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Who has the better World Cup record out of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Chris Byfield

| Last updated 

Who has the better World Cup record out of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been rivals at the top of football for the past 15 years, competing for Champions Leagues, league titles and individual honours. But who has the best World Cup record?

This morning, Messi kicked off his World Cup campaign against Saudi Arabia, but it did not go as planned. Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari second-half strikes cancelled out Messi first-half penalty and saw Saudi Arabia secure one of the greatest World Cup upsets in history.

Argentina had been 36 games unbeaten, that include a 1-0 Copa America final win over Brazil.

Messi has won everything in the game - the Argentine has racked up four Champions Leagues, 10 LaLiga’s and a record seven Ballon d’Ors. The only question mark against his name as the greatest player in history is his record at a World Cup.


But how does Messi’s World Cup record stack up against his rival, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo?

Both players are featured in the fifth World Cup, having first appeared on international football’s biggest stage in 2006. Neither has claimed the coveted Jules Rimet trophy yet.

Germany 2006

Messi became Argentina’s youngest-ever World Cup player when he came off the bench to score and claim an assist in a 6-0 win over Serbia and Montenegro in 2006.


Then on his 19th birthday, he came on in Argentina's last-16 tie against Mexico, a game where La Albiceleste ran out as 2-1 winners after extra time. However, Argentina would be eliminated in the following round against hosts Germany.


The same tournament saw Ronaldo become Portugal’s youngest-ever World Cup scorer aged 21 with a group-stage penalty against Iran.

The then-Manchester United star went on to score the winning penalty in a shoot-out against England in the quarter-finals and sparked fury among the Three Lions faithful with *that* wink when Wayne Rooney was sent off.


Portugal were subsequently knocked out in the semi-final against a Zinedine Zidane-inspired France.

South Africa 2010

In 2010 Messi and Argentina went into the tournament as one of the favourites.

Unlike the World Cup four years ago Messi had the burden of expectation stacked against him in South Africa, due to his exploits at Barcelona. However, the script did not play out as planned.


Argentina, managed by Diego Maradona, made it to the quarter-final before being ousted by a young, energetic Germany side.

Messi in South Africa
Messi in South Africa

While Messi contributed heavily to the team throughout, he remained goalless in his five matches and provided just one assist to Carlos Tevez during Argentina’s 3-1 win over Mexico in the last-16.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo and Portugal were knocked out by eventual winners Spain at the same stage as his rival.


Ronaldo had inherited the No. 7 jersey and the Portugal captaincy from Luis Figo but like Messi, failed to make a huge impact on the tournament.

In four matches, Portugal scored in just one, a 7-0 thrashing of North Korea, a game in which Ronaldo scored a scrappy sixth goal and assisted in another.

Brazil 2014

Four years later Ronaldo, who was by now Portugal's all-time top scorer, battled through fitness problems to make the tournament, but his side ultimately did not make it out of the group.

Portugal lost 4-0 to Germany in their first match and drew 2-2 with the USA in their second, with Ronaldo providing the assist for the equaliser.

The then-Real Madrid star scored a late winner for Portugal in their 2-1 win over Ghana in their final group game but Portugal were still eliminated on goal difference.

Ronaldo against Ghana
Ronaldo against Ghana

Meanwhile, Messi was man of the match in Argentina’s first four games and dragged his side to the World Cup final as captain. Argentina would ultimately fall short in the final, however, losing 1-0 to Germany through an extra-time Mario Götze goal.

Messi managed four goals and one assist in his seven matches in Brazil and was awarded the Golden Ball award, but his campaign still ended in heartbreak.

Russia 2018

Messi was Argentina's standout performer in an otherwise poor tournament for La Albiceleste.

Nevertheless, his only goal came in the final group match against Nigeria, in a 2-1 win. The goal made him the first player in World Cup history to score in his teens, twenties and thirties.

Messi's side were subsequently beaten in the last 16 in a 4-3 thriller against eventual winners France.

In contrast, Ronaldo started in style, scoring a hat-trick against Spain, becoming the oldest player to score a World Cup treble.

He then went on to score the winner in a 1-0 win over Morocco while the then-Madrid star also featured in a 1-1 draw with Iran.

Portugal ultimately went out in the last 16, where they lost 2-1 to Uruguay.

Before Qatar, Messi had claimed six goals and five assists in his 19 World Cup appearances while Ronaldo has managed seven goals and two assists in his 17 games.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Football, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal, Argentina, Football World Cup

Chris Byfield
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