Euro 2020 Special

FIFA World Cup 2022: Five Players Likely To Retire From International Football After The Tournament

Defending champions France and Lionel Messi’s Argentina will battle it out for the trophy in the final of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar on Sunday. The epic contest comes after a month of entertaining football, with the current edition of the World Cup turning out to be one of the most competitive in the tournament’s history.

It is customary for many players to hang up their boots after every World Cup. Many players announce their retirement from international football while continuing to play in domestic leagues, while some players decide to retire from the game altogether. The current tournament has also featured some of the finest players across continents taking part in their final World Cup.

With the tournament now coming to a close, let’s take a look at five stars who have likely played their last international fixture already.


#5: Luka Modric

Croatia’s captain Luka Modric has been at the front and centre of their rise in international football over the last few years. The 2018 World Cup finalists had a terrific run in the current World Cup as well but had to suffer a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Argentina in the semifinals. Luka Modric has converted Croatia into a fearful team at the World Cup, with the midfield and defenders making almost every team sweat it out on the field.

The 37-year-old has been the best player for Croatia in Qatar. While he has scored no goals or provided no assists at the tournament, it was his presence and inspiring leadership that took Croatia to the semifinal stage. The Real Madrid star has scored 23 goals for the Croatian national team in 160 fixtures, winning the Golden Ball award in the 2018 World Cup and the Ballon d’Or that year.

While it is unlikely that Luka Modric will retire from all forms of football in the next four years, it might be too far-stretched for him to play in the next World Cup. If Croatia secure a third-place finish in the game against Morocco, he might announce his retirement from international football altogether.


#4: Robert Lewandowski

One of the finest strikers in the modern-day game, Robert Lewandowski hinted at retirement from international football after yet another disastrous outing for Poland at the World Cup. The Barcelona star has earned over 130 caps for the Polish national team, leading them to the World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022, apart from three Euros in 2012, 2016 and 2020. He has scored 77 goals in international fixtures – ranking third in the all-time list of Europeans, only behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Ferenc Puskas.

Despite these prolific statistics, Robert Lewandowski scored his first-ever World Cup goal in the game against Mexico. With the 34-year-old marking a new phase in his career with Barcelona this season, an end to his wait to score at the World Cup could push him to call the curtains on his international football career. It is unlikely that Poland will ever progress to the final of a World Cup in the near future, and Robert Lewandowski might shift his focus to prolonging his club career instead.


#3: Neymar Jr.

After a shock loss to Croatia in the quarterfinals, Brazil’s Neymar indicated that he will step away from international duty, taking responsibility for the team’s performance in the World Cup. If he follows through on his words, Neymar would end his international career as Brazil’s joint topscorer – level with the legendary Pele with 77 goals for the national team.

Swift responses to his comments came from his teammates and former players, urging the Paris-Saint Germain star to reconsider his decision. Unlike both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Neymar is just 30, and can easily play in another World Cup if he wished to do so. Brazil are also an improved team from the past and could have a reasonable chance of winning the World Cup in 2026 if Neymar continues to lead the team at the front.


#2: Cristiano Ronaldo

With the drama surrounding him everywhere he goes, Cristiano Ronaldo’s heartbreak at the World Cup continued for a fifth consecutive time. Portugal crashed out in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, with Morocco comprehensively outplaying the Selecao in the game. Cristiano Ronaldo was benched for both the knockout-round games, creating more controversy around the star’s role in the team at a time when his club career future looks uncertain.

Although Cristiano Ronaldo announced that he would not be retiring from international football and would like to continue till the Euros in 2024, this is unlikely to happen. Age is just one of the factors affecting the star’s performance. With Fernando Santos likely to bow out of managing the team in the near future, Cristiano Ronaldo will have to deal with a new manager and adjust to his tactics. Even Fernando Santos did not shy away from benching Ronaldo in Portugal’s last two games.

With his transfer out of a Champions League club almost certain, the quality of Cristiano Ronaldo’s attack will only deteriorate going forward. Although the all-time great is determined personally to carry on, circumstances might force him to hang up his boots, making this World Cup his last appearance in international football.


#1: Lionel Messi

Argentina have a shot at making history on Sunday, with only defending champions France standing between them and the trophy. Led by their captain Lionel Messi, Argentina have been flawless in the tournament after their surprise loss to Saudi Arabia in the tournament’s opener.

Lionel Messi has indicated that the final against France will likely be his final international fixture, and certainly his last World Cup fixture. The 35-year-old has appeared in five World Cups and nearly laid his hands on the trophy in 2014 when Argentina lost to Germany in the final. With 11 goals in 25 matches at the World Cup, Lionel Messi is also Argentina’s highest goalscorer at the tournament. He ranks just below Brazil’s Pele in the all-time goalscorer list and has a high chance of matching or breaking that record in the final.

With more than 750 goals for club and country, Lionel Messi’s greatness is etched in football history, regardless of whether or not Argentina manage to win on Sunday. Even though the Copa America win back in 2021 brought to a close the perennial wait for an international trophy for the all-time great, it is winning a World Cup that can truly bring his eventful career to a satisfying conclusion.




Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.