Lionel Messi looks likely to be fully fit to face Brazil despite Luis Martinez's horror tackle on the Argentina captain, head coach Lionel Scaloni said.

Venezuela's Martinez was sent off for a crude lunge on the Paris Saint-Germain star in the Albiceleste's 3-1 World Cup qualifying win this week as Scaloni's men maintained their unbeaten streak.

There were concerns Messi would be a doubt for the clash in Sao Paulo against Brazil, who are six points clear at the top of the CONMEBOL standings after winning all seven of their qualifiers.

However, Scaloni was confident his talisman would be fit to start when speaking with the media on Saturday.

"Leo is okay," he said. "This afternoon, we'll train and focus on the pitch. Those who played against Venezuela didn't touch the ball yesterday [Friday].

"We'll know 100 per cent this afternoon. In principle, he's fine. It was a big scare, but that's how it stayed."

Scaloni expects an extremely difficult match against the side Argentina beat 1-0 in the final of the Copa America this year.

"Whoever plays, they're important opposition. In no case do we minimise the game," he said.

"They're coming off an incredibly positive streak and they're at the same level whoever plays, with players of quality in every position.

"These are opponents of enormous quality, of enormous attacking power. If you're not ready for that, you can suffer. If you don't think the opponent can hurt you, you're making a mistake.

"We know that it can happen at some point, but we also know what we have to do when we have the ball. We only have one way to play: go deep with the ball into the opposition half."

Brazil preserved their perfect record in 2022 CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying after edging Chile 1-0 on Thursday.

Everton Ribeiro came off the bench and scored the winning goal in the 64th minute as Brazil made it seven wins from seven games on the road to Qatar 2022.

Brazil – back in action for the first time since their Copa America final loss to La Albiceleste in July – are six points clear of Argentina atop the standings ahead of Sunday's mouth-watering showdown in Sao Paulo.

Chile, meanwhile, are seventh in the 10-team qualifying section in South America, three points adrift of the play-off position.

A refusal by Premier League clubs to release players for international matches in COVID-19 red-listed countries meant Brazil were without the likes of captain Thiago Silva, Alisson, Ederson, Fred, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino, Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus.

Weverton started for Brazil in the absence of stars Alisson and Ederson and he was the busier of the keepers in Santiago, where the two nations met for the first time since the Selecao beat Chile at the Copa.

Arturo Vidal was in the thick of the action for Chile amid a strong start to the season with Inter – the star midfielder forcing a double-save from Weverton with a tricky free-kick on the half-hour mark and the latter reacted quickly to deny Eduardo Vargas' close-round rebound.

Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa had earlier shown a great burst of pace to surge clear on the counter-attack, sliding the ball to an unmarked Neymar but the Paris Saint-Germain forward sent his shot high into the stands.

Vidal then forced Weverton into another save before half-time, though clear-cut chances were few and far between after 45 minutes.

The game came to life in the second half when Brazil broke the deadlock against the run of play in the 64th minute.

Chile had largely controlled proceedings, but Ribeiro and Neymar combined just past the hour mark – the latter's close-range attempt kept out by Claudio Bravo but the former was on hand to convert the rebound.

Chile continued to move forward in search of an equaliser but they were unsuccessful as Brazil kept their fifth consecutive clean sheet in qualifying and sixth in total.

 

What does it mean? Tite's men stay hot

There is no stopping Brazil on their path to next year's World Cup. The Selecao have won all of their qualifiers so far and have never lost a game under head coach Tite when scoring first.

Ribeiro the unlikely hero

With so many absentees, Ribeiro was the hero off the bench for Brazil. The Flamengo star made his international debut in 2014, but both of his international goals have come this year, within three months since June.

Chile's qualifying woes continue

The two-time Copa America champions have only won one of their seven qualifying fixtures so far, against Peru in November. Pressure is growing on Chile boss Martin Lasarte.

What's next?

Brazil and Argentina will renew their rivalry in Sunday's top-of-the-table encounter, while Chile visit Ecuador on the same day.

The first international break of the 2021-22 campaign has arrived, and with it comes an opportunity for many national teams to start afresh.

Following the conclusion of the Copa America, Gold Cup and Euro 2020 in quick succession, all roads now lead to the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

For a number of players, the September qualifiers provide an opportunity to make an impression, while for others it is potentially a first taste of international football. 

With the games coming thick and fast over the next week or so, Stats Perform has looked at those in contention to make their senior international debuts.

Albert Sambi Lokonga (Belgium)

Belgium's golden generation of talent missed another opportunity to turn promise into something more tangible when losing to eventual winners Italy in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.

Roberto Martinez has decided against wholesale changes after that disappointment, with Lokonga the only outfield player in line for his first cap, having failed to get further than the bench – against Greece in June – after previous call-ups.

A product of the same Anderlecht youth system that oversaw the development of Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker, among others, Lokonga sealed a move to Arsenal in July after impressing in the Belgian top flight.

The £15million signing has not had the best of starts to life at Arsenal, the Gunners finding themselves bottom of the English top-flight table having played at least three league matches for the first time since October 1974.

