Mexico, Panama in Gold Cup semis

Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa (13) stops a shot on goal by Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell (12) during the extra time period of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match. —AP

Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa (13) stops a shot on goal by Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell (12) during the extra time period of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match. —AP

EAST RUTHERFORD: Mexico and Panama advanced to a Gold Cup semi-final showdown with triumphs Sunday, one thanks to a dramatic save and the other on a penalty kick after a controversial call. Mexican captain Andres Guardado scored the lone goal from the spot in the 124th minute to lift Mexico over Costa Rica 1-0 while Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo denied Lester Peltier in the ninth round of penalty kicks as the Canaleros advanced 6-5 over Trinidad and Tobago after a 1-1 draw. “I feel real joy because today was a real blessing to be able to advance to the next round,” Penedo said.

After losing 2-1 to Panama in last year’s semifinals, six-time champion Mexico will seek revenge and an eighth trip to the finals of the biennial North American regional football championship when they meet again on Wednesday in Atlanta. That winner earns a berth in next Sunday’s final at Philadelphia against the winner of Wednesday’s other semi-final between Jamaica and holders United States. After more than two hours of goal-less football, Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez whistled a hotly contested foul on Costa Rica’s Roy Miller following Mexican striker Oribe Peralta hurling himself onto the ground trying to reach a crossing pass. “I’m happy with the effort of the players,” Mexican coach Miguel Herrera said. “We were superior. We made an important step.” The phantom foul brought Guardado to the spot and he blasted the ball into the left side of the net for the victory, delivering the only loss of the event for Costa Rica, which reached the World Cup quarter-finals last year in Brazil. Costa Rica coach Paulo Wanchope said he did not feel as if his job was in jeopardy after the defeat. “I do not feel out of the team by being eliminated,” he said. “My players should be proud of how they played. Some of them were exhausted.” Panama and Trinidad and Tobago were even at 1-1 through extra time, Luis Tejada giving Panama the lead in the 37th minute but Trinidad and Tobago equalizing on a Kenwyne Jones header in the 54th minute. And while Panama advanced, it took a save-or-lose situation in the seventh round of penalty kicks for them to escape. Each team missed two of its first three penalties. Armando Cooper and Harold Cummings each scored for Panama to open rounds but Kenwyne Jones and Radanfah Abu Bakr answered to keep Trinidad and Tobago going.

Marvin Phillip saved the seventh-round shot of Alberto Quintero to put the Canaleros on the edge of elimination but Trinidad and Tobago’s Daneil Cyrus booted his next shot over the crossbar to extend the drama. “The key moment was when (Cyrus) took his kick and if they made it they win,” Penedo said. “The referee told me that and I thought ‘Ugh,’ but then he missed and we went on to win and now we can all smile.” Penedo, the 33-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy netminder who was voted 2005 and 2013 Gold Cup Goalkeeper of the Tournament, made two saves in the penalties session, the decisive one set up by teammate Valentin Pimentel’s goal to start the ninth round. Penedo then went back inside the woodwork and dove to his left on Peltier’s shot.

Penedo lifted his right hand and deflected the ball off the crossbar and out, dooming the Soca Warriors’ dreams of matching their Cup-best run by reaching the 2000 last four. “Every moment has its sensation and own emotion,” Penedo said. “Each one is divine in the moment.” Panama advanced to a third consecutive semifinal, having lost to the United States in 2011 before beating Mexico in 2013, only to fall to the Americans in the final. Sunday marked the fourth match in a row in which Panama took the lead only to surrender the equalizer in the second half, having advanced from the group stage on three 1-1 draws. —AFP

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Mighty Mexico rout depleted Cuba – Trinidad beat Guatemala in Gold Cup

Mexico v Cuba: Group C - 2015 CONCACAF Gold CupCHICAGO: Mexico’s Gold Cup quest got off to an emphatic start with a crushing 6-0 demolition of short-handed Cuba in their opening game on Thursday at Soldier Field. Cuba came into the contest in disarray after learning that forward Keiler Garcia was missing from the lineup, apparently after having defected, news reports said. The US media also reported that six players and head coach Raul Gonzalez were unable to make it to Chicago in time for the match because of visa problems. That left Cuba with just 16 players to face powerhouse Mexico, who have won the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament six times.

