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Brazil see off Paraguay; Argentina edge Colombia – WCQ round-up

Brazil scored twice in the last four minutes to cap a comfortable 4-0 win over Paraguay in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier in Belo Horizonte.

Leeds forward Raphinha endured a successful yet frustrating night as he had a goal ruled out and struck the post after firing Brazil into a 28th-minute lead.

Philippe Coutinho double the hosts’ lead just after the hour before Antony made it three four minutes from time and Rodrygo notched his first international goal to seal a comprehensive Brazil victory.

The defeat ended Paraguay’s hopes of qualifying for Qatar 2022 and further cemented Brazil’s position as one of the favourites to lift the trophy in December.

Brazil top the South American qualifying group with no defeats in 15 games and the win extended their unbeaten home record in World Cup qualifiers to 61 matches.

Paraguay, who have yet to win any of their first five games under coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, are second from bottom of the 10-team group with 13 points from 16 games.

Colombia clinging on

Lautaro Martinez's strike inspired Argentina to victory over Colombia
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Lautaro Martinez’s strike inspired Argentina to victory over Colombia

Colombia will need a miracle to qualify for the World Cup after a 1-0 defeat to Argentina in South American qualifying on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi was absent due to Covid but Argentina, which have already qualified for Qatar 2022, did not miss him as Lautaro Martinez scored the only goal of the match in Cordoba in the 29th minute after being given the freedom on the penalty area by the Colombia defence.

Colombia sit seventh in the World Cup qualification table with 17 points.

Uruguay, Chile stay in hunt

Uruguay and Chile recorded crucial wins to keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive on Tuesday night.

Tottenham's January signing Rodrigo Bentancur (left) fired Uruguay into a first-minute lead against Venezuela
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Tottenham’s January signing Rodrigo Bentancur (left) fired Uruguay into a first-minute lead against Venezuela

In Montevideo, Uruguay scored three times in the first half as they hammered bottom side Venezuela.

New Tottenham signing Rodrigo Betancur, Giorgian De Arrascaeta and Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani put the hosts three up at the break.

Luis Suarez had a penalty saved three minutes into the second half but scored after being allowed to retake the kick to make it 4-0.

Josef Martinez got one back for Venezuela after 65 minutes but it was too little too late for a team whose qualification hopes were long dead.

Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Chile remained in the hunt for Qatar 2022 with a 3-2 win over Bolivia
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Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Chile remained in the hunt for Qatar 2022 with a 3-2 win over Bolivia

In La Paz, a double from Alexis Sanchez helped Chile beat Bolivia 3-2 to stay in the hunt for World Cup qualification.

On a heavy pitch in the Bolivian capital, Sanchez put Chile ahead after 14 minutes, but Marc Enoumba equalised eight minutes before half-time for the home side.

Marcelino Nunez restored Chile’s lead after 77 minutes and Sanchez added a third with four minutes remaining. Bolivia’s top goalscorer Marcelo Martins pulled one back two minutes later but Chile held on for a vital three points.

Ecuador on cusp of qualifying

Ecuador moved a point closer to a guaranteed spot in Qatar thanks to a 1-1 draw with Peru.

A win would have guaranteed Ecuador a place in November’s finals with two games remaining, but Edison Flores scored a second-half equaliser for Peru to cancel out Michael Estrada’s second-minute opener in Lima.

The Ecuadoreans are still favourites to join Brazil and Argentina. They sit third in the South American group with 25 points, three ahead of Uruguay and four ahead of Peru.

Di Maria and Martinez score as Argentina beat Chile

Chile saw their chances of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup shrink dramatically after a 2-1 home loss to second-place Argentina.

With Lionel Messi recovering from COVID-19 and absent, veteran Argentina forward Angel Di Maria opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a rocket from the edge of the box.

