ICONS OF THE WORLD CUP

SANJAY RAJAN EUSEBIO

HE could change the course of a contest single-handedly; had done so on quite a few occasions for both Portugal and Benfica in his long, illustrious career.

Eusebio da Silva Ferreira will, forever, be remembered for his brilliant display in the 1966 World Cup in England, emerging the competition's highest scorer with nine strikes, while carrying the side to the semifinals.

The legendary striking inside-forward with a ferocious right-foot was ruthless in execution. He scored two goals in the 3-1 victory over (Pele-less for most part) Brazil, the defending champion, in the Group phase while the quarterfinal contest against North Korea saw him at his magnificent best.

The Koreans, who had earlier shocked Italy, went on the rampage against the Portuguese at Everton, running up a 3-0 lead in no time. Then, Eusebio, known as the "Black Panther" for his astounding agility, artistry and ball control, weaved his magic. In a top class display of finesse, spirit and athleticism, he turned the contest on the head, scoring four of the goals in his side's 5-3 victory.

Portugal was stopped by England, and it was indeed an emotional sight when the great man left the field in tears. English defender Nobby Stiles had managed to curb Eusebio's prowess; he scored the team's only goal though, a penalty - unleashing a pile-driver that curled while having Gordon Banks go the other way.

Born in Mozambique (a Portuguese territory) in 1942, Eusebio began with the Lourenco-Marques (Sporting Lisbon's nursery club) at the age of 16 and moved to Benfica as a 19-year-old in 1961, for which he scored a hat-trick against Santos of Brazil in a tournament in Paris - which was seen by many as the start of the Pele-Eusebio rivalry, even while his reputation of being one of Europe's most lethal strikers grew. Eusebio struck twice in the 5-3 verdict over Real Madrid in the 1962 European Cup final while also gaining runner-up medals in 1963 and 1968.

Eusebio was the European Player of the Year in 1965 and emerged the inaugural winner of the Golden Boot award - Europe's leading scorer - in 1968 and repeated the feat five years later. His 46 goals in the European competition is second only to the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano of Real Madrid.

Making his international debut against Luxembourg in 1961, Eusebio won 64 caps for the country and scored 46 goals. He was the Portuguese League's top-scorer for many years. Knee injuries and the resultant operations slowed him down, and in 1975 he moved to the NASL. He played for SC Beira Mar in Portugal in 1976-77 and thereafter had stints with clubs in the United States and Mexico.

UWE SEELER

HE was the strong and silent type. A master strategist, who adjusted to the needs of the team. Uwe Seeler, the short and stocky West German, played as an inside forward, but possessed a ferocious shot that could surprise the best of goalkeepers. No wonder then that he was the country's most prolific scorer until the arrival of Gerd Muller.

Seeler played in four World Cups between 1958 and 1970, appeared in 21 Cup matches which was a record until fellow countryman Lothar Matthaus upstaged it in 1998. The Germans made the semifinals in '58, the quarterfinals in '62, the final in '66 and finished third in '70. Seeler made the last of his 72 international appearances against Hungary in Nuremberg in 1970, finishing with 43 goals.

Born on November 5, 1936, Seeler was the country's footballing pride and joy for well over a decade. Interestingly, he stayed with his home club, SV Hamburg, through his entire career, not in the least tempted by the lucrative offers from Florence and Milan. He won four league championship titles between 1956 and 1961 and played 239 games in the Bundesliga which was founded in 1964. In the same year, Seeler also figured in the European scratch team against Yugoslavia.

Seeler was called into the National squad just after West Germany's triumph in the '54 World Cup. As a 17-year-old he was tried in four internationals, but failed to impress. The word went around that he lacked the necessary height (was 1.68 m tall) to spearhead the attack.

Recalled in 1958, owing to the efforts of Sepp Herberger, Seeler scored the crucial goal in the opening game against Argentina in the World Cup in Sweden, the first of his many match-winning performances.

He played magnificently in England '66, especially in the final against the home team - a contest that could have gone either way.

In the following World Cup, Mexico '70, Seeler played a deeper role, complementing Muller wonderfully. At Leon, in the grudge match (quarterfinal) against England which the Germans won 3-2 in extra-time, Seeler scored with an extraordinary header. With his back to the goal, he leaped mightily to meet Schnellinger's lob and sent it over England goalkeeper Bonetti in a tantalising parabola.

In the semifinals in Mexico City, Germany lost to Italy 3-4 in extra-time in a thriller. Seeler was at his magnificent best, setting up a goal for Muller, as the Germans displayed their famed resilience, especially after that draining quarterfinal, followed by another setback when Franz Beckenbauer had to play with an arm strapped for most part after the Azzurris chopped him down.