In the other Group C game Thursday, Trinidad & Tobago also got off to a flying start with a 3-1 victory over Guatemala in Chicago. Oribe Peralta scored a hat trick while Giovani dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Carlos Vela scored a goal each in the rout for El Tri, who finished with 18 shots on goal to Cuba’s one. Peralta opened the scoring with a right footed shot from the center of the box in the 17th minute after seizing control of a headed pass from teammate Guardado. Vela capitalized on poor clearing attempt by the Cuban defense five minutes later to make it 2-0 before Peralta potted his second of the game with a blast to the bottom left corner in the 37th minute.

Guardado snuck past the defense to head another in and make it 4-0 before the half and then Peralta completed the hat trick by outjumping goalkeeper Disovelis Guerra and a defender to head it home halfway through the second half. The game was a rematch of the 2011 Gold Cup group stage game which Mexico won 5-0. Mexico has met the US in three of the last five finals but the El Tri have been experiencing a rough patch of late as they have been hit by some key injuries and came into this tournament riding a seven-match losing streak.

But their problems are paltry compared to turmoil that surrounds Cuba who always seem to come into the Gold Cup under a dark cloud. Garcia is believed to have deserted Wednesday and did not show up for a team breakfast Thursday morning. Assistant coach Walter Benitez took control of the team for Thursday’s game but officials are hopeful that Gonzalez and the six players will be able to join the team in time for Sunday’s game against Trinidad & Tobago. Trinidad & Tobago stunned Guatemala with three goals in the opening 25 minutes then held on for the easy win in the early game. Sheldon Bateau, Cordell Cato and Joevin Jones scored for the Caribbean side. Striker Carlos Ruiz netted the lone goal for Guatemala in the second half. — AFP

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US defeat Honduras – CONCACAF Gold Cup

footballFRISCO: Clint Dempsey didn’t view a wild sellout crowd as a pro-Texas bunch celebrating two goals by what amounts to a hometown kid. The East Texas native thinks American soccer supporters are a lot more fervent than that now. Dempsey scored twice on headers not far from where he trained as a youth, and the United States opened defense of its CONCACAF Gold Cup title with a 2-1 victory over Honduras on Tuesday night. “I think the crowd was behind the whole team,” said the 32-year-old, who is up to 43 international goals, 14 behind Landon Donovan’s American record. “I remember when I first started with the national team and they’d be more fans for the other team sometimes. So to be able nowadays to play in front of pro-American crowds, I think the team definitely feeds off that energy.” Dempsey’s goals in the 25th and 64th minutes were created from crosses from Michael Bradley, wearing the captain’s arm band in his 100th international appearance. The goals oosted the Americans to 13-0 in Gold Cup openers.

Carlos Discua scored his first international goal in the 69th minute for Honduras, a semifinalist in the last three Gold Cups, and the Catrachos came close to tying the score. “It wasn’t our best performance, but we’re happy to get three points from our first game,” Dempsey said. It was the first competitive match for the U.S. since losing to Belgium in overtime in the second round of last year’s World Cup.

The Americans, 29-1-2 in Gold Cup group play, meet Haiti on Friday and Panama on Monday. Haiti tied Panama 1-1 in the doubleheader opener. US goalkeeper Brad Guzan had a couple of tough saves in the first few minutes on a muggy night before 22,357 at the home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas. “They came out and put us under a bit of pressure and we had to find a way to weather that storm, which we did,” Guzan said. “I don’t think we were at our best. I think we turned the ball over quite easily too many times and maybe put ourselves under some undo pressure.” The first US goal developed when DeAndre Yedlin played a short corner kick to Bradley, who crossed on a bounce to the far post. Henry Figueroa’s clearance attempt back to Bradley’s side was picked up at the side of the 6-yard box by Jozy Altidore, who took a touch and shot. Goalkeeper Donis Escobar kicked the ball out with his right foot and it popped up to Dempsey, who nodded it in from 6 yards. Bradley’s free kick from the flank led to the second goal.

