The 25 Greatest Footballers Never To Play in a World Cup
Since 1930, the FIFA World Cup has been the most prestigious tournament not only in world football but arguably in all of sports.
There have been legends born in these World Cups, and there have been legendary teams that are still talked about today for their heroics on football's greatest stage.
However, there have been many great players who have made a great impact with their clubs and their countries but were never able to participate in the greatest stage in football.
So in honor of these great players, I have created a list of the 25 greatest footballers to never participate in the World Cup.
No. 25 Andrei Arshavin (Russia)
Now a fan favorite with Arsenal, Andrei Arshavin has never been able to make it to the World Cup with the Russian National Team, despite his great international play.
Arshavin started his play for the National Team in 2002 and became a regular in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup where Russia failed to advance onto the playoffs due to a goal differential to Slovakia.
But Arshavin continued to play great and got his chance to show the world what he was capable of in Euro 2008. He helped Russia get to the semifinals and to get himself named in UEFA's squad for Euro 2008.
In 2010 World Cup qualifying, Arshavin helped Russia get to a playoff with Slovenia but failed to advance onto the World Cup due to away goals. Now, it will be harder for Arshavin to get into the 2014 World Cup due to his age, 33, but it won't be impossible.
No. 24 Bill Foulkes (England)
One of the Busby Babes, Bill Foulkes was a survivor of the Munich Air Disaster and was able to have a great career with Manchester United. However, Foulkes was never able to make it big with the English National team due to the English having many great defenders in the 1958, '62 and '66 World Cups. Foulkes was only able to register one cap with the English National team (which was in 1954).
No. 23 Emlyn Hughes (England)
One of the greatest players in Liverpool history, Emlyn Hughes was one of the best footballers of the 1970s but didn't to play in the World Cup. He was named to the England roster in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, but was unable to get off the bench and play for Sir Alf Ramsey. After the World Cup, Hughes became the captain of the English squad, but the team didn't advance to the World Cup in 1974 or 1978.
No. 22 Sami Hyypiä (Finland)
A Liverpool legend and the current captain of the Finnish National Team, Sami Hyypiä has been one of the better defenders in the last decade in world football. During his career, Hyypiä has the second most caps in Finnish football history with 103 (only behind Jari Litmanen) and made his debut with Finland in 1992 at the age of 19 against Tunisia.
The closest that Hyypiä has ever gotten was one point off from a playoff spot to get into the 1998 World Cup, but Finland has still not qualified for the World Cup in their history.
No.21 Steve Bruce (England)
A Manchester United legend and currently the manager of Sunderland, Steve Bruce had an incredible career in the 1980s and 1990s. For some bizarre reason, he was never selected to join the English National team.
During his career, Bruce was one of the better defenders in England. He and his defensive partner Gary Pallister helped United win tons of trophies in the 1990s, but never was called up for England.
No. 20 Johnny Giles (Ireland)
A former defender with Manchester United before leaving for Leeds United in the mid 1960s. Johnny Giles paired with Billy Bremner to help Leeds win several trophies during the most successful era of their history. Giles was a great club footballer in England but was never able to help lead Ireland to the World Cup. As a player-manager, he came close to getting the Irish into the 1978 World Cup, but they missed out by just two points.
No. 19 David Ginola (France)
One of the members of the French squad during the early 1990s, David Ginola was a member of the team that only needed a draw against Bulgaria in order to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. With the score tied 1-1 late, Ginola overhit a cross, and the Bulgarians started a counterattack that Emil Kostadinov was able to score for Bulgaria as they qualified for the World Cup.
Afterwards, Ginola was blamed for the loss, and he then moved to England to play for Newcastle and never again played for the French again after 1995. France went on to win the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 without Ginola.
No. 18 Tony Yeboah (Ghana)
Known as a fantastic goal scorer and one of the greatest players that has ever played for Ghana, Tony Yeboah was an accomplished scorer during his career. He has the second most goals in Ghana international history. During his time with Ghana, Yeboah helped Ghana get to the final of the African Cup of Nations in 1992 but was never able to get to a World Cup final.
No. 17 Neville Southall (Wales)
A great goalkeeper for Everton in the 1980s and 1990s, Neville Southall also played for Wales during this period of time but was never able to go to the World Cup. Wales only made the World Cup once (in 1958) during their international history. Overall in his career, Southall registered 92 caps (the most in Welsh history) and remained on the international team from 1982 all the way to 1998.
No. 16 Mark Hughes (Wales)
A Manchester United legend and one of the greatest players ever to play for Wales, Mark Hughes was a player dedicated to the Welsh National Team. Over his career with Wales, Hughes registered 72 caps for Wales and scored 16 goals for the Welsh. In 1999, Hughes took over the Welsh National Team and nearly got them to Euro 2004 if it weren't for a playoff loss against Russia.
