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World Cup hits and misses: Lionel Messi magic gives Argentina hope while Louis van Gaal deserves Netherlands trust | Football News

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Sky Sports’ writers reflect on Saturday’s action as the knockout phase of the World Cup gets under way…

Messi magic lights up this Argentina team

Lionel Messi runs at the Australia defence
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Lionel Messi runs at the Australia defence

The legs do not move as quickly as before and everyone knows we are in the endgame now but is there a more thrilling sight in football than Lionel Messi with the ball at his feet? Through to another quarter-final after beating Australia, his World Cup dream is alive.

This was Messi’s best game of the tournament. He had the most shots and created the most chances. It needed his magic to unlock the opposition and once he had done so he was really able to enjoy himself. The hope for Argentina is that it is a sign of what is to come.

Argentina have been strong favourites in every game so far and a feature of these matches has been Messi’s attempts to find space when opponents are set on stifling him. But if Argentina do go all the way in Qatar there will be different types of tests ahead.

His performance once his team were ahead might be a hint of how dangerous he could become in the latter stages of this World Cup. If opponents pursue a more open game against Argentina then that could be a big mistake because Messi is still on it.
Adam Bate

Scaloni’s Argentina are still improving

“With Leo playing this beautifully,” said Lionel Scaloni afterwards, “these are very exciting moments.” The Argentina manager deserves huge credit too. He has got this World Cup campaign back on track after that alarming start against Saudi Arabia.

There have been more free-flowing Argentina sides than this one but at each of the last eight World Cups, they have fallen short. This one at least seems likely to maximise its chances. The winning football they delivered at the Copa America is still in them.

The team is clearly built around Messi but Scaloni continues to tweak things, making adjustments both subtle and straightforward. The emergence of Julian Alvarez helps. He brings the energy that is needed given Messi’s relatively limited off-the-ball movement.

Scaloni is able to rotate the full-backs and, tactically, it is interesting that he can comfortably switch to three at the back if the situation demands it. With Angel Di Maria likely to be available again for the quarter-final, there are options. And with Messi, there is always hope.
Adam Bate

Australia exceeded all expectations

Julian Alvarez goes shoulder to shoulder with Aziz Behich
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Julian Alvarez goes shoulder to shoulder with Aziz Behich

Though Argentina were deserved winners, they created little before Messi’s goal and needed some fortune not to concede an equaliser late on. That is testament to the work of Graham Arnold in turning his team into such dangerous opponents at this World Cup.

Scaloni praised Arnold’s team for “pressing very smartly” and in that opening half an hour, in particular, they caused plenty of problems for Argentina. Had Aziz Behich or Garang Kuol snatched a late goal then who knows what might have happened in extra-time.

Expectations had not been high and the coach faced criticism coming into the tournament. But a modest side has made memories in Qatar, winning as many matches at this World Cup as they had won at every other World Cup combined. There should be only pride.
Adam Bate

Van Gaal’s Netherlands show why he favours caution over chaos in win over USA

Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal
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Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal

At the end of the group phase, Louis van Gaal snapped at suggestions from the Dutch media that his side were boring and they needed to open up. His side’s first-half performance against USA in the last 16 seemed like a direct message to the press: I know how to progress at major tournaments.

From the first whistle, the Netherlands allowed USA to have the ball and backed off into a mid-block. The Americans, who had thrived on the energy and enthusiasm of their youthful midfield in their previous matches in Qatar, suddenly found themselves required to pass their way through a well-structured defence. They struggled.

And when they slipped up the Netherlands broke with pace, accelerating up the field with excellence to expose their opponents’ sluggish central defence. It was a ploy which required humility from the favourites – but had the Dutch 2-0 up and comfortable at the break.

In the second half, calmness turned to chaos. Whether it was caused by the Dutch getting over-confident or USA’s decision to throw everything they had at the problem, the game opened up.

Twice the Netherlands had to clear the ball off their goal-line before Haji Wright’s unusual goal halved the deficit for USA. There were chances at both ends – although USA’s ambition was ultimately their downfall, with Denzel Dumfries’ goal, soon after Wright’s strike, ending the chance of a dramatic turnaround.

