"The ageing process is one thing I cannot stop," said UEFA European Championship record-holder Dino Zoff as we salute the oldest players to have appeared in qualifying.
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It takes some class and stamina to be able to play European football into your fifth decade; UEFA.com raises a toast to the five oldest players to have appeared in qualifying for the UEFA European Championship.
Italy v Sweden, 29/05/1983
Age: 41 years and 90 days
"The ageing process is one thing I cannot stop," Zoff said when announcing his retirement from the national team a year after captaining Italy to 1982 FIFA World Cup glory at the age of 40. "All that I have, I have earned through hard work," the 112-times capped goalkeeper once said of his stellar career. The secret of his longevity? Perhaps the eight eggs his grandmother Adelaide gave him each day as a teenager after he had been rejected by scouts for being too small. Zoff's awesome staying power was celebrated in an advert for corn oil in the 1980s, with the memorable slogan: "Dino Zoff, 40, but he doesn't feel like it."
Faroe Islands v Northern Ireland, 10/08/2011
Age: 40 years and 359 days
Having also played as a forward in his youth, Mikkelsen eventually committed to goalkeeping. It was a fine decision: he won titles in the Faroes with KÍ Klaksvík (1991) and B36 Tórshavn (2005), and a Danish crown with Herfølge BK in 1999/2000. With spells in Norway and Scotland also under his belt, at 43 he agreed to stave off retirement for another season to help out ÍF Fuglafjørdur. "It's no big deal," he joked after becoming the oldest No1 to feature in a FIFA-approved international in 2012, aged 42. "It would have been much better to have been the best."
Moldova v Malta, 17/10/2007
Age: 40 years and 237 days
At the time he was called in as emergency cover for this match against Malta, defender Stroenco had not played national-team football for six years and was six months older than his country's coach, Igor Dobrovolski. He promptly became Moldova's oldest international player – and ended his career soon afterwards with 445 league outings, another national record. "He wasn't scared, did not make a single mistake and left the pitch with the captain's armband," Dobrovolski said after the Malta fixture. Tragically, Stroenco was killed in a car accident in December 2013 at the age of 46.
Scotland v Spain 12/10/2010
Age: 40 years and 155 days
Weir returned to the Scotland fold under Walter Smith in September 2010, having called time on his international career eight years earlier during the Berti Vogts era. Speaking to UEFA.com before his comeback against Lithuania and Liechtenstein in 2010, he made light of his advancing years. "I try not to think about the past, I just focus on the future. Maybe one day when I've retired I'll sit down and take a bit of satisfaction from that, but I don't think of myself as a 40-year-old. I just think of myself as one of the players."
Scotland v Estonia, 10/10/1998
Age: 40 years and 78 days
More than anyone, Leighton helped lay to rest the perennial English jibe about Scotland's 'suspect' goalkeepers. A key member of Sir Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen FC side that won the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup, Leighton's national-team career ran from 1982 to 1998, when he made his final appearance against Estonia – setting what was then a record as Scotland's oldest player. "Jim Leighton was magnificent," Craig Brown, his manager that day, told UEFA.com. "To earn 91 caps and keep 45 clean sheets for Scotland – not Italy, Germany or Brazil – was a stunning achievement."