Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his 33rd birthday on Monday with just one significant prize still eluding him – the World Cup.
A three-time Premier League and two-time LaLiga winner with Manchester United and Real Madrid respectively, Ronaldo has triumphed in the Champions League on four occasions and been duly rewarded with five Ballons d’Or, a joint record alongside great rival Lionel Messi.
At Euro 2016, Ronaldo finally tasted the international success he craved with Portugal, although injury forced him off in the first half of the final against France in Paris.
One last summit remains unconquered and it just happens to be the biggest of them all.
The World Cup final in Moscow on July 15 is surely an occasion Ronaldo has circled on his calendar, but the odds are stacked against him lifting the trophy at Luzhniki Stadium.
In the previous 20 editions of the tournament, only one player older than Ronaldo has lined up in attack from kick-off and come out on top.
Here, we run down some the oldest strikers to be named in the winning starting XI in World Cup finals…
33!Thank you all for your birthday messages pic.twitter.com/YUJGDZCsAe
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) February 5, 2018
Miroslav Klose | Germany 1-0 Argentina (aet), 2014 | Age: 36
Unquestionably the grand old man of World Cup-winning strikers, Klose celebrated his 36th birthday a month before leading Germany’s attack against Argentina at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro four years ago.
The Lazio veteran was withdrawn in the 88th minute for Mario Gotze, who scored the winning goal with seven minutes remaining in extra-time.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 21, 2014
Rivaldo | Brazil 2-0 Germany, 2002 | Age: 30
Ronaldo is remembered as the hero of the Selecao’s triumph in Japan and South Korea in 2002, exorcising the demons of his team’s defeat to France four years earlier by scoring twice in the final and claiming the golden boot.
Operating alongside him was an emerging Ronaldinho and a Rivaldo in the prime of his career at the age of 30, although a free transfer from Barcelona to AC Milan after the tournament marked the start of the mercurial forward’s decline.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) April 19, 2016
Bebeto | Brazil 0-0 Italy (aet, 3-2 pens), 1994 | Age: 30
A deadly marksman with Deportivo La Coruna in Spain’s top flight when he lined up alongside Romario for Brazil in the 1994 final in Pasadena, Bebeto did not score or take a penalty in the shootout, but emerged with a winners’ medal thanks to Roberto Baggio’s infamous miss from the spot.
He was back in the starting XI at the age of 34 alongside a young, out-of-sorts Ronaldo in Paris four years later, when Zinedine Zidane’s virtuoso showing sealed glory on home soil for Les Bleus.
— CBF Futebol (@CBF_Futebol) February 16, 2017
Rudi Voller | West Germany 1-0 Argentina, 1990 | Age: 30
A 25-year-old Jurgen Klinsmann provided the dash for West Germany in attack alongside relative old stager Rudi Voller as Franz Beckenbauer’s team took on an Argentina captained by Diego Maradona in Rome.
Ultimately neither striker found the back of the net, and it was left to wing-back Andreas Brehme to win it with a penalty in the 85th minute.
— Lothar Matthäus (@LMatthaeus10) March 23, 2017
Jorge Valdano | Argentina 3-2 West Germany, 1986 | Age: 30
Four years earlier Real Madrid centre-forward Jorge Valdano started at the age of 30 and scored, together with Jose Luis Brown and Jorge Burruchaga, as La Albiceleste saw off Beckenbauer’s side 3-2 in Mexico City.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) October 4, 2015
Ottmar Walter | West Germany 3-2 Hungary, 1954 | Age: 30
A product of Kaiserslautern’s academy, Walter made his senior debut in 1941 and survived being injured after he was drafted into the Kriegsmarine in World War II, returning to playing for the club in 1946.
He started at centre-forward as West Germany denied Hungary’s Golden Team, featuring Ferenc Puskas, Nandor Hidegkuti and Sandor Kocsis, in an upset triumph that became known as ‘the Miracle of Bern’.
— Die Mannschaft (@DFB_Team) June 16, 2015
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