Lokonga, noted for his ability to play in front of the defence, featured in just two of those games yet still trails Granit Xhaka alone in terms of passes (113 to 139) and successful passes (97 to 118) and is behind only Sead Kolasinac for interceptions.

 

Claudinho (Brazil)

Citing concerns over the availability of his European-based contingent due to clubs being reluctant to release players to red-list countries, Tite has named a bloated Brazil squad for this month's triple-header of World Cup qualifiers.

Those complications appear set to deny Raphinha a debut, having impressed during his first year in the Premier League with Leeds United. 

Raphinha ranks seventh in the division for dribbles attempted since the start of last season (142), completing 42.96 per cent of those. He also ranks in the top 10 for chances created over that period with 68.

But Claudinho remains in line to be capped for the first time, called up after helping his country secure Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.

The midfielder, whose signing at Zenit was announced not long after the Olympic tournament had concluded, described his call-up as "a dream come true".

Theo Hernandez and Moussa Diaby (France)

It is out with the old and in with the new as far as France's first post-Euros squad is concerned – to an extent, at least, with Olivier Giroud one of nine players to make way from the previous group named by Didier Deschamps.

Injuries have also played a part in that, potentially giving a quartet of uncapped players the chance to impress in the upcoming qualifiers with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine and Finland.

Hernandez, a more natural left-back option than brother Lucas, will feel his first call-up is long overdue following back-to-back campaigns as a regular for Milan, whom he joined from Real Madrid. 

Since making his Rossoneri bow in September 2019, no defender in Serie A has completed more dribbles than Hernandez (133), while only Federico Dimarco (87) and Juan Cuadrado (107) have created more chances than his 86.

Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and Roma's Jordan Veretout may also feature during this international break, but perhaps the most exciting of the new additions is Bayer Leverkusen winger Diaby.

The Paris Saint-Germain product scored twice and assisted another in Leverkusen's opening two Bundesliga games of 2021-22, while Alphonso Davies is the only player in the division to have attempted more dribbles this term (24 to his 22).

Known for his blistering pace and ability to take on opponents, Diaby could well provide Deschamps with a different option in an attack already packed full of talent.

 

Otavio (Portugal)

Three new players have been called up by Fernando Santos, who is looking to the future after his Portugal side's reign as European champions came to an end in July.

Goncalo Inacio is injured, but Diogo Costa and Otavio could each make their senior debuts during this international window, with the latter the name on many lips right now.

Otavio has tallied 11 goal involvementss in each of the past two Primeira Liga campaigns for Porto and has made a fast start to the new season with two assists in his first four games.

Since the start of last season, only team-mate Mehdi Taremi has provided more assists (12) in the Portuguese top flight than Otavio's 10, coming from 51 chances created.

The Brazilian-born attacking midfielder was granted Portuguese citizenship earlier this year and will be eager to show that Brazil's loss is very much Portugal's gain should he get some minutes over the next week.

Ricardo Pepi (United States)

The dual-national drama surrounding Pepi appears to have reached a resolution as the FC Dallas forward has seemingly pledged his allegiance to the United States over Mexico.

After breaking into the Dallas side two years ago and featuring regularly last year, 2021 has been quite the season for the El Paso-born youngster.

Pepi, who does not turn 19 until next January, has 11 goals and two assists in 21 games this term and scored the decisive kick in last week's penalty shoot-out win for MLS against their Liga MX counterparts in the All-Star Game.

He has 13 MLS goals in total, the fourth-most ever by a teenager – ahead of Freddy Adu – and just nine short of the record held by Diego Fagundez.

On the basis of the past four months in particular, the USMNT could have a potentially world-class player to lead their line for a number of years to come.

 

Karim Adeyemi (Germany)

For the first time in 17 years, Germany will play a match without Joachim Low in their dugout either as assistant or head coach when they face Liechtenstein on Thursday.

Hansi Flick is tasked with ushering in a new generation of German talents, with help from the old guard, many of whom were key to his successful spell at Bayern Munich.

Away from regulars such as Thomas Muller, Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich and Manuel Neuer, Flick has included four uncapped players in his first squad – David Raum, Nico Schlotterbeck, Florian Wirtz and Adeyemi.

A technically gifted and supremely fast winger, Adeyemi has long been considered one of Germany's most promising young players, having cost Salzburg a reported €3m when he was 16.

Adeyemi, who left Bayern six years earlier, has been given the chance to spread his wings with Salzburg and has been strongly linked with Red Bull sister club RB Leipzig.

He already has six goals in six Austrian Bundesliga appearances this term, just one less than he managed in 29 top-flight appearances last time out – a return he will be looking to build on if he is given the nod by Flick.

Justin Bijlow (Netherlands)

The Netherlands are another European heavyweight going through a transitional period of sorts after turning to veteran coach Louis van Gaal for a third stint in charge.

Frank de Boer failed to get the most out of this talented Dutch squad and already Van Gaal has put his own mark on the team by calling up a few newbies.

