Leo Messi has been Man of the Match in all three Argentina games

Two players in particular have stood out in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup. Neymar has been the star of the Brazil side that has finished top of its group ahead of Mexico, scoring four goals in the process. And the other name on everyone’s lips is that of Leo Messi.

Triple MVP

The Barça star has never looked so good in an Argentina shirt. His side completed group play with nine points out of nine, with Messi scoring in all three matches, and also being named Man of the Match in each of them. In narrow wins against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria, Messi and his four goals have been a crucial factor.

Messi scored the kind of goal he is famous for against Bosnia, the second for Argentina in a 2-1 win, and then repeated the trick in injury time to secure a last-gasp win against a surprisingly plucky Iran. And in the final game against Nigeria on Wednesday he was more spectacular than ever. He got the first and second of Argentina’s goals in a 3-2 win to take his tournament total up to four. He is currently joint top scorer along with club colleague Neymar Jr and Bayern Munich's Thomas Müller.

Chasing the title

Argentina have confirmed their role as one of the biggest favourites to win the World Cup, which would be the country’s third title after previous successes in 1978 and 1986. “We are still improving and winning the World Cup with my country would be the greatest thing”, said Messi after the Nigeria match. “It’s very nice to see so many Argentinians here” he added, referring to huge swatches of supporters that have made the relatively short journey north to watch their team.

Following a terrific first round, people are already talking about this being Messi’s World Cup. He’s not only won three man of the match awards, but is also getting all kinds of praise from his opponents. Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi reckons that “Messi is from Jupiter”. But Messi himself isn’t letting any of this get to his head “I appreciate such words” he said. “But most of all I’m happy because we won and because the team is looking so good”.