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Saying Goodbye: Reflecting on the Greats’ Impact on Soccer Before Their Last World Cup, by Mark Rick

As many soccer fans around the world know, the World Cup is just around the corner. The first game will be played today, Sunday, November 20, featuring the host nation, Qatar, taking on Ecuador. World Cups are special events because they only happen once every four years and the best soccer players from around the globe face off to win their country's pride. That being said, the 2022 World Cup will be one of the most significant World Cups.

The main reason being, this will be the last World Cup for many players. For the younger generation, we will be saying goodbye to the players we grew up watching. The two most notable players that even non-soccer fans would know are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

There is no doubt that Messi and Ronaldo will go down as some of the best players to play this beautiful game, but this World Cup will be the last chance for Messi and Ronaldo to separate themselves in the GOAT (greatest of all time) debate. Neither one of them has won a world cup in their careers, and this will be their final shot at winning the title. This GOAT battle makes a great storyline ahead of the World Cup.

Many soccer fans are hoping for a final game between Argentina and Portugal. A final between these two sides will pin Ronaldo and Messi against each other for the ultimate match. With this potential final match-up, the excitement for the World Cup is at an all time high.

The 2022 World Cup will be the end of an era. We need to enjoy the matches as much as we can because this will most likely be our last chance to watch many players from this generation compete on the international stage. It will be one of the best World Cups ever, and I can’t wait to watch it all.

My excitement and joy are high just thinking about it. On the other hand, as the games wind down, it will be hard to not feel down. There will also be a feeling of appreciation, though. To truly appreciate the greats, let’s take a look back at Ronaldo’s and Messi’s impact on soccer.

Ronaldo has broken the standard for great strikers. Before Ronaldo, an all-star striker would score a goal every two games; he shattered that standard.

To illustrate this, consider Raúl González Blanco (the former record goalscorer for Real Madrid). Throughout his 16 years and 741 games with Real Madrid, he scored 323 goals, according to an article from Ronaldo passed this record, scoring 324 goals in his 310 games with Real Madrid. He scored as many goals as Raúl in less than half the games. That is incredible, especially when we think about how Raúl was the record goalscorer for Real Madrid prior to Ronaldo. This is only one record Ronaldo has set. With 807 goals, Ronaldo is the highest scorer in men’s football, according to an article from The Oberlin Review.

Ronaldo has been amazing throughout his career and hasn’t slowed down. His incredible work ethic, which is best demonstrated through his physical strength and strong mindset, has allowed him to stay prolific. He is constantly working on his mindset, abilities and fitness. For a lot of kids growing up, he was — and still is — an inspiration. He shows kids around the world that hard work will get you places. His passion and drive for success can be seen in his play. For this reason, kids will wear Ronaldo jerseys or wear the number 7 in honor of him for years to come.

Messi’s impact on the game also won’t be forgotten any time soon. Messi is smaller than most players (he was even diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency at age 11). At 5’7” and 148 pounds, Messi made his name through his tricky dribbling and precise passing.

With Messi at the helm, Barcelona changed the way soccer is played. In soccer, there’s been doubts about teams that use a heavy possession playing style because teams with this style can more easily fall victim to tricky counterattack styles, according to an article from GQ. Messi and Barcelona proved this notion wrong and dominated possession by not letting the other team get the ball. They did this by focusing on off-ball movement and tight space skills. Messi has been an integral part of this. He was able to create space with his dribbling and quickness. Messi is the most complete player with amazing freekicks, dribbling and passing.

The accolades and achievements Messi has won further support his greatness. Messi has won four champions leagues, eleven LaLiga titles and seven Ballon d'Ors.

Messi also has an inspiring story to go with his illustrious career. He grew up in Rosario, Argentina. Although he was smaller than all the other kids, he didn’t let that stop him. He still continued to impress, and Barcelona’s youth academy took notice. Messi made the youth squad, and the club paid for Messi’s treatment of growth hormones. The rest is history. He’s an inspiration to smaller kids everywhere.

Ronaldo and Messi both have had huge impacts on soccer. They have achieved things no one thought was possible. Unfortunately, this World Cup is the last for Messi and Ronaldo. It will be a bittersweet experience for soccer fans. We will be filled with joy and excitement as we watch these amazing players pour their hearts out for the game. But there’s also the sad realization that it’s coming to an end. The game will be different without these two out-of-this-world players. They will go down in history as two of the best soccer players the world has ever seen. Take this World Cup to watch and appreciate Messi and Ronaldo because we don’t know exactly which game will be their last.

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Nov 22, 2022

Great review of the greats. I keep hoping for a real world series in baseball involving teams from all countries who play the game. We need more "world cups" in the future.

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