Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria celebrate Di Maria's winning goal, on an assist from Messi, late in extra time on Tuesday at the 2014 World Cup round of 16 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Diego Azubel / EPA / July 1, 2014
Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria celebrate Di Maria's winning goal, on an assist from Messi, late in extra time on Tuesday at the 2014 World Cup round of 16 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Diego Azubel / EPA / J

Argentina clearly more than Lionel Messi and ‘10 others’



At one stage of Tuesday night’s match between Argentina and Switzerland, a journalist in the press box at Arena Corinthians suggested the South American behemoths consisted merely of Lionel Messi “and 10 other guys”.

It is a theory often used to explain why the little magician has struggled to stamp his authority on a major international tournament. Yet it is not in the slightest bit true.

Looking through the Argentina squad, 16 of the 23 players are employed in Europe’s top leagues. From Ezequiel Lavezzi at Paris Saint-Germain to Angel Di Maria at Real Madrid to Gonzalo Higuain at Napoli and Javier Mascherano at Barcelona. There is no lack of talent nor experience.

What is lacking, is a system that gets Messi on the ball without being suffocated by a swarm of opposition players.

At Barcelona, where he has scored 342 times in 357 appearances, his teammates are comfortable holding the ball, keeping possession, moving it around and switching positions. Messi is able to float around and, when he is marked, move position. Someone else can fill the space.

His teammates also demand attention. He plays as No 10, but is often found on either wing, deep or at the front of the attack.

Tuesday night, Argentina finished their 1-0 victory with 61 per cent possession, but they never impressed, rarely switched positions, never passed the ball slickly in midfield and, Di Maria aside, nobody was particularly threatening.

Switzerland could afford to focus on Messi, who stood for long periods in the centre circle, seemingly uninterested, but with his head constantly moving, scoping out the scene, memorising where every player on the pitch was going.

For 118 minutes, he had at least two players marking him. At one stage he hugged the touchline with two red shirts blocking him like bad guys in a dark alley, yet he still managed to wriggle his way through the gap and into a little space.

If Argentina is Messi and 10 others, it is not because the others are average; it is because Messi is on a different level entirely.

Having netted in his country’s first three games, he started against the Swiss knowing that to score for Argentina in a fourth consecutive match would see him equal another record, jointly held by Guillermo Stabile and Hernan Crespo.

He did not manage it, but his pass that led to Di Maria’s decisive goal in the closing stages of extra time tied him with Mario Kempes with four assists for Argentina at the World Cup. Only Juan Sebastian Veron, who amassed five, and Diego Maradona, with eight, have managed more.

The entire movement of Messi in the build-up to the crucial goal was reminiscent of El Diego, the legend whose shadow the Barcelona forward will never shrug off.

At the 1990 World Cup in Italy, Maradona produced a similar play, also in a second-round match and one that also ended 1-0. Against Brazil, he picked up the ball in midfield, rode a tackle, ran through the middle and laid off to Claudio Caniggia.

The greatest differences between the two goals was that Messi passed forward into space rather than a reverse pass through bodies, while Di Maria fired first time past Diego Beneglio rather than taking the ball around the goalkeeper – and the opposition on Tuesday night was not Brazil.

Yet it seems almost destined that it might be one day soon. Neither Argentina nor Brazil have impressed over the past three weeks, yet Messi and Neymar have left their marks, dragging their teams to victory when required.

With the two South American sides capable of meeting only in the final (or, the third-place play-off), there is a certain sense of inevitability that these two greatest of rivals will go head to head on the world’s grandest stage.

It would be the dream final, the one that on paper and in people’s imaginations, this engrossing tournament deserves.

From what we have seen so far, however, the football might not be pretty.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Plan to boost public schools

A major shake-up of government-run schools was rolled out across the country in 2017. Known as the Emirati School Model, it placed more emphasis on maths and science while also adding practical skills to the curriculum.

It was accompanied by the promise of a Dh5 billion investment, over six years, to pay for state-of-the-art infrastructure improvements.

Aspects of the school model will be extended to international private schools, the education minister has previously suggested.

Recent developments have also included the introduction of moral education - which public and private schools both must teach - along with reform of the exams system and tougher teacher licensing requirements.

ANATOMY OF A FALL

Director: Justine Triet

Starring: Sandra Huller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado-Graner

Rating: 5/5

SRI LANKS ODI SQUAD

Perera (capt), Mendis, Gunathilaka, de Silva, Nissanka, Shanaka, Bandara, Hasaranga, Udana, Dananjaya, Dickwella, Chameera, Mendis, Fernando, Sandakan, Karunaratne, Fernando, Fernando.

