A page will be turned during this World Cup in Qatar. Several players who have left their mark on the world of soccer over the last fifteen years will be taking their leave by playing in the most beautiful international competition for the last time.
Since the 2006 World Cup with Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo Nazario or Luis Figo, we had probably not seen that. From Cristiano Ronaldo to Lionel Messi through Karim Benzema and Luka Modric, these thirty-year-olds have been able to push the limits of their bodies, but they are not eternal. With the desire to end their history with their national team in the best possible way, these stars are aiming for big things in Qatar.
The last dance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Lionel Messi is the first star to be considered a "last chance", and he knows that his exceptional career has only one shortcoming, but it is a big one: he has never managed to lead Argentina to victory in the World Cup. At 35, he knows that this is his last attempt. Long mocked for not having won a major title with his team outside the Olympics, the former Barcelona man has finally beaten the Indian sign. In July 2021, he triumphed in the Copa America after failing to reach the final three times. Having finally won a trophy of this magnitude with Argentina, the PSG striker can now look forward to Qatar.
For CR7, the situation is much the same as for his eternal rival. He too has never really survived a World Cup, nor has he propelled Portugal to the top, even if he won Euro 2016 with his country. If the stakes are slightly lower for Ronaldo than for Messi, who must absolutely lead Argentina to victory if he wants to equal Maradona, the Portuguese star knows that it is imperative to settle his international history by finally shining in the World Cup. And even if the Portuguese wants to play at more than 40 years old, it is obvious that at 37 years old, this is his last opportunity, as he has already started his sporting twilight, as demonstrated by his difficulties in finding a top club in the summer.
Karim Benzema to take his revenge
With his Ballon d'Or and his exceptional 2021-2022 season, the Madrid striker intends to continue his momentum with Les Bleus. If he won the Nations League last year with the French team, the quick elimination at Euro 2021 in the round of 16 by Switzerland left him with a bitter taste. It's a good thing: he has the opportunity to make up for it with his team during this World Cup in Qatar. Eight years after a France-Germany and Manuel Neuer's spectacular save at the end, the Real striker hopes to make up for lost time in the World Cup and long years of absence for him in the national team. At almost 35 years old, KB9 has a golden opportunity to win his first World Cup and thus complete an already well-filled list of achievements.
The end for Luka Modric
According to several newspapers in Spain, this edition in Qatar will be the last international appearance of Luka Modric. The 2018 Ballon d'Or winner is still very decisive, whether at Real Madrid or with Croatia. At 37 years old, he has the ambition to finally give this Croatian generation the international title they so much hope for. Even if the competition is fierce, the former Tottenham player and his team can do well against European giants with uncertain dynamics and South American giants with maximum pressure.
Neymar, stop or else?
The Brazilian striker recently told Globo that he is not sure to take part in the 2026 World Cup with the Brazilian national team. At that time, the current PSG star will be 34 years old, an advanced age but which does not seem to be prohibitive if he is physically fit. "I'm going to play as if it were my last (World Cup). As my father and I say, you have to play every game as if it were your last because you don't know what tomorrow will bring. I can't guarantee that I will play another World Cup. I honestly don't know. I'm going to play like it's my last. I could play another one, maybe not. It depends," said the native of Mogi das Cruzes.
Lewandowski, Suarez, Hazard and Alves
Robert Lewandowski will once again have to carry a Poland team that lacks individual talent. But in a group with Argentina, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, the 34-year-old Barca striker can hope to make his mark and give his team its first qualification to the knockout stage since 1986.
Luis Suarez, on the other hand, has chosen to return home to Uruguay to prepare for his last World Cup. After winning the league title with Club Nacional, the former Liverpool striker knows that he is in the twilight of his career at 35 years.
Eden Hazard is in the trough for several seasons. With Real Madrid, he never managed to find his level at Chelsea. The Belgium captain, however, clings to try to give his best for the Red Devils. With this golden generation along with Lukaku and De Bruyne, the Belgians are still aiming for a first major title.
Dani Alves is a curiosity. While we thought he was totally finished, the former right-back of Barça and PSG found himself in the list of Brazil for this World Cup. And why not get the sixth star of Brazil at 39 years?
Neuer's final saves
The 36-year-old Manuel Neuer is also likely to play in his last World Cup as Germany coach. After leading his team to victory in 2014, the Bayern goalkeeper will no doubt want to finish with a second success.