World Cup Preview 2014: Competition Records and All-Time Top Players

Matt Jones@@MattJFootballFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2014

Pele and Maradona seen together in Italy in March 1987 as they received the trophy of “Sports Oscar” for their performance in the soccer fields. (AP Photo/Milan)
Milan/Associated Press

It’s all part of the preparations, isn’t it? To get excited about an upcoming World Cup, you primarily look at the best bits from tournaments gone by.

You think back to all those wonderful moments that have manifested in feelings of dejection and delight, brought about elongated annunciations from overexcited commentators and made you think back to some of the iconic figures in World Cup history. How that cocktail of emotions made you fall head over heels in love with this wonderful tournament.

Ahead of the Brazil showpiece, let’s take a look at some of those marvellous teams, those majestic players and how they’ve made their mark on the tournament in a host of different ways.


Competition Records

Most Wins: Brazil (5)

YOKOHAMA - JUNE 30:  Cafu on the podium celebrates with the World Cup trophy after the World Cup Final match against Germany played at the International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan on June 30, 2002.  Brazil won the match 2-0. (Photo by Shaun Botteri
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The country most synonymous with the World Cup is Brazil, having won the competition a remarkable five times in all.

They won three World Cups in 12 years in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Then Brazil had to wait 24 years until they would next sample glory, which was in the United States in 1994. They would win the tournament again eight years later in Japan and South Korea.

A win on home soil this year would put the Brazilians two clear of Italy, who currently have four world titles. West Germany have three, while Argentina and Uruguay have a couple each. England picked up their only victory as hosts in 1966.


Most Goals: Ronaldo (15)

YOKOHAMA - JUNE 30:  Ronaldo of Brazil celebrates scoring the first goal past goalkeeper Oliver Kahn of Germany during the World Cup Final match played at the International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan on June 30, 2002.  Brazil won the match 2-0. (Ph
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Leading the way with the most goals in the history of the World Cup is Brazilian forward Ronaldo. The former Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan and AC Milan always seemed to produce on the big stage, notching at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 showpieces.

He was arguably at his very best in 1998, but the tournament ended on a sour note, when he was played in the final against France despite suffering a convulsive fit on the eve of the game. He would find redemption four years later, though, as his two goals in the final against Germany helped Brazil to their fifth title.

There is a German who can overhaul Ronaldo at the 2014 tournament, though, as noted here by Jonas Giaever:

Miroslav Klose is the only orthodox centre-forward in this Germany squad, and given the myriad of creative riches in this team, he should stand a wonderful chance of not only levelling Ronaldo’s record—which he is one goal behind—but besting it too. Especially if the Germans can put together a deep or potentially winning run in the tournament.


All-Time Top Players


Associated Press

A true icon in Brazil, Pele is the only man in history to have won the World Cup on three separate occasions. His first triumph came when he was just 17 years of age in 1958, netting a hat-trick in the semi-final of the competition and a brace in the final against Sweden.

Here’s his remarkable goal from the final:

He went on to win the tournament again in 1962, although Pele would only feature in two matches that year. Injury scuppered his chances in 1966, but in 1970 he was back to his blistering best, helping a Brazil team well regarded as one of the greatest of all time to victory.

Pele was named player of the tournament that year and cemented his legacy as one the game’s all-time great players. It'll be a long time before anyone matches his achievements in the World Cup.


Diego Maradona

CARLO FUMAGALLI/Associated Press

Diego Maradona may not have won as many World Cups as Pele, but his influential displays at the 1986 tournament make him just as vital a figure in the tournament's history.

In truth, we saw the best and worst from a player who was not only an encapsulating talent, but a man who would do everything within his power to see his team victorious. The best example of this came against England in the quarter-final:

After helping La Albiceleste through to the semi-final in controversial yet brilliant circumstances, Maradona then went on to bag a remarkable brace that saw Argentina into the last two. The team eventually emerged triumphant in the final after a wonderful game with West Germany, but the 1986 World Cup will be forever associated with the little genius.



Associated Press

The man known as the Black Panther burst onto the world stage in the 1966 competition in England. Portugal were playing in their first World Cup at the time, and in Eusebio, they had the outstanding player in the competition.

The then-24-year-old helped Portugal eliminate Pele and his Brazil team early on, before he scored an unprecedented four goals in a quarter-final clash at Goodison Park with North Korea, helping his team recover from a 3-0 deficit.

Eusebio famously left the Wembley pitch in tears after losing to England in the semi-final.
Eusebio famously left the Wembley pitch in tears after losing to England in the semi-final.Associated Press

The tournament was to end in tears for Eusebio, though, as his team were knocked out by eventual winners England in the semi-final, despite his late goal.

Here are some of the highlights from his stunning performances in 1966:

Eusebio eventually ended up with nine goals in the competition, and his performances from 48 years ago—in particular those at Goodison Park—are still recounted fondly by those on Merseyside who were lucky enough to have seen him in the flesh.


All statistics are courtesy of


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