In the end though, Seeler would miss out on the ultimate honour, the World Cup winner medal, which the country won as host in the next edition.

GORDON BANKS

HE was referred to as Banks of England, for he was as safe between the goal posts as the legendary Bank of England is with money. Gordon Banks rivals Russian Lev Yashin as the greatest goalkeeper to have played in a World Cup.

Banks, lithe and masterly, was the central figure of England's World Cup triumph in 1966. He hadn't conceded a goal until the semifinal (fifth outing) against Portugal, that too a penalty taken by Eusebio, a banana shot that curled the other way. As they say, it takes one diamond to cut another!

Banks will forever be remembered for effecting what is known as the 'save of the century'. This was in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico against Brazil, the eventual champion, in the group phase at Guadalajara.

Jairzinho raced past the left flank, dashed to the line and centred perfectly where Pele met the ball, and headed it down and hard, on the bounce, inside the left post - the perfectionist that he was. So sure was Pele of converting it, that he was already screaming 'Goal!'

As it turned out, it wasn't. Banks, beaten early on, having moved the other way, regained balance and dived full length across the goal to fist the ball over the bar.

Pele went on to say later, "At that moment I hated Banks more than any man in soccer. But when I cooled down I had to applaud him with my heart. It was the greatest save I'd ever seen."

A stomach ailment on the morning of the quarterfinal against West Germany - whom England had beaten in the '66 final - forced Banks to miss the crucial game and England failed to take advantage of a two-goal lead and lost 2-3.

Banks dependability at the post gave coach Sir Alf Ramsey the option to allow his backs to overlap.

Born in Sheffield, Banks joined third division side Chesterfield as a part-time professional in 1955. Four years later he moved to Leicester City, and in his very second season the side made the FA Cup final. The team emerged runner-up again in 1963, the year he won his first National call, against Scotland.

A car accident, which left his right eye blind, in 1972 forced him into retirement. A few months earlier he had been voted England's Player of the Year while also winning the League Cup with Stoke City.

His was a great career, having maintained 35 clean slates while allowing just 57 goals in 73 appearances for England. He was honoured with the OBE.

Banks was a good friend and an unselfish senior, who was always willing to help up-and-coming goalkeepers. Peter Shilton, who succeeded him in the National side, gained tremendously from his advice.

GEOFF HURST

FOR someone who made his international debut only five months prior to the 1966 World Cup, Geoff Hurst made history by scoring a treble in the final against West Germany at Wembley. This, after an injury to first-choice England striker Jimmy Greaves paved the way for Sir Alf Ramsey to play Hurst in the knock-out phase.

He scored the winner in the quarterfinal against Argentina and remains the only player to have netted a treble in the title round.

Born on December 8, 1941 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Hurst joined West Ham in 1958 as a wing-half, turned a professional a year later, and made his debut in February 1960 against Nottingham Forest.

Hurst was a changed performer when manager Ron Greenwood played him as a pure striker, partnering Johnny Byrne, and the two developed into Ham's most successful strike force, bringing home the F.A. Cup in 1964 (Hurst scored in the final against Preston) and the European Cup Winners Cup in the following year, both at the Wembley. Then came his, as well as English football's, greatest moment.

Deceptively quick for a big man, Hurst was known for his strength and sudden bursts. His third goal in the final was a classic. Even as little boys dashed onto the ground in the dying seconds of the game, Hurst collected Moore's long pass and darted. With impishness in his eyes and blowing out his cheeks he beat Tilkowski with a ferocious left-footer.

But his penultimate goal is among the most controversial ones in World Cup history. His fierce right-footer from the near post beat Tilkowski, hit the underside of the bar and bounced down. Amidst protesting Germans, referee Herr Dienst consulted Russian linesman Bakhramov and pointed towards the centre spot.

Hurst, also a first class cricketer, played in Mexico '70, where England was beaten by West Germany in the quarterfinals. He won 49 caps for England and scored 24 goals.

In 1972, Hurst left West Ham for Stoke City. In the 12 seasons with Ham, he made 411 league appearances (scoring 180 goals) and 91 Cup appearances (netting 72 goals). He finished his career with West Bromwich Albion.

Later, he managed Telford United and Chelsea and assisted Greenwood with the National squad, before moving to the insurance trade, which is his career now.

One of West Ham's favourite sons, Hurst is often seen at Upton Park on a match day. Knighted in 1998, he is a key figure in England's 2006 World Cup bid.