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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Ronaldo, Pele, Zidane, Figo: Players Messi could follow with early World Cup exit

Plenty of other big names have departed the tournament early in previous years

Argentina's Lionel Messi looks dejected after his side were beaten by Croatia at the World Cup. Ivan Alvarado / Reuters
Argentina's Lionel Messi looks dejected after his side were beaten by Croatia at the World Cup. Ivan Alvarado / Reuters

Lionel Messi is in danger of having to get an early ticket home from the World Cup. Argentina will be eliminated if they fail to beat Nigeria in Group D on Tuesday.

But the Barcelona forward will not be the first footballing star to have had an early end to a World Cup.

Here is a look at some other big names who have had to pack their suitcases early in the past.

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Sweden to lift Portugal into the 2014 World Cup. Pontus Lundahl / AFP
Cristiano Ronaldo had a World Cup to forget in 2014. Pontus Lundahl / AFP

2014: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

He may be having a great time of things in Russia, but Ronaldo did not have such a good time four years ago.

He had gone to Brazil in good form, having been part of the Real Madrid side that won the Uefa Champions League.

But, Portugal were hamstrung by a 4-0 loss to eventual champions Germany, and although he scored the winner in their final game against Ghana they missed out on qualification on goal difference to the United States.

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Andres Iniesta,right, of Spain in action with Alexis Sanchez centre, of Chile during their 2014 World Cup Group B match on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Abedin Taherkenareh / EPA
Andres Iniesta,right, of Spain in action with Alexis Sanchez centre, of Chile during their 2014 World Cup Group B match. Abedin Taherkenareh / EPA

2014: Andres Iniesta (Spain)

Iniesta was the match-winner when Spain won the 2010 World Cup and remained an integral part of the dominant Barcelona side in the Primera Liga.

But, he and Spain struggled at the 2014 tournament in Brazil as they never recovered from losing their opening game to the Netherlands 5-1 and were eliminated early.

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United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi - Dec 14 - 2009 : Barcelona football player Thierry Henry during a training session at the officers club. ( Jaime Puebla / The National ) *** Local Caption *** JP Barcelona 01.jpg
Thierry Henry and France finished with just one point in 2010. Jaime Puebla / The National

2010: Thierry Henry (France)

There had been a fair bit of controversy over how France and Henry had got to the World Cup in South Africa, with the handball incident against the Republic of Ireland in their play-off.

Henry probably wished he had not bothered as France failed to win a game in Group A as they finished bottom with just one point.

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PORTO, PORTUGAL - JUNE 27: Fussball: Euro 2004 in Portugal, Viertelfinale Spiel 28, Porto; Tschechien - Daenemark ( CZE - DEN ) 3:0; Pavel NEDVED / CZE 27.06.04. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Pavel Nedved in action for the Czech Republic in 2006. Andreas Rentz / Bongarts / Getty Images

2006: Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic)

Nedved was one of the footballing greats of the 2000s, an integral part of the Juventus side that enjoyed success.

However, he could not prevent the Czechs from making an early exit from 2006 in Germany as they were knocked out after losses to Italy and Ghana left them third in Group E.

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Mohammed Al Shaikh / AFP
Luis Figo failed to get out of the group stage in 2002. Mohammed Al Shaikh / AFP

2002: Luis Figo (Portugal)

The midfielder played for some of the biggest clubs in the shape of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan during his career.

But he still suffered the ignominy of being part of the Portugal side that failed to get out of the group stages in 2002 as they lost to both the United States and South Korea.

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TOPSHOT - France 98's midfielder Zinedine Zidane (R) controls the ball next to Fifa 98's defender Aldair during an exhibition football match between France's 1998 World Cup's French football national team and FIFA 98 composed with former international players, to mark the 20th anniversary of France's 1998 World Cup victory, on June 12, 2018 at the U Arena in Nanterre, near Paris. / AFP / Thomas SAMSON
Zinedine Zidane and France would rather forget 2002. AFP

2002: Zinedine Zidane (France)

Zidane was clearly at the peak of his powers in 2002, having just helped Real Madrid win the Uefa Champions League.

But, the man who guided his country to World Cup glory in 1998 was powerless to prevent his side crashing out in the group stages in 2002 in South Korea.

France failed to score any goals and picked up just one point at the the tournament.

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Brazilian striker Pele (front) runs with the ball past a Swedish defender of the Malmoe FF soccer club during an international friendly between Malmoe FF and the Brazilian national team in Malmoe, Sweden, 8 May 1960. Brazil won 7-1. Pele became famous when he played with the Brazilian national team at the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden and won the first World Champion title for Brazil.
Pele runs with the ball past a Swedish defender of the Malmo during an international friendly between Malmo and the Brazilian national team in Malmo Sweden, on May 8, 1960. picture-alliance / dpa

1966: Pele (Brazil)

Pele won the World Cup three times with Brazil but in 1966 he and his teammates proved to be very mortal as they were knocked out in the group stages in England.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was the victim of some tough tackling and such was his anger at how he was treated by referees that he briefly threatened never to play in a World Cup - something he quickly changed his mind on.

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