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Lionel Messi's date with destiny and greatness

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Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring during the group F World Cup soccer match between Argentina and Iran at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Saturday, June 21, 2014. Argentina won 1-0. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring during the group F World Cup soccer match between Argentina and Iran at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Saturday, June 21, 2014. Argentina won 1-0. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

AP

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Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring during the group F World Cup soccer match between Argentina and Iran at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Saturday, June 21, 2014. Argentina won 1-0. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Lionel has spent his days in the famous blue and white stripes of Argentina trying to catch up with Diego Armando Maradona.

Revered around the world, Messi has never commanded the same sky high level of hero worship as Maradona back home. He did push ahead of his countryman on Wednesday night in one way though.

In the World Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out success against the Netherlands, Barcelona's finest won his 92nd cap – Maradona finished his colourful, controversial international career with 91.

Maradona, however, has what Messi craves – a World Cup winners medal.

Messi will captain Argentina in Sunday's final in the Maracana against Germany, the nation Maradona's side overcame in the 1986 decider.

Rio awaits to see if the modern day king ends up with the champion crown.

Messi is 27 and while he has at least another World Cup left in him, the weekend represents his best chance to get his hands on football's golden treasure.

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Some say only if Argentina defeat the Germans, can Messi be considered up there with Maradona and Pele.

I don't buy that argument because even without World Cup glory, his greatness is assured for the goals, the assists, the dribbles, the balance, the toughness, mentally and physically, and all the skill, excitement, entertainment, wonder and awe he has given us in the past decade...not forgetting the silverware he has brought to Barcelona in a club career you could debate is already superior to Pele's or Maradona's.

Yet it is true to say that a triumph on Sunday would elevate Messi even higher and erase any doubts that he is the finest footballer of all time.

For that to happen Messi has to turn it on. Argentina may have rocks in defence and the immovable Javier Mascherano in front of them, but to have a prayer of beating Joachim Low's formidable outfit, they will need their number 10 to sprinkle his magic stardust on the pitch.

Sunday, July 13 is Messi's date with destiny.

All that has gone before has been building up to this.

In the group stages his exceptional goals saw off Bosnia-Herzgovina, Iran and Nigeria and a slide rule pass set up Angel Di Maria's extra time winner in the last 16 against Switzerland.

Since then his influence has waned. Belgium stifled him in the quarter-finals and in the semi with the Dutch, he hit an Oranje wall. Messi's only contribution of note was an accurate penalty in the shoot-out!

If Holland can stop Messi, you would think the German machine could do the same.

Knowing his importance, Germany will plan first to cut the supply, and second crowd Messi out if he does receive the ball.

Somehow the Argentine skipper must break free from the shackles and shine on the biggest stage of all.


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