Chile levelled matters 11 minutes later with a header from Blackburn Rovers striker Ben Brereton, only for Lautaro Martinez to net the winner for Argentina in the 34th minute, calmly converting after Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo failed to stop a shot from Rodrigo de Paul.

Argentina – without coach Lionel Scaloni, who did not travel to Chile because he was still testing positive for coronavirus – enjoyed less pressure in the second half, but Chile failed to score from the several opportunities they created.

Elsewhere in South American World Cup qualifying, Uruguay moved back into contention for a place at Qatar 2022 after a 1-0 win in Paraguay, secured thanks to a goal from veteran striker Luis Suarez.

Messi tests positive for Covid-19

Lionel Messi and three other Paris Saint-Germain players have tested positive for coronavirus, the club have confirmed.

Juan Bernat, Sergio Rico and Nathan Bitumazala have also contracted the virus and are in quarantine.

Messi has featured in PSG’s last six Ligue 1 matches as well as their defeat to Manchester City and win over Club Brugge in Champions League Group A.

The 34-year-old, along with Bernat, Rico and Bitumazala, will miss the French Cup clash with Vannes on Monday but pending a negative test, may be available for their clash with Lyon next Sunday.

From Monday, fully vaccinated people in France who test positive will only have to isolate for seven days regardless of the coronavirus variant they were infected with, but can leave quarantine after five days if they show an antigen or negative PCR test.

France reported 219,126 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period on Saturday, the fourth day in a row that the country has recorded more than 200,000 cases.

Messi joined PSG from Barcelona in August and has scored six goals in 16 games in all competitions for the Parisian side.

Neymar was stretchered off and will be out for the next two months
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Neymar will be out for the next three weeks with an ankle problem

The Ligue 1 club also issued an update on Neymar, who is currently in Brazil and will continue his treatment on an ankle injury which has seen him miss eight games for PSG.

His return to training is still expected to be in “about 3 weeks”.

PSG are top of the Ligue 1 standings on 46 points after 19 matches, 13 points above second-placed Nice.

Wembley on course to host Italy vs Argentina in June

Wembley is on course to host the first edition of a new intercontinental event between the champions of Europe and South America.

European football’s governing body UEFA had already announced Italy and Argentina would meet in June, but have now confirmed the date of the match – June 1 – and that it will be played in London.

Wembley is understood to be the preferred venue for the match known as the ‘Finalissima’ but UEFA has not yet confirmed that.

PA
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Wembley is the preferred venue to host the match between Italy and Argentina

It is part of a renewed memorandum of understanding between UEFA and South American confederation CONMEBOL which now extends to 2028, and covers two further editions of the showpiece match in addition to the game next year.

The renewed alliance between the confederations is significant at a time when both have publicly expressed their opposition to FIFA proposals to reform the international match calendar, which include playing a World Cup every two years.

A global summit of FIFA’s 211 national member associations is due to take place on Monday.

messi
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Argentina beat Brazil to win the Copa America in July

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has previously spoken about his ambition to present a consensus position to the associations at that meeting.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who has previously said European countries would boycott the World Cup if the plans were approved, is set to face the media after a meeting of his organisation’s executive committee on Thursday.

‘Life comes first’ – Aguero retires due to heart condition

Sergio Aguero has announced his retirement from football at the age of 33 due to a heart condition.

The Manchester City record goalscorer, who moved to Barcelona on a free transfer in the summer, had to be substituted during his team’s 1-1 draw with Alaves in October after receiving medical assistance on the pitch to treat chest pains and dizziness.

The Argentina striker was taken to hospital for cardiac tests, after which he was ruled out for three months.

However, Aguero did not make his return to the field before announcing on Wednesday at the Nou Camp that his playing career has ended.

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Aguero confirmed his retirement during an emotional press conference at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

An emotional Aguero said: “This conference is to communicate that I have decided to stop playing football.

“It is a very difficult moment. The decision I have made I have taken for my health, that is the main reason, because of the problem that I had a month-and-a-half ago.

