World Cup: The world-beaters

LEV YASHIN (Soviet Union)

Yashin played in three World Cups for the Soviet Union, helping them to quarter-finals in 1958 and 1962, and a fourth-placed finish in 1966. He remains the only goalkeeper to be named European Footballer of the Year.


Best known for his stunning rocket-shot in the final of his first and only World Cup against Italy in 1970, he pioneered the roving full-back role which would be much emulated in decades to come.


The undisputed great of German football, Beckenbauer made more than 100 appearances for the national team. He played in three World Cups and found success in his final outing, when Germany beat Holland to win the title in 1974.


Cited by no less than Pele as the greatest defender he has ever played against, loyal West Ham man Moore left his indelible mark on English football history by captaining the nation to victory on home soil in 1966.


Maldini played in three World Cups for Italy and, although he retired trophyless in 2002 after 126 international appearances, his status as one of the game's greatest defenders was secured.


The brilliant, elusive 'Little Bird' inspired Brazil to World Cup wins in 1958 and 1962. He scored four goals in the later stages of the 1962 competition which earned him the Player of the Tournament accolade.


Zidane hit the heights in the 1998 World Cup final when he scored two goals to help France claim the trophy on home soil. JOHAN CRUYFF (Holland) The great Dutch playmaker produced a series of dazzling performances to lead his nation to the 1974 final, where they were narrowly beaten by West Germany. Cruyff was also voted European Footballer of the Year three times.

LIONEL MESSI (Argentina)

Considered a natural successor to Diego Maradona, the talismanic Argentinian made his World Cup debut in 2006 and went on to almost single-handedly haul his team to the quarter-finals in 2010.


Maradona played in four World Cups and hit the heights in 1986, when a pair of wondergoals against England and Belgium propelled Argentina to the title.

PELE (Brazil)

Starting with a series of stunning performances as a 17-year-old in 1958, and culminating in the starring role in Brazil's magnificent winning team in 1970, Pele is one of the game's iconic figures.

This article was published on June 10 in The New Paper.

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