The 10 Greatest World Cup Performances of All Time
With the 2010 FIFA World Cup drawing ever nearer, it is time to recognize some of the competitions greatest ever players. From 1930 in Uruguay all the way through to 2006 in Germany, many players have lit the greatest stage in the world once every four years.
Only a select few can claim to be the greatest, and my list aims to whittle them down, to reveal the greatest one man World Cup performance ever...
10.Bobby Moore - England - England 1966
Bobby Moore, the greatest ever English centre half, and the only man to lift the World Cup for England. Moore captained the victorious England side under Sir Alf Ramsey to the World Cup in '66, cementing his legacy as one of the finest British players of all time.
The brilliant No. 6 brought England through a tough title winning run, beating the likes of Eusebio's Portugal and West Germany along the way. In Modern times, if current England captain were to lift the trophy this summer, he would be an instant hero. Bobby Moore will forever remain a hero, and forever a legend.
9. Zinedine Zidane - France - France 1998
The iconic French No. 10 was instrumental, THAT summer in France. Never had Les Bleus triumphed in the greatest tournament in the world. Even the majestic Michel Platini couldn't lead his team to victory, but all that changed 12 years ago...
Zizou was instrumental, the heartbeat of the team, surpassing Platini in every sense of the word. Despite being sent off against Saudi Arabia, Zidane crushed the much fancied Brazilians in Paris, and the Algerian born superstar united one of the most racist countries in the world with four weeks of genius.
8. Jairzinho - Brazil - Mexico 1970
Jairzinho, the only man to score in every match of a World Cup tournament. He scored, Brazil won, 'nuff said.
7. Bruno Conti - Italy - Spain 1982
Italy 82, some call them the most undeserving champions ever, but Zico was under no illusions. After the Italians had beaten the red hot favorites 3-2, the Brazilian playmaker said ' We were playing against 10 Italians out there today, but one of our own.' Conti was that one.
The Mercurial playmaker may have been overshadowed in the long run by the unlikely heroics of Paolo Rossi, but Conti was the magic behind the Spell that Italy put the world under in summer '82.
6. Pele - Brazil - Mexico 1970
The Brazilian team of 1970 were mesmerising, brilliant, creative, and ultimately the best TEAM to win the World Cup in history. The movement was superb, the passing zippy and the flair clear for all to see. This style was personified by one man. His name was Pele.
Scoring four goals along the way, the yellow and green army, Pele took beautiful football to the extreme. Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich, who marked Pele in the final, summed him up in one sentence. "I told myself before the game, he's made of skin and bones just like everyone else—but I was wrong."
5. Pele - Brazil - Sweden 1958
A fresh-faced 17-year-old shook the world in Scandinavia, the start of Pele's career was just as groundbreaking as every other moment as every other moment he took to the field.
Leading the Brazilians to their first ever World Cup, the marker was laid, Pele was the next big thing, but just how big, the world could not prepare for...
4. Johann Cruyff - Holland - West Germany 1974
Johann Cruyff, the genius, the magician, the greatest European player of all time. Only Zinedine Zidane can challenge that claim, and in Post War Germany in '74, Holland revolutionized football and Cruyff was the heartbeat of an extraordinary team.
His visions that were extended to the world are still in practice today, with Total Football now being recognised by visionaries such as Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola as the way to go.
As Cruyff said himself, "Simple football is the most beautiful but simple football is also the hardest way to play." Of course, the Cruyff turn also cemented his place in Jan Olsson's nightmares and as the eternal King of the Showboat.
3. Just Fontaine - France - Sweden 1958
One Man. One Tournament. 13 World Cup goals. You do the math.
2. Diego Maradona - Argentina - Mexico 1986
In Summer 1986, Argentina were largely expected to crash and burn. The critics were convinced, no player, not even Maradona, could win a World Cup on his own. How wrong they were.
Maradona, "singlehandedly," quite literally decimated the likes of England and West Germany on the way to leading Argentina to their second triumph in three Tournaments. His second goal in the quarterfinal against the English will forever be remembered as the Goal of The Century, and it epitomized everything about Maradona that summer.
The odds were always against him, but he got the job done, and he got it done in style, etching his name in history with every step he took.
1. Ronaldo - Brazil - Japan and South Korea 2002
France '98, and as Brazil looked to secure their fifth world title, their destiny rested on one 21-year-old phenomenom's shoulders. Ronaldo, was looking to finally shake off the brazilian burden of succeeding the Great Pele, and win the World Cup for Brazil.
As the Samba Army prepared to face France, they were widely fancied to take home the spoils. However, just hours before kick off, rumors arose that Ronaldo was unfit to play and was subject to an epileptic fit the night before. Theories that Ronaldo's food had been laced with drugs were brought to the fore and the world waited with bated breath.
Ronaldo took to the field, but was a shadow of his great potential, and he looked on heartbroken as France ran rampant. Fearing his chance at the big time had gone, Ronaldo left dejected.
Fast forward four years, and Ronaldo is struggling to get fit, let alone play for Brazil in the World Cup. Two serious knee injuries had hampered his progress and he looked set to become a nearly man.
Nevertheless, he arrived in Japan with a Brazil squad looking somewhat lightweight compared to favorites Argentina and France. When Brazil finally got under way in the tournament against Turkey, Ronaldo scored his first goal in 1,000 days for his country, and the snowball effect had started.
Ronaldo went on to score five more on the way to leading Brazil to the final against Germany. Ronaldo was not missing his chance this time, and it was fitting that he should score both goals in a 2-0 win, taking home Brazil's fifth World Cup Trophy.
Ronaldo had his day in the sun and in Yokohama that day, he was, finally, on top of the world.
This was my first World Cup, Ronaldo mesmerized my 7-year-old mind that summer, and to this day remains my favorite ever player.