There will be plenty of focus on the goalkeeping position as, with Jasper Cillessen not fully fit and Maarten Stekelenburg recently retiring, Joel Drommel and Bijlow can stake a claim to be the long-term number one.

Bijlow is considered one of the finest young goalkeepers in Europe and already has 45 Eredivisie games under his belt for Feyenoord, where he is a real fan favourite.

The 23-year-old has kept 15 clean sheets across those appearances and boasts a save percentage of 72.16. Van Gaal can seemingly rely on the young stopper, as he has made just one error leading to a goal.

Manchester City top FIFA's list of the biggest spenders on internationals transfers in the past decade.

The world governing body on Monday revealed $48.5billion worth of player trading was done between 2011 and 2020.

Premier League champions City have spent big on the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ruben Dias during that period, so it is no surprise they top the list.

Chelsea and Barcelona are second and third respectively on the list - which does not state how much each club spent in total.

Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid make up the top five, while 12 of the top 30 clubs, who alone have spent €19.3billion in the time period, are from England.

Neymar's move from Barcelona to PSG was for a world record fee of €222m, while Madrid brought in Eden Hazard from Chelsea for a deal that could reportedly climb to €175m (£150m).

Barcelona have the next two largest transfers, with Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele joining from Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

Argentina forward Angel Di Maria also holds two slots in the top 10 of the highest individual transfers, his deal to join Manchester United from Madrid in 10th with his subsequent move to PSG a place higher.

Players of 204 different nationalities have been transferred since 2010-11, Brazil way out in front with 15,128 moves.

Agents have played a hugely increasing role in international transfers, with their involvement growing 69.1 per cent from 2011 to 2020.

From €131.1m worth of commissions in 2011 to €640.5m in 2019, a total of €3.5bn was paid for agents' commissions in international transfers over the course of the decade. 

Pep Guardiola has announced his intention to leave Manchester City and explore opportunities at international level when his contract expires at the end of next season.

Guardiola is now in the penultimate year of his deal at the Etihad Stadium, where he has been in charge since July 2016.

After replacing Manuel Pellegrini at the helm, the former Barcelona boss has won three Premier League titles, four EFL Cups and the FA Cup during his tenure with the Citizens.

The 50-year-old revealed he does not plan to extend his stay with the club, and that he is targeting an opportunity with a national side.

"After seven years at this team, I think I'm going to have to stop," he said at an XP Investimentos event.

"I'm going to have to take a break, see what we've done, and review inspirations. 

"And in the process, I would like to coach a national team – South American, European, playing a Copa America; I want to have that experience."

However, Guardiola talked down his chances of succeeding Tite as head coach of Brazil.

The City boss feels the current crop of Brazilian stars are unfairly compared to their predecessors of yesteryear, but he insists they will be one of the favourites at next year's World Cup in Qatar.

"Current teams will always lose to history," he added. "If you compare this Brazil with Pele's, with the [World] champions of 1994, the current one will always lose. 

"But if you ask me what I think of Tite's team: fantastic. Some are my players, others are rivals' players, but they're fantastic.

"If you compare them to the past, teams from the past always win because they don't play anymore. But Brazil are always a favourite – in the Copa America, in the World Cup – always have been and always will be; it's part of their culture.

"I think the coach of the Brazilian national team will always be Brazilian; I don't see a foreigner at teams like Brazil."

Atletico Madrid have completed the signing of Matheus Cunha from Hertha Berlin for a reported €26million fee.

Cunha, who is Brazil Under-23s' all-time leading goalscorer, joins Diego Simeone's side on a five-year deal and will provide capable support to talisman Luis Suarez up top.

Speculation had linked the 22-year-old to Everton, Atalanta and Napoli, but the reigning LaLiga champions swooped in to secure his services after a move for Dusan Vlahovic fell through.

Cunha initially moved to Europe to play for Swiss side Sion, subsequently joining RB Leipzig before finding a new home with Hertha in 2020.

Last term, the versatile attacker scored eight and assisted six across 28 games in all competitions, leading Hertha's charts ahead of second-place Dodi Lukebakio with 12 goal involvements.

The Brazil striker created 54 chances - 18 more than closest team-mate Vladimir Darida – putting him sixth among forwards playing in Germany.

Solely in the Bundesliga, the former Leipzig man has improved in front of goal in every campaign since 2018-19 and most recently scored a career-high seven goals in the German top-flight, finding the target with 62.5 per cent of shots.

Similarly, Cunha almost doubled his touches in the opposition box in such fixtures last year, producing 98 in comparison to 53 last term and 58 the year before.

 

However, it is in terms of dribbling where Atletico's new man comes to the fore.

Since his arrival in Berlin on January 31, 2020, only five forwards across Europe's top-five leagues have completed more dribbles than Cunha's 123 – successful in just over 60 per cent of all dribbles he attempted.

No player in the Bundesliga can match that dribbling tally while Yannick Carrasco is the only Atletico player to have completed more than 100 dribbles in the same time frame.

