For football players, representing their country in the FIFA World Cup at least once is a dream.
Playing for their favourite teams is also definitely a goal, but there are few things that can compare to wearing your nation’s flag on your kit and playing in front of millions of people to try and win the biggest trophy in international football.
However, in this year’s World Cup in Russia, there are players who are representing their flag for a fourth-straight time. That is a feat on its own, but these players have definitely carved their names in their nation’s history by playing for their country.
The main goal is to win the World Cup, and these are the players who are trying to do so in Russia for at least their fourth opportunity.
LIONEL MESSI – ARGENTINA
One of the most recognisable faces in football, Argentina’s Lionel Messi is again at the helm of the nation trying to win the World Cup in Russia.
The Argentine has won so many awards with Barcelona and individual trophies are almost expected every season for the superstar. However, the closest he has come to winning the World Cup was in 2014 when he led the team to the Final but were ultimately thwarted by the Germans.
Messi made his World Cup debut in 2006 when he came on as a substitute against Serbia and Montenegro. This was the foreshadowing of the record-breaker as he would already set the bar as the youngest player to feature for Argentina in the competition.
Four years later, Messi played under Argentina legend Diego Maradona, and with his role as a withdrawn forward, Messi flourished into a playmaker. Unfortunately, they would lose to Germany in the quarter-final of the competiton.
Now in his fourth year in the competition, many are hoping that Messi can finally win the World Cup and secure his name as one of the best across all competitions. As he is now 30 years old, he has only a few years left before he is past his prime and the window may be slowly closing for him.
TIM CAHILL – AUSTRALIA
Regarded as a legend in Australia, veteran Tim Cahill makes a return to lead the country in the World Cup in Russia.
Already 38 years old, Cahill made his name in the English Premier League with Everton and has since moved from one continent to another, featuring in Major League Soccer in the United States and the Chinese Super-League.
In only the country’s second World Cup appearance in Germany 2006 (first was in 1974,) Cahill made history as the first Australian to ever score in the competition. The Socceroos were very impressive, but were controversially knocked off by Italy in the round-of-16.
They failed to replicate their success in the next two World Cups, but Cahill was still a star as he was able to find goals for the team. One goal in particular was a thumping volley against the Netherlands that stands as one of the better goals in recent World Cup history.
— TIM CAHILL (@Tim_Cahill) June 4, 2018
This year, Australia took their time to release their squad but people were delighted to see the veteran still be included. It could be his final year with the team but he is still likely to produce top-quality performances.
SERGIO RAMOS – SPAIN
Already with more than 150 international caps to his name, Sergio Ramos has represented Spain and is considered one of their best players.
Beginning his World Cup career back when he was 18, Ramos was the youngest Spaniard to ever debut in the competition at the time.
He has gone through position changes, starting off at right back for the team before replacing Carles Puyol in centre-back in 2012.
His best World Cup moment was undoubtedly their 2010 run when they steamrolled over opponents to finally bring a World Cup to Spain and establishing their dominance throughout a period of time.
However, the next World Cup was a very disappointing one, where Spain dreadfully failed to defend their title, losing in the first two group stage matches before finally winning their third. Their last win was for nothing as they were already eliminated from the competition.
Un orgullo representar a mi país 🇪🇸 en #Rusia2018; un honor hacerlo como capitán; una enorme ilusión poder jugar mi cuarto Mundial.
— Sergio Ramos (@SergioRamos) May 21, 2018
At 32 years old, Ramos may have one last World Cup run in him and with Spain seemingly back on track, it could be the perfect send off.
ANDRES GUARDADO – MEXICO
Back in 2006, a fresh-faced Andres Guardado made his World Cup debut with Mexico at a tender age of 19.
Despite the young age, Guardado played well enough to help the team reach the round-of-16, but they were eventually seen off by Argentina. As for the new boy, he impressed enough to earn his spot with the national team.
However, he would fail to bring the form in the next World Cup, playing three out of four games in 2010 but failing to complete 90 minutes.
He would often be substituted or come off the bench, and realistically failed to make a mark with the team before they were again sent packing by the Argentines in the last-16.
In 2014, Guardado played a more pivotal role with the team, even scoring to help bring El Tri to the knockout stages, but their dreams fell short when the Netherlands beat them thanks to Arjen Robben’s penalty claim.
El Tri's final 23! 🇲🇽
Andres Guardado and Diego Reyes make Mexico's World Cup squad despite fitness concerns. pic.twitter.com/GPy5IqwA5a
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 4, 2018
This year, Guardado will head into Russia wearing the captain’s armband and is hoping to go deeper than just the early knockout stages.
JAVIER MASCHERANO – ARGENTINA
Despite many eyes locked on his teammate in this year’s World Cup, Javier Mascherano must also be celebrated for what he brings for Argentina.
Already playing in the Chinese Super-League, Mascherano was known for his hard-nosed style of playing especially on the defensive end.
He debuted in 2006 and was Javier Zanetti’s successor, eventually wearing the captain’s armband in the 2010 World Cup under Maradona.
The then-coach had high praises for Mascherano, claiming that the reason he was picked as captain was that his blue-collar work ethic symbolised the way Argentina play football.
