Lionel Messi determined to win with Argentina: ‘This Copa America is a very special tournament for me’ – UAE kick-off times
ARGENTINA V CHILE
beIN Sports, 6am (UAE)
BARCELONA // Argentina’s Lionel Messi has unfinished business going into the Centenary Copa America that is being staged in the United States with the Barcelona star keen to help his nation capture a first major title in 23 years.
After finishing runners-up at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and at last year’s Copa America in Chile, Argentina are favourites to lift the Copa America for the second time in their history and first since 1993.
“This Copa America is a very special tournament for me and more so after losing last year’s final. That is why I want to win it for Argentina,” Messi, whose 37 goals in 45 appearances were key to Barca’s La Liga and Copa del Rey double winning campaign in 2015/16, told El Mundo Deportivo.
The Argentina captain hurt his back in an international friendly against Honduras on May 27 and is unlikely to start on Monday in his country’s opener against Chile at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
He has reassured his fans, however, that the injury is not serious.
“I feel better,” he said.
Coach Gerardo Martino was not at the helm of Argentina at the World Cup but did hold the reins last year when they lost 4-1 on penalties to Chile.
That result led La Nacion newspaper to write at the time: “It seems a nightmare without end, a curse that never ends. The national team continues without winning a title and it’s already 22 years.”
Argentina also take on Panama and Bolivia in Group D.
They will rely heavily on five-time World Player of the Year Messi, who has scored 50 goals in 107 appearances for his country and will play in his seventh major tournament with the national team.
The 28-year-old forward goes into the Copa having to put a difficult week behind him. Messi had to travel to Spain last week to testify in a Barcelona court regarding his trial for alleged tax evasion.
PANAMA V BOLIVIA
beIN Sports, 3am (UAE)
Under-pressure Bolivia coach Julio Cesar Baldivieso says he will take “full responsibility” for his team’s results at the Copa America Centenario after receiving a thinly veiled ultimatum from his federation’s president.
Bolivia, who face Panama on Monday, have lost five of their six South American World Cup qualifying games so far and crashed to a 4-0 defeat to the United States in their warm-up game for the Copa America.
In the wake of that loss, Federation president Rolando Lopez had said that he would evaluate the national team situation after the Copa America - comments that were interpreted as an ultimatum
But on Sunday, Lopez was quoted by Bolivian media saying that he had met with the coach to clear up the issue.
“I met with Julio, he did not need an explanation. What I said was categorical that I will evaluate the overall performance of the team in the Copa America; that does not mean in any way that we are going to dismiss or remove” the coach.
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“It is natural that a balance is taken at the end of the tournament. I affirm that I’m not mulling possibilities or anything like that,” he added.
Having been drawn in a tough Group D with Argentina, Chile and Panama, the chances of progress in the Centenerio tournament look slim but Baldivieso said he was ready to take anything that came his way.
“If the president says I have to leave, I have to leave. I am not here to take advantage or extort the country like some coaches, which is a difference. If it is not me, then maybe the next coach will qualify Bolivia for the World Cup,” he said.
“We are looking forward to this opening game and this tournament. We know it is going to be tricky. We haven’t really had enough time to prepare for this tournament but if there are negative results, I will be completely responsible,” he said.
Bolivia’s preparations for the game in Kansas City with the USA were disrupted by flight delays after the solitary training session in Miami was abandoned after a power failure at the venue.
Baldivieso, 44, was a member of the Bolivian team at the 1994 World Cup, the last time they appeared on the global stage. He was appointed national team coach in August of last year.
“We know we are Bolivia – not Argentina, Germany or Brazil – we have had so many changes of coaches of the years,” he said.
“There are no excuses but this is a very short period of time to find that improvement.”
On Sunday, tournament organisers confirmed that injured striker Gilbert Alvarez will be replaced by 18-year-old forward Bruno Miranda in the squad.
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Updated: June 6, 2016 04:00 AM