Lionel Messi focused on emulating hero Diego Maradona

Lionel Messi takes an indirect free kick against the Netherlands. Picture: REUTERS

Lionel Messi takes an indirect free kick against the Netherlands. Picture: REUTERS

LIONEL Messi says Argentina have "one little step left" to climb against Germany in the World Cup final on Monday when he has a chance to emulate Diego Maradona.

If Messi can match Maradona and lead Argentina to World Cup glory this will be remembered as his tournament.

Success will be even sweeter with the title will come in arch-rival Brazil's backyard.

Thursday's 4-2 semi-final penalty shoot-out win over the Netherlands kept Messi on track to emulate the Maradona-inspired 1986 title win.

After the game the Barcelona legend was unable to celebrate with his team-mates in the dressing room as he was dragged away for a doping test by FIFA then marshalled out of the stadium without talking to the waiting media.

Via a posting on the photo-sharing website Instagram he said: "I am proud to be part of this squad.

"They are all phenomenal. What a performance they put in. And we are in the final!!

"It's crazy. Let's enjoy it. We have one little step left."

Messi will always be compared to Maradona, captain of the Argentina teams that won the World Cup in Mexico in 1986 and were beaten by West Germany in the final four years later in Italy.

Messi won his 92nd cap for his country against the Dutch, passing Maradona's total number of appearances and moving into sixth place in his country's all-time list.

Maradona played in four World Cups and won one.

Now Messi, at the age of 27, is presented with the chance to equal his predecessor in what is his third World Cup.

The Barcelona player was pivotal in taking Alejandro Sabella's side to this stage with his efforts in their wins over Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria.

In the last 16, penalties loomed against Switzerland when his jinking run late in extra time set up the winning goal for Angel di Maria and helped to set up Gonzalo Higuain's quarter-final clincher against Belgium. - AFP

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