The jostling for positions is over, the squads declared, and 736 players have been given the ultimate honour of representing their country at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. But who on that long list catches the eye, and for what reason? Here, FIFA.com takes a closer look at the numbers behind the men doing battle in Brazil.
236 of the players at Brazil 2014 have been called up to at least one previous FIFA World Cup™. Spain lead the way in this respect with 16 World Cup veterans, with Uruguay (15) and Cameroon (13) second and third respectively. Of the Brazil-bound players, Faryd Mondragon has the lengthiest World Cup history, having made his debut at USA 1994. The Colombia keeper was also present at France 1998 alongside Samuel Eto’o and Gianluigi Buffon, who has become just the third player – after Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal and Germany legend Lothar Matthaus – to be called up for a fifth World Cup. Buffon’s two predecessors did, however, play in all five of their tournaments, while the Italy keeper was an unused substitute at France 1998. That nonetheless leaves him in line to play at his fourth edition, a carrot that also dangles in front of DaMarcus Beasley (USA), Iker Casillas and Xavi (Spain), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Miroslav Klose (Germany) and Rafael Marquez (Mexico). Eto’o, for his part, has equalled an African record simply by being called up for his fourth World Cup, emulating a feat already achieved by Jacques Songo’o and Rigobert Song.
100 per cent of Russia’s players – a record at Brazil 2014 – play in the country’s domestic leagues. England are only narrowly behind on 95.6 per cent, with 22 of their 23 players – Celtic’s Fraser Forster being the sole exception – operating at home. By contrast, just 4.3 per cent of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Uruguay’s players – in other words, one of the 23 – play their club football in the nation they will be representing.
68 will be the birthday reached by Fabio Capello during this FIFA World Cup, making the Russia coach the oldest coach at Brazil 2014. The Italian, who will also become the World Cup’s fourth-oldest coach of all time – a list topped by Otto Rehhagel, who was 71 when he led Greece in 2010 – is followed in Brazil by Uruguay’s Oscar Tabarez (67 years, three months) and his successor as England coach, Roy Hodgson (66 years, 10 months). The youngest, meanwhile, will be Niko Kovac at 42 years and eight months, though Côte d’Ivoire’s French coach Sabri Lamouchi is just one month his Croatian counterpart’s senior.
58 players will celebrate their birthday over the course of Brazil 2014. First to blow out their candles, on 12 June – the tournament’s opening day – will be Chile’s Mauricio Isla (26) and Eugene Galekovic of Australia (33). Along the way, there will be festivities for the likes of Faryd Mondragon – the tournament’s oldest player will be 43 on 23 June – and Lionel Messi, who turns 27 the following day. As for John Mensa of Ghana and Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa, what better way to mark their birthdays on 13 July than appearing in a World Cup Final?
52 different countries’ leagues will be represented at Brazil 2014, with England accounting for more than any other. Indeed, no fewer than 114 of the 736 players (15.4 per cent) operate either in the Premier League or one of the lower English divisions, with Germany and Italy second and third respectively on 81 and 78. Of the 297 clubs represented, England also accounts for a tournament-high 28, with Germany again runners-up on 21. Bayern Munich, though, hold the record for a single club, with 15 of the Bundesliga champions’ players – one more than Manchester United – heading to Brazil. In leagues where the country’s national team has not qualified for the World Cup, Turkey fares best, with 26 of its clubs’ players having been called up to various squads. Europe certainly remains dominant overall, with 76 per cent of the Brazil-bound players belonging to clubs in the Old Continent. Algeria’s squad, meanwhile, is just the second in World Cup history in which 23 different clubs are represented, with Serbia having been the first four years ago.
43 is the age at which Faryd Mondragon will depart Brazil 2014, establishing the Colombia keeper as this edition’s oldest player by some distance. The second-oldest – Cafateros team-mate Mario Yepes – is four years younger at 39, with Greece’s Georgios Karagounis (37 years, four months), Noel Valladares of Honduras (37 years, two months) and Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon (36 years, five months) following behind. Mondragon is, in fact, older than two of the tournament’s coaches: Croatia’s Niko Kovac and Sabri Lamouchi of Côte d’Ivoire. If selected, the Colombia veteran will eclipse Roger Milla (42 years, one month) to become the oldest player in World Cup history.
29 is the average age that establishes Argentina’s as the oldest squad at Brazil 2014. Honduras, Iran, Portugal and Uruguay are La Albiceleste’s closest rivals in this particular chart, with all four averaging out at five months younger than the Argentinians. At the other end of the spectrum, Ghana – with an average age of 25 years and six months – will be this World Cup’s youngest, followed by African rivals Nigeria (25 years, 10 months) and Belgium (25 years, 11 months).
27 years and five months has been the overall average age of participating players at each of the last three FIFA World Cups. This consistency extends further, with only minor variations over the past two decades. Indeed, USA 1994 had the same average as the 2006, 2010 and 2014 editions, while the figure rose by two months at France 1998 and dropped back slightly to 27-and-a-half for Korea/Japan 2002.
20 previous World Cup winners will be hoping to win the Trophy for a second time in Brazil. Unsurprisingly, this list is dominated by 16 of Spain’s class of 2010, while Italy’s Andrea Barzagli, Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo will all be out to replicate their 2006 triumph. There are, however, no survivors from Brazil’s 2002 squad, with the likes of Kaka and Ronaldinho having failed to make Luiz Felipe Scolari’s final 23. In bringing 16 of the players who won the Trophy four years ago, Spain are setting a new record for reigning champions, eclipsing the 13 called up by France in 2002. Needless to say, they will hope to fare better than that Bleus team, which crashed out the first round without scoring a single goal.
18 years and one month old, Cameroon’s Fabrice Olinga is the youngest player at Brazil 2014 and, if selected, he will become the ninth-youngest in World Cup history. Remarkably, though, there will still be three Cameroonians ahead of him in the all-time top ten: Samuel Eto’o (second on 17 years, three months), Salomon Olembe (fourth on 17 years, 6 months) and Rigobert Song (seventh on 17 years, 11 months). The youngest-ever is Norman Whiteside, who played for Northern Ireland at Spain 1982 just 41 days after turning 17. Second to Olinga in Brazil, meanwhile, is England’s 19-year-old left-back, Luke Shaw, with Julian Green of USA – a month older – following closely behind in third.
14 World Cup goals establishes Miroslav Klose as the most prolific of all the players heading to Brazil. Indeed, the veteran Germany striker needs just one more to equal the tournament record set by Ronaldo in 2006. Klose can also become just the third player to score in four different editions, a feat previously managed only by compatriot Uwe Seeler and the great Pele.