World Cup 2014: 11 Veterans Eyeing Their Last Shot at Glory in Brazil
A World Cup appearance is always a noteworthy event in a player's career, whether it be their first or last appearance at the event.
From the anxious 17-year-old debutant to the 34-year-old who knows it will be his final appearance at the competition, the nerves and dreams will be exactly the same.
With the 2014 competition in Brazil now less than 18 months away, we are beginning to get an idea of the players who will be involved and, for some, the competition offers their last realistic chance of international success.
Let's, then, take a look at 11 players for whom 2014 may mark the final opportunity for a shot at World Cup glory.
Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
For 33-year-old Diego Forlan, preparation for the World Cup will involve keeping himself in good form and fitness in Brazil with Internacional.
After seven successful years in Spain, Forlan's final year in Europe with Inter Milan was a disappointment. However, he now has new surroundings in which to prove his ongoing value to the national team.
A poor start to his Internacional career prompted many to say that the forward was simply past it, but a strong start to the 2013 calendar year suggests those predictions may have been a tad premature.
Forlan is still a major goal threat, despite the changes age have enforced on his game. With Uruguay well stocked in attacking areas, though, it remains to be seen whether he can hold off the competition long enough to make the finals.
Carles Puyol (Spain)
Barcelona and Spain captain Carles Puyol won his 100th international cap last month and still appears to be in strong contention for a place at the 2014 World Cup.
Puyol, a European Championship and World Cup winner, may not be the same player he once was but retains the faith of his coaches with both club and country. His passion and leadership are also invaluable qualities.
With all his injury problems over recent seasons, few would have given the Catalan giant much hope of reaching the tournament two years ago.
Determined in his recovery, though, the centre-back looks to have given himself a great shot at playing in a fourth World Cup tournament in Brazil next year.
The vital cog at the heart of the Barcelona and Spain midfields, Xavi may now start to tire in the second-half of long, grueling league campaigns, but his importance remains unquestioned.
The Barcelona man has been compared to a metronome for his relentless recycling of the ball as his side seeks to change the angle of attack. It is repetitive in nature but deadly effective.
He may be 33 but there are still few who can get near him when on form. Xavi, like many of his colleagues, makes football look simple but has proven immeasurably difficult to replicate.
The 2014 World Cup will likely be his last shot at an international tournament and offer the chance of a fourth consecutive major tournament success. Can he go on to weave his magic just one more time in Brazil? We shall soon find out.
Frank Lampard (England)
Will he or won't he sign a new Chelsea deal seems to be the biggest question surrounding Frank Lampard at the moment. In comparison, his presence in England's 2014 World Cup squad would appear an absolute certainty.
Now 34, Lampard still believes he will be able to cope at the World Cup in 18-months time and is doing his utmost to ensure his inclusion. He will, though, be 36 by the time the event finishes.
Despite his advancing age, the midfielder has done much to dispel doubts over his ability to perform at the top level this season. With 11 goals in 20 Premier League appearances in 2012-13, few midfielders can claim to be in better form than the Chelsea man.
Close to becoming the club's all-time record goalscorer, Lampard may soon have much to celebrate. Should he keep himself in shape and with a decent side, there is no reason to suggest he could not make next summer's international showpiece.
Miroslav Klose (Germany)
Miroslav Klose's hopes of becoming the all-time record World Cup goalscorer appeared to have been dashed in South Africa 2010 when a back injury kept him out of the third place playoff game.
With 14 goals to his name and Ronaldo's record within touching distance on 15, Klose has resisted talk of retirement and kept on going.
Once more in double figures for club side Lazio this season, the Polish-born target man is doing his best to justify his inclusion. His international record meanwhile remains astounding, with 67 goals scored in 126 games.
In just 16-months time, Klose could re-write the history books and outscore Ronaldo to become the greatest goalscorer in the history of the World Cup. It would be quite some achievement.
Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
Now 35, the 2014 World Cup will surely be Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's final shot at an international tournament.
Buffon, of course, is already a world champion from the 2006 tournament and will hope that he can add another title to his collection as part of what is a fairly youthful and dynamic Italy side.
The great goalkeeper, who has well over 100 caps to his name, is competing with Real Madrid's Iker Casillas to be remembered as the greatest No. 1 of his era and this tournament could well sway the judgement.
Buffon is in fine form for his club side Juventus and will hope that he is still performing to his best next summer in Brazil.
Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
Ivorian Didier Drogba may well have missed his last chance at Africa Cup of Nations glory in South Africa last month, but there may still be one last chance for success at the World Cup.
Realistically, 34-year-old Drogba and his countrymen are not going to win the tournament. However, he will have a good opportunity to take his nation out of the Group Stage for the first time should they qualify.
Drogba's strengths and weaknesses are well known to most now and, as he has shown since his recent arrival at Galatasaray, age has not deprived him of his strength or goalscoring instinct.
The Chelsea legend is a proud man and he will no doubt be hopeful that, should he play next summer, he could improve on what was a poor showing at the 2010 tournament.
Landon Donovan (USA)
While still just 31 years old, the tournament in Brazil is likely to be US international star Landon Donovan's last chance to show his abilities on the World Cup stage.
Whether Donovan will even make 2014 is a good question, with the attacking midfielder currently taking an extended break from the game to recover his passion for football.
The US national side, though, has been reliant on Donovan for some time and, while the likes of Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are impressing in European football, there is a feeling that Klinsmann's side will need Donovan's presence.
The LA Galaxy star was crucial for his country in both the 2002 and 2010 competitions. Can he reignite his flame for the sport and make one more lasting impression on world football in 2014? Only time will tell.
The rollercoaster that is Ronaldinho's footballing career continues on its merry-way with no solid indication being given on whether the former Barcelona star can make the 2014 World Cup.
A recent recall to the Brazil squad was the start of what should have been a journey to the Maracanã in July 2014. However, a poor display against England at Wembley once more brought question marks over his inclusion.
Domestically, since joining Atlético Mineiro last June, Ronaldinho has been excellent and he has started the 2013 season in similar fashion.
After two consecutive disappointing international showings, though, his future with the Selecao is far from certain. Good performances against Italy and Russia later this month, though, should see him through to the 2014 finals.
Mario Yepes (Colombia)
Experienced and occasionally controversial centre-back Mario Yepes is another of our veterans who stands a good chance of playing at the 2014 World Cup with Colombia sailing in qualifying.
Already 37 years old, the former Paris Saint-Germain defender is still going strong and, unless his form takes a dramatic turn for the worse, he should make the 2014 World Cup.
The Colombia side is an odd mixture of young, creative talents and seasoned defensive veterans at present, but there is a good feeling about the nation ahead of the tournament.
The Cafeteros have many players who would command drastically higher transfer fees than Yepes, but the experienced centre-back's knowledge could be crucial next year in Brazil.
Carlos Salcido (Mexico)
Mexico defender Carlos Salcido could take part in his third World Cup tournament if he makes Brazil 2014 next year, but he will face stiff competition from the emerging young talents the country has to offer.
Now back in his homeland with Tigres, the former Fulham defender still commands respect from around the world for his past showings with El Tri and in both the Dutch and English leagues.
He is, though, now playing regular football once more for his club and should play a part in this year's Confederations Cup tournament—also to be held in Brazil.
Already one of the 100-cap brigade, Salcido is likely to feature in his favoured left-back position for Mexico and, with qualification unlikely to be an issue, the 32-year-old should have chance to demonstrate his abilities once more next summer