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Messi, Argentina advance to semifinals at World Cup

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/sports-soccer-netherlands-argentina-national-team-28cdcb2e271ff7cd53c7e6160e7ab4a8

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Lionel Messi started the match by delivering another soccer clinic. The Argentina superstar ended it sporting a bloodied top lip, shouting abuse to opponents and even blasting the referee.

And of course there were goals, too, for one of the greats of the game whose bid to win the World Cup for the first time is still on track.

Messi is heading to the semifinals with Argentina after a chaotic penalty-shootout victory over Netherlands that had just about everything on Friday.

Argentina took a 2-0 lead, conceded an equalizer in the 11th minute of second-half stoppage time to send the match to extra time at 2-2, and then won the shootout 4-3 amid a deafening noise inside Lusail Stadium.

Messi, who scored a penalty in regulation time, converted his penalty in the shootout while goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez made two saves to help Argentina secure a semifinal match against Croatia, which beat Brazil earlier Friday.

After Lautaro Martinez scored the clinching penalty, Messi — with his arms outstretched — sprinted toward the goalkeeper, who had fallen to the ground to the side of the goal, and lay on top of him.

“We had to suffer,” Messi said, “but we got through.”

Messi did, especially, in an often violent match that featured 17 yellow cards — a record for a World Cup match — two of which went to Netherlands defender Denzel Dumfries, leading to him getting sent off after the game.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni called the game “ugly” and Messi was critical of the Spanish referee, Antonio Mateu, saying: “I don’t think he was up to the standard. He was very harmful for us.”

In a side of Messi rarely seen, he also broke off from his post-match interview on the field to shout abuse at the scorer of the Netherlands’ two goals, Wout Weghorst.

“What are you looking at, stupid?” Messi was heard saying.

Messi and his teammates hung around on the field for 20 minutes at the end, taking turns dancing and jumping up and down in front of Argentina’s celebrating, scarf-waving fans.

Messi said the late Diego Maradona was looking over the team.

“Diego is watching us from heaven,” Messi said of the former Argentina captain and coach who died two years ago. “He is pushing us. I hope it stays like that until the end.”

It is only the second time Argentina has reached the last four since 1990. In 2014, Messi was part of the team that lost to Germany in the final and he looks in the mood to get there again in a tournament that he is turning into his own personal highlight reel.

Messi delivered a mesmerizing piece of skill and vision to set up the opening goal for Nahuel Molina in the 35th minute. He twisted free in central midfield and burst forward, unbalancing Netherlands defender Nathan Ake and then delivering a no-look reverse pass for Molina to finish for his first international goal.

His penalty in the 73rd minute, which came after Marcus Acuna was tripped by Dumfries, was his fourth goal of the tournament and took him to 10 overall in the World Cup — tied with Gabriel Batistuta for the most for Argentina. Messi now has 94 goals in his 169 international games.

His team trailing 2-0, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal sent on two tall strikers — Weghorst and Luuk De Jong — and even told center back Virgil van Dijk to play up front. The game suddenly changed.

Weghorst glanced in a header from a right-wing cross in the 78th — five minutes after coming on — and then scored the latest second-half goal in a knockout-stage game at a World Cup.

Off a cleverly worked free-kick routine learned by Weghorst at his Turkish club, Besiktas, Teun Koopmeiners feigned to take a shot at goal from the edge of the area but instead played it short and low into the middle of the area. It deceived the Argentine defense as Weghorst took a touch, held off his marker and slotted home a finish on the stretch.

Enzo Fernandez hit the post near the end of extra time and was then the only Argentina player to fail to score in the shootout. Martinez’s saves were from attempts by Van Dijk and Steven Berghuis, after which he pulled his shorts high and danced a jig.

The loss ended the 71-year-old Van Gaal’s third stint in charge of the Netherlands. He was also the team’s coach at the World Cup in 2014 when Argentina beat the Dutch in a penalty shootout in the semifinals.

“Ever since we arrived here,” Van Gaal said, “we have been focused on penalties. We thought we were going to win the penalty shootout.”

