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Clock is Ticking…

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Whose last World Cup is this?  

While the World Cup is often referred to as a celebration of football, it is also the end of a cycle for a number of teams. 

It is the conclusion to a period of planning and squad-building, with all the decisions of the previous four years coming to a head. By the end of it, a new cycle begins, complete with a refreshing of squads and a new focus. 

The World Cup is therefore the cue for a number of players to exit the scene, bowing out on the biggest stage of all. 

Who are the footballers who could be playing their last World Cup in Qatar in 2022? 🤔 - Football - Xplore Sports Forum : A sports Q&A platform

Qatar 2022 is no different, especially as it comes at a time when there is a generational shift in football. The era of the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland is upon us, and that means some of the greats of the last 15 years will ride off into the sunset. 

Here are five notable players who will surely be playing at their final World Cup in Qatar. 


Lionel Messi 

Messi worried about missing his 'last' World Cup as Argentine battles injury - NewsTimes.com.ng

One of the best footballers to ever play the game, Messi is fundamental to Argentina’s hopes of a third World Cup success in December. 

Named player of the tournament as he led the Albiceleste to the Final in 2014, he finally achieved international success with Argentina in winning the Copa America in 2020 against arch rivals Brazil. His blistering start to the current campaign has seen his country dubbed one of the favourites, and at 35 it is unlikely he will get another chance to finally match Diego Maradona. 

All good things come to an end and, for a player who has retired from international football before, it is difficult to see Messi sticking around after Qatar 2022.  


Cristiano Ronaldo 

Even if Ronaldo were to fulfil his desire to play till the age of 40, the 2026 World Cup would still be beyond him. Nevertheless, he can be proud of his record on the international stage. 

Portugal can count on Cristiano Ronaldo in Qatar, Silva says | Inquirer Sports

Portugal have enjoyed their longest spell of relevance in his time, with regular runs to the latter stages of tournaments and even trophy success at Euro 2016. From a personal perspective, Ronaldo now holds the record for the most goals scored in international football history (117), and is his country’s record holder for appearances. 

Qatar 2022, his fifth, will almost certainly be the last stand for one of the all-time greats. 


Luis Suarez & Edinson Cavani 

Cavani tipped for 'emotional' link up with Suarez at Atletico Madrid over Manchester United move | Goal.com India

This legendary strike pairing has carried the flag for Uruguayan football in the last decade, and between them have amassed over 250 appearances and over 120 goals for the national side. 

Suarez and Cavani were integral components of the Uruguay team that reached the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup and won the 2011 Copa America. Uruguay are currently between generations, and may not impress in Qatar this year, but they will nevertheless expect to progress from Group H. 

With both Suarez and Cavani now 35, this will certainly be the final spin of the wheel at a World Cup for two of their country’s greatest ever footballing ambassadors. 


Luka Modric 

Croatian court rejects perjury charge against Luka Modric - BBC News

The Croatia captain was one of the stars of the last World Cup in Russia, leading his country to their first ever Final. In doing so, Modric became the first person not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win the Ballon D’Or since 2007. 

The Real Madrid midfielder has been an outstanding servant for Croatia, stacking up over 150 appearances and being the shining light of a superb generation of talent. Since his international debut in 2006, Croatia have qualified for every major international tournament aside from the 2010 World Cup. 

At the age of 37, this will no doubt be his final appearance on the global stage for his country. 


Gareth Bale 

Gareth Bale joins MLS Western Conference leaders LAFC

For over half a decade now, it has felt like Bale is a full-time international footballer: his interest in club football has been close to nil. For Wales, however, the 33-year-old forward has been a transformative presence. 

Bale was a huge inspiration for Wales greatest success: their run to the semi-finals of the Euros in 2016. He is also his country’s leading goalscorer of all time, with 40 goals in just over 100 appearances. 

Having opted to leave Real Madrid in order to build his fitness for the World Cup, there is a sense that this will definitely be his final roll of the dice. Besides, at 33, he is no spring chicken. 

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