When Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi took to the stage of the 2006 World Cup aged 21 and 18 years old respectively, the world could never have imagined that the duo’s battle to be the world’s best would only just be drawing to a close 16 years later. The pair is among a host of players who are playing the final world cup when you look at their age. By now you may have noticed that neither Messi nor Ronaldo has scored a goal in a World Cup knockout game. A combined total of 1,270 minutes of World Cup action which has seen them both total 48 shots and 16 shots on target – but not a single goal has been scored in a knockout match by the pair. A weird quirk that will surely be broken in Qatar this year. Messi and Ronaldo are set to make their final bow on the biggest stage of them all in Qatar, whilst their future in elite football looks to be coming to an end. There were much higher expectations ahead of the World Cup. Ronaldo has already established himself on the international scene having made 32 appearances for Portugal, scoring 11 times, a tally which included seven goals in qualification for the 2006 finals in Germany. As the World Cup finals arrived in Africa for the first time ever, Messi and Ronaldo were now established as the world’s best players. Both players had recently won their first Ballon d’Or award – Ronaldo in 2008 and Messi in 2009, going to the 2010 World Cup at the top of their game. They were looking hungrier for more silverware, both individually and with their teams. Prior to the tournament, the pair had just gone toe-to-toe in the 2009-10 Spanish top-flight season, with Messi winning the La Liga Pichichi Trophy with a league-high 34 goals, ahead of Gonzalo Higuaín (27) and Ronaldo (26). Messi played every minute of Argentina’s five games at the 2010 World Cup but was unable to have the impact expected – his assist against Mexico in the round of 16 was his only goal involvement across the entire tournament. It was déjà vu for Argentina as they fell to Germany at the quarter-final stage, suffering their biggest ever knockout-round defeat in the process (4-0). Things didn’t go much better for now-Portuguese captain Ronaldo either, as he was enduring a difficult spell with his national team, having failed to score in any of his seven qualifying appearances prior to the tournament. Portugal limped through a group with Brazil, North Korea and Ivory Coast before losing 1-0 to Spain in the round of 16. Ronaldo’s only goal involvements came in Portugal’s 7-0 win against the unfancied North Korea in the group stages, scoring and assisting in that rout. Messi and Ronaldo will become the fourth and sixth different players, respectively, to make an appearance in five different World Cups (Mexico’s Andrés Guardado likely the fifth). 2014 World Cup (Brazil) Ronaldo led his country into the 2014 World Cup having just become the nation’s all-time leading goal scorer (49), but Portugal would fail to progress through a World Cup group stage for the first time since 2002. Portugal lost 4-0 to Germany in their opening match, with that humiliation followed up by a draw against the United States and a win over Ghana. A then injured Ronaldo did his best to carry his team through, assisting Silvestre Varela’s 95th-minute equaliser against USA, before scoring the winning goal late on against Ghana. However, it wasn’t enough for Portugal to go through to the knockout stages, as they exited on goal difference to USA, who finished as runners-up to the Germans. There were contrasting fortunes for Lionel Messi who, on the other side, led Argentina all the way to the World Cup final for the first time since they lost to Germany 1990. History would repeat itself, however, as Argentina suffered the same fate all over again. Messi flew out of the traps, scoring in each of Argentina’s group wins over Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria. In fact, no player scored more goals than the Argentine in the 2014 group stage, with Neymar and Thomas Müller keeping up alongside him. Messi would not score again in the tournament but managed to assist Ángel Di María’s winning goal in Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Switzerland in the round of 16: Colombia’s James Rodríguez (six) and German star Müller (five) were the only players to outscore Messi by the tournament’s end. For his performances Messi was somewhat controversially awarded with the Golden Ball, becoming the first Argentinian to win the accolade since Diego Maradona in 1986. The Argentine topped the 2014 World Cup charts in chances created (23), chances created from open play (17), dribbles (46/76), carries (165) and passes played into the penalty area (61). 2018 World Cup (Russia) Messi kicked off his 2018 World Cup in Russia by missing a penalty in a 1-1 draw with Iceland, before failing to register a shot on target in a 3-0 loss to Croatia, marking the only time he’s ever failed to do so in a World Cup group game. Not the ideal way to start his fourth World Cup finals tournament. Messi responded by scoring the opener against Nigeria in the final group game to secure a second-place finish in Group D and a round-of-16 clash with eventual winners France. Despite assisting twice in a goal-frenzied game with the French, Messi would exit the World Cup at the earliest stage of his career. 2018 would see Ronaldo suffer the same fate at the hands of Uruguay in the round of 16, but his tournament began in contrasting fashion. In the opening group game Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Spain to become the oldest ever player to score a World Cup hat-trick (33 years, 130 days old). He followed that up with the only goal in Portugal’s 1-0 win over Morocco to take his total goal tally at World Cup tournaments to seven. Eusébio is the only Portuguese player to score more often at World Cup finals (nine – all in 1966). By now, you may have noticed that neither Messi nor Ronaldo have scored a goal in a World Cup knockout game, a bad record they each want to end at the Qatar World Cup. They pretty know it is their last dance in their football career. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Argentina and Portugal could go all the way to the World Cup final in Qatar this December – an early Christmas present for football fans across the world, with many wishes of a Messi vs. Ronaldo showdown coming on the biggest stage of all. The pair could also meet in the semi-finals should either team win their group and the other finish second, whilst there is also the unlikely event that football’s two most recognised stars meet in the third-place playoff match; the latter scenario would at least likely make it the most watched World Cup consolation match in history. Ronaldo says he can play until he is 40, meaning that Qatar would be his last World Cup, his last chance to have his hands on the world's most prestigious football silverware. Messi, on the other side, will be looking to inspire Argentina to the trophy they last won in 1986 thanks to Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God'.