Portugal have taken the long road to play in their eighth FIFA World Cup, and maybe things would have been quite different if Cristiano Ronaldo had never decided to play football.
The Portuguese ace captained his team to qualify for the tournament set to be played in Qatar next December, handing out an assist for the opening goal against North Macedonia earlier today. He may not have been as decisive as always, but he has helped his team reach their sixth FIFA World Cup edition in a row while also putting himself on the verge of joining an elite list of footballers if he can stay injury-free until December this year.
As things stand, Cristiano Ronaldo has played in four FIFA World Cup editions for Portugal. One more tournament of the sort for him would see him equalize the feats of three players who have played in five different FIFA World Cup editions. The names of those players are: Antonio Carbajal, Rafael Márquez, and Lothar Matthäus.
The first to accomplish such a feat was Antonio Carbajal, who played for Mexico during all World Cups held between 1950 and 1966. Sadly, he never made it past the group stage with El Tri.
The second footballer to play in five World Cups was the legendary German midfielder Matthäus, who won the 1990 FIFA World Cup and was part of the runner-up team in 1982 and 1986 editions with West Germany. Added to that, Matthäus holds the record for most FIFA World Cup games played, with 25 matches between 1982 and 1998.
Last, but not least, former Barcelona and El Tri defender Rafael Márquez joined this elite list of players in 2018, when he was part of Mexico's team playing in the competition. "El Kaiser" played 19 matches for Mexico in his five World Cups, where he was not able to lead El Tri's efforts to reach the Quarterfinals between 2002 and the last FIFA World Cup edition to this date.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of several players who could join these footballers in playing five World Cups. That list could grow bigger in 2022 with names such as Sergio Ramos, Andrés Guardado, and none other than Lionel Messi, who has already booked his spot to play in Qatar with Argentina next winter.