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The stars who never shone for the Three Lions & Les Bleus

Two of the biggest under-performers at last summer’s World Cup meet on Wednesday night, as France visit Wembley for a friendly international against England.

Both countries have tried to inject some fresh faces into their squads since their respective South African disasters, as they look to build for future international tournaments.

However, history dictates it is highly likely that top talent will be overlooked by both nations in the coming years.

Indeed, both England and France have a poor record in properly utilising the resources at their disposal.

Here, explores the worst offences committed by the two nations in leaving the international potential of players unfulfilled:

Glenn Hoddle

Clubs: Tottenham, Monaco, Swindon Town, Chelsea

Caps: 53
Club goals: 117

International goals: 8
Club honours: UEFA Cup, 2x FA Cup, French League, French Cup

Years of international career: 1979 - 1988

Although Glenn Hoddle won more than half a century of caps for the national side, there always seemed to be a feeling of wasted potential whenever he pulled on the Three Lions shirt.

Arguably the most talented footballer of his generation, Hoddle was never given full rein to display his considerable talents by a succession of England managers.

Many in the game chose to ignore his array of attacking qualities and instead focused on concerns about his defensive discipline and stamina.

Europeans found England’s reluctance to build a national side around Hoddle’s talent mystifying. As French legend Michel Platini once famously stated: “Had he been French, he would have won 150 caps.”

Eric Cantona

Clubs: Auxerre, Marseille, Nimes, Leeds Utd, Manchester Utd
Caps: 45
Club goals: 131

International goals: 20
Club honours: 5x League Championship, 2x French League, 2x FA Cup, French Cup

Years of international career: 1987 - 1995
Eric Cantona is often regarded as the catalyst for Manchester United’s dominance of English football over the past two decades. However, despite an impressive strike-rate in international football, Cantona’s talent was never fully utilised on the other side of the Channel.

However, the striker can be partly blamed himself for the premature ending of his international career. After he infamously launched a kung-fu kick on a fan during a Premier League game against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, the Frenchman was banned from all football for eight months. During that time he lost his position as playmaker in the national team to Zinedine Zidane, and never regained it.

His continuing resentment at not securing more international caps led Cantona to publicly declare his support for England over his homeland during recent international tournaments.

Matthew Le Tissier

Clubs: Southampton

Caps: 8
Club goals: 162

International goals: 0
Club honours: None

Years of international career: 1994 - 1997

Both Chelsea and Tottenham tried to tempt Matthew Le Tissier from Southampton during his playing days, but the striker remained at the South Coast club for the entirety of his career.

Thus, his enormous talent never enjoyed the heightened exposure that would have come from playing at a bigger club, and may have increased his tally of eight international caps.

Ironically, it was another player whose gifts were never fully appreciated by the national team who dealt Le Tissier the biggest blow in his limited international career, as Glenn Hoddle controversially overlooked the Southampton player for the 1998 World Cup.

It proved to be a shame as Le Tissier’s spot-kick prowess (he scored 48 out of 49 penalties in his career) would have been handy as England crashed out of the tournament following a shootout yet again.

David Ginola

Clubs: Toulon, Racing Club Paris, Brest, Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle United, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Everton

Caps: 17
Club goals: 81

International goals: 3
Club honours: French League, 2x French Cup, French League Cup, League Cup

Years of international career: 1990 to 1995

France manager Gerard Houllier made David Ginola the scapegoat for the nation’s failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.

Needing only a draw at home against Bulgaria in their final qualification game, Les Bleus succumbed to a 2-1 defeat after Ginola’s over-hit cross handed possession to the visitors who subsequently broke and scored, knocking the home side out.

The incident led to Ginola being branded ‘the assassin of French football’ and his barracking by French fans caused him to move to England. The midfielder’s international career never really recovered and he made his last appearance for the national side in 1995.

Peter Osgood

Clubs: Chelsea, Southampton, Philadelphia Fury

Caps: 4
Club goals: 134

International goals: 0
Club honours: Cup Winners' Cup, 2x FA Cup

Years of international career: 1970 - 1973
Despite his prolific form for Chelsea in the late 1960s and early 1970s, during which time his goals helped the West London club win the FA Cup and Cup Winners Cup, Peter Osgood was only picked four times for England.
The playboy lifestyle of ‘The King of Stamford Bridge’ did not fit in with the strict regime of national team manager Sir Alf Ramsey, hence why he made only a handful of appearances on the international stage.

