Lionel Messi will “define” Argentina’s FIFA World Cup Final against Germany, national legend Diego Maradona expects.
Messi has captained Argentina to the final, scoring four goals and turning in a number of match-winning performances early in the tournament.
Though his output has been stifled in the knockout rounds, a defensive solidity established by Alejandro Sabella has helped Argentina reach a first final since 1990 – when they also faced the Germans.
Furthering the rivalry between the nations, Germany have eliminated Argentina from the last two World Cups, including a 4-0 hammering at the quarter-final stage four years ago when an attack-minded Maradona took charge.
With the South Americans eyeing a first global triumph since Maradona’s sparkling display at Mexico ’86, the former captain believes 2014’s skipper will be the one to lead from the front at the Maracana on Sunday.
Speaking on television show De Zurda, he claimed: “If on Sunday Messi has to overcome Maradona to lift the cup, I’ll give him the red carpet.
“He will be the player who will define the game.
“The only fear I have is that he is tired, but in the end you cannot be tired. I think he will understand. If you miss a shot on Sunday, you only resemble the best in the world.”
Germany head into the final on the back of their monumental 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the final four.
Though Germany enter the game as slight favourites after that result, Maradona is confident that previous weaknesses displayed in the tournament can be exploited by Sabella’s side as they look to win the trophy for all of South America.
He explained: “Germany is not impossible. Argentina can do it. Against Algeria, we saw one Germany, and against Brazil [we saw] another.
“We all expected it to be Brazil in the final. Argentina are going in strengthened. Once again Argentine football is back at the top. The jersey had lost prestige. Today it got it back.
“The Argentines need to win this final. It could not be an all European final in South America, so we represent our continent. We could not allow it.”