World Cup’s ageing icons: From Gareth Bale to Eden Hazard, this has looked a tournament too far for many stars | Football News

When Harry Kane went to shake hands with United States midfielder Tyler Adams before kick-off, he was up against the only captain at this World Cup who is younger than him. In fact, he was up against the only other captain in Qatar under the age of 30.

For many of the rest, it seems like a tournament too far away.

It is easy to assume that it has always been this way. In the mind’s eye, those legends of the past seem larger than life. Once they get older and the image of the old gentleman is established, it becomes more difficult to portray their younger selves.

And yet, Didier Deschamps was just 29 when he lifted the trophy at France ’98. Carlos Alberto was just a puppy at the age of 25 when he led Brazil in 1970.

Diego Maradona? He was also 25 years old. As for Pele, he never captained his country at a World Cup, but despite intense pressure from the Brazilian government to withdraw his international retirement in 1974, he never captained his country in one in his thirties. Didn’t even play.

The aging icon at the World Cup may seem like a trope as old as the tournament itself, but consider that in 1982, 17 of the 24 captains were under 30 and that marks a change. Only two captains out of 32 in their twenties? This is the lowest number ever.

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International sport seems to have come to a standstill as familiar faces cling to their close-ups. This, despite the fact that the winter World Cup means it is the biggest gap between tournaments since the Second World War.

Qatar has 24 countries that also qualified for Russia 2018. The majority of captains from four and a half years ago remain. Brazil’s Marcelo is gone but the captaincy returns to 38-year-old Thiago Silva, the man who led them in 2014.

The armband has not only been with Kane, but with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. With Eden Hazard, Luka Modric and Diego Godin; With Simon Kajer, Robert Lewandowski and many more. Some of these players are still close to their prime. There aren’t many.

Gareth Bale can still make the Wales team on merit but seeing him and Aaron Ramsey roam the field has also caused unease for supporters – a problem compounded when he joins Joe Allen. happened

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale played only 45 minutes in Wales’ defeat by England.

Belgium’s own players seem to recognize their concerns. Jan Vertonghen indicated he was aware of the problems but wanted to keep them to the dressing room. It was too late for that. Kevin De Bruyne made his feelings clear before the World Cup.

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“No way, we’re too old,” he told her Guardian. “I think 2018 was our chance. We have a good team, but it’s getting older. We’ve lost some key players. We’ve got some good new players coming in, but they’re not at that level. Which other players were in 2018.”

The same can happen with the golden generation. Maybe that’s what happened to Croatia and Belgium, who finished second and third in the last World Cup. For Wales, read Uruguay with Godin, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Still, perhaps refreshment could come.

Eden Hazard of Belgium reacts during the World Cup Group F match against Morocco at Al-Thama Stadium in Doha.
Eden Hazard has looked a shadow of his former self for Belgium in Qatar.

The Belgian, for example, preferred Hazard – a player who has started 29 of 128 games for Real Madrid in La Liga – to the in-form Leandro Troussard. Wout Faes is another Premier League player who has been left out in favor of Belgium-based Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld.

Not alone in perpetuating the threat. Uruguay captain Godin, 36, has barely featured for Argentine club Velez Sarsfield. Suarez also returned to South America with Nacional. Costa Rica captain Brian Ruiz, 37, has also returned home with his first club Alajuelas.

Diego Godin reacts after seeing his header cannon off the post.
Diego Godin is past his prime but continues to play for Uruguay.

Bell has started two of 18 games since moving to Los Angeles. Messi could well join him in Major League Soccer. Ronaldo is now without a club. The next World Cup is closer than the last tournament but few of them intend to be there.

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Advances in sports science partially explain this growing number of aging athletes. Professionalism levels are higher than ever and players are fully committed to their lifestyle. This is what allows Ronaldo to look the picture of health as he approaches 38.

Bottom line, the aging process is impossible to mask. Those fast-twitch muscle fibers are gone. Messi is great enough to take advantage of a yard space, a momentary break, a second slice of time. But it’s getting harder for him too.

It’s a joy to watch 23-year-old Kylian Mbappe out of defense or 22-year-old Vinicius Junior teasing and tormenting his full back. It’s a reminder that even in this age of iconic brands and footballers as independent contractors, it’s still a young man’s game.

The game can be brutal. There is no place to hide. If Usain Bolt was a movie star, he would still be at the box office. If Roger Federer were a rock star, he’d still be selling out stadiums. For all the smoke and mirrors in Qatar, the truth will always be out there.

There are 21 men to captain their team to win the World Cup. Although Italy goalkeeper Dino Zoff was 40, the majority were in their twenties. The average age of a World Cup winning captain is between 29 and 30 years. Can? Well, he’s 29 and a half.


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