“I was in good hands of the medical staff who have done their best and have told me the best thing would be to stop playing.

“So I made that decision about a week ago and I want to tell everyone I did everything possible to have hope, but there wasn’t very much.”

Posting on Twitter, Aguero added: “Retiring under these circumstances is difficult, but life comes first – I’ve known that from the start.”

City manager Pep Guardiola was one of several representatives from Aguero’s former clubs to attend Wednesday’s press conference, while the club also paid tribute to their former striker on social media.

“Everyone at Manchester City would like to take this opportunity to thank @aguerosergiokun for his incredible contribution to our success over the last decade and wish him well in his retirement,” City posted on Twitter.

In November, Aguero responded to rumours about his retirement and tweeted that he was feeling “positive” and making “progress” with his health.

After his first game in charge of the club against Espanyol in November, Barcelona boss Xavi said the forward’s situation was uncertain, but that the club would “follow the evolution of what he had” and hoped he would be able to “keep playing football”.

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After the announcement that Sergio Aguero is retiring from football, we revisit some of the Manchester City legend’s most iconic goals and landmarks in the Premier League

Sergio Aguero will join Barcelona upon the expiration of his contract at Manchester City
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Aguero joined Barcelona this year after spending 10 seasons with Manchester City

Aguero agreed to join Barcelona in May, signing a two-year deal with a buyout clause of €100m (£86m) after leaving City.

However, he was ineligible to play for the club until the end of August after financial fair play rules in Spain prevented the La Liga side from registering new signings.

The forward then suffered a calf injury which ruled him out until October, after which he was able to make his debut for the club as a substitute in a 3-1 win against Valencia.

He scored his first goal for Barcelona against Real Madrid on his El Clasico debut on 24 October.

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Ilkay Gundogan says he gets goosebumps watching Aguero’s last-gasp winner against QPR in 2012 which secured the Premier League title

Aguero began his career at Argentinian club Independiente, scoring 23 goals between 2003-2006 before transferring to Atletico Madrid.

He enjoyed a fruitful period with the Spanish side, scoring 101 times in 234 appearances in all competitions and won the Europa League with the club in 2010 in addition to the UEFA Super Cup.

City signed Aguero from Atletico in 2011 and he became entrenched in the club’s history when he scored a dramatic late winner against QPR in the final game of the 2011/12 season to secure the team’s first Premier League title.

Aguero remained at City for 10 seasons, and broke Eric Brook’s record to become the club’s all-time top goalscorer in 2017.

He scored 260 goals for the club in 390 appearances and won a host of honours, including five Premier League titles, six League Cup trophies and an FA Cup, among others.

Sergio Aguero is thrown up in the air by his Man City teammates (AP)
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Aguero is the record goalscorer at Manchester City (260), and former manager Pep Guardiola has described him as a ‘legend’

The forward was also prolific at international level, having scored 42 goals in 101 appearances for Argentina, making him the third-highest goalscorer for the side behind Lionel Messi and Gabriel Batistuta.

Aguero was part of the Argentina squad that won the 2021 Copa America.

Hasselbaink: I suggested Aguero to Chelsea before Man City!

Speaking at a Signathon Live event, former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink told Sky Sports:

“I hope that he gets the recognition he deserves. I absolutely love him, years and years ago when he was at Atletico Madrid, I told Chelsea they should buy him.

“He makes me think of Romario, the way that he used to play back in the day. It’s a real pity he has to stop playing now, he’s certainly one of the best players in Premier League history – I think there are better, but he’s definitely up there.”

Aguero retires as a Premier League legend

Sky Sports’ Adam Bate:

If Sergio Aguero had stayed in English football for only one season then his place in folklore would still be assured. That goal against Queens Park Rangers that snatched the title back from rivals Manchester United is destined to be replayed for as long as the game is played.

But that was Premier League goal number 23 of 184.