No. 15 Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt)
One of the greatest footballers in Egyptian history, Mohamed Aboutrika, sadly, has never been able to play in a World Cup despite being the best footballer to currently play in Africa.
During his career, Aboutrika has helped Egypt to win the African Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2008 and also led Egypt to become the first African side to beat Italy in the 2009 Confederations Cup with an assist to Mohamed Soliman.
But Aboutrika wasn't able to help Egypt get to the World Cup after a loss against Algeria in their final World Cup qualifier. Overall, Aboutrika has scored 24 goals for the Egyptian National team.
No. 14 Ian Rush (Wales)
An all-time great for Liverpool during the 1980s and 1990s, Ian Rush was a great player but was never able to participate for the Welsh in the World Cup. During his career, Rush scored 265 goals in his club career and a record 28 goals in 73 matches for Wales, but was never able to make a major tournament.
Despite this, Rush scored winning goals against Germany and Italy during his international career and will go down in Welsh history as one of their greatest footballers.
No. 13 Liam Brady (Ireland)
A great midfielder for Arsenal in the 1970s, Liam Brady wasn't able to bring his native Ireland to the World Cup despite having over 15 years of service to the Irish National Team. During his time with Ireland, Brady accumulated 72 caps but never played in a major tournament due to suspension in Euro 1988 and retirement during qualifying for the 1990 World Cup.
But after Ireland qualified, manager Jack Charlton refused to allow any players who didn't play in any qualifiers to play for the National Team. Brady went on to become Ireland's assistant coach during 2008.
No. 12 Abedi Pele (Ghana)
Despite being one of the greatest footballers in African history and the winner of the 1991, 1992, and 1993 African Footballer of the Year, Abedi Pele was never able to make his impact known to all at the World Cup with the Ghana National Team.
During his career, Abedi Pele helped Ghana to win the African Cup of Nations in 1982 and also helped Marseille to win the inaugural Champions League final in 1993 (under the new European format at the time). But Abedi Pele still had a fantastic career and was named to both the FIFA 100 and scored 33 goals in 73 matches for Ghana.
No. 11 Kazuyoshi Miura (Japan)
The first real star in Japanese football, Kazuyoshi Miura had an incredible career for Japan, but was never able to make it to the World Cup. During his career, Kazu became the first-ever Japanese footballer to play in Serie A (for Genoa in 1994), and was also the first Japanese footballer to play in Brazil (which he did at the age of 15 in 1986).
Despite having the second most goals in Japanese international football history, with 55 in 89 matches, Kazu was never able to make it the World Cup. He retired from international football in 2000, two years before Japan played in the 2002 World Cup as a host country.
No. 10 Jari Litmanen (Finland)
Considered by many to be the greatest Finnish player ever, Jari Litmanen has sadly also had the infamy of being one of the greatest footballers to never play in a World Cup. During his career, Litmanen made it big with Ajax during the 1990s and helped them to win the 1995 Champions League final, but sadly Finland have never qualified for the World Cup, despite what Litmanen has done for them.
Over his career, Litmanen has played for Finland in four different decades and has the most ever caps for Finland with 130, and the most goals with 31. At the age of 38, it will be interesting to see if Finland will be able to qualify for Brazil 2014 and see if Litmanen would play for them.
No. 9 Valentino Mazzola (Italy)
One of the greatest footballers in Italian history, Valentino Mazzola died in the Superga air disaster in 1949, one year before he would have had a chance to play for Italy in the 1950 World Cup. Over his career, Mazzola played great for Torino (scoring 118 goals in 195 matches). He was going to be one of the key players for Italy in the 1950 World Cup before dying during the disaster (which was a flight from Libson that Mazzola organized that crashed, killing all but one of the people on board).
During his international career, Mazzola scored four goals for Italy in 12 matches, but it would have been a lot more if it weren't for World War II and the tragic plane accident.
No. 8 Bernd Schuster (West Germany)
One of the best German footballers of his generation, Bernd Schuster retired prematurely from the West German National Team at the age of 24 in 1984. He had some of his best seasons with Barcelona and Real Madrid at the end of the decade.
The reason why Schuster left the National Team was due to his repeated disagreements with the German Football Association, then national team manager Jupp Derwall and teammates, including Paul Breitner. During his National Team career, Schuster helped West Germany win Europa 1980 and had 22 caps and four goals during his international career for West Germany.
No. 7 Eric Cantona (France)
A Manchester United legend, Eric Cantona had a great career at Old Trafford but never suited up for a World Cup for the French National team. During his career, Cantona became a starter in the mid-1990s when France was just a draw away from the World Cup before a loss to Bulgaria in their final qualifier.
