Messi, Pele or Ronaldo - Who is the youngest-ever to play in a World Cup?

Messi Ronaldo Pele
GOAL takes a look at the 10 youngest World Cup debutantes

The FIFA World Cup is a platform that often shines the spotlight on generational talents.

Footballing greats such as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Kylian Mbappe have all lit up the sport's grandest stage at a very young age.

So have currenst stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. These players made their World Cup debuts pretty early in their careers and have gone on to become legends of the game.

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So who is the youngest player to ever play in a World Cup? Is it Pele? Or is it Messi?

When did Lionel Messi make his World Cup debut?

Lionel Messi made his World Cup debut at the age of 18 years, 11 months, 24 days against Serbia and Montenegro on June 16, 2006 in Argentina's second group stage match. La Albiceleste won the tie 6-0 with Messi scoring on his World Cup debut after coming on as a substitute.

When did Cristiano Ronaldo make his World Cup debut?

Cristiano Ronaldo made his World Cup debut at the age of 21 years, 4 months, 7 days against Angola on June 11, 2006. He started on the right wing and played for an hour before being replaced by Costinha. Portugal won the match 1-0 riding on the solo strike of Pauleta.

Is Pele the youngest-ever to play in the World Cup?

In the 1958 World Cup, Pele missed the first couple of games as he was nursing a knee injury. At 17 years, 7 months, 24 days he made his debut in the third match against USSR on June 15 and provided an assist. 

Despite, making his debut at the the tender age of 17, Pele is not the youngest debutant in World Cup history. So who holds that record?

Who is the youngest player to play in the World Cup?

Norman Whiteside of Northern Ireland is the youngest player ever to play in the World Cup. At just 17 years and 41 days, when he made his debut in the 1982 World Cup against Yugoslavia he broke Pele's record to set a new one.

However, the attacking midfielder could not score a goal in that tournament which meant that Pele's record of being the youngest goal-scorer in the World Cup was not broken.

Top-10 Youngest Players in World Cup history




Norman Whiteside

17 years and 41 days

Yugoslavia vs Northern Ireland (June 17, 1982)

Samuel Eto'o

17 years, three months, and seven days

Italy vs Cameroon (June 17, 1998)

Femi Opabunmi

17 years three months and nine days

Nigeria vs England (June 12, 2002)

Salomon Olembe

17 years, six months, and three days

Cameroon vs Austria (June 11, 1998)


17 years, 7 months, 24 days

Brazil vs USSR (June 15, 1958)

Bartholomew Ogbeche

17 years, eight months, and one day

Argentina vs Nigeria (June 2, 2002)

Rigobert Song

17 years, 11 months, and 18 days

Cameroon vs Sweden (June 19, 1994)

Carvalho Leite

18 years and 25 days

Yugoslavia vs Brazil (July 14, 1930)

Manuel Rosas

18 years, 2 months, and 26 days.

France vs Mexico (July 13, 1930)

Christian Eriksen

18 years and 4 months

Denmark vs Netherlands (June 14, 2010)