- Only FOUR players who featured in the 2002 World Cup are still playing active professional football today
- The 2002 World Cup, held in South Korea, was a memorable one and the last one which Brazil won to date
- 21 years later, nearly every player who took part in that tournament has hung his boots
Longevity in the game of football is a trait that is criminally underrated.
On average, a footballer’s professional career tends to last 10-15 years, but there are some players who have defied the odds with their incredible longevity.
It is quite easy to argue that the one thing that separates a brilliant footballer from an average one is their ability to last decades in the game. Take Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for example.
The pair, who have had an intense footballing rivalry, are still playing in the beautiful sport, though Ronaldo’s career took an interesting detour to Saudi Arabia as he joined Al Nassr in January.
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This, however, does not take away from the fact that the 38-year-old’s consistency in the sport from his Sporting Lisbon days in 2002 is unmatched.
Sports Brief decided to take an interesting look back at the 2002 World cup, held in South Korea and Japan, in which Brazil emerged victorious, according to FIFA.com.
The younger generation of football fans may not have a good recollection of the spectacle, but there are only three players who played in that tournament that are still active in football today.
Notably, neither Ronaldo nor Messi had broken into their respective national teams, as they were both still teens then.
So, which players still playing today were at the 2002 World Cup?
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic started his career at Swedish club Malmoe in 1999, and by 2002, he had already broken into the national team after joining Ajax.
Aged 41, Zlatan is still active for both club and country as he was called up for the upcoming qualifiers.
2. Gianluigi Buffon
Buffon is the gift that keeps on giving and despite being 45, he refuses to allow age to define the course of his career.
In 2002, Buffon was at the top of his game between the sticks, and represented Italy at the World Cup, where they were knocked out by South Korea in the round of 16.
Buffon currently plays for his boyhood club Parma in the Serie B.
One stand-out stat about the veteran Joaquin is that he has made a staggering 612 appearances in La Liga and is closing in on the all time record.
He made his debut for Spain's national team back in 2002, just a few months before being included in their World Cup squad.
At 41, Joaquin still plays and is a part of the Real Betis squad, according to Transfermkt.
4. Carlos Kameni
Carlos Kameni, a Cameroonian goalkeeper, was selected to go to the World up. He however did not make an appearance.
21 years later, and the 39-year-old is still playing professionally in Andorra with Santa Coloma.
Zlatan reignites Lukaku feud
Sports Brief also reported on how Ibrahimovic may have reignited his beef with Romelu Lukaku.
The pair reunited for the first time since the January 26, 2021, incident where both were booked for their roles in the scuffle before Ibrahimovic was sent off for a second yellow card.
Ibrahimovic's home ground in Stockholm was the venue for their reunion as Sweden hosted Belgium in the Euro 2024 qualifiers on 24th March at the Friends Arena.
Lukaku was the star of the show as his hattrick took his side to a 3-0 win in Domenico Tedesco's first match as the Red Devils boss. Ibrahimovic made a late cameo from the bench but was unable to inspire his side to a comeback.
Speaking after the game, the 41-year-old aimed a subtle dig at his opposite number, appearing to insinuate that he had scored lucky goals.