— Javier Mascherano (@Mascherano) June 5, 2018
In 2014, Messi was named the captain but as vice-captain, Mascherano was a big voice for the squad as they marched all the way to the final, and many are hoping that he can still do that in Russia.
Already 34 years old, Mascherano may not have the pace he used to have but his presence should be inspirational for Argentina’s hopes for the World Cup.
GUILLERMO OCHOA – MEXICO
The second Mexican on the list, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa is only 32 and may still have a few years left in him in the international level.
Already in his fourth World Cup, many fondly remember Ochoa for his impressive performance back in 2014, especially against the host Brazil when they faced off.
Facing top-quality stars such as Neymar and Fred, Ochoa held his own and stopped all attacks that came his way – eventually completing a clean sheet for the Mexicans against the highly-touted rivals.
¡Te 👀 @yosoy8a!
— Selección Nacional (@miseleccionmx) May 27, 2018
Ochoa’s name resonated throughout the globe with many applauding his efforts especially when he had very little experience in the 2006 and 2010 campaigns – where he was picked as second goalkeeper after the more veteran stoppers.
However, Ochoa will be the main goalkeeper in Russia and with performances like the one he had in 2014, he may launch himself into superstardom.
ANDRES INIESTA – SPAIN
Already making headlines earlier in the year after announcing that he would leave Barcelona this summer, Andres Iniesta is also making his fourth and final appearance with Spain in this year’s World Cup.
Iniesta has won everything there is to win, with 33 total trophies for his club, the midfielder also has a World Cup and European Championship to his name.
The 2010 campaign was something special as they were so dominant that many thought they would win the next World Cup.
Unfortunately, football is a harsh sport and their 2014 campaign was painful to watch, especially for a team littered with talent.
Un orgullo recibir este reconocimiento. Muchas gracias a todos. pic.twitter.com/uybt1FFw9v
— Andrés Iniesta (@andresiniesta8) June 5, 2018
At 34 years old, Iniesta will look to end his international career at the top and a second World Cup is surely a storybook ending for the player who only played once in their 2006 campaign.
VALON BEHRAMI – SWITZERLAND
Despite being a mainstay in the national team, Switzerland’s Valon Behrami may be best remembered as being the first Swiss player to be sent off in the World Cup.
This happened in 2010 when they faced off against Chile and Behrami appeared to elbow Arturo Vidal in the face. It resulted in a red card and an early disappointment for that campaign.
In 2006, Bahrami was sidelined for the most part with a groin injury, but was able to play their third group stage match. The Swiss squad made it to the knockout stages but were eventually eliminated by Ukraine.
Diese 23 Spieler wurden von Nationaltrainer Vladimir Petkovic ins endgültige Kader für den @FIFAWorldCup berufen.#HoppSchwiiz #HopSuisse #ForzaSvizzera #HopSvizra 🇨🇭⚽️✌️#roadtorussia pic.twitter.com/07msySiqEu
— nationalteams_SFVASF (@SFV_ASF) June 4, 2018
The Swiss international was finally able to make amends in 2014 in a game against Ecuador where Behrami initiated the team’s counter-attack after his tackle and run saw the team bounce back to score a goal in stoppage time to win the game.
This year, the midfielder is 33 years old and is likely to play his final World Cup.
CRISTIANO RONALDO – PORTUGAL
At 33 years old, it seems incredible that Cristiano Ronaldo is able to keep the pace he has despite playing in so many high-calibre matches throughout his career.
With many club trophies his way, Ronaldo is only lacking the World Cup to complete his list of silverware.
The Real Madrid man made his debut in 2006 and was a different player than what he eventually became. Then, Ronaldo was thin and lacked the presence he commands now, and it was in 2010 where he finally became the leader Portugal expected of him.
He won the captain’s armband in his second World Cup, he was unable to score goals in record pace but did enough to help the team into the knockout stages, where they were eventually eliminated by champions Spain in the round-of-16.
In 2014, he was not 100% fit with various injuries such as tendinitis and a thigh injury which left an obvious mark in his game. It would also show in his performances as the team failed to make it past the group stages.
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) June 4, 2018
In Russia, things are a bit different as Ronaldo led the team in the European Championship in 2016 and that head of steam should help them through the competition. A World Cup triumph ahead of his closest rival Messi may cement his place as the best player to ever grace the game.
RAFAEL MARQUEZ – MEXICO
The third player from Mexico to make the list, Rafael Marquez needs a different bracket as he is playing in his fifth World Cup.
Already at 39 years old, the midfielder includes his name as one of three to ever play five times in different World Cup competitions – Germany’s Lothar Matthaus and Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal. Gianluigi Buffon has also been listed in five World Cup squads but only played in four.
As for Marquez this is likely his final outing with El Tri. He has already retired from club football and he is now focusing all of his energy to represent Mexico one more time and hoping to bring them closer to success.
Rafael Marquez is only the fourth player to go to FIVE World Cups 🇲🇽 pic.twitter.com/fbctHHjEuf
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 4, 2018
His first World Cup was in 2002 where he was named captain in all of their games before being eliminated. He was also their skipper in 2006 and even scored in their loss against Argentina.
In 2014, he was honoured with his fourth time to captain the team – being the only person to be named as such. As for 2018, Guardado was named captain.