Escobar stayed on his line and an unmarked Dempsey jumped 4 yards out and headed inside the far post. After a sluggish start, the US controlled the pace in the second half until Discua took a nifty pass from Wilmer Crisanto and touched the ball past a standing Ventura Alvarado before beating Guzan over the keeper’s left shoulder. Alvarado, who also had been eligible to play for Mexico, played his first competitive match for the US and became tied to the American national team. Honduras had a couple of good opportunities in the final 20 minutes, including when Guzan knocked a ball toward Eddie Hernandez, who had an open net but couldn’t control the ball before it went out. “I feel like we played a good match,” said Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto, who led Costa Rica to the quarterfinals at the World Cup in Brazil. “But in football, sometimes the small details are what determine the matches.

That’s what happened to us.” Bradley, a son of former US coach Bob Bradley, became the 16th American male to make 100 international appearances. At 27 years, 341 days, he is the fourth-youngest American after Donovan (26-96), Cobi Jones (27- 239) and Marcelo Balboa (27-320). “Great atmosphere and a very special moment for Michael Bradley,” US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.

Bradley replaced Dempsey, who lost the captaincy going into the Gold Cup after getting suspended by MLS and the US Soccer Federation for a confrontation with a referee in a US Open Cup match for Seattle. Those questions persist for Klinsmann, who considers them more irrelevant each day. “As a striker, what do you want to do the most is scoring,” said Klinsmann, tied for fourth on Germany’s career scoring list. “That’s what feeds a striker, feeling-wise, is goals.” If the US wins the Gold Cup, it would qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. If another nation wins, it would meet the Americans in a playoff for the Confederations Cup berth. — AP

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Barca keep big money stars on the sidelines

BARCELONA: Barcelona will keep more than 60 million euros ($65 million) of talent on the sidelines for six months having signed Turkish international Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal knowing that they cannot play until next year. More big money deals could follow.

A FIFA ban on making official signings until January 2016 has not stopped the Spanish giants from plunging into the market ahead of a messy year of internal tensions and high profile trials for Barcelona and some of its stars. Barcelona on Monday announced they had beaten Chelsea to secure 28-year-old midfielder Turan from Atletico Madrid on a five-year deal for a fee that could reach 41 million euros.

That follows the 18-million-euro signing of right-back Vidal from Sevilla last month. Others are expected to follow with media reports indicating Barcelona are trying to line up a deal for Juventus’ midfielder Paul Pogba which would see him arrive at the end of next season. Barcelona were banned from making new signings in 2015 after FIFA found them guilty of breaching rules on the transfers of players aged under 18.

Turan, captain of Turkey’s national team and a prolific goalscorer with Atletico, has not yet indicated what he thinks about sitting out half a season. Vidal says it is a sacrifice worth making to join Europe’s most successful team of the past decade. “When I was told that it would really happen, I didn’t think it was a hassle to come and spend a few months without playing,” he said just after the transfer was announced. Turan and Vidal have arrived at a complicated time for Barcelona as the team prepares for the election of a new president on July 18.

Transfer policy has been at the centre of the debate between incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu and challenger Joan Laporta. Because of the election, the Barcelona managing committee could not approve the Turan transfer and a clause in the deal was included saying that he could be sold back at a 10-percent discount if the new president so decides. Laporta called the Turan deal “improper” and said Bartomeu should have completed the transfer before resigning to stand in the campaign. “The urgency of this operation is out of order.

