So close! All Whites star nearly snatches late win but blistering drive goes wide

Ryan Thomas went agonisingly close to winning the first-leg World Cup playoff in Wellington for the All Whites, but his piledriver of a shot went wide.

After Chris Wood's shot went wide, the ball came back into the box and fell kindly for Thomas.

His shot beat everyone, but unfortunately for the home side, also just went past the outside of the post.

The match finished 0-0.

The two sides meet in Lima next week. 



Argentine legend Maradona slams fellow countryman Messi - 'we shouldn't deify him anymore'

Argentina great Diego Maradona has hit out at his countryman Lionel Messi, saying the forward is not a leader on the pitch and should not be considered a footballing God.

Maradona, who along with Brazil's Pele is widely held to be one of the best players of all time, said Messi was one player at his club Barcelona and another with the national side.

"We shouldn't deify Messi any longer," Maradona said in an interview with Fox Sports on Saturday.

"He's Messi when he plays for Barcelona. Messi is Messi when he wears that shirt and he's another Messi with Argentina."

"He's a great player but he's not a leader. It's useless trying to make a leader out of a man who goes to the toilet 20 times before a game."

The reference was believed to be in connection with Messi's extreme nerves before games that have seen him vomit ahead of some important matches.

Messi, 31, has claimed every possible honour with Barcelona and has won the FIFA World Player of the Year award five times.

But he has struggled to reproduce the same scintillating form when wearing the blue and white shirt of Argentina.

Messi has been on the losing side in all four of his finals with Argentina - three in the Copa America and at the 2014 World Cup - and has not scored in four World Cup knockout stages.

After another disappointing tournament in Russia this year, where Argentina failed to get past the last 16, Messi opted to take a sabbatical from international football.

Maradona, who made his comments from the Mexican state of Sinaloa, where he recently took over as coach of local second-tier side Dorados, said Messi's break was a sensible one.

"I wouldn't call him up right now, but never say never. We have to take the pressure off him," he said.

Argentina beat Iraq 4-0 on Thursday with a new-look side, taking their unbeaten run since Russia to three games.

A sterner test will take place on Tuesday when they face Brazil in Saudi Arabia - without Messi.

Argentina's football superstar Lionel Messi.
Argentina's football superstar Lionel Messi shows his frustration at his team's lacklustre qualifying campaign. Source: Associated Press



PSG's Champions League demolition of Red Star Belgrade investigated for match fixing

French authorities are investigating claims of match-fixing surrounding a Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Red Star Belgrade after UEFA warned them of a possible manipulation of the result.

L'Equipe newspaper reported that a Red Star official is suspected of betting 5 million euros (NZ$8.9 million) on Red Star losing by five goals. PSG won the game 6-1.

France's financial prosecutor's office told The Associated Press an investigation has been opened, but declined to comment on the report.

Red Star released a statement vehemently denying the match-fixing allegation, saying no club official was involved in the alleged "shameful acts."

According to L'Equipe, the prosecutor's office was alerted by UEFA days before the Oct. 3 game at the Parc des Princes.

ARJEL, the body in charge of regulating online gambling in France, told the newspaper it did not notice any suspicious bets on the game.

PSG forward Neymar Neymar celebrates after scoring the opening goal of his team during the Champions League Group C soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Red Star at Parc des Prince stadium in Paris, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
PSG forward Neymar Neymar celebrates after scoring. Source: Associated Press



'I'm just here to train' - Usain Bolt plays down footballing career after breakthrough goals

Usain Bolt doesn't consider himself a footballer yet and doubts remain over his ability to earn an A-League contract with Central Coast, despite bagging his first brace.

Playing as a striker, Bolt scored two second half goals for the Mariners in their 4-0 win over Macarthur South West United at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in Sydney last night.

His impressive first goal came from a strong run and fierce finish and the second was a tap into an empty goal following a collision between Macarthur's goalkeeper and a defender.

Asked if would call himself a footballer, legendary track athlete Bolt said: "until I sign (a contract), I'm not saying that."

While Bolt and Mariners coach Mike Mulevy were pleased with his performance, doubts linger over whether he can improve enough to secure a contract.

His fitness is certainly better, but his ball control and on-field vision are patchy and Bolt himself concedes they are the two poorest aspects of his game.

With the A-League starting next week, Bolt is hoping the Mariners will soon provide some clarity on his prospects at the club.

"The season is coming up now, so we have to sit down after this game and figure out what we're going to do but until then, I'm just here to train and to continue,"' Bolt said.

Bolt said he definitely felt ready to play in the A-League if required, but Mulvey reiterated it could still be a while before a decision is made on whether the Jamaican gets a contract.

'I think we're all in agreement that we'll look about January," Mulvey said.

With the youth league not starting until next month and Bolt unlikely to be considered ready for A-League duty just yet, that leaves the issue of where he will get games over the next few weeks.

Mulvey didn't shed any light on that topic.

'I don't know how that's going to work, but my main mission is Brisbane next week, October 21," Mulvey said, referring to the Mariners first-round A-League game.

Mulvey praised Bolt for the insights he had passed on to the club's youngsters and the global exposure the Mariners and the region had received because of his presence.


Watch: Former Olympic champ Usain Bolt scores first goal as quest continues to become pro footballer

Olympic track great Usain Bolt's fledgling football career has received a boost after he scored two second-half goals for Central Coast Mariners, but the club look likely to wait until next year to decide whether he's worthy of an A-League contract.

The Jamaican led the Mariners' line in a central striking role in their 4-0 thrashing of A-League aspirants Macarthur South West United on Friday.

Until his brace, Bolt wasn't always convincing with his finishing, possession or passing.

But in the 55th minute he held off a defender before racing onto Ross McCormack's through-ball and beating the goalkeeper at the near post with a fierce left-foot strike.

He promptly produced his famous lightning bolt celebration.

"It was brilliant, it takes all the weight off your shoulders that first goal to relax you," Bolt said afterwards.

Just over ten minutes later, he doubled his tally when he capitalised on a defensive mix-up to pounce on a loose ball and practically walk it into an open goal.

Almost 6000 fans turned out at Campbelltown Sports Stadium and the crowd gave Bolt plenty of support whenever he touched the ball, especially one enthusiastic horn blower.

"I think I did pretty well, I'm happy with the progress I'm making," the Jamaican said.

"My positioning is much better, I think I'm doing much more in space, I'm running in space much better."

Bolt was adamant he would be ready if required for the opening round of the A-League next week.

But Mariners coach Mike Mulvey reiterated that January was still the most likely time when the club would make a decision on their famous triallist.

"You can't just react to something that's happened in front of us right now,' Mulvey said.

"He covered himself in glory tonight and I think that everybody is super pleased for him ... you've got to take your hat off to him.

"He scored a couple of goals tonight - he's still got a long way to go."

Bolt's fitness and heading were definitely better than on Friday than his last public appearance, but his ball control needs to improve.

"My controlling the ball, and seeing the field, having better vision, are my two worst areas but they have improved a lot since I've been here. But they could improve a lot more."

As early as the second minute, he broke clear but lost the ball before getting into the Macarthur box.

In the 23rd minute, Bolt regained the ball in the penalty area after losing it, but his close-range effort took a deflection off a defender and was comfortably saved.

He came close again in the 39th minute in his best moment of the first half.

The 195cm Jamaican made a well-timed run into the box and beat his marker to firmly head Tommy Oar's left-wing cross, but it was directed just outside the post.

Bolt also spent a minute of the first half on the ground in pain after being struck in the groin by the ball.

After his goals he was eventually substituted in the 75th minute.