Lionel Messi stared, hands on hips, pain etched across a face once boyish and filled with limitless joy, now hardened by unmet expectations for his nation. Four hours later and 950 miles away, Cristiano Ronaldo's eyes were wide in anger as he shouted in protest just ahead of the final whistle, again arguing with a referee. The tirade got Ronaldo a second yellow card that would have suspended him for the next match. No worries, Portugal's World Cup ended, reports the AP. Saturday will likely mark the end of an era for the World Cup, a decade in which much of the hype has been about the best players in the world, the Spanish league rivals who have evenly split the last 10 FIFA Player of the Year Awards. Once again, both men have failed to replicate their club success for their countries. Messi is a week past his 31st birthday and Ronaldo 33, former phenoms unlikely to reach Qatar 2022.
For both superstars, a World Cup title remained an unreachable star. On Saturday, they were both outshone by two Paris Saint-Germain teammates, CNN notes, France's Kylian Mbappe and Uruguay's Edinson Cavani. Messi hasn't won a senior title with his nation, losing finals at the 2014 World Cup, and the 2007, '15 and '16 Copa Americas, the last when Messi failed on his penalty kick during a shootout. He faced massive criticism at home and retired from the national team only to be lured back for this World Cup cycle. Ronaldo lost a World Cup semifinal in 2006 but never got past the second round again. They were soccer's yin and yang, Messi understated and distant, Ronaldo flamboyant with a model girlfriend and attention-grabbing hairdos. They are global spokesmen, Ronaldo for Nike, Toyota, and more; Messi for the likes of Adidas and Pepsi. But their time at the top has come to an end.
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