World Cup 2022 countdown: Five players who made FIFA WC their own

From Pele to Miroslav Klose, here are five players who dominated in World Cups and stood out from the rest.

Pele, since making the debut for his national side Brazil in 1957, has featured in four FIFA World Cups, winning three of them.

Pele, since making the debut for his national side Brazil in 1957, has featured in four FIFA World Cups, winning three of them. | Photo Credit: AFP

From Pele to Miroslav Klose, here are five players who dominated in World Cups and stood out from the rest.

The FIFA world cup is all set to be kicked off on November 20 in Qatar with 32 teams battling for the highest honour in international football. 

From Pele to Miroslav Klose, here are five players who dominated in World Cups and stood out from the rest.

Pele (Brazil)

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pele, is among the most decorated players in the history of football. He made his football debut for Santos FC in 1956 when he was 15 against Corinthians.

The ‘Black Pearl’, since making the debut for his national side Brazil in 1957, has featured in four FIFA World Cups, winning three of them. In the 14 matches that he played for Brazil at the World Cup, Pele netted 12 goals, which puts him fifth in the list of top goalscorers in the quadrennial tournament’s history.

Sixteen-year old Pele caught the eye of everyone right from his maiden World Cup run (1958), where he scored a hat-trick in the semifinal before netting a brace in the final to help Brazil lift the World Cup. By the end of his career, Pelé had won three FIFA World Cups with the Selecao, the most by any player.

Diego Maradona (Argentina)

Maradona’s ‘hand of god’ helped Argentina beat England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal.

Maradona’s ‘hand of god’ helped Argentina beat England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal. | Photo Credit: AP

Famous for his World Cup exploits and the ‘hand of god’ incident, Diego Maradona is almost synonymous with football. In his time with the Argentine national team, Maradona participated in the 1982, 1986, 1990, and 1994 World Cups and eventually went on to score eight goals while providing seven assists.

Maradona had his fair share of misadventures but the goal against England in the 1986 WC quarterfinal was the most controversial of all and gave birth to the ‘hand of god’ phenomenon. Maradona went on to score two goals against England, including one with his hand, which the referee thought was a headed goal and Argentina won the match 2-1 and eventually the World Cup that year.

After initially being banned for drug use in 1991 for 15 months, Maradona returned to international football only to be banned again after he tested positive ahead of Argentina’s WC campaign opener. After his career spiralled out of control, the Argentina legend hung up his boots in 1997, aged 37.

Paolo Rossi (Italy)

In the final of 1982 World Cup, Rossi scored the first of three goals against West Germany to hand Italy its third World Cup title.

In the final of 1982 World Cup, Rossi scored the first of three goals against West Germany to hand Italy its third World Cup title. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Former Juventus and Milan player Paolo Rossi is regarded as one of the best forwards of all time. The Italian was fondly known for his heroics in his national side’s title winning run in 1982 in which he scored six goals, clinching the golden boot,  but his journey there was nothing short of a fairytale.

In 1980, the striker was banned from football for his involvement in betting but his sentence was cut short to two seasons before Juventus signed him in 1982 and he was eventually drafted in Italy’s ‘82 WC squad.

Rossi scored a treble against Brazil to fire Italy into the semis before scoring a brace in the semifinal to help his side reach the final. In the final, Rossi scored the first of three goals against West Germany to hand Italy its third World Cup title. 

Roberto Baggio (Italy)

Brazil goalkeeper Taffarel celebrates after Roberto Baggio of Italy missed his penalty in the FIFA World Cup Final 1994.

Brazil goalkeeper Taffarel celebrates after Roberto Baggio of Italy missed his penalty in the FIFA World Cup Final 1994. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Although he is one of the most prominent goalscorers for Italy, Baggio’s name will often be associated with the 1994 World Cup final where he missed the decisive penalty in the shootouts against Brazil. He scored 27 goals in 56 appearances for Italy from 1988 to 2004 and is also the only Italian to score in three different World Cups. Baggio played his final international match in April 2004 in a friendly match against Spain. 

Miroslav Klose (Germany)

Nicknamed ‘Salto(somersault)-Klose,’ he has played 25 World Cup matches for Germany.

Nicknamed ‘ Salto(somersault)-Klose,’ he has played 25 World Cup matches for Germany. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Having participated in four FIFA World Cup editions, Miroslav Klose can safely be called a World Cup juggernaut. Nicknamed ‘ Salto(somersault)-Klose’, he has played 24 World Cup matches and is second on the list of players with most WC appearances, just behind Germany’s Lothar Matthaus.

Klose has scored 71 goals in 137 games and is Germany’s all-time leading scorer. With 16 goals in 24 matches, he also holds the record for most goals scored in World Cups. Having finished runner-up (2002) and third in two other editions of the WC (2006, 2010), Klose finally had a taste of success in 2014 when Die Mannschaft beat Argentina in injury time to clinch the World Cup trophy. 

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