Lionel Messi has said that winning the FIFA 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 the Netherlands at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo on Wednesday. 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 Netherlands, who have been one of the toughest teams to beat at the World Cup. Alejandro Sabella poetically summed up what Messi means to his side 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.
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."
Sabella has been boosted by the return of Sergio Aguero from a muscle injury for the semi-final. Angel Di Maria may be out, but impressive full-back Marcos Rojo returns from suspension.