West Ham

My All Time Greatest World Cup XI

This is bound to ruffle a few feathers but with the start of the World Cup rapidly approaching, I have bravely stuck my head above the parapet to round up the greatest footballers ever to grace this most prestigious of tournaments.

So here goes…..

GK Peter Shilton (England)

Not only England’s most capped player (125), Shilton has helped himself to a number of goalkeeping records along the way including keeping 66 clean sheets and going 499 minutes without conceding a goal – a record only beaten by Italy’s Walter Zenga.

He played in 17 World Cup matches and shares a record of 10 clean sheets in the tournament with none other than Fabian Bartez (who could’ve imagined it). He is also one of only a handful of players ever to have made over 1000 league appearances.

LB Paolo Maldini (Italy)

Who else could you possibly want at left back? After 126 appearances for the Azurri and 25 years at AC Milan, he has to employ a full-time polisher to service his burgeoning trophy cabinet. The five times European Cup winner captained Italy during the 1994 tournament where his side were only beaten in the final by Brazil on penalties. Has attempted to assassinate Roberto Baggio several times.

CB Franz Beckenbauer (Germany)

Has the word winner stamped all over him as the only man to win football’s biggest prize as team captain and manager. After the pain of losing in 1966 to England (boo hoo) and then being eliminated in the semi-finals four years later, Der Kaiser made it third time lucky when he finally lifted the trophy in 1974.

As a manager, his Germany side made to the final in 1986 only to lose to Argentina before avenging their defeat at Italia 1990.

CB Bobby Moore (England)

No great side is complete without the inclusion of the ultimate sportsman Bobby Moore. He is a true footballing icon not merely for being the only Englishman to lift the coveted trophy (so far) but for his admirable legacy of clean, precision tackling and absolute fair play.

RB Cafu (Brazil)

Known for his trademark marauding runs down the right flank, Brazil’s most capped player was the lynchpin in his country’s World Cup winning sides of 1994 and 2002 and was a losing finalist in 1998.

ML Diego Maradona (Argentina)

Was once the most hated man in England, Maradona played in four World Cups making two finals and winning one of them. Small and agile, he was strong as an ox and fast as anything. Would have made a fine volleyball player. More recently he has demonstrated how easily legendary footballers can destroy their reputations with devastating effectiveness.

CM Michel Platini (France)

Platini directed the French midfield for more than a decade with the inside and outside of both feet. He could not only deliver passes with pinpoint accuracy but scored goals for fun – Lampard could learn a thing or two then. Quite possibly the most talented football never to win a World Cup.

CM Lothar Mattheus (Germany)

Solid as a rock, Mattheus’s consistency in the middle of the park was symptomatic of Germany’s reputation for ruthless efficiency. He played in five World Cups between 1982 and 1998 (more than any other player), winning it once in 1990. The ultimate bane of England’s World Cup 90 and Euro 96 ambitions, he is Germany’s most capped player.

MR Jairzinho (Brazil)

With devastating speed and a lethal shot, Jairzinho was the highlight of Brazil’s all-conquering squad of 1970. He became the only player to score in every game including the final and his winner against England is one of the most-memorable goals ever scored.

FW Johan Cruyff (Netherlands)

The Dutch master was quite simply one of the most gifted and graceful players ever to ply his trade on a football field and pioneered the invention of the free-flowing and attractive passing game known as total football in the 1970s.

Cruyff only ever played in one tournament back in 1974 where his side was narrowly beaten in the final by West Germany. He was nevertheless named player of the tournament and went onto to score 33 goals in 48 games for his country.

FW Pele (Brazil)

Needs no introduction whatsoever. Since winning his first World Cup as a 17-year-old in 1958, Pele has become a household name the World over with his natural footballing ability. He won the Jules Rimet Trophy for a second time in 1962 and again in 1970 to become the only man ever to win three winners’ medals. Gave up football to start advertising Viagra.

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