F365's Top Ten Players To Have Never Made The World Cup

It's a list filled with tragedy, injury, misfortune, Manchester United players and those wonderful individuals surrounded by mediocrity at international level. Hope you enjoy...

Last Updated: 27/05/14 at 09:50 Post Comment

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10) Bernd Schuster
The former Real Madrid manager (sacked by Malaga earlier this month) was once a mean player in his own right, enjoying the overwhelmingly cool nickname the "blond angel". Part of the West Germany side that won the 1980 European Championship when aged just 20, Schuster won the Silver Ball for being named European football's second best player, with international team-mate Karl-Heinz Rumenigge named as winner.

Unfortunately, Schuster retired from the international game at the age of just 24 after major disagreements with the West German Football Association. Firstly the midfielder was dropped from the team for refusing to play in a friendly against Albania after being refused permission to witness the birth of his second child, and then the final straw came when he failed to attend a post-match party with the squad, instead wanting to get back to Barcelona at the request of his club side.

All very avoidable, it seems, for a player described by his international manager Jupp Derwall as the best footballer produced by Germany since Franz Beckenbauer.

9) Ian Rush

Perhaps the finest finisher British football has ever produced, and very much the prototype for the likes of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, Ian Rush was never likely to make the world's biggest stage with Wales.

He scored 28 goals in 73 matches for his country, but Rush's principal achievements came at club level. The record FA Cup final goalscorer, he scored an astonishing 346 goals for Liverpool and is the club's all-time leading goalscorer. He has also scored more goals than any other for his country, and is the record scorer in the Merseyside derby, with 25 goals. Nice work.

8) Abedi Pele

George Weah may have won the World Player of the Year in 1995 (despite a slightly underwhelming goalscoring record), but it is Abedi Pele that holds the right to call himself the greatest African footballer of all time.

Pele (real name Abedi Ayew) played in Germany, France and Italy in a glittering career during which he won the European Cup with Marseille in 1993 and was named African Footballer of the Year three years in a row from 1991 onwards.

Whilst Ghana never made the World Cup when Abedi was playing, they made the quarter-finals last time around with Jordan and Andre Ayew (sons of the great player) both making appearances. They also both look likely to be in Brazil.

7) Laszlo Kubala

Amazingly, Kubala played for three different countries (Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Spain) that have played in the World Cup final without ever appearing at the tournament himself.

Kubala won four league titles with Barcelona and scored 131 strikes in 186 league games during his time at the Camp Nou - replicating this impressive record in the international game. The Budapest-born forward was selected for the Spain squad for the 1962 World Cup but missed out through injury.

In 1978, whilst manager of Spain, Kubala finally got his first taste of the grandest stage of all. They won only one match and went out in the first round. Sometimes, it's just not meant to be.

6) Valentino Mazzola

The first of two tragic stories on this list, Mazzola played for Torino for seven years from 1942, scoring 118 in 195 games.

He was labelled as the complete footballer by an adoring Italian media, playing as an attacking midfielder with an enviable goal record but also known as a hard tackler and good defender. Mazzola would have undoubtedly played in the 1950 World Cup for Italy, but, on May 4th 1949, a plane carrying the entire Torino squad crashed on the way back from Lisbon, killing all on board.

"He alone is half the squad," team-mate Mario Rigamonti once said of the great Mazzola. "The other half is made by the rest of us together."

5) Eric Cantona

Perhaps the coolest man to grace the Premier League, Le King never quite made as much impact on the international game as he did at Manchester United. Cantona still managed 45 caps and scored 20 goals but, true to form, he fell out with his first French boss Henri Michel (Eric called him a "bag of s**t") before being recalled under Michel Platini and Gerard Houllier.

Due to quite incredible under-performance and individual mistakes, France somehow contrived to miss out on both the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. By the time the tournament had arrived in 1998 and the French were hosts, Cantona had retired from the game, taken up an acting career and appeared in the film Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett. No-one else on this list can say that.

4) Ryan Giggs

There isn't an awful lot to say about Giggs that hasn't been repeated a thousand times before but, like Rush before him, the Welsh winger never had a realistic chance of making the World Cup with players such as Gareth Taylor in the supporting cast (and no, I didn't pick Taylor just because I'm a Nottingham Forest fan). Giggs finished with 64 caps (and a host of withdrawals through injury) and 12 goals, but it's difficult to criticise his record given the obvious frustrations at his country's lack of progress.

He played 963 matches for Manchester United, made more Premier League appearances than any other player (and the same too in the Champions League) and provided more Premier League assists than any other, retiring as a true great of the modern game this month.

Alex Ferguson's description of his first Giggs experience is wonderful: "I remember the first time I saw Giggs," Fergie said. "He was 13 and he floated across the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind."

As Zinedine Zidane once said: "If Ryan was French, Pires or myself would have been on the bench." Pires is the correct answer to that. Sorry Bobby.

3) Duncan Edwards

Duncan Edwards died aged just 21 following injuries he sustained in the 1958 Munich air disaster that saw 23 people killed.

This was a truly remarkable talent. Edwards was a defensive midfielder but had scored five goals in his 18 international caps, as well as winning two league titles at Manchester United. He would have gone on to be perhaps England's greatest ever player, and his horrible loss is summed up best by Tommy Docherty:

"There is no doubt in my mind that Duncan would have become the greatest player ever," Docherty said. "Not just in British football, with United and England, but the best in the world. George Best was something special, as was Pelé and Maradona, but in my mind Duncan was much better in terms of all-round ability and skill."

2) George Best

Let's do this one in quotes, okay?

"He was able to use either foot - sometimes he seemed to have six" - Sir Matt Busby.

"With feet as sensitive as a pickpocket's hands, his control of the ball under the most violent pressure was hypnotic" - Hugh McIlvanney.

"Manchester United's glorious history has been created by people like George Best. Anyone that witnessed what George Best could do on the pitch wished they could do the same" - Sir Bobby Charlton.

"George Best was one of the most talented players of all time and probably the best footballer who never made it to a major world final" - Franz Beckenbauer.

With Northern Ireland not reaching the World Cup between 1958 and 1982, Best missed his chance, his skills deadened by Spain '82 through his addiction to alcohol. In fact, that's entirely wrong - Best did not miss his chance, the rest of the world missed theirs.

1) Alfredo Di Stefano

In a vote organised by magazine France Football to choose the greatest players of all time (the magazine that previously distributed the Ballon d'Or), Alfredo Di Stefano was chosen in fourth position behind Pele, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff. This is a player seen as being so vital to Argentinean culture that he was kidnapped in 1963 in demand for a huge ransom (it is the subject of a film 'Real, La Pelicula', for those interested).

Almost no other career can pass Di Stefano's for sheer success. Fourteen league titles, five European Cups and eight times the top league goalscorer, even a man with the self-confidence and ego of Maradona describes him as the greatest ever player (although we wonder whether he would have said that had Di Stefano been Brazilian).

Amazingly, Di Stefano's luck never held when it came to the World Cup. His Argentina side refused to compete in the 1950 tournament, and then didn't enter in 1954. After finally acquiring Spanish citizenship in 1956 it was expected that he would play in Sweden in 1958, but Spain came a point behind Scotland in their three-country qualifying group and therefore failed to reach the tournament.

Finally in 1962, then aged 36, Di Stefano's goal helped to knock out Wales in a bizarre two-team group format before a play-off against Morocco (in which he also scored), and he finally had a chance for a swansong on the world stage. A hamstring injury pre-tournament ruled him out, and he retired from international football in an air of misery. For such a great player, it was a damn shame.

Daniel Storey - Follow him on Twitter.

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