SUSPENSIONS

Argentina defenders Marcus Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel will miss the semifinals after collecting second yellow cards of the tournament

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Source: https://apnews.com/article/sports-soccer-netherlands-argentina-national-team-28cdcb2e271ff7cd53c7e6160e7ab4a8

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LeBron’s off-court legacy complements his basketball success

Mya Smiley is a student at the University of Akron thanks to an assist from LeBron James, and she is determined upon graduation to become a social worker that helps foster kids.

Her education and career path would not have been possible, the sophomore says, were it not for a scholarship and counseling that she received from the LeBron James Family Foundation. “He’s life-changing,” Smiley said.

For all his accomplishments on the basketball court — four championships, 19 All-Star Game nominations and an imminent coronation as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer — it is James’ ambitious pursuits off-the-court that may ultimately distinguish his legacy from other superstar athletes’.

James co-founded a successful media and entertainment company, bought stakes in storied professional baseball and soccer franchises and, with a big assist from product endorsements, his net worth is estimated to have grown above $1 billion. The off-court achievement that James is most proud of, he says, is working to uplift the lives of people like Smiley in his hometown of Akron.

Many athletes have excelled in one or more of these areas. But few have done all of them as well as James, who is closing in on passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s career scoring record.

“His goal, I believe, is to have 10% of his wealth go to causes and support communities, which is an amazing goal,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor of sports management at George Washington University. “I would say he’s maybe above and beyond others, just on that aspiration alone.”

James is, by any measure, an overwhelming success. And he makes Smiley — one of the many people in Akron who have received financial support from his foundation — believe that she can be a success as well.

“If I did not have the LeBron program, I probably wouldn’t have ever gone to college. I would be living in a not-so-positive environment,” said the 19-year-old Smiley.

“His ability to help people’s futures,” she added, “is what makes LeBron a great person.”

James, who entered the NBA straight after high school in 2003, planned early on to use his talents, fame — and, yes, his growing financial resources — to have on impact on the world beyond basketball.

“Even before I got into the NBA, I knew I wanted to find a way to give back to my community,” said James. Although James bounced from home to home during his childhood, and experienced financial insecurity for many of those years, he also was given enormous support from friends, neighbors and educators.

The LeBron James Family Foundation, founded in 2004, at first gained local attention by giving away bikes and backpacks. Then it began looking at after-school programs, with students scattered across several dozen schools, and eventually created a public school currently serving about 575 third through eighth graders. Today the school includes a family resource center that provides a wide-range of services to parents, including mental health, financial literacy, legal aid and GED courses.

Just down the street from the school, the foundation provides rent-free housing to as many as 16 different families — when needed — and it has plans to build 50 units of affordable housing.

“I couldn’t have guessed how much it would grow,” James said in late January. “But we got here by listening and responding to our community and what they need.”

James has made over $400 million in NBA salary during his time with Cleveland, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers. Another $100 million is on the way in the next 2-1/2 years or so.

James is a pitchman for Nike, GMC, AT&T and many more multinational companies. He owns a piece of the Boston Red Sox and Britain’s Liverpool football club. His entertainment company, SpringHill — named after the modest apartment complex he grew up in — is valued at $725 million and has produced movies for HBO and Netflix.

“He’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially kids with lesser opportunity and haven’t had the same advantages as others,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said in 2018, a sentiment he’s repeated many times since. “They see in this guy somebody who has consistently exhibited excellence in the workplace and gives them a voice and lets them know that you can speak about anything.”

James puts so much focus on giving back to Akron because of the help people there gave to him and his family. “He’s never lost sight of that,” said Michele Campbell, the executive director of James’ foundation. “I think that keeps him grounded.”

Just how down to earth “King James” really was got called into question in 2010. That’s when he went on television to announce that he was leaving Cleveland to play in Miami. Billed as “The Decision” — and broadcast on ESPN — the live event was widely ripped as egotistical. But from James’ perspective, the broadcast raised around $4 million for charity, a fact was largely overlooked.

Just a couple of years later, James would use his star power to help draw attention to a cause bigger than himself.

In the aftermath of the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin — a Black Florida teen who was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer — James tweeted a photo of Heat players wearing hoodies and bowing their heads that included the hashtag “WeWantJustice.”

In 2020, James helped lead the “More Than A Vote” movement, which included registration and early-vote drives and stressed the need for people — particularly Black voters — to get to the polls to fight disenfranchisement.

