On one point, Lionel Messi established facts even before arriving in Qatar. “It’s the last World Cup,” announced the 35-year-old Argentine. And with his emotional farewell performance on the big stage, the superstar is finally expected to win the long-awaited world title.
But the seven-time world footballer is not the only prominent “old man” professional in his fifth World Cup participation for whom the curtain falls in Qatar. It will also be the last World Cup appearance for 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo – even if the Portuguese does not (yet) want to fully admit his approaching end. “CR7” is currently planning to participate in the EURO 2024 in Germany.
One thing is already certain: Messi and Ronaldo will once again be the center of attention in the emirate. They have been the dazzling figures in world football for years. The expectations are correspondingly high – even with ten-year-old Messi’s son Thiago. “To be honest, he puts me under a lot of pressure,” Messi said last – and laughed.
After all, it is Thiago’s last chance to see his famous father once again on the world stage of football. And if possible until the triumph on December 18th in Doha. “We know we’re going to fight for victory,” said Messi, before qualifying: “But we’re not the champions the way we Argentines think we are.”
Argentina’s chances of winning the 2022 title are rated as high. Portugal is not necessarily one of the closest favorites – despite or perhaps because of old star Ronaldo, who has only played a supporting role at Manchester United for months. Nevertheless, he was “once again ready to boost the name of Portugal”.
Messi and CR7 not alone on farewell tour
But even Germany’s former captain Michael Ballack has his doubts. “Ten percent less performance” is “a lot” in world football, he said on “t-online” with a view to the 37-year-old.
The two exceptional talents Messi and Ronaldo are not the only professionals on a big farewell tour in Qatar. They are in illustrious company – such as Pepe (39 / Portugal), Dani Alves (39) or Luka Modric (37 / Croatia). DFB captain Manuel Neuer also “assumes that it will be the last World Cup for me”. But, added the 36-year-old, “it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way”.
So far, legend Fritz Walter, at just under 38, is Germany’s oldest player at a World Cup (1958). However, the “world record” is held by Essam El Hadary from Egypt. After all, the keeper was 45 (!) when he played at the 2018 World Cup.
The All stars team of the World Cup in Qatar:
Neuer (36/Germany) – Alves (39/Brazil), Pepe (39/Portugal), Thiago Silva (38/Brazil) – di Maria (34/Argentina), Modric (37/Croatia), Busquets (34/Spain) – Ronaldo (37/Portugal), Messi (35/Argentina) – Benzema (34/France), Suarez (35/Uruguay). – Coach: Louis van Gaal (71/Netherlands).
Substitutes: Diego Godin (36), Edinson Cavani (35/both Uruguay), Olivier Giroud (36/France), Jan Vertonghen (35/Belgium), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (33/Cameroon), Nicolas Otamendi (34/Argentina ).