Lionel Messi Breaks Pele’s South American Men’s Record for International Career Goals

Lionel Messi continues making history…

The 34-year-old Argentine professional footballer has scored his 79th international career goal for Argentina, surpassing the South American men’s record held by Brazil legend Pele.

Lionel Messi

Messi scored all three goals in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Bolivia on Thursday in a World Cup qualifying match at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, giving him two more than Pele, who had 77 career goals in international play.

Messi trails Brazilian duo Marta (109) and Cristiane (96) for the overall record for most goals scored by any South American player at the international level.

Third on the men’s list is Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar, who has 69 international goals for Brazil.

“I was very nervous, I just wanted to enjoy the night. I waited a long time for this,” an emotional Messi said after the match. “We won the game [and] that was the most important thing and now we can celebrate.”

Three-time World Cup winner Pele remains in hospital due to surgery for a tumor on his colon on Monday, although the 80-year-old said the operation was a “great victory.”

Messi has had a memorable summer — changing clubs from Barcelona to PSG in August and winning his first senior international football title in July. He and La Albiceleste claimed the Copa America from Brazil in a 1-0 win at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.

After Thursday’s result, Messi danced with his teammates and showed off the Copa trophy to the 21,000 supporters present.

“It was a unique moment [to win the Copa America] because of where and how we obtained the title,” Messi said.

“There was no better way to do it and be able to celebrate the title now, it’s incredible. My mother, my brothers are here in the stands. They have suffered a lot … I’m very happy.”

Thursday’s game also came days after Argentina’s World Cup qualifying match against Brazil — their first rematch since the Copa final — was controversially suspended. Brazilian health authorities entered the pitch at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena with the game in progress and accused four Argentina players of failing to follow Brazil’s COVID-19 protocols for entering the country.

With 26 goals in World Cup qualifying matches following his hat-trick against Bolivia, Messi also passes Uruguay star Luis Suarez — his former teammate at Barcelona — for most among CONMEBOL players.

With eight career goals vs. Bolivia in 11 games, it is Messi’s most against a single opponent while donning the Argentina shirt.

Messi is also his country’s men’s all-time leading scorer, having moved past Gabriel Batistuta (54 goals) in 2016. He is also Argentina’s most capped player, with Thursday’s match against Bolivia marking his 153rd international appearance.

Prior to the Copa America victory, Messi had lost four major finals with Argentina’s senior side. They were beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and had lost in the final at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016.

He had won the under-20 World Cup in 2005 and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina’s U23s in 2008.

Messi joined PSG over the summer on a shock free-agent move after two decades with Barcelona. Messi had been with Barcelona since 2001, joining the academy the year before.

Messi played 778 games at Barcelona, breaking Xavi Hernandez‘s appearance record in the 2020-21 season. In addition, he scored 672 goals, another club record, and helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.

Dani Alves Helps Lead Brazil to Gold in Men’s Soccer at Tokyo Games

2020 Tokyo Games

He may be 38, but Dani Alves has managed to collect a new title… Olympic champion.

The Brazilian soccer star helped lead his country to the gold medal in men’s soccer at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Dani Alves

Draped in the Brazilian flag, Alves – the captain of the team – cherished the 43rd winners’ medal of a career that shows no sign of winding down.

All that’s missing from the set of major honors after this 2-1 victory over Spain — secured in extra time by Malcolm — is World Cup glory.

Don’t write off the game’s most decorated player trying to make it to Qatar next year. He’s keen.

“I’m a dreamer, a small dreamer, and more than a dreamer, somebody who executes their dreams,” Alves said. “The most important thing is to fight, and that’s what I know what to do. I have the drive of a 23-year-old. I still want to do big things in football.”

The right back was determined to come to the Tokyo Games after not being part of the 2016 Olympic gold on home soil at the 2016 Rio Games.

“I fought to be in three Olympic Games,” he said. “I am grateful to all the people who worked with me, that believed in me, and I want them to know that all the hard work has paid off.”

He managed to play all of Brazil’s six games in Japan — 600 minutes in 16 days.

“This is a dream coming true, to be on the top of the Olympic podium,” he said. “No matter how much history you have, how much experience you have. I came here for the first time and to come back with the biggest prize … I am lost for words.”

It was Alves who set up the opener, keeping alive Claudinho’s cross and hooking the ball back into the area for Matheus Cunha to strike into first-half stoppage time.

