Shakira was immediately followed by Santana, Wyclef and Alexandre Pires, who gave an inspired live performance of the official World Cup anthem “Dar Um Jeito (We Will Find a Way).”

By the time Brazilian superstar Ivete Sangalo came out to sing, the crowd was jumping in the stands.

A roar went up in the stadium at the end of the 20-minute show, which came before the final match between Argentina and Germany. As a finale, all of the artists danced together on the field, Shakira holding her toddler son, Milan.

The closing ceremony, though brief, was an appropriately celebratory kickoff for the last game of the global tournament. It was a bittersweet sendoff for Brazil, which suffered an embarrassing defeat to Germany and ended up in fourth place after a 3-0 game against the Netherlands.

After the unprecedented success of her 2010 World Cup South Africa anthem “Waka Waka,” Shakira made a bid for this year’s World Cup with the Brazil 2014 version of her single “Dare.” The song was not awarded official FIFA song or anthem status but was included as a cut on the World Cup album.

 

The video posted on Shakira’s Vevo channel has more than 220 million views, besting Pitbull’s “We Are One,” which has almost 189 million.

Gonzalez Exposes All for ESPN the Magazine’s The Body Issue

Omar Gonzalez may be a Major League Soccer star…But he’s also a major league stud. And, he’s not afraid to show it.

The 25-year-old Mexican-American soccer star, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy, is one of the 22 world-class athletes featured in their birthday suits for the sixth annual edition of ESPN the Magazines The Body Issue.

Omar Gonzalez in the ESPN Magazine's The Body Issue

“I don’t really care how much you can lift in the gym,” says Gonzalez about exercise and weightlifting. “I think it’s funny that there are a lot of really buff guys out there. What is all that for? They are just strong for no reason. For me, I have to be strong for my sport, so I can compete at the highest level. I may not have been the biggest, but when it came down to playing, I shut people up.”

Omar Gonzalez in the ESPN Magazine's The Body Issue

Gonzalez, who admits to being horrible at pullups, says he’s not a show-off.

“I don’t have my shirt off whenever possible,” says Gonzalez. “I’m not one to really show myself off like that.

ESPN the Magazine’s The Body Issue, which hit newsstands on July 11, is the magazine’s annual celebration of the athletic form.

“We somehow manage to raise the bar each year,” said ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com editor in chief Chad Millman. “This year’s collection of exceptional athletes and stunning photography showcases an array of sports and body types. It inhabits our mission to pay tribute to these athletes’ bodies and all they are capable of.”

Omar Gonzalez in the ESPN Magazine's The Body Issue01

In addition to Gonzalez, a member of this year’s U.S. soccer team at the FIFA World Cup, the other athletes featured stark-naked in the issue include Olympic gold-medal-winning snowboarder Jamie Anderson, tennis players Venus Williams and Tomas Berdych, Olympic bronze-medal-winning bobsledder Aja EvansArizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, professional surfer Coco Ho, boxer Bernard Hopkins, cliff diver Ginger Huber, Olympic hockey player Hilary Knight, WNBA All-Star Angel McCoughtry and the husband-wife team of X Games stars Travis Pastrana and Lyn-Z, and Amy Purdy, a snowboarder who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Paralympics.

In previous years, the magazine featured soccer star Carlos Bocanegra and professional baseball star Giancarlo Stanton.

Mascherano’s Words of Encouragement to Sergio Romero Go Viral

It’s no wonder Javier Mascherano is considered Argentina’s de facto team captain…

The 30-year-old Argentine footballer’s inspiring words to the team’s goalie Sergio Romero during his team’s FIFA World Cup semifinal match against the Netherlands on Wednesday, just moments before the end of the match, have gone viral thanks to a Vine clip, and made him a star in his own right

Sergio Romero

“Listen to me. It’s today. Today, you become a hero,” says Mascherano seconds before the penalty kicks showdown that closed the semifinals.

Romero saved two penalty kicks from the Netherlands, making Mascherano’s words ring true and leading his team to victory — and the final match against Germany on Sunday.

Vine footage of that short and powerful dialog quickly went viral, prompting Mascherano, who lead his team in a legendary performance against The Netherlands and tackled a very dangerous shot by the Dutch’s feared star Arjen Robben,to nationwide praise throughout social media.

Memes were also replicated all over Facebook and Twitter, comparing the FC Barcelona midfielder to Che Guevara and South American Liberator Jose de San Martin, among other strong and brave leaders.

“Must say, Mascherano was immense. What a heart!” tweeted England football star Gary Lineker.

The social media buzz even earned him Chuck Norris status through the hashtag #maschefacts, with posts like: “Mascherano asks bouncers for their IDs,” “Mascherano can win the Hunger Games with a teaspoon,” and “Mascherano goes to negotiate with vulture funds and brings back change,” among others.

