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CORNER KICKS

Times Staff Writer

Five things happening around the world:

1 With a two-year, 18-game World Cup qualifying campaign just around the corner, Argentina on Tuesday got a boost from its star performer, Lionel Messi, who was the inspiration behind a 1-0 victory over Australia in front of 70,171 in a friendly at Melbourne.

The game’s lone goal was scored in the 49th minute by Bayern Munich defender Martin Demichelis, who got a glancing header on a free kick by Messi. But it was Barcelona’s Messi, who also hit the post with a shot, who was singled out for praise by Argentina Coach Alfio Basile.

“He was fabulous,” Basile said. “He brings a lot of fantasy into the game, like Ronaldinho. He is always doing the unexpected and it is something unique. He is obviously an immense talent.”

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Argentina begins qualifying play next month for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

2 What is winning the European Champions League worth to individual players, above and beyond the prestige of claiming Europe’s most-coveted club prize?

For Real Madrid’s players, it will be worth $826,000 apiece if the reigning Spanish champions win the May 21 final in Moscow. That’s how much Ramon Calderon, Real’s president, has promised them if they secure a 10th European Cup for the club this season.

3 Germany is the favorite to stage the next Women’s World Cup, in 2011, with Canada a strong rival and Australia and Peru also in the running. The decision will be made in the fall by FIFA, which wants to expand the field from 16 to 24.

4 The two most successful coaches in England are also the longest-serving: Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson, who has been at the helm since 1986, and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.

Wenger, 57, this week signed a new contract that will keep him at Arsenal until 2011. British newspapers reported that the three-year deal is worth $8.1 million a year.

The Frenchman, who has a master’s degree in economics and speaks five languages, has led the club to three Premier League titles and four F.A. Cups since taking charge in 1996.

5Not content with owning Chivas de Guadalajara in Mexico and Saprissa in Costa Rica, having a part ownership in Chivas USA and still interested in acquiring a team in Spain, Jorge Vergara plans to launch a team in . . . China?

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Nestor de la Torre, Chivas de Guadalajara’s vice president, said Vergara had recently visited the Chinese city of Hefei, some 600 miles south of Beijing, where he will found a new team to be known as Chivas Hefei.

“We are demonstrating that Mexico does not just export tequila and mariachis but also football and Chivas,” the flamboyant Vergara later told Mexico City’s Radio W.

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MAKING THEIR PITCH

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Ana Paula Oliveira, 29, assistant referee

who has not been called upon by the

Brazilian soccer federation since posing

nude for Playboy magazine in July:

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‘I will do the impossible to come back.’

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STAT OF THE WEEK

* By playing against North Korea on Tuesday, U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly, above, became only the third player in soccer history to appear in five World Cups. The others were goalkeeper Antonio “Cinco Copas” Carbajal, who did so for Mexico from 1950 to 1966, and midfielder Lothar Matthaeus of Germany (1982-98).

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