Having a look at Messi and Ronaldo in the World Cup

‘Having a look at Messi and Ronaldo in the World Cup’ Preview

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have divided opinion, split camps of thought and absolutely gripped the football world by their (often statistical) battle…they are truly footballing titans and it is a blessing to have lived through a time which has hosted them!

It must be said, the FIFA World Cup is the football’s holy grail. It’s the ultimate piece of silverware for any player and the honour attached to lifting that rather modest looking trophy must be second to none.

We know that amongst players and fans alike, the love attached to a particular club is immense; however, it is only for one’s country that there is no affiliation for livelihood, opportunity, or fame. It means more…you play for your people, you represent your childhood, your streets as it were, and your heritage. It then cannot come as a surprise to hear how many players refer to representing their country as the highest honour they can garner.

Messi and Ronaldo have (between them) won enough to justify their place in history’s memory, but neither has lifted the World Cup.

Lionel Messi

It was Messi who came closest to winning the FIFA World Cup at the 2014 edition, losing in the final to Germany. I suppose you could argue that it was one of his superior tournaments considering the little maestro scored on four occasions in just seven games.

When you consider the talent that is Lionel Messi you might be surprised to see a statistic of six goals in 19 fixtures at World Cup’s being his total return. I mean, respectfully, it is rather disappointing. This is a player who has forged a career by performing on the biggest stages and at times, carrying his side to the promised land.

I wonder if Argentina just means more. Surely you cannot just switch off that ability. You cannot put it down to a bad day either – but for his country he is naturally looked at to be the solitary player capable of doing the impossible, but it is also on this stage that the lights just aren’t bright enough, and the outcome has always been disappointed.

To see Messi lift the trophy in Qatar would be a coronation of sorts, Argentina’s most-capped player, all-time leading goal scorer and captain will step out for his country for the fifth time at this global showpiece and why wouldn’t you back the South Americans to make their presence felt?

Can Messi and Argentina win it then?

I mean, the obvious answer is yes. Of course, they can. Messi had a World Cup campaign in 2018 that I’m sure he would rather forget, but in 2014 he was incredibly instrumental in getting his country to the final. Eight years later, I’m sure the mission is clear. It’s almost certainly going to be his last dance; you don’t achieve what he’s achieved without a fighting spirit and competitive nature so you surely must believe there might be a bit more to this one.

In a recent interview with Star Plus, Messi confessed to feeling a sense of nervousness and anxiety when thinking about this year’s event. I wonder what that does for his mentality?

Messi was once again instrumental in seeing Argentina claim the 2021 Copa America title. Until that win, the Copa America was another international honour which at times could be elusive. In Lionel Scaloni, Argentina has a coach who seems intentional about exposing the talent they have upfront and encouraging the physicality they often conceal in their defensive lines.

You’ll need to scroll a fair way back to find the last time Argentina lost a competitive game since Scaloni was hired in 2018 – a statistic I must admit took me by surprise but deserves our attention. They have a complete side and I suspect; they might raise a fair few eyebrows in Qatar.

Cristiano Ronaldo

It would be almost criminal to speak about Lionel Messi and not have Cristiano Ronaldo apart of the conversation. I’ve seen it written or heard it said so many times – and I completely agree with it – most generations have one, if they are lucky, talent they can celebrate. We have had two, not just exist but remain relevant and competitive late into their twilight days.

Ronaldo’s claim to being the greatest player of all time would not only be boosted but potentially cemented should he lift the World Cup. He was instrumental in Portugal’s crown jewel – winning the European title in 2016 – and I suspect the taste of international victory might heighten the hunger for one more.

Ronaldo has represented his country on 191 occasions and scored a record 117 goals – a record in Europe. He has participated in four World Cup’s but has never reached the final of the global event. In 2006 – Ronaldo’s first appearance – Portugal reached the final four, and so in what is likely to be his last tournament I wonder if the stars align themselves and see Portugal achieve something special.

Much like Messi, Ronaldo has scored in every World Cup he has been a part of. However, he too shares a rather disappointing statistic when you look at his career holistically. The Portuguese forward has scored just seven times in 17 appearances – a record which absolutely fails in comparison to his club performances.

Portugal earned their place in Qatar courtesy of playoff victories against Turkey and North Macedonia – but I wouldn’t read too much into that. They have a young and exciting team full of incredible talent, to underestimate their ability should be done tentatively.

Do Portugal have a chance?

The reality is simple, Portugal has a team capable of absolutely ripping through the World Cup if it all clicks for them. Confidence would not be in short supply at international level, they have won the 2016 Euro finals and consolidated that with a Nations League win in 2019.

These achievements have seemingly gone under the radar, but they are indicative of a team capable of earning success. They have a perfect blend of youth and experience and are also under the auspices of seasoned manager Fernando Santos.

Portugal is drawn in Group H, alongside Ghana, Korea Republic, and Uruguay. On paper, this is certainly a group many would expect Portugal to win and progress relatively easily – and I would say this even whilst acknowledging players like Luis Suarez and Heung Son-Min. That would see Portugal face one of Switzerland, Serbia, or Cameroon (assuming Brazil top the group).

To answer the premise of then, Portugal can certainly win in Qatar. They have everything required for success and should they give themselves a chance by going through a positive group campaign I think their route isn’t too tricky until the final four – a point at which anything can happen.

A dream final

It is possible – much to many people’s excitement – for Argentina and Portugal to face each other in the final! Given that they are both seeded teams, they would never have met in the group stage, but should they both win their respective groups – they would be on opposite sides of the bracket.

To say it would be a dream final is surely an understatement. One of these two players, should they play in the final, would be guaranteed to win the entire thing which I think would be brilliant for football and certainly well deserved.

The football world deserves to see it and to think these two great players, who have done and given so much to the game could bow out without either ever winning it would be a travesty.

Just imagine what a game it would be…

Ryan Liberty