List of Shining Veterans in World Cups. Ronaldo Could Be Next.

Only a handful of shining veterans at the world cups performed better at the later stage of their careers compared to their peak years. 

The mid-30s are a worrying age for footballers. They must prepare for the next stage of their careers after retiring. The options are to either remain in the football world or leave it. Being 35 years old or older means that the door to playing in the World Cup finals is closed unless the players are indispensable to the squad, merely included to help the team with their experience, or only as a backup. 

In Qatar 2022, Cristiano Ronaldo is one veteran who could still shine in the competition. The 37-year-old forward is fit for the world cup since he no longer plays regularly for his current side. Besides Ronaldo, there are also Lionel Messi (35) Manuel Neuer (36), Thiago Silva (38), the Golden Ball winner in the previous edition, Luca Modric (38), and Mexican skipper and shot-stopper, Guillermo Ochoa (37). They are likely to play their last world cup. 

Throughout the history of the World Cup, there have been some shining veterans over the age of 36. They not only participated in the tournament regularly, but they also became key figures of the team. The majority of them were, understandably, defenders and goalkeepers on the team.

Shining Veterans In World Cup History

Mario Yepes (2014)

The former PSG and AC Milan man was 38 years old when he captained Colombia in the 2014 edition. It was also the first appearance of the defender on the global stage. Yepes appeared in all five games of the tournament, helping Colombia reach the quarterfinals, the highest Colombia has achieved in the competition.

Sergei Ignashevich (2018)

Another veteran defender shone in the final round. Ignashevich was 38 years old and had already hung his boots before the tournament began. Yet, he was eventually named in the squad to replace the injured Ruslan Kambolov. Apparently, he did not disappoint the fans despite scoring his own goal against Spain in the round of 16. The former CSKA Moscow man featured in all five matches and helped Sbornaya advance to the round of eight. The performance was an improvement over his World Cup debut in Brasil in 2014. Under the tutelage of Fabio Capello, they failed to get past the group stage. 

Peter Shilton (1990)

He is one of the legendary England goalkeepers. At the age of 40, Shilton was able to help The Three Lions advance to the semifinals in 1990, their best performance after 1966, before Gareth Southgate’s men replicated their success in 2018. The former Nottingham Forest and Derby County goalie kept clean sheets in three fixtures in the tournament, against EURO 1988 winner, Netherlands, and Egypt at the group stage, and while beating Belgium in the second round. He also made at least three clinical saves as England struggled to win over Cameroon 3-2 in the quarterfinals. 

Roger Milla (1990)

Roger Milla was one of the notable shining veterans playing as a frontman. His role in Italy in 1990 was crucial despite never being named in the line-up. The former Montpellier forward was the super substitute. He scored four goals from the bench. 

Milla netted a brace while thumping Romania 2-1 in the preliminary round. He bagged another one while knocking out Colombia 2-1 in the round of 16. Milla was also heavily involved in both goals from The Indomitable Lions while facing off England before succumbing to a 3-2 loss. His contribution was improving compared to his debut in Spain in 1982. At that time, Cameroon failed to progress despite being unbeaten, and he only registered one assist. 

Dino Zoff (1982)

He is one of the best veterans in World Cup history. Zoff was a key figure in leading Gli Azzurri to win their third title in 1982. Despite being 40 years old, he showed his quality as a team leader and a shot-stopper by keeping them clean sheets at the opener and the semifinal, both against Poland. His performance took off in his last World Cup. It was quite an improvement for him over the previous two campaigns since Zoff began to get a nod in the line-up. In 1974, Italy crashed out at the group stage. Whereas in 1978, Roberto Bettega’s side only managed to finish fourth.

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