Our countdown has reached four days, with the 2014 World Cup’s opening game between Brazil and Croatia now so close you can almost touch it.
Italy’s 2006 winner Gianluigi Buffon is one of only three men to be selected in the squad for five different World Cups, and he’ll be eager to prove that he’s still got it when he takes to the field in Brazil, whilst there are four men for whom 2014 will be a fourth appearance at world football’s biggest showpiece.
Here they are:
Miroslav Klose (Germany) – 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014
Not just four World Cups for German goalscoring master Miroslav Klose, but also 14 goals to place him joint-second in the tournament’s all-time top scorers’ list.
Now at Lazio, Klose would become the tournament’s highest scorer ever with two goals at the finals in Brazil, although he is expected to play more of a supporting role to younger attacking talents such as Thomas Muller, Lukas Podolski and Andre Schurrle.
He won the Golden Boot when Germany hosted the tournament in 2006.
Xavi (Spain) – 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014
Spain were still regarded as international failures when Xavi appeared for them at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, but all that changed in South Africa four years ago.
The midfield maestro dominated in the centre of the pitch as the Spanish swept to glory in South Africa, where his midfield partner Andres Iniesta fired the winning goal in extra-time in the final against the Netherlands.
Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) – 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014
Remarkably, Samuel Eto’o has reached this milestone despite the fact that Cameroon failed to qualify for Germany 2006.
The veteran forward was the youngest participant at France 98 when he appeared in a loss to Italy aged 17 years and three months, whilst he scored goals at both the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan and the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
Iker Casillas (Spain) – 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014
Spain’s goalkeeper achieved the ultimate footballing high when he lifted the World Cup trophy in Johannesburg four years ago, and he’s been his country’s undisputed No. 1 pretty much ever since coming into the team for the injured Santiago Canizares ahead of the 2002 World Cup.
Still only 33, Casillas enters his fourth tournament with a very good chance of reaching a fifth in Russia in four years’ time.
Rafael Marquez (Mexico) – 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014
Mexico’s Rafael Marquez is battling an injury ahead of this tournament, and the former Barcelona defender has certainly had an impact at his previous World Cups.
Installed as captain as a 23-year-old at Korea/Japan 2002, Marquez was sent off in a second round defeat to the USA for headbutting Cobi Jones, then four years later he scored against Argentina in a match more commonly remembered for a Maxi Rodriguez wonder strike, and then in 2010 he scored Mexico’s equaliser as they held hosts South Africa to a 1-1 draw in the opening game of the tournament.
How will the veterans do this time around? Check out our World Cup odds!