Romero Saves Two Penalty Kicks to Help Argentina Reach the FIFA World Cup Final

World Cup 2014

Sergio Romero is the man of the moment…

The 27-year-old Argentine footballer has earned a hero’s welcome in his native country after his impressive performance in the penalty shootout after Argentina and the Netherlands were tied 0-0 at the end of extra time.

Sergio Romero

Romero, the goalkeeper for his team, saved penalty kicks by Holland’s Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder. Argentina’s Maxi Rodriguez put away the winning kick, sending Argentina to its first FIFA World Cup final in 24 years.

The last time a World Cup semifinal was decided by penalty kicks was 1998 when Netherlands played Brazil. Brazil won that encounter.

Argentina will face off against Germany in the final, which will be played Sunday in Rio’s Estadio Maracana.

This will be the third time Argentina and Germany will meet in the ‪World Cup final. Germany won in 1990. Argentina won in 1986.

Blacc to Release Repackaged and Enhanced Edition of “Lift Your Spirit”

It appears Aloe Blacc is ready to lift your spirits even further…

The 35-year-old Panamanian-American singer, riding high this year on the success of his third album Lift Your Spirit and the singles “The Man” and “Wake Me Up,” tells Billboard that he and his record label, Interscope, “are going to repackage the album” this summer for a uniform collection comprised of all the songs he released globally during the campaign.

Aloe Blacc

“I recorded about 40 songs, and you can only release 10 or 12 of them at a time,” Blacc explains. “The European version of the album had a different set of songs than the (American) version, a couple of songs that were different, so we’re going to get them all together and release all of the songs from across the world so that everybody gets every song and no territory is complaining about not having any particular song.”

Blacc adds that, “It was never my intention to release so many songs. I wanted to just have 10, but we had way more material than we expected that we considered worthy. But I think that’s OK. I think it’s OK to give people more than they expected.”

Blacc hopes to have the set ready “by the end of the summer or, probably, the beginning of the fall.”

Meanwhile, he says he’d like to release a follow-up to Lift Your Spirit “hopefully early next year” but acknowledges “maybe that’s too soon. It depends on what the label says. I’m definitely ready to release more music, because I’ve just got so much stuff recorded and so many other songs that I’m eager to record.”

Blacc has had no trouble staying busy outside of the study, with heavy touring — including dates opening for Bruno Mars — and a spot as a guest coach on Adam Levine‘s team during the latest season of The Voice.

He’s also featured on the track “The World is Ours” from the One Love, One Rhythm FIFA World Cup album, and he’s getting ready for his film debut in Get On Up, the James Brown biopic in which he plays Famous Flames guitarist Nafloyd Scott.

“That was a different challenge, it really was,” Blacc says. “Acting is something that requires a lot of patience, a lot of skill, a lot of internal reflection. It’s a whole new muscle I’m going to continue to develop, either writing screenplays and my own scripts or finding the best roles out there to challenge this new skill.” A dearth of information about his character, meanwhile, actually proved to be a blessing for Blacc.

“I had to learn it all,” he explains. “there isn’t much information about that time in (Brown’s) career available, no photos I could find of Nafloyd Scott on Wikipedia or anything. He wasn’t really part of the meteoric rise of James Brown — he quit the band because of personality conflicts, before it really took off. So it was all about having to learn from the script and some of the archival footage that was available. But it did make it a little bit easier to create my own character, which was nice for the first time doing this.”

Higuain’s Gorgeous Goals Puts Argentina into the World Cup Semifinals

World Cup 2014

Gonzalo Higuain has helped propel Argentina into the FIFA World Cup semifinals for the first time in 24 years.

Early in Argentina’s game against Belgium, the Argentinean footballer blasted a half-volley inside the far post on Saturday at Estadio Nacional to give La Albiceleste a 1-0 lead in the match.

Gonzalo Higuain

Higuain’s netting in the eighth minute gave his team all they would need to advance.

With the win, Argentina has advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1990 and further buttressing his reputation as one of the sport’s all-time greats.

In pursuit of its first crown since Diego Maradona’s 1986 squad, Argentina will face off against the Netherlands in Wednesday’s match in Sao Paulo.

“Argentina has gone a long time without doing this,” sais Lionel Messi, “and it was us who crossed the frontier.”

Navas & His Costa Rican Teammates’ World Cup Run Comes to a Close Against the Netherlands

World Cup 2014

Keylor Navas and his Costa Rican teammates came thisclose to pulling off one of the biggest ever FIFA World Cup shocks.

The 27-year-old Costa Rican footballer and his fellow Los Ticos teammates gave the Netherlands an almighty scare, keeping the Dutch scoreless, denying stars like Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder any glory at every turn.

