The FIFA World Cup is where many players establish themselves as household names for their home countries, but while some enjoy only a brief stint at the international level, others hang around for a whole lot longer. In 2022, the short list of players in the 40s to play at the World Cup won’t be added to, but there will be a handful of players deep in their 30s still making the trek. These are the oldest players heading to Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
1. Atiba Hutchinson (Canada)
It’s been 36 years since Canada last competed in a FIFA World Cup, but this year they’ll break that drought. Incredibly, just one of the members of their squad which will head to Qatar was born when they last competed at the event, and that man will also be the oldest player at this year’s tournament. Atiba Hutchinson is just a few months shy of his 40th birthday, and started his international career over two decades ago when he appeared for Canada’s Under 20 side in 2001. He first played for the national side proper in 2003, and since then has accumulated 97 appearances. Over the course of his career he’s won six Canadian Player of the Year award, and at 39 years of age is still a regular in the national side.
2. Pepe (Portugal)
Kepler Laveran de Lima Ferreira, more commonly known as Pepe, has been a feature of the Portuguese team for 15 years. Born less than three weeks after Atiba Hutchison, he took a little longer to break into what is a much stronger national side than Canada, playing his first game for them at the age of 24. Since then, the reliable defender has been a regular in the team, and has accumulated a total of 128 caps for his country. Nearing 40, he continues to defy Father Time, and athletically is still more than capable of holding his own with far younger opponents. With the wealth of experience that he has racked up over the years, he will be a valuable player in Portugal’s push to go deep into the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
3. Eiji Kawashima (Japan)
Japan’s Eiji Kawashima is another who will head to Qatar just a few months short of his 40th birthday, having been born on the 8th of March back in 1983. He first represented Japan’s Under 20 side in 2002 and picked up 13 caps in a couple of years, but it wouldn’t be until 2008 that he finally cracked the national Best XI. The goalkeeper has guarded the goals on 95 occasions for the team since, and represented them at each of the 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups. At the age of 39, he’s been overtaken by a couple of his younger counterparts and it’s not likely that he’ll actually take to the field in Qatar, but he has nonetheless been included as one of the three goalkeepers in their squad.
4. Dani Alves (Brazil)
Dani Alves is one of the greatest full-backs of all time, having put together a stunning career at both club and international level since making his professional debut back in 2001. His club career has been punctuated by long and illustrious stints at first Sevilla and then Barcelona, while he’s also represented Juventus and Paris Saint-German. Internationally, he first appeared for Brazil in 2006, and since then has represented them on 124 occasions. He won the Copa América Best Player award as recently as 2019, but aged 39, he is no longer the player he once was and is now plying his trade for UNAM in Mexico. Throughout his career, however, success has followed him wherever he goes, and with the best betting sites installing Brazil as favourites, manager Tite will be hoping that trend continues at this year’s World Cup.
5. Thiago Silva (Brazil)
Thiago Silva has been plying his trade at club level for 20 years; represented AC Milan 93 times, PSG 204 times and Chelsea 67 times; and has appeared for Brazil 109 times since making his international debut in 2008, but courtesy of Dani Alves he still won’t be either their oldest player, nor even their oldest defender, at the upcoming World Cup. He will, however, likely have a bigger role to play than his fellow veteran defender. Despite his advanced age, Silva is still an excellent player, and will likely play a pivotal role in Brazil’s attempt to become the first team to win six FIFA World Cups – something World Cup betting odds suggest is very possible.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
There’s little in the way of plaudits to be said about Cristiano Ronaldo that hasn’t already been said, and in Qatar he’ll continue to add to his incredible list of accomplishments by becoming one of just a handful of players to compete in five World Cups. It’s very likely, however, that this will be his last. One of the greatest players of all time, Ronaldo is still a major threat for whichever team he is representing, though his time at Manchester United is quickly turning into a disaster both on and off the field. But despite these issues,, the 37-year-old is one of the highest paid players at the event, and is expected to play a significant role for a Portuguese side for whom he has played 191 games and scored 117 goals.
Few players continue to be a presence at the international level in their late 30s, but the above names have defied that trend. Some, of course, will have a far bigger role to play than others; the likes of Thiago Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, remain key cogs in their teams. But while the output of the above six names may differ significantly, one thing they do have in common is that they will each be in the top handful of players in terms of age at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.