The World Cup is the biggest stage of all and the perfect opportunity for the top players on the planet to show what they can do.
There is no other football tournament like it and fans from around the globe are watching on as the two biggest stars of the game go head-to-head for their countries.
Ronaldo and Lionel Messi before an international friendly between Portugal and Argentina in Switzerland, 9 February 2011 (Image cc Fanny Schertzer)
Messi vs Ronaldo
We are talking about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Both players are participating to win the 2018 World Cup for Argentina and Portugal respectively and have the rare chance to lead their nations to the ultimate prize.
However, individual honours are also at stake and they both know a leading performance at this summers tournament will go a long way in landing the Ballon d’Or 2018.
Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the Ballon d’Or in recent years and the Ballon d’Or 2018 award ceremony is sure to see both players sat in the front row, eager to get their hands on the prize. However, only one player can win the Ballon d’Or 2018 and having played two matches each at the World Cup, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo who has the clear advantage.
The Portuguese forward has enjoyed a sensational start to the tournament, scoring a hattrick against Spain and netting the only goal in a 1-0 win over Morocco. The late free-kick which Ronaldo scored to seal a point against the Spanish was superb and highlights everything that is good about the Real Madrid man.
Portugal won the 2016 European Championship but have never won the World Cup. If Ronaldo keeps up his excellent form in Russia, not only could he lead his country to the pinnacle of world football, he will also secure the Ballon d’Or 2018.
While Ronaldo has been basking in glory at the 2018 World Cup, things have not been going well for Messi.
Argentina have struggled to make an impact at the tournament and appear to be heading out of the competition after only two matches. The South American’s were held to a 1-1 draw by Iceland in their opening match and Messi missed a penalty which would have seen them take maximum points.
Things went from bad to worse in the second game of the tournament against Croatia. Messi could not get into the game and Argentina were very poor as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat to their European opponents.
Argentina seemed bereft of tactics and their attacking play lacked any form of cohesion. Prior to the match, when the national anthems were playing, Messi held his hand to his head, as if he knew what was about to happen.