Messi, Ronaldo knocked out of the World Cup

NEW DELHI: Lionel Messsi and Cristiano Ronaldo,soccer’s biggest names were knocked out of the World Cup, ousted by better opponents and overshadowed by players of immense ability. Their tournaments ended in the round of 16, an appropriate exit ramp for underwhelming sides that were overly dependent on their superstars. Had they both prevailed, they would have collided Friday in the quarterfinals, reprising their epic Barcelona-Real Madrid showdowns. Instead, both are done, not only with this year’s competition but probably with the World Cup forever. By the time it’s held again, in winter 2022 in Qatar, Messi will be 35 years old, Ronaldo almost 38. Messi has been to the final (2014); Ronaldo made a semifinal (2006). Neither will be defined by World Cup performance; they are masters in their generation at the ultimate levels of professional soccer. Shortcomings on this stage, in an event held every four years, will not detract from their weekly greatness.

Messi and Argentina were fortunate to escape group play, needing a late goal by Marcos Rojo against Nigeria to overcome a tumultuous two weeks and avoid terrible embarrassment.

Ronaldo was awesome in the opener, recording a hat trick against Spain that he culminated with a magnificent free kick in the waning moments. He scored again in his second outing, but it became clear that Portugal was not diverse enough to go much further.

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