In less than a month’s time the superpowers of football will step into the stadiums of Qatar to battle it out for one of the most coveted trophies in world sport – namely the FIFA. As a sports spectacle, the football World Cup rivals the Olympic Games as the most watched sports extravaganza on the planet. That is not surprising since FIFA (world’s governing body for football) has 211 nations as affiliated members – even more than the United Nations which has 193 countries as members.
This time millions of eyes will be focussed on the two greatest stars of modern football–Cristiano Rolando and Lionel Messi. Both of them will very likely be playing in their last World Cup tournament. The 35-year- old Messi who is the captain of Argentina, confirmed recently that the Qatar tournament will be his last one. As for Ronaldo, he is 37 and despite his superb athleticism, it is extremely unlikely that he will be fit enough to participate at the highest level four years later at the next edition of the World Cup.
So for both of them, this could be their swan song. Will it end in a blaze of glory for one of them? Or will they eventually hang up their boots without ever having held the greatest trophy in their hands? The question is one that is being hotly debated by millions of avid football followers across the world. The two players have won numerous trophies and accolades in their long careers. But neither has ever won the World Cup.
Agility of Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is the world’s highest goal scorer. He is a very versatile attacker. He can play on either wing as well as in the centre. While at Sporting Lisbon and during his first season at Manchester United, he was deployed as a traditional winger on the right of midfield. There his job was to deliver crosses into the penalty area. In this position, he was able to use his pace and acceleration, agility and technical skills to take on opponents in one-on-one situations. Ronaldo became noted for his array of tricks and feints such as the step-overs that became his trademark.
But his immense personal skills will have to be backed up by his team. At Qatar, Portugal will be in Group H along with Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea. It is not a very tough group but neither is it easy. Ghana and Uruguay are both capable of pulling off an upset while Koreans can never be taken easily.
Portugal’s best performance was in the 1966 World Cup when it came third. It has reached the semi-finals of the Euro championships in 2000 and 2012. In 2014, Fernando Santos was appointed as the new head coach for the national team and he has been able to deliver results. It remains to be seen how far they will progress in 2022.
Messi has an advantage
In this respect Messi is better placed simply because Argentina has had a better record in the history of the World Cup. Argentina won the Cup in 1978 and again in 1986 under the captaincy of the incomparable Diego Maradona. Argentina has also won the Copa America 15 times.
So the advantage that Messi has is that he has a great team behind him. Messi has somehow made his short stature a plus point. He has a lower centre of gravity than taller players, which gives him greater agility, allowing him to change direction very quickly and evade tackles. He also has good upper-body strength, which, combined with his superb balance, helps him to withstand physical challenges from opponents. His short, strong legs allow him to excel in short bursts of acceleration.
So will his dream come true? Will Messi and Argentina lift the Cup in Qatar? Millions of his fans throughout the world including India are hoping to see him hold aloft the glittering World Cup this time. Argentina is in Group C along with Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland. If they play as per form, Argentina will very likely top their group and then it is up to Messi and his boys to take the team to the zenith. What a sight that will be for his fans ! An exciting time is awaiting for all football lovers.