Shining stars

The World Cup is replete with amazing feats of extraordinary players such as Pele, Ferenc Puskas, nicknamed `The Galloping Major', and Maradona. A look at the 10 great stars of the world's most prestigious tournament.


Edson Arantes do Nascimento came to world attention as a 17-year-old at the 1958 finals in Sweden, where he helped Brazil win the competition for the first time and become the first side to win away from their home continent.

He scored over 1,000 goals in a career spent almost entirely with the Brazilian side Santos, but Pele was far more than a simple predator and created openings for others with his astonishing and audacious skills.

Injury curtailed his appearances in the 1962 and 1966 competitions but he returned at the peak of his powers in 1970, leading arguably the greatest football team ever assembled to a third World Cup crown in Mexico.

Diego Maradona

Maradona's promise was spotted in the slums of Buenos Aires and he became the undoubted star footballer of the 1980s with Argentina and with Italian side Napoli. He hit his peak in the 1986 finals in Mexico, leading an otherwise average Argentina side to glory with his dazzling skill and will to win, plus a little help from the `Hand of God'. Drug problems blighted his career thereafter but his talents as a playmaker were unrivalled.

Johann Cruyff

The lithe forward was the star attraction of Holland's 1974 World Cup team, a side so talented and versatile that their play spawned the phrase `Total Football'. Inventive, original and most definitely a one-off, Cruyff was imperious as the Dutch cruised to the 1974 final. They were surprisingly beaten by hosts West Germany, denying Cruyff international honours to go alongside his incredible club achievements with Ajax and Barcelona. He went on to manage the latter with spectacular results and is still highly influential in Catalonia.

Franz Beckenbauer

Caught the eye at the 1966 World Cup as an all-action midfielder but his finest hour was as West Germany's sweeper and skipper on home territory in 1974. His commanding presence and automatic leadership qualities earned him the nickname `Der Kaiser' and he also enjoyed great club success with Bayern Munich in the 1970s.

He became the first man to win the World Cup as player and manager when he led his country to glory in 1990. He is the head of the Organising Committee for the 2006 finals in Germany.

He may put his qualities as a figurehead to a new test after that, with Beckenbauer tipped as a future president of UEFA.

Dino Zoff

One of the great goalkeepers of all-time and the oldest player to win the World Cup at the age of 40 in 1982. Began his international career in glorious fashion too as part of Italy's 1968 European Championship-winning side but was dropped for the 1970 finals.

Upon regaining his place in the Azzurri line-up he went 1,142 minutes without conceding a goal, with the run ending against Haiti of all teams in the 1974 finals. He appeared again in 1978 and ended his international career on a huge high with victory over West Germany in the 1982 final.

Bobby Moore

Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker could all perhaps claim to be England World Cup greats, but Moore looked more at home than any of them on football's greatest stage. Captained England to their one and only World Cup success in 1966 but if anything looked even better in the 1970 finals, it was putting in one of the greatest displays of defending ever seen in the 1-0 defeat to Brazil. He famously swapped shirts with Pele at the end of that game, a sign of the mutual respect which existed between two of the all-time greats.

Lothar Matthaus

Tremendous all-round midfielder who appeared in five finals for West Germany and the unified Germany between 1982 and 1998. Shone in the 1986 side before being given man-marking duties on Diego Maradona in the final. He kept his opponent relatively quiet until the Argentinian played a killer through-ball late on to set up Jorge Burruchaga's winner.

Matthaus, who enjoyed great club success with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, was at his dominant best in the 1990 finals, where he was one of few stand-out players in a disappointing tournament overall and captained West Germany to a revenge victory over Argentina in the final. As his pace dwindled, Matthaus dropped back into a sweeper role for the 1994 and 1998 finals. Now he is the coach of Hungary's national team.

Zinedine Zidane

His star arguably shines brighter than any of Real Madrid's other `galacticos' and inspired France to their first-ever World Cup triumph on home soil in 1998. Still the world's most expensive player after his move from Juventus to Madrid, he is also the world's best in the eyes of many.

Blessed with fabulous technique, an almost limitless passing vision and an eye for goal, especially from set-pieces. Born in Marseille of Algerian descent, the 1998 victory was a triumph for the new, multi-racial France and his decision to come out of international retirement late in the qualifying campaign for 2006 was greeted with unprecedented joy and no little relief.


Denied the chance to match Pele's feats when he was confined to the bench in the 1994 finals in the USA as a 17-year-old, he also missed his chance to scale the World Cup summit when convulsions suffered on the day of the 1998 final meant he appeared a shadow of his former self. In fact, he should not really have even played.

World Cup success finally came his way in 2002 as his eight goals — including both goals in the final against Germany — took the buck-toothed striker to the very top.

Ferenc Puskas

Nicknamed `The Galloping Major', the portly Hungarian hardly looked star material at first glance but until the emergence of Pele, he and Real Madrid team-mate Alfredo di Stefano were possibly the finest players the game had ever witnessed.

The creative pulse of the great `Magic Magyars' side of the 1950s, his team seemed set fair to win the World Cup in 1954 having humbled England at Wembley the previous year. They thrashed West Germany 8-3 early on in the competition but when the sides met again in the final, a half-fit Puskas was unable to exert his usual influence and the eastern Europeans let a 2-0 lead slip to lose 3-2.

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