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Why Messi and Ronaldo Don’t Perform Well in World Cup?

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What happens when the greatest football players of this generation play in the greatest tournament in the sport’s history? It sure will create the bang,won’t it? but that has not been the case for Messi and Ronaldo.

This will be the last time we will see the GOATs play in the world cup as Messi and Ronaldo are growing old and both are above 35. 

Messi’s highest finish in the world cup was in 2014 when his team Germany was in the finals. The furthest Ronaldo has gone was Semi-Finals way back in his first tournament in 2006. Excluding Messi’s Group Stage games in 2014 and Ronaldo’s group stage games in 2018, we really can’t pick out a strong performance from a 12 times Ballon D’or winning duo.

Reason for Messi’s Bad  Performances in World Cups


Messi has participated in four world cups before 2022. The first one he took part in was in 2006. In 2006, He was just 18 so he didn’t get to play many minutes. He just got 15-20 minutes every game. Although he got to start against the Netherlands, he was described as Rusty by the head coach.

Messi 2006 World Cup
Messi in 2006 playing for Argentina.

According to an interview, Coach Solorio once told Messi, “You created four chances but didn’t score. A goal is only ever worth one, not five, it doesn’t matter if you dribble past four or five or if you knock the ball in on the goal line.’ We had to teach him every day, we were teaching a young lad what it meant to play senior football.”

Basically, in 2006 Messi’s Young Age, less Experience, Rusty style of play, and lack of Minutes were the main reason for his bad performances.


Coming to the World Cup after a spectacular season with Barcelona, Everybody expected a bit of magic from Him but unfortunately, the rabbit stayed on his hat and never came out. When Diego Maradona was chosen as the charge for the 2010 world cup, everybody expected him and Messi to bring it back to Argentina. In 2010, Messi got a lot of chances but was unable to fulfill them. Many Pundits suggest failed transition from Barcelona’s TIKI-TAKA style and with a full squad of legendary players to an average argentine side was the reason for Messi being poor at the world cup. He couldn’t even net a single goal throughout the tournament.

Lionel Messi Diego Maradona 2010
Lionel with the late Diego Maradona.

 Argentina was lucky throughout the tournament as they faced very mediocre teams till the Quater-Finals. But when they met a good team i.e Germany they were thrashed by them.

Basically, In 2010 Messi was too reliant on the passes from Xavi and Iniesta in Barcelona. So he was unable to fit in the Argentine Side plus he even couldn’t finish the chances he got.


2014 in Brazil is the best World Cup tournament Messi ever played. Messi scored 4 goals in 3 games of the Group Stage. At the time, the Argentine squad was Mediocre but someone and someway Messi managed to drag them to the Final. Even though Messi played in the final, He was very Mediocre in the Knockouts. He didn’t score a goal during the Knockout. Even to date, Messi doesn’t have a single Knockout goal despite playing in nine world cup knockouts. Maybe the pressure of playing for the national team gets him or is it something else?


The 2018 world cup was the worst we have seen of Argentina in this Century. Argentina narrowly qualified for the World Cup after Messi’s hattrick against Ecuador in the last game of South-American Qualifying.

Although full of stars like Messi, Higuain, Aguero, Mascherano, and Di-Maria, Argentina never looked like a complete squad. Due to the low squad strength, Messi was unable to drag Argentina this time. He also had a very poor performance in the world cup. He scored just once in four games for Argentina. He missed a decisive penalty against Iceland which may have cost Argentina a place in the Round of 16 if it was not for the 86th-minute winner by Rojo against Nigeria in the final game.

Messi was having a tough time in Argentina. He lost the 2014 world cup final and also the 2015,2016 Copa America finals, Which impacted his form in Argentina’s Jersey. He looked severely mild during the tournament. He was unable to create the chance and was not even able to finish it. He was not even backed by teammates as Argentina had a very average squad running low on confidence. As a result, Messi netted just a single goal and Argentina couldn’t get out of the group stage.

Reason for Ronaldo’s Bad  Performances in World Cups


A young 21-year-old prodigy with rusty yet beautiful technique, Cristiano Ronaldo was all set to play the 2006 Worldcup as the youngest Portuguese to ever play in the tournament. Ronaldo was already a starter for Portugal‘s side then. Then, Ronaldo used to be a dribbler and a guy with a lot of skill in the bag but no finishing product. His lack of experience didn’t help him either. Although going into the semi-finals, Ronaldo’s only goal came against Iran through a penalty.

His lack of decisiveness and the experience of football meant Ronaldo had a pretty bad tournament. 

Although we would put up his young age and experience as the main reason for his bad performance in the world cup. It wasn’t exactly a bad tournament but was a rusty performance from him.


2010 was not so good for Ronaldo. Ronaldo was already a Ballon D’or by then. Although already one of the best active players at that time, Ronaldo couldn’t do much for the National Team. Ronaldo’s only goal in the world cup came against the Minnows, North Korea.

Ronaldo Portugal 2010
Ronaldo playing in the 2010 World Cup.

People like to point out how Ronaldo’s captain armband affected him during the world cup. The added pressure of being a captain meant Ronaldo was unable to control his own game as he had to see the performance of others and motivate/guide them. Due to this Ronaldo was pictured having several breakdowns during the 2010 edition.


Just before the 2014 world cup, Ronaldo suffered a muscle strain. The injury affected his whole world cup and was unable to perform according to his standards. The injuries will change his whole playing style for the later of his career. Ronaldo was seen struggling throughout the tournament. Even though he was not 100% fit, he managed to play every single minute of the world cup.

Ronaldo 2014
Ronaldo wasn’t able to take his team to 2014 World Cup Final.

Therefore, Injury was the reason Ronaldo couldn’t perform in the world Cup resulting in Portugal getting knocked out of the 2014 world cup.


The 2018 world cup was the best world cup for Cristiano Ronaldo, at least for his performances. He scored four goals in the tournament which included the hat trick against Spain and a winning goal against Iran which secured a place in the knockouts for Portugal.

Just like in 2014, Portugal didn’t have a good squad which meant only Ronaldo’s efforts were not enough to drive the European Nation far in the world cup.

These are the reason why Ronaldo and Messi have failed to replicate their club form in the World Cups.

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