Another tough World Cup for Lionel Messi

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Another World Cup ended in tears for FIFA player of the year Lionel Messi.

Messi broke down after Germany beat Argentina 4-0 on Saturday to earn a spot in the semifinals. Once again, the deft striker was unable to display his genius at the highest level of international soccer.

Messi showed flashes of brilliance during Argentina’s first four matches in the tournament, but failed to deliver in the quarterfinal and the 23-year-old forward could not score at all in South Africa.

Still, Diego Maradona said Messi played a “great World Cup” and gave everything for his country.

“To see Messi cry in the dressing room, whoever says that he doesn’t feel pride for his shirt is stupid,” he said.

The charge is an old one against Messi, who has won everything possible at club level for FC Barcelona but has yet to lift Argentina to glory. Critics compare him to Maradona, the inspiration behind Argentina’s 1986 World Cup victory and its 1990 run to the final. Messi has scored 13 goals in 49 caps, but only one in nine World Cup appearances.

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TICKETS AVAILABLE: Nearly 1,900 tickets are available for the Netherlands-Uruguay World Cup semifinal at Cape Town next Tuesday.

FIFA said seats are unsold in all price categories at the 64,100-capacity Green Point stadium.

Overseas fans must pay $200-$600. South African residents can buy Category 4 tickets for $91.

Some seats became available after being released by Brazil fans who expected to reach the final. Brazil lost 2-1 to the Netherlands on Friday, with 2,300 empty seats at the 42,486-capacity Nelson Mandela Bay stadium.

The 40,186 attendance was the highest of seven matches played in Port Elizabeth, which also will stage the third-place match next Saturday.

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NO SPITTING: FIFA will not discipline Cristiano Ronaldo for spitting as he left the field after Portugal’s second-round loss against Spain.

FIFA says its disciplinary committee found no grounds to open a case against the Portugal captain.

Ronaldo was being followed by a television cameraman after the final whistle of his team’s 1-0 defeat in Cape Town on Tuesday. The 2008 FIFA world player of the year appeared to stare into the lens then spit near the camera operator’s feet.

FIFA’s disciplinary panel had the option to issue a warning, fine or impose a match suspension.

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LET’S GO ORANJE: Vice President Joe Biden says he hopes the Netherlands will finally win the world title.

Biden arrived in the Baghdad on Saturday to visit U.S. troops during the Fourth of July weekend and to push for a resolution to the political deadlock that has left Iraq without a new government since March 7 elections.

After touching down at a Baghdad airport, Biden told reporters “we hope the Netherlands wins the World Cup.”

Biden made the comment before heading into meetings with chief U.S. diplomat, top American military commander and the UN envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, who is Dutch.

The Netherlands plays Uruguay next week in one semifinal. Germany plays Spain in the other, while the Americans were eliminated by Ghana.

The Associated Press