World Cup 2014: Messi gives Argentina 'water in the desert'

Highlights: Argentina 1-0 Belgium

Argentina captain Lionel Messi gives the World Cup semi-finalists "water in the desert" when they are struggling, says coach Alejandro Sabella.

Messi led his side to a first semi-final since 1990 as Gonzalo Higuain's strike defeated Belgium.

Argentina's Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona

"That a player like Messi almost never loses the ball is water in the desert," said Sabella after Saturday's 1-0 win.

"Today, when the terrain was dry he gave us that breath of fresh air every time he had the ball."

Four-time world player of the year Messi rarely threatened the Belgium goal as he failed to add to his tournament tally of four strikes. But he was the architect of most of Argentina's attacking play.

The 27-year-old Barcelona star helped create the only goal, winning back possession inside the Belgium half before picking out Angel Di Maria, whose deflected pass was fired in by Higuain.

The Napoli striker's winner set up a semi-final tie against Netherlands in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.

"We were able to reach a semi-final which we haven't achieved for many years," said 26-year-old Higuain.

"We gave our all, it's a World Cup, it doesn't happen every day. Now we need to play well and try and reach the final. There are two matches left to achieve this beautiful dream."

Ex-Sheffield United and Leeds United midfielder Sabella said his players had created history after reaching the last four for the first time since finishing as runners-up at Italia 1990.

"After 24 years this is a good tribute to this squad. They will go down in history as one of the best four teams in the world and we will see if they can go one step more," he said.

For the best of BBC Sport's in-depth content and analysis, go to our features and video page.

Sabella nearly falls over after chance