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Messi - this is my time to shine

LIONEL MESSI believes winning the World Cup with Argentina would be the greatest achievement of his glittering career.

Argentina will make it through to their first World Cup final in 24 years if they beat Holland at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo this evening.

Messi's trophy cabinet is packed with awards. He has won six Spanish league titles with Barcelona, three Champions Leagues and he has been awarded the Ballon d'Or on three occasions.

But one accolade is missing - the World Cup.

Four years ago, many of Messi's Barcelona team-mates returned to Catalonia with a World Cup winners' medals 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 on AS.

"It's something you dream about when you are a kid and it never disappears.

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

"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 what every player dreams of, but first we have to make sure we get there."


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

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella poetically summed up what Messi means to him after the narrow 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 Angel Di Maria, 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 insists.

"I'd prefer the World Cup than the golden boot. Always," he said. "I am only concentrating 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."

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 breath-taking 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."

Sabella has been boosted by the return of Aguero from a muscle injury for the semi-final.

Di Maria may be out, but impressive full-back Marcos Rojo returns from suspension.