By Tim Stannard (@stannardsports)
1) Johan Cruyff dies at the age of 68, after battle with cancer
On a day when some of the greatest players of the modern era are in action, the football world has been shocked by the passing of one of the true legends of the past. The official website of Johan Cruyff has announced that the Dutch footballing giant has died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 68 at his home in Barcelona.
Johan Cruyff was suffering from lung cancer and said in February it was a battle where he was “winning 2-0.” The Dutch master is seen as one of the greatest players in the game having starred as forward for both Ajax and Barcelona, winning the Ballon d’Or three times. Cruyff was a true godfather of the Camp Nou with his distinctive playing style having forever imprinted itself into the DNA of the club.
2) Messi needed to get Argentina back to goal-getting ways
Two current Barcelona attacking superstars are in action today with four South American World Cup qualifying games taking place and every one being stuffed with stories. Chile taking on Argentina leads the way, in a repeat of the Copa America final. But the Albiceleste are in no position to slouch their way to a penalty shoot-out with just five points on the board from four games. And even Alanis Morissette would nod in agreement over the huge irony of Argentina being the lowest scoring team in the CONMEBOL group with just two goals.
Leo Messi is back for the first time in this World Cup cycle having missed the previous matches through injury. Although little Leo doesn’t seem to entirely enjoy the international football experience with the pressure that he has to bear on his shoulders like an Argentinean Atlas, the little miracle-maker has the job of putting Tata Martino’s World Cup bus, back on the road to Russia 2018. You can catch the game live on beIN SPORTS at 7.30PM ET.
3) Colombia face day of destiny against Bolivia
That match is proceeded with a must-win whopper for Colombia, currently languishing in seventh with just four points and needing to beat Bolivia in La Paz to avoid being left behind by the big boys. Tune into this particular monster mash-up on beIN SPORTS Español from 3.50PM ET.
Ecuador fall into this particular big boys bracket, with the team sitting at the top of the table with four wins from four and expected to make it five from five with a home game against Paraguay played at an altitude where airliners normally fly. That clash featuring South America’s Leicester City is on beIN SPORTS with coverage beginning at 4.30PM ET.
The day is wrapped up with an encounter between two teams with less than lofty dreams as second-from-bottom Peru host a Venezuela side that has yet to pick up any points. Tune in from 9.30PM ET for coverage of that clash and join the XTRA from 12AM ET for all the best highlights and analysis from across the world in a huge day of international football.
The fifth and final game of round five comes up on Friday and it is the small matter of Brazil against Uruguay and the return of Luis Suarez after his 2014 World Cup suspension taking on Neymar’s merry men. Coverage begins on beIN SPORTS Español on Friday from 7.45PM ET.
4) Messi misses meeting the President as Ronaldo has sympathy over Neymar’s summer dilemma
The beIN SPORTS lawyers have just poked Sports Burst to remind it that is contractually obliged to throw in more MSN stories on a day like today before moving on. So let’s kick off with President Obama admitting on a trip that he has one extra task to perform before leaving office and embarking on the mother of all Netflix binges. That challenge is to arrange a meeting between his daughters and Leo Messi.
The original Ronaldo says that is not fair at all that Neymar may have to choose between playing for Brazil in the Olympics and also the Copa America to avoid Barcelona burn-out. But if the forward must, the big-boned Brazilian says that Neymar should pick the Olympics in his home country.
Staying on the Brazilian theme, Orlando City have confirmed the signing of Julio Baptista after the news was initially broken by a very excited Kaka on Twitter.
5) Del Bosque hints at Spain stay as King Zlatan finds Irish admirer
The Europeans are in action on Thursday with a series on Euro 2016 tune-ups. Perhaps the best clash of them all is Spain hopping across the Med to take on Italy. Although Vicente Del Bosque was expected to head into retirement after the Euros after a spectacular spell in charge of La Roja, the former Real Madrid manager has hinted that he may not yet be ready to hang up the mustache. Del Bosque also noted that Athletic Bilbao striker, Ariz Aduriz, will be given every chance to claim a place on the final roster for France. Catch the highlights of tonight’s sultry late night version of the XTRA from midnight ET.
Meanwhile, the soon-to-be-outgoing Italy boss, Antonio Conte is reportedly looking to bring in Roma’s Radja Nainggolan to Stamford Bridge and is insisting that the club does not sell Juan Cuadrado, currently on loan at Juventus.
Roy Keane has finally found someone he likes and could “share a trench with.” Of course, that man is King Zlatan, whose Swedish side takes on Ireland on Thursday, the team where the former Manchester United man plays the role of assistant coach.
UEFA is reportedly considering a revamp of the Champions League format which would see the current set-up changed for two leagues of eight. With seedings. And less chance for the pesky small clubs to wade in and mess up the TV ratings.