Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
They say that the thirties are the new twenty’s, and that forties are the new thirties. And so on. However, these epigrams are certainly not true in the world of football.
Indeed, the ‘beautiful game’ doesn’t suffer age gladly; when most footballers reach the 30-years-of-age milestone the countdown to the end of their playing career has well and truly begun.
Conversely, there are a lucky few in terms of outfield players that belie their advancing years on the pitch. Ryan Giggs is a prime example. What players such as Giggs possess is a superior footballing brain.
These players compensate for their diminishing pace by exhibiting heightened intelligence on the pitch. They read the game as it unfolds in a way that most youthful, exuberant players are unable to match. Their passing range is outstanding.
Here are four thirtysomethings that are poised to make a big impact in this summer’s World Cup in Brazil:
Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
England face Italy in their opening Group D match and the Three Lions’ manager has highlighted Pirlo as the Azzurri’s main threat, not Mario Balotelli. And with good reason.
The Juventus midfielder will be 35 when the World Cup commences, but he still possesses an innate ability to control games from the middle of the park – and he is a true artist when it comes to set-pieces.
Pirlo has never been particularly quick on his legs, but his footballing brain is sharper than that of most players 10 years his junior. His ability to pick out a killer pass makes him incredibly dangerous.
He was part of the Italy squad that won the tournament in Germany in 2006 and, in what is almost certain to be his World Cup swan song this year, Pirlo can show the youngsters how it’s done in Brazil.
World Cup Betting Odds – Reckon Pirlo can guide the Italians to another victory in the tournament? If so, the Azzurri are a top-priced 28/1 with BetVictor.
Steven Gerrard (England)
At the age of 33, Gerrard has looked as good as ever for Liverpool this season, a campaign in which the Reds appear destined to be crowned Premier League champions.
It’s fair to say that Gerrard’s best career performances have been for club rather than country, but that’s not necessarily his fault – for years now managers have failed in their bid to get the balance right within the England team.
Still, there is hope that Roy Hodgson will get the formula right in Brazil. And Gerrard is likely to be joined in the starting XI against Italy on June 14 by Liverpool teammates Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, players that he clearly gels very well with.
Gerrard will be 38 by the time of the next World Cup, so this is highly likely to be the last one in which he is involved as a player. That will serve as an added source of motivation for the midfield fulcrum and he can shine in Brazil.
World Cup Betting Odds – Will Gerrard and the Three Lions roar in Brazil? They’re 33/1 to win the World Cup for the first time since 1966 with William Hill.
Andres Iniesta (Spain)
The Spaniard will be 30 when the curtain is raised on the World Cup, but judging by his performances for Barcelona this season Iniesta’s powers are not waning. Not one bit.
Iniesta was elevated to legendary status in South Africa four years ago. His goal deep in extra time against Holland saw Spain crowned world champions for the first time in history.
The La Blaugrana playmaker has also been a pivotal part of the Spain squad that has won the last two European titles. He brings real cutting-edge to an incredibly gifted Spanish side, and is arguably their most influential player.
Vicente del Bosque’s men face a tough task in their bid to retain their crown in Brazil this summer, but underestimate them at your peril. And underestimate Iniesta at your peril.
World Cup Betting Odds – Can Spain successfully defend their crown? If you believe they will, you can back La Roja at 7/1 in the tournament outright betting with Bet365.
Arjen Robben (Holland)
Robben hit the 30 landmark in January, but he has looked as good as ever Bayern Munich this term, as the Bavarians continue their ascent towards another season of domestic and European domination.
The winger has something of a petulant streak to his game – as Premier League fans will recall from his time with Chelsea – but there is little doubt that he is one of the most dangerous attacking midfielders in the game.
Robben played an instrumental role in Holland’s excellent 2010 World Cup campaign, in which the Dutch went agonisingly close to finally ending their hoodoo in the tournament
It remains to be seen whether the Oranje will go quite so far this time round, but expect Robben to make his mark in Brazil. His incisive approach and long-range shooting ability will strike fear into opposition defenders.
World Cup Betting Odds – Will Holland go one better than in South Africa? If you believe Louis van Gaal can steer the Dutch to glory this summer, they can be backed at 35/1 with Betfair.