Copa América: Messi fails again with Argentina

Argentina’s senior squad has not won a title in 26 years, with the last one coming when Lionel Messi was five years old. (AP)
Updated 03 July 2019

Copa América: Messi fails again with Argentina

  • Argentina’s senior squad has not won a title in 26 years, with the last one coming when Lionel Messi was five years old
  • The Barcelona playmaker Messi has complained about the refereeing

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil: Another elimination for Argentina, another missed opportunity for Lionel Messi to succeed with the national team.
Messi’s streak without a title with Argentina has been extended after a 2-0 loss to Brazil in the semifinals of the Copa América on Tuesday.
Argentina’s senior squad hasn’t won a title in 26 years, with the last one coming when Messi was five years old.
The Barcelona playmaker stood by himself and looked in despair after the final whistle at the Mineirão Stadium.
“We played a great match,” Messi said. “We put in a great effort, but they were better than us.”
The 32-year-old Messi had his best match of the tournament, leading the team and creating most of the danger for Argentina in attack. He made a few good runs and put his teammates in good position to score, but again it wasn’t enough.
It was from a Messi cross that Sergio Agüero hit the crossbar in the first half, and in the second the Barcelona playmaker had two chances from direct free kicks, one saved by Brazil goalkeeper Allison and another that deflected off the Brazilian wall. He also struck the post with a shot from inside the area after halftime.
Messi complained about the refereeing, saying video review should have been used to check on a couple of non-calls that could have favored the Argentines with penalty kicks.
“Every minimum contact was a foul for them,” he said. “Hopefully CONMEBOL (the South American soccer confederation) will do something about these refereeing issues. We gave everything we had, but we had things going against us. But I don’t think they will do anything, Brazil manages everything.”
Messi’s only title with Argentina was with the under-23 squad in the 2008 Olympics.
His first major tournament with the senior squad was in the 2006 World Cup, when Argentina fell to host Germany in the quarterfinals. He lost to Brazil in the final of the 2007 Copa América, and three years later Argentina again fell to Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Messi and Argentina again couldn’t get past the last eight in the 2011 Copa América, losing to eventual champion Uruguay.
One of Messi’s best tournaments with the national team came in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when Argentina made it to the final but lost 1-0 to Germany.
He came close again in the last two editions of the Copa América, losing both finals in penalty shootouts against Chile.
Messi was one of the three veterans who lost those two finals and the one in the World Cup in 2014, along with Agüero and Ángel Di María.
Messi said after the 2016 loss to Chile he would not return to the national team, but he sounded more optimistic this time, saying “Argentina has material to keep growing.”
Argentina will play the third-place game on Saturday in São Paulo against either two-time defending champion Chile or Peru, who will play in the other semifinal on Wednesday in Porto Alegre.


Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Updated 20 August 2019

Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

  • Dalma Malhas ‘honored’ to be part of national team
  • Equestrian star began riding aged four

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star Dalma Malhas is counting down to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by competing in a series of crucial qualifying events.

Malhas, who has been riding since the age of four, told Arab News that she was honored to be part of the Saudi national team after “years of work and dedication.”

Next month she and her fellow showjumpers head to Morocco to take part in a series of qualifying events.

The 10th edition of the Morocco Royal Tour takes place in three cities — Tetouan, Rabat, and Eljadida —  on three consecutive weekends. The top two teams, based on their results, will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Malhas wants to be at the prestigious sporting event in Japan. 

“The work that has been done in the past few years will manifest itself now and I’m enjoying what I’ve been working on ... I believe in destiny and hard work,” she told Arab News. “Anything could happen, but I’m hopeful and trying to focus on peak performance because it is important that, when it comes to the horse and myself, we want to be there, energetic and motivated.”

She was the first female athlete from the Kingdom to compete at an Olympic-level event, riding at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 in Singapore and winning a bronze medal. She participated in the 14-18 age group, becoming only the third Saudi athlete to snag an Olympic medal.

She said it was easy to buy a horse that was already trained and compete with it. But the challenge for her was to get an inexperienced horse and train him from scratch.

“I dedicated time, effort and energy. I had a vision of how he could be and transformed him into a skilled and talented horse, and step-by-step I followed that. You build a strong partnership when you go through that process. It’s an affinity you can’t really buy. This is a very big part of horsemanship and one of my biggest achievements since the Youth Olympic Games. It’s priceless, having a combination and partnership like this.”

Malhas was born in 1992. Her mother, Arwa Mutabagani, is a prominent equestrian and has been a board member at the Saudi Equestrian Federation since 2008. She was also the first woman to be appointed to the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.

Malhas has had a thoroughly international upbringing. At 12 she moved with her mother from Saudi Arabia to Rome to train with her under Italy’s former showjumping national coach, Duccio Bartalucci, spending a decade under his tutelage.

After studying and training in Italy she joined a two-year professional program at the Fursan Equestrian Center in Chantilly, France. She has been training with Olympic champion Roger Yves Bost since 2016. 

She started 2019 by participating in several tournaments, crisscrossing Europe and gradually moving up the leaderboard. 

She has won several awards to date, including Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, and can be regarded as a pioneer and role model.

Malhas said there were great opportunities for Saudi women in the fields of sports and equestrianism. She talked about the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan and how it empowered women. She also saw an opportunity to become more involved. 

“I want to give back too. I’ve been mostly focused on showjumping and training, so hopefully I’ll start giving back and contribute to society and motivate my peers in the country. I don’t mind though I’ve been enjoying the ride and after years of work I’m finally being rewarded in the best way possible.”