5 Oldest Players to Feature at a World Cup

James Budgen

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Essam El-Hadary - 45 years, 161 days

El-Hadary’s international career for Egypt spanned 22 years between 1996 and 2018 and in that time he made 159 appearances, the third most in Egyptian history, winning the African Cup of Nations four times, the most by any player in the competition’s history, named the best goalkeeper of the tournament three times and whilst also holding the record for the oldest player to appear in the tournament at 44 years and 21 days.

In 2018, for the first time in El-Hadary’s career, Egypt had qualified for the World Cup and at the age of 45, he became the oldest player selected for the tournament and after Egypt had lost their first two games, he was handed a start in their final group game against Saudi Arabia to become the oldest player to play at a World Cup.

El-Hadary was kept busy throughout the game, facing 23 shots on his goal, having to make six saves and facing two penalties, one of which he managed to save, creating probably yet another unbreakable record for the oldest player to save a penalty in a World Cup match and it was a great ending to a great career as he announced his retirement from football just over a month later.

Faryd Mondragón - 43 years, 3 days

Mondragón made his debut for Colombia against Venezuela in 1993 and his final appearance came against Japan in the final group stage game at the 2014 World Cup and while during his career he was never the number one for a sustained period of time, even not selected for five years, he still managed to rack up a half-century of appearances for his country.

Mondragón had four starts for Colombia in the friendlies in the build-up to the World Cup, but coming into the World Cup an appearance was unlikely unless there was an injury to David Ospina or Colombia cruised through their group.

Luckily for Mondragón, Colombia cruised through their group and was given five minutes at the end of the game to break the record at the time for the oldest player to appear at a World Cup, but also breaking a record that still stands in that he had the longest gap between two World Cup appearances, 15 years and 363 days after being the Colombian keeper for their group games in the 1998 World Cup.

Roger Mila - 42 years, 39 days

During his international career with Cameroon, which lasted 21 years from his debut against Zaire in 1973 and his final game against Russia in 1994, Mila was capped 77 times, scoring 43 goals, but his career for Cameroon really came fruition late on in his career.

Mila initially retired from international football in 1988 after winning the African Cup of Nations for the second time having only appeared at one World Cup in 1982, but after being pleaded from the President of Cameroon, Mila not only returned for the 1990 World Cup at 38 years old but the 1994 World Cup at 42 years old.

Mila kicked up a storm at the 1990 World Cup, scoring four goals in five games and being part of the Cameroon squad that took England to extra-time, but his records came at the 1994 World Cup, where he became the oldest player to play at the World Cup, still holding the record for the oldest outfield player and the oldest player to score a goal at the World Cup, scoring in Cameroon’s 6-1 defeat to Russia, a record that is still intact.

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Pat Jennings - 41 years

Despite being retired from club football for over a year, Jennings celebrated his 41st birthday by becoming the oldest player to appear at the World Cup, playing for Northern Ireland against Brazil in the 1986 World Cup, 22 years and 118 appearances after making his debut for his country as an 18-year-old.

Jennings appeared at two World Cups for Northern Ireland, both in the latter stages in his career, playing four games at the 1982 World Cup, keeping two clean sheets and reaching the knockout rounds and then again in 1986, where Northern Ireland weren’t so successful, being knocked out in the group stages, with Brazil holding no mercy for Jennings on his 41st birthday, putting 3 goals past him to knock Northern Ireland out of the tournament.

Peter Shilton - 40 years, 292 days

Despite holding the record for being the most capped England player with 125 caps and making his debut at 21 years old in 1970, Shilton only made his first appearance at the World Cup in 1982, with England not losing a game, and Shilton keeping four clean sheets, which made him the undoubted England number one from then on.

At the 1986 World Cup, Shilton kept three clean sheets, only to be knocked out by Diego Maradona and his ‘Hand of God’, showing again why he was England’s number one and in the build-up to the 1990 World Cup, despite being 40 years old, Shilton had played 16 straight games for England.

At 40 years old Shilton kept two clean sheets at the 1990 World Cup, making that ten clean sheets at the World Cup, a joint record and was part of an England team that was beaten by West Germany on penalties in the semi-finals, but despite losing in the semi-final, he is the oldest player to appear, not only in the semi-finals but in the knockout stages at a World Cup.

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