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Higuain Can Take Heed from Villa’s Example

Gonzalo Higuain made the move the MLS for the 2020 campaign joining David Beckham’s franchise Inter Miami. His first campaign in the league went far from as planned as he missed a penalty on his debut for the franchise in a 3-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union. He also only notched one goal in nine appearances over the course of the season. It’s fair to say the Argentine did not light up the MLS, although he was not the only player to struggle in Miami. The club finished in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and were dispatched with ease by Nashville SC in the Play-In Round of the playoffs.

However, Higuain has fared better at the start of his second campaign. The 33-year-old scored four goals in his first seven games of the 2021 season, including a match-winning brace to overcome Cincinnati on the road. Miami have been decent under new manager Phil Neville, but the franchise are still getting to grips with life in the league. Neville’s men are backed at +2800 in the football betting odds to win the MLS Cup for the first time, and although it would be a challenge, there is quality alongside Higuain to achieve the feat.

A lot will rest on his shoulders and he will have to be flawless throughout the campaign to usher his side towards the playoffs. Higuain can take heed from the example of another former star in Europe to fire in front of goal in the MLS. David Villa moved to the States at the age of 33 after a distinguished career in LaLiga, winning the title three times, along with international crowns for Spain, winning the 2010 World Cup and the European Championship in 2008.

Villa was on the downside of his career after his move to New York City FC. However, he still had gas left in the tank to enjoy an outstanding four-year stretch with the club. He notched 18 goals in his first season following his move, which was an excellent haul. Villa took his game to the next level in the 2016 season, notching 23 strikes in only 33 games. His form fired City into the MLS Playoffs, although even he was powerless to stop his side from slipping to a seven-goal aggregate defeat to Toronto FC. Despite the disappointment, Villa ended the season with the MLS MVP Award.

Villa was excellent once more in the 2017 campaign, finding the net another 22 times. He raised the standard of his performances in the post-season, but his side failed to overcome Columbus Crew. In his final campaign with City, the club progressed beyond the first round of the playoffs courtesy of a stellar performance from the Spaniard. His tenure would end in a familiar playoff defeat, crashing out in the semi-finals against Atlanta United. Villa was a monumental success for City during his four years, setting down a marker as the franchise’s leading scorer with 80 goals, which will not be easily surpassed.

Higuain can take note from the performances of Villa, and realise that he could create a legacy in Miami. It may not result in the ultimate goal of the MLS Cup, but the Argentine can certainly etch his place in the history of the club should he rediscover his peak form in the final third.

Argentina removed as Copa America hosts

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said on Sunday that Argentina would no longer host the Copa America, throwing the tournament into doubt just 13 days before it was due to kick off.

The tournament, featuring 10 South American nations, had been due to be held in Argentina and Colombia between June 13 and July 10, the first time in its 105-year history with joint hosts.

However, Colombia was removed as co-host on May 20 after a wave of protests demanding social and economic change spread across the country and Argentina has now followed due to what CONMEBOL said was the “present circumstances”.

CONMEBOL did not disclose the nature of the circumstances that led to the decision but Argentina is currently experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases.

“CONMEBOL is analysing offers from other countries that have shown interest in hosting the continental tournament,” it said in a short statement. “Updates will be announced soon.”

Officials from the organisation will meet on Monday to decide on the next steps for the tournament, which was held over from 2020 due to the pandemic.

Sunday’s stunning decision was announced shortly before 11pm in Argentina at the end of a weekend in which opposition to the tournament grew both inside and outside the government.

Argentina saw Covid-19 cases grow quickly in May and prompted the government to mandate a strict new lockdown.

Uruguay striker Luis Suarez has expressed doubts over the staging of the tournament in Argentina
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Uruguay striker Luis Suarez has expressed doubts over the staging of the tournament in Argentina

Thursday saw a record one-day number of new cases and the overall death toll had hit 76,693 by the weekend, according to data from the World Health Organisation.

Even some players who had returned to South America to prepare for the tournament expressed doubts, with Luis Suarez of Uruguay telling reporters on Friday, “we have to give priority to the health of human beings”.

Gonzalo Belloso, CONMEBOL’s secretary general, said last week the organisation had spoken to Chilean officials with a view to perhaps hosting some matches there.

Organisers are reluctant to call the tournament off because of its importance financially. The last Copa America, held in Brazil in 2019, brought in $118m (£83.2m) and was the second biggest annual source of revenue after the Copa Libertadores, the equivalent of Europe’s Champions League.

CONMEBOL’s reputation has taken a battering in recent years, with the organisation forced to move the second leg of the 2018 Copa Libertadores final to Madrid due to fan violence in Buenos Aires.

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River Plate win with midfielder in goal

River Plate were forced to play midfielder Enzo Perez in goal and have no substitutes on the bench for a Copa Libertadores match – but still emerged with a 2-1 victory.

