Messi has spent the tournament trying to hold his unbalanced and ageing squad together, even apparently bypassing coach Jorge Sampaoli to give coaching instructions in the 2-1 win against Nigeria that saved the South Americans from the same fate as the Germans.
Ronaldo has already punished a top challenger, scoring three times in Portugal's tournament opening, 3-3 draw with Spain. Two colossal footballing nations, both former champions and steeped in World Cup history, come head to head in the last 16.
And while there is some basis for those arguments, the bottom line is - Lionel Messi, apart from a half of football, when he scored that delicious goal against Nigeria, was a shadow's shadow of himself in this Fifa World Cup 2018, and when Argentina needed him, he just couldn't step up.
The much-discussed technology has largely been a success, although Neymar might not agree after he had a penalty deservedly taken off him.
Talk of another World Cup seems unlikely for Messi, who has previously retired from the national team before donning the blue and white stripes once again.
No Arab sides in the last 16 and Tunisia manager Nahib Maaloul is not convinced things will improve easily.
There is no better drama in football than late drama - 26 goals were scored after the 80th minute, of which 13, 50 percent, have been winners or equalisers.
Lionel Messi and his Argentina teammates barely scraped through to the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup.
The 22-year-old has just signed for Stoke City this summer, but is on course for far bigger and better achievements in his career based on his performances in Russian Federation.
Interestingly, at the Nou Camp, Messi can count on Luis Suarez; it is a different ball game with Argentina, after Gonzalo Higuain has fired blanks in eight games with the Albiceleste. The group stages are over and we are now at the last 16 stages.
Host nation Russian Federation made a statement in the tournament's first match, trouncing Saudi Arabia.
Having followed a 1-1 draw against Iceland in their opening game with a 3-0 defeat by Croatia in their second, Argentina went into their final group fixture against Nigeria needing to win, while relying on results elsewhere.
Peru is back home after their fans provided some truly unforgettable atmospheres in Group C. At times it felt like there must have been no one left in Lima.
But what a main course to look forward to.