Who will we say goodbye to at the World Cup?

Who will we say goodbye to at the World Cup?

We must pray to the god(s) of football that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have another four year cycle left in them. The stomach sinking thought of neither of them appearing at Qatar 2022 is too much for us to handle. And just underlines how special they are.

But we have to accept that for some, the final whistle is going to sound. Here are five footballers for whom Russia 2018 is likely to be their final fling at football's showpiece event.

1. Andres Iniesta:

Where do you start with Andres Iniesta? If Messi and Ronaldo are the best players of their generation, is Iniesta the most cherished? Not only does the midfielder possess incredible talent, but commands universal respect in the game. Everyone loves Iniesta. Rival fans, referees, opponents, everyone.

The 34-year old midfielder has called an end to his Barcelona career and has given a strong indication that Russia will be the last time he graces the Spain shirt.

"I hope that my farewell from Spain duty can be in the manner which we all hope, with a final," Iniesta said in a radio interview with Spanish station SER, adding that his dream would be to reach a final with Argentina.

Whether 2010 champions Spain get to another final or not, you can be sure Iniesta's exit will, as with everything, be done with class.

2. Tim Cahill:

A true blue Aussie legend. Their all-time leading goalscorer, finding the net 50 times in his 105 caps for his country to date.

The 38-year-old looks set for his fourth and final World Cup appearance with the 'Socceroos' and it's hard to think of a player who embodies the Aussie approach to sport more than Cahill: the determination, the commitment, the desire and the sheer love of the game.

A member of Australia's 2004 Olympic team (that reached the quarter finals), the striker does not quite have the all-action gusto of years gone by but the fire inside him still burns brightly. Has it really been four years since his wonder goal (subsequently nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award) against the Netherlands?

Cahill has been included in Bert van Marwijk's squad for Russia, and Australia's coach has described him as a "special case, special in everything."

You ask any supporter of any team Cahill has played for and you'll get agreeing nods. A man who always gives everything for his shirt.

3. Essam El-Hadary

The Egyptian goalkeeper is set to become the oldest ever player to feature at a World Cup finals if he lines up for the Pharoahs in their opening Group A match against Uruguay.

At 45-years-old, El-Hadary can surpass Colombia's stopper Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 years and three days old when he took to the field at Brazil 2014.

El-Hadary's chances of being first choice have been boosted by a knee injury to Zamalek's Ahmed El Shenawy, which rules him out of Russia.

Since making his national debut in 1996, El-Hadary has amassed 156 caps between the sticks.

His last appearance was in Brazzaville, where Mohamed Salah scored a last minute winner against Congo to send Egypt through to the World Cup finals for the first time in 27 years.

But Russia 2018 may not represent his last opportunity at the World Cup - El-Hadary says he wants to play on into his 50s.

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4. Javier Mascherano

There cannot be a better exponent of tackling in the modern game than Javier Mascherano.

That sliding challenge to deny Arjen Robben of the Netherlands in the semi finals of Brazil 2014 is the stuff of legend.

The 'little chief' has already said that Russia will be his fourth and final World Cup.

Now plying his trade in the Chinese Super League, Mascherano is about as experienced as they come.

The 33-year old is set to surpass Javier Zanetti and become Argentina's most capped player of all time at the upcoming tournament (Mascherano needs one more to equal Zanetti's tally of 143).

Mascherano made his international debut back in 2003, going on to become a double Olympic champion with gold medals from 2004 and 2008.

Finishing a runner-up at four Copa Americas as well as the last World Cup in Brazil, the midfielder would love to go all the way in his international goodbye.

5. Kari Arnason

There must have been times in Kari Arnason's career when the notion of appearing on football's biggest stage would have been as ridiculous as, say, a tiny island nation of 350,000 inhabitants like Iceland reaching a World Cup finals. Yet somehow both of those things came true.

The 35-year-old Icelander trundled around in the lower reaches of the English leagues at clubs like Rotherham United and Plymouth Argyle before landing at Scottish outfit Aberdeen.

Now the defender, who made his national debut back in 2005, will be given the task of keeping tabs on Lionel Messi when Iceland kick off their Group D campaign in Moscow on 16th June.

Arnason enjoyed the challenge of facing Cristiano Ronaldo in Euro 2016, so it's unlikely the latest test will phase the veteran.

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