With its beginnings in 1930, the FIFA World Cup has become the most-watched sports event in the world. It is the ultimate prize for a sports team or individual. Not even the top players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr. have won the World Cup.
It is an honor to earn a national team cap, but representing your country in the World Cup is an even bigger deal. Even the greatest athletes have moments when they cannot perform to their highest potential on the grandest stages. But we must appreciate all the heroes of the FIFA World Cup who made history with their performance. Here are the names of a few of them who have excelled in the FIFA world cup history.
Here Is Our List
- Jóhann Cruyff
Cruyff is notable for being one of the few players on this list never to win a World Cup. Although the Netherlands had a strong team during the Total Football era, the team’s success was ultimately credited to Cruyff. The famous move he used to mislead Swedish defender Jan Olsson in the group stage is symbolic of his technical prowess and creative flair (a 0-0 draw in the end).
The Dutch were confident after taking the lead in the second minute and lost the championship game. They were willing to “float the ball around in lovely patterns,” as football writer Brian Glanville put it. That is pure Cruyff.
- Zinedine Zidane
The basic rule of thumb for France in international competitions is that for every promising performance in which they deliver on their promise, there will be an utterly wild outing that will ultimately result in Patrice Evra being sent home for fighting. The rule was personified in Zinedine Zidane. He deserves to have the facility named in his honor.
After a controversial start and a red card against Saudi Arabia, he kept calm and scored twice as Les Bleus defeated Brazil in the 1998 final. This is one of the most memorable performances in FIFA history. Of course who can forget the 2006 FIFA finals when he scored the opening goal for France and then headbutted Italian player which won him a red card and Italy their 4th world cup.
Garrincha played with a problem in his left leg his whole career, but he was still thought to be Brazil’s best player in the 1950s and 1960s, along with Pele. He set up both of Brazil’s goals in the 1958 World Cup final in Sweden, which they won to become the first country to win the World Cup.
After four more years, the players who helped Brazil defend its World Cup title in 1962 and win it again voted him the best player. He has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he belongs on the list of the top 10 FIFA World Cup heroes of all time.
Even though he only competed in three World Cups, Der Kaiser never finished worse than a third. Beckenbauer initially came to attention in 1966, scoring five times as West Germany reached the final. He was a superb, refined sweeper in an age when pitches and permissive officiating made that a lot tougher (John Stones would have been eaten alive).
Four years later, he displayed his potent long-range attack when the Germans exacted a measure of retribution by sending England home early with a bag full of stolen jewelry.
A third World Cup victory medal may have been Original Ronaldo’s if not for the bizarre events of the night before the 1998 final. The striker traveled to the 1994 World Cup but did not play a single game, even though his presence would have been welcomed in a competition that was short on goals. After those additional four years, he had developed into the finest player in the world, a force to be reckoned with due to his lightning speed, overwhelming strength, and fearsome mentality.
A fantastic performer who led Brazil to the final with four goals and three assists, the striker was a mere ghost of his typical self in the 3-0 loss to host France in the final. After missing Brazil’s whole 2002 qualifying campaign due to a cruciate injury, he arrived in Asia with a hairstyle you could see on the morning after a wild party (earlier this year, he said the haircut was a deliberate ploy to distract people from his injury – it worked so well we wonder if other players have been doing this). He scored 2 goals against a powerful German side in the 2022 FIFA final and Brazil won the cup for a record 5th time. Ronaldo The Phenomenon was the name he earned and as the fans of his say ‘There is only one Ronaldo’ and he played for Brazil.
- Gerd Muller
Before Lionel Messi came along, Gerd Muller was known as the “machine of destruction” in front of the goal. He scored more goals than anyone else at that time. People started calling him “The Bomber” because of how scary he looked.
He broke a record when he scored 10 goals at the World Cup in Mexico in 1970. Since then, no one has been able to beat his score. As of right now, Muller is sixth on our list of the top 10 greatest heroes in FIFA World Cup history.
Pele’s worldwide image is based on his achievements in the World Cup. In 1958, at age 17, he was the youngest competitor in the competition and won his first. His heroics in that tournament included scoring a hat trick in the semi-finals and scoring twice in a lopsided final triumph over the Swedish hosts. Injuries limited his next two World Cup appearances, so it was not until his fourth World Cup in 1970 that the Brazilian established himself as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
Inexplicably, for a player who scored 12 goals in the World Cup, his two most memorable moments involve misses: first, he pulled a chance against Uruguay wide after passing the goalie without touching the ball, and later, he had a stunning header saved by Gordon Banks.
- Diego Maradona
In 2000, FIFA polled fans online to find out who they thought was the greatest player of the last century. Despite receiving more than 60% of the vote, Diego Maradona was not crowned because someone in Geneva felt it was not good for FIFA’s image to honor an overweight ex-cocaine addict with a flair for deceit. So they made up a new award, and this time the journalists picked who should win it: Maradona and Pele.
They are nearly impossible to divide, yet surveys consistently reach the same conclusion. It has been said before, but it bears repeating: Pele may have more World Cup victories than Maradona, but the small Argentine never dragged, dribbled, and pounded his team to victory as he did in 1986. Even though Wada considered adding Viagra to the list of prohibited substances in 2008, the player was never sent home for failing a drug test.
These were some football greats who graced the game with their enormous talent and passion for the game. The world will never see the likes of these players. The Fifa World Cup’s popularity depended mostly on these amazing players.