Lionel Messi celebrates his second goal against Nigeria on Wednesday in Argentina's 3-2 victory at the 2014 World Cup. Edgard Garrido / Reuters / June 25, 2014
Lionel Messi celebrates his second goal against Nigeria on Wednesday in Argentina's 3-2 victory at the 2014 World Cup. Edgard Garrido / Reuters / June 25, 2014

With Lionel Messi, Argentina are an imperfect team with a perfect player



Messidepencia, they call it. A dependency on Lionel Messi.

Argentina certainly are over-reliant on their captain but, frankly, there are worse problems to have.

Three of the giants of European football have already gone home. Cristiano Ronaldo, his rival for the title of the world’s best player, is likely to beat a swift retreat across the Atlantic, as well.

So sympathy should be in short supply for Argentina. Their fortunes rest on perhaps the greatest player of his generation; some would say the best of any. They are yet to excel as a team but have moved forward as group winners, with three wins from three, thanks largely to one man.

Four of their six goals have come from Messi’s left foot – and the others have been scored, rather inadvertently, by defenders, one of them a Bosnian who accidentally diverted the ball into his own net.

Sergio Aguero, who limped off, has been out of sorts. Gonzalo Higuain’s form has deteriorated since a fine display against Bosnia. Angel di Maria, at least, has excelled, but the trio have drawn a collective blank.

Messi has compensated in spectacular style. His first goal against Nigeria was his worst of the tournament, but that is relative: a 20-pass move, including a lovely ball from Javier Mascherano, led to Di Maria striking the post. Messi had the powers of anticipation to meet the rebound and the precision to angle his shot through a crowded penalty area.

By the by, it made him the first Argentine to score in three consecutive World Cup games since Omar Oreste Corbatta in 1958. Not even Diego Maradona, that perpetual comparison point for Messi, managed that.

His second took him level with a colleague at club level and a rival for the Golden Boot. Neymar has four goals this World Cup. So, too, does Messi after an immaculate free-kick, caressed and curled into the top corner. Vincent Enyeama, who had saved a rather more fierce free-kick a minute earlier, was left scrabbling across his goal, running when he should have dived.

Messi has a capacity to make goalkeepers look foolish and Enyeama, among the finest in this World Cup, can testify to that.

It made it rather inappropriate that Argentina’s winner bounced in off Rojo. It was the lone scrappy goal in a game of superb strikes.

Twice, Ahmed Musa assumed the role of Nigeria’s Ronaldo; whatever Messi could do, he set about emulating. Two excellent equalisers were testament to the CSKA Moscow winger’s talent and the transformation in Nigeria.

Their opening stalemate with Iran was almost unwatchable. Since then, Nigeria have displayed more attacking intent. It has been rewarded with a place in the last-16, giving Africa its first, and perhaps only, team in the knockout stages.

Considering Asia’s struggles, that is especially welcome; otherwise the global game will be reduced to three continents.

Playing with renewed ambition, Nigeria went toe to toe with Argentina, highlighting the vulnerabilities in their defence, especially against pace and intelligent movement.

Argentina are an imperfect team but while they have a perfect player, they have a chance.

sports@thenational.ae

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The Old Slave and the Mastiff

Patrick Chamoiseau

Translated from the French and Creole by Linda Coverdale

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

PETER PAN & WENDY

Director: David Lowery

Stars: Alexander Molony, Ever Anderson, Joshua Pickering

Rating: 3/5

Some of Darwish's last words

"They see their tomorrows slipping out of their reach. And though it seems to them that everything outside this reality is heaven, yet they do not want to go to that heaven. They stay, because they are afflicted with hope." - Mahmoud Darwish, to attendees of the Palestine Festival of Literature, 2008

His life in brief: Born in a village near Galilee, he lived in exile for most of his life and started writing poetry after high school. He was arrested several times by Israel for what were deemed to be inciteful poems. Most of his work focused on the love and yearning for his homeland, and he was regarded the Palestinian poet of resistance. Over the course of his life, he published more than 30 poetry collections and books of prose, with his work translated into more than 20 languages. Many of his poems were set to music by Arab composers, most significantly Marcel Khalife. Darwish died on August 9, 2008 after undergoing heart surgery in the United States. He was later buried in Ramallah where a shrine was erected in his honour.

Abu Dhabi GP schedule

Friday: First practice - 1pm; Second practice - 5pm

Saturday: Final practice - 2pm; Qualifying - 5pm

Sunday: Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (55 laps) - 5.10pm

If you go

Flying

Despite the extreme distance, flying to Fairbanks is relatively simple, requiring just one transfer in Seattle, which can be reached directly from Dubai with Emirates for Dh6,800 return.

 

Touring

Gondwana Ecotours’ seven-day Polar Bear Adventure starts in Fairbanks in central Alaska before visiting Kaktovik and Utqiarvik on the North Slope. Polar bear viewing is highly likely in Kaktovik, with up to five two-hour boat tours included. Prices start from Dh11,500 per person, with all local flights, meals and accommodation included; gondwanaecotours.com 

Fixtures

Tuesday - 5.15pm: Team Lebanon v Alger Corsaires; 8.30pm: Abu Dhabi Storms v Pharaohs

Wednesday - 5.15pm: Pharaohs v Carthage Eagles; 8.30pm: Alger Corsaires v Abu Dhabi Storms

Thursday - 4.30pm: Team Lebanon v Pharaohs; 7.30pm: Abu Dhabi Storms v Carthage Eagles

Friday - 4.30pm: Pharaohs v Alger Corsaires; 7.30pm: Carthage Eagles v Team Lebanon

Saturday - 4.30pm: Carthage Eagles v Alger Corsaires; 7.30pm: Abu Dhabi Storms v Team Lebanon

SCORES IN BRIEF

Lahore Qalandars 186 for 4 in 19.4 overs
(Sohail 100,Phil Salt 37 not out, Bilal Irshad 30, Josh Poysden 2-26)
bt Yorkshire Vikings 184 for 5 in 20 overs
(Jonathan Tattersall 36, Harry Brook 37, Gary Ballance 33, Adam Lyth 32, Shaheen Afridi 2-36).

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

The specs

Engine: 4-litre twin-turbo V8

Transmission: eight-speed PDK

Power: 630bhp

Torque: 820Nm

Price: Dh683,200

On sale: now


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