5 Boldest World Cup Final Selections

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5 Boldest World Cup Final Selections
DAVID GUTTENFELDER/Associated Press

Football is a game of risk and reward, but in a cauldron as pressurised as the World Cup final, many managers will often opt to stick with the tried-and-trusted players they know best.

It's not the tactic of every head coach, however, with some tacticians down the years forced into line-up changes through injury or off-the-field drama, while others simply choose to roll the dice in what they feel is a superior alternative.

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Germany and Argentina will face off on Sunday for the right to become 2014 World Cup champions, presenting Joachim Low and Alejandro Sabella with their opportunities to do the same.

Here, we've compiled the boldest player selections from World Cup final history, some due to the quality, age or positioning of a player and others merely due to the figures sacrificed in order to facilitate their involvement.

For the sake of context, only players in the starting XI of any final have been included, with only one minor exception made. Let us know which shock World Cup finalists you would have picked in the forum below.

 

Roque Junior, Brazil 2002

THOMAS KIENZLE/Associated Press

The Brazilian side of 2002 is argued by some to be the finest Selecao line-up ever, comprising such stellar figures as Ronaldowhose two goals won them that year's trophyalongside Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Cafu, Roberto Carlos and other superstars.

Roque Junior certainly doesn't fit in that category,  and although his side managed to keep a clean sheet against Germany in Yokohama, the then Milan centre-back simply stuck out as something of a sore thumb.

LUCA BRUNO/Associated Press

Roque Junior stands as a prime example of a player who had his moment in the sun, having been such a prominent figure for Palmeiras throughout the late 1990s, but his flaws were ultimately exposed.

Writing on that year's team, The Guardian's Michael Cox describes the defender as "awful" in his Zonal Marking blog. Harsh, but probably quite fair.

Granted, Luiz Felipe Scolari may simply not have had better options under his command, but then that's quite difficult to believe, too, Roque Junior presumably riding high on his wave of plaudits at the time.

 

Gianluca Pagliuca, Italy 1994

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Loyalties can be tested in the most despairing moments in sport, and in no atmosphere is this more true than at a World Cup, where a poor 90 minutes is enough to end it all. 

On June 23, 1994, Italy's Gianluca Pagliuca became the first goalkeeper ever to be sent off in a World Cup finals match, shown a straight red for handling outside the area during a group match against Norway. 

His replacement, Luca Marchegiani, was the world's most expensive goalkeeper at the time, following his £6 million move to Torino the year previous, and some felt he deserved to start ahead of his compatriot anyway.

Marchegiani ensured the Azzurri remained unbeaten in the tournament, seeing out the 1-0 win over Norway before then maintaining a 1-1 draw against Mexico, but Pagliuca was drafted back in time for the final against Brazil.

There, he had another shaky moment, where the post forced him into the "Pagliuca Kiss," detailed here by Rocco Cammisola of The Football Express, raising the debate of whether or not he deserved the No. 1 role.

Pagliuca saved a Marcio Santos penalty in the ultimately futile shootout loss to earn back some praise in his performance, but it was a gutsy decision of Arrigo Sacchi to stay true to his first pick.

 

Bodo Illgner, West Germany 1990

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Marc-Andre ter Stegen is the youngster causing waves on the German goalkeeping scene at present, but Bodo Illgner set something of a precedent in that sector during West Germany's 1990 success.

In fact, not many goalkeepers can say they've lifted a title so prestigious playing in the No. 1 position for their squad as he did that year, guiding the Europeans to glory in Rome at just 23 years of age.

Speaking to CNN of his exploits, Illgner has said:

I was a baby in the goal. The goalkeeper usually joins the national team at the mid-twenties, the late twenties, even over the 30s maybe. I was very, very lucky to have the confidence of Franz Beckenbauer our coach in 1990.

And Beckenbauer was ultimately proven to be correct in placing such faith in the starlet, who not only lifted the title, but kept a clean sheet against an attack that contained Diego Maradona and Gustavo Dezotti at the time.

Illgner's international career strangely ended at the age of just 27, four years after his triumph in Italy, but this one aspect of his tale remains a legacy. 

 

Edmundo/Ronaldo, Brazil 1998

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Edmundo has a unique spot on our list in that he was selected for Brazil's 1998 World Cup final, but then he wasn't. 

Manager Mario Zagallo had originally picked the forward, then at Fiorentina, to lead his line alongside Bebeto, leaving heads scratching as to why superstar and renowned national icon Ronaldo had been omitted.

MICHEL EULER/Associated Press

It would later come to light that the former World Cup finals record goalscorer had suffered a convulsive fit in the hours leading up to the fixture, quoted by Rob Maul of the Daily Mirror in speaking of the mysterious ailment which had struck:

I had a convulsion, after lunch in the afternoon. I was unconscious for three or four minutes.

I don’t know why. Nobody knows. Was it pressure or nerves? It could be. When you are there and you breathe the competition, everything is about the competition. You cannot disconnect from it. It’s a lot of pressure.

After being cleared by medical staff to play, Ronaldo came in at the expense of Edmundo, but he didn't produce his usual inspiring form as Brazil lost to France 3-0 in Paris.

Zagallo took an understandable risk in fielding arguably the best player ever to grace a pitch, and it didn't pay dividends on this occasion. 

 

Guillermo Stabile, Argentina 1930

Guillermo Stabile's Argentinian legend is as old as it is strange, dating back to the first-ever World Cup.

Then 25 years of age, the striker was awarded his first international cap in La Albiceleste's second match of the 1930 tournament, scoring a hat-trick on his debut, before then going on to net in every other fixture of the competition that he featured in.

Stabile's presence helped lead Argentina to the final in Uruguay, where he would again score; however, it was for nought, as the Argentinians lost 4-2 to their South American foes.

What makes this story so weird, though, is that these would be Stabile's only caps for the national team, meaning he scored eight goals in just four games for the side and was crowned that year's Golden Boot winner.

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