sport

Messi ready to shine in semi

Argentina captain Lionel Messi insists he is feeling 'positive pressure' ahead of tonight’s World Cup semi-final against Holland.

The Barcelona star, widely considered the world's best player, will have the hopes of a nation on his shoulders as he lines up against the Netherlands in Sao Paulo.

But Messi is relishing his role as Argentina's leader, netting four goals on the way to the last four, and is determined to steer his side into the Maracana final against Germany on Sunday.

"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."

The 27-year-old has won a host of honours during his time in Spain, but is still chasing a World Cup winner's medal.

"As a player winning a World Cup is the best there is," he said.

"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 it.

"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 that every player dreams of, but first we have to make sure we get there."

Holland also possess an attacking star in the form of Arjen Robben, who has scored three times in the tournament.

Coach Alejandro Sabella, who will be without the injured Angel Di Maria, has urged his players to keep a close eye on the winger.

"He is player who can throw you off balance in a one-on-one, so we have to be especially careful with that, have players close, that is to say as grouped as possible," said Sabella.

"When he picks up speed, it is much more difficult to take the ball away from him," he told a news conference on the eve of the semi-final.

Manchester City's Martin Demichelis has suggested his side will adopt a physical approach against the Bayern Munich man.

"We have to be aggressive," said the defender. "He has to feel our passion, especially Robben, because he doesn't like physical contact. We have to get under his skin."