Football: Soccer-Ronaldo and Messi to learn latest World Cup dance partners

DOHA (Reuters) – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will know their opponents for what is almost certainly their last World Cup final on Friday in the draw for November’s tournament in Qatar.

The game’s two biggest names have won numerous club and individual honors as well as continental trophies with their countries, but neither has managed to crown their careers with the ultimate prize of World Cup glory.

Portugal striker Ronaldo, 37, and Argentina’s Messi, 34, are set to play in their fifth World Cup final – no player has appeared in six.

The closest Ronaldo to winning the tournament was his first attempt in Germany in 2006 when Portugal lost in the semi-finals to France.

Messi’s Argentina were runners-up in Brazil in 2014 where they lost to Germany in the final in Rio.

Neither player has indicated whether they will attempt to make a record sixth World Cup appearance or retire from international football after this year’s tournament, but their age suggests it could well be their last attempt.

Portugal and Argentina are expected to be among the top seeds in pot one, meaning they will avoid a direct showdown with one of the group stage four favorites.

Defending champions France and five-time World Cup winners Brazil are the favorites of the bookmakers. England, semi-finalists four years ago, are also counting on their chances.

Although European champions Italy failed to qualify for the final, the continent has plenty of serious contenders with Belgium, Spain and Germany also in the frame.

Twenty-nine of 32 teams will be in the draw, with qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean ending Thursday.

Three places will remain empty in Friday’s draw to be filled by the two winners of the Intercontinental Playoffs and the last winners of the European Playoffs – drawn from matches delayed by war in Ukraine.

Scotland will face Ukraine in June for the right to play Wales for the final spot.

Host country Qatar have been placed in Group A and the remaining places will be drawn from four pots based on the FIFA rankings to be determined on Thursday.

Countries occupying positions 8 to 15 in the ranking of qualified teams will be assigned to Pot 2, while the 16th to 23rd highest ranked qualifiers will be placed in Pot 3.

Pot 4 will consist of teams qualifying in positions 24-28, plus three placeholders.

The draw is designed to ensure that no group has more than one team from the same continental qualifying area outside of Europe. No group may include more than two UEFA nations.

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)

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