Lionel Messi’s heroics that have steered Argentina to the brink of the World Cup final will be forgotten if his side fail to overcome Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands on Wednesday evening.
The Barcelona forward, who has drawn comparisons with former idol Diego Maradona with his virtuoso displays and ability to conjure something special when his country need it most, has found the net four times in five games and currently trails Colombia’s James Rodriguez by two in the race for the Golden Boot.
Messi needs to deliver
But as Argentina prepare to face a Netherlands side stirred on by the pain of four years ago where they lost to Spain in the final, all the magical memories of Messi magic and comparisons with Maradona will cease to exist if they do not make their date with destiny at the Maracana on Sunday.
Only the greatest, the players that rise to the occasion and play a starring role in the final, go down in history. Maradona, the Brazilian Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta have all etched their name into World Cup folklore by scoring in finals and delivering the glory.
Messi’s career has already been sensational, with him having been the spearhead of the greatest Barcelona side in the club’s history and the winner of four Ballon d’Or trophies. However, only by winning the biggest prize of them all will his career be complete.
To regain the edge in his competition with current World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, he must lead his country to glory with the armband strapped to him. Ronaldo failed to guide Portugal out of the group stages with Germany and the USA progressing at their expense.
Injuries have threatened to derail his career in recent years, with injuries sustained last season playing a major role in the relinquishing of the La Liga title to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. But in the samba sunshine, Messi has risen to the occasion to headline the tournament and make it his own.
Argentina's shot at further glory
For Argentina, it is the country’s best chance of glory since their last triumph in 1986. In both 2010 and 2006 they were dumped out of the tournament by Germany, whereas they failed to get out of the group stages in South Korea and Japan 12 years ago.
Messi has the chance to join a rare few in becoming a legend of the tournament. Failure to do so and it will not only see his side fail again, but see Ronaldo remain the unprecedented top dog of the sport.
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