The only explanation is that it favors Bartomeu’s candidacy. “There was already a lack of transparency in Neymar’s signing and I think that it is insane that the management committee is playing this game,” he said. Barcelona and their top manager are to stand trial over the transfer of Neymar. Spanish prosecutors allege that secret commissions were paid as part of the deal. The club bought the Brazilian captain in 2013 for what they said was 57 million euros ($41 million). A Madrid judge says the fee was closer to 83 million euros. Fellow striker Lionel Messi could also stand trial on tax fraud charges. Investigators allege his father Jorge organised a complex network of companies that kept 4.1 million ($5.5 million) from tax authorities between 2007 and 2009. — AFP

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Messi devastated by new final defeat

messiBUENOS AIRES: Lionel Messi has told of the pain of losing the Copa America final after the football superstar faced criticism in his native Argentina. Messi finally posted a statement on his facebook account late Monday having hidden his devastation at losing another major final since the 4-1 penalty shootout defeat by Chile on Saturday. “There’s nothing more painful in football than losing a final,” Messi said. “But I don’t want to leave it any longer to say thank you to everyone who has always supported us and continued to during the tough moments.”

Messi, 28, has now lost one World Cup and two Copa America finals and still has to win a major international event despite his success with Barcelona. Argentina, beaten 1-0 by Germany in last year’s World Cup final, have now not won a major title for 22 years. Messi left the pitch ashen faced after the latest defeat and unconfirmed Spanish media reports said he turned down the player of the tournament trophy. The trophy was withdrawn before the presentation ceremony in Santiago. Messi and the other Argentine stars were criticised by the country’s media for their performance.

Members of his family were also abused by Chilean fans at the match, according to Argentinian media. Some observers have warned that Messi could walk away from the national side. “One day this boy is going to get tired and will not want to come to play for the team,” former Argentine international Matias Almeyda, now coach of the Banfield club, told Fox Sports television. “He’s the best player in the world and he is not treated in the way he deserves,” Almeyda added. Messi had a brilliant season with the all-conquering Barcelona but Almeyda said “it is very difficult (for Argentine players) to repeat for the national team what they do for their clubs.” — AFP

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Carli Lloyd seen as marketing darling

United States’ Carli Lloyd celebrates

United States’ Carli Lloyd celebrates

WASHINGTON: Carli Lloyd has the personality and grit to become the next advertising sensation but the World Cup star should start aggressively hitting the market because of the limited interest in women’s soccer in the United States, analysts said on Monday.

Lloyd had three goals in the first 16 minutes to lead the Americans to a 5-2 victory over Japan in the finals of the Women’s World Cup on Sunday in Vancouver, British Columbia. “She has what all corporate America is searching for – humility, intelligence, a sense of drama and aggression to her game,” said Rick Horrow, chief executive of Horrow Sports Ventures. “And let’s not forget a record-setting hat trick in a dominant U.S. performance as well.” Lloyd, 32, is a two-time Olympic gold medal-winning midfielder who plays for the Houston Dash of the fledgling National Women’s Soccer League.

The New Jersey native scored six goals in seven World Cup games. “She’s certainly more marketable than she was even 48 hours ago,” said David Carter, executive director of the USC (University of Southern California) Sports Business Institute. “But the World Cup is one of the periodic events and it’s going to be up to her representatives to figure out how to maintain that after America gets back to baseball and starts to prepare for training camps of the National Football League.” While the NWSL is struggling to find its niche in the sporting landscape, the Women’s World Cup was a rating bonanza.

An estimated 20.3 million people watched the finals on Fox television in the United States, according to preliminary data from Nielsen, a record high for a soccer match in America. Last year’s US match against Portugal in the men’s World Cup drew 18.2 million viewers on ESPN and ESPN2. AJ Maestas, president of a sports marketing research firm, Navigate, said Lloyd was “extremely” valuable because there were not that many marketable female athletes. “There are only a handful of Olympians that you see once every four years,” he said.

