Is this Cristiano Ronaldo’s last World Cup? Will he play in 2026?

Blink and you miss it. But don’t worry, those rapidly-disappearing images that flashed on screen of a tearful Cristiano who ran down the tunnel at full time were made immortal thanks to thousands of screenshots that flooded social media in the aftermath of Morocco’s 1-0 win over Portugal.

As soon as the whistle went and an African nation made it to the World Cup semi-final for the first time in history, questions buzzed within the football community of whether or not that was the last time Cristiano Ronaldo had featured for Portugal at the World’s greatest tournament.

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Ronaldo came off the bench for Portugal but failed to take his chances before scampering down the tunnel at full-time.MANAN VATSYAYANAAFP

The ex-Manchester United player, who currently does not belong to any club, despite the rumours, has faced turmoil at every turn so far this season. Ronaldo’s club career veered off a cliff when he spoke out against the board and manager in a strange interview with Piers Morgan, and an agreement to terminate his contract with the club was subsequently arranged.

His international career came to something of a halt when boss Fernando Santos dropped him for the Round of 16 tie against Switzerland – which Portugal won 6-1 – thanks to a fantastic hat-trick from his young, fresh-faced replacement, Gonçalo Ramos.

Was this Ronaldo’s last World Cup?

Ronaldo had said in September 2022 that he was not going to retire, and that his plan was to stay with the squad to play at the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the US. “I’m still motivated. My ambition is really high”, he said, “I’m in a national team with a lot of youngsters. I want to be in the World Cup and at Euros. I want to make that commitment now.”

In the aforementioned interview with Piers Morgan, Ronaldo changed his stance, leaving his options regarding retirement more open that before, saying he wants “to finish at 40. I think 40 will be a good age, but I don’t know, I don’t know the future.”

Ronaldo will turn 38 in February 2023, meaning he will be 41 by the time the next World Cup comes around. This tournament has already seen many people step away/retire after being knocked out, including Luis Enrique, Roberto Martínez, Tite and Eden Hazard. We will see if any other announcement is made in the future regarding the man who is, without doubt, one of football’s greatest players.

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