FULL FIGHT CARD

Featherweight Bout: Abdullah Al Qahtani v Taha Bendaoud
Bantamweight Bout: Ali Taleb v Nawras Abzakh
Bantamweight Bout: Xavier Alaoui v Rachid El Hazoume
Featherweight Bout: Islam Reda v Adam Meskini
Bantamweight Bout: Tariq Ismail v Jalal Al Daaja
Bantamweight Bout: Elias Boudegzdame v Hassan Mandour
Amateur Female Atomweight Bout: Hattan Al Saif v Nada Faheem
Featherweight Bout: Maraoune Bellagouit v Motaz Askar
Featherweight Bout: Ahmed Tarek v Abdelrahman Alhyasat
Showcase Featherweight Bout: Mido Mohamed v Yazeed Hasanain
Showcase Flyweight Bout: Malik Basahel v Harsh Pandya

What is the FNC?

The Federal National Council is one of five federal authorities established by the UAE constitution. It held its first session on December 2, 1972, a year to the day after Federation.
It has 40 members, eight of whom are women. The members represent the UAE population through each of the emirates. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have eight members each, Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah six, and Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain have four.
They bring Emirati issues to the council for debate and put those concerns to ministers summoned for questioning. 
The FNC’s main functions include passing, amending or rejecting federal draft laws, discussing international treaties and agreements, and offering recommendations on general subjects raised during sessions.
Federal draft laws must first pass through the FNC for recommendations when members can amend the laws to suit the needs of citizens. The draft laws are then forwarded to the Cabinet for consideration and approval. 
Since 2006, half of the members have been elected by UAE citizens to serve four-year terms and the other half are appointed by the Ruler’s Courts of the seven emirates.
In the 2015 elections, 78 of the 252 candidates were women. Women also represented 48 per cent of all voters and 67 per cent of the voters were under the age of 40.
 

SPECS: Polestar 3

Engine: Long-range dual motor with 400V battery
Power: 360kW / 483bhp
Torque: 840Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 628km
0-100km/h: 4.7sec
Top speed: 210kph
Price: From Dh360,000
On sale: September

A little about CVRL

Founded in 1985 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) is a government diagnostic centre that provides testing and research facilities to the UAE and neighbouring countries.

One of its main goals is to provide permanent treatment solutions for veterinary related diseases. 

The taxidermy centre was established 12 years ago and is headed by Dr Ulrich Wernery. 

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

The specs

Engine: Single front-axle electric motor
Power: 218hp
Torque: 330Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 402km (claimed)
Price: From Dh215,000 (estimate)
On sale: September

Most ODI hundreds

49 - Sachin Tendulkar, India
47 - Virat Kohli, India
31 - Rohit Sharma, India
30 - Ricky Ponting, Australia/ICC
28 - Sanath Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka/Asia
27 - Hashim Amla, South Africa
25 - AB de Villiers, South Africa/Africa
25 - Chris Gayle, West Indies/ICC
25 - Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka/ICC/Asia
22 - Sourav Ganguly, India/Asia
22 - Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

KLOPP AT LIVERPOOL

Years: October 2015 - June 2024
Total games: 491
Win percentage: 60.9%
Major trophies: 6 (Premier League x 1, Champions League x 1, FA Cup x 1, League Cup x 2, Fifa Club World Cup x1)

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

WHAT IS THE LICENSING PROCESS FOR VARA?

Vara will cater to three categories of companies in Dubai (except the DIFC):

Category A: Minimum viable product (MVP) applicants that are currently in the process of securing an MVP licence: This is a three-stage process starting with [1] a provisional permit, graduating to [2] preparatory licence and concluding with [3] operational licence. Applicants that are already in the MVP process will be advised by Vara to either continue within the MVP framework or be transitioned to the full market product licensing process.

Category B: Existing legacy virtual asset service providers prior to February 7, 2023, which are required to come under Vara supervision. All operating service proviers in Dubai (excluding the DIFC) fall under Vara’s supervision.

Category C: New applicants seeking a Vara licence or existing applicants adding new activities. All applicants that do not fall under Category A or B can begin the application process through their current or prospective commercial licensor — the DET or Free Zone Authority — or directly through Vara in the instance that they have yet to determine the commercial operating zone in Dubai. 

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).


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