Some of the greatest football names who have never achieved World Cup success
The first goalkeeper to win the Golden Ball as the World Cup’s best player, Germany captain Oliver Kahn took his side to the final in 2002 with five clean sheets out of six matches played. It was in the final against Brazil, spearheaded by Ronaldo, that Kahn lost one of the biggest opportunities of his glittering career despite winning eight Bundesliga titles in over 500 appearances for Bayern Munich.
Ryan Giggs played for the Welsh side for 16 years till 2007, scoring 12 times for his country. He holds the record for second most appearances in English Premier League, winning thirteen titles, four FA Cups and two Champions Leagues during his career with Manchester United, also holding a place in the PFA Team of the year six times. Giggs, however, never got the chance to qualify for a major international tournament. Sadly, during his International career, Wales failed to qualify for both World Cup as well as European Championship.
The name on every Portuguese’ lips during World Cup, before Ronaldo, was Ballon d’Or winner Eusebio, the country’s greatest footballer ever. The top-scorer in 1966 World Cup in England, Eusebio is remembered for inspiring his side to a comeback in the quarterfinals against North Korea by scoring four goals in 30 minutes. Twice-winner of the Golden Boot, Eusebio, known as the Black Panther, has led Portugal to third and their best position at the tournament.
Best known for the ‘Cruyff Turn’, Johan Cruyff spearheaded Netherlands to the final of 1974 World Cup. Three-time Ballon d’Or winner, Cruyff scored three goals during the tournament and Netherlands became the best team to not win the World Cup. After the retirement of Cruyff, who had a highly successful career with Ajax and Barcelona, Netherlands lost another final in 1978.
Considered one of the greatest players of his times and infamously remembered for his transfer from Barcelona to rivals Real Madrid, Luis Figo helped Portugal qualify for 2002 World Cup, when his side was eliminated in group-stages. But it was in 2006 that Figo took Portugal to semifinals, their best performance in the World Cup since Eusebio. In the semifinals, Figo-led team went down to France, courtesy a penalty from Zinedine Zidane.
Alfredo Di Stefano
Alfredo Di Stefano comes under the category of one of the greatest players to never play a World Cup. Quite interestingly, Di Stefano, a Real Madrid legend, represented two countries internationally – Spain and Argentina. As luck would have it, Argentina decided to not participate in the football tournaments in 1950 as well as 1954, which would have been his first two World Cup appearances. Two years later, he decided to change his nationality and play for Spain, who failed to qualify for World Cup in 1958. Four years later, Di Stefano helped Spain qualify for World Cup, but could not participate due to an injury.
Despite being a part of a talented squad with David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Stephen Gerrard, Michael Owen, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, the English midfielder Paul Scholes has been eluded of World Cup success, going down against Argentina in 1998 Round of 16 and Brazil in 2002 quarterfinals. Scholes announced retirement from international football in 2004, saying his family and club are his priorities. Despite calls to reconsider his decision and return to the England squad in 2006 and 2010, Scholes stuck to his decision, which he admitted that he regretted later.
Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben
Both Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben have appeared for Netherlands in three World Cups – 2006, 2010 and 2014. Under Van Persie, Netherlands lost their best chance of a World Cup title when they went down to Spain in 2010 final with a goal from Andres Iniesta in extra time. Robben, who was nominated for the Golden Ball, took over as the captain of Oranje after they won their first third place at the World Cup in 2014. Robben retired from international football after Netherlands failed to even qualify for World Cup this year.
Five-times Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo helped Portugal become the European champions in 2016. The 33-year old, who has under his name three Premier League titles, two La Liga titles and a record-tying five Champions League trophies is entering his fourth FIFA World Cup this year and probably his last. After winning the UCL title for a record third time in succession, Ronaldo now has his eyes set on the World Cup despite taking a team to Russia that is not very rich in quality. The Portugal captain continues to be the record-holder for both goals and appearances for his country.
Messi’s magic took Argentina to 2014 final where they went down to Germany 1-0. Luck has somehow failed the Barcelona talisman at the International arena as the World Cup grief was followed by Copa America defeat in the final, the misery of which made him announce retirement from International football. Argentina are highly reliant on Messi, who scored a hat-trick in their 4-0 World Cup warm-up win over Haiti on Tuesday. The Argentinian, who will turn 31 on June 24, boasts of eight La Liga titles, four Champions League titles and five Ballon d’Or awards.