Oldest Players to Ever Compete in a FIFA World Cup

10 Oldest Players to Ever Compete in a FIFA World Cup

Competing in a World Cup is the highest achievement for any soccer player and making it onto your country’s national team when you’re in your 40s is an even bigger feat. Every single player on this list was in their 40s or very nearly 40 years old when they played in the World Cup for the last time. All of these players had long careers and many set records which still stand today.

With the exception of Ángel Labruna and Roger Milla, all of the oldest World Cup players were goalkeepers.

As of February 2020, the information on this list is as accurate as possible.

10. Ángel Labruna (September 28, 1918 – September 20, 1983)

Age at Time of World Cup: 39 years, 8 months, 18 days
Date of Game:  June 15, 1958 (Argentina vs. Czechoslovakia)
Team: Argentina National Team; played for Club Atlético River Plate at the time
Position: Forward

Angel Labrunaphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Ángel Labruna is the only player on this list who is no longer alive because he played half a century ago. Additionally, Labruna is one of the few players who wasn’t a goalkeeper. Labruna was a forward for the Argentina National Team and appeared in 37 matches. Argentina made it to the final phase of the 1958 World Cup when Labruna was almost 40 years old. The team lost their final match to Czechoslovakia. During his time with the Argentina National Team, Labruna scored 17 goals.

Did You Know?

Ángel Labruna was part of River Plate’s legendary team along with Juan Carlos Muñoz, José Manuel Moreno, Adolfo Pedernera, and Félix Loustau, who were some of the greatest footballers of their time.

9. David James (August 1, 1970 – Present)

Age at Time of World Cup: 39 years, 10 months, 26 days
Date of Game:  June 27, 2010 (England vs. Germany)
Team: England National Team; played for Bristol City FC at the time
Position: Goalkeeper

David Jamesphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Football.ua

David James is yet another goalkeeper who had a long career and appeared in the FIFA World Cup at an age when most athletes retire. James was two months shy of his 40th birthday when he played in his final World Cup game on June 27, 2010 for England against Germany. England was defeated by Germany, 4 – 1, which was England’s biggest margin of defeat ever at a World Cup finals.

James retired from professional soccer in 2014, after playing for Kerala Blasters FC for a year and also serving as the team’s manager. In 2018, James returned as the team’s manager, but was dismissed after an 11-match losing streak.

Did You Know?

In 2019, David James competed as a contestant on British TV dance competition, Strictly Come Dancing, and was partnered with Nadiya Bychkova. James was the 4th contestant eliminated.

8. Jim Leighton (July 24, 1958 – Present)

Age at Time of World Cup: 39 years, 10 months, 30 days
Date of Game:  June 23, 1998 (Scotland vs. Morocco)
Team: Scotland National Team; played for Aberdeen FC at the time
Position: Goalkeeper

Jim Leightonphoto source: worldfootball.net

Like many of the other players on this list, Jim Leighton represented his national team (Scotland) at several World Cup tournaments. Leighton made the team in 1982, 1986, 1990, and for a final time in 1998. During hist last appearance at a World Cup, Leighton was nearly 40 years old. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a good year for Scotland as the team only scored one point and failed to make it out of the first round. This was the 8th time that Scotland failed to advance out of the first round, a record which still stands.

Did You Know?

Jim Leighton played for the Scotland National Team 91 times, the second most appearances after Kenny Dalglish’s 102.

7. Ali Boumnijel (April 13, 1966 – Present)

Age at Time of World Cup: 40 years, 2 months, 10 days
Date of Game:  June 23, 2006 (Tunisia vs. Ukraine)
Team: Tunisia National Team; played for Club Africain Tunis at the time
Position: Goalkeeper

Ali Boumnijelphoto source: transfermarkt.com

Ali Boumnijel may not have had quite as prolific a career as some of the other players on this list, but was recognized in 2006 for being the oldest player, at 40 years of age, at that year’s World Cup. Boumnijel is also the fifth oldest player to compete in the finals phase of the World Cup.

Boumnijel did have a long career, which started in 1988 and ended in 2007, when the new coach of Club Africain Tunis, Abdelhak Benchikha, removed him from the team’s roster. Since then, Boumnijel has had various coaching jobs with the Tunisia National Team, Umm Salal Sport Club, China National Team, Étoile du Sahel, and Football Club Sochaux-Montbéliard.

Did You Know?

Ali Boumnijel was the assistant coach for Tunisian Olympic team in 2011.

6. Dino Zoff (February 28, 1942 – Present)

Age at Time of World Cup: 40 years, 4 months, 13 days
Date of Game:  July 11, 1982 (Italy vs. West Germany)
Team: Italy National Team; played for Juventus FC at the time
Position: Goalkeeper

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Dino Zoff may not be the oldest World Cup player ever, but he is the oldest World Cup winner! Zoff was 40 years old when Italy won, 3 – 1, over West Germany at the 1982 World Cup finals. Rightfully, Zoff, who captained the winning team (he was second goalkeeper ever to captain a winning team), is credited as one of the biggest reasons that Italy won that year. Zoff was elected the best goalkeeper of that year’s World Cup.