“There’s far less competition in being a broadly visible female athlete.” Horrow said Lloyd’s representatives should have been on the phone with Madison Avenue advertising agencies “at halftime” on Sunday because soccer interest in the United States wanes after the World Cup. But he added the advertising industry was looking for a women’s soccer star to highlight following the storied career of Abby Wambach, “and we absolutely, unequivocally found it.” — Reuters

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Japan set up US rematch – England ‘heartbroken’ after World Cup defeat

japanEDMONTON: Holders Japan swiped a dramatic 2-1 victory over England thanks to an injury-time own-goal by defender Laura Bassett on Wednesday, setting up a Women’s World Cup final rematch against the United States. The Asian champions, who defeated the Americans on penalty kicks in the 2011 championship match, take on the two-time winners on Sunday in Vancouver after the US women beat Germany 2-0 in a Tuesday semi-final at Montreal.

England and Japan looked to be heading for extra time deadlocked after captain Aya Miyama scored a penalty on 33 minutes only for Fara Williams to level for England five minutes before the break, also from a penalty kick. But two minutes into injury time, Bassett sent the ball into her own net to end England’s dream run to their first World Cup semi-final.

Bassett, 31, was in tears after the final whistle and had to be consoled by England coach Mark Sampson as she walked off the field, the Lionesses stunned, shocked and crying at the heartbreaking final turn. “It’s OK to cry. They left everything on the field,” Sampson said. Sampson was especially proud of Bassett, whose heroics helped England to the brink of the championship match. “Laura Bassett has epitomized this England team this tournament,” he said. “She has been courageous, strong… she kept this team together. She didn’t deserve that. She’ll be remembered as a hero.” But Japan coach Norio Sasaki saw the goal more as one created by the good work of his players rather than an English error. “Own goal, it was not really an own goal because we created the situation because we had a really strong counter attack and (Yuki) Ogimi was there and that’s why she (Bassett) was forced to do what she did,” he said. “Nahomi Kawasumi and Yuki Ogimi were the ones who created this goal. In the end we were the ones who were able to obtain such a dramatic goal.”

Lionesses roaring
As with the first semi-final which was marked by a penalty missed by Germany and one scored by the Americans, Wednesday’s game was also one of penalties early before the late drama before 31,467 spectators in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. England were the only team to defeat Japan at Germany 2011, winning 2-0 in the group stage during the Nadeshiko’s charge to their maiden world crown.

And the Lionesses had come out roaring with Jodie Taylor having the first shot at goal after just one minute when she fired from 25 yards but sent just wide of Ayumi Kaihori in the Japanese goal. Japan dominated possession for the first half hour and finally got the breakthrough on a penalty, awarded when Claire Rafferty brought down Saori Ariyoshi, who was charging towards goal, in a tackle which started outside the box. Miyama stepped up and, taking her time with a stuttering run, slotted the penalty in as Karen Bardsley dived the wrong way in the England goal. But eight minutes later, England were back level after captain Steph Houghton fell easily in the box following little contact by Japan forward Ogimi.

Williams rifled the penalty into goal past Kaihori to equalize for the sixthranked English. Toni Duggan rattled the crossbar just after the hour mark, and seconds later a diving Kaihori did well to punch clear substitute Ellen White’s curling goalward shot, with Jill Scott also threatening on 66 minutes. Sasakai brought on Mana Iwabuchi 20 minutes from time and the electric Bayern Munich forward proved a real danger. She whipped in a cross after 77 minuets but Mizuho Sakaguchi’s header went wide.

