The two modern icons could meet in a mouthwatering clash if the cards fall into place.
Argentina survived a scare and edged Nigeria 2-1 in a cliffhanger that confirmed their progress into the Round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup. The Albiceleste didn’t improve much from the insipid displays of their opening two games and Nigeria were on the way to be deservingly rewarded for their hard-work, till defender Marcos Rojo slammed home the winner in the 86th minute to save Argentina the embarrassment of getting eliminated in the group stage.
Yesterday’s result coupled with the chaotic end to Group B the day before has set up a potential quarterfinal clash on 6th July at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium that may define this World Cup. If everything goes right, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will be squaring up against Lionel Messi’s Argentina on that day.
Ever since Ronaldo made the switch to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009, the hype, importance and glamour surrounding the greatest match in club football, the ‘El Clasico’ has gone up manifold. After all these years, this generation-defining rivalry between arguably the two greatest players of this sport could finally be seen reprised on the biggest stage of all, the World Cup and it would be some sight to behold.
But to get there, Portugal have to navigate past a solid Uruguayan side in their Round of 16 clash. The Uruguayans have won all the three games so far and deservingly finished toppers in their group. More impressively, they haven’t conceded a single goal and are the only team in the World Cup to do so. Their defence is led by the rock-solid centre-back pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, one of the best in the business. So, Ronaldo and Co. have their task cut out against such a well-balanced side.
The Argentinians, on the other hand, would consider themselves lucky to have scraped out of their group. The team looks short of confidence and seems to lack the cutting edge to influence games. Their stars, including Lionel Messi have looked off-colour so far. They will be up against France in their Round of 16 game. The French team is brimming with exciting talent and their squad depth is scary. But, under manager Didier Deschamps they have looked far from their best and there is a distinct lack of cohesion in their play. If things click for Argentina on that day, they can exploit the chinks in France’s armour.
Messi and Ronaldo have gone head-to-head only twice with their national teams, with both games being friendlies. Both the superstars have won one game each.
This potential quarterfinal would be very likely overshadowed by the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry and to be honest both teams would require their respective talisman’s brilliance to edge out the other. Whoever emerges as the victor from this match, this win would have significant weight in the debate about who is the greatest player ever.