Top 10 Footballers That Missed FIFA World Cup

Tags: #FIFAWorldCup ,   #WorldCup ,   #Soccer ,   #Football ,   #footballislife

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2023-05-13 06:00:07

Since its inception, the World Cup has been missing several outstanding athletes. While some players have had bad fortune due to the nations they have played for, others were unlucky. Furthermore, in some cases, there's no rational explanation for why they were left out. Therefore, this is our tribute to the best of them.

10. Kazuyoshi Miura

No one deserved more to play at the FIFA World Cup than King Kazu!
Position: Forward
National team: Japan
Notable teams he played for: Santos, Palmeiras, Genoa
Major trophies won: 4x Japan league, AFC Asian Cup, Asian Footballer of the Year

King Kazu will forever be one of the biggest icons of Japanese football and the country's first player in Serie A. Furthermore, he is the oldest professional football player in history, scoring goals even at 55! However, Miura was especially impressive while playing for his national team. In 89 games, he netted 55 times but still missed playing at the World Cup!

That was especially strange as Miura scored 14 times during the 1998 World Cup qualifiers! While he was the key player who took Japan to their first World Cup, he wasn't in the tournament squad! So, that must mean he was injured or did something stupid, right? Actually, Japanese coach Takeshi Okada explained that he didn't know where to play Miura! This decision stands as one of the worst in the history of World Cups, as Japan scored only one goal in the competition!

9. David Ginola

Another great French player thwarted by Bulgarians
Position: Midfielder, winger
National team: France
Notable teams he played for: Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur
Major trophies won: French player of the year, French league, English Football League Cup

French winger David Ginola, who has played for teams like Newcastle, Tottenham, Aston Villa, and Everton, wowed Premier League viewers with his deft touch and inventiveness. Yet, on the global stage, he could not duplicate those performances.

With just 17 opportunities to play for the France national team, Ginola only scored three goals. Notably, the former winger faltered in the qualification round since his overhit cross against Bulgaria was easily cleared. That ultimately led to a 2-1 loss, eliminating France from the 1994 event. Blamed by everyone for this tragedy, Ginola was out of international football in 1995. At the moment, he was only 28 and could have easily played for France in 1998.

8. Jari Litmanen

The greatest Finnish footballer of all time
Position: Second striker, attacking midfielder
National team: Finland
Notable teams he played for: Ajax, Barcelona, Liverpool
Major trophies won: Champions league, 5x Dutch league, UEFA Cup

Former midfielder Litmanen has the most caps in Finland, as he played for his national team for two decades! He is regarded as the greatest Finnish football player of all time and represented clubs like Barcelona, Liverpool, and Ajax.

During his career, he earned an incredible 137 caps for his nation and scored 32 goals. Despite that outstanding service, Litmanen could not represent Finland at any World Cup because they failed to qualify. Furthermore, he never played in the EURO Championship for the same reason. The nation managed that long after he retired, only because the tournament expanded to 24 teams.

7. Abedi Pele

The legendary midfielder from Ghana and living legend
Position: Attacking midfielder
National team: Ghana
Notable teams he played for: Marseille, Lyon, 1860 Munich
Major trophies won: 2x French league, Champions league, African Cup of Nations, 3x African Footballer of the Year

The legendary attacking midfielder from Ghana was crucial in helping his country win the 1982 African Cup of Nations. Furthermore, he held the record for most goals for his nation until Asamoah Gyan passed him in 2013.

Despite his success, Ghana's failure to qualify for the World Cup throughout his lengthy career prevented him from showing off his skills there. Yet, that didn't undermine Pele's legendary status in Ghana. Still, it keeps making people wonder what would happen if he played on the biggest scene. 

6. Ian Rush

Rush did well in qualifications but not well enough
Position: Forward
National team: Wales
Notable teams he played for: Liverpool, Juventus, Leeds United
Major trophies won: 5x English league, 2x European Cup, European Golden Boot

Rush established a reputation as one of his generation's most lethal attackers. He scored 383 goals during his club career, making him another of Wales' best players. With 28 goals for the Welsh national team, he carried that form into the international scene.

The former Liverpool and Juventus great even scored a hat-trick during the 1994 World Cup qualification. Still, it wasn't enough to guarantee his nation a spot at the ensuing championship. Unfortunately, Rush never qualified for any major tournament with Wales, despite representing the country for more than 15 years.