‘What a tough one’
With the clock ticking down, Japan made one final break down the right flank and Bassett’s stretch to cut out a cross only served to turn the ball into her own goal off the underside of the bar. “What a tough one, what a tough one to take,” said Sampson. “Every single member of our group was devastated when that ball went over the line but our first point of call is look after you own. “Laura is one of us, she’s one of our team, we get around her, we console her, we let her cry and we tell her how proud we are of her because without her we wouldn’t be in this semi-final.” Sunday’s championship match will be a third clash for a major title between Japan and the United States. In the 2011 final in Frankfurt, Japan won on penalities but the Americans went on to take Olympic gold in 2012 by beating Japan in the final. England now prepare to meet former two-time winners Germany in Saturday’s third-place playoff match in Edmonton.— AFP

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Chile roar into last eight; 5-0 thrashing of Bolivia

Chile’s Eduardo Vargas (second from left) falls after an attempt to score as Bolivia’s goalkeeper Romel Quinonez grabs the ball during a Copa America Group A soccer match. —AP

Chile’s Eduardo Vargas (second from left) falls after an attempt to score as Bolivia’s goalkeeper Romel Quinonez grabs the ball during a Copa America Group A soccer match. —AP

SANTIAGO: Hosts Chile shrugged off Arturo Vidal’s drunken-driving controversy to power into the quarter-finals of the Copa America on Friday with a 5-0 thrashing of Bolivia. Two goals for Charles Aranguiz, one each for Alexis Sanchez and Gary Medel and an own goal from Ronald Raldes put Chile’s campaign back on track after Vidal’s arrest following a high-speed crash threatened to derail their tournament.

The win ensured Chile finished top of Group A and gives them a last eight meeting next Wednesday against one of the two best thirdplaced teams, most likely either Uruguay or Paraguay. Bolivia, who had been guaranteed a place in the knockout rounds for the first time in 18 years after Ecuador defeated Mexico in Friday’s early game, were never in contention against La Roja.

The Chileans swept into an early lead after only three minutes with a well-worked goal from Aranguiz. Inter Milan defender Medel pumped a long ball forward, and Eduardo Vargas knocked down into the path of Aranguiz, who drilled a low shot beyond Bolivia goalkeeper Romel Quinonez. Buoyed by the early goal, Chile went for the kill and threatened to run riot over a Bolivian side who seemed to freeze. Sanchez twice saw free-kicks rattle against the woodwork as Chile pummeled Bolivia’s goal but somehow they managed to survive the onslaught. Yet on 37 minutes their resistance finally broke after a superb move started and finished by Sanchez.

Picking up the ball wide on the left, Sanchez cut in and burst clear of the Bolivian cover before releasing Jorge Valdivia down the right. The Palmeiras playmaker returned the favour to pick out Sanchez as the midfielder continued his run into the penalty area, stooping low to direct an angled header into the far corner past Quinonez. Chile’s attacking momentum was interrupted after half-time, when coach Jorge Sampaoli withdrew both Vidal and Sanchez in a double substitution, but the hosts remained firmly in control. Aranguiz put the game beyond Bolivia’s reach in the 66th minute, grabbing his second after latching on to a low cross from Angelo Henriquez.

Medel made it 4-0 10 minutes from time, playing a one-two with Valdivia, controlling on his chest and then lifting a chip over Quinonez for a superb individual effort. A miserable night for Bolivia was compounded when captain Raldes inadvertently chipped Quinonez for an own goal to make it 5-0 after Henriquez’s cross.

Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli is more concerned about beating the team’s quarter-final opponent than extra spot-kick training at the Copa America but the prospect of a penalty shoot-out is likely to be on the minds of some of his players. The hosts brushed aside Bolivia 5-0 on Friday to finish top of Group A and ensure they remain in the capital Santiago for their quarter-final, with their opponent yet to be determined. Penalty shootouts come into play in the knockout rounds and it was almost a year to the day that Chile’s run at the World Cup was ended by hosts Brazil in a shoot-out after they were tied 1-1 after extra time.

Making a penalty shot “in such an important tournament depends on a lot of other factors such as your mood and state of mind,” Sampaoli told a news conference following Chile’s win over Bolivia. “We’re gong to think a lot more about beating our next rival than starting to practise making penalty shots.” On the win over neighboring Bolivia, Sampaoli said his team had “control (of the) situations and dominated and were convincing, which is what we were missing in the Mexico game.” Chile drew 3-3 with Mexico on Monday.

