first_imgWhen Argentina clash with Germany in the FIFA World Cup 2014 final on Sunday, all eyes will be on Lionel Messi, who carries the hopes of an entire football-crazy nation, just like another sporting legend Sachin Tendulkar used to every time he walked out to bat for India.An Argentina soccer fan wearing a Lionel Messi jersey sits in the Terreirao do Samba, used by World Cup fans as a campground in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, July 11, 2014. Argentina will face Germany at the final World Cup match on Sunday. AP PhotoAlso Diego Maradona’s love for Messi may remind Indian sports lovers of Sunil Gavaskar, whose exploits in 1970s and 1980s used to inspire Sachin to bring the World Cup for his country once again prior to the 2011 Cricket World Cup, just as the former Argentine player’s exploits in 1986 – when he got his country the Cup that mattered – has been a source of inspiration for the four-time world player of the year (Messi).ALSO READ: World Cup final: Magical Messi or united Germany? Lionel Messi is gifted with talents that most footballers     can only dream of. What makes him special is that he possesses not just one or two but a combination of special skills that give him an edge over just about everyone.Gary Lineker, who won 80 England caps and had seen the ‘Hand of God’ goal from the close quarters at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, has called Messi “the most wonderfully gifted player I have seen, certainly since Maradona”.advertisementAlthough he hasn’t played brilliantly in every game of this World Cup, Messi’s talents have been on display on Argentina’s road to Sunday’s final against Germany. AP recounts five traits that explain what makes the Argentina captain so difficult to stop. These five traits mark him out for the Cup he so passionately hopes for.___SPEEDFILE – The July 3, 2010 file photo shows Germany’s Miroslav Klose, left, walking past Argentina’s Lionel Messi as he celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Argentina and Germany at the Green Point stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. Germany won 4-0. On Sunday, July 13, 2014, Germany and Argentina will face each other again in the final of the 2014 soccer World Cup. AP PhotoThere are plenty of players who could outrun Messi in a 100-meter dash. But running with the ball is a different story. Messi can control the ball at close to top speed, making him an excellent dribbler. Also, it’s his acceleration rather than his top speed that cuts up defenses. Few defenders can keep up when Messi revs up from standstill, creating space for his left-foot shot.___BALANCEArgentina’s Lionel Messi sits during a training session in Vespesiano, near Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Thursday, July 10, 2014. On Sunday, Argentina faces Germany for the World Cup final soccer match in Rio de Janeiro. AP PhotoLike former Argentina great Diego Maradona, Messi uses his short stature to his advantage. His low center of gravity enables him to make quick turns and to stay on his feet when challenged. Often, the only way to knock him off balance is to foul him. Defenders at the World Cup have been taking turns tackling Messi to spread the risk of getting booked around the team.___ACCURACYArgentina’s Lionel Messi pumps his fists after Argentina defeated the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 tie after extra time to advance to the finals after the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. AP PhotoMessi is one of the world’s top free-kick takers, striking the ball with impressive accuracy with his magic left foot. Almost always he hits the target or just misses it – you rarely see Messi blast a free kick five meters over the crossbar. In Argentina’s final group-stage match, Nigeria gave Messi two free kick opportunities near the penalty area toward the end of the first half. He elegantly curled the first one over the wall, but goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was well-positioned and stopped it. By the second free kick, Messi had fine-tuned his aim, and struck the ball perfectly inside the post. Enyeama jokingly asked the referees during the break to not give Messi any more free kicks.___PATIENCEArgentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates with Maxi Rodriguez after Argentina defeated the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 tie after extra time to advance to the finals during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. AP PhotoPatience is a perhaps and underrated virtue for a football player, and it’s one that has served Messi well in the World Cup. Every opponent has come with a plan to stop him, by closing down his space and tackling him as soon as he touches the ball. As a result Messi has looked out of the game for long periods. But instead of hanging his head and getting frustrated, Messi keeps looking for openings, patiently awaiting a moment when defenders take their focus off him for just a split second. That’s when he strikes. Against Iran, that moment came in injury time when he scored his second goal of the tournament. Against Switzerland, it happened in extra time as he set up Angel Di Maria’s winning goal with a piercing run down the middle.___advertisementINTELLIGENCEArgentina’s Lionel Messi is hugged by a teammate after Argentina defeated the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 tie after extra time to advance to the finals during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. AP PhotoMessi also stands out for his ability to read the game, mapping out paths to the opponent’s goal in his mind before the opponent does. That’s key to understanding why he’s such a prolific scorer. Knowing by instinct where a gap will open up for a quick pass or shot gives him an advantage over others, though it can also complicate things for the team. Sometimes Messi lets chances slip away by being too smart for his Argentina teammates, who don’t gel with him to the same degree as Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez in Barcelona.last_img