World Cup: Lionel Messi capable of outshining Argentina's flaws

World Cup: Lionel Messi capable of outshining Argentina's flaws
Argentina forward Lionel Messi warms up before a training session Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday's World Cup semifinal match against the Netherlands. There's nothing ordinary about Messi's ability to test opposing defenses. (Victor R. Caivano / Associated Press)

And the winner of Biggest Sore Loser is . . . Marc Wilmots.

"We were not impressed by Argentina," the Belgium coach spat after his team was drummed out of the World Cup quarterfinals. "They were just ordinary."

Beneath the sour grapes is a kernel of truth. "Ordinary" might be hyperbole, but the Argentines have managed to surface into the semis against the Netherlands despite mostly unremarkable play on offense.

Of course, nobody else looked like World beaters, either, until Germany's evisceration of Brazil.

What Argentina has that no other team does is Lionel Messi, who can cover up many shortcomings. He has created 19 scoring chances, more than any other player, though Belgium bottled him up enough to limit him to one.

Messi embraces challenges, and he deals with one today. Angel di Maria, the lone teammate with whom he had developed a working relationship on the attack, likely is done for the tournament with a thigh injury. He has paced the Argentines with 25 shots, nine on goal.

Argentina is scoring just enough that it hasn't trailed but has been tied for most of the matches. If today's game is deadlocked after an overtime, a delicious scenario presents itself: Goalkeeper Tim Krul, the in-your-face penalty kicks specialist, yapping at Messi as the Argentine places the ball on the white spot.

It would be a moment of high drama. This World Cup semifinals could use some after Germany drained any suspense out of its game -- leaving Brazil as the Biggest Loser, though surely not a sore one.