50 Greatest Players in World Cup History: #30 Uwe Seeler
Uwe Seeler is undisputedly one of Germany's most prolific strikers and yet it is baffling that not many know about him or the talents he possessed. We reckon it was because he participated in the same four FIFA World Cups as Pelé did: 1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970.
Even on the home front, the tremendously talented striker was always overshadowed by talk of a certain acclaimed Gerd Muller.
Seeler’s first outing for West Germany at a major tournament exceeded expectations. The 1958 World Cup in Sweden followed similar storylines to those in the past. Just two minutes into the opening fixture, West Germany were behind. After Herberger argued his case to include Rahn in his squad, the Rot-Weiss Essen forward soon repaid the faith shown by the coach with two goals against Argentina, but the story of that day was Seeler scoring his first for West Germany in an international tournament.
In 1958, the German team finished the tournament in fourth place, and in 1970, they finished in third place after being eliminated by European rivals Italy in the semi-finals, following a closely fought 4–3 extra-time loss - the match is colloquially known as the "Game of the Century".
In the 1966 World Cup final, linesman Tofik Bakhramov adjudged Geoff Hurst's effort to have crossed the line, despite replays showing it probably hadn't. The goal was vital as England went on to win the match 4-2. It hurt the Germans, but 44 years later, they got their revenge.
Although the German never won a World Cup - his involvement as a player in the tournament started four years after West Germany won their first World Cup (1954) and ended four years before they won their second (1974) - he had a prolific career in the tournament.
He was the first player ever to appear in 20 World Cup matches (he retired with 21 matches played, tied for third all-time), the first ever to score in four World Cups (beating Pelé by only a few minutes), and the first player to score at least two goals in each of four World Cups (matched in 2014 by his compatriot Miroslav Klose).
He also ranks third in all-time minutes played in World Cups, with 1980, behind Paolo Maldini and Lothar Matthäus. In total, he scored 9 goals across the four World Cups in which he played, as well as 3 goals in World Cup Qualifying matches; he scored 43 times in 72 international appearances between 1954 and 1970.
One of the World Cup’s most memorable finals in 1966 saw West Germany lose but, as always, Seeler was gracious in defeat. The captain rarely had a bad thing to say about his opponents: “The England team was exceptional and worthy of the title. We accepted the outcome the way good sportsmen do and the whole tournament was a fantastic experience for all,” said Seeler.
For all the values that he embodies and all the glory of his right foot, which has since been immortalised outside Hamburg's stadium, there is little doubt in our minds that Uwe Seeler is one of the 50 Greatest World Cup Players.