Ranking the Top 20 Players Who Never Played in a World Cup
The World Cup has missed out on some great players since its beginning.
While the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona and Michel Platini have all played in the game's greatest competitions, there have been many more legends of the game who failed to make it into the competition.
Some of these players have been unlucky because of the countries they have played for, but others have just been plain unlucky.
Lets take a look at some of the best players who have never played in the World Cup.
20. Matthew Le Tissier: England
Matthew Le Tissier was a player with exceptional skill—as evidenced by some of his great goals—but he never really had a chance with the England squad.
Maybe it was that bit of French in his name, the fact that he never played for a bigger club than Southampton or the fact that he had the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle and others to contend with.
Le Tissier made only eight appearances for the national team, though he might have had a chance to appear had the squad qualified for the 1994 World Cup.
19. Bill Foulkes: England
Bill Foulkes never appeared in a World Cup due to all the competition he had in his position, with players like Bobby Moore to contend with.
He did have his share of success with Manchester United though, picking up a European Cup, four league trophies and a FA Cup during his career.
18. David Ginola: France
David Ginola struck a chord with fans of clubs in France and England, most notably Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham.
Ginola's international downfall began with a misplaced cross in an important World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria in 1993. Ginola's cross enabled Bulgaria to march down the field and score what would be the goal that took them to the competition instead of France.
Ginola was highly criticized for that play especially by Gerard Houllier, the manager for the French National team at the time.
Houllier's successor, Aime Jacquet, saw it fit not to select Ginola for his squads and the midfielder departed to England and Newcastle having played just 17 games for his nation.
17. Neville Southall: Wales
Neville Southall was Everton's goalkeeper when the team had great success during the mid-to-late '80s. He picked up two league trophies, two FA Cups and one European Cup Winners' Cup during that time.
He appeared for Wales 92 times and currently is the most capped player for the nation. As with his other compatriots on this list, Southall was just unlucky to play for Wales.
16. Sami Hyypia: Finland
Sami Hyypia could probably be regarded as Finland's second-best player ever behind a compatriot who is further on this list.
Hyypia's time in England with Liverpool brought great success as he was part of Liverpool defences that picked up two FA Cups, a Champions League and a UEFA cup.
There was no such success with the Finnish national team—despite 105 appearances.
15. Kazuyoshi Miura: Japan
Kazuyoshi Miura is a Japanese and Asian football legend and deservedly so. He started his career in Brazil, something most non-natives find it hard to do, and paved the way for many Japanese and Asian players in today's game.
He is tied at the top of Japan's goalscoring charts with 55 goals coming from 89 appearances. He played a big part in the teams near qualification in 1994 and was there again when they qualified for the 1998 World Cup.
For whatever reason, Takeshi Okada left him out of the final squad for the World Cup and Japan went on to lose all three of its games.
14. Jari Litmanen: Finland
Jari Litmanen is certainly Finland's best player ever. The attacking midfielder made his name at Ajax where he picked up numerous domestic winners medals and a UEFA Champions League trophy.
Unfortunately for Litmanen, he was always head and shoulders above the rest of his Finnish teammates and even with all his ability, he could not drag the team into a World Cup final.
13. Johnny Giles: Republic of Ireland
Johnny Giles made 59 appearances for the Republic of Ireland over a 20-year span but was still unable to make it to the World Cup.
He was a player-manager for his nation during most of his career and almost led the 1978 World Cup finals. They ended up just two points away from being able to enter.
Regarded as one of the nation's finest products, Giles started his career at Manchester United but made his name in one of Leeds' best sides where he played alongside Billy Bremner.
12. Liam Brady: Republic of Ireland
Liam Brady was one of Arsenal's greatest midfielders ever and played for the team during the '70s. He appeared for the Republic of Ireland team 72 times and scored nine goals but was never able to appear in a major international competition.
11. Ian Rush: Wales
Ian Rush is currently Wales' record goal scorer with 28 goals to his name. He was an extremely prolific striker for Liverpool during his two spells at the club but could not fire Wales to a World Cup finals appearance.
Rush is one of many great Welsh players who were never able to showcase themselves in the game's biggest tournament.
10. Bernd Schuster: Germany
Bernd Schuster should have ended up playing for Germany in a World Cup. It seems the silliest of disagreements led to the player prematurely ending his international career.
