Ranking England's 10 Greatest World Cup Central Defenders

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2014

Ranking England's 10 Greatest World Cup Central Defenders

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    Associated Press

    After the defensive frailties on display against Italy when England crashed to a 2-1 defeat in their 2014 World Cup opener, many England fans have cast their thoughts back to a time when the Three Lions boasted some of football's finest defenders.

    Without taking too much away from current pairing Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, looking through England's previous World Cup squads, they were often a who's who of international stars when it came to the central defensive partnerships.

    Who is the greatest, though? Bleacher Report counts down our own top 10 of England's all-time central defenders, looking at their performances at World Cups for their country, but also taking in consideration what they achieved at club level that saw them selected in the first place.

    Disagree with our selection? Let us know in the comments section below.


10. Maurice Norman

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    Associated Press

    A legend during his playing days for Tottenham Hotspur, Maurice Norman featured for England at the 1962 World Cup for England, having been unused in 1958.

    He was a highly regarded centre-back and had he not broken his leg a year ahead of the 1966 World Cup, we may well be talking of him as forming part of England's centre-back pairing—with Bobby Moore—that lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy.

    It wasn't to be, though, with Norman's playing career coming to a premature end as a result of that injury in 1965.

    He remains among the finest centre-backs his country has produced.

9. Gareth Southgate

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    Ben Radford/Getty Images

    When fans consider the international career of Gareth Southgate, the first thing that often springs to mind is his penalty miss in the semi-final shootout with Germany at Euro '96.

    England lost the game as a result, but aged just 25 at the time, Southgate's England career had time to recover—which it did.

    He went on to represent his country at the World Cup in 1998, and he was also part of the squad that travelled to Korea and Japan in 2002.

    Southgate was a reliable defender for England and, save for that penalty miss in the European Championship, rarely let his country down.

    Currently manager of England under-21s.

8. Tony Adams

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    CHRISTOF STACHE/Associated Press

    Defenders don't come much tougher than Tony Adams—a stalwart for club and country throughout his illustrious career with Arsenal and England.

    Adams was also England captain for a spell when Gary Lineker retired in 1992, and he featured under Glenn Hoddle at France '98 when the Three Lions eventually crashed out of the competition on penalties to Argentina in the last 16.

    That was to be his first and last World Cup for his country, however. He narrowly missed out on Italia '90, and England failed to qualify for USA '94.

7. Des Walker

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    Billy Stickland/Getty Images

    Italia '90 has a grip on English football, given that it was the last time England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup.

    It was the last time an England team truly thrilled the supporters, too, with so many of Sir Bobby Robson's squad proving iconic.

    Des Walker is one of those players whose displays for his country in Italy that summer have stood the test of time and are fondly remembered.

    He was a Nottingham Forest player at the time and his performances for England clearly left an impression with Serie A clubs, with Walker later joining Sampdoria in 1992.

    Like Tony Adams before him, Walker featured at just one World Cup for his country after England failed to reach USA '94.

6. Sol Campbell

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Tottenham Hotspur fans will admit it through gritted teeth after Sol Campbell departed White Hart Lane for Arsenal in fairly acrimonious circumstances in 2001, but the centre-back was one of the finest of his generation.

    Campbell's arrival on the international stage came at France '98, with some fine performances that ranked him among the best in Europe, if not the world.

    And he continued that form throughout the remaining years of his international career, making his final England appearance in 2007.

    He scored just one goal for his country, but he can count himself unfortunate to have not doubled that tally at France '98 when he saw his header disallowed against Argentina in the last 16.

    Had that goal been awarded, it would have sent England through to the next round. Instead, the game remained level at 2-2 and the Three Lions eventually lost on penalties.

5. Terry Butcher

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    Simon Bruty/Getty Images

    His career in management may not be going as planned after Terry Butcher was recently sacked as Hibernian boss, but don't let that impact the legacy of his playing days.

    When England fans talk of players with a lion's heart, it's Butcher they all imagine.

    The former Ipswich Town and Rangers man was a warrior for his country, once famously completing a vital World Cup qualifier against Sweden with his badly wounded head covered in blood.

    Butcher had suffered a gash early on in the match, but he refused to be taken off, with the England physio applying stitches and a bandage.

    It was enough to stop the bleeding, but only temporarily as Butcher insisted on heading the ball like he had before. The result come 90 minutes was Butcher's bandages and shirt being covered in blood.

    It's an iconic image and one that sums up Butcher's spirit.

    He featured at the 1982, 1986 and 1990 World Cups for his country.

4. Rio Ferdinand

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    Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

    A non-playing member of Glenn Hoddle's 1998 World Cup squad, Rio Ferdinand went on to play a key role in England's 2002 and 2006 World Cup campaigns.

    Had it not been for injury, he would have also featured at the 2010 World Cup, but having travelled to South Africa, he failed to appear for England.

    A graduate of the West Ham United academy, Ferdinand is among the stand-out defenders of his generation, with his ball-playing ability complementing the all-or-nothing style of John Terry to give England a formidable partnership whenever the pair appeared together.

    Ferdinand was released by Manchester United this summer and can currently be found working as a pundit for BBC Sport's coverage of the 2014 World Cup.

3. Jack Charlton

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    LESLIE PRIEST/Associated Press

    The other half of England's 1966 World Cup-winning centre-back pairing, Jack Charlton may not have the had the grace of Bobby Moore, but he was just as effective.

    His brother Sir Bobby Charlton also appeared for England in that historic game at Wembley, and while he has written his name in English football history, Jack's legacy makes that of the Charlton brothers all the more stronger.

    He was a no-nonsense type of player and come 90 minutes, strikers were always left only too aware they had been in a game with Jack.

    Physical, determined and one to never shy away from a challenge, he was a late bloomer in international terms, not becoming an England regular until he was in his 30s.

    He played his entire club career with Leeds United, making 35 appearances for his country.

    Charlton appeared at the 1966 and 1970 World Cups.

2. John Terry

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    A man cut from the same cloth as the likes of Bobby Moore, John Terry has been a leader for club and country throughout his career.

    His international career may have ended in somewhat unfortunate circumstanceswith Terry retiring in 2012 ahead of a hearing with the FA surrounding alleged racist comments he made to Anton Ferdinandbut that shouldn’t damage his legacy.

    He featured at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and when his country needed him, he was often there providing a wall between himself and the goal.

    An outstanding defender.

1. Bobby Moore

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    STR/Associated Press

    Our image above, with Bobby Moore holding the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft, says it all about the former England captain.

    Moore is without doubt the standard bearer for English defenders, and he remains the man every Englishman hopes to emulate in their careers.

    He was a silky player, one comfortable with the ball at his feet and bringing it out from the back in the way many defenders often try in the modern era.

    Often, such qualities aren't associated with that warrior instinct English fans adore, but Moore had that in abundance himself, captaining his country with aplomb as England lifted the World Cup in 1966.

    His legend and character epitomise everything that is great about English football, and Moore's spirit lives on with a statue erected in his honour overlooking the famous Wembley Way at the new stadium.

    Moore was a part of the England squad at the 1962 World Cup, and he captained his country in 1966 and 1970.

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