Also in 2020, in the aftermath of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, James was one of the players calling for an end to racial inequality and police brutality.

“Everything I do,” James said late last year, “has to have a purpose.”

James has all the money and all the fame that he ever wanted or needed. His NBA records, including the scoring title, are going to last for a very long time.

As will his off-court endeavors.

“His ability to help others and put others first is what makes him a great person,” Smiley said. “Not the baskets he shot.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Kyrgios pleads guilty to assault, has no conviction recorded

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Nick Kyrgios had suffered severe depression, suicidal ideation and insomnia in the past, a psychologist told a court on Friday when the Australian tennis star pleaded guilty to pushing a former girlfriend to the ground two years ago.

The 2022 Wimbledon runner-up pleaded guilty in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court to assaulting Chiara Passari during an argument in his hometown of Canberra in January 2021.

Magistrate Jane Campbell didn’t record a conviction against Kyrgios for reasons including that the offense was at the low end of seriousness for a common assault, and was not premeditated.

Campbell described it as an act of “stupidity” and “frustration.”

Kyrgios, who was using crutches following recent surgery on his left knee, didn’t speak to reporters as he left court but issued a statement through a management company.

“I respect today’s ruling and am grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction,” Kyrgios said. “I was not in a good place when this took place and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret. I know it wasn’t OK and I’m sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.

“Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I’ve found that getting help and working on myself has helped me to feel better and to be better.”

Kyrgios’ psychologist, Sam Borenstein, said in a written report and testimony by phone that Kyrgios had suffered major depressive episodes in the past and had used alcohol and drugs to cope. Kyrgios’ mental health led to impulsive and reckless behavior.

His recent knee injury had resulted in mild to moderate symptoms of depression, but his mental health was improving, Borenstein said.

“He’s doing very well,” Borenstein said. “His mental health has improved significantly.”

Lawyers for Kyrgios had sought to have an assault charge stemming from events two years ago dismissed on mental health grounds but the application was unsuccessful.

Kyrgios had been attempting to leave Passari during an argument at 10 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2021, outside her apartment in the inner-Canberra suburb of Kingston. He called an Uber but Passari stood in the way of him closing the front passenger side door. The driver wouldn’t leave with the door open.

Kyrgios eventually pushed Passari’s shoulders backward with open palms, causing her to fall to the pavement and graze her knee, according to agreed facts read to the court.

Passari signed a police statement alleging the assault 11 months later, after her relationship with Kyrgios had ended.

His current partner, Costeen Hatzi, wrote in a character reference that she had no concerns of violence in her relationship. Hatzi was among Kyrgios’ supporters who sat behind him in court.

Kyrgios, wearing a dark suit and using the crutches for support, first spoke in court when the magistrate asked him if he could stand to enter a plea.

Kyrgios replied: “Yep, no worries, Your Honor,” as he rose to plead guilty.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs last year to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last September to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

The 27-year-old Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because the knee injury which later required arthroscopic surgery.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Bengals’ Joe Mixon charged with pointing gun at woman

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has been charged in a warrant with pointing a gun at a woman and threatening her, according to court documents.

Mixon faces a misdemeanor charge of aggravated menacing, according to the documents, which were filed Thursday in Hamilton County Municipal Court and obtained by The Associated Press. No attorney is listed for him in court records.

According to the warrant, Mixon pointed the gun at the woman and told her, “You should be popped in the face. I should shoot you, the police (can’t) get me.”

The incident occurred on Jan. 21, the day before the Bengals beat the Buffalo Bills in a divisional-round playoff game.

The 26-year-old Mixon rushed for 814 yards and seven touchdowns this season, his sixth. He also had 60 receptions for 441 yards, both career highs, and two touchdowns.

A second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2017, Mixon has spent his entire career with Cincinnati and rushed for career highs of 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021.

In 2014, when he was 18, Mixon punched a female Oklahoma student in the face, an attack captured on surveillance video. He was suspended from the football team for a year and entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is sufficient evidence for a conviction. He received a deferred sentence and was ordered to perform community service and undergo counseling.

The incident hurt his standing in the draft, with several teams saying they passed on him because of concerns about his character.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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