Cunha will likely be tasked with partnering Suarez as a second striker, perhaps replacing the in-form Angel Correa as Los Colchoneros go in search of back-to-back LaLiga titles.

Makeshift forward Correa has scored eight goals in his last 10 across all competitions - including three in his last two - for Simeone's men, having previously netted seven times in his last 73 for the club.

Cunha could feature as early as Sunday against Villarreal for the defending Spanish champions, who have started a new campaign with consecutive wins for the fourth time during the Simeone era.

Brazil boss Tite has included uncapped pair Claudinho and Raphinha in a 25-man squad for a trio of World Cup qualifiers in September.

The Selecao are quickly back in action after the disappointment of missing out on Copa America glory on home soil, with games against Chile, Argentina - who defeated Brazil in the final - and Peru coming up next month.

Claudinho receives his opportunity after helping his country secure Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020, including starting in the 2-1 final win over Spain.

The midfielder has made a move to Europe to continue his club career, his signing announced by Zenit not long after the Olympics tournament had concluded.

Raphinha, meanwhile, gets an opportunity after impressing in his debut season with Leeds United. The winger - signed from Rennes - scored six goals in 30 Premier League appearances under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa.

His tally of nine assists was the most by any player for Leeds, who finished ninth on their return to the top tier, while also completing 45.53 per cent of his 123 attempted dribbles.

"We've been following Raphinha for some time now, since he moved to the Premier League," Tite explained at a media conference.

"We look for information in every way, and he has an accentuated dribbling technique. He has scored a number of important goals too, a decisive player."

Tite has also selected Lucas Verissimo as well as the evergreen Dani Alves, Brazil's 38-year-old captain at the Olympics.

However, Atletico Madrid left-back Renan Lodi, who started the 1-0 Copa America final loss to Argentina, is a surprising omission from the list, while there is also no place for Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz.

"When we say competition at a high level, this is it," said Tite of the tough selection calls he had to make. "They will continue to be followed.

"It's for Douglas to return to his best level, play a lot for his club and come back. Renan Lodi has not been participating in the games, but in training.

"I talked to him, because it's not because of an individual mistake that he doesn't come back, he doesn't have that here. He's a great player."

Brazil have a rematch with rivals Argentina on September 5, two days after a tricky trip to Chile. They round out the run of qualifying fixtures for Qatar 2022 by hosting Peru on September 10.


Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Lucas Veríssimo (Benfica), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Danilo (Juventus), Daniel Alves (Sao Paulo), Guilherme Arana (Atletico Mineiro); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon), Claudinho (Zenit), Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fabinho (Liverpool); Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Richarlison (Everton), Matheus Cunha (Hertha Berlin), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Barbosa Flamengo), Raphinha (Leeds United).

Pep Guardiola will take the mental health of his international stars into consideration as Manchester City prepare for a quick turnaround into the new season.

The Premier League champions went down to a 1-0 Community Shield defeat against Leicester City on Saturday, their former striker Kelechi Iheanacho coming off the bench to win and convert a late penalty at Wembley.

Guardiola remained without Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ederson and Gabriel Jesus after their respective runs to the finals of Euro 2020 and the Copa America with England and Brazil.

The sextet will return to training on Monday, while Kevin De Bruyne is still on the mend after an ankle injury sustained during Belgium's progress to the quarter-finals of the European Championship.

Aymeric Laporte – a Euros semi-finalist with Spain – must self-isolate until the middle of next week because a passenger on his flight back to the United Kingdom after a vacation tested positive for COVID-19. The defender has tested negative.

It adds up to a far-from-ideal preparation for next weekend's league opener at Tottenham, a fixture likely to be lent a tempestuous edge by City's pursuit of Harry Kane.

Nevertheless, Guardiola knows a return to peak physical fitness will come in time, even though he again took aim at scheduling arrangements by UEFA and FIFA in his post-match comments at Wembley.

The former Barcelona boss is more concerned about the mental strain endured by players who have been on a near non-stop schedule since returning to action from the coronavirus lockdown last June.

Asked whether his England players would benefit from being afforded an extra week of rest, he replied: "It depends on their heads. They have to rest and now they can be ready, but it depends on here [the head].

On whether his returning internationals would be ready to play at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Guardiola replied: "A few players get the condition so quick, others need a little more time. We will see the weight, the body fat, how they arrive. And especially their heads.

"There are players who play three, four or five days and their mentality is positive and they are ready to fight and suffer in the bad conditions. Some of them take a little more time.

"We will try to discover which ones are ready immediately."

Foden is unlikely to be among that group, given he must still recover from the foot injury that ruled him out of England's penalty shoot-out loss to Italy.

Stones was an ever-present at centre-back for Gareth Southgate's side, while Sterling and Walker were each named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament.

"All of them, they played really well. I'm glad and happy for them. They have had many years together," Guardiola said.

"They made an incredible achievement. When you achieve a final in the Euro it's a big, big thing.

"They have to be so proud of what they have done with the national team. The benefits to the confidence will be there.

"But the past is the past. What you have done with the national team is for the memories. The challenge is ahead of us to do a good season."