"I once left Barcelona without permission because I wanted to play in a friendly against Brazil. The Club didn’t let me travel because we had a match against Rayo the following day, but I just couldn’t miss that game. They finally accepted my idea of playing just 45 minutes. There was a party after the match, but I didn’t go because I had to wake up early. That’s when everything gets confusing. That night I was told I would never get called up because I didn’t go to the party. I spoke to Udo Lattek so that he would fix everything, but the phone operator confused the last name of the coach with that of a friend of mine. When all was said and done after a series of misunderstandings, I never played for Germany again."
Schuster starred for Barcelona and Real Madrid during his career, picking up a number of La Ligas and Copa del Reys with both clubs.
9. Abedi Ayew: Ghana
Abedi Ayew, or Abedi Pele if that's the name you most remember, was a superb Ghanian footballer who made his name at Marseille in the early '90s.
With Marseille he won one European trophy and picked up the Ligue 1 title three times. He was voted African Player of the Year three times.
Ayew is one of Africa's footballing legends but the only trophy he picked up with his international squad was the 1982 African Cup of Nations trophy.
8. Valentino Mazzola: Italy
Valentino Mazzola was a key member of the great Torino side who was unfortunately killed in the Superga air disaster.
The Italian midfielder was considered a great all-round player and even considered one of the greatest Italian players of all time.
The fact that his career coincided with World War II and the unfortunate timing of the disaster, prevented him from appearing in the World Cup.
7. Eric Cantona: France
Eric Cantona's temperament kept him from long spells in the French team and thus reduced his chances of making it to the World Cup.
After his outburst against then-head coach Henri Michel's decision to drop him from the squad during one stage of qualifying for the 1990 World Cup, Cantona was banned from international matches.
6. Laszlo Kubala: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Spain
Laszlo Kubala was a Barcelona legend renown for his dribbling and passing. He appeared for Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Spain in various international games.
In that respect, his story is somewhat similar to Alfredo Di Stefano. In fact, they were both selected for the Spanish side that qualified for the 1962 World Cup but Kubala, like Di Stefano, did not appear due to an injury.
5. Ryan Giggs: Wales
Ryan Giggs is one of the most decorated players in the history of the game, having amassed numerous awards as Manchester United player. Pity he has never had a great group of players around him on the international stage.
The current Welsh team features the likes of Gareth Bale, Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey, and in the years before Giggs, there were players like John Toshack, though he did play with Ian Rush.
He appeared for Welsh national team 64 times and scored 12 goals.
4. George Weah: Liberia
George Weah is arguably the greatest African player to play the game, having won the FIFA World Player of the Year once, as well as many other individual and team awards during his playing days in Liberia, France and Italy.
He never really had a chance on the international stage though as he played for a nation that is still yet to reach its first World Cup.
3. Duncan Edwards: England
Duncan Edwards was in the original group of "Busby Babes" who unfortunately died from injuries suffered during the Munich air disaster. That incident cut short his and other players' careers, but he had 18 England appearances to his name before his death.
Edwards was highly regarded despite his young age. Among the many pieces of praise he received, Sir Bobby Charlton said he made him feel inferior and Tommy Docherty said he would have been the greatest player ever.
2. George Best: Northern Ireland
George Best certainly had magic in his feet but he was unable to drag the Northern Ireland team to the World Cup at any point in his career.
He played for a Manchester United team that included many other legendary players in the game, but they same could not be said about his international teammates.
Best appeared 37 times and scored nine goals for Northern Ireland. Billy Bingham, Northern Ireland's manager for the 1982 World Cup, did consider bringing Best to the competition, but it never happened.
What is the story behind Billy Bingham asking you to play in the 1982 World Cup finals?
William Hoey, Belfast
I was really fit at the time, playing weekly for an American team while also playing racquet ball for up to three hours a day. The problem was my American team were really awful, and Billy Bingham came to watch me in a tour game at Hibs and we got slaughtered. He was under a bit of pressure to pick me and I suppose he could justify leaving me out as what he had seen wasn’t very impressive. I wouldn’t have expected to play every game, but I wished he had just taken me as a member of the squad and thrown me on for 15 minutes, only so I could have played in the World Cup.
1. Alfredo Di Stefano: Spain, Colombia, Argentina
Alfredo Di Stefano was mentioned as the best ever by Pele. The star player who engineered a fantastic era for Real Madrid appeared in international competition for three different teams—Spain, Colombia and Argentina—yet never managed to appear in the World Cup finals.
Argentina did not participate in the 1950 World Cup and he was deemed ineligible for the 1954 World Cup after having played for both Argentina and Colombia.
After acquiring Spanish citizenship, he played in a few qualifying matches but the team failed to qualify for the 1958 World Cup. When Spain did qualify in 1962, Di Stefano was unable to participate because of an injury.