Despite their defeat, Bolivia finished second in the group and also progress to the last eight. Bolivia coach Mauricio Soria said he had rested players for the Chile match, knowing they had already qualified for the quarters. “We wanted to preserve some players,” he said. “We know we are capable of something very different.” Chile and Boliva will both have to wait until results over the weekend to find out their next opponents. —Reuters

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Peru sink 10-man Venezuela

Claudio Pizarro, Tomas Rincon, Roberto RosalesCHILE: A second-half goal by Bayern Munich star Claudio Pizarro fired Peru to a 1-0 victory over 10-man Venezuela on Thursday as “The Incas” bounced back from their agonizing opening defeat to Brazil. Pizarro shot high into the roof of the net on 72 minutes after midfielder Christian Cueva burst into the box to set up the Bundesliga-based striker and settle a hardfought contest.

Venezuela, who shocked Colombia 1-0 in their opening game, were always struggling to keep the Peruvians in check following the first-half dismissal of Fernando Amorebieta for a wild stamp on Paolo Guerrero.

Victory was sweet for Peru, who conceded a goal in injury time in their cruel 2-1 defeat to Brazil on Sunday to lose their opening game in Group C.

Thursday’s victory leaves the race for quarter-final places from the group wide open, with all four teams locked on three points heading into the final round of first phase fixtures. Peru face Colombia in their final group game on Sunday while Brazil, downed by the Colombians in their second game, play Venezuela.

The flashpoint of a fractious first half came in the 30th minute when Amorebieta received his marching orders after the red mist descended in a clash with Guerrero. Amorebieta, who finished last season on loan at English side Middlesbrough as they clinched promotion to the Premier League, stamped on Guerrero’s thigh after a tangle between the two players on the left flank.

Mexican referee Roberto Orozco did not hesitate to produce the red card, while Guerrero was left nursing angry red marks imprinted on his thigh. Until that moment Venezuela had looked the likelier to score. Their best chance came after only seven minutes when Alejandro Guerra curled in a fine cross from the right met by Salomon Rondon, whose first-time volley from close-range was stopped by Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

Meanwhile, Brazilian star Neymar has been provisionally suspended for one match and could face a harsher final punishment, officials said Thursday after the striker received a red card during a fracas in Brazil’s Copa America loss to Colombia.

South American federation CONMEBOL’s disciplinary committee “provisionally suspended Neymar for one game after his behavior in the aftermath of Brazil’s 1-0 defeat to Colombia, and will meet on Friday to decide the final punishment,” said a statement on the Copa America website.

Colombia upset the five-time world champions in a combative game Wednesday that ended in a tumultuous melee, as Neymar appeared to aim a headbutt at Colombian goalscorer Jeison Murillo.

Colombian striker Carlos Bacca also received a red card for pushing Neymar from behind. Neymar had previously received a second yellow card for a handball, meaning at least a one-game suspension was inevitable. The Barcelona star had received a first yellow card during Brazil’s opening win against Peru.

The Copa America website initially reported a two-game suspension, but later clarified that the 23-year-old striker was suspended for one game in a preliminary decision, to be reviewed when the disciplinary committee meets Friday.

A two-match suspension would rule him out of Brazil’s final group game against Venezuela Sunday and any quarter-final clash. There was already bad blood between Neymar and the Colombian team heading into the match. He suffered a fractured vertebra when Colombia’s Juan Camilo Zuniga collided with him in their World Cup quarter-final clash last July, an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the tournament. Wednesday’s match left Group C of the South American championship up for grabs, with three teams tied at three points each: Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.-AFP

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Is it worth making enemies of Russia, Qatar over football?

Swiss attorney General Michael Lauber

Swiss attorney General Michael Lauber

PARIS: The opportunity to score points by bashing FIFA, Russia and Qatar was too good for the parliamentarians to pass up. One by one, they lined up to take shots. It was the political equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel: easy. “FIFA is a sick organization,” said one. “A many headed monster,” “the rotting core of the once beautiful game,” said two others.