Dani Alves says winning Olympic gold is his greatest achievement in football after Brazil overcame Spain to reign at the Games once again.

Brazil secured back-to-back golds on Saturday, following on from their Rio 2016 triumph with a 2-1 victory after extra time.

Mikel Oyarzabal levelled to bring Spain back into the game after Matheus Cunha's opener but Malcolm came off the bench to capture Olympic glory.

Alves, a three-time Champions League winner who also has six LaLiga titles on his resume, proclaimed Tokyo to be his greatest success in football.

"To be sincere, yes," the 38-year-old responded when asked if this was his greatest prize. "Because the others are every year, and I have competed time and time again, but with this medal, this is my last chance. I won’t make it to Paris.

"This means a lot for me. Everybody trusted in me, and I knew this would be a once-only opportunity, to be able to enjoy this dream. It’s not every day that you become an Olympic athlete, and even less at the age of 38.

"And so I came here like everybody else, as a virgin, to this competition. I came with the boys to live the dream with them. And we have managed it, after a lot of effort and sacrifice, and we are taking the biggest prize back home, back to our people."

Captain Alves and his team-mates were reduced to tears at the full-time whistle as Brazil came out on top in a record-breaking fifth final appearance.

The last trophy missing from his illustrious collection of honours is the World Cup, so could he keep on going for his country?

"I’m a dreamer, a small dreamer, and more than a dreamer, somebody who executes their dreams," he said in response to questions about Qatar 2022.

"The most important thing is to fight, and that’s what I know what to do. I have the drive of a 23-year-old.

"I still want to do big things in football, and have respect for the profession, because when you have respect for your profession, it brings you great things, and which is what I'm living."

Malcom came off the bench to claim gold for Brazil, who beat Spain 2-1 after extra time to defend their Olympic crown.

Mikel Oyarzabal's stunning effort cancelled out Matheus Cunha's opener to force extra time at the International Stadium Yokohama.

There was plenty of drama before normal time was up – Richarlison blazing a penalty over just prior to Cunha's opener before the Everton forward hit the crossbar in the second half, with Oscar Gil and Bryan Gil also hitting the woodwork at the other end.

Yet it was substitute Malcom who ultimately proved decisive, the Zenit winger getting the better of Jesus Vallejo to prod home beyond Unai Simon and seal back-to-back gold medals for Brazil.

Diego Carlos had to clear off the line to prevent an embarrassing own goal in the 16th minute, before Richarlison sliced into the side netting from a tight angle.

The tournament's leading scorer Richarlison should have added to his tally in the 38th minute, after Spain goalkeeper Simon was adjudged to have fouled Cunha on a VAR check, but he lashed his spot-kick well over.

Brazil swiftly recovered, though – Dani Alves doing brilliantly to keep a move alive, with Cunha bringing down the looping ball and arrowing a finish into the bottom-right corner.

Simon redeemed himself with a fine save from Richarlison after the break, parrying the forward's effort onto the underside of the crossbar, and Oyarzabal's wonderful 61st-minute strike subsequently restored parity. 

The woodwork came to Brazil's salvation late on in normal time, Gil's right-wing centre clipping off the bar before Bryan's thunderous effort rattled off the frame of the goal.

Brazil made their fortune count in the 18th minute of extra time, Malcom's turn of pace proving too much for Vallejo, who could only watch on as the former Barcelona man secured their second Olympic gold.

Alves and Co. were in tears at full-time, collapsing on the pitch as Brazil became the fourth team to win successive gold medals in the men's football event, in what was a record-setting fifth final.

Contesting their third Olympic final, Spain – champions in 1992 – had to settle for silver, the medal they won back in 2000.

Simone Biles provided further inspiration when she returned to action on Tuesday and secured a bronze medal on the balance beam.

China enjoyed success with a Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing one-two, but the American gymnast stole the headlines on her first appearance back after withdrawing from the team final last week.

Mental health concerns were cited as the reason for Biles stepping away from the team events and other individual disciplines, though the 24-year-old excelled in her sole event on the beam.

The four-time Rio Olympics gold medallist reminded the world of her quality with a 14.000 score, and, despite Chenchen's last-ditch 14.633, she produced an emphatic return for the United States.

"I was just happy to be able to perform, regardless of the outcome," Biles explained after Tuesday's event. "I did it for me, and I was just proud of myself for being able to compete one more time.

"Just to have the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games meant the world, because training for five years and then coming here, then kind of being triggered and not being able to do anything, it wasn't fun.

"To go out there and compete one more time and have everyone's support meant the world."

To add to Biles' memorable comeback, the USA's basketball stars nudged past Spain 95-81 to reach the Olympic semi-finals, with Kevin Durrant netting a team-high 29 points to drive his side towards victory.

It was a far from convincing performance from the USA, however, as they trailed 39-25 at one point in the second quarter before rallying impressively to level at 43-43 at the halfway stage.

THOMPSON-HERAH COMPLETES DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Elaine Thompson-Herah motored to sprinting history as she won the 200 metres women's final to complete the sprint double-double.