River’s squad was reduced to 11 available players for Wednesday’s game against Colombia’s Independiente Santa Fe after 20 players tested positive for Covid-19, with others ruled out due to injury.

Four goalkeepers were among those affected but a request to register their fifth and sixth-choice goalkeepers was rejected by South America’s governing body, CONMEBOL.

Veteran midfielder Perez started in goal behind an inexperienced team but was rarely troubled by Independiente, who have yet to win in this year’s Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League.

“He was very brave to take the position. It was not easy,” said Marcelo Gallardo, River Plate’s head coach.

“I have to highlight that because it’s not easy to play in a position that you know nothing about.

“It was a joint decision. I needed to have him feeling confident because the responsibility would be totally mine, of course.”

River Plate head coach Marcelo Gallardo celebrates with Enzo Perez after their victory over Independiente Santa Fe
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River Plate head coach Marcelo Gallardo celebrates with Perez after their victory over Independiente

Fabrizio Angileri put River ahead after just three minutes and Julian Alvarez doubled their lead three minutes later.

Kelvin Osorio spoiled Perez’s bid for a clean sheet when he scored after 73 minutes for Independiente, who introduced 15-year-old Hollman McCormick late on.

River held on to secure the win and go top in Group D with nine points from five games.

“What place happened today will be not in my history, but in the history of our club, in the history of River Plate, in the history of our institution,” said Gallardo.

“I believe that we have never had a situation like this one today. I am sure this will be remembered and bookmarked. It was not normal to play under the conditions that we did.”

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Abuse allegations made against coach working for Argentina’s FA

A coach working for Argentina’s national football association is accused of using his position of power to sexually harass and bully female players as young as 14.

World players’ union FIFPRO has lodged a complaint and submitted evidence on behalf of a group of players to FIFA’s ethics committee.

“In what should have been a safe environment, girls and women were subjected to threats and comments of a violent and sexually explicit nature,” FIFPRO said in a statement.

“Because of the extremely serious nature of these offences, FIFPRO has asked FIFA to immediately remove the coach from his current position where he may have access to and power over minors.”

A FIFA statement read: “The independent FIFA ethics committee is currently looking into the matter. As a result, we have no further comment to make at this stage.”

It is understood the coach concerned is currently still in his post.

FIFPRO said it is providing ongoing legal support to the players involved, who “with their collective action, are determined to play their part in making football a safer and more inclusive environment”.

The union has urged any other players affected to come forward.

FIFA’s ethics committee issued a life ban to Yves-Jean Bart, the former president of Haiti’s national football federation, in November last year after he was alleged to have abused 14 female players at the Caribbean country’s national football centre.

In July last year, the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a life ban imposed by FIFA’s ethics committee on the former president of Afghanistan’s national football association, Keramuddin Karim, after he was found guilty of abusing female players between 2013 and 2018.

The Football Association issued an apology to abuse survivors in March after the publication of the long-awaited Sheldon report into historical allegations of sexual abuse in the English game between 1970 and 2005.

Addressing the survivors, FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “They were the victims of a gut-wrenching breach of trust. It is clear they were let down by the game, the authorities and society as a whole. We all failed to protect them.”

Report author Clive Sheldon QC found the FA had made inexcusable “institutional failings” for delaying the implementation of child protection measures in the period between the autumn of 1995 and the spring of 2000.

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Maradona’s medical team was ‘deficient and reckless’

Diego Maradona’s medical team acted in an “inappropriate, deficient and reckless way”, an investigation into his death has found.

The Argentinian football star died in November last year, sending shockwaves through the football-loving country and around the world.

Shortly after his death, prosecutors in Argentina launched an investigation, including searches of the World Cup winner’s property and probes into his personal care.

In March, a medical board set up by Argentina’s justice department convened to look at claims that the 60-year-old was not being looked after properly.

In a report dated April 30 and shared with the Reuters news agency, investigators said: “The action of the health team in charge of treating DAM (Diego Armando Maradona) was inadequate, deficient and reckless.”

It added that Maradona had become seriously ill and had been dying for around 12 hours before he passed away on 25 November.

“He presented unequivocal signs of a prolonged agonizing period, so we conclude that the patient was not properly monitored from 00:30 on 25/11/2020,” the report said.

Prosecutors on the case could not be reached on Friday.

Maradona, who captained the 1986 World Cup-winning team, was widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time.

After his death, there were three days of national mourning, with Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez saying that Maradona “made us immensely happy”.

The star, who underwent surgery for a subdural haematoma in the weeks leading up to his death, died of a heart attack, his lawyer said.

It happened at his home on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, according to Argentinian media.

A subdural haematoma is a serious condition where a blood clot develops between the skull and the surface of the brain. It is usually caused by a head injury.

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