The FIFA World Cup 2022 is a significant event for many reasons. Not only will it be the first time that the tournament is held in Qatar, but it will also mark the end of an era for several legendary soccer players.
Thirty-two teams from around the globe will compete for one title, but this may be the last time that some of its most iconic players have an opportunity to participate.
This generation of stars has been one of the most successful and popular in history, with multiple world championships and record-breaking achievements under their belts. However, as they reach or pass their thirties, retirement is looming on the horizon – and this cup may very well be their last chance to enjoy global glory together.
For years, some of the sport’s biggest stars have dazzled fans in this tournament, but with each successive exit from the competition, it becomes increasingly clear that they are a dying breed.
Take Luis Suarez. Widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, he has been inconsistent and largely ineffective at this year’s World Cup. Even more, telling is his emotional reaction upon being benched – he could not hold back tears on the sidelines. This was his last chance to make an impression on one of international soccer’s greatest stages, and he blew it.
Romelu Lukaku had a similarly disappointing outing. The striker plays for Manchester United and is widely considered one of Europe’s best young players; however, at this year’s World Cup, he failed to score even once in three appearances. That record speaks volumes about how far Belgium has fallen since their run to second place four years ago.
At the end of every tournament, some celebrate their hard-fought victory, while others reflect on what could have been. In some cases, such as Robert Lewandowski and Sergio Busquets, individuals can manage to greet the end with grace – Lewandowski with a smile and satisfied nod after scoring his final goal at the World Cup; Busquets with a sorrowful shake of the head after missing what would have been the tying penalty in Spain’s elimination match against Russia.
The world is preparing to say goodbye to one of the most talented and celebrated generations of soccer players the game has ever seen. The FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be the last time we see icons like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr, and Andres Iniesta take to the field on behalf of their countries.
This era has been defined by excess – from record-breaking transfer fees paid for top talent to gargantuan stadia built specifically for hosting World Cups (Qatar’s Lusail Stadium will seat up to 80,000 spectators), football seems intent on pushing boundaries at every turn. Even so, it is hard not to feel sad as this incredible generation prepares for retirement.
This year’s tournament has been particularly memorable, with some truly spectacular goals scored and dramatic moments witnessed. But as you come down to the last few games, it feels like there are two main contenders for the title: Messi and Ronaldo.
Ronaldo – or CR7 as he is popularly known – burst onto the scene at Manchester United before moving on to Spanish giants Real Madrid, where his rivalry with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi reached new heights (or lows, depending on your perspective). The two players have dominated world football for over a decade now, winning almost everything there is to win, including multiple Champions League titles apiece.
This World Cup may very well be their last chance to add international glory to their illustrious resumes; Messi will be 32 by 2022, while Ronaldo will only be 35 (although age hasn’t slowed either player down too much so far).
It is hard to overstate the importance of the FIFA World Cup. Held every four years, it is a global event that unites people from all corners to celebrate one common passion: soccer.
This year’s World Cup in Qatar was no different, as young players such as Jude Bellingham of England, Gavi and Pedri of Spain, and Enzo Fernandez of Argentina announced their presence on the world stage. These players will, without doubt, be remembered for their contributions to this edition of the World Cup – but they will also go down in history as some of its greatest legends.
The FIFA World Cup will be a landmark event, as it will be the first time the tournament is held in Qatar. After the FIFA World Cup final, the Premier League resumes playing on December 26. The other domestic leagues in Europe will soon follow. In February, the Champions League resumes. For the time being, the main characters will remain. They still have more accolades, awards, and titles to win.
However, by the time the next edition takes place in 2026, few of them will be present. Those who are can only hope for the role that Ronaldo appears destined to play for as long as Portugal remains in the country: something between a talisman and a source of trouble.