Greatest XI to never win the FIFA World Cup
World Cup fever is upon us. The tournament that graces the planet every four years is edging closer and everyone will turn their attention towards the South-American continent as the land of Brazil will have the honour to host this prestigious event. Of course, great players will take the centre stage for their respective nations and provide us with moments that turn them into legends.
While some have cherished their victories, others have seen their dreams get shattered in the last moments as they left empty handed knowing that they could have stood on the podium with the trophy in their hands. That agonised lot includes legends of the game, who have been there and were close to getting their nation to the ultimate glory, but weren’t favoured by destiny to claim the World Cup.
Keeping that as our perspective, we have compiled 11 of the greatest names who did not get to fulfill their dream of lifting the World Cup.
Based on the formation of a 4-3-3, this is how the team would look like.
Goalkeeper: Oliver Kahn
While Germany have been tagged as the chokers of the competition since they lifted the trophy in 1990, Oliver Kahn has been one of the most successful and consistent German players during their drought period. The goalkeeper started his senior international career in 1994 when he was called as a late reinforcement. In the 1998 edition, first choice shot-stopper Andreas Köpke called time on his career and Kahn became Germany’s no.1 in front of goal.
While 1998 World Cup was a dreadful experience for Die Mannschaft, 2002 World Cup in Korea-Japan was Kahn’s career defining tournament as he rose to the occasion even after his team were accused of being inconsistent at times. Kahn was almost impenetrable as he conceded only one goal against Northern Ireland. He kept 5 clean sheets overall and won the Golden Ball award which made him the first goalkeeper in the history of the World Cup to do so. Even though his nation failed to triumph during his time, we honour him for his immense performances as the goalkeeper of the never-to-have-won-a-World-Cup team.
Defenders: Manuel Amoros – Ronald Koeman – Franco Baresi – Paolo Maldini
Italians have been the second most elite team in the World Cup only after Brazil and much of their success is due to the world class defenders they have provided every generation. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the defence of any greatest World Cup team isn’t complete without them being included. Out team features two dignified Italian defenders while Netherlands and France feature one each.
Manuel Amoros was a part of the great French team of the 80′s. Equally strong with both feet, he was a versatile full-back who was given a call for the 1982 World Cup squad at the ripe age of 20. With his fast, excellent movement and intelligent marking, Amoros earned a starting spot for the French team that stormed into the semi-finals only to lose out to West Germany in a dramatic shootout. But it was in the 1986 tournament when Amoros proved to be one of the best in his position.
Led by Michel Platini, France reached the quarter-finals to play one of the most anticipated match against the golden generation of Brazil. Manuel Amoros would in fact be at the center of the action, playing an outstanding match in defence as the Brazilians attacked again and again. France won the match through a penalty shootout. His contribution in the tournament earns him a place in the team.
Ronald Koeman was one of the stars of the Holland team, alongside Dutch legends like Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Dennis Bergkamp. He played at the 1990 and 1994 World Cup. Koeman is regarded as one of the greatest defender-scorer in history of the game with 225 goals in 647 matches which is an all-time world record. His international resume was equally impressive as he scored 14 goals in a total of 78 matches.
Possessing attributes like being a free-kick specialist, powerful and rocket like shooting from long range and penalty taking, the sweeper with his intelligent play, ensured an organized defence and provided excellent distribution from the back, always generated precision passing. His leadership qualities enabled him to excel as captain of Holland in 1994 World Cup finals.
Franco Baresi was a part of the famous AC Milan back line that dominated Europe in the lates 80′s and early 90′s. He did not feature in the 1982 World Cup winning team and wasn’t selected for the 1986th edition. The first chance came in 1990 after the departure of Gaetano Scirea and he made his first appearance in a World Cup finals held on home soil, playing in every match as Italy finished in third-place.
The sweeper was a footballer leader with excellent technique, vision and courage on the pitch. His moment of shame came in the 1994 finals as Italy lost 2-3 to Brazil on penalties.Everybody remembers Roberto Baggio for the infamous penalty miss but it was Baresi who missed the first kick that put Italy under pressure. Nonetheless, the Little One has been regarded as one of the best defenders of all time.
Paolo Maldini, as immensely successful as he has been with AC Milan in Europe, was one of the rare greats who could not win the World Cup despite playing alongside a golden generation of Italian footballers. The left-back was considered as one of the most complete defenders in the game and was a world class prospect since his early 20′s. He participated in his first World Cup in 1990, where Italy lost to Argentina in the semi-finals on penalties.