And although representing countries flung far and wide – Estonia, France, Ireland, Germany, Austria, et cetera – many of the speakers found common cause in the idea of stripping the World Cup from Russia and Qatar, especially if the 2018 and 2022 hosts are found to have bribed FIFA voters. But this talk-fest in the European Parliament last week lacked a vital ingredient: another side to the story.

None of the more than 40 MEPs who spoke talked about the consequences, about how Russia and Qatar could lash out against such a humiliating body blow, if it ever comes to that. Might they retaliate by switching off gas and oil they supply to the world? Throw spanners into the works of international diplomacy? Withhold trade and investment? Here are possible repercussions to consider:

PRICKLY PUTIN Stripping Russia would confirm President Vladimir Putin’s impression, which many Russians share, that “the West is out to get him,” says Tony Brenton, a former British ambassador to Moscow. “They will blame the west, they will view it as an American plot, essentially,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. A wounded Russia could become even pricklier to negotiate with on big issues, none football-related, including but not limited to: restoring peace to Ukraine and Syria, preventing Iran from building a nuclear bomb and preserving fragile ecosystems. “Russia would probably take this more seriously than any imaginable event on the global landscape,” says Jeremy Kinsman, a Canadian former ambassador to Moscow, also speaking in an AP phone interview. “It would completely alienate Russians, who are already totally alienated.”

GULF BRIDGED Qatar and its Persian Gulf neighbors don’t always see eye-to-eye. But they’d likely unite if the 2022 tournament is moved, opening a rupture between the west and its suppliers of energy. “Ultimately this would be seen as an attack on the entire Gulf,” says Michael Stephens at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think-tank. “They all hate each other behind closed doors: They squabble, they bitch, they fight. But if you come against one, you come against the collective.” “The relationship would be affected for the best part of a decade,” he said. “It would take a lot of reengagement to fix. It would be very, very damaging.”

ARAB ANGER Depriving the Middle East of its first World Cup “will be seen by hundreds of millions of Arabs and more than a billion Muslims and other west Asians as proof of the west’s bad faith,” says Qatar’s former ambassador to Washington, Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. But Muslim extremists will be delighted, citing this as evidence that the west doesn’t respect Muslims or treat Muslim partners as equals. “They will be so happy if this happens,” al-Khalifa told the AP. They’ll say, “‘You see what they have done to you?’” In Russia, hardline nationalists who want “a much more closed economy, to have less to do with the west, to build up (Russian) armed forces” would be strengthened, said Brenton, the former British ambassador. “Every effort would be made to exploit any such decision …,” agrees James F Collins, a former US ambassador, “to strengthen the case that, ‘You see, we’ve told you we’re under siege, that people are out to destroy us.’”

BUT MONEY TALKS Ultimately, trade and investment would keep Russia, Qatar and the west glued together. Russia might threaten to reduce energy exports, but is too dependent on that revenue to actually turn off taps, at least for long. Same goes for Qatar. Because it knows its massive gas and oil reserves won’t last forever, Qatar is squirreling away vast wealth in nest-eggs overseas. Al-Khalifa, the former ambassador, gave short shrift to the suggestion that Qatari investment funds could hit back by withdrawing some of their billions from Europe and elsewhere. He also brushed off any possibility of Qatar booting out US military forces stationed in the emirate. “Investment does not have emotions, political connotations. You invest because you want to make a return,” he said. “We have to isolate the issue of 2022, and the issue of taking it away or not, from other issues. We should not mix them. We are very clear about this.”

BOTTOM LINE Qatar and Russia deny having corrupted FIFA voters. US and Swiss investigators are digging to see if that’s true. If wrongdoing is proved, taking away World Cups would be the nuclear option. Those calling for that button to be pressed should give the toxic fallout some thought.— AP

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