Football

Messi eyes World Cup glory

Messi upbeat as he closes in on the missing 
medal in his trophy cabinet

SEMI-FINAL

HOLLAND v ARGENTINA

(Tomorrow, 4am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141,
StarHub TV Ch 223 & MediaCorp okto)

Lionel Messi's trophy cabinet is packed with awards.

He has won the Spanish league title with Barcelona six times, the Champions League thrice. In the process, he was awarded the Ballon d'Or three times.

But one accolade, and the most important one, is missing - a World Cup winner's medal.

He will move one step closer to that tomorrow morning (Singapore time) if Argentina make it through to their first World Cup final in 24 years by beating Holland at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo.

Four years ago, many of Messi's Barcelona teammates returned to Catalonia with a World Cup winner's medal and now he wants one of his own.

"As a player, winning a World Cup is the best there is," the Argentina captain said in an adidas interview published in Spanish daily AS. "It's something you dream about when you are a kid and it never disappears.

"I have asked my Barcelona teammates Xavi (Hernandez), (Andres) Iniesta and (Gerard) Pique what it is like to lift the trophy, and they couldn't describe it.

"We will do everything to make this dream a reality.

"To play a World Cup final with the great atmosphere of the Maracana is something every player dreams of, but first we have to make sure we get there."

TALISMAN

Argentina will, of course, be banking on their talisman to deliver the magic to beat Louis van Gaal's Holland, who have been one of the toughest teams to overcome at this World Cup.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella poetically summed up what Messi means to him after the 1-0 quarter-final win over Belgium.

"He was our water in the desert," Sabella said, reflecting on a first half in which Messi shone while others around him struggled.

Even though Sabella has the likes of senior players such as Javier Mascherano and the fit-again Sergio Aguero to call on, his reliance on Messi is clear.

Messi, who has scored four of Argentina's eight goals, could still end the tournament as top scorer, but he is not concerned about individual accolades.

This is a team game, he insisted.

"I'd prefer the World Cup than the Golden Boot. Always," he said.

"I am concentrating only on the team. If we concentrate on our own game and we prepare ourselves tactically, then our football will do the talking.

"If I keep scoring goals and that helps the team, then that is the most important thing."

If Messi was feeling any nerves on the eve of the semi-final in Sao Paulo, then he was not showing it.

"I am feeling positive pressure," Messi said. "It's a great honour to be captain of Argentina. I want to pay back the trust given in me leading Argentina to the World Cup."

HISTORY

Argentina and Holland share a rich World Cup history.

The Dutch put on a fantastic display of total football to beat Argentina 4-0 in 1974 but, four years later, the South Americans got their revenge, beating the Oranje to lift the trophy.

Twenty years on, Dennis Bergkamp scored a breathtaking winner in one 
of the most memorable matches of France '98.

Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano remembers the Bergkamp strike well.

"I was at home watching it on television and I was just as disappointed as everyone else," Mascherano said.

"This Dutch team have got a lot of experience and they're hungry for success after losing the final in 2010, so we'll have to be on our guard.

"We're excited and we feel strong. We know we can put in another good performance." - PA Sport.


If you score so many goals, you have an added value. But, on the most important stage, Messi hasn’t always pulled it off... We want to stop him, so that’s going to be quite a challenge.

— Louis van Gaal saying that it would be dangerous for Holland to waste too much energy worrying about Lionel Messi

World Cup