It was an exciting second half – but unpredictable. And that’s not how Van Gaal wants it to be. He’s never lost a match in charge of them at a World Cup. The Netherlands’ supporters must trust his judgement.
Peter Smith

Can the USA overcome last-16 hurdle on home soil in 2026?

USA manager Gregg Berhalter hailed the “progress” his side have made at Qatar 2022 in the aftermath of defeat to the Netherlands in Doha in the first of the last-16 ties on Saturday, before admitting they had “come up short” in their bid to make the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

Perhaps we would be talking about a first appearance in the last eight had Christian Pulisic, as he really should have, opened the scoring early on instead of fluffing his lines as the USA dominated the early exchanges.

But in the end, Netherlands’ greater experience, tournament know-how and ultimately, finishing saw Louis van Gaal’s team over the line as USA were eliminated from the round-of-16 stage for the third World Cup in a row.

However, given their impressive showings in the group stage – where they went unbeaten, including having the better of a goalless draw with England – as Tyler Adams, Pulisic, Sergino Dest, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie all caught the eye, and that the next World Cup is in North America, do not bet against the USA finally breaking their last-eight hoodoo next time around.
Richard Morgan



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Malo Gusto transfer news: Chelsea agree £26.3m deal for Lyon right-back with player returning to France on loan | Football News

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Chelsea have reached an agreement in principle with Lyon for the signing of right-back Malo Gusto.

The west London side have agreed to pay £26.3m plus add-ons for the services of the 19-year-old, who will join the club in the summer.

Lyon head coach Laurent Blanc said that the board had guaranteed to him that Gusto would stay at the club for the rest of the season.

“The board have guaranteed to me that (Rayan) Cherki and Malo Gusto will be here until the end of the season,” Blanc told reporters on Friday.

The statement echoed the thoughts of president Jean-Michel Aulas Aulas who took to social media and declared Gusto would continue with the French giants beyond this transfer window.

But it appears the club has bowed down to the player’s wishes and while Chelsea have agreed the deal, Gusto will now be loaned back to Lyon for the remainder of this campaign.

GRAPHIC

Chelsea wanted a deal now as they are aware other clubs – such as Manchester United and Tottenham – are interested in the France U21 international.

Reece James has played just once for Chelsea since October 11 due to a knee injury, with the sole appearance – against Bournemouth last month – seeing him aggravate the issue and return to the sidelines.

The England international also missed several months of the 2021/22 season with a hamstring injury.

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The Transfer Show’s Dharmesh Sheth and Kaveh Solhekol round up the latest transfer news from all 20 Premier League clubs.

Chelsea are determined to sign a midfielder and right-back this month, despite already spending almost £500m on new players this season.

The Blues have signed 16 players since Todd Boehly’s consortium purchased the club last summer, but remain keen to add to head coach Graham Potter’s squad during the January window.

Enzo Fernandez is still a target and Chelsea are considering making a new bid for the Benfica and Argentina midfielder.

How much have Chelsea spent in January so far?

Chelsea have splashed the cash under Todd Boehly
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Chelsea have splashed the cash under Todd Boehly

Chelsea’s January spending has risen to £190m now the Noni Madueke signing has been completed.

Here are the deals the Blues have made:

  • Benoit Badiashile – Monaco, £35m
  • David Datro Fofana – Molde, undisclosed (reported £10m deal)
  • Andrey Santos – Vasco da Gama, undisclosed (reported £18m deal)
  • Joao Felix – Atletico Madrid, £9.7m loan
  • Mykhailo Mudryk – Shakhtar Donetsk, £88.5m
  • Noni Madueke – PSV Eindhoven

Chelsea have now spent around £460m since Todd Boehly became the new owner of the club, having spent £270m in the summer transfer window.

Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this winter? The January transfer window closes at 11pm on Tuesday January 31, 2023.

Keep up to date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.



