sport

Messi: I have a dream

Argentina captain Lionel Messi declared on Saturday that he and his team-mates are ready for "the most important match of our lives" against Germany in Sunday's World Cup final.

There is a growing belief in the Argentina camp - and among the thousands of supporters that have followed their idols over the border to the Maracana - that this is their year.

Messi has four goals to his name in the tournament and while the pressure will lie across his shoulders once more, he is confident of a positive outcome against the Germans.

"My dreams and my hopes are being fulfilled due to the hard work and sacrifice of a team that has given everything from match one," the Barcelona superstar wrote on his official Facebook page.

"We knew it was possible. Our people, the Argentineans, they have carried us here. But the dream is not over yet. We want to win and we are ready!

"We will play the most important match of our lives for our country."

Argentina will be appearing in their first World Cup final since 1990, when as defending champions a side captained by Diego Maradona lost 1-0 to West Germany in Rome.

Argentina won their first World Cup as hosts in 1978, beating the Netherlands 3-1 after extra time in Buenos Aires, before regaining the trophy in 1986 with a 3-2 win against West Germany in Mexico City.

Messi is Argentina's top scorer at the World Cup and he has also been named on the shortlist for the Golden Ball, awarded to the tournament's outstanding player.

Diego Maradona is in no doubt that his compatriot - so often burdened by relentless comparisons with himself - will emerge triumphant in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

"Messi will score twice on Sunday and we will win the World Cup," Maradona said on his television show.

"If he wants to get in front of me I'll prepare the red carpet for him. The team with the best player will win and we have him."