Messi can etch his golden hallmark on South Africa 2010

Cup comment: Lionel Messi has the chance in the Green Point stadium this afternoon to do what Pele, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane and Brazil's Ronaldo have done at World Cups down the decades.

Against Germany in an eagerly anticipated quarter-final, he can make South Africa 2010 his own.

He can ensure that whenever anyone talks about the first World Cup on the African continent, the thought which comes immediately to mind is of a little Argentinian with the ball seemingly stuck to his left foot.

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This World Cup needs such a memory.

So far, it has been let down by Cristiano Ronaldo, who spat towards the camera at the end of Portugal's defeat to Spain to just about sum up his surly attitude.

It has been let down, too, by Wayne Rooney, the real version of whom simply did not turn up for England.

To that list you can add Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Franck Ribery – all big names of whom we expected so much. None has enhanced his reputation.

Among them, Messi stands out like a shining light. He might not have scored for Argentina but if you needed a role model for how a footballing superstar should behave, then Messi is your man.

In four matches, he has created countless chances for himself and his team-mates. He has brought brilliant saves from goalkeepers and played a part in at least half of Argentina's 10 goals.

It is that unselfish work ethic, as much as his obvious skill, which stands him apart from the rest. That willingness to be a part of a star team, as opposed to being determined to be the undisputed star in a team.

His manager Maradona, whose own brilliance, as well as notoriety, will forever be aligned with Mexico 1986, believes he knows why Messi has yet to score.

"What is being done to Messi is a scandal. Whenever he gets the ball they kick him. They don't even look at the ball, they just kick him.

"I've lived what Messi is living now, they've always kicked me, but I need Messi to be respected, not kicked."

There is some validity in Maradona's claims, but then players with the ability to scythe through defences have always received robust attention.

Messi has not been treated unduly physically and the Germans are not a team of kickers. As we discovered against England they are a young, vibrant side whose movement is a work of art.

They have balance, with old heads such as Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose allied with dynamic, fast-maturing youngsters such as Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil.

Ozil has been the find of this tournament, a neat and tidy playmaker with a burst of pace and wonderful vision.

It makes for an intriguing quarter-final, a match which would have graced the final.

Argentina have the more dynamic attacking force with Messi and Carlos Tevez and the tournament's joint-leading scorer in Gonzalo Higuain.

Germany have the stronger defence, solid and organised.

They have a manager in Joachim Low who is meticulous and efficient, but who has also injected a certain joie de vivre into the more customary mechanical ways of a footballing nation which has won three World Cups.

Argentina, however, have Maradona, who was made out to be a coaching clown before the tournament but has been a revelation. It is why Argentina can be taken to progress to the semi-finals and Messi to etch his talent like a golden hallmark on South Africa 2010.