Lionel Messi gives Argentina a “special advantage” as they prepare for their 2022 World Cup semi-final against Croatia, says defender Nicolas Tagliafico.
Messi, 35, is likely playing his last World Cup and is bidding to lift the trophy for the first time.
He has proved an influential figure so far in Qatar, scoring four goals and providing two assists across five games.
Argentina might require two more big displays from Messi as they look to overcome Croatia and then either Morocco or France in the final.
“He’s always been like this,” said Argentina defender Tagliafico. “He is the one who gives us that special advantage when we are on the pitch.
“We know we have Messi and it is a great source of motivation and hope because we all know that we can contribute and give our best. We are really happy to have Messi as our captain.
“With everyone’s support we are all working together to achieve our dreams, and it is the most beautiful thing to do it with Messi by our side.”
Messi is set to equal the record for the most World Cup appearances against Croatia, moving level with Germany great Lothar Matthaus on 25.
He is also now Argentina’s joint-highest scorer in World Cup history alongside Gabriel Batistuta on 10 goals.
Argentina have recovered from a shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia to make the semi-finals.
“This World Cup, we have enough experience to reach this stage,” added Tagliafico. “We know in the knockouts, there’ll be a few moments where we will struggle.
“But we have the experience. We need to have enough character to go through all that and overcome it. That motivates you even further.”
Argentina needed penalties in the quarter-finals to win a heated clash against the Netherlands. They were criticised afterwards for being bad winners as they celebrated their victory in front of Dutch players.
However, Tagliafico said: “Those situations happen in the world of football. We are not machines. The emotions were running high.
“It has happened in previous matches. It will likely happen again. This was a World Cup quarter-final, with two teams fighting it out. We tried to live it as such.”
Argentina face Croatia on Tuesday with the second semi-final on Wednesday. The World Cup final is on Sunday, December 18.