Essam El-Hadary (Egypt) – 45 years, 161 days
22 years after his debut for Egypt, Essam El-Hadary made his debut appearance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup against Saudi Arabia at the age of 45 years and 161 days.
The Pharaohs entered the Saudi Arabia competition after losing to Uruguay and Egypt in their earlier group matches. Egypt struggled against the Saudis and would have conceded in the first half had El-Hadary not brilliantly saved Fahad Al-Muwallad’s penalty.
Not only did Essam El-Hadary become the oldest footballer to play in a FIFA World Cup that day, he also became the oldest debutant at the FIFA World Cup He was also the first African goalkeeper to save a penalty at a World Cup.
El-Hadary made 159 appearances for Egypt in his international career. He was part of the Egyptian teams that won a hat-trick of AFCON titles between 2006 and 2010.
Faryd Mondragon (Colombia) – 43 years, 3 days
Before Essam El-Hadary in 2018, Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon became the oldest footballer to play at a FIFA World Cup when he was 43 years and three days old when he featured in Colombia’s last group match against Japan in 2014.
However, Faryd Mondragon still holds some records. Faryd Mondragon also played for Colombia at the 1998 World Cup before playing in 2014. It is the longest time a player has had to wait between two World Cup games.
The Colombian is also the oldest footballer in the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup, having been on the bench in the 2014 quarter-finals against Brazil, in which Colombia lost 2-1. Mondragon announced his retirement shortly after Colombia’s exit.
Roger Milla (Cameroon) – 42 years, 39 days
Cameroon’s Roger Milla, aged 42 years and 39 days, is third on the list of oldest footballers to have played at the FIFA World Cup. However, he is the only forward featured in the top five.
Milla scored Cameroon’s only goal in a 6-1 win over Russia in the 1994 group stage. In the same game, Russia’s Oleg Salenko set the record for most goals by a single player in a FIFA World Cup match with five goals.
Roger Milla scored 43 goals in 77 games in a career spanning more than two decades.
Pat Jennings (Northern Ireland) – 41 years old
It was the 41st birthday of goalkeeper Pat Jennings of Northern Ireland when he faced mighty Brazil in the group stage of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. As expected, the celebration took place in the Brazilian camp as the birthday boy secured three goals in a 3-0 win.
Pat Jennings retired that same year after playing 119 games for his country between 1964 and 1986.
Peter Shilton (England) – 40 years, 292 days
England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, best known for being the keeper against whom the legendary Maradona scored the ‘Hand of God’ goal in the 1986 World Cup final, achieved the feat of becoming the oldest footballer to attend a World Cup match in 1990 attended.
Peter Shilton was 40 years and 292 days old when he captained England in the 1990 third place match against Italy, which England lost 2-1.
Shilton retired after the World Cup but not before becoming England’s most capped male player from 1970–90 with 125 caps.
Formiga, Brazil – 41 years and 112 days
Brazil midfielder Formiga, aged 41 years and 112 days, became the oldest player to have played at a FIFA Women’s World Cup in Brazil’s quarter-final match against France in 2019, which Brazil lost 2-1. Formiga is the only player in all men’s and women’s competitions to have competed in seven FIFA World Cups. She is also the first female footballer to have competed in seven Olympic Games.
Formiga made her debut in 1995 and retired in 2021 after playing 234 games for Brazil.