East Rutherford, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — With Lionel Messi not on Argentina's roster, a crowd of just 35,624 turned out at MetLife Stadium to watch a 0-0 draw between La Albiceleste and Colombia on Tuesday night.
With Messi, Argentina drew three large crowds to MetLife: 78,936 for a friendly against the United States in 2011, 81,994 for an exhibition against Brazil the following year and 82,026 for the 2016 Copa America final against Chile.
Just 32,469 attended Brazil's 2-0 exhibition win last week over the United States, down from 77,223 at a 2010 U.S.-Brazil game there shortly after the venue opened. MetLife Stadium is a possible site of the 2026 World Cup final.
Madrid, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — Luis Enrique couldn't have asked for a much better start as coach of Spain's national team. Two matches, two convincing wins against top opponents in the UEFA Nations League.
Spain followed its gritty 2-1 win against England at Wembley Stadium last week with a 6-0 rout of World Cup runner-up Croatia on Tuesday, keeping Enrique perfect since taking over as La Roja's coach.
It was the biggest defeat ever for Croatia, which was playing its first competitive game since reaching the World Cup final in Russia.
The victory left Spain comfortably ahead in Group 4 of the top-tiered League A in Europe's newest soccer competition, in good position to reach the tournament's final four in June.
In the other League A match on Tuesday, Belgium won 3-0 at Iceland in its Nations League debut.
England followed the loss to Spain with a 1-0 win in a friendly against Switzerland, which had routed Iceland 6-0 in the Nations League. Marcus Rashford scored England's winner in Leicester.
The Nations League gives UEFA's 55 member countries competitive games and eliminates often meaningless friendlies.
Luka Modric's Croatia threatened early in the southeastern Spanish city of Elche, but Spain took control of the match by scoring three goals in 11 first-half minutes.
"They had chances in the beginning but after that we were clearly superior," Enrique said. "It's difficult to find anything to criticize after a match played at this level. Our attitude has been commendable."
Saul Niguez, who is becoming an undisputable starter in Enrique's team, headed in a cross by Dani Carvajal in the 24th minute, then Marco Asensio hit two remarkable long-range shots in the 33rd and 35th to give La Roja a comfortable lead before halftime. His second strike bounced off the post and the back of goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic, who was awarded an own goal.
Asensio, who was not among the starters against England, also set up Rodrigo's goal early in the second half with a perfect through ball behind the defense.
Sergio Ramos, one of the remaining members of Spain's golden generation, added the fifth goal with a header off a corner kick in the 57th minute, and Isco closed the scoring in the 70th after another set up by Asensio.
Croatia, which lost the World Cup final to France, fell apart after defender Sime Vrsaljko had to be substituted due to an injury just minutes before Spain's first goal.
"We were very good in the first 20 minutes, we had three clear chances, but after that and Vrsaljko's injury, we vanished from the pitch," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said. "We were not even a shadow of the team from before."
Croatia's biggest defeat had been a 5-1 away loss against England at Wembley in 2009.
The Croats were making their Nations League debut after playing European champion Portugal to a 1-1 draw in a friendly last week.
Enrique took over Spain after the team's elimination against Russia in the round of 16 of the World Cup. Spain was coached by Fernando Hierro in Russia after Julen Lopetegui was fired two days before the tournament.
Asensio was one of the few changes Enrique made to the team that beat England on Saturday. The former Barcelona coach also added defender Jose Luis Gaya and midfielder Dani Ceballos to the starting lineup. They replaced Marcos Alonso, Thiago Alcantara and Iago Aspas.
Just like it did against England, Spain was aggressive without the ball on Tuesday, pressing high and playing a more direct game that takes the focus away from short passes, something that has become a characteristic of Enrique's team.
Belgium earned a comfortable win over Iceland thanks to a pair of goals by Romelu Lukaku and one from Eden Hazard.
Lukaku and Hazard, whose goal came off a penalty kick, were two of Belgium's top players in its third-place campaign at the World Cup.
