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Messi wins Laureus individual prize again, Gu Ailing crowned Action Sportsperson

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PARIS, May 8 (Xinhua) — Argentine and Paris Saint-Germain footballer Lionel Messi added two prestigious awards to his already illustrious list of achievements, winning the Laureus World Sportsman and the World Team of the Year at the grand ceremony on Monday.

The 35-year-old veteran, who led Argentina to World Cup victory last year in Qatar, became the first-ever athlete to sweep both awards in the same year.

Chinese freeskier Gu Ailing, a two-time gold medal winner at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games last year, captured the Action Sportsperson of the Year award.

The World Cup-winning captain Messi, who shared the men’s prize with Lewis Hamilton in 2020, defeated other nominees including 21-time tennis Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, current Formula One world champion Max Verstappen, world record holder in pole vault Mondo Duplantis, basketball player Stephen Curry, and French football international Kylian Mbappe to secure the award for a second time.

“It’s an honour, especially since the Laureus World Sports Awards are taking place this year in Paris, the city that welcomed me and my family,” Messi said. “I would like to thank all my teammates, not only those of the national team but also those of PSG. I have not accomplished anything alone and I am grateful to be able to share all this with them.”

Messi scored seven goals, including two in the final, and won the Golden Ball in Qatar last December when he led the South American team to their third World Cup title. The Argentine men’s football team was given a team award at Laureus.

“And I’m even happier to see that the team I was part of at the World Cup was also honoured by the Laureus Academy tonight,” Messi added. “For us, the World Cup was an unforgettable adventure; I cannot describe what it felt like to return to Argentina and see what our victory had brought to our people.”

Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who clinched a fifth world 100m title at Eugene last August, picked up the women’s individual award, while tennis US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz was named the best breakthrough of the year.

Gu, the first athlete to win three medals in freestyle skiing at a single Olympic Games, was awarded the Action Sportsperson, a prize given to the best athlete in extreme sports of the year.

“It’s a huge honor to me,” said the 19-year-old, who worked on her homework for eight hours on her flight to Paris since she is also pursuing academics at Stanford University.

“I don’t want to simply be celebrating this beautiful trophy here today, but also to be speaking to the value that sports have brought to my life and to help contribute that love and passion, confidence and resilience, everything that sports have taught me to more people,” Gu told Xinhua.

Manchester United and Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen won Comeback of the Year following his return to football after collapsing on the pitch due to cardiac arrest during Euro 2020.

At the start of 2022, the tough fighter was without a club, and his future in the game was uncertain. But he managed to end the year playing every minute of Denmark’s World Cup campaign and earning a regular place in the Man United squad.

The Laureus Award was founded in 2000 to celebrate sporting excellence during the past year. This year’s ceremony was held in person after the previous two editions were conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Chile, Peru rue missed chances in Copa America stalemate

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WASHINGTON, June 21 (Xinhua) — Chile manager Ricardo Gareca said his team remains hopeful of reaching the Copa America knockout stage after a goalless draw with Peru in their tournament opener on Friday.

Chile controlled 65 percent of possession but had only one shot on target against a Peru side that forced four saves from Roja goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

“It was an evenly fought contest,” Gareca, who served as Peru’s manager from 2015 to 2022 before taking charge of Chile in January, told reporters after the duel.

“Beyond the fact that we wanted to win the game, the most important thing of all is to stay in contention. We are now where we started, with possibilities [of advancing].”

Gareca insisted he had felt no added pressure against his former team and said the result allowed Chile to “improve, see and analyze” for the rest of the tournament.

His Peru counterpart, Jorge Fossati, expressed satisfaction at the Blanquirroja’s performance.

“We had a great attitude and started well,” Fossati said. “But we became anxious and lacked confidence at key moments.”

Source(s): Xinhua

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Argentina outlast spirited Canada in Copa America opener

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ATLANTA, June 20 (Xinhua) — Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez scored second-half goals as defending champions Argentina began their Copa America defense with 2-0 victory over Canada here on Thursday.

Alvarez sent an angled finish into the far corner before Martinez put the result beyond doubt by slotting home after Lionel Messi’s pass.

