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Stars expected to bow out from World Cup football this year

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Stars expected to bow out from World Cup football this year
Bildbyran

Peter Shilton played in the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy at 40. However, the England goalkeeper’s longevity was the exception to the rule that footballers retire from international football around their mid-thirties.

A generation of great players in that age group could be having their World Cup swansong in the football tournament that matters most in Qatar during November and December of 2022. Let’s look at who might be swapping their boots for slippers.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The megastar’s World Cup scoring goes back to the 2006 tournament in Germany. He became Portugal’s youngest finals scorer and went on to score at least one goal in 2010, 2014 and 2018. Ronaldo also found the net at the Euros in 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 (played in 2021).

So, the 5 February 1985-born player has scored in nine consecutive tournaments and could make it 10 in Qatar this year. However, playing at the World Cup for Portugal aged 41 may be beyond him, so Ronaldo, who has the same birthday as Neymar, could be heading for the beach.

Neymar

The great hope of the Brazilian national team at their World Cup in 2014 will be 34 when the 2026 tournament takes place in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Neymar has nothing else to prove in world football and is already beginning to enjoy life away from the pitch. This summer, he even spent a few weeks in Las Vegas playing a few Texas Hold’em hands.

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior is still young enough to represent Brazil in the 2026 World Cup. However, he was first selected for the national team in 2010, aged just 18. At the start of June 2022, Neymar had scored 74 goals in 119 appearances for Brazil. He may be around in 2026, especially if he is close to scoring 100 goals for his country, so more Texas hold’em hands may have to wait.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has a wonderful club and country goal-scoring record. So, it’s probably unfair to downgrade his standing in the history of the game because he has not won the World Cup with Argentina. There are comparisons with Diego Maradona, who was a huge factor when his country won the World Cup in Mexico in 1986. Maradona was on a mission after the Falklands War.

There is a case for putting that in the context of his ‘Hand of God’ goal against the aforementioned Peter Shilton and England in the quarter-finals. Maradona’s second goal in that match was Messi-esque, but goals change games, and at nil-nil, he may not have had the space, or the confidence to weave his way past Peter Reid et al. Messi will be turning 39 during the World Cup in 2026.

Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski’s tally of goals for his country had reached 76 in 132 appearances in June 2022. He will be 38 when the 2026 World Finals take place. He scored his first goal for Poland in 2008 and has notched at least once for his country in that year and every subsequent year. Lewandowski looks as fit as a fiddle and still has some miles on his international playing clock.

The Barcelona striker has scored seven or more goals for Poland in the last 15 calendar years. He is the nation’s record scorer but missed out on the goals playing every minute of Poland’s fixtures in the 2018 World Cup when they were eliminated at the group stage. Lewandowski can still be a useful squad player in 2026.

Harry Kane

Gary Lineker (48 goals) retired from international football for England at the age of 32. Wayne Rooney (53 goals) played one ceremonial match for England aged 33 but retired from “proper” matches in the previous year. Harry Kane is three goals behind Rooney (as of June 2022) and is a certainty to become England’s record scorer soon.

However, the English Premier League demands mean Kane could be past his best at 33 in 2026. Even so, with no viable alternatives, he may play a part in that year’s World Cup. Only Raheem Sterling of the September 2022 squad is in double figures for goals for England, so Kane could be in the Americas in 2026 for one last shot at the big time.

See More: Who will be World Cup 2022 top scorer?

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