Lionel Messi needs to up his game for World Cup final against Germany

Lionel Messi will be at the Maracana on Sunday leading Argentina out in Rio for the World Cup final. The fact that he and they produced one of their most uninspiring performances ever before reaching the promised land on penalties will count for nothing in Argentina today.

They'll feel they did what they had to do and they have a point because while Brazil are still mourning their humiliating semi-final loss, their fiercest rivals are celebrating a place in the decider.

The dreamWorld Cupfor the hosts has slowly become their worst nightmare. The tournament won't be ending the way the Netherlands had imagined either, but then they are used to being the nearly men.

I doubt the Dutch will ever win the World Cup.

Argentina, though, can make it three triumphs onfootball's greatest stage by overcoming Germany at the weekend, adding 2014 to their glorious victories in 1978 and 1986.

They will know all too well, at least in an attacking sense, that they will have to play better than last night to beat the classy Germans, although given Argentina's outstanding defence, another stalemate and penalty shoot out should not be discounted.

What is certain is that Messi won't play as poorly as he did against Holland. He can't be this bad again.

We hoped for a magic show from the great man. We got one... he made himself disappear for most of the match, re-appearing just in time to score Argentina's first penalty once 120 excruciating minutes had been played.

Ezequiel Garay plus substitutes Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez were on target in the 4-2 win with successful strikes by Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt rendered pointless because Argentina number one Sergio Romero had saved from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder.

Where was Tim Krul when the Dutch needed him? On the bench as Louisvan Gaalhad used all three replacements.

Without the sub, the Netherlands sank.

Dutch number one Jasper Cillessen failed to intimidate Argentina's players, like Krul did after coming on to defeatCosta Rica, and the game was up for Holland who have failed to score in their last 240 minutes of football.

Both sides refused to give an inch with the threats of Messi and Robben snuffed out.

Then again isn't that supposed to be the way with so much at stake, rather than capitulating like Brazil?

This was a contest for the unspectacular. Like Aston Villa's Vlaar, exceptional for Holland until the penalties, and Barcelona's ex-Liverpool ace Javier Mascherano.

Messi might have the armband but his predecessor as skipper remains the leader of the Argentina pack. The best holding midfielder in the competition shrugged off a hefty whack to the head to always be in the right place for his team, including in injury time when he brilliantly blocked Robben. He'll need to do more of the same against Germany. Messi must show up as well.