THE SOCCER REPORT

Messi’s Argentina legacy on the line versus Brazil; USA face England in Women's World Cup semis

Credit: Adidas

There may be no bigger rivalry in international soccer than that of Brazil and Argentina. Now put a spot in the South American championship final on the line and one of the all-time greats as the villain of the story. That's exactly what will go down on Tuesday when Copa America hosts Brazil host Lionel Messi's Argentina. Messi is known for his decorated club career with FC Barcelona but is highly scrutinized, especially by his own people, for his lack of silverware with his home country.

The Copa America final will be one of three international finals to take place on Sunday, by the way, with the champion of the FIFA Women's World Cup and the Concacaf Gold Cup (Men's championship for North America, Central America and the Caribbean) taking place on the same day.

For all the details, here is the latest in the soccer world:

FIFA Women's World Cup

International women's soccer is down to the last four teams of the competition, including the defending champion United States. Team USA takes on England, with Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly on the roster, on Tuesday in the first semifinal. The champion will be decided Sunday against the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between the Netherlands and Sweden.

Gold Cup

Tournament favorites Mexico survived Costa Rica in the quarterfinals after a dramatic 5-4 win on penalties in front of a sellout crowd of 70,788 on Saturday at NRG Stadium. They face Haiti on Tuesday night after the Caribbean team came back to defeat Canada, 3-2, in the first game of Saturday night's doubleheader.

Defending champions Team USA had their close call against Curacao but got to the semis with a 1-0 win. They will meet Jamaica in Wednesday's semifinal in a rematch of the 2017 final.

Copa America

The South America men's championship is also down to the last four. Hosts Brazil faces off against arch-rival Argentina and defending champion Chile meets 2018 FIFA World Cup sweetheart Peru.

Africa Cup of Nations

Africa is also hosting their continental championship in international soccer this summer. The group stage final matchday will be on Tuesday and the knockout stage begins on Friday. Hosts Egypt will be a good bet the rest of the way after going a perfect 3-0-0 in their group matches.

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Major League Soccer

The Houston Dynamo dropped to seventh place in the West after losing three straight road games in the span of a week [4-0 at Portland Timbers, 2-0 at San Jose Earthquakes and 2-1 at New England Revolution]. The Dynamo return home to BBVA Stadium, where they are unbeaten in MLS matches with a 6-0-3 record, to host the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.

East top seven: 1. Philadelphia (32), 2. D.C. United (31), 3. Montreal (30), 4. Atlanta (29), 5. NY Red Bulls (27), 6. NYCFC (26), 7. Toronto (23)

West top seven: 1. LAFC (37), 2. LA Galaxy (31), 3. Seattle (29), 4. Dallas (26), 5. San Jose (25), 6. Minnesota (24), 7. Houston (24)

Scoring leader: 16 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 11 - Maxi Moralez (NYCFC)

National Women's Soccer League

Houston Dash forward Kealia Ohai reached 100 NWSL matches in a 2-1 home loss to the Portland Thorns at BBVA Stadium on Saturday. The Dash travel to North Carolina this week to take on defending champions NC Courage on Friday night.

Standings: 1. Portland Thorns (19), 2. Washington Spirit (18), 3. Reign FC (17), 4. Utah Royals (17), 5. North Carolina Courage (16), 6. Chicago Red Stars (14), 7. Houston Dash (13), 8. Orlando Pride (5), 9. Sky Blue FC (2)

Scoring leader: 9 - Sam Kerr (Chicago)

Assists leader: 4 - Yuki Nagasato (Chicago)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, July 2

2:00 p.m. - [FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal] USA vs. England (FOX, Telemundo)

7:30 p.m. - [Copa America semifinal] Brazil vs. Argentina (ESPN+, Telemundo)

9:30 p.m. - [Gold Cup semifinal] Mexico vs. Haiti (FS1, Univision)

Wednesday, July 3

2:00 p.m. - [FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal] Netherlands vs. Sweden (FS1, Telemundo)

7:30 p.m. - [Copa America semifinal] Chile vs. Peru (ESPN+, Telemundo)

8:30 p.m. - [Gold Cup semifinal] USA vs. Jamaica (FS1, Univision)

Thursday, July 4

9:30 p.m. - [MLS] LA Galaxy vs. Toronto FC (ESPN+)

Saturday, July 6

10 a.m. - FIFA Women's World Cup 3rd Place (FOX, Telemundo)

2 p.m. - Copa America 3rd Place (ESPN+, Telemundo)

Sunday, July 7

10 a.m. - FIFA Women's World Cup Final (FOX, Telemundo)

3 p.m. - Copa America Final (ESPN+, Telemundo)

8 p.m. - Gold Cup Final (FS1, Univision)

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I met James Arthur Harris a pretty long time ago, it had to be before 2001, because I was at the gate waiting for his flight from New Orleans to land. I was supposed to pick him up, drive him to the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza on Loop 610, wait for him to change into his work clothes, and get him to the George R. Brown before 3 p.m.

