Lionel Messi focused on leading Argentina to Copa América title

Argentine forward Lionel Messi will be counted on to lead La Albiceleste to the Copa América title. Argentina hasn’t won an international competition since Copa América in 1993. (Eddie Keogh/Reuters)

Argentine forward Lionel Messi will be counted on to lead La Albiceleste to the Copa América title. Argentina hasn’t won an international competition since Copa América in 1993. (Eddie Keogh/Reuters)

By Dave Carey for Infosurhoy.com—02/06/2011

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Lionel Messi has accomplished nearly everything as an individual playing professional soccer.

But the two-time reigning FIFA World Player of the Year still has one huge goal: lead Argentina to an international title.

The dynamic striker will look to accomplish that goal on his native soil when he leads La Albiceleste in Copa América – the most prestigious tournament in South America – from July 1 to 24. Argentina opens pool play against Bolivia on July 1.

Argentina hasn’t won a major tournament since claiming the Copa América in 1993 in Ecuador.

“I’ve had the luck to win everything with Barcelona, win everything as an individual, and my goal now is go win things for the Argentine national team,” Messi said at a media conference at an airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he landed after leading his club team, FC Barcelona, to the Champions League title on May 28.

Messi has scored more than 50 goals across all competitions for FC Barcelona this season as he led the Catalans to the La Liga regular season championship before guiding them to a 3-1 win over England’s Manchester United in the final of the Champions League.

He was named Man of the Match in the final at Wembley Stadium in London, where he scored the game-winning goal and assisted on another score.

Messi also is expected to be the focal point of Argentina coach Sergio Batista’s attack the next few seasons leading to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Diego Maradona, the national team’s former coach, failed to utilize his elite forward at the World Cup in South Africa, where Messi was virtually a non-factor throughout the tournament, failing to score.

Batista, however, has gone out of his way to emphasize the importance of Messi, making him the roster’s centerpiece.

“He’s on his way to becoming the best player in history,” Batista said at a media conference. “Given what we already know and because he surpasses himself day by day, he’s already the best in the world.”

Colombia’s Mariajo Uribe wins LPGA Brazil Cup

Not even the rain could slow down Mariajo Uribe in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Colombian finished the day dancing between the rain drops, as she used a hot start to claim the LPGA Brazil Cup this past weekend at the Itanhanga Golf Club. Uribe birdied five of the first seven holes – and added two more on the back nine – before closing with four straight pars to claim the silver trophy with a kiss.

“That’s how Latin people are!” Uribe said of the support she received from local fans during the week. “It’s not only because I’m Colombian, if you play with passion and if you’re emotional on the course they support you. The Brazilian fans reacted to me as if I were one of their own.”

Uribe, 21, attributed her success to her ability to make the most of the course’s longest holes, recording birdies on four of the course’s six par 5s.

“I knew I had to go out there and take advantage of the par 5s,” Uribe said during a media conference after her victory. “I just went out and had a good start. I was really excited. I just tried to keep my mind in the present and tried to keep playing how I was playing.”

Uribe, who finished second at the tournament last year, claimed US$108,000 of a US$720,000 purse.

Uribe, a native of Bucaramanga, Colombia, hopes it’s not her last victory in South America’s largest nation.

Golf is slated to return to the Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio. It will be the first time the sport is contested at the Olympics in more than a century.

“It’ll make a huge impact on South American golf, especially women’s golf,” Uribe said at the media conference. “With the Olympics coming up we need a lot of representatives from South America, so I think it’s a big deal.”

Argentine star Diego Milito to stay in Italy

Diego Milito has no plans to leave Italy’s Inter Milan.

The Argentine forward who has battled numerous injuries this season told reporters he has no desire for a transfer and looks forward to helping Inter reclaim a Serie A title. The Italian team was ravaged by injuries this season after claiming the Champion’s League title last year on the strength of a pair of goals by Milito in the final against Germany’s Bayern Munich.

Milito was finally healthy at the end of the season, when he notched a goal in a 3-1 win over Palermo to help his side claim the Italian Cup. Milito is expected to battle incumbent forwards Samuel Eto’o and Giampaolo Pazzini for playing time next season.

Milito, 31, also has been linked to a move to his former club, Genoa, where he transferred from in 2009.

“I’m not thinking about leaving Inter,” Milito said at a media conference. “I still have another three years to run on my contract.”

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