You’re only as old as you feel. Whoever is going to win the World Cup 2018 will need a healthy blend of youth and experience. Certainly, the latter will be on show when it all kicks off next week.
You want the guys who have been there, done it, got the t-shirt and watched World Cups when the TVs were all black and white. The senior brigade are set to descend upon Russia, so let’s hope these multi-million dollar stadiums come equipped with easy elevator access and walk-in baths.
Okay, perhaps were exaggerating here. These athletes have kept themselves match-fit and at the top of their game for the last twenty years. In fact, there’s one man who is on course to set an incredible record…
Who are the oldest players at the World Cup 2018?
Essam El-Hadary, 45 years and four months
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Egypt, 157 caps.
Forty-five? Yes, that’s right. Essam El-Hadary is the man that time forgot. He’s the Benjamin Button of goalkeepers and is on course to break the previous record for being “the oldest player at a World Cup“.
Incredibly, that record was set during the last tournament by Colombia’s 43-year-old shot-stopper, Faryd Mondragon. A mere whippersnapper in comparison to El-Hadary.
He began his playing career 25 years ago for Egyptian side Damietta, before clocking up over 400 appearances for Cairo-based outfit Al Ahly. He currently plays for Al-Taawoun in Saudi Arabia, and once scored one of the most banterous goals ever:
Rafa Marquez, 39 years and four months old
Mexico, 143 caps.
Before Gerard Pique became the immovable rock at the back for Barcelona, there was Rafa Marquez: An expert in bastadry who was so tough, Sergio Ramos wouldn’t even try and get him in an arm lock.
Marquez turned 39 at the start of 2018 and he’s on course to represent Mexico at this year’s World Cup. He started his club career at Guadalajara-based club Atlas and finished it there this season. After Russia, Marquez will retire from football.
Sergei Ignashevic, 38 years and 11 months old
Russia, 121 caps.
Ignashevic is only here by the skin of his dentu… teeth, sorry. Ruslan Kambalov suffered an injury last month, prompting the centre-back – who turns 39 next month – to come out of international retirement after he spent the last 14 years at CSKA Moscow.
When Russia revealed their World Cup 2018 squad on Sunday, the veteran had made the cut. Though he’s not likely to start, it’s pretty lovely that his professional swansong will come whilst his homeland hosts the biggest competition of them all.
Tim Cahill, 38 years and six months old
Australia, 105 caps.
He was an FA Cup finalist with both Millwall and Everton, and Cahill definitely made a mark on the English game. The Socceroo even has fifty international goals to his name, which is a pretty decent return.
He’ll also be appearing at his fourth World Cup, looking to finally lead Australia out of the group stages. However, one feels that not even a bit of ball tampering could help his nation find a way past France, whereas games against Peru and Denmark will require a strong “leadership group” to earn them victories.
Jose de Jesus Corona, 37 years and five months old
Mexico, 52 caps.
Usually the understudy to Guillermo Ochoa, Jose Corona has had to be patient when it comes to opportunities in the first team. However, he looks odds-on to be part of Mexico’s final 23-man squad for Russia.
He’s clocked up 500 appearances in Mexico’s top flight, where he has spent his whole career. Corona is also an Olympic gold medalist, as he was one of Mexico’s over-age representatives at the under-23 tournament during the 2012 London Games.
He’s got experience being one of the oldest, if not wisest, heads in the room then.
Felipe Baloy, 37 years and four months old
Panama, 101 caps.
He made his professional debut almost 20 years ago, and has enjoyed a long and fruitful career across the Americas. This month, the skipper is heading to a maiden international tournament with his country.
Now back in Panama playing for Municipal, the six-foot centre-back will come up against the likes of England’s Harry Kane and Belgium’s Kevin de Bruyne in the World Cup 2018 group stages. Good luck with that one, “Pi-pe”.
Blas Perez, 37 years and three months old
Panama, 113 caps.
Perez has Blas-ted 43 goals in since making his debut for Panama in 2001, and he’s perhaps one of the more recognisable names in the minnows’ squad.
He enjoyed a good five years in the MLS – America’s top football league – but now lines up at Municipal, alongside his national team captain Felipe Baloy. Whatever happens in Russia, this seasoned duo can be proud of what they’ve achieved with their country.