The final scoreline barely did justice to a spirited Canada outfit, who troubled the reigning World Cup winners for long periods of the first half and early in the second.

“It was a tough game against a team that is physically very strong,” Albiceleste captain Messi said after the match at Mercedes-Benz stadium.

“They gave us very little space, particularly in the first half. But we moved the ball more quickly after halftime and knew that if we were patient and took control of the game we would get over the line.”

Canada unsettled Argentina early with a high defensive line that often made it difficult for Messi and company to advance beyond the halfway line.

Les Rouges also looked dangerous in attack and Jonathan David should have done better as he scuffed a shot wide after Alphonso Davies’ overlapping run and cross.

Argentina almost broke the deadlock through Alexis Mac Allister but the Liverpool midfielder could only manage a tame header straight at goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau following Rodrigo de Paul’s lofted pass.

Canada’s best chance of the first half came when Cyle Larin delivered a sumptuous cross into the path of Stephen Eustaquio, whose header was kept out by Emiliano Martinez. The rebound fell to Davies, who had time and space but only succeeded in blasting his first-time effort over the bar.

Argentina emerged from the interval with renewed verve and they took the lead in the 49th minute in a move that started with Messi.

The Inter Miami forward’s perfectly weighted through ball found Mac Allister, whose deft touch in traffic released Alvarez. The Manchester City forward showed his scoring instinct by pouncing and lashing a first-time effort into the far corner.

Canada continued to press and Davies had a chance to equalize minutes later with a header that sailed over.

By now Argentina were also attacking with intent but were wasteful in the final third as Messi and Martinez both missed chances when they had only the goalkeeper to beat.

Martinez, who was a 76th minute substitute for Alvarez, made amends two minutes from time by running onto Messi’s pass and threading a shot between the legs of Crepeau.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Denmark draws with England, Spain edges Italy in Euro 2024

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BERLIN, June 20 (Xinhua) — Harry Kane’s goal wasn’t enough for the Three Lions as Morten Hjulmand’s hammer secured Denmark a 1-1 draw while Spain won in Group B after beating Italy on the own goal from Riccardo Calafiori in the second round of the Euro 2024 group stage on Thursday.

England dictated the pace and pressed Denmark onto the back foot from the kick-off at a sold out Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt.

The Three Lions created their first half chance when Kyle Walker teed up Phil Foden, who pulled wide from central position with 13 minutes gone.

Walker kept Denmark’s defence busy and assisted Harry Kane with the opener after providing a deflected cross into the box, five minutes later.

Denmark remained unimpressed and pushed forward whereas England put all their men behind the ball.

The Danes got rewarded for their efforts at the half hour mark when Morten Hjulmand drilled the equalizer from 25 meters past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

After the restart England came out with their guns blazing as Foden rattled the woodwork with a low drive in the 56th minute before Denmark goalie Kasper Schmeichel denied Ollie Watkins a goal following a one-on-one in the 71st minute.

Denmark almost clinched a late win, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s curl missed the target narrowly wide in the closings stages.

“We struggled to have control in the game, and it led to an anxious performance. That must be better if we want to go further in the tournament,” said England head coach Gareth Southgate.

In the other Group C clash, Serbia snatched an injury time leveller through Luka Jovic, who cancelled out Benjamin Sesko’s opener for Slovenia, to maintain their chances to advance into the next round.

With the results, England (4 points) stays atop the standings followed by Denmark, Slovenia (both 2 points) and Serbia (1 point).

In Group B, Spain booked their berth for the last 16 after securing the second straight win.

Spain dominated the one-sided affair but needed help by Calafiori to break the deadlock in the second half. Italy lacked in ideas to threaten Spain’s defence and goalkeeper Gianlugi Donnarumma made several saves to prevent a higher loss.

“It wasn’t easy, but we know Italy is always a tough opponent. The happier we are to have secured all three points as we want to win the title,” said player of the match Nico Williams.

Spain tops the group with six points while Italy remains on the second with three points followed by Albania and Croatia, both with one point.

Source(s): Xinhua

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