Forget Your Dreams: This Data Proves You're Too Old To Play In A World Cup Team

By James O Malley on at

When you were young, did you ever dream of one day being on the England football team, walking out into a packed World Cup stadium and representing your country on the pitch? I sure didn’t, but I was definitely bullied by people who did.

In any case, we’ve been crunching the numbers at Gizmodo UK and looking at when the players in this year’s World Cup were born. Specifically, we’ve been trying to work out at what age you’re over the hill - and the bad news is that once you’re over the age of 27, in football terms at least, your best years are behind you.

There are 737 players in the World Cup - each of the 32 squads has now named 23 players. And of those players, here’s how they break down based on their age at kick-off on Thursday:

The youngest player in the tournament is Australia’s Daniel Arzani, who is 19 and was born on the 4th January 1999. To put that into context, The Simpsons was already bad by the time he was born. There are six other 19 year olds in the tournament too - including England’s Trent Alexander-Arnold.

At the other end of the scale is… holy shit… yes, that really is a 45 year old player. Essam El Hadary has been named as one of Egypt’s goalkeepers, and - amazingly - he has been on the Egyptian national team since 1996, from back when The Simpsons was still good.

Old Man El Hadary is clearly an exception though, as the distribution above clearly shows that most World Cup players are in their late 20s - with 25 the most common age. This makes some intuitive sense too, as they will be old enough to have played and trained for several years at a professional level, while having not yet ground their bones down to dust like you have.

Both the median and mean ages are 27. In other words, you’re almost definitely past it.

Youngest World Cup Team

One of the most notable aspects of this World Cup’s England squad is just how damn young the team is - with an average age of 25.56 years. This means that probably only their three oldest players, Jamie Vardy, Gary Cahill and Ashley Young have any actual memory of their manager Gareth Southgate missing that penalty and fucking up Euro 96 for us.

But how do the rest of the teams compare? As you can see above, England has the second youngest team - beaten only by Nigeria, which has an average age of 25.48 years. France too has fielded a young team, which weirdly averages out to being exactly the same as England’s average age, to at least 8 decimal places.

The oldest team in the tournament is Costa Rica, who England defeated the other day in a pre-tournament friendly 2-0. Presumably the Costa Rican team were too slow with their zimmer frames, and were delayed when they had to ask someone had to explain what the sentence “I’m stanning for woke dabbers” means.

Changing Position

There might be some good news. What if the data is being skewed by player position? Sure, those strikers might be young whippersnappers, but maybe there’s still time for you yet in one of the most sedate positions on the pitch?

Maybe there is still time for you to achieve your dreams?

Actually, nope. While this year’s World Cup data does suggest that goalkeepers can stick around for much longer than other positions, it is still a young man’s game as goalies have an average age of 28.89 years. Forwards, meanwhile are a spritely 26.93 on average.

Oh and for some reason, we also checked the average age of each shirt number on the pitch, as we were able to download that data from FIFA too. Obviously there definitely shouldn’t be any correlations here. These numbers are essentially completely random, save for a few inconsistently applied football traditions (such as making strikers number 7).

But hang on, what the hell? There definitely appears to be a weak correlation where a lower numbered shirt means a higher average age?

Not that this helps you. If you’re reading this article you’re almost definitely too old to ever play in a World Cup. And let’s face it, if you were going to play in the World Cup, you’d probably be training right now rather than pissing around on the internet, skiving off from your office job.

So sorry, the numbers don’t lie: You’re too old. So give up on your footballing dreams.

James O’Malley is Interim Editor of Gizmodo UK and tweets as @Psythor.