Essam El-Hadary, an Egyptian goalkeeper, is the oldest player in the men’s FIFA World Cup. Peter Shilton, who has played for England the most times, is ranked sixth. All football players aspire to play for as long as they can, but only a select handful are able to maintain their level of fitness. Even some of them improve with time. Even though some of this generation’s top players, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, are competing in their final World Cup in Qatar, they are by no means the oldest players to have competed in football’s biggest tournament. Checkout the list of oldest footballers to play at the FIFA World Cup, a list which is heavily dominated by goalkeepers.
Essam El-Hadary, 45 years and 161 days
Essam El-Hadary made his FIFA World Cup debut against Saudi Arabia in 2018 at the age of 45 years and 161 days, 22 years after making his Egypt debut. Prior to their encounter against Saudi Arabia, the Pharaohs had lost to Uruguay and Egypt in their group games. In the first half, Egypt would have lost to Saudi Arabia if not for El-Hadary’s outstanding save off Fahad Al-Muwallad’s penalty kick. Egypt was in trouble against the Saudis. On that particular day, Essam El-Hadary not only made history as the oldest player to ever compete at the FIFA World Cup, but he also made history as the oldest debutant and the first African goalkeeper to save a penalty shot.
Faryd Mondragon, 43 years, 3 days
When Faryd Mondragon of Colombia entered the field for Colombia’s last group match against Japan in 2014, he was 43 years and three days old, making him the oldest player to compete at the FIFA World Cup prior to Essam El-Hadary in 2018. However, Faryd Mondragon still owns a few records. Prior to competing in 2014, Faryd Mondragon participated in the 1998 World Cup for Colombia. The gap between two World Cup games was the longest ever for a player. The Colombian, who was on the bench during Colombia’s 2-1 quarterfinal loss to Brazil in 2014, is also the oldest player left in the FIFA World Cup playoffs. Soon after Colombia was eliminated, Mondragon made his retirement announcement.
Roger Milla, 42 years, 39 days
At 42 years and 39 days old, Roger Milla of Cameroon ranks third among the oldest football players to compete in the FIFA World Cup. He is the only striker to appear in the top five, though. In a 6-1 thrashing by Russia in the 1994 group stage, Milla scored Cameroon’s lone goal. Oleg Salenko of Russia set the record for the most goals scored by a single player in a FIFA World Cup game with five goals in the same game. Over the course of 77 games and a more than 20-year career, Roger Milla scored 43 goals.
Pat Jennings, 41 years
When he was onto the pitch in the 1986 World Cup group stage encounter against powerful Brazil, Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings was 41 years old. As was to be anticipated, the Brazilian team celebrated by defeating the birthday boy 3-0 and scoring three goals in the process. After participating in 119 games for his nation between 1964 and 1986, Pat Jennings announced his retirement the same year.
Peter Shilton, 40 years, 292 days
England goalkeeper Peter Shilton made history in 1990 by becoming the oldest player to play in a World Cup match. Shilton is best known for being the goalkeeper against whom legendary Maradona scored the “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup final. When Peter Shilton led England against Italy in the third-place play-off in 1990, England lost 2-1. Shilton was 40 years and 292 days old. After the World Cup, Shilton announced his retirement, but not before earning 125 caps for England’s men from 1970 to 1990.
Oldest footballer in FIFA Women’s World Cup history
Formiga, 41 years and 112 days
Brazilian midfielder Formiga, at 41 years and 112 days, became the oldest footballer to play in the FIFA Women’s World Cup during Brazil’s quarter-final match against France in 2019, which they lost 2-1. Formiga is the only player across men’s and women’s competitions to play in seven FIFA World Cups. She is also the first female football player to participate in seven Olympic Games. Formiga made her debut in 1995 and retired in 2021 after playing 234 matches for Brazil.