The Jamaican set a new national record with 21.53 seconds, the second-fastest time in the history of the event, making herself just the second athlete ever, after Usain Bolt, to win both titles at consecutive Games.

Thompson-Herah, who claimed 100-metre gold on Saturday after doubling up for the first time at Rio 2016, just missed out on Florence Griffith-Joyner's 1988 world record by 0.19s.

"Oh my god, it's amazing that I have ever seen this day. That I could complete another double. I can't believe it," the 29-year-old said after the 200 metres final.

"I really had to pull it out to win the 200m. It's a new PB [personal best] and a national record. I am so, so happy.

"Honestly I am so tired, my legs just need some rest. I've done so many races in the last few days, but I am very grateful."

WARHOLM'S WORLD

Karsten Warholm demolished the world record with a remarkable 400 metres hurdles triumph, smashing the previous record run for a second time in five weeks.

At the start of July in Oslo, Warholm cut 0.08 seconds off Kevin Young's longstanding record that was set at the Barcelona Games in 1992, though the 25-year-old slashed even more off in Tuesday's final.

The Norwegian star powered through in 45.94s, hacking an astounding 0.76s off the global mark to secure a memorable victory.

"It's just so big. It's almost like history here. It was the only thing missing from my collection," the 25-year-old said after his win. "I had a World Championships [gold medal]. I had European Championships, I had the world record, the European record.

"The Olympic gold medal is what everybody talks about. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready."

The top three finishers all beat the previous Olympic record, with American silver medallist Rai Benjamin running 46.17, yet the performance of Benjamin's life was simply no match for Warholm.

 

BRAZIL PREPARE TO DEFEND TITLE

Brazil inflicted shoot-out heartbreak on Mexico after a 0-0 stalemate in 120 minutes to set up a final showpiece with Spain.

Reinier converted the crucial spot-kick and, with Eduardo Aguirre and Johan Vasquez missing, the defending Olympic champions ran out 4-1 victors.

"Playing the final match in the Olympics is a dream," said Brazil's head coach Andre Jardine. "The film I saw was the film of life. Everything we’ve gone through. Although we didn’t win in the 90 minutes, we took more risks."

Japan suffered extra-time agony in their semi-final against Spain as Marco Asensio's late winner sunk the host nation to tee up a mouth-watering prospect for Saturday's final.

Despite footballing disappointment, women's boxer Sena Irie provided the host nation reason to celebrate as she edged past the Philippines' 2019 world champion Nesthy Petecio to achieve gold.

Irie's win in the women’s featherweight class final means she is Japan’s first female boxing champion at the Olympics.

CYCLING CHAOS

Germany twice recorded world record rides to earn their first gold – and, in fact, their first ever medal – in the women's team pursuit cycling track event.

A strong Great Britain side, including Laura Kenny, awaited Germany in the final but the team of Mieke Kroeger, Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer and Lisa Klein produced the ride of their lives to finish in 4:06.159, almost two seconds quicker than the previous record.

In a dramatic day of cycling, the reigning world champions Netherlands won their first gold since 1936 in the men's team sprint as Team GB again had to settle for silver inside the velodrome.

That silver for Jason Kenny meant he became the first athlete to win eight Olympic medals in cycling track events and also equalled the total medal haul of Britain's most successful Olympian Sir Bradley Wiggins.

More controversy filled Tuesday's track events, with Denmark's Frederik Madsen crashing into the back of Team GB's Charlie Tanfield inside the closing kilometre of the men's team pursuit heats.

The UCI later deemed the Danes, who were near two seconds ahead of their opponents, to have completed a successful catch to make it through to Thursday's final against Italy, despite the incident.

Spain reached the semi-finals of the men's football tournament at the Tokyo Olympics after surviving an almighty scare against the Ivory Coast.

Manchester United defender Eric Bailly was a surprising opening goalscorer but Dani Olmo levelled before half-time at Miyagi Stadium.

Spain were the dominant force on the ball without finding a breakthrough, and it looked as though they were staring at a shock quarter-final exit when Max Gradel's deflected effort gave Ivory Coast the lead in injury time.

Incredibly, substitute Rafa Mir forced extra time two minutes later, scoring just 58 seconds after coming off the bench.

Spain at last went ahead when Oyarzabal swept home from the penalty spot, Bailly having been penalised for handball after a long VAR review.

Mir completed his hat-trick with two goals in the final three minutes to secure a 5-2 win and send Spain into the final four.

JAPAN STILL DREAMING

Spain will now meet Japan after the hosts battled past New Zealand in Kashima.

There was little to split the sides over 120 minutes, Japan out-shooting their opponents 21 to eight but unable to find a breakthrough.

At the other end, captain Maya Yoshida was the inspiration, posting the highest figures for duel success rate (80 per cent), aerial success rate (71.4 per cent) and blocks (three) of any starting player.

Fittingly, it was Yoshida who converted the final penalty after Liberato Cacace and Clayton Lewis had failed to score, giving Japan a 4-2 win in the shoot-out.

