The 2022 World Cup is the last chance for fans to see Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo fight to win the biggest prize in world football. With the pair in the twilight of their careers, it could be their last dance at the international level.
Messi has come closest till now, with his Argentina side finishing second in the 2014 Finals. The closest Ronaldo came with Portugal was in 2006, when his side finished fourth after losing their third-place match to Germany.
This article gives an insight on who is most likely to come out on top in the World Cup.
Lionel Messi and his Argentina side
Historically, Argentina are World Cup royalty. The South American giants have won the competition twice — in 1978 and 1986 with Diego Maradona. They have also been runners-up on three occasions.
At the moment, Argentina are the most in-form country heading to the World Cup. Messi’s side are currently on a 35-game unbeaten streak, stretching back to 2019. This sort of form could prove crucial going into a major competition like the World Cup.
As always, Messi is integral to this Argentina side. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was vital to Argentina’s Copa America success last summer and was named player of the tournament.
Messi has also started this season in fine form. He has eight goals and eight assists in all competitions so far this season. He was also on target in both Argentina friendlies.
Over the years, Argentina haven't had a balanced squad and relied heavily on Messi. However, they do this time around. In attack, Messi is supported by Lautaro Martinez and Julian Alvarez. In midfield, they possess the qualities of Rodrigo de Paul and Leandro Paredes.
At the back, the introduction of Emiliano Martinez boosted the squad massively as he was crucial to their Copa America success. With the brilliant Lionel Scaloni coaching this side, it is easy to see why they are one of the competition's favorites.
Ronaldo and his Portugal
Portugal hasn’t been one of the most dominant nations in World Cups. They won their first major trophy in 2016 — the European Championship. They also won the UEFA Nations League in 2019.
Since their fourth-place finish in 2006, Portugal hasn’t progressed beyond the round of 16 and were eliminated from the group stages in 2014. Last time out, Ronaldo’s side lost out in the Round of 16 to Uruguay.
Their current form isn’t so good either. Portugal have won just three of their last six games and were disappointing in their 1-0 loss to Spain. Surely Ronaldo and co have to be better if they want to go in the latter stages of the tournament.
They have the quality to go all the way with the likes of Bernando Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix and Ruben Dias. Portugal are one of the sides with the largest pool of talent.
However, it hasn’t been the best start to the season for Ronaldo. The five-time Champions League winner has started only one league game this season and is yet to score from open play.
In the Nations League match against Spain, Ronaldo looked rusty, like he lacked match sharpness. This is not the sort of form Portugal want their captain to be in just before the World Cup.
Ronaldo and this Portuguese team face a relatively tough group with Ghana, South Korea and Uruguay.
With current form on their side, it looks more likely that Messi’s Argentina win the World Cup compared to Ronaldo’s Portugal. However, it is difficult to underestimate this talented Portuguese side and goal machine Cristiano Ronaldo.