5. Eric Cantona

Cantona had to fail so Zidane could succeed
Position: Forward
National team: France
Notable teams he played for: Marseille, Leeds United, Manchester United
Major trophies won: 2x French league, 5x English league

Cantona is one of the few athletes who, on two separate occasions, came very close to competing in the World Cup. At the club level, Cantona made 432 appearances and scored 161 goals. However, the French striker inexplicably failed to qualify for both World Cups.

Cantona's Les Bleus fell to Bulgaria in the final seconds of a game they had to draw at home. Despite Cantona serving as captain, France could not advance to the 1994 World Cup. However, France automatically qualified for the next edition as host. Still, Cantona wasn't picked for the national team for years by that time, as Zidane successfully replaced him. Knowing his international career was dead, he shockingly retired in 1997 at only 31.

4. Ryan Giggs

Giggs didn't have luck both as a player and as a trainer
Position: Wide midfielder
National team: Wales
Notable teams he played for: Manchester United
Major trophies won: 13x English league, 2x Champions League, Intercontinental Cup

Ironically, one of Wales' best recognizable players stepped down from the squad as the trainer as they qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1958. During his career, Ryan Giggs, a 13-time Premier League champion, appeared 64 times for Wales.

Yet, with only a few capable teammates, Wales was far from the ultimate goal. Despite the frustration, Giggs kept playing for the nation for 16 years until 2007. Ironically, Wales massively improved less than a decade later, even reaching the EURO semi-finals.  

3. George Weah

The best football player from Liberia didn't make it to the grandest stage
Position: Striker
National team: Liberia
Notable teams he played for: Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, Milan, Chelsea
Major trophies won: 1x French league, 2x Italian league, Ballon d'Or

Weah, the Ballon d'Or winner, did not miss out on the competition like some of the other players on this list who were members of a talented national squad. Throughout his 18-year career, the legend of Monaco, PSG, and AC Milan made 75 appearances for Liberia.

The only time he came close to making the tournament was before the 2002 edition, when his nation fell short by only one point. Regardless, Weah is still one of the most beloved football players of all time and a living icon in his native nation. Therefore, no wonder he even became the president of the country. Unlike him, his son Timothy Weah did play in the 2022 FIFA World Cup by representing the USA.

2. George Best

The greatest Northern Ireland player of all time
Position: Winger, attacking midfielder
National team: Northern Ireland
Notable teams he played for: Manchester United
Major trophies won: 2x English league, European Cup, Ballon d'Or

The best winger the world has ever seen, Best is one of the finest players to represent Manchester United. In 1968, he and the Red Devils won the European Cup, today's Champions League. Despite making 37 appearances for Northern Ireland and scoring nine goals, they could not qualify for the World Cup.

Northern Ireland was able to qualify twice, in 1982 and 1986, but Best was past his prime, unfit, and had not been given a national cap in many years. His personal life, which included excessive drinking, was largely blamed for his collapse, as did his lack of fitness. Yet, he will always be among the most gifted athletes left out of the World Cup.

1. Alfredo Di Stéfano

Di Stefano failed to qualify despite playing for two national teams
Position: Forward, attacking midfielder
National team: Argentina, Colombia, Spain
Notable teams he played for: River Plate, Real Madrid
Major trophies won: 2x Argentinian league, 8x Spanish League, 5x European Cup

Di Stéfano was the player who had the worst luck when it came to competing in the World Cup. Yet, that sounds strange as he represented two powerful nations, Spain and Argentina. However, he was very unlucky.

Argentina withdrew from the World Cup qualifying rounds in 1950 and 1954. Furthermore, because Di Stéfano had already won four caps for Colombia, FIFA disqualified him. Yet, that didn't stop him as he obtained his Spanish citizenship. Although Spain lost to Switzerland in the 1957 World Cup Qualifying matches, Alfredo Di Stéfano was on the team. Di Stefano missed the 1962 World Cup due to an injury, which finally caused him to retire from the national squad.

The best football players in the world typically attend the World Cup, but that isn't always the case. Not for lack of trying, many outstanding players with commendable careers could not compete in the World Cup. Unfortunately, the list is long, and we'll mention Andrei Arshavin, Bernd Schuster, Sami Hyypia, Frederic Kanouté, and Valentino Mazzola.

Who's your favorite football player that missed the World Cup? Which players would you add to the list?

Cover photo: Scapin/Pixabay



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