The first-ever winter World Cup is well under way in Qatar - but will it be the last tournament that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo appear at?
Action got started on November 20 when hosts Qatar made their tournament bow against Ecuador in the curtain-raising fixture. Ecuador won 2-0.
The world’s top national teams will battle it out for almost a month, with the final set to take place at Lusail Stadium on December 18.
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An all-star cast of players are on display, but few will be more motivated than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, two greats of the game who are yet to taste World Cup glory.
Coming into the tournament, Ronaldo had seven goals at the World Cup and Messi six.
The former moved onto eight goals with his penalty in the 3-2 victory over Ghana becoming the first player to score at five consecutive World Cups - he scored one goal in 2006, 2010 and 2014, before getting four at Russia in 2018.
However, Ronaldo was denied the opportunity to add to his tally from the start after he was benched for the last 16 match against Switzerland.
Messi now has nine goals after scoring from the spot in the shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia, in the 2-0 win over Mexico and the last 16 victory over Australia.
Messi scored once in 2006, failed to score at 2010, collected four at 2014 and added a further goal in 2018 to enter the 2022 World Cup on six goals.

How have Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo fared at previous World Cups?

Both players are featuring at their fifth World Cup, having first taken to international football’s biggest stage in 2006. Neither has claimed the coveted trophy yet.
Messi became Argentina’s youngest-ever World Cup player when he came off the bench to set up one goal and score another in a 6-0 win over Serbia and Montenegro 16 years ago.
The Argentine then celebrated his 19th birthday by coming on in the last-16 against Mexico, which they won 2-1 after extra-time, but his side were eliminated in the following round by hosts Germany.
At the same tournament, Ronaldo became Portugal’s youngest-ever World Cup scorer aged 21 with a penalty against Iran in the group stage, while he scored the winning penalty against England in the quarter-finals – not to mention producing *that* wink when Wayne Rooney was sent off. He couldn’t prevent a 1-0 semi-final defeat to France.
In 2010, Messi and Argentina were again eliminated in the quarter-finals by Germany, despite being considered among the tournament favourites, while Ronaldo and Portugal were knocked out by eventual winners Spain in the last 16.
Four years later, Ronaldo, by now Portugal’s all-time top scorer, battled through fitness problems to feature in Brazil, but his country suffered an embarrassing group stage exit on goal difference.
Messi, meanwhile, was man of the match in Argentina’s first four games and inspired his country to the final in his first World Cup as captain.
Heartbreak followed, though, as the Albiceleste spurned their chances in a 1-0 extra-time defeat to Germany – again – in the final, although Messi was later awarded the tournament’s Golden Ball award as player of the tournament.
Last time out in Russia, there were rumours that it could be Messi’s last World Cup. Argentina progressed through the group, Messi scoring a wondergoal against Nigeria in the process, but they were beaten by eventual champions France in a 4-3 last-16 thriller.
Ronaldo started with a bang by scoring a hat-trick against Spain, becoming the oldest player to score a World Cup treble, but Portugal also ultimately fell at the last 16 stage, losing 2-1 to Uruguay.

Is this Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s last World Cup?

As previously mentioned, the question was raised four years ago about Messi. This time, however, the answer appears to be a firm yes.
"Surely this is my last World Cup," he told Star Plus in October.
"I'm counting down the days to the World Cup. There is anxiety and nerves at the same time."
Messi will turn 39 during the 2026 World Cup, so his involvement would be a big ask even if he was determined to feature.
As for Ronaldo, he will be 41 by the time FIFA’s showpiece event hits the United States, Canada and Mexico in four years’ time.
But the Manchester United striker has so far made no suggestion that he is giving up hope of featuring at a sixth World Cup – which would be a record – and has openly said he wants to at least be part of Euro 2024 in two years’ time.
“I hope to be a part of the [Portuguese Football] Federation for a few more years,” Ronaldo said in September.
“I still feel motivated, my ambition is high. My path in the national team is not over. We have many quality youngsters.
“I will be at the World Cup, and I want to be at the European [Championship in 2024].”
When he was pressed on whether Qatar will be his final World Cup in March, Ronaldo said that he will be the one to decide.
"I'm starting to see that many of you ask the same question," Ronaldo said.
"I'm the one who will decide my future, nobody else. If I feel like playing more games, if I don't feel like it, I don't. I'm the one in charge, full stop."
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