The untouchables
© FIFA.com

There are few more prestigious honours than being your country's record caps holder, and it is an honour which proves just how major an impact a player has had on his national team's history.

Current FIFA World Cup™ holders Italy recently had a new name take over as their record appearant, when Fabio Cannavaro played his 127th international, surpassing AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini in the process. "Overtaking Paolo is a huge honour for me," said the 35-year-old in Basel, following Italy's 0-0 friendly draw with Switzerland.

Italy, Europe and the rest of the world should take their hats off to Fabio. He's a true professional and an example to the people of Naples.
Italy coach Marcello Lippi after Fabio Cannavaro become the country's most-capped player

His coach, Marcelo Lippi, was also full of praise, saying. "Italy, Europe and the rest of the world should take their hats off to Fabio," he said. "He's a true professional and an example to the people of Naples." Sentiments echoed by Italian FA chief Giancarlo Abete, who said: "He is dedication and professionalism personified."

Various other most-capped players from countries all over the world have received similar praise over the years, but anyone thinking that Cannavaro is leading the pack would be grossly mistaken. Even the likes of Cafu (147 caps for Brazil), Lothar Matthaus (150 for Germany) and Lilian Thuram (142 for France) do not feature among the upper echelons.

At the very top is Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al Deayea, who appeared an incredible 181 times for his country during a 16-year international career. The 37-year-old played at four FIFA World Cups and was the hero in the Saudis' triumph at the AFC Asian Cup in 1996.

However, the old cliché that only goalkeepers get better with age has been disproved by, among others, Mexico's Claudio Suarez. The defender spent three years at the top of the list before finally being edged off by Al Deayea, with Suarez's 177 appearances in the El Tri shirt a truly astounding achievement.

Third place is currently occupied by Egypt's Hossam Hassan with 169 caps. "Football is my life, I can't do without it," he explained. "For me, football isn't a job or a hobby - it's my whole world." A world in which he made his mark not only in Egypt but also in Africa during a professional career which spanned 20 years. Hassan could, however, lose his status as Egypt's most-capped player in the near future, given that his compatriot Ahmed Hassan is only a few games behind.

Despite Adnan Al Talyani (United Arab Emirates) and Cobi Jones (USA) having played on two separate continents, the two have plenty in common. Both stepped on to the pitch in senior national-team colours 164 times and, consequently, share fourth place.

There can only be one
Meanwhile, Korea Republic's Myung Bo Hong (135 caps) captained his team to the semi-finals of Korea/Japan 2002, and was presented with the adidas Bronze Ball as the third-best player at the tournament.

There are plenty of other footballing icons in the Top 20 most-capped internationals, including Ali Daei (149 caps for Iran), Thomas Ravelli (143 for Sweden) and Ivan Hurtado (160 for Ecuador), all of whom were fixtures in their respective national teams for well over a decade.

Holding the record for a country's most international caps not only gives an indication of consistency at the highest level, it is a badge of honour for those who achieve it.