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

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

The global finals give us a chance to see the world’s biggest stars on the grandest stage – and some have fared better than others so far.

We take a look back at the first match performances of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

LIONEL MESSI

It took only 10 minutes for Messi to make his mark in Qatar, slotting home a penalty against Saudi Arabia as the Argentina captain joined an elite band of players to score at four finals.

That was as good as it got for Messi, though.

After Messi had a goal chalked off by VAR for offside – one of three disallowed for Argentina in the first half – Saudi Arabia staged a heroic comeback to pull off one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.

First, Saleh Al Shehri charged forward and past the robust Cristian Romero, and dispatched superbly a low finish beyond Emiliano Martinez.

Six minutes later, the Saudis were in front. Salem Al Dawsari evaded a collection of Argentine markers on the corner of the area with typically quick feet before he curled an unstoppable shot high into the opposition net.

Messi and Co were flat in attack as they went in search of an equaliser. They will need a big improvement, starting against Mexico on Saturday, if they hope to progress from Group C.

Ratings: Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia

KYLIAN MBAPPE

The title-holders got their World Cup defense off to a flying start with a 4-1 walloping of Australia in Group D.

The Socceroos stunned Les Bleus through a well-worked Craig Goodwin goal on nine minutes. After that it was all France. Perhaps more accurately, it was all Mbappe.

The Paris Saint-Germain showed he has the speed to cause any team problems, continuously ghosting past the Australia defense, as seen when he showed his defender a clean pair of heels before crossing to Olivier Giroud to head home his second and France’s fourth.

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

And then there was the goal, Mbappe leaping majestically to head home an Ousmane Dembele cross via the post.

France’s talisman has already given an early glimpse that he has the appetite to power an injury-ravaged team in the absence of Ballon d’Or winner Karin Benzema.

If 2018 announced the arrival of Mbappe on the world stage, 2022 could be his coronation as the game’s biggest star.

Ratings: France 4-1 Australia

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

CRISTIANO RONALDO

If Ronaldo was worried about joining the job seekers’ queue following the termination of his contract with Manchester United, you’d never know it.

On Thursday, the 37-year-old claimed a piece of World Cup goalscoring history as he became the first man to score in five editions of the World Cup as he slotted home a controversial penalty to help Portugal down Ghana 3-2 in their Group H clash.

The typically ice-cold spot-kick was Ronaldo’s eighth career goal at the World Cup.

“It was a beautiful moment, my fifth World Cup, we won, and we started with our good foot,” Ronaldo said after the win.

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

But there was controversy surrounding the penalty, which was awarded after Ronaldo crashed theatrically to the turf following minimal contact with Ghana defender Mohammed Salisu.

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

He may have a point, and Ronaldo was effective without being spectacular against the Africans. What is undeniable is that, no matter 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 and ice taped to his injured ankle following a heavy tackle was not a welcome one and could potentially end his tournament before it even gets going.

The Brazil captain Neymar suffered a sprained ankle in his team’s 2-0 Group G win over Serbia on Thursday and faces a medical assessment in the next 48 hours, the national team doctor said after the match.

Doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said the Brazilian superstar suffered the injury after a collision with his opponent.

Neymar was substituted in the 79th minute.

“We need to wait 24 to 48 hours to have a better assessment,” Lasmar said. “We have not scheduled any MRI and tomorrow we’ll have a new assessment.

“We need to wait, we cannot make any premature comments about his evolution.”

Neymar was seen limping heavily 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 hurting his ankle “because the team needed him”.

He also moved to play down fears that the 30-year-old could face a lay-off long enough to end his World Cup campaign.

“You can be certain that Neymar is going to play in the World Cup,” he said.

A downcast-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 demeanor at the end of the game.

Ratings: Brazil 2-0 Serbia

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

Updated: November 25, 2022, 9:20 AM

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