His monumental effort in the 1994 final against Brazil helped Italy to keep a clean sheet which they eventually lost in a penalty shoot out. After that he captained the 1998 and 2002 Italian side but could not manage to repeat the form of their previous campaigns. He retied from the international circuit after the 2002 World Cup with 126 caps to his name.
Midfielders: Michael Ballack - Zico – Michel Platini
Michael Ballack was was known for his passing range, scoring ability, ball skills, and commanding presence in midfield. His first major tournament was the 2002 World Cup where he scored in matches against the United States and South Korea during the knockout rounds as Germany reached the final. He captained the 2006 team as Germany hosted the tournament.
Ballack delivered two Man of the Match performances against Ecuador and in the quarter final against Argentina which earned him a place in FIFA’s World Cup All Star Team for a second consecutive time. Germany lost 2-0 to Italy in the semis and that was Ballack’s last tournament as he missed the next edition due to injury. Though he left the team on a sour note, his impact for the national team has been significant and he features in our selected list of midfielders.
Zico was often referred as the ‘White Pele’ by footballing fans. He was one of the most skilled finishers and one of the best passers ever, and possibly the world’s best player of the late 70′s and early 80′s. He represented the Brazilian team at three World Cups (1978,1982 and 1986) and was one of the players of the golden generation team. With 48 goals in 71 official appearances , Zico is the 4th highest goal scorer for Brazil. While he featured in one of Brazil’s best squad ever, Zico has been considered one of the best players in football history not to have been on a World Cup winning squad. The legendary midfielder features in our elite list.
Michel Platini, although selected in FIFA’s World Cup Dream Team, was another exceptional footballing legend who wasn’t fortunate enough to get his hands on the trophy. The three time Ballon D’or winner represented France at the 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cups. He was bestowed with captaincy honours in 1982 and led the team unexpectedly up to the semifinals of the 1982 World Cup where they met West Germany in Seville which proved to be one of the great matches of World Cup history. The match went to a penalty shoot-out which West Germany won 5–4.
In 1986, Platini scored the equaliser against Brazil to take the quarter final encounter into the penalty shoot outs. France overcame Brazil only to loose again to West Germany. It was Platini’s last tournament. Considered as one of the best passers in football history as well as one of the best free kick specialists and finishers, we honour Platini as the attacking midfielder of our greatest XI team.
Forwards: Johan Cruyff – Ferenc Puskas – Roberto Baggio
Nicknamed as Il Divin’ Codino, Roberto Baggio was one of the best attacking players who graced the field for the Italians. With 27 goals, the 1993 Ballon D’or winner is the 4th highest goal scorer for the national team. He was capped in 56 matches and played for the Azzuris in 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups respectively. Italy finished 3rd at the 1990 World Cup and he emerged as one of the stars in the tournament.
He was hugely responsible for carrying Italy to the 1994 finals, scoring 5 goals in the competition. But his infamous penalty miss at the final against Brazil turned him into a national villain and Italy fell short of achieving their dreams. Baggio was chosen as a member of the FIFA World Cup Dream Team and he starts as one of three forwards in our list of attacking legends.
Ferenc Puskas was a part of the formidable Hungary side who went on to play the final in 1954. Puskas scored 4 goals and was named as the Best Player of the Tournament. The Hungarian scored 84 times in 85 matches overall and is widely considered as one of the greatest players of all time. While Hungary were favourites to lift the trophy, underdogs West Germany completed the Miracle of Bern to lift the 1954 World Cup title. Puskas came close but not close enough. The Real Madrid legend features as the striker in our line up of greatest players.
Johan Cruyff was a technically gifted footballer and a philosopher who had a footballing vision way ahead of his time. Under the guidance of Total Football inventor Rinus Michels, Cruyff acted as the conductor of the style that dominated the game in the early 70′s. The Ajax side of that era brushed aside opponents with ease and it was their philosophy which was largely responsible for shaping up the 1974 Dutch national side.
Cruyff led Netherlands to a runners-up spot in 1974 and was named player of the tournament. He revolutionized the role of a forward as he would play a free roaming style which would include him shifting his position from the midfield to the wings. He is considered as one of the icons of the game alongside Pele and Maradona and deservingly gets to lead the attack in our list.
Substitutes: Eusebio, Tassotti, Socrates, Junior, Scholes, Figo,Van Basten.