The 2022 World Cup was rich in new stars and super-renowned veterans. The Qatar tournament was the last World Cup for several football role models adored by millions, and still, they kept breaking new records. Telecom Asia Sport will tell you about the Top-10 footballers who might leave their teams and are very likely to miss the World Cup 2026.
Dani Alves, 39, Brazil
The call-up of this 39-year-old right-back to the national team came as a surprise, because, after all, competition for the extended list was very tough. Alves used to act as a talisman and a mentor for the young team. Brazilians have noted that Dani consolidates the locker room atmosphere: such a player is always necessary at major tournaments.
But Tite, the head coach, had a different opinion. Alves came on the field against Cameroon in the game that meant nothing. Brazil lost (0:1) but kept the first position in the group.
In the round of 16, there was a similar situation: teammates thrashed South Korea in the first time, so Tite did not hesitate to field Alves in the second one. Barcelona’s former player broke a record immediately: he became the oldest field player to participate in a World Cup playoff, and almost scored a goal. However, Pepe broke this record the next day.
Oldest Field Players in the World Cup Playoff History
|Pepe||Portugal||2022||39 y, 9 m, 10 d|
|Dani Alves||Brazil||2022||39 y, 6 m, 29 d|
|Rafael Márquez||Mexico||2018||39 y, 4 m, 19 d|
|Sergei Ignashevich||Russia||2018||38 y, 11 m, 23 d|
|Mario Yepes||Columbia||2014||38 y, 5 m, 21 d|
|Thiago Silva||Brazil||2022||38 y, 2 m, 13 d|
Thiago Silva, 38, Brazil
Unlike Alves, Silva, 38, came to the 2022 World Cup among the first eleven players. In three games out of four, he came on in the starting lineup and sat out only in the game against Cameroon. After playing with South Korea, Silva joined the Top-5 oldest playoff players and yet managed to break another record. He is now the oldest assisting footballer in the World Cup history (38 years, 2 months, and 13 days). Assisted by Silva, Richarlison, in a fantastic sequence, scored the third goal against the Koreans.
Pepe, 39, Portugal
Surprisingly, Pepe is NOT the oldest player to come on the field in the 2022 World Cup. He was 39 years, 9 months, and 6 days old during the match against Korea. Atiba Hutchinson from Canada, who played with Morocco on December 1, was 17 days older than Pepe.
Pepe has become history as the first player to score in a World Cup playoff at 39. After scoring the goal against Switzerland, the Portuguese has also become No.2 on the list of World Cup oldest strikers.
Oldest Players on the Field During the 2022 World Cup
|Atiba Hutchinson||Canada||Midfielder||39 y, 9 m, 23 d|
|Pepe||Portugal||Defender||39 y, 9 m, 10 d|
|Dani Alves||Brazil||Defender||39 y, 6 m, 29 d|
|Thiago Silva||Brazil||Defender||38 y, 2 m, 13 d|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Portugal||Forward||37 y, 9 m, 27 d|
|Steve Mandanda||France||Goalkeeper||37 y, 8 m, 2 d|
|Guillermo Ochoa||Mexico||Goalkeeper||37 y, 4 m, 17 d|
|Bryan Ruiz||Costa-Rica||Forward||37 y, 3 m, 5 d|
|Luka Modrić||Croatia||Midfielder||37 y, 2 m, 26 d|
|Diego Godín||Uruguay||Defender||36 y, 6 m, 16 d|
Cristiano Ronaldo, 37, Portugal
Ronaldo is No.27 on the list of oldest World Cup players. However, judging by the rumors, he has no match in the most scandalous football players rating. He was Portugal’s captain after substitutions made by coach Fernando Santos.
In the 2018 World Cup, Cristiano became the oldest hat trick author, and now he is the first player in history to score at five World Cups.
However, Ronaldo has yet no chance to become the oldest player to score a goal at any stage of the World Cup. This record has been held for 28 years already by Roger Milla from Cameroon, who scored a goal during the 1994 World Cup at the age of 42.