I had never met him, but it would be easy to pick him out in the line of passengers filing off the plane. He'd be the big guy, 6 ft. 7 and weighing more than 400 pounds. Because our schedule was tight, I was hoping he wasn't already in his work clothes. You'll understand why.

When Harris worked, he wore a leopard loin cloth, bare feet, bright painted stars and moons on his huge pot belly, and white face paint under his scary witch doctor mask. He also carried a spear and shield.

James Harris, who died this week at age 70 from COVID-19 complications, performed in wrestling rings around the world as Kamala the Ugandan Giant. Or Kamala the Ugandan Head Hunter. This day, he came to Houston to sign autographs at TriStar Sports memorabilia shows.

"Kamala was a huge draw to our shows in the '90s. His character was mysterious and intriguing. Fans lined up to get his autograph and pose for photos with him. He was one of our biggest draws," said Tristar senior vice president Bobby Mintz.

I checked Harris into the Crowne Plaza and waited in the lobby while he went upstairs to take off his shoes and socks, paint stars and moons on his belly … and become Kamala the uncivilized cannibal from the jungles of deepest Africa.

You couldn't get away with this stereotyped character today. But this was then, and Kamala was one of the hottest performers in the wrestling world.

You should have seen the looks on people's faces when the elevator door opened, and out came Kamala, in full ring regalia. We got into my car and made it to the George R. Brown in time for his autograph session. The line already was 100 wrestling fans deep. I sat next to Kamala for three hours, muttering grunts and nonsense sounds because, of course, Kamala did not speak English.

James Harris was born and died in Mississippi. He broke into pro wrestling in 1978 under the name Sugar Bear Harris. He also wrestled as Ugly Bear Harris, The Mississippi Mauler and Bad News Harris.

It was Jerry Lawler, owner of Memphis independent wrestling scene in the early '80s, who gave Harris his new gimmick and name Kamala. He would be billed as Kamala the Ugandan Giant, former bodyguard to the brutal dictator Idi Amin. Lawler picked the name Kamala after the capital of Uganda. Actually, the capital of Uganda is Kampala. It doesn't matter.

Kamala was money, as they say, he put butts in seats. He used a devastating karate chop to opponents' heads and pinned them, 1-2-3. Soon he was hired by Mid-South Wrestling, where the circuit included the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston. In 1986, he became a main event wrestler for the WWE and headlined shows against Hulk Hogan coast-to-coast.

As we sat at the autograph show, one of my jobs was to assure young fans that Kamala was really a nice person, so don't be scared.

That night, I threw my one and only dinner party. I invited about 20 people to meet Kamala. I prepared a casual buffet, the main course was lasagna. I had two large trays, one with vegetable lasagna, one with sausage and ground beef.

The guests showed up, and Kamala posed for photos and signed autographs. He let my friends wear his witch doctor mask. He hoisted some of the guests and pretended he was body slamming them for their photos. He was the most gracious and gentle giant you could imagine. Until …

I was taking the lasagna trays out of the oven. I brought Kamala into the kitchen so he could eat first, and return to mingle with the guests. I asked him, which would you like, vegetable or meat lasagna? He said meat, and picked up the entire tray, sat at the kitchen table and ate the whole thing. I told the other guests, eat lots of garlic bread.

Kamala retired from wrestling full-time around 2000. He bought a truck and hauled gravel, asphalt and dirt from Mississippi across the southern U.S. If he knew a town had an independent wrestling show, he'd re-route his route so he could pick up extra money dusting off his Kamala persona for one night. That's how he made an appearance at the Texas All-Star Wrestling show in Humble in 2003.

Kamala fell into bad health with diabetes and high blood pressure. He had both legs amputated. Despite headlining wrestling shows around the world, Kamala never earned much money. In his later years, he made wood chairs near his home in Oxford, Mississippi. He also recorded an album, Kamala's Greatest Hits: Vol. 1, and wrote his autobiography, Kamala Speaks.

After the dinner party, which did not make Maxine Mesinger's society column in the Chronicle, something I'm still bitter about, I drove Kamala back to the Crowne Plaza. I told him, be in the lobby at 9 a.m., we'll get breakfast on our way to the airport. I asked him, what would you like for breakfast. Pancakes? Bacon and eggs? Fruit?

He said, and I'll never forget this, "When it comes to food, I isn't choicy."

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