 

MEXICO WIN CLASSIC TO SET UP BRAZIL CLASH

Brazil's quest to defend the gold medal they won on home soil in 2016 will continue in a semi-final against Mexico.

A solitary goal from Matheus Cunha settled the quarter-final contest with Egypt in Saitama.

If that encounter was cagey, the showdown between Mexico and South Korea was anything but, as a nine-goal thriller was played out in Yokohama.

Mexico led 3-1 at half-time through goals from Henry Martin, Luis Romo and Sebastian Cordova, with Lee Dong-gyeong grabbing a lifeline.

A frenetic contest continued after the break as Lee made it 3-2 only for Martin and Cordova to score their second goals and stretch Mexico's advantage.

Substitute Eduardo Aguirre netted the sixth with six minutes of normal time remaining, Hwang Ui-jo scoring an injury-time consolation.

 

Real Madrid winger Takefusa Kubo was on target again as hosts Japan eliminated France from the Tokyo Olympics men's football tournament with a 4-0 win on Wednesday.

Kubo netted in Japan's first two Group A games and gave Madrid another reminder of his quality by opening the scoring against France in Yokohama.

In doing so, the 20-year-old became the first Japanese player to score in each group-stage match at the same Olympic tournament.

Hiroki Sakai doubled Japan's lead prior to half-time before Koji Miyoshi and Daizen Maeda completed the rout, either side of Randal Kolo Muani being sent off.

Japan advance as the only side with a 100 per cent record, whereas France – who had Timothee Pembele and Andre-Pierre Gignac in their line-up – are out at the first stage.

Only Fiji (23 in 2016) and Serbia-Montenegro (14 in 2004) have let in more than the 11 goals France conceded at Tokyo 2020 in the 21st century.

"The tournament was really difficult for us, because we are young players and these are the first games we have played with the team," France midfielder Alexis Beka Beka said. 

"One of the big differences was the other teams knew each other much better. But it's all about the details. The game is never finished."

Mexico recovered from their loss to Japan last time out by beating South Africa 3-0 in a game in which both sides had a player sent off, seeing them through in second place ahead of France.

 


SPAIN MATCH CLASS OF '92

Spain were not perfect in the pool phase, having been held for the second time in three games in Wednesday's clash with Argentina, but they still went through as Group C winners.

It is the first time La Roja have achieved that feat at the Olympic Games since the likes of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique went on to win gold in Barcelona in 1992.

Spain dominated possession against Argentina and took the lead through Mikel Merino's 66th-minute strike at Saitama Stadium.

Tomas Belmonte's late equaliser came against the run of play, but it was not enough to prevent 2004 and 2008 gold medallists Argentina crashing out early on.

London 2012 quarter-finalists Egypt finished level on four points with Argentina after beating Australia 2-0 and progress to the last eight, where heavyweights Brazil await, by virtue of a superior goal difference.

HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR OLYWHITES

New Zealand picked up the point they needed against Romania in a goalless draw to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time.

Goalkeeper Michael Woud redeemed himself for his horror show in the loss to Honduras by making a string of stops against Romania, who would have advanced with a win.

"It really came down to desire tonight," said OlyWhites head coach Danny Hay. "The boys really dug deep and showed a lot of that.

"I'm really proud of the performance. It's historic and we look forward to a quarter-final for a New Zealand men's team."

New Zealand also needed a favour from South Korea, who followed up a 4-0 win against Romania with a 6-0 victory over Honduras on Wednesday en route to topping Group B.

Hwang Ui-jo scored three of the goals, two of those from the penalty spot, and a showdown with Mexico is up next for rampant South Korea for a place in the semi-finals.

RIO FINALISTS GERMANY FALL SHORT

Germany will not get the opportunity to match or better their silver medal from Rio in 2016 as a 1-1 draw with Ivory Coast saw their opponents through at their expense.

Nothing less than a win would do for Stefan Kuntz's men but they fell behind to a Benjamin Henrichs own goal with 67 minutes played.

While Eduard Lowen's impressive free-kick did set up a tense finish in Miyagi, Germany were unable to find a winner and are on the plane home.

Ivory Coast will now take on Spain, the last European nation standing, in the quarter-finals.

Also through to the knockout stage are reigning champions Brazil after seeing off Saudi Arabia 3-1, with Richarlison's late double adding to Matheus Cunha's first-half opener.

France got the better of South Africa in a seven-goal thriller as Andre-Pierre Gignac's hat-trick inspired Les Bleus to a 4-3 victory at the Tokyo Olympics.

Having been thrashed 4-1 by Mexico in their opening game of Group A, France hit back to keep their chances of progression alive, though they had to do so the hard way in Saitama.

Indeed, South Africa led on three occasions during a remarkable second half, yet it was Les Bleus who took the points.

Liberato Cacace's stunner was not enough to propel New Zealand to victory against Honduras in Group B, while reigning champions Brazil could only draw 0-0 with the Ivory Coast and Spain overcame Australia thanks to Mikel Oyarzabal's late winner.