Oldest World Cup Goalscorers
|Roger Milla||Cameroon||1994||42 г, 1 m, 9 d|
|Pepe||Portugal||2022||39 y, 9 m, 10 d|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Portugal||2022||37 m, 9 m, 19 d|
|Gunnar Gren||Sweden||1958||37 y, 7 m, 26 d|
|Cuauhtémoc Blanco||Mexico||2010||37 y, 5 m, 1 d|
|Felipe Baloy||Panama||2018||37 y, 3 m, 30 d|
Lionel Messi, 35, Argentina
Ronaldo’s constant rival announced in October that the 2022 World Cup would be his last.
While Ronaldo was making scenes in his team, Messi had changed critically. In the game against Australia, he scored in the World Cup playoff for the first time and left Diego Maradona behind in terms of goals scored at World Cups. Together with Messi, Ángel Di María finished his national team career. Argentina is in for a change of generation, and the 2022 World Cup is the swan song for the 2014 final players.
Olivier Giroud, 36, France
The 2022 World Cup was the last one for some other great strikers. The first one is Olivier Giroud, the champion of 2018. 4.5 years ago, he did not score in Russia, but this has not prevented him from becoming the best striker in his country’s history.
In the game against Poland, Giroud scored his 52nd goal for the national team and left behind the great Thierry Henry. The unique fact is that this frontman debuted at the age of only 24, but he has since left behind Raymond Kopa, three-time Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini, Jean-Pierre Papin, and Zinedine Zidane.
However, Giroud’s record will likely be broken within 4–5 years. Kylian Mbappé has been scoring at a crazy rate – 33 goals already at the age of 24. In addition, Antoine Griezmann is coming very close (42 goals). Experts call Giroud a ‘window’ between Henry and Mbappé, but few have expected him to reach the top.
Best Strikers in the History of the French National Team
|Olivier Giroud||2011 – present moment||52||116|
|Thierry Henry||1997 - 2010||51||123|
|Antoine Griezmann||2014 - present moment||42||108|
|Karim Benzema||2007 - present moment||37||97|
Robert Lewandowski, 34, Poland
By today’s standards, Lewandowski is not so old, so the Pole is expected to play at the Euro Cup 2024 in Germany. However, there are doubts regarding his participation in the 2026 World Cup, by which he will have turned 37 years.
Robert has achieved his goal: Poland reached the World Cup playoff for the first time in 36 years, and he finally scored a World Cup goal. In Russia, many people (from Artyom Dzyuba to Anton Anisimov) have been critical of the Pole, especially after his comments regarding his suspension from playoff games in February 2022; however, there is no denying that he is a great player.
Luka Modrić, 37, Croatia
While Lewandowski might still theoretically play at the 2026 World Cup, 37-year-old Modrić has declared that his national team career will be finished after Qatar. Although he may change his mind because half a year ago, he said he wanted to play until the Euro Cup 2024.
Modrić does not need to prove anything: he is by far the best footballer in the history of his country and maybe – of the whole Balkans. With him in the team, Croatia was second at the 2018 World Cup, and he was awarded the Ballon d’Or. And now, the team is again in the world’s Top 8.
Manuel Neuer, 36, Germany
The age of 36 is not critical yet for goalkeepers, but Manual said he might finish his career in the national team. Even if he stays there until his ‘home’ Euro Cup in 2024, why would he go to the 2026 World Cup? He proved to everyone when he became the world champion in 2014 and changed the development vector of goalkeeping school.
And as regards the problems of Germany at the three last major tournaments, they are certainly not his fault.
In addition, another German legend, Thomas Müller, might finish his international career together with Neuer. He hinted at that after the team left the 2022 World Cup.
Guillermo Ochoa, 37, Mexico
It is hard to imagine a World Cup without the Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. He is 37 already and he has made hints that he will quit before his ‘home’ World Cup in 2026. Unfortunately, Ochoa’s saves did not help his national team get to the round of 16 of the Qatar World Cup, and he is very unlikely to enjoy the fantastic night promised to him.
However, Ochoa may look at the example of his ‘neighbor’ Keylor Navas. After the knockout from the 2022 World Cup, the Costa Rican veteran declared at once that he did not want to leave the national team at the age of 35 years and that he would keep on playing as long as possible. Considering that the number of national teams has increased to 48, spectators are quite likely to see Navas on the fields of Mexico, the USA, or Canada. The Costa Rican might inspire Ochoa and Neuer.