The Future of European Football: Who Will Still be Around for the 2026 World Cup?

The saga of Cristiano Ronaldo never seems to end. Despite his age and declining performance, Ronaldo continues to make headlines with his presence on the field. At Euro 2024, he hinted that it might be his last tournament, but the prospect of playing in the 2026 World Cup is still on the table. At 41 years old, his determination and leadership continue to drive him forward, making his presence in the next World Cup more of a probability than a possibility. The only one who can stop Ronaldo from playing in 2026 is Ronaldo himself.

England’s captain, Harry Kane, faces a dilemma as he enters the final years of his career. At 32, Kane’s performance at Euro 2024 highlighted growing concerns about his game. While he remains a goal-scoring threat, his inability to impact games and struggles with fitness raise questions about his future in the national team. With a potential change in coaching staff and a shift in playing style, Kane’s chances of making it to the 2026 World Cup remain uncertain.

Robert Lewandowski, the Polish forward, continues to be a key player for both Barcelona and the national team. Despite a disappointing Euro 2024 campaign, Lewandowski remains committed to representing Poland in the upcoming World Cup. At 37, he shows no signs of slowing down and is likely to maintain his place in the team for as long as he desires. However, Poland’s qualification for the tournament is still up in the air, adding a layer of uncertainty to Lewandowski’s 2026 prospects.

Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium’s midfield maestro, faces challenges both on and off the field. Following a lackluster Euro 2024 performance, De Bruyne’s future in the national team remains doubtful. With talks of a possible move to Saudi Arabia and a decline in Belgium’s overall performance, the prospect of him playing in the 2026 World Cup seems unlikely. As age catches up with him, De Bruyne’s once shining career may be coming to an end sooner than anticipated.

Luka Modric, the seasoned midfielder from Croatia, continues to defy expectations with his solid performances on the pitch. Despite being 40 years old at the next World Cup, Modric’s athleticism and skill set make him a valuable asset for his national team. His passion for the game and dedication to representing Croatia suggest that he may still be a force to be reckoned with in 2026. As long as he maintains his form and fitness, Modric could very well extend his international career beyond Euro 2024.

Christian Eriksen’s journey back to the top of his game is nothing short of remarkable. After a near-fatal cardiac arrest, Eriksen has returned to the field with Manchester United and Denmark, showcasing his talent at Euro 2024. While his club future remains uncertain, Eriksen’s performance on the international stage raises hopes of him making it to the 2026 World Cup. With the right opportunity and a continued passion for the sport, Eriksen could be a strong contender for Denmark in the upcoming tournament.

Virgil van Dijk, the stalwart defender for the Netherlands, faces a pivotal moment in his career as he approaches the 2026 World Cup. At 33, Van Dijk’s experience and tactical acumen set him apart as a valuable asset for his national team. Despite contract uncertainties and potential coaching changes, Van Dijk’s odds of leading the Dutch defense in the next World Cup remain high. With his game intelligence and physical prowess, Van Dijk is poised to maintain his role as a key player for the Netherlands in 2026.

Portugal’s Pepe continues to defy age and expectations as he looks ahead to the 2026 World Cup. At 43, Pepe’s presence on the field remains indispensable for his national team. His resilience, experience, and unwavering commitment make him a formidable force in Portugal’s lineup. While age may catch up with him in the coming years, Pepe’s strong performances in Euro 2024 hint at his potential longevity in international football. As one of the oldest outfield players in major tournaments, Pepe’s legacy could endure well into the next World Cup.

Lionel Messi’s rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo takes center stage once again as he eyes the 2026 World Cup. While Messi’s career seemed to reach its pinnacle with a World Cup victory, his continued presence on the field for Argentina at the Copa América signals a potential extension of his international career. With a newfound vigor at Inter Miami CF and a home in the United States, Messi’s aspirations for the next World Cup are gaining momentum. As one of the greatest footballers of all time, Messi’s quest for one final triumph on the world stage could set the stage for an epic showdown with Ronaldo at the 2026 World Cup.

Belgium

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