The 2018 World Cup could go one of a number of ways - all of these players will be hoping it ends with them lifting the trophy before it’s too late
Philipp Lahm. Carles Puyol. Pippo Inzaghi. What do all of these players have in common?
All three won the World Cup at the last possible opportunity, hanging up their international boots before they got the chance to sully their respective reputations.
Any player in his thirties will go into this year’s tournament in Russia knowing it could be his last, and here are just a few of the players who will be keen to go out on a high.
Eight years on from his pantomime villain display against Ghana, and four years from his pantomime villain display against Italy, Suárez will hope to be remembered for the right reasons. Uruguay have a very winnable group, and if they reach the knockouts without their star man biting anyone then they have every chance.
Portugal have to be considered among the frontrunners, given their status as European Champions, and decorated centre-back Pepe certainly feels more than two years older than international teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. After an early red card (for headbutting a man who was already on the ground, no less) scuppered his 2014 hopes, he’ll have a score to settle this time around.
Monreal was yet to establish himself at international level when Spain won the World Cup in 2010, but earned a place in the squad after an impressive personal season for an otherwise underwhelming Arsenal. With Fernando Hierro replacing Julen Lopetegui as Spain coach, Monreal will hope to impress the new man enough to earn game-time in Russia.
Giroud is the most experienced outfield player in the French squad, with 74 caps, and has made it in at the expense of his former club teammate Alexandre Lacazette. Having scored three times in France’s run to the final of Euro 2016, he’ll hope to go one better this summer.
Club: Hebei China Fortune
Mascherano put his body on the line at the last World Cup, sending Argentina through to the final in the process, but he and his teammates ultimately fell short against Germany. Having left Barcelona earlier this year, he’s well aware he’s in the twilight of his career – can he end it on a high?
Club: Paris Saint-Germain
One of the most important components in Brazil’s 2014 squad, Silva’s suspension for the semi-final was a huge factor in the 7-1 defeat against Germany. He’s now part of a much more defensively solid squad, and couldn’t have asked for much more as he prepares for one last push for World Cup glory.
Club: VfB Stuttgart
Gómez missed out on a place in the victorious 2014 squad, having suffered a serious injury the previous season, so will be making up for lost time in 2018. He scored eight goals after rejoining Stuttgart in January, and will hope to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Miroslav Klose by winning the World Cup as a striker the wrong side of 30.
Club: Manchester City
Kompany might only be 32, but his injury record almost guarantees this will be his last World Cup. Still, if he wants to win the thing he’s got the right group of teammates around him. A Premier League title and a World Cup triumph in the same season? We wouldn’t rule it out.
Club: Leicester City
Yes, it’s England, and England don’t win things, but… maybe? Vardy’s last chance to win the World Cup will also be his first, and he’ll hope to do a bit more than fellow rags-to-riches story Rickie Lambert managed in 2014. He’s defied the odds before, and he can do it again. If not at least he’s still hero in Leicester with his own (semi-famous) lookalike.
Club: AS Monaco
Everyone’s perennial dark horses Colombia have been blessed with a competitive group and a potential second-round meeting with England – and after that, who knows. Falcao missed the 2014 World Cup with an ACL injury, but he’s fit and firing this time around, with more than 50 goals in his last two Monaco seasons.