“My captain Dani, he’s unbelievable, he helps everyone,” Cunha said. “I think this feeling, he comes to the group and the feeling goes up.”

He was one of only three permitted overage players in a youthful squad that idolized him growing up as he collected trophies at Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.

“You know the difference in age is a little bit (big),” the 22-year-old Cunha said. “I’m like a little boy when I saw Barcelona, the Brazil national team, and now we were together, we take one gold medal for Brazil.”

They had to work for it against a Spain side featuring six players coming straight from the run to the European Championship.

Spain tied it in the 61st minute when Mikel Oyarzabal volleyed in from Carlos Soler’s cross. Spain hit the crossbar twice late in regulation time — from Oscar Gil and Bryan Gil.

The inability to find the target meant Spain ended up with silver — and no repeat of the 1992 Barcelona Games gold — after Malcom’s winner in the 108th minute.

The forward, who came off the bench for extra time, held off Jesus Vallejo before racing forward and seeing his shot from a tight angle deflect off goalkeeper Unai Simon’s left boot and fly into the net.

Rebeca Andrade Becomes Brazil’s First-Ever Female Olympic Medalist in Gymnastics at the Tokyo Games

2020 Tokyo Games

Rebeca Andrade may have come short of the gold, but she’s still earned her place in Olympic history…

The 22-year-old Brazilian gymnast claimed the silver medal in the women’s gymnastics all-around competition at the 2020 Tokyo Games, becoming the first female Brazilian gymnast in Olympic history to stand on the podium.

Rebeca Andrade

“I am super happy,” Andrade said. “I hoped for this moment, and I have trained and worked super hard for this moment. I don’t have any words to describe how I am feeling, nor the feeling of having the Olympic silver medal around my neck.”

Andrade had been in medal competition the entire night at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, and battled with eventual champion Sunisa Lee and bronze medalist Angelina Melnikova for the top spot on the leaderboard. It was hard to imagine that Andrade’s status for the Olympics had once been in doubt.

Rebeca Andrade

Andrade tore her anterior cruciate ligament for the third time in her career at the Brazilian Championships in 2019. She was sidelined for the remainder of the season, including the world championships, as she underwent surgery and rehabbed the injury — again. The injury was tough — and the emotional toll was even harder.

In her absence, the Brazilian team failed to qualify for the Olympics, and she needed to clinch a spot as an individual. She went to Baku, Azerbaijan, for her first meet back after injury in March 2020 for a World Cup event. During qualifying, she finished in second place on beam and in third place on bars, advancing to the event finals on both. But, like so many global sporting events during that month, the meet was canceled before any of the finals could get underway. Her comeback was paused yet again, and this time, indefinitely.

Rebeca Andrade

As Brazil was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, many gyms were closed and training became inconsistent. She joined a delegation of 112 Brazilian athletes in Portugal in order to ensure she could continue preparing to qualify to the Olympics.

Then, in December 2020, she tested positive for the coronavirus. She was asymptomatic but had to withdraw from a competition and temporarily stop training while isolating.

Rebeca Andrade

Through it all, she worked with a sports psychologist who helped her stay focused on her long-term goal of going back to the Olympics. With limited events in 2021 and few opportunities to earn a spot for the Games, Andrade wasn’t even sure in early June whether she would secure a berth to Tokyo.

Her last shot was at the Pan American Championships in which the top two finishers would earn two of the final spots.

She won the all-around by more than four points.

Without her teammates by her side, Andrade qualified to the all-around final in second place, behind only Simone Biles. On Thursday, she showed no signs of slowing down as she took early control of the competition with an impressive Cheng vault — earning a 15.300, tied for the highest score on any event of the night.

She had a chance to clinch the gold medal on floor, her final event of the night. Despite having a higher degree of difficulty than Lee, Andrade stepped out of bounds twice and finished 0.135 overall behind Lee.

Still, the color of the medal didn’t seem to matter.

“I wanted to shine in the best way possible,” she said. “And I think I shined.”

After the medal ceremony, she posed for selfies and goofed around with Lee and Melnikova. None of them had arrived in Japan feeling the gold medal was in reach with Biles in the competition, and they all seemed surprised they had even had a chance in the end following Biles’ withdrawal.

“Simone is incredible, and knowing how she had to leave the competition was very difficult,” Andrade said. “People need to understand that we are not robots. We are human beings, and we have feelings like anyone else. That’s the same with me. … We feel the pressure. But I tried to keep my cool. I tried to put into practice everything that I trained with my psychologist, and it worked. I did all that I could, and I couldn’t be happier with my performance.”