Zoff is widely considered one of the best ever goalkeepers of all time. He was named the 3rd greatest goalkeeper by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), behind Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks.

Did You Know?

Dino Zoff holds the record for the longest playing time without allowing goals in international tournaments (1142 minutes) set between 1972 and 1974.

5. Peter Shilton (September 18, 1949 – Present)

Age at Time of World Cup: 40 years, 9 months, 19 days
Date of Game:  July 7, 1990 (England vs. Italy)
Team: England National Team; played for Derby Country FC at the time
Position: Goalkeeper

Peter Shiltonphoto source: Italian Wikipedia

Peter Shilton is another member of the group of footballers in the their 40s who played during a FIFA World Cup. Shilton was a couple months shy of his 41st birthday when he competed in the 1990 third place play-off game between England and host-team Italy.

While not necessarily something to be remembered by, Shilton made a mistake which allowed Robert Baggio to tackle him and for Italy to score and win the game. This was Shilton’s 125th appearance for England’s National team and his last international game. Shilton continued to play club football until 1997.

Did You Know?

Peter Shilton shares the record of 10 goals conceded in 17 games with French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.

4. Pat Jennings (June 12, 1945 – Present)

Age at Time of World Cup: 41 years
Date of Game:  June 12, 1986 (Northern Ireland vs. Brazil)
Team: Northern Ireland National Team; played for Tottenham Hotspur at the time
Position: Goalkeeper

Pat Jenningsphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Pat Jennings celebrated his 41st birthday by playing in a 1986 World Cup match against Brazil. Unfortunately, Northern Ireland lost the match and Jennings retired from professional soccer following the World Cup. Jennings spent most of his career playing for the Tottenham Hotspurs and is considered one of the greatest British goalkeepers of all time. After his retirement, Jennings did return to Tottenham Hotspurs in 1993 as the team’s goalkeeping coach, a position he still holds.

Did You Know?

On 26 February 1983, Pat Jennings became the first player in British football to make 1,000 senior appearances.

3. Roger Milla (May 20, 1952 – Present)

Age at Time of World Cup: 42 years, 1 month, 8 days
Date of Game:  June 28, 1994 (Cameroon vs. Russia)
Team: Cameroon National Team; played for Tonnerre Kalara Club of Yaoundé at the time
Position: Striker

Roger Millaphoto source: Italian Wikipedia

Until Faryd Mondragón broke his record in 2014, Roger Milla was known for being the oldest player to compete at a World Cup for 20 years! In the 1994 match between Cameroon and Russia, Milla was 42 years old. Although he no longer holds this record, Milla is still the oldest goalscorer in a World Cup tournament ever, a record that has been standing for nearly 30 years. Milla had also set this same record when he played in the 1990 World Cup at the age of 38.

Did You Know?

Technically, Roger Milla retired from international play twice. Milla retired the first time after he competed in the 1984 Olympics, but was asked by President of Cameroon Paul Biya, to come out of retirement in 1990 to play at the World Cup.

2. Faryd Mondragón (June 21, 1971 – Present)

Age at Time of World Cup: 43 years, 3 days
Date of Game:  June 24, 2014 (Colombia vs. Japan)
Team: Colombia National Team; played for Deportivo Cali at the time
Position: Goalkeeper

Faryd Mondragonphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Just a few days after his 43rd birthday in 2014, Faryd Mondragón set the record for being the oldest FIFA World Cup player at the time. While his record has since been broken by Essam El-Hadary, Mondragón is still the oldest footballer to play during a World Cup group finals match. Unfortunately, Colombia was later eliminated by Brazil in the quarter-finals and Mondragón announced his retirement.

Mondragón’s professional career began with Deportivo Cali in 1990 and he was able to end his time as  a footballer with his first team.

Did You Know?

Faryd Mondragón is the only player to have competed in six different World Cup qualifying campaigns since 1993.

1. Essam El-Hadary (January 15, 1973 – Present)

Age at Time of World Cup: 45 years, 5 months, 10 days
Date of Game:  June 25, 2018 (Egypt vs. Saudi Arabia)
Team: Egypt National Team; played for Ismaily Sporting Club at the time
Position: Goalkeeper

Essam El-Hadaryphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Essam El-Hadary made history in 2018 when he became the oldest player ever to compete in a FIFA World Cup at the age of 45. This was El-Hadary’s last appearance at a World Cup and his last time playing as the goalkeeper for the Egyptian National Team. El-Hadary currently holds the Guinness World Record for this feat and it is yet to be broken.

Throughout his long career – spanning from 1993 to 2019 – El-Hadary competed in 150 World Cup games, the third most for Egypt’s team. El-Hadary also won the Africa Cup of Nations four times and was picked as the best goalkeeper at three of those tournaments.

Did You Know?

In 2019, the FIFA World Football Museum displayed Essam El-Hadary’s gloves from his 2018 World Cup match to honor him for being the oldest player and first African goalkeeper ever to save a penalty.


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