Belgium had defeated Scotland 4-0 in a friendly last week in Glasgow.
In the second-tiered League B, Bosnia-Herzegovina followed its opening win at Northern Ireland with a 1-0 home victory against Austria, thanks to a 78th-minute goal by Edin Dzeko.
In League C, Finland edged Estonia 1-0 at home on Teemu Pukki's early goal for its second straight win. Hungary, which lost its opener to Finland, defeated Greece 2-1 in Budapest.
In League D, Luxembourg won 3-0 at San Marino for its second consecutive victory, while Moldova played a scoreless home draw with Belarus.
The Nations League guarantees at least one of Europe's low-ranked League D teams will qualify for Euro 2020 through a playoff.
Landover, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — Neymar converted a penalty kick for the second straight game, assisted on three goals and was given a yellow card for diving as Brazil routed El Salvador 5-0 on Tuesday night in an exhibition in front of just 28,511.
The crowd was less than half the 67,619 who attended the Selecao's previous appearance at FedEx Field, against the U.S. in 2012.
Jair Marrufo, one of the American referees at this year's World Cup, gave Neymar the yellow card in the 44th after the forward attempted to dribble past defender Bryan Tamacas.
Richarlison got his first two international goals, and Phillipe Coutinho also scored for Brazil.
Neymar converted a penalty kick in the fourth minute after Richarlison was taken down. With 59 goals in 92 international appearances, he is third in Brazilian history behind Pele (77) and Ronaldo (62).
Neymar dribbled past two defenders in the 16th minute before laying off a pass to Richarlison, who one-timed a shot from the edge of a penalty area in his second international appearance.
Neymar hit the crossbar in the 22nd minute, Coutinho scored from Neymar's squaring pass in the 30th minute and Richarlison got his second goal in the 50th when he pounced on a loose ball. Neymar's corner kick in the 90th minute was headed in by Marquinhos.
Dhaka, Sept 11 (UNB) – The seven-nation 12th SAFF Suzuki Cup’2018 has been heated up with the India-Pakistan rivalry in the 2nd semifinal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium at 7pm on Wednesday.
Nepal will take on the Maldives in the first semifinal at 4:00 pm at the same venue and same day.
Indian coach Stephen Contantine watched almost all of his players in the two group matches and is set to pitch the perfect combination for the crunch match.
The cool and composed approach of Indian team may have more to present. Ashique Kuruniyan, Farukh Haji Kasam Choudhary, Manvir Singh, Nikhil Chandrashekhar, Sumeet Pasi all have returned the faith of the coach with good shows in the field.
The Brazilian coach of Pakistan Jose Antonio Nogueira has combined his players into a total unit with skipper Saddam Hossain leading the team with distinction.
His men -- upfront Muhammad Ali and Saadullah -- have roamed the opposition defence with efficiency.
As per the head-to-head record between India and Pakistan, the 7th times champion India have the upper hand. Out of the 23 battles between the two sides, India won 14, Pakistan won three and the rest six games ended in draw.
The two teams locked last time five years back in the 2013 SAFF Championship where India emerged as the victor with the solitary goal win in the match.
However, it will be hard to make any prediction for the upcoming match as it promises to be an evenly-contested one.
The other semifinal between Nepal and Maldives may prove the anticipation wrong as luck favoured the Maldives can turn the wheel around. Nepal returned to form with a 4-0 thrashing of Bhutan and a formidable 2-0 win over hosts Bangladesh.
The formidable attackers Sunil Bal, Bharat Khawas, Bimal Gharti Magar and Nawjug Shreshta carry the Nepalese flag.
The Maldives who stormed into the semifinal winning the toss eliminating Sri Lanka are yet to score a goal in two matches losing 2-0 to India and playing a goalless draw against Sri Lanka.
Himalayan country Nepal will lock horns with Islanders Maldives in the first semifinal on Wednesday at 4 pm with an inspiration of winning last two semifinals against the Maldives in four goal thrillers.