He is a winner of five Premier League titles.

Here are some more numbers. Aguero has not just outscored every other player since his Premier League debut, it is not particularly close. Harry Kane is still 17 behind him but the next man on the list is Jamie Vardy – some 57 goals adrift of the Argentinian.

In that period, Aguero scored 12 hat-tricks, four more than Kane, double that of Luis Suarez and triple that of anyone else in the past 10 years of Premier League football.

If these statistics are slightly skewed by the time-frame, one that encompasses his entire Manchester City career while others have emerged more recently, consider Aguero’s strike rate compared to his rivals. That shows he not only scored more but more frequently.

Sergio Agüero scored every 108 minutes on average in the Premier League, comfortably the best rate of any player in the competition's history with 20+ goals
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Agüero scored every 108 minutes on average in the Premier League, comfortably the best rate of any player in the competition’s history with 20+ goals

Aguero scored his 184 Premier League goals at a rate of one every 108 minutes. Kane has scored a goal every 128 minutes, Mohamed Salah every 127 minutes. Nobody can really compete. By any metric, he is the competition’s outstanding striker of the last decade.

There were typical Aguero goals. The dart to the near post. The curled effort into the corner. But such was his longevity that it is impossible to pin him down to a handful of finishes.

Few would think he boasts one of the great left foots in Premier League history and yet he found the net 34 times with it, putting him among the top 10 left-footed scorers since making that sensational two-goal debut against Swansea in August 2011.

That game featured an outrageous strike from 30 yards. 20 more from outside the box followed, meaning that only Christian Eriksen has scored more since Aguero’s debut.

As for headers, despite being 5’8″, he was among the top half a dozen scorers of headed goals during his time in England too – the five men above him had an average height of 6’4″.

There was no knowing that he would last so long. As with other big names who arrived at the Etihad Stadium at that time, the assumption was that he would just be passing through. But while the language did not come easily, he made himself at home on the pitch.

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City is embraced by Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City as he is substituted during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on November 11, 2018

The arrival of Pep Guardiola at what turned out to be the exact midpoint of his Manchester City career was a boost for the club but also a challenge for the star striker. There were doubts over his ability to adapt himself to the demands of the new coach.

He could have walked away as a club legend even then. Instead he elevated his status still further, showing his value by hitting the 20-goal mark in each of Guardiola’s first three seasons in charge. Aguero was City’s top scorer in their back-to-back title wins.

Injury and illness curtailed his influence towards the end of his time in England and there was to be no glorious finale – his final appearance for City coming in their Champions League final defeat to Chelsea in Porto. It was the one trophy that eluded him.

But Aguero retires as a Premier League icon, scorer of more goals in the competition than any other overseas player. The man who scored its most famous goal of all.

The 427 career goals in numbers

Aguero bows out with a staggering record: 427 goals from 786 games for clubs and country – equating to a career average of 0.54 per game.

His peak returns came in City blue, with 260 goals from 390 appearances – in addition to scoring 16 of his 18 career hat-tricks during his decade at the Etihad.

The Argentinian netted 28 or more goals in seven out of eight seasons across all competitions between 2011/12 and 2018/19, scoring a career-high off 33 in 2016/17.

Injuries often diminished game time, but Aguero surpassed a goal ratio of 0.60 goals per game in all but one campaign for 10 years running from 2010 – with a career-high 0.82 when City reclaimed the Premier League crown in 2013/14.

Aguero scored 302 of his 427 haul with his favoured right boot but notched another 74 with his left and defied his 5’8″ frame with 48 headed goals – while his ability to unleash the spectacular produced 35 goals from range.

A decade in England saw the Argentinian net 184 Premier League goals – more than twice the tally he produced during five years in La Liga – with another 41 strikes on the Champions League stage.

Use the interactive table below to scroll through all 427 goals, right back to his very first for Independiente against Estudiantes De La Plata in November 2004.