Afterwards, Cantona became the captain of the French National Team before his Kung-fu kick incident at Crystal Palace in 1995, which ended his career for the National Team. Zinedine Zidane took over Cantona's role, and helped lead the French to the 1998 World Cup title. Overall in his French career, Cantona scored 20 times in 45 appearances for the French.
No. 6 Duncan Edwards (England)
An extremely promising midfielder with tons of talent, Duncan Edwards was a player that appeared to become an all-time great for the English National Team. However, he died from injuries related from the Munich Air Disaster before he had a chance to play in the 1958 World Cup.
During his career, Edwards was able to win two league titles with Manchester United and was one of the Busby Babes. According to former English and Man United teammate Sir Bobby Charlton, "Duncan Edwards is the only player that made me feel inferior." Tommy Docherty stated that "there is no doubt in my mind that Duncan would have become the greatest player ever. Not just in British football, with United and England, but the best in the world."
During his English career, Edwards was able to score five goals in 18 career matches for the Three Lions.
No. 5 George Weah (Liberia)
One of the greatest footballers to ever come out of Africa, George Weah has the sad infamy of being the only FIFA World Player of the Year who failed to qualify for World Cup with his national team. During his career, Weah won African Player of the Year in 1989, 1994 and 1995, and was also the FIFA Player of the Year and European Footballer of the Year in 1995.
Also, Weah had a great career with the likes of AS Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Chelsea and Olympique Marseille but was never able to help Liberia get to the World Cup.
During his 15-year career with the Liberian National Team, Weah did everything from playing to coaching to financing, but failed to qualify for a single World Cup. Liberia fall a point short in qualifying for the 2002 tournament. During his careerwith Liberia, Weah had 22 goals and 60 caps.
No. 4 Ryan Giggs (Wales)
One of the greatest footballers in Welsh and Manchester United history, Ryan Giggs has been able to have a fantastic career, but he has never been able to play in a World Cup match during his illustrious career.
With the Welsh national team, Giggs was able to commit 16 years. Wales has not qualified for the World Cup since 1958. Also, Giggs scored 12 goals overall for Wales.
No. 3 László Kubala (Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Spain)
Voted as the greatest player in FC Barcelona over the last century in 1999, and one of the greatest free kick specialists to ever grace a football pitch, László Kubala had an incredible career in which he featured for three international sides: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Spain. Still, he was never able to make a World Cup.
During his international career, Kubala left Czechoslovakia and Hungary due to the rise of communism in both countries, and went on to play for Spain. He made the 1958 World Cup roster, but never played due to injury. Afterwards, Kubala helped Spain make the 1978 World Cup as manager, but Spain failed to advance onto the knockout stages.
During his international career, Kubala scored four goals in six matches for Czechoslovakia, no goals in three matches for Hungary, and 11 goals and 19 caps for Spain.
No. 2 George Best (Northern Ireland)
One of the most talented footballers ever, George Best became a legend with Manchester Untied in the 1960s and 70s, but was never able to lead Northern Ireland to a World Cup. During his career, Best led Manchester United to the 1968 European Championship and also became one of the most talented footballers in English history.
He also helped Northern Ireland throughout his career in his attempt to get them to the World Cup. Despite having 37 caps and nine goals for Northern Ireland, he was never able to get them to the World Cup. After Northern Ireland qualified for the 1982 World Cup, Best was considered by Billy Bingham for the roster. However, due to age and alcoholism, Best was not selected. Alcoholism was a major factor in his tragic death in 2005.
No. 1 Alfredo di Stéfano (Argentina, Columbia, Spain)
The original Galáctico, Alfredo di Stéfano had an incredible football career in which he won the European Champions Cup five consecutive times for Real Madrid in the 1950s, but was never able to partake in a World Cup match.
During his career, di Stéfano became an extremely gifted goalscorer. He scored 216 times in 282 matches for Real Madrid and participated for Argentina, Columbia, and Spain during his international career.
In his first two attempts to make the World Cup (with Argentina), FIFA refused to allow Argentina to participate in 1950, and di Stéfano couldn't participate in 1954 due to getting a cap for Columbia. Afterwards, di Stéfano was allowed to participate for Spain internationally, and failed to qualify in 1958. di Stéfano got injured before getting a chance to play in the 1962 World Cup, which also ended his National Team career. Overall, di Stéfano had six goals in six matches for Argentina, no goals in four matches for Columbia, and 23 goals in 31 matches for Spain.
Best of the Rest
Among these great footballers, there are many others who were never able to play in a World Cup.
Here is a list of those players:
Alberto Spencer, John Toshack, Jesaia Swart, Bill Foulkes, Paolo Di Canio, Andrei Kanchelskis, Japhet N'Doram, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Hasan Salihamidzic, Basile Boli, Nolberto Solano, Kalusha Bwalya, Matthew Le Tissier and Eduard Streltsov.