The biggest competition in the world is back after 4 years and like every other time, this will be the last time some players play in this competition. Let’s take a look at a few of the players who will probably play their final FIFA World Cup.
Andres Iniesta – Spain
Spanish clubs seemed to have turned the tables on their style by giving homage to their departing players this season. This was seen clearly on Andres Iniesta’s final match for FC Barcelona as he stayed on the pitch till 1 am, sitting on the grass and possibly looking back at his magnificent career and reminiscing his time in Camp Nou. Joining the club when he was just a young boy, he served the club for 22 years featuring in 674 matches, winning 32 trophies and leaving an immortal legacy in the process.
As the scorer of the winner in Spain’s last World Cup victory, Iniesta still continues to have an impact on the squad. With 13 goals in 125 matches for the Spanish National side, he’s been selected in the squad for the coming World Cup as well.
Iniesta, now 34 looks to be coming to the end of his career and he might as well be playing his last World Cup as he would be 38 by the time the next World Cup arrives and surely Spain’s treasury of gifted midfielders will have someone ready to fill his boots.
He is certain to play a massive role in the team which is in the competitive Group B with Iran, Morroco and UEFA Euro 16 winners Portugal. It is truly a difficult idea for us fans to digest but this would probably be the last time we get to see the Spanish Magician in action, fighting for the glory of his country.
Vincent Kompany – Belgium
Vincent Kompany has proven himself to be an integral part of the Manchester City squad, gradually making his way into the hall of fame of the Premier League since joining in 2008. The sturdy defender played in 246 Premier League matches scoring 17 goals and keeping 89 clean sheets and guided City to their record-breaking Premier league title last season.
The captain for both club and country has been a crucial part of Belgium’s defensive line since their rise to prominence. He has made 74 appearances for his country and scored 4 goals. The big Belgian was reportedly one of the first names of the sheet of Belgium’s World Cup squad. At the age of 32, Kompany is another player who has slowed down with age, represented by his fringe game time with Manchester City last season. This is an indication that this might be Kompany’s last World Cup and he will likely be replaced by one of Belgium’s talented young stars desperate to make it to the big stages, one name stands out, Jason Deyaner.
Kompany is still the heart of the Belgian side and they will demand his leadership during their challenges while facing Panama, Tunisia, and England in Group G. Vincent will undoubtedly definitely go down as a legend for his country even if this is his last World Cup campaign.
Gonzalo Higuain – Argentina
Gonzalo Higuain has been one of the most prolific strikers in the world of football playing for European giants such as Real Madrid, Napoli, and Juventus, where he is plying his trade currently. His controversial €90 million transfer from Napoli to rivals Juventus has made him the second most expensive South American footballer of all time (after Neymar). Gonzalo has had amazing seasons with his clubs Real Madrid, scoring 107 goals in 190 matches, Napoli scoring 71 goals in 104 matches and now Juventus where he is accredited with 40 goals in 73 appearances.
El Pipita has been a full international for Argentina since 2009 representing the country at two FIFA World Cups and three Copa América tournaments contributing in their second-place finishes at the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa América and the Copa América Centenario in 2016 playing in 70 matches and scoring 31 goals.
Sometimes criticised for being a ‘small-game player’ and lacking pace Gonzalo is still regarded as one of the best strikers in the world. At the age of 30, he might find it difficult to make it to the next World Cup squad for Argentina because of one reason, their sheer ability to produce world-class attackers, year after year. One of the candidates to replace him will be his Serie A competitor Mauro Icardi who outscored him last season.
Higuain is known for his presence in the air and his ability to hold the ball, but most of all, his ice-cold finishing in one-on-one situations. Argentina will rely on Higuain’s strength to ensure they beat Croatia, Nigeria, and Iceland in Group D to qualify for the playoffs.
Thiago Silva – Brazil
Thiago Silva, a central defender has made 158 appearances and scored 9 goals for Paris Saint-Germain winning four consecutive Ligue 1 championships, five consecutive Coupes de la Ligue and three consecutive Coupe de France with the club. The captain for both Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team has established himself as one of the most tactically and physically adept defenders in the world of football.
Making a total of 68 appearances and scoring 5 goals, he has been a full international since 2008. Silva captained Brazil to victory at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and fourth place at the World Cup a year later, both on home soil.
Thiago Silva, now 33 years of age is past his prime but still continues to perform consistently for both club and country. The prospects of his World Cup selection in the 2022 one seems to be improbable as the younger players like Marcelo or Gabriel are expected to have the edge over him at that time.
His acclaimed style of tactical defending; not diving into tackles and precise passing and most importantly his leadership will be key to whether Brazil can get past their Group E opponents Costa Rica, Serbia and Switzerland and lift the cup.
Tim Cahill – Australia
Tim Cahill plays for Millwall and Australia. He has played in a number of top clubs all around the world including Everton, the New York Red Bulls, Shanghai Shenhua, Hangzhou Greentown, and Melbourne City. His main position is as an attacking midfielder who can play as a full time forward as well. His ability to score has been recognized internationally, he is accredited to 52 goals for Millwall, 56 for Everton, 14 for NY Red Bulls, 11 for Shanghai Shenhua, 4 for Hangzhou Greentown and 11 for Melbourne City making him one of the most prolific players in the history of the sport.
He is one of the highest profile footballers in the Asian Football Confederation. Cahill was the first Australian to score at a FIFA World Cup and following that Cahill has scored in three World Cups and has the most goals by any Australian in the World Cup with five goals. In 2007, he became the first Australian player to score at an AFC Asian Cup Cahill. His 50 goals and 105 caps for the Australian National team has made him the team’s highest goal scorer of all time which begs the question, has any player contributed more to their national team than Tim Cahill for Australia? Many believe not.
It is true that at the age of 38 he might be playing his last World Cup but Cahill continues to defy time and is categorized as one of the rare kind of footballers known as ‘Fine Wine’ (Gets better with age). Such a grand legacy seems impossible to surpass, the Socceroos fans will certainly hope that there is someone who can.
Tim Cahill will be fighting for their team’s survival against Group C opponents such as Denmark, Peru, and France.
The FIFA World Cup 2018 will have legends like these who play their last World Cup for their country and end their dreams emphatically but it is also a place where young players will get their first taste of the biggest competition in the world and build fresh new dreams in turn.