World Cups often mark the end of a cycle for players and managers.
There is usually a sense of inevitability that precedes, and then succeeds, major tournament campaigns. That has certainly been the case following the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
A handful of ageing players have decided to hang up their international boots while several managers have either handed in their notice or been shown the door.
Here, The Athletic runs you through each of those who have called it a day or left their post.
Which players have retired after the World Cup?
This will be updated as more retirements are confirmed.
Eden Hazard — Belgium
Eden Hazard was the first to confirm that he would no longer be playing international football after Belgium were knocked out of a group that they were widely expected to win.
All the best, captain. ❤️?? #MerciEden pic.twitter.com/Rsa0Mwf18T
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) December 7, 2022
The Real Madrid winger has been a key part of his nation’s ‘Golden Generation’ but a feeling of underachievement will forever define that group of players in the history books.
Their best chance at glory came in Russia four years ago. Belgium were seen, by many, as the best team at the tournament but they were knocked out by France — who went on to win the World Cup — in the semi-final.
For the second time at that particular tournament, Roberto Martinez’s side beat England in the third-place play-off. It may have been the nation’s best-ever World Cup finish but it was a real missed opportunity, all the same.
The tired, ageing team of 2022 only further emphasised the failure of 2018.
As for Hazard, still relatively young at 31, his struggles at club level have been well documented. The trajectory of his career has nosedived since he left Chelsea and Martinez came under extreme scrutiny for even playing him in Qatar given his lack of action at the Bernabeu.
He retires with 126 caps and 33 goals to his name.
Wahbi Khazri — Tunisia
One of Tunisian football’s greatest legends also chose to call it a day for his country after the conclusion of the World Cup.
Wahbi Khazri felt the timing was right to retire internationally after he and his team-mates were unable to make it out of Group D in Qatar.
A win against France and a draw against Denmark were two very respectable results in a group they were never expected to progress from. It was Khazri who netted the winner against the eventual finalists in the final game, cementing his place as the country’s leading World Cup goalscorer with three goals.
The 31-year-old branded the victory one of the best moments of his career and spoke of the pride he, and his family, felt every time he pulled on the Tunisia shirt.
His decision to call it a day was met by an outpouring of emotion from supporters in his homeland.
Sergio Busquets — Spain
A legend of the game and a part of arguably the best midfield of all time also decided that enough was enough after this World Cup.
Sergio Busquets confirmed that he wouldn’t play for Spain again after their penalty shootout defeat to Morocco in the last 16. Despite Luis Enrique claiming that he would like to see the veteran defensive midfielder play at another World Cup, it was not enough to convince him to continue.
For both club and country, Busquets made up perhaps the most formidable midfield trio ever alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
The three Spaniards won everything on offer for Barcelona as well as the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012. Busquets made his Spain debut a year after his two team-mates were part of the Euro 2008-winning squad.
Now 34, it was never going to be long before he called time on his international career, especially as his staggeringly consistent form has started to desert him somewhat at club level.
Throughout Spain’s rather disappointing World Cup campaign, he still showed exactly why there is so much trust placed in him but another major tournament seemed a step too far.
143 caps, two goals, a World Cup and a European Championship were the fruits of his 13-year labour with La Roja.
Which managers have left after the World Cup?
This will be updated as more exits are confirmed.
Gerardo Martino — Mexico
Gerardo Martino was the first of the World Cup managers to be relieved of his duties.
It was a campaign to forget for Mexico as they failed to make it out of the group stage for the first time since 1978.
Group C — which contained eventual winners Argentina — was one Martino’s side were largely expected to progress from. They almost did in dramatic fashion in their final game but Poland ultimately went through as runners-up.
On the same day as Mexico were eliminated, Martino had his contract terminated.
Roberto Martinez — Belgium
It is hardly ground-breaking that managers will be sent on their way after underwhelming tournament performances and that is certainly the theme throughout this list of exits.
Belgium were perhaps the greatest underachievers of this World Cup so there was little surprise when Roberto Martinez confirmed he would not be continuing.
An ageing ‘Golden Generation’, yes but it was still littered with some of the world’s best players. Unfortunately, Martinez’s stubbornness and trust in veterans cost his nation a place in the knockouts and him his job.
