The conclusion of a World Cup, soccer’s most coveted trophy, is a natural end point for many players’ international careers. While much of the retirement speculation leading up to and during the World Cup in Qatar has focused on Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, neither have pulled the trigger, expressing their desire to continue representing Argentina and Portugal respectively.
However, since December, some of the best-known players in the sport have decided to retire. Fox News takes you through some of them here:
With 111 appearances and 41 goals, 33-year-old Gareth Bale became a talisman for the tiny nation of Wales, taking them further on the international stage than many thought they would.
In 2006, at the age of 16, Bale became the youngest player at the time to represent Wales. An explosive winger and technical master, Bale led his compatriots by example. During Euro 2016, he scored a free kick in a 2-1 group stage win against Slovakia, leading Wales to their first major tournament victory in 58 years. Bale would score twice more as Wales reached the semi-finals of the competition, eliminating Belgium’s golden generation in the process. The team also reached the round of 16 of Euro 2020 with Bale as captain.
Reaching the World Cup remained Bale’s biggest aspiration, and he was solely responsible for leading the team through the final two stages of World Cup qualifying, scoring three times in matches against Austria and Ukraine.
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«How do I describe what it means to me to be a part of this country and team? How do I articulate the impact it has had on my life? How do I put into words the way I feel, every time I put on that Welshman? My My answer is that I couldn’t do any of those things justice, just with words,» Bale explained in a statement to his «Welsh Family».
While some small nations swear by a talisman, others have entire generations filling them with hope. Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, 32-year-old Eden Hazard was one of the main reasons Belgium was seen as having a golden generation over the past decade.
Hazard played for Belgium 126 times and scored 33 goals. He was also team captain during the period from 2018 to 2022 when Belgium topped the FIFA rankings.
Belgium’s best chance at the honors came at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Although viewed as the favorites in that tournament, the team was knocked out by eventual champions France in the semi-finals.
Hazard will be remembered for his pace and solo efforts in goal.
“Today a page is turned… Thank you for all this happiness shared since 2008. I have decided to end my international career. The sequence is ready. I will miss you, ”Hazard wrote on his Instagram account.
World Cup winner Hugo Lloris, 36, suffered an agonizing result against Argentina in the Qatar final, unable to save enough penalties in the shootout to prevent them from becoming champions. However, Lloris leaves the national team with his head held high, having lifted the trophy in Russia in 2018 and coming close to captaining France to victory for the second time.
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Lloris also started in the Euro 2016 final against Portugal, which France lost by a goal after extra time.
The goalkeeper made his debut for Les Bleus in 2008 and has made a record 145 appearances. 121 of those appearances have been as France captain, another record.
«I’ve really been thinking about [retirement] since the end of the World Cup, but there is something deep inside of me for maybe six months and that grew during the competition, which led me to make this decision», explained Lloris.
«There comes a time when you have to step aside. I have always said that the French team does not belong to just one person,» he added.
In statements on his Instagram, Sergio Busquets, 34, explained: «It has been an honor to represent my country and take it to the top, to be World and European champion, to be captain and play so many games, with more or less Less successful but always giving everything and contributing my grain of sand so that everything turned out as well as possible.”
The midfielder, who stood out stealing the ball from his rival, represented Spain on 143 occasions. Only Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos exceeded the limits of Busquets.
His retirement marks the end of an era for Spain: Busquets was the last member of the team that lifted the World Cup trophy in South Africa in 2010. He was also part of the team that won Euro 2012, a team that included other players . Noted for his technical skills such as Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández.
Asked about his reaction to the news of Busquets’ withdrawal, Xavi, now Barcelona’s coach, explained that «he is a player who has made history, a legend. One of the best midfielders in world football and the best defensive midfielder in the history of Barcelona». Spain. I congratulate».
The current holder of the UEFA Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or awards has had a complex and unfortunate relationship with the French national team.
Since 2007, 35-year-old Karim Benzema has made 97 appearances for France and scored 37 goals. However, Benzema has missed each of the last three tournaments in which France has reached the final.
After being France’s top scorer at the 2014 World Cup, he was banned from the national team from October 2015 until France manager Didier Deschamps removed him in May 2021. At the time, in 2015, Benzema was experiencing legal trouble due to his involvement in a plot to blackmail fellow France international Mathieu Valbuena.
Although he mended his relationship with Deschamps, his dream of winning the World Cup ended before the tournament began in Qatar when he tore a muscle in his left thigh during training.
«I made the effort and the mistakes to be where I am today and I am proud of it! I have written my story and ours is over,» wrote Benzema on his 35th birthday.