WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Two goals.
That’s how many goals FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi needs to become the first player to score 50 in a Spanish club season.
“Messi gives us a lot more than just goals,” said FC Barcelona goalkeeper Víctor Valdés, according to The Associated Press. “He supports the team in defense and in attack. His work helps everyone.”
Messi, a native of Rosario, Argetina, has a record-tying 48 goals through 46 matches and will have at least 10 more games – 11 if FC Barcelona reaches the Champions League final – to reach the milestone.
FC Barcelona faces Real Madrid in Spain’s biggest rivalry on April 16 at 4 p.m. ET.
FC Barcelona also faces Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey on April 20. The teams also will meet in the semifinals of the Champions League.
Former Athletic Bilbao standout Telmo Zarra scored 48 goals during the 1950-51 season. Brazilian star Ronaldo scored 47 goals for FC Barcelona during the 1996-1997 season. Former Madrid star Ferenc Puskas scored 47 during the 1959-60 and added two more in the Intercontinental Cup.
But it’s not just the Spanish top flight he is dominating. Messi, 23, is tops in the Champions League with nine goals and has scored seven in the Copa Del Rey. He also scored three times in the Spanish Supercup in August.
And when Messi scores, his goals tend to come in bunches.
He has four hat tricks and 11 two-goal games this season.
“We’re here to lend him a hand so that all of his talent can be best expressed,” said Barcelona Coach Pep Guardiola, according to the AP. “Messi gives us everything.”
Brazil passes Argentina atop FIFA rankings
Brazil is back on top in South America – at least according to FIFA.
Soccer’s governing body released its latest world rankings this week, with the Seleção sliding past Argentina to become the top-rated team in Latin America. Spain, the defending World Cup champion, is No. 1 overall, followed by the Netherlands at No. 2, Brazil at No. 3 and Germany at No. 4. Argentina checks in at No. 5.
Brazil skipped past La Albiceleste by posting a 2-0 win in a friendly game against Scotland last month. In the last ranking, Argentina was ranked fourth, one spot ahead of Brazil.
Meantime, Argentina posted a pair of road draws – 1-1 against the United States and 0-0 against Costa Rica – causing it to fall behind Brazil in the point system used by FIFA to rank teams.
Other Latin American teams in the rankings include:
Uruguay at No. 7
Chile at No. 14
Paraguay up one spot to No. 23
Mexico up a notch to No. 26
Honduras down five to No. 43
Colombia up on to No. 49
Peru up five to No. 54
Costa Rica down two to No. 55
Ecuador down seven to No. 57
Venezuela down four to No. 67
Panama holding steady at No. 68
FIFA rankings are determined by match results during the past three years, with a team receiving bonus points for playing a higher-ranked opponent.
The next rankings are slated to be released on May 18.
Costanzo set to leave Switzerland
Franco Costanzo is going to have to find a new home.
The Argentine goalkeeper announced this week he will leave Swiss champion FC Basel at the end of the season after the two sides failed to come to terms on a contract extension.
But it will be hard to find one that has achieved as much as Basel.
Costanzo, 30, has guided the team to two Swiss titles since his arrival in 2006 from the Spanish team Alavés. Costanzo also could leave with a third title, as Basel has a five-point lead in the standings with nine matches remaining.
Costanzo, who reportedly rejected the five-year deal he was offered by Basel, has suitors.
Italian club Udinese is reportedly ready to let elite goalie Samir Handanovic leave so it can sign Costanzo. The team is unhappy with its place in the Serie A standings and will look for Costanzo to lead the team back to the Champion’s League, according to the soccer website insidefutbol.com.
Japan to play in Copa América
Japan will compete in the Copa América in Argentina in July after saying earlier this month it wouldn’t send a team to the prestigious soccer tournament following the massive earthquake and tsunami that rocked the Asian nation in March.
“The JFA (Japan Football Association) decided to participate in the Copa América,” said the organization’s General Secretary Kozo Tashima, according to the Kyodo news agency on April 14.
Japan, which was invited to compete in the 12-team tournament as a guest, has been pooled with Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia at the event, which runs from July 1-24.
Costa Rica or Canada, both members of CONCACAF, were being considered to replace Japan after it initially withdrew from the tournament.
Japan last played in the tournament in 1999, when it was held in Paraguay. The Blue Samurai posted two losses and a tie and was eliminated in pool play.