Argentina fans not under Messi's spell

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Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi might have won everything with his club, but he’s still looking for his first win with Argentina in a major tournament.

With the 2018 World Cup approaching, the Albiceleste fans remain unconvinced by the five time Ballon d’Or winner despite his exploits in Europe.

Having come so close in the 2014 edition in Brazil, losing in the final against Germany, perhaps fans are being harsh on the superstar.

As far as Argentinians are concerned though, you either you win it or you don’t. Messi hasn’t yet and until he does, he cannot come near Diego Maradona in their eyes.


It doesn’t seem to matter that Messi was Player of the Tournament in 2014 or that he’s carried a suspect Argentina team on his shoulders through their qualifying campaign for the 2018 edition in Russia.








Watch the video above as the fans express their thoughts on Messi.



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Man United's Lindelof, Arsenal's Alex Iwobi set to push on from international break

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Contrasting emotions: Victor Lindelof (l) with Gianluigi Buffon (all Getty).

With the international break coming to an end, footballers from across the globe will be flooding back to their clubs in the coming days.

For some of this number, a spell away from the daily grind of domestic duty has provided them with a rare chance to shine.

Here, Sport360° looks at the forgotten figures who have sent out a strong message with excellent displays in their nation’s colours.

VICTOR LINDELOF

The shaky and fragile figure from his unconvincing early months at Manchester United disappeared in two redoubtable legs as Sweden shut-out Italy to make World Cup 2018.

Lindelof, 23, dug in superbly next to the experienced Andreas Granqvist at the heart of the Swedish defence. During two goalless matches for the Italians, he produced a combined 15 clearances and four interceptions to deny the likes of Serie A-top scorer Ciro Immobile and returning Andrea Belotti.

Such displays acted as a contrast to the horror show at Huddersfield Town and showed why manager Jose Mourinho was willing to spend an initial £30.8 million (Dh149m) last summer to draft him in from Benfica. With fellow centre-back Phil Jones picking up a knock with England, another opportunity could soon emerge – potentially when Newcastle United travel to Old Trafford this weekend.

Victor Lindelof (r)

Victor Lindelof (r)

ALEX IWOBI

A match-winning turn against Argentina should do wonders for an attacker who continues to flit in and out of Arsenal’s XI.

Playing up top with Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho for Nigeria, he struck twice in the second half to complete an impressive 4-2 victory from 2-0 down against star-studded opponents. The 21-year-old artfully tucked away his first into the bottom corner on 52 minutes, before an impudent nutmeg on Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano later granted him space to side foot home a memorable second.

The challenge now is to make these flashes of brilliance a more-regular feature of his game. Last time out at Manchester City, he never looked like producing such excellence.

Alex Iwobi (l).

Alex Iwobi (l)

MEHDI BENATIA

There could hardly be a greater contrast between the centre-back’s standing for club and country.

The 30-year-old scored at one end and cut a dominant figure at the other in last weekend’s deciding 2-0 win at Ivory Coast. This result ensured no goals were conceded in six third-round matches by a Morocco who sealed a return to the globe’s grandest stage for the first time since 1998.

Yet for Juventus, Benatia has only started 18 Serie A fixtures since he joined from Bayern Munich – initially on loan – in July 2016. He must hope head coach Massimiliano Allegri was watching.

Mehdi Benatia (r)

Mehdi Benatia (r)

JOAO MARIO

The Internazionale express has left the centre midfielder behind in recent months, but he continues to be a key figure for Euro 2016 winners Portugal.

Mario, 24, scored late on in last week’s 3-0 win against Saudi Arabia and came off the bench to add experience to a weakened line-up for Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with United States. Such a role has not been afforded to him by Luciano Spalletti, has not started in Serie A since September 19’s 1-1 stalemate at Bologna.

With Inter losing some momentum prior to the international break when they recorded the same scoreline at home to Torino, his form for A Seleccao could not be better timed.

Joao Mario

Joao Mario

WESTON MCKENNIE

In a time of suffering for the United States after their failure to make Russia 2018, a new star appears to be emerging.

McKennie, 19, earned the man-of-the-match gong on debut thanks to a fine display against Portugal. The Texan teenager dribbled through the opposition defence to score his side’s only goal, also hitting the crossbar with a second-half header.

The midfielder was part of Schalke’s XI for the first time in a month and a half prior to the international break. Such form could see him remain for Sunday’s visit of Hamburg in the Bundesliga.

Weston McKennie (r)

Weston McKennie (r)

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Gulf Cup deadline passes with no response from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain regarding Qatar tournament

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A deadline given by Gulf Cup organisers asking Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to play in next month’s tournament, hosted by Qatar, has passed without response.

Organisers told AFP on Tuesday that they would now meet later this week to decide whether to go ahead with the tournament.

However, it looks increasingly like the Gulf Cup will become the first major sporting casualty of a crisis in the region which has seen the 2022 World Cup host politically and diplomatically isolated by its neighbours since June.

“There was no response, we didn’t receive any responses at all,” said Gulf Cup football Federation general secretary Jassim al-Rumaihi.

“A decision will be made on the 16th.”

Asked if he thought any tournament was likely, Rumaihi responded: “I hope so. Let’s be optimistic on this.”

The tournament could still take place but just be played between Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Kuwait and Yemen.

The deadline passed on November 13.

A letter had been sent to the federations in Saudi, UAE and Bahrain urging them to play in the eight-team tournament due to begin in Doha on December 22.

Question marks have been placed over their involvement as Qatar has been isolated for the past five months in a bitter dispute with neighbours, including Saudi, UAE and Bahrain.

These three are among a group of countries which accuse Qatar of supporting extremism and fostering ties with Iran, charges Doha denies.

Everything now depends on Kuwait.

Gulf Cup organisers have said they will only go ahead if Kuwait take part, but to add to the uncertainty, Kuwait’s football association remains suspended by FIFA and it is unclear if its team can play in the tournament.

The Gulf Cup, played every two years, was originally meant to be hosted by Kuwait in 2016 but was moved to Qatar because of the FIFA ban.

Any cancellation of the Gulf Cup could cause embarrassment to Qatar, as it continues its $500 million-a-week preparations for 2022.

The final is due to be played in the Khalifa International Stadium, which will host matches in 2022.

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