In the future, the last five or six years of Belgian football will be largely reflected on with despair as the Spaniard had a squad at his disposal that was more than capable of lifting a trophy or two.
Otto Addo — Ghana
There was always a likelihood that Otto Addo would step down as Ghana head coach at the end of the World Cup. And that is exactly what transpired.
He took over as interim back in February and ensured his country would be playing at the finals in Qatar.
The Black Stars were placed in one of the tougher groups at the tournament with Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea for company in Group H. Ultimately, a total of three points was their yield after being edged out by Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, beating South Korea and losing to Uruguay.
As expected, Addo stood down following the group stage exit and will return to his role as a talent coach at Borussia Dortmund.
Paulo Bento — South Korea
Another casualty of the teams in Group H was Paulo Bento.
He actually managed to guide South Korea into the knockouts but they ran into tournament favourites Brazil.
As many expected, the five-time winners steamrolled their last-16 opponents and Bento called time on his four-year spell as manager. It transpired that he had already made the pre-World Cup decision to hand in his notice once South Korea were eliminated.
A break from management will now follow for the Portuguese coach before looking at his options for the future.
Luis Enrique — Spain
Live by the sword and die by the sword seems a perfect proverb to describe Luis Enrique.
In his time as Spain manager, he often made decisions that left fans and pundits baffled. On the majority of those occasions, he usually proved why he is the man trusted to make such choices.
However, his strange and sometimes outlandish decisions came back to bite him at the World Cup. There were glaring omissions from his squad such as David de Gea, Sergio Ramos and Thiago.
A 7-0 opening win against Costa Rica left everyone thinking Spain were real contenders to win a second World Cup but, from there, the campaign unravelled quite quickly.
They just squeezed out of Group E and then came undone immediately in the knockouts. A tepid, toothless display against perhaps the most organised side in the whole tournament led to defeat on penalties to Morocco.
After 120 minutes without a goal, Enrique’s side couldn’t even score in the shootout and the former Barcelona boss was replaced instantly.
Tite — Brazil
When you lead the tournament favourites into a World Cup, anything less than reaching final feels like a significant underachievement.
In fact, for the people of Brazil, only a sixth title would have been enough in Qatar. So, when the Selecao were knocked out on penalties by Croatia in the quarter-final, Tite had to go.
He admitted that his cycle had come to an end following the defeat and no one will have argued with that. Tite had already said he would leave after the tournament back in February, and he just confirmed that decision.
The squad at his disposal should not have been beaten by Croatia, or anyone really.
The 61-year-old did say that the future is bright for Brazil with a plethora of top-class young players coming through. But try telling that to Neymar who, now 30, might not have another chance to match the accomplishments of his idols.
Louis van Gaal — Netherlands
Like for Tite, and a few other managers on this list, there was an overwhelming sense that this would be Louis van Gaal’s final stab at international management, and perhaps management in general.
At 71 years old and having suffered from cancer over the last year, retirement may well follow after a brilliant career.
There was to be no fairytale end to his third spell in charge of his country. A penalty shootout defeat to eventual champions Argentina was his final act as Netherlands boss.
He revealed after the match, before mentioning anything else, that he would be stepping down.
Fernando Santos — Portugal
Another of international football’s elder statesmen would step down after quarter-final defeat.
????? ??? for everything, Coach Fernando Santos. ? #WearTheFlag pic.twitter.com/ky6BnxQLlk
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) December 15, 2022
Fernando Santos — the man who led Portugal to Euro 2016 and Nations League triumph — stepped down from his role as the national manager.
They made relatively easy work of making it into the knockouts and were devastating in their 6-1 demolition of Switzerland. But they ran into the World Cup’s surprise package Morocco in the quarter-final and that was their undoing.
Questions were asked of Santos heading into the tournament. Ronaldo hadn’t been playing for Manchester United and many felt his inclusion made the team weaker overall.
But the 37-year-old started in each of the group stage games before an unacceptable reaction to being substituted against South Korea angered the manager. That meant he dropped to the bench for the last 16 and his replacement, Goncalo Ramos, took full advantage with a hat-trick in his first international start.
Unsurprisingly, Ronaldo started on the bench again for the quarter-final but there wasn’t to be the same success for Santos who watched his team fail to break down Morocco, crashing out in the process.
(Top photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)