thumbnail Hello,

Football's global showpiece doesn't always feature the best players from around the world. Goal.com lists ten of the finest who never got the chance to flourish on the highest international stage...

10) Kazuyoshi Miura (Japan)

'Kazu' was Asia's first soccer superstar and pursued his dream all the way to Brazil where he turned professional in the 1980s.

During his long career he played in Serie A with Genoa and became Japan's first recipient of the Asian Player of the Year award. Miura was a star draw in the early years of the J.League and clocked up almost a century of appearances for the national side.

He announced his retirement from the international game in 2000 so was unavailable for selection when Japan co-hosted the tournament two years later. At 42, Kazu is still going strong with FC Yokohama in the second tier of the J.League.


'Kazu' remains a legend in Japan

9) Liam Brady (Republic of Ireland)


Like Johnny Giles before him, Brady was unfortunate to excel in an era when the boys in green were unable to qualify for a major tournament.

An outstanding midfield talent at Arsenal and Juventus his international career ended ignominiously when Jack Charlton substituted him before half-time in a friendly against West Germany in 1989. Given his experience of Serie A he would have made for a decent impact sub against the Azzurri in Italia '90.

8) Jari Litmanen (Finland)

Finland's greatest ever player won everything in the game at club level but despite representing his country on over 120 occasions he never got the chance to show his class on the world stage.

The Finns came agonisingly close to reaching the play-offs for France '98 and, at 38, Litmanen continues to play for the national side.

Given that his nickname is Merlin, don't bet against him weaving some magic for Brazil 2014 when he'll be 43. Remember Roger Milla...


Finns didn't work out on the international stage for Litmanen

7) Eric Cantona (France)

Lit up the Premier League during the 90s but Cantona fell foul of authority too often to feature at a major tournament, including an untimely insult of French coach Henri Michel on national TV.

France's lamentable showing at Euro '92 doesn't count.

Les Blues blew it in the last minute at home against Bulgaria for USA '94 and by the time France '98 rolled around the gallic playmaker had long since hung up his boots after being replaced by Zinedine Zidane in the affections of Aime Jacquet a year previous.


Cantona in typically brash mode

6) Valentino Mazzola (Italy)

A tragic case of what might have been. Mazzola was an integral part of the outstanding Torino side who dominated Serie A in the 1940s.

The Italian Duncan Edwards, the versatile player perished along with 30 others in the Superga disaster in 1949 having represented his country on only 12 occasions.

For one of those matches the Italian side was made up of 10 players from Il Grande Torino. His son Sandro would play in three finals tournaments, including the 1970 tournament, in which he featured on the losing side against Brazil in the final.

5) Bernd Schuster (West Germany)

Up there with Cantona for talent and controversy, the formidable German starred for his country when they won the European Championships in 1980.

That would be as good as it got for the moustached one as he quit the international scene at only 24 after a series of rows with the German Football Association.

Schuster's decision was hastened after dividing the nation by deciding to be present at the birth of his son instead of playing for his country. Without him, West Germany reached three World Cup finals when Schuster was at his peak playing for Barcelona and Real Madrid.


Schuster: Hmm, who will I fall out with next?

4) Ryan Giggs (Wales)

Brazil coach Dunga said Giggs would walk into his national side, but English football's most decorated player was born in Wales instead.

Along with Neville Southall, Mark Hughes and Ian Rush, the young winger was part of Terry Yorath's exciting Welsh side which should have qualified for USA '94.

Needing to beat Romania at home in their final group game, they squandered a golden opportunity to reach their first finals since 1958 when Paul Bodin missed a penalty and the Romanians ran out 2-1 winners.


Giggs clutches another honour but international success eluded him

3) George Weah (Liberia)


One of Africa's players of the century came closest to football's highest stage in 2002 when Liberia missed out on qualification by a single point.

Weah was more than just a player in his final playing campaign as he invested his own money and coached the national side to within a whisker of the World Cup.

In a 2002 interview Weah said, "If I only wanted to play in the World Cup, I could have played for France. I also could have played for Cameroon, and I think with either I could have made a World Cup."

A patriotic Liberian Weah made an unsuccessful bid for the Presidency in 2005.

2) George Best (Northern Ireland)

Best by name, Best by nature according to Pele.

The extravagantly gifted boy from Belfast only made 37 appearances for his country, which were most notable for a cheeky disallowed goal against England at Windsor Park when he outfoxed Gordon Banks, and for nutmegging Johan Cruyff in a World Cup qualifier in 1976.

He was briefly considered for Northern Ireland's squad for Spain 1982, but at 36 and his body ravaged by alcohol it didn't happen.


Arguably the Best player ever

1) Alfredo di Stefano (Argentina, Colombia, Spain)

Playing for three different countries and winning five European cups wasn't enough for the Real Madrid genius to feature at a World Cup.

His Argentina side refused to take part in both 1950 and 1954, by which time di Stefano was ineligible having represented Colombia. The blond arrow took Spanish citizenship in 1956 but couldn't help La Roja qualify for the finals in 1958.

Four years later it looked as though his time had come as Spain reached the finals in Chile, but just before the tournament di Stefano picked up a muscular injury which was to rule him out of the tournament.

Without him the Spanish were home before the postcards and di Stefano quit the international scene for good.


Di Stefano had to be content with five European Cups instead of World Cup glory

Patrick Reilly, Goal.com




Related

From the web