At 35, Andrea Pirlo could be forgiven if his form dipped and his career began to decline. However what has happened is quite the opposite. Pirlo’s game has never been based on pace and his experience and calmness on the field has only increased with age. Pirlo is the player that makes the Italians tick, he will sit deep and manipulate games as he has done his whole career. He is so important that Italy have developed numerous tactics to ensure Pirlo has the freedom to play, they will pull him back or switch him from side to side to allow the veteran the space to dictate attacks. Many teams believe if Pirlo is stopped so are Italy, but that is easier said than done. If Pirlo can find the form he has so often shown in his long career, don’t be surprised if he steers Italy deep into the knockout stages of the tournament.
34 year old Gerrard has undergone a transformation this season from the all action box-to-box midfielder to a deep-lying playmaker, and he has excelled. The Liverpool man has shown some of the best form of his career at the perfect time in the eyes of England fans. Roy Hodgson has huge faith in Gerrard, instantly making him captain of the national side upon his appointment and Gerrard is desperate to repay it. Gerrard is undoubtedly a key man for England, leading by example with pinpoint passing and deadly set pieces. If England are to go far he will have to be on top of his game.
Xavi is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the modern game and also one of the most successful with 19 major titles. With an incredible 131 caps the 34 year old Spaniard has already been there and done it on the world stage numerous times. After a slightly disappointing for Barcelona, Spain will be banking on the playmaker to recapture his best form in Rio. Along with Xavi’s obvious strengths of passing and wision, he also has a quite incredible level of fitness. This allows him to be an engine in the middle for his country meaning Spain can harry opponents into mistakes, which Xavi has the skill to take full advantage of.
As Australia’s all-time top scorer, Tim Cahill is used to a weight of expectation when he lines-up for his country, but in Brazil that weight will be heavier than ever. Cahill is the undoubted leader in a very young Socceroos squad. The former Everton man is famous for his late runs into the box and his aerial prowess. With a tough group including Chile, Holland and Spain, Australia could be pinning their hopes on Cahill for goals. But at 34 years of age there are serious question marks over whether the talisman can produce the goods.
With 101 caps and a record 65 goals, Didier Drogba is somewhat of a legend in his native Ivory Coast. The influence of the 36 year old captain cannot be underestimated, he is a player that demands nothing but the best from himself and his team mates. On the field his play is seemingly ageless, he still plays with the same power and aggression that made him such a success at Stamford Bridge. The emergence of Wilfried Bony has raised some question marks over his place in the team, but it will be no surprise to see Drogba lining up in the first game. With pace around him, Drogba will get the service he craves, and could grab a few goals in a tight group C.