FIFA World Cup 2022: Superstars on their final mission

In 2026, Messi and Ronaldo will be 39 and 41 years old respectively. Competing at the World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the USA is unlikely. The same goes for Croatia’s 37-year-old captain Luka Modric. The real star became vice world champion in 2018. While Uruguay’s veteran Luis Suarez (35) and Poland’s world footballer Robert Lewandowski (34) are not among the favorites with their national teams, it’s different with Karim Benzema. The Real striker turns 35 one day after the final on December 19. Benzema is missing the world title, because in 2018 the “Equipe Tricolore” won the world title without the goalscorer.

And it is precisely this success that crowns a great career. Brazil’s Pele (1958, 1962, 1970) and Argentina’s Diego Maradona (1986) earned their unforgettable laurels primarily on this stage. Should Messi or Ronaldo not win the title, that would not diminish their careers, but ideally crown them. “I’m just happy that I can play another World Cup at the age of 35. After that, we’ll see how the career progresses,” explained the Argentine in the run-up to the tournament.

Routine of the old stars is required

In addition to many young players, the team bosses at the World Cup in Qatar are also relying on their renowned veterans such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Messi has an advantage over Ronaldo

The duo has won 12 world footballers, nine Champions League titles and 18 championships, but Messi currently has clear advantages in their long-standing rivalry. While the Argentinean is scoring again after a difficult year at Paris Saint-Germain, Ronaldo is arguably experiencing the most difficult period of his career at Manchester United. Under coach Erik ten Hag, the superstar is no longer part of the top team in the “Red Devils”.

Calls have also been raised in Portugal over whether Ronaldo should still be in the starting XI in the face of Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Rafael Leao. However, it can be ruled out that coach Fernando Santos will put his captain, who is in his fifth World Cup appearance, on the bench. What will be decisive is what physical and mental marks the currently difficult time has left on Ronaldo. What is fixed is that Portugal has even more staff than when they won the European Championship in 2016.

However, Ronaldo himself did not want to leave any doubts about his still existing abilities, his self-confidence seems unbroken. “There’s a little bit more left of Cristiano. I’m part of a young team, I want to be at the World Cup, but also at the next European Championships,” he clarified in September. At the moment, his statement may sound like a hollow perseverance slogan. But given Ronaldo’s adamant attitude towards himself, he shouldn’t be written off in Qatar either.

Cristiano Ronaldo in action

APA/AFP/Patricia De Melo Moreira

Cristiano Ronaldo has made 117 international goals in 191 appearances for Portugal

Brazil and France for Messi favorite

Messi, meanwhile, is currently on high with the “Albiceleste”. The Argentines are currently unbeaten in 36 games. At the World Cup, they can match and beat the record of unqualified Italians (37). However, Messi does not see his national team as the number one title candidate. “If I had to pick two, Brazil and France are the big contenders for the title for me,” said Messi, who primarily suffered from a Germany trauma at the World Cup. In 2006 and 2010 he was eliminated against the DFB-Elf in the quarter-finals, in 2014 it was a narrow 1-0 defeat in the final.

Brazil is the team that many mention first. Germany’s Toni Kroos also names the “Selecao” as his personal favourite. It would be the sixth triumph for the record world champion, the last one was 20 years ago. And coach Tite’s side are more than in good spirits with 30-year-old Neymar and 22-year-old Vinicius Junior. 39-year-old Dani Alves ensures routine on the defensive. In the South America qualifier, Brazil celebrated 14 wins with three draws, the goal difference: 40:5. Second was Argentina, also undefeated.

Last World Cup probably for Busquets and Neuer

In the case of Argentina, the harmonious team this time with young players who move up is praised in particular. “I see Argentina at the top and also Brazil far above the rest,” said Luis Enrique, the national coach of the also highly traded Spaniards, who are led by the 34-year-old Sergio Busquets, plus someone like the highly talented Pedri, who during the WM just turned 20 years old.

The list is long. And in most of the big football nations that, unlike European champions Italy, made it to the finals in the disputed desert state, players are on their last big World Cup mission. As is the case with the German team, for example when Manuel Neuer, 36, is fit in time and will be in goal for the 2014 world champion. “There is only one goal for me, and that is the world championship title,” Neuer said of the clear goal.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *