There was no international retirement this time. As Argentina crashed out of the World Cup in the last 16 on Saturday following a 4-3 defeat to France in Kazan, Lionel Messi stayed silent.
While Javier Mascherano announced after the game that he would be bringing his international career to an end at the age of 34 and it was confirmed that Lucas Biglia will do the same, but there was no news from the captain.
Messi finished the game against France with two assists, but he was stranded for much of the afternoon in areas of the pitch in which he has little influence, having been picked as a false nine and forced to drop deeper in a team with no focal point ahead of him.
It was a sad and perhaps predictable end to a World Cup which never really got going for Argentina amid numerous problems for the Albiceleste, who leave with two defeats, a draw and only one win at Russia 2018, a last-gasp victory over Nigeria.
“If things go badly, we will all have to disappear from the national team,” Messi had said before the tournament. “It will be difficult because we have been together for many years. We have to think about this World Cup and it could be the last.”
Messi turned 31 last week and by the time the next World Cup comes around, he will be 35, with the tournament in Qatar set to take place in November and December instead of during the summer due to the extreme climate conditions in the west Asian country.
However, the Barcelona forward looks like the type of player who can adapt his game with age and drop deeper into more of a playmaking role, perhaps similar to how he set up Sergio Aguero for Argentina’s late third goal on Saturday. Time will tell.
In any case, Messi perhaps wanted to avoid a of heat-of-the-moment decision like the one he took two years ago, when he announced his international retirement after missing a penalty as Argentina lost the Copa America Centenario final to Chile in the United States.
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo gave no hint that he is about to retire from international football despite seeing his Portugal side knocked out of the World Cup by Uruguay.
Ronaldo is still waiting for his first goal or first assist in a World Cup knockout game after Portugal were beaten 2-1 by an Edinson Cavani-inspired Uruguay in the last-16 in Sochi.
The Real Madrid striker will be 37 when the next World Cup arrives, in Qatar in 2022, but refused to consider his future as he left the Fisht Stadium.
He said: “It’s not the right time to talk about my future, or about the coach or any of the players. I’m absolutely sure this team will continue to be one of the the best in the world. We have a team of players who are ambitious. Portugal are going to carry on winning things and making the people of Portugal proud.”
That doesn’t sound like a player who is ready to give up on what has been a life-long World Cup dream and Ronaldo insisted he has enjoyed Russia 2018 despite the outcome for his team.
He said: “We played better than Uruguay but it’s those who score more goals who win. We wanted to win, we fought well, but Uruguay should be congratulated.” -AGENCIES