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Women’s leagues WNBA, etc. have ushered in sports’ golden age

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Image for article titled A rising tide lift all boats and it's time we threw Jason Whitlock’s ilk overboard

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Choosing between women’s and men’s sports is a false choice. If you’re a certain blogger for Glenn Beck’s conservative Blaze media, revisionist history can be a comfort zone that vilifies feminism in sports as your woke sports boogeyman, but makes you look like a headass instead. Jason Whitlock’s resentment-driven tweet on women’s basketball’s place at the bottom of the sports hierarchy eventually led to a longer missive against women’s societal advancements and the fall of masculinity.

Oddly enough, in a link I don’t care to share, Whitlock proceeded to blame feminism for everything ranging from drag queens, to the degradation of the nuclear family, and the decline of biblical values. In Whitlock’s opinion, the glass ceiling wasn’t sturdy enough.

He pontificated in his Wednesday column: “As technology advanced and curbed the natural hardships of basic survival, American men led the world in granting freedom and autonomy to women. Feminists have taken advantage of man’s instinct to please women, casting themselves as long-suffering victims of male supremacy, and reshaped American society into a culture that favors the weaker sex.”

In fairness to Whitlock, let’s analyze all the excellent points he made.

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Hold on a second. I read the entire screed. Something will squeeze out soon…

Whitlock spews more garbage

He did attempt to trace a crooked link between modern society and early man’s roles as hunter-gathers, but it doubled as a rant against evolution. Imagine beginning your argument for a return to medieval masculinity by bemoaning women’s sports on TV. As usual, the intellectual cupboard is bare. Whitlock’s fragility over women’s sports is indicative of the obstacles women in workplaces have always faced. For a contingent of dudes who take his word as gospel though, women’s sports are their bête noire.

Battling over an alternate view of history that makes a case for how sexism was good or opining that the women from the Greatest Generation who took occupations in defense plants and factories during the war effort of the 1940s defanged American culture is a fascinating insight into how a twisted mind justifies itself. Don’t give yourself hemorrhoids trying to mine wisdom from those thought turds, and never roll with a pig in his sty.

Women’s leagues have helped usher in sports’ golden age

If you’ve browsed the front page of Deadspin’s space lately, or any industry leaders like Fox Sports, ESPN, CBS Sports, or Yahoo Sports, you’d know the myth of the feminist agenda pushing men’s sports aside is a pile of crap. America’s Big 4 leagues, plus NASCAR, Formula 1, college football, and college basketball have reigned supreme since being given a 50 to 75-year year head start over organized women’s athletics.

In a few short months, the U.S. Women’s National Team will defend their World Cup so you can expect to see their faces plastered all over ESPN screens between now and then. The USWNT has won half of the first eight Women’s World Cups FIFA’s held, but had to grapple with U.S. Soccer for pay commensurate with men last year. Their decades-long push was reminiscent of Billie Jean King and the “Original Nine’s” early enterprising. Their revolutionary founding of the WTA is one of the impetus for women’s tennis being on a more equal footing with the men’s tour.

The most prominent leagues have had to share space in an increasingly crowded room (pickleball has entered the chat), but this is the golden age of live sports. The continued growth of women’s leagues has been nearly as monumental as streaming has been to prestige television. The only downside to the panoply of options at our disposal is the paradox of choice.

Dawn Staley and Kim Mulkey are college basketball titans

Today men’s college basketball is in a rut. It’s as rife with parity, as it is empty in name-brand, blue-chip talent, or upper-echelon teams. The inverse of men’s hoops’ suboptimal tornado of middle-of-the-road teams, is happening in the division where Dawn Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks are cruising toward a repeat. Fans love dynasties and one may be building in Columbia.

UConn is still a threat on Feb. 5, however, its biggest obstacle resides within the SEC.

Kim Mulkey and Staley have taken the baton as college basketball’s preeminent rivalry. The juiciest storyline in college basketball, regardless of gender, is the upcoming tilt between the only undefeated teams left in the nation. Hopefully, someone informs Alfalfa’s He-Man Womun Haters club not to switch on the late-night SportsCenter shows on the night of Feb. 18.

