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Can Messi and Ronaldo meet at World Cup 2022? Projecting how the icons can match up in Qatar

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There were many storylines and narratives to come out of the 2022 World Cup draw when it was conducted back in Doha last April, with focus inevitably turning to the superstars and how the various pairings impacted them.

The two biggest names in football, of course, remain Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi —  and the action in Qatar, when it begins on November 20, promises to be hugely significant for both of them.

The pair will be 37 and 35, respectively, when they take to the field in the Middle East, making this the last chance for both of them to win sport’s biggest tournament before they retire.

In fact, Messi has already confirmed this will be his last global tournament, telling journalist Sebastian Vignolo on his show ‘In First Person’ on South American streaming service Star+ on October 6: “This will be my last World Cup — for sure.”

But what are the chances of the duo meeting on the field during Qatar 2022? Can Argentina of Group C take on Portugal of Group H at any point? Here, we break down the permutations.

MORE: Argentina World Cup Draw 2022: Group C permutations and fixtures

Can Ronaldo and Messi meet at World Cup 2022?

Yes, it is possible. They were never going to meet in the group stages, given that Argentina and Portugal were both placed as top seeds for the draw, but there is a chance of a mouthwatering knockout clash. 

The way things have panned out, there are four different scenarios in which the Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United heroes can collide. 

If Argentina and Portugal both win their groups 

In this case, the two teams will be in separate halves of the bracket. So, for viewers to have the spectacle of Messi vs. Ronaldo on the biggest stage, both sides need to reach the final on December 18 in Lusail.

If Argentina win Group C, they would expect to face Denmark. The Netherlands look the most likely opponent in the quarterfinals, with Spain or arch-rivals Brazil probably awaiting in the semifinals.

Portugal coming out on top in Group H would surely see them face another European side, in Serbia or Switzerland, in the Round of 16.

Belgium are a potentially tough quarterfinal opponent, before either France or England would likely battle Fernando Santos’ men for a place in the final.

Projected Argentina route to final after winning Group C:

  • Round of 16: Denmark
  • Quarterfinals: Netherlands
  • Semifinals: Spain

Projected Portugal route to final after winning Group H:

  • Round of 16: Switzerland
  • Quarterfinals: Belgium
  • Semifinals: France

If Argentina win Group C and Portugal finish 2nd in Group H

We already know Argentina’s route to the final in this permutation. But they would have to face Portugal in the semifinals, if the Euro 2016 winners missed out on top spot in Group H.

Brazil would be Portugal’s most likely opponent in the second round, before potentially taking on Spain in the quarterfinals.

Get through that, and then it would be La Albiceleste and Messi in Lusail on December 13, for Portugal’s chance to play in the final for the first time.

Projected Portugal route to final as Group H runner-up:

  • Round of 16: Brazil
  • Quarterfinals: Spain
  • Semifinals: Argentina
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal

If Portugal win Group H and Argentina finish 2nd in Group C

This scenario sees Argentina facing the tough task if they come up short in Group C but still qualify. It would be reigning champions France in Doha to get past first, for a place in the quarterfinals.

Rivals England would be the anticipated opponents in the last eight. After that, Portugal and Ronaldo would be waiting in Al Khor on December 14.

Projected Argentina route to final as Group H runner-up

  • Round of 16: France
  • Quarterfinals: England
  • Semifinals: Portugal

If both Portugal and Argentina finish 2nd in their groups

If both Argentina and Portugal were runners-up in their groups, they could still meet but it would only be in the final.

Projected Argentina route to final as Group H runner-up

  • Round of 16: France
  • Quarterfinals: England
  • Semifinals: Belgium

Projected Portugal route to final as Group H runner-up:

  • Round of 16: Brazil
  • Quarterfinals: Spain
  • Semifinals: Netherlands

MORE: Messi vs Ronaldo at the World Cup: Goals, stats and records

Have Messi and Ronaldo ever faced each other at the World Cup?

No. Argentina and Portugal have never met at a World Cup, so the paths of the two biggest names in football have never crossed on the biggest stage of all.

A clash was on the cards in 2018 in Russia — the teams were scheduled to meet in the quarterfinals, but both were beaten in the second round to prevent that from happening. Argentina went down 4-3 to France, and Portugal were beaten 2-1 by Uruguay.

Have Messi and Ronaldo ever faced each other in an international match?

Yes. While their nations have avoided each other at World Cups so far, the icons of a generation have faced off in two friendly encounters.

Both men were on the scoresheet in February 2011 — Ronaldo netted after Angel Di Maria’s opener, before Messi’s goal came from a last-minute penalty, as Argentina prevailed 2-1 in their first international meeting.

The teams met again in November 2014 in Manchester, with Portugal this time having the last laugh, thanks to a late winner in a 1-0 triumph. That was more low-key for our two protagonists, as both men had been substituted at halftime.

Have either Messi or Ronaldo won the World Cup?

No. For both men, it is the only significant accolade missing from their distinguished trophy cabinets.

Messi came closest in 2014, when Argentina reached their first final since 1990, but missed out as they lost 1-0 to Germany in extra time.

Ronaldo’s best run with Portugal came in 2006, when they reached the semifinals but were then beaten 1-0 by France.


Credit: sportingnews.com

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