Nicolas Anelka

Clubs: Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Fenerbahce, Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea

Caps: 69
Club goals: 149

International goals: 14
Club honours: Champions League, 2x League Championship, Turkish League, 3x FA Cup

Years of international career: 1998 - 2010
If it were not for an international hiatus between 2001 and 2007, Nicolas Anelka could have been one of the most-capped French players of all time.

The striker’s prolonged absence from the national side came mainly as a result of his nomadic existence during that period; he played for five different clubs in the six years he was missing from the French team.

He was also rarely playing in European competition during that time, something that seemed startling given the early promise his career showed.

Anelka was sent home from last summer’s World Cup in South Africa after a dramatic falling-out with manager Raymond Domenech. The French FA handed the striker an 18-match suspension as a result, something Anelka claimed to be “dying with laughter” about as he had already announced his intention to retire from international football.

Robbie Fowler

Clubs: Liverpool, Leeds United, Manchester City, Cardiff City, Blackburn Rovers, North Queensland Fury, Perth Glory

Caps: 26
Club goals: 180

International goals: 7
Club honours: UEFA Cup, FA Cup, 2x League Cup

Years of international career: 1996 - 2002
Known as ‘God’ by Liverpool fans, Robbie Fowler was prolific during his time at Anfield but, despite an impressive record of seven goals in 11 starts for England, he never enjoyed a prolonged run in the national team.

Fowler was never able to establish himself as first-choice for England as initially a combination of Shearer and Sheringham and then club-mate Michael Owen kept him out of the side. Injury also played its part, as a knee problem ruled Fowler out of the 1998 World Cup.

Robert Pires

Clubs: Metz, Marseille, Arsenal, Villarreal

Caps: 79
Club goals: 126

International goals: 14
Club honours: 2x Premier League, 3x FA Cup, French League Cup

Years of international career: 1996 - 2004

Despite a sizeable haul of caps for the national team, Robert Pires is included on this list for his failure to play for the national side beyond 2004, even though he continued to impress at club level.

A dispute with (surprise, surprise) France manager Raymond Domenech brought a premature end to the midfielder’s international career. The pairs’ falling-out was no doubt connected to the French manager’s public admission that he doesn’t trust Scorpios, such as Pires.

Andrew Cole

Clubs: Arsenal, Bristol City, Newcastle United, Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Nottingham Forest
Caps: 15
Club goals: 229

International goals: 1
Club honours: Champions League, 5x League Championship, First Division, 2x FA Cup, League Cup,

Years of international career: 1995 - 2002
Andrew Cole was another to suffer during the period that Glenn Hoddle managed the national side, who was not a fan of the striker. Indeed, Hoddle was once famously quoted as saying that Cole “needs six or seven chances to score one”.

Despite being an integral part of Manchester United’s 1999 treble-winning side, Cole found himself unable to regularly get past Shearer, Sheringham or Owen for a starting place in the England side.

David Trezeguet

Clubs: Platense, Monaco, Juventus, Hercules

Caps: 71
Club goals: 195

International goals: 39
Club honours: 2x Serie A, Serie B, 2x French League

Years of international career: 1998 - 2008

It seems strange to include France’s third-highest scorer of all time on a list of wasted talents. However David Trezeguet often found himself playing second-fiddle to Thierry Henry during his international career, and often had to settle for a spot on the bench for the national team.

At 21 years old he missed out completely on the 1998 World Cup final, overlooked for Stephane Guivarc'h, and was only used as a substitute for the Euro 2000 final and 2006 World Cup final.

The former Juventus player retired after missing out on France’s Euro 2008 squad, but he has since made himself available again after Raymond Domenech’s resignation as coach of Les Bleus.

It will remain for French fans to wonder whether they could have added to their 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 successes if Trezeguet and (the now-retired) Henry had been given the chance to strike up an attacking partnership.

...and more

Others that didn't have a chance to replicate their glittering club performances on the international stage include Charlie George, Alan Hudson, Stan Bowles, Frank Worthington, Tony Currie, Ludovic Giuly and Laurent Robert.

Brian Clough would also have been justified in feeling aggrieved at only winning two international caps, despite scoring an astonishing 251 goals in 274 games during his playing days. He was also consistently ignored for the post of England boss later in life, despite a stellar management career.

There seems to be no sign of the trend abating either, with Lassana Diarra, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema all missing out on France's squad for last summer's World Cup.

Although all three have been recalled under new manager Laurent Blanc, you wouldn't bet against future top talent being wasted by either country in the years to come.

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