After so many challenges on the path to the podium in Tokyo, Andrade knew she didn’t get to the end result on her own. She credited all those who have been in her corner, every step of the way, for helping her achieve her dream.

“This medal is not just mine, it’s one for everyone that knows my story, everything I have been through,” Andrade said. “There have been so many people that helped me along the way. I am very grateful for having them around. I wouldn’t have achieved this without them.”

LAFC’s Brian Rodriguez On Loan to UD Almeria

Brian Rodriguez is headed across the Atlantic…

The 20-year-old Uruguayan footballer, an LAFC winger and Uruguay international, is set to join Spanish second-division side UD Almeria on a loan, the clubs have announced.

Brian Rodriguez 

The deal will have Rodriguez stay through the conclusion of Almeria’s 2020-21 campaign in May and could become permanent.

“Brian is joining Almeria as they make a strong push for promotion to Spain’s top division,” said LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington. “Since his arrival in 2019, Brian has been a focal point of our attack and a huge reason for our success. This move gives him a great opportunity to play important games at the highest levels of European football.”

Rodriguez joined the Major League Soccer side in 2019 from Uruguay side Penarol. In his first two seasons in Los Angeles, Rodriguez scored three goals in 25 appearances.

He has three goals in nine appearances for Uruguay, appearing for La Celeste during their most recent CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying matches.

With 16 games remaining, Almería currently sits in third place in LaLiga 2 standings with a 14-3-5 record (45 points). At the conclusion of the season, the top two teams will earn automatic promotion to Spain’s top division, while a third team earns promotion from a playoff bracket between the teams that finish from 3rd to 6th.

Felipe Mora Signs New Contract with Portland Timbers 

Felipe Mora is headed to the Pacific Northwest

The Portland Timbers have completed the transfer of the 27-year-old Chilean soccer star from the Liga MX club Pumas UNAM and signed him to a new contract.

Felipe Mora

Originally acquired by the Timbers on a one-year loan on January 31, 2020, Mora tallied seven goals and two assists in 19 matches (13 starts) during the 2020 Major League Soccer (MLS) regular season.

“We are thrilled to bring back Felipe long term as he is an accomplished international striker in the prime of his career,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said in a release. “Felipe acclimated seamlessly into the group last year, and we can’t wait for him to continue being a key contributor for the Timbers.”

Mora’s new contract uses targeted allocation money. Specific terms were not disclosed.

Mora tallied 19 goals in 65 appearances (50 starts) at Pumas UNAM from 2018-20. That followed stints with Liga MX club Cruz Azul (2017-18) and with Universidad de Chile (2016-17) in the Chilean Primera Division.

He has also competed with the Chile national team, most recently in a World Cup qualifier against Venezuela on November 17.

Catarina Macario Signs Two-and-a-Half Year Deal with Lyon

Catarina Macario is future Lyon queen

The 21-year-old Brazilian soccer player and USWNT prospect, who recently announced plans to leave Stanford and go pro, has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Lyon, the club has announced.

Catarina Macario

Macario announced on Friday that she’d forego the final year with Stanford in favor of turning professional.

ESPN reported on Monday that Lyon were leading the race for Macario with a contract on the table but that both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were also still interested in the midfielder.

“It’s an honor to have signed with such a fantastic club,” Macario said in a tweet.

“I can’t wait to get started and to continue to build on its legacy of success. Allez l’OL!”

Sources told ESPN that Macario was attracted to Europe rather than the National Women’s Soccer League as she wants to win the Champions League while competing in the Olympics and World Cup.

Macario scored 63 goals in 68 games for Stanford and contributed 47 assists.

She won the MAC Hermann Trophy twice and an NCAA College Cup in her three seasons at Stanford.

She became a United States citizen in October and has joined every USWNT camp since, including their ongoing January camp.

However, Macario is still waiting on approval from FIFA to allow her to play games with the national side.

She’ll travel to France after the USWNT training ends on January 22.

Andres Perea Granted Permission to Represent United States

Andres Perea is switching (international) sides

The 20-year-old professional soccer player and Orlando City SC midfielder has been granted a one-time switch from Colombia to represent the United States.

