Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo, what did the last World Cup give to the other football gods?

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At 35 and 37 respectively, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo shouldn’t take part in another World Cup other than the one that opens at the end of the week. It is therefore the last chance for the two geniuses to win the supreme test. The Argentine almost succeeded in 2014 (finalist) and arrives in Qatar confident, on the strength of a positive start to the season with PSG but above all on the strength of two titles won with his national team in one year (Copa América 2021, Finalissima 2022) . Quite the opposite of the Portuguese, head in the bucket at Manchester United, where he has just turned everyone against everyone in an interview, and not particularly lucky with Selecçao. But rest assured, the kings of football are rarely entitled to glorious outings at the World Cup!

The exception that proves the rule comes from the king Pele. In 1970, barely 30 years old, the Brazilian played his fourth World Cup in an exceptional team, which everyone went through the grind. In the final against Italy (4-1), he opened the scoring with a header on a phenomenal trigger and delivered a decisive pass love on the fourth goal (he was also a passer on the third). In the exceptional setting of the Aztec stadium in Mexico City, O Rei captured his third world title after maintaining his legend with strokes of genius such as a lob attempt in midfield (against Czechoslovakia) or an unreal fake-big bridge (against Uruguay). An end in apotheosis that weighs heavily when it comes to determining the identity of the greatest player in history.

The missed goodbyes of Maradona and Platini

But for the others, instead, it’s a bit of a disaster… At 33, Diego Maradona arrives at the ’94 World Cup in great shape after much preparation. He scored a memorable goal against Greece (4-0) in the first game but tested positive for ephedrine at the end of the second (2-1 against Nigeria) and was excluded from the competition… In 1986, during the edition which saw Maradona win the supreme title almost single-handedly, Michael Platini he bows before a masterpiece and a frustration. The masterpiece is France-Brazil (1-1, 4 tabs to 3) in the quarterfinals in which he scores but misses his shot on goal. The frustration is the elimination in the semifinal against the FRG (0-2) but above all the fact of never having been able to play at my best due to a tenacious groin. He was then 31 years old.

For John Cruyff, the last World Cup was held at the age of 27, it was 1974, when he came close to winning the gold. But in the end his Netherlands, who had trampled all their opponents, stumbled on the carpet against FRG (1-2). In particular because the German press had revealed that an orgy had taken place between time and the final in Munich. The Oranjes were stronger than their opponents, but not their wives, who felt betrayed and put them through hell. In 1978 the then Barcelona player was often said to have refused to travel to Argentina because he was protesting against the dictatorship. In truth he had been the victim of a burglary a few days before departure and had not wanted to leave his family.

Zidane, the most frustrating

Franz Beckenbauer he, like Pelé, won the World Cup during his last participation (in 1974, at the age of 29). But the German remained active for many years (exactly 8). He decided to stop representing the Mannschaft after the coronation in Munich and left to manage the cachet in New York in 1977. Too bad because he had more than enough level to participate in the 1978 edition. This end of his career explains why he is not celebrated as the King. The two heroes of the 1966 World Cup, Bobby Charlton And Eusebius, has had mixed fortunes thereafter. The Englishman was in Mexico for the 1970 edition but was eliminated in the quarterfinals by FRG (2-3 ap) after leading 2-0 and was substituted with twenty minutes remaining because his coach wanted to preserve him in view of the semi-finals… The Portuguese, author of 9 goals in 1966 which allowed the Selecçao to reach the semi-finals, failed to qualify for the queen of events from then on!

The phenomenon Ronaldo, crowned in 1994 (without playing) and 2002, had a last lackluster outing in 2006 when the Seleçao were eliminated by France (0-1) in the quarter-finals. He was then 29 years old. his compatriot Romario, won the event the last time he played it (in 1994, aged 28). He was also the best player. But in 1998 he should have been present in France, were it not for the fact that Mario Zagallo refused to summon him due to a story of incompatibility of character. What had earned the coach a very salty caricature in the toilets of a bar run by the “Baixinho”! Ronaldinho, crowned in 2022, suffered the slight of not being held back by Dunga for the 2010 edition, when he was 30 and shone (on and off) at Milan. But the pinnacle of his failed World Cup exit goes to a Frenchman, and of course Zinédine Zidane, with this red card received during extra time in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy (1-1, 5 draws against 3). He was 34 and it was the last game of his career. An upside down exit when he played an excellent tournament, with incredible performances against Spain (3-1), Brazil (1-0) and Portugal (1-0) from the eighth …

to summarise

The 2022 World Cup will undoubtedly be the last for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have stifled debates for the past fifteen years. But if we look at the precedents, we realize that superstars rarely succeed in the farewell with the most beautiful of competitions.

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