Soccer | World Masters Tour

Lionel Messi mania stands up to raindrops at World Masters Tour

 

Amid the rain and revelry, Lionel Messi and the rest of the international all-stars wowed a crowd of 48,327 on Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium.

Special to The Miami Herald

There’s probably not much that can dampen soccer superstar Lionel Messi’s mood these days.

Certainly, he wasn’t too bothered by the downpour that hit Sun Life Stadium two minutes into Saturday night’s all-star exhibition match or the wind that littered the field with debris.

Messi, who has been named the World Soccer Player of the Year the past three seasons, made his South Florida debut by scoring a game-high-tying three goals and adding two assists in a steady game-long rain.

His Black Masters team tied the Red Stars 7-7, but the score hardly mattered in this charity match in which defense was loosely applied.

Messi is happy — he turns 25 on Sunday, and he announced last week that he and his girlfriend are expecting their first child, a son, in the coming months.

The 48,327 fans who attended seemed thrilled, too. They cheered when Messi was introduced — he was the last one on the field — and they screamed seemingly each time the ball was at his feet.

Many of the fans wore Messi jerseys, either with his club team’s colors at FC Barcelona or the sky blue and white of his Argentine national side.

Saturday’s match was the third of Messi’s World Soccer Masters Tour. Last Saturday, he scored two goals as his team beat a collection of Mexican stars 5-3 in Cancun.

On Thursday night in Colombia, Messi scored once in a 6-6 tie.

It was at the match in Cancun during which Messi confirmed that he and Antonella Roccuzzo are expecting.

“I didn’t want to say anything,” Messi told reporters in Mexico. “We are very private people. But our joy is so great, we decided to make the announcement.”

Rumors of that impending birth started circulating a few weeks ago, when Messi scored a goal against Ecuador and placed the ball under his shirt, mimicking a pregnancy.

Saturday at Sun Life, Messi put the ball in his more customary spot — the back of the net. Fittingly as the sport’s best player, he got the game’s first goal. Messi hit a booming strike from the middle, just outside the 18-yard box, to make it 1-0 in the 11th minute.

The quick goal pleased the fans, who had starting singing “Ole! Ole!” just a couple minutes prior and then switched to “Mes-si! Mes-si!”

Then again, with the Marlins playing a day game and the Heat obliging by disposing of the Thunder on Thursday night, soccer’s all-time, single-season scoring champion had the local sporting stage to himself.

With the score tied 2-2 in the 33rd minute, Messi scored again, this time at close range with a delicate chip with his left foot that easily beat goalie Guillermo Ochoa.

Trailing 6-4, Messi brought his team back, getting an assist in the 83rd minute on a crossing pass to Jose Rondon. One minute later, Messi’s left-footed blast tied the score at 6-6. Messi nearly scored again in the 87th minute, but his chip was kept out of the goal by defender Diego Perez.

The teams traded penalty kicks in the final two minutes to arrive at the final score. Edison Cavani scored for the Red Stars in the 88th minute, and Ariel Ortega tied it with a PK in the final seconds.

Next to Messi, one of the biggest names in Saturday’s match was Didier Drogba, 34, who played the first 60 minutes and had one goal and one assist. Drogba, the captain and all-time leading scorer for Ivory Coast, signed with China’s Shanghai Shenhua last week. He left the English Premier League, where he ranks as the fourth-leading scorer in Chelsea history.

Leading the Red Stars was Luis Suarez of Uruguay, who had three goals. Failing to make the score sheet were the three Americans who played: Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu and Jozy Altidore.

Colombian star Radamel Falcao had one goal for the Red Stars. But Diego Forlan, who was named the best player in the 2010 World Cup after leading Uruguay to a surprising fourth-place finish, was shut out by the Black Masters.

• During the game, it was announced that Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Colombia’s America de Cali will play Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium.

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