Andres Perea

Perea, a Tampa, Florida native, moved to Colombia at an early age, rising through the club ranks at Atletico Nacional. He went on to represent Colombia at the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2017 and U20 World Cup two years later before joining Orlando City on loan last season.

Perea, who’s at the January camp with the U-23 U.S. men’s team, received the news on his switch from senior side coach Gregg Berhalter. Because Perea played for Colombia in official competition, Perea wasn’t able to take part in the USMNT‘s 6-0 win against El Salvador last December.

“It was a very important decision for me. Colombia is my country as well, but it’s an honor for me to represent the United States as I did Colombia in the past,” Perea said.

The players of the U23 side — which will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics this summer — are training alongside 12 members of the senior group in Bradenton, Florida, with reports of a friendly match against Serbia in the works.

“Andres we find to be a really, really interesting holding midfield player for us,” U.S. U23 coach Jason Kreis said during a conference call. “The amount of ground that he’s capable to cover defensively, I think it’s a little bit different level than some of the other guys that we have in our pool. His processing of the ball, he’s still learning a little bit about that.”

Kreis anticipates men’s Olympic soccer qualifying for North and Central America and the Caribbean will take place during late March in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the CONCACAF tournament last spring was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kreis said he anticipates it will be difficult to access top Europe-based Americans for qualifying. FIFA does not require that clubs release players to under-23 teams. FIFA extended the age limit by a year, keeping the group for qualifying limited to players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997.

Each team reaching the games in Japan can supplement its roster with three players over the age limit. Top Americans are not expected at qualifying, with clubs expected not to make available Christian PulisicWeston McKennieTyler AdamsJoshua Sargent and Giovanni Reyna. All are regulars in league play this season.

Diego Maradona’s Likeness Could Grace Argentina’s 1,000-Peso Note

Diego Maradona could be making money moves…

An Argentine senator wants to put Diego Maradona on the country’s bank notes and presented a project to Congress on Monday to get the late soccer star and possibly even his “Hand of God” image on a 1,000-peso note.

Diego MaradonaThe note, worth around $12.27 at Monday’s exchange rate, would feature Maradona’s face on one side and a picture of one of his most famous goals on the other, said the bill’s sponsor Senator Norma Durango.

Maradona, who died on Nov. 25, had two of his most famous goals come in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal against England as they went on to win world football’s biggest prize.

Diego Maradona

He got the first by punching the ball past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and the second by dribbling past half the England team to score what is still considered one of the greatest goals of all time.

“The idea is not just to recognize our most important idol but also to think of the economic question,” said Durango. “We feel that when tourists come here they will want to take a ‘Maradona’ away with them.”

Although it was not clear which one of the two goals would feature, some Argentines bristled at the thought of the “Hand of God” goal featuring on an official government document because it could be seen as condoning illegality.

The Senator for the La Pampa province said the final decision would be made by lawmakers, who are expected to hear her proposal early next year.

“The idea is to recognize Maradona, for good and for bad, who is the best known Argentine in the world,” Durango said. “I feel the project has got a great response even though some people don’t agree with it.”

The current 1,000-peso note features the national bird, the Rufous hornero.

Sergio Ramos Becomes Most Capped European Player Ever

There’s a new feather in Sergio Ramos’ cap(ped)…

The 34-year-old Spanish soccer player has become the most capped male European footballer ever, making his 177th appearance for Spain in their UEFA Nations League 1-1 draw with Switzerland on Saturday.

Sergio Ramos

But the milestone day almost turned into a nightmare as Ramos squandered two penalties in the stalemate, after not having not missed in his previous 24 attempts for either Spain or Real Madrid.

The defender — who captains both club and country — has now played one international game more than the previous record holder, former Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who retired from international duty in

Ramos is now targeting the world record held by Egypt‘s Ahmed Hassan, who played 184 games for his country between 1995 and 2012. The defender could reach that mark at next summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, if he features in all of Spain’s matches before then.

But Spain coach Luis Enrique said Ramos’s twin spot-kick misses wouldn’t affect his captain.

“Sergio’s numbers when it comes to taking penalties are in the reach of few players. If we had got a third penalty or a fourth one he would have taken them as well,” he said. “He had scored his last 25, but football has moments like this.”

The number one spot-kick taker for Real Madrid and Spain, despite being a defender, Ramos has turned penalty taking into an art in the last two years, with his last miss coming when he hit the crossbar in Madrid’s 3-2 defeat by Sevilla FC in May 2018.

