With a 1-0 loss to Uruguay, Italy failed to move into the second stage of the 2014 World Cup, leaving many Italian fans and teammates feeling robbed and cheated at the hands of the refs and Luis Suarez.
What now will be questioned is whether or not Italy’s aging stars will compete in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, particularly Andrea Pirlo. Pirlo is 35 and will be 39 entering 2018, which makes many wonder if he can still play. I say he can, but according to Pirlo, this will be his last World Cup.
I’m not convinced. Look at how many people have said they will retire and came back to play the game they spent half of their lives perfecting? Two names I can name off the top of my head are Michael Jordan and Brett Favre, but those are two completely different athletes in completely different sports.
Pirlo, despite being 35, is still considered one of the best at his position. All the man does is pass the ball, sprint lightly and then take free kicks from just outside of the 18-yard box. In the three games he played in this year’s World Cup, he completed 90.2 percent of his passes and played every minute of each game, which is simply incredible. How many players in this World Cup at that age can complete 90-plus percent of his passes?
Let me answer that for you: not many. There were only three other players who completed 90-plus percent of their passes along with 200-plus attempted passes: Javier Mascherano, Gary Medel and Daniele De Rossi.
Pirlo completed 249 of his 276 total passes, which is insane. To say he cannot continue playing at this level is ridiculous. He isn’t a striker; he’s a playmaker who does not move around the whole pitch. Pirlo stays in one place and one place only — the middle.
I hope that Pirlo can continue to play at this level and plays in the next World Cup, because he is simply fascinating to watch. He is just good at everything. He is a wine connoisseur and owns a stake in a metal trading company back home in Brescia. When 2018 comes rolling around, I expect Pirlo to be on the pitch in Russia doing what he does best: passing the ball and taking free kicks.
Collin Ruby is a Soccer Writer for RantSports.com, follow him on Twitter @Collin_Ruby