World Cup absentees
Not every brilliant footballer gets the chance to show off his skills at the sport's showpiece event. Pete Fraser takes a look at 10 brilliant footballers that failed to make an appearance at a World Cup
Last Updated: 04/09/13 7:45am
Heartbreakingly for such an outstanding footballer, the late Best never featured at a World Cup. He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals. But, despite his pure talent, Best was unable to lead his country to the world stage. At Manchester United the attacker dazzled to the Nth degree and built his reputation as one of the best players to grace the game. Best was considered by then-Northern Ireland manager Billy Bingham for the 1982 World Cup. But, at 36 and his fitness on the wane due to well-documented lifestyle issues, he was not selected in the squad.
Cantona's international career was mixed to say the least. 'King Eric' was a true delight to watch on the field and he won four Premier League titles with Manchester United. The playmaker was given his full international debut in 1987. However, after a rather blue-worded disagreement with Henri Michel, he was banned from representing his country. Michel Platini then replaced Michel and called upon Cantona. The attacker was then made captain of France in preparation for Euro 96. But the infamous Selhurst Park incident in January 1995 handed him a lengthy ban, and upon his return France had already begun building a youthful team around Zinedine Zidane. He was overlooked for the squad for the 1998 World Cup, a tournament which France won.
Alfredo Di Stefano
This guy was magic. He made a serious name for himself at Real Madrid but it never quite happened for him at international level. Di Stefano played for three different national teams during his career. It is said that he represented Argentina, Colombia and Spain - however, he never played in the World Cup finals. He missed out on the 1950 tournament, as Argentina did not select him (he was aged 24 at the time). For the 1954 World Cup, Argentina did not enter and it is claimed Fifa declared Di Stefano was not eligible to play because he had previously been capped by both Argentina and Colombia. He acquired Spanish citizenship in 1956, and played four World Cup qualifying matches for Spain in 1957, but the team failed to qualify for the 1958 World Cup. In 1961, Di Stefano helped Spain qualify for the World Cup of 1962. But a muscular injury just before the competition prevented him from playing in the finals.
Edwards' story is deeply sad. The Dudley-born midfielder had class and he was tipped to shine for both club and country at the highest level for many, many years. Edwards was signed by Manchester United as a teenager in the early 1950s and soon attracted much attention for his qualities. He made his England debut in 1955 and played a key role in England's qualifying matches for the 1958 World Cup. However, Edwards was one of eight players who died as a result of the Munich air disaster. His career and life were cut short at just 21-years-old. Some have suggested it would have been Edwards, not Bobby Moore, who would have lifted the 1966 World Cup.
Welshman Giggs has featured in all-but every high-profile club tournament in the world. His honours list is too long to recite, having enjoyed, and still enjoying, a quite remarkable career at Manchester United. On an international level, playmaker Giggs captained England Schoolboys but played for the Welsh national team as an adult. He was appointed captain of the Dragons in 2004 and in 2007 he announced his retirement from the international football. Disappointingly, for the game, he never graced a major international tournament.
Giles was a brilliant midfielder for both club and country. At club level, he started out at Manchester United before joining Leeds, where he twice won the First Division. He was in the Republic of Ireland team before his 19th birthday. Giles tallied more than 50 caps for his nation, but was unable to demonstrate his talent at a World Cup finals. Giles did manage Ireland and he came mighty close in leading the side to the 1978 World Cup, with the side finishing only two points short of qualification.
At 38-years-old, Litmanen is still plying his trade (at Lahti, for those of you wondering where). Litmanen will go down in Finnish folklore when he finally retires from international football. The midfielder, often referred to as 'The King' in his homeland, has an international career spanning more than two decades. He made his debut in 1989 and is now his country's most-capped player, and also their all-time leading scorer. Unfortunately, though, with Finland failing to qualify for a major tournament, Litmanen has missed out on showing off his genius on the World Cup stage.
Rush joins this hugely gifted list of 10 footballers in having not played in a major international tournament. Indeed, famous for his moustache but also for his incredible goalscoring record. Rush was cool as a cucumber in front of goal. The Liverpool legend made his Wales debut before he had been handed his first start for the Reds, playing his first match in 1980. However, like his compatriot Giggs, his country failed to reach the Promised Land.
The reason behind Schuster's lack of involvement at a World Cup makes for interesting reading. Schuster was a man with some serious quality, and he more than demonstrated his class during spells at Barcelona, where he won the European Silver Ball in 1980, and Real Madrid, where he assisted their Spanish dominance in the 1980s. Schuster was part of the West Germany side that won the 1980 European Championship in Italy, appearing in two of Germany's four matches. However, after disagreements with the German Football Association, he retired from the national team at the age of 24, ending his chances of a World Cup appearance.
The mighty Weah enjoyed an eye-popping club career. He spent 14 years playing for sides in France, Italy, and England, winning titles in two of the three countries. In 1995, Weah was named Fifa World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, and African Footballer of the Year. However, he was not able to replicate such success for the Liberian national team. Weah has played, coached and financed Liberia but never reached a World Cup. The closest he came was for the 2002 tournament, when the country fell just a point short of qualification.
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