Time catches up with everyone in the end and for a number of the World Cup’s biggest names their advancing years mean they have graced the competition for the last time.
Most players don’t get the opportunity to bow out at the top, but Miroslav Klose has waved goodbye to football’s grandest stage in style.
His goal in Germany’s 7-1 semi-final thrashing of Brazil saw him become the World Cup’s record goal scorer with 16 strikes, in a fitting end to what will be his last appearance in the competition at the age of 36.
Italy’s Andrea Pirlo continues to defy his years with his brilliance, but given he will be 39 by the time Russia 2018 comes around, he is unlikely to weave his magic in the tournament again.
Another midfield star bidding farewell to the World Cup is Steven Gerrard. England were dumped out in the group stages in Brazil, and the 34-year-old is highly unlikely to have the opportunity to make amends in four years’ time.
Spain endured a miserable campaign in Brazil, with their shock exit from Group B set to prompt a changing of the guard, as the veteran trio of Xabi Alonso, 32, Xavi, 34, and David Villa, 32 are replaced by a new breed in 2018.
With four World Cups under his belt, Cameroon captain Samuel Eto’o has certainly had his fill of the game’s greatest competition, but the 33-year-old would need to display an astonishing durability if he is to appear at a fifth tournament.
Fellow African icon Didier Drogba was used mainly as a substitute in Brazil and the Cote d’Ivoire star will almost certainly be retired in 2018, when he will be 40 years old.
That could also be the case for Diego Forlan who, at 35 and now playing his football in Japan, did remarkably well to be selected in Uruguay’s World Cup squad this time around.
Mexico captain Rafael Marquez became the first player to appear in five World Cups in Brazil, though the 35-year-old almost certainly won’t extend that record in Russia in four years.
And having failed to reach the tournament at all, Sweden talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who turns 33 in October – may not get another opportunity to grace the competition.
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