Messi and Ronaldo both eliminated on the same night
The pair’s wait for a World Cup title goes on
Despite early exit both showed flashes of their brilliance
Two of football's biggest stars exited the FIFA World Cup™ in the space of just four hours as the knockout stages kicked off with an almighty bang.
First, Lionel Messi’s Argentina departed following an incredible goal-fest with France, before Uruguay edged out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. The result is that these modern-day icons, who have dominated the game's individual accolades for the last decade, will be watching the rest of of the tournament from home.
Expectations were high for both to perform, with Ronaldo arriving off the back of yet another UEFA Champions League win and Messi having starred in Barcelona's La Liga triumph. But although both have made it to the final weekend in the past – Ronaldo having finished fourth in 2006, Messi second in 2014 – the last 16 was where their journey ended this time.
1270 – The number of minutes Lionel Messi (eight games, 23 shots) and Cristiano Ronaldo (six games, 25 shots) have played in the knockout rounds of the World Cup without ever scoring.
With both now into their 30’s, this could well have been their last chance to win the World Cup – almost certainly while still at the peak of their powers. Fans will now watch with intrigue to see who will follow Messi as the latest adidas Golden Ball winner, having seen the Argentinian scoop the prize four years ago.
As they both head for home, we take a look at how their time in Russia will be remembered.
1-1 vs Iceland
0-3 vs Croatia
2-1 vs Nigeria
3-4 vs France
Having missed a penalty against Iceland in their opening game, and with Argentina in disarray against Croatia, it looked like the tournament might be denied a bit of premium Messi magic. However, the magical No10 delivered in spectacular style with La Albiceleste’s backs against the wall. In one instinctive, flowing movement in the match against Nigeria, Messi took the ball on his thigh, caressed it into his path and fired into the net, wheeling away in a celebration of purest catharsis.
4 – Lionel Messi is the only player to have provided an assist at each of the last four World Cups, with his brace today also meaning he is the first Argentinian player to lay on two goals in the same game since Diego Maradona.
“We have the best player in the world and we had to try to create collective situations to really use that player, who can have many brilliant moments. We tried many different tactics to allow him to do what he can do. Sometimes we managed it, sometimes we didn’t.” Jorge Sampaoli, Argentina coach
3-3 vs Spain
1-0 vs Morocco
1-1 vs Iran
1-2 vs Uruguay
After the sensational 5-0 win for hosts the night before, day two of the tournament was really going to need something special to top it. Ronaldo delivered. As the clash with neighbours Spain looked set to end as a five-goal thriller, the Portugal captain had other ideas. His stoppage-time free-kick, arrowed into the top corner to complete his hat-trick, was a true box-office showstopper.
45 – Having never scored from a free-kick at a major international tournament, Ronaldo finally got it right at the perfect and most spectacular time. After 44 misses, 45 turned out to be his lucky number.
"Cristiano still has a lot to give to football and I hope he will stay to help the young players grow and develop. We have a team with many young players and of course we all want him there with us." Fernando Santos, Portugal coach
With success at the World Cup so often playing a pivotal part in how votes are cast for individual awards, will the The Best FIFA Men’s Player award still be won by one of these two? Or will it go to a new face? We will find out in London on 24 September!