SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Brazilian striker Leandro Damião, who is the leading scorer in the country this year, was injured in a Sept. 21 match and will likely miss key upcoming friendlies with the Brazilian national team.
Damião limped off the field early in Internacional’s match with Figueirense with an injury to his right leg.
“I don’t know if it has torn or what has happened,” a tearful Damião told reporters at halftime. “I felt a sharp pain. I want to be back as soon as possible,” he said.
The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
Damião, 22, has scored 39 goals this season in all competitions. Earlier this year, he scored his first goal for the national team in a 1-0 win in a friendly over Ghana. He will likely miss next week’s friendly against rival Argentina and could also be out for next month’s friendlies against Costa Rica and Mexico.
Maradona told Real Madrid to sign son-in-law
Diego Maradona has a simple message for Real Madrid: told you so.
The former Argentine star and current Al Wasl coach advised the Spanish club to ink his son-in-law, elite striker Sergio Agüero, to a new contract during the summer transfer market.
Agüero wound up with rising English power Manchester City, where he’s scored eight goals in five Premier League games for the Blues.
“I actually advised Real Madrid to sign Agüero,” Maradona told reporters. “I felt he would be a very good player to fit into their squad, so that they can become a much more competitive side and maybe even rise up to the level of Barcelona.”
Real Madrid balked, however, and Agüero accepted a reported US$62 million deal with Manchester City.
“I consider the fact that they didn’t sign him as a loss,” Maradona told reporters. “Of course, we can now see that he has got great skills and is scoring goals every time he plays with Manchester City. I’m sure Manchester City is very happy to have such a player and it’s an honor to have him as my son-in-law.”
Maradona wasn’t the only one who predicted success for Agüero.
Reining FIFA Player of the Year Lionel Messi said his countryman would be a huge hit in Europe.
“He will give them a real cutting edge,” Messi told reporters last month. “He’s unique – he has immense power, strength and an incredible work ethic. He will certainly stand out in terms of what he will bring to City. Defenders will find him so difficult to play against.”
Agüero’s finest performance so far for the Blues has been a three-goal masterpiece in a 3-0 win over Wigan on Sept. 10.
“Sergio is a fantastic striker, he is an incredible player, he is young, he scored three fantastic goals,” Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini told reporters. “He has always scored in his career and I hope it can continue here.”
Argentina won’t overlook La Roja
Claudio Gugnali won’t allow his team to look past Chile next month.
Argentina’s top assistant coach insists his side will be prepared for La Roja on Oct. 7 when the South American nations begin qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The match, which will be played at Buenos Aires’ Estadio Monumental, is the first of 16 over the next two years to reach the sport’s biggest stage.
Both Chile and Argentina were upset in the quarterfinals of July’s Copa América.
“As far as (Argentina coach) Alejandro [Sabella] is concerned, Chile is one of the best teams in South America,” Gugnali told reporters. “We have discussed it. We admire the progress they have made. Marcelo [Bielsa] and the directors have clearly influenced this process greatly. With Claudio [Borghi] at the helm, they are a difficult and aggressive team and Chilean football is well represented.”
The top four teams in CONMEBOL automatically qualify for one of the 32 World Cup slots, while the fifth-place country advances to a two-leg playoff against a nation from a different confederation.
One player Argentina won’t have to worry about is Chilean striker Alexis Sánchez. The star suffered a severe hamstring injury with his club Barcelona in a recent 2-2 draw with Real Sociedad.
“Alexis’ misfortune is a great shame for us, it hurts us badly,” Chilean manager Claudio Borghi told reporters. “It is a very complicated injury. We will have to wait for the diagnosis, but it is clear that we will lose him for a long time.”
Uruguay keeps ascending
Uruguay is ranked fourth in the latest FIFA rankings, its highest spot ever, as the team continues to ride the momentum it generated by winning Copa América in July. La Celeste is the top-ranked South American team, three spots ahead of Brazil, which fell to seventh, its lowest ranking in 18 years.
Defending World Cup champion Spain overtook the Netherlands atop the rankings as the Dutch are followed by third-place Germany, with Portugal rounding out the top five. Italy is sixth, followed by Brazil, England, Croatia and Argentina.
Argentina fell one spot despite going 2-0-1 in its past three friendlies.
Chile, at 14th, is the next highest-ranked CONMEBOL side, followed by Mexico (20th), Paraguay (24th), Colombia (32nd), Peru (35th), Venezuela (47th) and Ecuador (69th). Bolivia, which moved up four spots, the most of any CONMEBOL team in the latest rankings, checks in at 81.