 

GIGNAC AND SAVANIER SETTLE THRILLER

France were on the wrong end of conceding four last time out, and though they still let three in this time around, Teji Savanier's stoppage-time goal saw them clinch victory.

It was 35-year-old Gignac who had previously dragged France level on three occasions – a close-range finish followed by a thumping header before the Tigres striker, the leading scorer in the competition, converted his second penalty of the tournament to cancel out Teboho Mokoena's glorious 81st-minute strike.

Luther Singh had missed a first-half penalty for South Africa, with Kobamelo Kodisang and Evidence Makgopa also getting on the scoresheet.

But Gignac's efforts set the stage for France to nose themselves ahead when Montpellier's experienced Savanier lashed home, sending South Africa out in the process.

France sit third in Group A, three points behind leaders Japan, who survived a late scare to beat Mexico 2-1.

ALL WHITES LET LEAD SLIP

Cacace's exceptional strike put New Zealand ahead after just 10 minutes in Kashima – the defender picking out the top-right corner with a first-time effort from 30 yards out.

Luis Palma restored parity in first-half stoppage time, yet Chris Wood carried on his scoring form to put New Zealand back in front just after the restart.

Yet substitutes proved the difference for Honduras. Juan Obregon netted with 12 minutes remaining, paving the way for Rigoberto Rivas to clinch the comeback victory.

Matters were much more simple for South Korea, as they cruised to a 4-0 triumph against Romania, meaning all four Group B teams are on four points heading into the final matchday.

 

OYARZABAL RECORDS LONG-AWAITED SPAIN WIN

Spain secured their first win at an Olympic Games since 2000 thanks to Oyarzabal's header against Australia, which came with nine minutes of normal time remaining.

The 24-year-old Real Sociedad winger – who played a pivotal role in Spain's run to the semi-finals at Euro 2020 – has put La Roja top of Group C heading into Wednesday's encounter with Argentina, who beat Egypt.

Spain, who drew with Egypt in their opener, won gold in 1992 and silver in 2000, but had only qualified once since then, but they failed to score across their three appearances in the 2012 London Games.

CHAMPIONS HELD AS GERMANY BOUNCE BACK

Brazil sparkled in their 4-2 win over Germany on matchday one, though they could not find a way past the Ivory Coast, who held them to a 0-0 draw in Group D.

Douglas Luiz was sent off early on for Brazil, who missed a last-gasp chance to seal qualification through substitute Malcom after the Ivory Coast had also been reduced to 10 men.

Meanwhile, Germany recovered from their defeat on matchday one to beat Saudi Arabia 3-2 – Felix Uduokhai netting the decisive goal in the 75th minute.

Richarlison fired a first-half hat-trick before nervy Brazil almost squandered a 3-0 lead against Germany in their Tokyo 2020 opener, while Australia stunned Argentina.

Reigning Olympic champions Brazil eventually toppled Germany 4-2 in the Group D opener in Yokohama, a rematch of the final from the 2016 Games in Rio that went to a penalty shoot-out.

Brazil were pegged back to 3-2 on this occasion before Paulinho's stoppage-time strike ended 10-man Germany's hopes of snatching a draw.

Richarlison made a seventh-minute breakthrough when Germany defender Amos Pieper slipped to allow the Everton striker a clear run on goal. Although his first shot was pushed out by Florian Mueller, Richarlison lashed in the rebound on the half-volley.

A close-range header after 22 minutes made it 2-0 and Richarlison sealed his treble with a shot into the right corner that took a slight deflection off Pieper.

Matheus Cunha missed a penalty for Brazil in first-half stoppage time before clumsy goalkeeping from Santos allowed Germany to get on the scoresheet after the break, Nadiem Amiri's tame volley creeping in.

Germany's Maximilian Arnold was dismissed after a soft second booking for a clash with Dani Alves, but another goal arrived when Ragnar Ache headed home in the 83rd minute, only for Paulinho's clinical breakaway finish, high into the top right corner, to make sure of the points.

Australia enjoyed a banner day as goals from Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio floored a youthful Argentina side, who had midfielder Francisco Ortega sent off shortly before half-time.

Wales tucked in a low cross from Joel King to give the Olyroos a 14th-minute lead, and Ortega was dismissed for two bookable offences in quick succession to leave Argentina in trouble.

Tilio sealed a 2-0 win with a thumping left-footed strike into the right corner from 20 yards after 80 minutes as Argentina were caught on the break.

France were beaten 4-1 by Mexico, with substitutes Uriel Antuna and Eduardo Aguirre putting the finishing touches to the impressive win with late goals. Andre-Pierre Gignac, who plays his club football in Liga MX, got France's consolation with a second-half penalty.

Burnley striker Chris Wood scored as New Zealand earned a 1-0 win over South Korea, and Milan midfielder Franck Kessie netted in Ivory Coast's 2-1 victory against Saudi Arabia.

Spain were held 0-0 by Egypt, while hosts Japan edged South Africa 1-0 and Romania beat Honduras by the same scoreline.

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