|Life After Football|
It was a slightly mad day as the final round of group games began.
All was settled in Group A already as the hosts and Uruguay pulled ahead of the rest after their second games, whilst in Group B, it seemed a formality that the giants of Spain and Portugal would drift past Morocco and Iran respectively. Yet, there was plenty of chaos to enjoy as both Iberian sides flirted with exiting the tournament and, in Group A, a new World Record was set.
Essam El-Hadary, highlighted by some before the tournament as a quirky side story, did indeed become the oldest ever player to feature at a World Cup finals. The 45-year-old goalkeeper who made his professional debut in football in 1993, was given a run out in Egypt's final game of this World Cup. An Egypt debutant in 1995, El-Hadary's international career has spanned across three decades and either side of the millennium, playing over 150 games in that time.
So, his inclusion in the starting line-up had a very testimonial feel to it. Like the guy would simply have a chance to set the record and say goodbye to football at this level. That was until Saudi Arabia were awarded a penalty. Fahad Al Muwallad stepped up, perhaps perplexed by the footballing grandad in front of him. And, to the surprise of everyone apart from those in Egypt shirts, this legend of Egyptian football saved the penalty at the ripest of old ages.
He would later concede a second attempted penalty and a late winner, too, from his Saudi opponents, something that will surely sour the taste. But when the dust settles on this game and on this 2018 World Cup, Essam El-Hadary will be remembered forever as the oldest player to feature and the oldest 'keeper to stop a pen. A worthy Comrade of the Day.