Keylor Navas

The Netherlands may have dominated all but the first 20 of the 120 minutes of the intense game,  hitting the woodwork, reining in shot after shot and creatingchance after chance, but still couldn’t find a way past the Los Ticos goalkeeper, who has been the hero of his country and looks to be a major contender to win the Golden Gloves award for best keeper of the tournament.

But Costa Rica and Navas’ luck would eventually run out in the penalty shootout.

With seconds left in extra time and penalties looming, Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal made World Cup history by taking out his number one, Jasper Cillessen, and replacing him with Newcastle custodian Tim Krul.

Krul didn’t let his boss down, saving two of Costa Ricas’ penalty shots to ensure that his team advanced.

Navas had kept clean sheets against England and Italy, conceded only from the penalty spot against Uruguay, and had then produced a wonderful save in the shootout against Greece to ensure the outsiders’ place in the last eight. It will be scant consolation to him or his colleagues, but history will record that he kept a clean sheet again this time.

The Levante goalkeeper was at it again throughout this match where the men in orange held sway but simply could not find a way past the Tico keeper.

Navas made numerous saves, diving to his right, diving bravely at the feet of onrushing attackers, saving with his own feet: it seemed that however the Dutch tried to breach his goal they would not succeed.

The Netherlands’ win over Costa Rica set up a World Cup semifinal meeting with Argentina next Wednesday in Sao Paulo.

Shakira to Perform at This Year’s FIFA World Cup Closing Ceremony

Shakira is ready to la la la her way to Brazil for a record-setting World Cup performance…

The 37-year-old Colombian singer and former The Voice coach has confirmed that she’ll perform “La La La (Brazil 2014)” featuring Brazilian artist Carlinhos Brown at the closing ceremony of this year’s FIFA World Cup.

Shakira

Shakira’s track, which has been billed as this year’s official World Cup anthem, has spent six weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 53.

More traction is expected for “La La La” following Shakira’s performance, which will be her third consecutive appearance at the World Cup, a first for a musical act.

Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” feat. Freshlyground, was the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and she also performed “Hips Don’t Lie” at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Berlin.

“I have an intricate relationship with football for obvious reasons,” said Shakira, whose partner is Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique, with whom she has a son, Milan, who is featured kicking a soccer ball on the “La La La” video.

“For me the World Cup carries such a tremendous personal connection as well. This will be my third consecutive FIFA World Cup performance, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup changed my life forever — it’s where I began the love story of my life, and now have my son Milan as a result,” added Shakira. “For all of those reasons I just feel so grateful for the opportunity to come back to perform at the Closing Ceremony of this year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil, it feels right. The fans have shown the most incredible support for this song and I can’t wait to perform it for them.”

Rodriguez Scores Two Goals to Lead Colombia Into Its First World Cup Quarterfinal

World Cup 2014

It looks like James Rodriguez is emerging at this year’s FIFA World Cup superstar…

The 22-year-old Colombian footballer scored a pair of goals to give Colombia a 2-0 victory on Saturday over Uruguay, earning his team its first-ever World Cup quarterfinal berth.

James Rodriguez

The Uruguayans came into the match at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana Stadium with a chip on their shoulder after Luis Suarez was given a nine-match international ban for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in Group D action Tuesday, but the loss of their star striker proved too much against Jose Pekerman’s talented squad.

Both teams started off the match at an unhurried pace, patiently looking to mount their attacks in the Round of 16 knockout match.

But when it seemed that the crowd of 73,804 might have to wait a while for the action to heat up, Rodriguez produced one of the most stunning goals of the 2014 World Cup in the 28th minute.

The play started with midfielder Abel Aguilar lofting a ball in the direction of forward Jackson Martinez, who was standing just outside Uruguay’s penalty area.

Uruguayan defender Maxi Pereira tried to clear the ball but it went back to Aguilar, who headed to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez proceeded to bounce the ball off his chest to give himself some space and then, without letting it hit the ground, fired a left-footed rocket from 25 yards out that hit the crossbar over the outstretched arm of net minder Fernando Muslera and ricocheted into the goal.

It was Rodriguez’s fourth goal of the World Cup and tied him for the tournament lead along with Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Brazil’s Neymar and Germany’s Thomas Müller.

But Rodriguez, who plays for AS Monaco in Ligue 1, wasn’t done yet.

Just five minutes into the second half, midfielder Juan Guillermo Cuadrado received a cross from defender Pablo Armero and headed it back across the box to Rodriguez, who knocked a right-footed shot into a practically empty net for his tournament-leading fifth goal.

Nearly an entire half of soccer still remained to be played but Uruguay, lacking Suarez’s firepower, was unable to cut into the lead against a well-organized defense backed by stellar goalkeeper David Ospina.

Next up for this history-making Colombian squad will be host nation Brazil, which topped Chile on penalties earlier Saturday.

That quarterfinal clash will be played Friday at Castelao Stadium in the northeastern city of Fortaleza.