Messi, Mbappe, Neymar, Ronaldo World Cup viewers – how have they fared in Qatar so far?

Brazil’s 2-0 win over Serbia to wrap up Thursday’s action means all 32 teams have now played at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Global Finals gives us the chance to see the world’s biggest stars on the biggest stage – and some have fared better than others so far.

We look back at Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar’s first game performances.

LIONEL MESSI

It took Messi just 10 minutes to make his mark in Qatar by converting a penalty against Saudi Arabia as the Argentina captain joined an elite group of players to score in four finals.

However, that was for Messi’s best.

After Messi was penalized for offside for a VAR goal – one of three goals not awarded to Argentina in the first half – Saudi Arabia made a heroic comeback to endure one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.

First Saleh Al Shehri charged forward and past the sturdy Cristian Romero and sent an excellent low finish past Emiliano Martinez.

Six minutes later, Saudi were ahead. Salem Al Dawsari’s typically quick feet dodged a cluster of Argentinian defenders on the corner of the box before curling an unstoppable shot high into the opposition’s net.

Messi and co were flat in attack as they looked for an equaliser. They will need a big improvement starting against Mexico on Saturday if they hope to advance in Group C.

Reviews: Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia

Lionel Messi reacts after the final whistle after a 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia.  Reuters

Kylian Mbappe

The defending champions got their World Cup defense off to a flying start with a 4-1 win over Australia in Group D.

The Socceroos stunned Les Bleus with a well-crafted goal from Craig Goodwin in nine minutes. After that it was all France. Maybe more specifically, it was all Mbappe.

Paris Saint-Germain proved he has the speed to cause team trouble, constantly slicing past Australia’s defence, as seen when he showed his defender a clean pair of heels before moving on to Olivier Giroud for his second and France’s fourth to finish.

It wasn’t just his frightening pace; Mbappe showed he has all the tricks with a series of back heels and flicks, including a magnificent one to find Adrein Rabiot, who in turn passed through for Giroud to equalize.

And then there was the goal, Mbappe jumping majestically and heading an Ousmane Dembele cross over the post.

France’s talisman has already given an early hint that in the absence of Ballon d’Or winner Karin Benzema he has an appetite to spur on an injury-plagued team.

If 2018 heralded Mbappe’s arrival on the world stage, 2022 could be his crowning glory as the game’s biggest star.

Reviews: France 4-1 Australia

France's Kylian Mbappe celebrates his third goal against Australia.  Reuters

CRISTIANO RONALDO

If Ronaldo feared being added to the jobseekers’ queue after his contract with Manchester United ended, you’d never know.

On Thursday, the 37-year-old celebrated a slice of World Cup goalscoring history when he became the first man to score in five editions of the World Cup when he converted a controversial penalty to help Portugal edge Ghana 3-2 in their group to defeat H clash.

The typically freezing penalty was Ronaldo’s eighth career goal at the World Cup.

“It was a beautiful moment, my fifth World Cup, we won and we started off well,” Ronaldo said after the win.

“It’s a very important win, we know the first game is crucial, but the world record also makes me very proud.”

However, there was controversy surrounding the penalty, awarded after Ronaldo theatrically fell onto the pitch after making minimal contact with Ghanaian defender Mohammed Salisu.

Angry Ghana coach Otto Addo described the penalty decision as a “gift” to Ronaldo.

He may be right and Ronaldo was effective without being spectacular against the Africans. What’s undeniable is that regardless of the background noise, Ronaldo has a habit of still making himself the center of attention on the biggest stage.

NEYMAR

The sight of Neymar crying on the bench after a heavy attack with ice taped to his injured ankle was unwelcome and could potentially end his tournament before it even gets underway.

Brazil captain Neymar suffered a sprained ankle in his side’s 2-0 Group G win over Serbia on Thursday and will require a medical check-up in the next 48 hours, the national team’s doctor said after the game.

Doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said the Brazilian superstar sustained the injury after colliding with his opponent.

Neymar was substituted in the 79th minute.

“We’ll have to wait 24 to 48 hours to get a better estimate,” Lasmar said. “We have no MRI scheduled and tomorrow we will have a new evaluation.

“We’ll have to wait and see, we can’t make hasty comments on his development.”

Neymar limped badly after the game while photos of the striker showed swelling on his right ankle.

Coach Tite said the Paris Saint-Germain player initially stayed on the field after injuring his ankle “because the team needed him”.

He also tried to downplay fears the 30-year-old could be sacked long enough to end his World Cup campaign.

“You can be sure that Neymar will play at the World Cup,” he said.

A dejected looking Neymar declined to speak to journalists as he left the stadium on Thursday. Let’s hope Tite’s assessment of Neymar is brighter than the player’s behavior at the end of the game.

Reviews: Brazil 2-0 Serbia

Brazil's Neymar grabs after suffering an injury during the World Cup Group G soccer match between Brazil and Serbia at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar on Thursday November 24, 2022. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Updated November 25, 2022 at 9:20 am



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