He has confessed to relishing the high-stakes situation of a penalty, scoring a number of crucial spot-kicks in Real’s run to the La Liga title last season as well as netting from the spot in last month’s 3-1 win at Barcelona.

But he finally met his match in Swiss keeper Yann Sommer, who guessed the right way to parry Ramos’ first penalty early in the second half and then refused to be fooled by the Spaniard’s ‘Panenka‘ routine which has worked so well for him in the past.

“It’s a real shame that Ramos missed the penalties because he’s usually so good,” added Spain forward Dani Olmo.

“But he’s very strong mentally and I’m sure that the next time he takes a penalty he’ll score.”

Saturday’s start further entrenches a remarkable international career that began when he made his Spain debut in March 2005, coming on for Carles Puyol at half time in a 3-0 friendly win over China.

He initially featured as a right back — including at Euro 2008, Spain’s first tournament win in 44 years, and in the country’s only World Cup winning side in 2010 — before switching to centerback for their defense of the European Championship title in 2012.

Despite turning 35 next March, he has expressed a desire to feature not just at the Euros in June, but also the Tokyo Olympics, describing the possibility as “a nice idea, an event no-one would say no to.”

Gio Reyna Among 10 Players Who Could Make US International Debut at Wales

Gio Reyna will be representing the United States…

United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNST) manager Gregg Berhalter has called up the uncapped 17-year-old half-Argentine American soccer player, as well as an injured Christian Pulisic and England youth international Yunus Musah, 17, in his 24-man roster for a pair of friendlies later this month.

Giovanni Reyna

The youthful roster — the average age is 21 years, 300 days — is comprised entirely of players who ply their trade abroad.

Reyna, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder and son of former United States captain Claudio Reyna, is one of 10 uncapped players to make the squad.

 

Alongside Reyna and Musah — who can represent Ghana as well — Internacional‘s Johnny Cardoso was also given the nod.

 

Born to Brazilian parents, Cardoso is the first player in 24 years to earn a U.S. call-up while playing for a club outside of CONCACAF or UEFA. Another dual national is Telstar forward Sebastian Soto, who besides the U.S. is eligible to represent Mexico and Chile.

Among the other call-ups are a record nine players participating in the UEFA Champions League, including RB Leipzig‘s Tyler AdamsBarcelona‘s Sergino DestJuventus‘ Weston McKennie and Chelsea‘s Pulisic.

Pulisic had been a doubt for the roster after injuring his hamstring during the warmup of last weekend’s game against Burnley. However, at a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League game against Rennes, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said that a scan of the injury revealed that it was “very minor” but that he wouldn’t play on Wednesday.

“We are excited about getting this group back together,” Berhalter said in a statement. “I’m proud of the way the players have handled the challenging times — they really stuck together. We have built a solid foundation, and now we get a chance to continue our work together ahead of what is going to be a critical 12 months for our team.”

The USMNT will play Wales, who will be without manager Ryan Giggs, first on November 12 before travelling to Austria to play Panama on Nov. 16.

The roster’s average age is 21 years, 300 days. Starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen, now a backup Manchester City following a loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf, is on the roster for the first time 2019. Lille forward Tim Weah, a son of former FIFA player of the Year and Liberia President George Weah, is with the U.S. for the first time since 2018 after recovering from a string of injuries.

Due to the conditions related to the pandemic, the matches will be played without fans in the stadiums. The participants have received an exemption from quarantine provided to professional sports organizations.

The match against Wales will be the first match for the USMNT since February when they beat Costa Rica 1-0.

The Americans have not played on a FIFA date with most of their player pool available since a 4-0 victory over Cuba in the CONCACAF Nations League on Nov. 19 last year. Exhibitions in March at the Netherlands and Wales were canceled, along with the CONCACAF Nations League final four in June and the start of World Cup qualifying in September.

The players will report to camp starting on Nov. 8.

USMNT squad (caps / goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 4/0), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City/ENG; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 17/0)

DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 38/3), Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 10/0), Sergino Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 3/0), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht/BEL; 18/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 40/1), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich/GER; 0/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 7/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 10/1), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA;0/0), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 0/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 19/6), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 0/0), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton/ENG; 0/0)

FORWARDS (8): Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona/ESP; 0/0), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen/FRA; 0/0), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 34/14), Uly Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; 1/1), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 0/0), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 12/5), Sebastian Soto (Telstar/NED; 0/0), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 8/1)