12 veteran stars over 30 who could make a big impact at the World Cup
Paolo Guerrero (Peru, 34)
Peru were handed a huge boost a fortnight ago when they discovered that veteran striker Guerrero’s hokey-cokey doping ban – which would have kept him out of the World Cup – had been lifted by a Swiss court. The Flamengo No.9 tested positive for cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine in October but pleaded his innocence after claiming it was contaminated in his Coca tea. Nevertheless, he was banned by FIFA for 12 months.
Guerrero's sentence was halved on appeal, only for the Court of Arbitration for Sport to extend it to 14 months. But now he will go the ball after the temporary lifting of his suspension – and that's fine news for Peru, who will be able to count on their all-time top goalscorer in Russia. He struck five goals in qualification, and will be a welcome option for boss Ricardo Gareca.
Tim Cahill (Australia, 38)
At 38 (and-a-half, Adrian Mole fans), Cahill travels to Russia this summer as one of the World Cup’s oldest players. His contributions proved decisive in helping Australia qualify for this tournament, however, two goals against Syria in a vital play-off sending the Socceroos through to their intercontinental showdown against Honduras.
Eleven goals in qualifying also made him the joint-fourth-highest scorer across the world (albeit in a fairly weak section), level with Romelu Lukaku, Christian Eriksen and Iran’s Sardar Azmoun – and second only to Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski.
He's really only an impact substitute these days, but could become just the fourth player to score in four World Cups – joining Uwe Seeler, Pele and Miroslav Klose.
Kari Arnason (Iceland, 35)
England fans will know the 35-year-old all too well following his heroic performance against the Three Lions at Euro 2016. The 6ft 3in stopper not only kept Harry Kane & Co. in check for 90 minutes, but also produced a brilliant headed assist for defensive partner Ragnar Sigurdsson as Iceland dumped out Roy Hodgson's hapless side at the last-16 stage.
Arnason actually has closer ties to Britain, though: he spent six of his career there between 2009 and 2015, across spells with Plymouth, Aberdeen and Rotherham. He re-joined Aberdeen last summer, but will play his football back home with Vikingur in 2018/19.
The veteran was again instrumental as Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side stormed their way through qualification, contributing two goals along the way to help Iceland top Group I ahead of Croatia. He scored in his latest appearance for the Nordic nation, too: a 2-2 draw with Ghana. Hú!
Andres Iniesta (Spain, 34)
International football will wave goodbye to one of its all-time greats when the 34-year-old Iniesta calls time after the tournament ("if nothing strange happens, this World Cup will be my last participation," he said in March). Fortunately, there's still one last opportunity to witness El Ilusionista in all his glory.
Spain’s most decorated footballer remains a staple of Julen Lopetegui’s side, and as testament to his enduring quality, will likely keep the hugely talented Saul Niguez and Marco Asensio out of La Roja's starting XI for the biggest games in Russia.
Iniesta is responsible for scoring his country’s most important goal; the injury-time strike which unlocked a scrappy 2010 World Cup Final against Holland and earned Spain their first-ever World Cup. There's still magic in those feet yet.
John Obi Mikel (Nigeria, 31)
Mikel was perhaps unfairly maligned at Chelsea as a limited and unspectacular central midfielder. But things could have been very different for the Nigerian at Stamford Bridge.
Before joining the Blues in 2006, Mikel was considered one of Europe’s most promising box-to-box midfielders; a winner of the Silver Ball at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, where he and Nigeria were beaten in the final by a 17-year-old Lionel Messi. But Jose Mourinho redeployed Mikel in a deeper role in west London, where his more creative instincts were blunted.
The 31-year-old has managed to retain a more liberated role for much of his international career, however, regularly playing as a No.10 for the Super Eagles. Mikel has scored as many goals for his country (6) as he did in 374 appearances for Chelsea, including two in qualifying against Algeria and Cameroon. In a Nigeria squad lacking top-level experience, Mikel is vital.