The World Cup is considered by many as the biggest sporting stage in the world and where legends are made. Here’s a look at some of the era-defining talents who had led their countries to world supremacy and gained God-like status along the way.
1. PELE (Brazil)
Brazil finishes on top of Group E to qualify for the round of 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. A huge chunk of the star-studded Selecao would surely draw inspiration from their World Cup hero, Pele. No football player has won three World Cups other than the legendary forward and that alone should testify the inclusion of ‘O Rei’ as one of the greatest players of all time. If that is not enough, he also helped Brazil become a force in the World in a time when Europe was dominant. He is also the only player to score more than 1200 senior goals. The youngest ever player (17 years and 249 days) to score in a World Cup, Pele scored twice in the 1958 World Cup final against Sweden.
2.DIEGO MARADONA (Argentina)
Argentina beat Nigeria 2-1 in their last group stage match after a late goal from Marcos Rojo. The Argentine legend, Diego Maradona, watched La Albiceleste produce a miracle from the stands and exhibited all kinds of emotions and crazy antics during the action-packed game. But no mistake about it – despite the memes and funny moments, El Diego is a living legend. Known for his skill, creativity, and passion for the game. One of his career highlights as a player was the fateful match against England in the 1986 World Cup: he not only won the Golden Ball award for best player, he also scored both of the two acclaimed goals: The first, though illegally achieved, was later on known as the “Hand of God” handball goal; the second, after a 60 meter-dribble facing defenders. This goal was also named the named the Goal of the Century in 2002 by voters at FIFA.com.
3. FRANZ BECKENBAUER (Germany)
Germany’s early shock exit made headlines all over the world. Die Mannschaft lacked pace and leadership. They lacked a figure like Franz Beckenbauer. The German legend was well known for his mental power on the pitch. Labeled ‘Der Kaiser’ or The Emperor, Beckenbauer rose to fame in the 1970 World Cup semi-final match, then touted as the ‘Game of the Century,’ when he went into battle with a broken arm against Italy. The German legend was also deemed to have brought the position of the sweeper, ‘libero,’ into professional football. He is the second player to have won a World Cup as a player and a manager of the team. He’s also one of the three defenders in history to have ever won the Ballon d’Or.
4. ZINEDINE ZIDANE (France)
No discussion of the world’s greatest football player without the name Zidane cropping up. The Frenchman boasts of an abundance of trophies including three FIFA World Player of the Year awards. Football legends have deified him: he was called “God” by Thierry Henry, “The Master” by Pele, and “The King” by Michel Platini. The French genius is remembered for leading the Les Blues team into victory against Brazil with a 3-0 card in the in the 1998 World Cup—which also made him a national hero in France after being awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1998.