The halcyon yesteryear of the UConn-Tennessee rivalry is long gone in the Vols’ post-Pat Summitt era. Even with former Naismith Player of the Year Paige Bueckers on the mend for the entire season and phenom Azzi Fudd in and out of the lineup, UConn has been firmly entrenched in the top 10. Tennessee is still on the road back to prominence under Kellie Harper and was promptly smacked down by the Huskies on Thursday night.

While we’re on that note, contrary to the Blaze TV blogger’s soliloquy about women’s advancements coming off the backs of men’s work, the infrastructure for modern women’s basketball was originally built by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. At its peak, the AIAW’s membership consisted of 280 colleges that held championships across 19 sports, including women’s hoops. The AIAW was a women’s collegiate sports organization founded by women, but in 1981, the NCAA took over from the AIAW after 120 schools left for the more economically advantaged NCAA.

Breanna Stewart’s free agency

Over in the WNBA, free agency is in full bloom. Candace Parker is vacillating on whether to wind her career down in Chicago or with one last hurrah in Los Angeles. Free agent center Brionna Jones, the reigning Sixth Player of the Year, is essentially seeking to branch out after her second Finals appearance. Think of a bigger James Harden in 2012, trying to loosen himself from Oklahoma City’s bench.

The bulk of WNBA free agency attention is trained on Breanna Stewart’s movements. Reportedly, Stewart has whittled her choice down to approximately four teams, including her home state New York Liberty, a pairing with Elena Delle Donne in Washington, running it back with a depleted Seattle Storm roster, or zagging unexpectedly to the Minnesota Lynx.

There’s no planned primetime TV special starring Jim Gray, or Hannah Storm for the internet Whitlocks to carp about, but the Liberty are what everyone in the league office is undoubtedly rooting for. Imagine if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh had chosen the Knicks in 2010. Or if Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Harden had been a more well-adjusted collection of personalities. Stewart linking up with 2020’s No. 1 overall pick, Sabrina Ionescu, recently acquired 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, and free agent Courtney Vandersloot would be the culmination of an arms race with the Las Vegas Aces.

In addition to looking out for her own future, Stewart is using her clout to engineer solutions to funding charter flights for the league’s 12 teams. Stewart’s efforts have reignited the discourse around the WNBA’s problematic travel arrangements. We’ve long known that cramming long athletes onto commercial flights dozens of times a season is a hindrance to peak performance, but the WNBA hasn’t quite taken it to heart yet and Stewart’s not keen on waiting until the CBA expires in 2028 to address it.

Ultimately, for every sports fan with Whitlock’s attitude, there’s Kobe Bryant. Kobe and others understood that a rising tide lifts all boats. In his final years, Kobe became an advocate for women’s hoops. Then, three years and a day ago, he perished on his way to coach his daughter’s AAU team. But if you’re having trouble choosing between living in a shared reality where the Black Mamba’s noblesse oblige spirit is considered ruinous to culture or one where internet Whitlocks signify strength, your worldview is bass-ackwards and you’ve got your head on the wrong side of your torso.



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Pep Guardiola jokes he’s ‘sorry’ that he stopped Mikel Arteta from becoming Manchester City manager

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Arsenal will face City at the Etihad Stadium tonight, with Guardiola’s former assistant back on his old North West stomping ground in the FA Cup fourth round.

The Gunners head north leading rivals City by five points with a game in hand atop the Premier League, but acutely aware of the challenging taking on the frustrated Guardiola and company.

Arteta left Guardiola’s City setup in December 2019 to take the Arsenal helm, transforming the Gunners in remarkable fashion since.

“I am pretty sure if I would have left here before, he would be here [at City] and he would be the best, absolutely,” said Guardiola, of Arteta.

“But I extended my contract, I am sorry, and he didn’t wait, so it could not happen. But definitely it could have.”

Arteta joined Manchester City’s coaching ranks on retiring as a player in 2016, learning his craft under master tactician and serial winner Guardiola.

City’s former Barcelona boss revealed how Arteta would never celebrate goals against the Gunners, the team he represented more than 100 times between 2011 and 2016.

“He loves the club; I remember when we were together here and we scored goals, he jumped a lot and celebrated – except with one team,” said Guardiola.

“One team, every time we score a goal, I jump, look back and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.”



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