Nepal beat the Maldives by 4-3 goals in the semifinal of the last SA Games in India in 2016 and again beat them by 4-1 goals in the semifinal of the Bangabandhu Cup in Dhaka.
Interestingly, Nepal forward Nawjug Shreshta slammed hat-ticks on both the occasions. In-form Nawjug also scored in the crunch 2-0 victory over hosts Bangladesh in the last group match here on Saturday.
But record favoured the Maldives as they won seven matches, conceded defeat in four and the remaining four matches ended in draw in the last 15 meetings between the two teams.
Nepalese Coach Bal Gopal Mahrajan has rotated his players in a neat way conserving the energy and also avoiding injury.
Nepalese team have an ability to create affective movements with short and long build ups. Ananta Tamang, Sunil Bal and Bimal Gharti Magar has led the defense, midfield and offence respectively.
The Maldives recruited four forwards --Ali Fasir, Hamza Mohammad, Hasan Naiz and Ibrahim Hasan Waheed--to demonstrate their attacking intentions against Sri Lanka but still remained in the bay.
Culiacan, Sep 11 (AP/UNB) — Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona said Monday he has left his off-the-pitch issues behind as he was formally introduced as the new coach of Mexican second-tier club Dorados de Sinaloa.
Visibly jovial during a news conference at a luxury hotel in the Sinaloa state capital, Culiacan, Maradona assured Dorados fans that he didn't come to Mexico for a vacation.
"We are all judged and we think we have the word of truth, but how many people are there here who do worse things than us and don't end up in any newspaper?" Maradona said. "I came here to work, and I came to give my heart."
Maradona surprised the international soccer world last week by signing a deal to manage Dorados, which is in the lower half of Mexico's second division. The 57-year-old has publicly struggled in the past with drug and alcohol addiction, and analysts criticized his choice of club in a city considered the heart of the Sinaloa cartel, one of Mexico's most powerful drug smuggling gangs.
But Maradona said his partying days are in the past.
"Emotionally I feel that I'm in the best moment of my life. I am well with my children and only a minor problem with an ex," he said, laughing.
"I want to give Dorados what I lost when I was sick. ... I have been for about 14 years, and today I want to see the sun and I want to go to sleep at night," Maradona continued. "Before, I didn't go to sleep and I didn't even know what a pillow was. That's why I accepted the offer from Dorados."
Maradona, one of the sport's all-time greats, was suspended by FIFA after testing positive for cocaine in 1991 and also tested positive for doping during the 1994 World Cup. He was later hospitalized in 2000 and in 2004 for heart problems attributed to cocaine use.
His erratic behavior captured headlines this summer at the World Cup in Russia, where he made an obscene gesture with both middle fingers after Argentina scored a late winner to defeat Nigeria 2-1. He was also seen pulling his eyes into slants while gazing at a South Korean fan, and was captured on video in a seemingly inebriated state.
Maradona's contract with Dorados is reportedly worth $150,000 a month, which would make him the second-highest paid coach in the country, despite previous uneven results. He took the Argentine national squad to the quarterfinals at the 2010 World Cup, and later managed Al Wasl and Al-Fujairah clubs in the United Arab Emirates.
"They say I have not won titles, but I have a promotion, man," Maradona said in reference to Al-Fujairah's ascension to the top flight in UAE. "Don't put zeros when you talk about my career as coach."
Maradona resigned from Al-Fujairah in April after failing to earn automatic promotion, which comes with finishing in the top two spots; the club later won a playoff without him on the bench to ascend to the first division.
He accepted a role as honorary president for the Belarus premier team Dinamo Brest in July before promptly departing for Argentina.
"I am going to talk now to the people of Culiacan and tell them that we did not come for fun, we did not come for vacation," Maradona said. "We came to work and to lend a hand to the boys. If the people are with us, and with what I can inject emotionally for the players, it is going to be hard to beat us."
His debut with Dorados comes Sept. 17, at home against Cafetaleros de Tapachula.