Legends of the Football World Cup

When it comes to selecting three legends of the World Cup, one has to go back in time somewhat. Over recent World Cups, players of the stature of Beckenbauer of Germany, Cruyf of Holland, Zinedine Zidane of France, Ronaldino of Brazil and Franco Baresi of Italy are players who immediately stick out and who would, under normal circumstances be considered as true legends. However, if one was to go back even further, then there would be a host of players who would also be regarded as true legends, many of whom have set the standard for what really constitutes a legend or not. The following three players have been singled out as the three greatest players ever to grace the World Cup. It is always going to be a subjective area debate and there is no right or wrong answers but the insight in the chosen players in this article hopefully justify their claims as the greatest players to have ever played in Football’s number one tournament.


Pele is probably the best loved and most famous name ever to be associated with the the history of football. Pele began his World Cup romance with Brazil in 1958 as a 17 year old, making his World Cup debut against Russia and becoming the youngest ever player at that time to play in the Finals. He scored his first World Cup goal against Wales that year in the Quarter finals but went on to score twice in the final in Brazil’s 5-2 win over hosts, Sweden. It was Brazil’s first ever win in the World Cup.

By 1962 Pele was already established as a superstar, and he arrived at the World Cup finals in Chile that year with the world holding its breath, fully expectant of a super show by the 21 year old. Sadly for Pele, Brazil and football fans he was injured in the second match and took no further part in the tournament. It made little difference to the outcome however as Brazil proved yet again that they were the best team in the world by winning for the second time.

Pele suffered a similar fate in the 1966 World Cup in England, being literally kicked out of the tournament by ruthless defending. So badly injured was he after two Group games that Pele and Brazil failed to qualify from their Group and they went home early, much to the disappointment of the huge English support for him and them.

Two disappointing world cups left Pele with probably only one last chance to make amends and he arrived at the 1970 Mexico World Cup as part of a hugely impressive Brazil team, who were later to be regarded and still are regarded as the greatest football team ever seen. During that winning year, Pele was the shiniest star of a team full of shining stars, playing some of the most inspired, advanced and entertaining football ever witnessed. Pele score four times during their six match winning spree, but his overall play without doubt, inspired his team mates to produce some of the greatest football ever seen. That said, Pele will be remembered from that year as much for two spectacular attempts on goal that have often been copied down the years. The first was his outrageous dummy on the Uruguayan goalkeeper in the semi final, where he sent the keeper the wrong way without touching the ball and the second was his quick thinking lob from his own half that just went over the bar with the Czech goalkeeper off his line and beaten.

Diego Maradona

Currently the coach of Argentina, Maradona was regarded as the best player in the world for most of the 80s, but his crowning moments were probably saved for the 1986 World Cup when his brilliance led Argentina to victory.

Always a handful with the ball at his feet, Maradona had a very low centre of gravity, which combined with small but powerful frame, speed and immaculate left foot he was able to run past world class defenders as if they were standing still and he did this on two unforgettable occasions during the 1986 World Cup.

The first came against England in the quarter finals when he scored a goal that is still regarded as the greatest ever world cup goal. He took possession of the ball in his own half, dribbled with lightening speed past five English defenders, including keeper, Peter Shilton, before scoring. The whole movement took just 11 touches; the goal effectively won Argentina the match.

In the semi final he proved that the goal against England was no fluke and did exactly the same against Belgium, thus putting his team into the final against West Germany which they won 3-2.

Maradona scored five times in the 1986 World Cup and made five and although he will often be remembered for the very controversial ‘Hand Of God’ goal also against England, his name as a world cup player is now immortalised.