The FIFA World Cup: the most prestigious soccer tournament in the world. Also the most watched sporting event in the world, some One billion people watch the World Cup Final, the NFL Superbowl on the other hand pales in comparison with a paltry 100 million viewers.
It’s a gathering of the cream of the crop, the elite of the sport. Players who ply their trade in prestigious clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus, A.C. Milan, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Barcelona come together once every four years to dazzle the world with their spectacle of skills of the beautiful game. Regrettably some stars do not make it, not because they are not good enough or are injured(as some often are before such tournaments) but because their national teams were not good enough to make it, even with such maestros in their ranks.
5. George Best(Northern Ireland)
George Best is the tragic story what could have been, of unfulfilled potential. Born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland Best was scouted at the age of 15 by Manchester United where he would go on to dazzle the public at Old Trafford with his amazing displays of technical skills. Known for his charisma and easy going manner, George Best became one of the first known celebrity footballers but his increasing extravagant lifestyle led to several health issues, namely alcoholism. Although Northern Ireland qualified for the 1982 World Cup, Best’s best years were behind him, at 36 years of age and the toll the drinking had taken, George Best missed out on the chance to show the entire world the dazzling displays he had put in at Manchester United.
4. Jari Litmanen
Here’s another great player that had the silky touch of an artist when the ball was at his feet. Jari Litmanen the legendary playmaker/striker of Ajax F.C. Born in Finland, Litmanen had the unfortunate luck to be from a country that has much more success in Ice Hockey than it does in soccer. Nevertheless, Litmanen came of age in the 1990’s playing for such illustrious teams like Ajax, Liverpool and Barcelona. Though he reached the pinnacle of success with such clubs, Litmanen’s national team of Finland was not part of the elite in Europe. Despite producing such great talents in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s like Litmanen and Sami Hyppia(another Liverpool legend) Finland could never get past the qualifying stage for the World Cup, though coming close a couple of times. And sadly….depriving the world of watching Litmanen play with grace and artistry in the greatest soccer tournament.
3. Ryan Giggs
Ryan Giggs is probably the saddest example of a player of such caliber never getting the chance to play at a World Cup. Born in Wales, Giggs got his start in professional soccer under the tutelage of the legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in 1990. Throughout that decade, Giggs was instrumental in winning title after title with the other alumni of the 90’s, namely David Beckham, Paul Scholes, The Neville brothers and Nicky Butt. One honor that did elude him was that of World Cup glory. Sure it would have been quite the stretch for his national team, Wales to win the tournament but for such a small team, qualifying would have been an honor in and of itself. Had Wales made it at some point in Giggsy’s prime to the World Cup, I believe the world would have seen magic performed by the midfield maestro. His smooth and calm approach would have left spectators wondering if it was just a dream, because that’s what Giggs was, a dream to any manager that got the pleasure to have him as a player.
2. Frédéric Kanouté
Although this might seem like a bit of an odd choice, I think Frederic Kanoute is an underrated player that was one of the unfortunate ones that didn’t get the chance to shine in a World Cup. Originally from Mali, Kanoute made a name for himself in various European leagues, like in France, England and Spain. It was in the latter, playing for the club Sevilla F.C. that Kanoute reached his prime and with his skills and leadership led Sevilla to challenge the two soccer giants of Spain; Real Madrid and Barcelona. Back to back UEFA Cup wins in 2006 and 2007 cemented his status of local legend. Unfortunately Kanoute’s national team, Mali could never reach his heights and did not qualify for a World Cup during Kanoute’s playing days. Another missed opportunity for fans to be witness to the great talent that was Frederic Kanoute.
1. George Weah
The absence of a player like George Weah from a World Cup is truly a bitter pill to swallow. Regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time, in 1995 he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or. Starting out in France playing for PSG, Weah soon attracted the attention of one of the most prestigious clubs of that era, A.C. Milan. Playing for five years in Milan Weah amassed trophies and accolades and became one of the best known faces of Italian soccer. Sadly this success did not transfer over to the international arena where his home country of Liberia already wracked with Civil War, despite having Weah in their ranks failed to qualify for the World Cup.