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Best Players from Every World Cup-Winning Team

World Cup
Photo by Fauzan Saari on Unsplash

From Pele to Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, every World Cup-winning team has a main protagonist.

FIFA World Cup has provided us with countless memorable moments and exceptional talents that have led their nations to glory and etched their names in the annals of football history.

Let’s take a journey through time and highlight the standout players from each World Cup-winning team.

Jose Nasazzi (1930, Uruguay)

The inaugural World Cup in 1930 witnessed the leadership of Uruguayan captain Jose Nasazzi. As a robust defender, Nasazzi anchored the team’s backline, exhibiting a mix of courage, vision, and unparalleled defensive skills. Uruguay conceded only four goals in the tournament, lifting the World Cup trophy on home soil.

Giuseppe Meazza (1934, Italy)

Giuseppe Meazza was the linchpin of Italy’s victorious 1934 squad. His technical prowess, creativity, and his ability to score crucial goals distinguished him as one of the finest forwards of his era. Meazza scored twice in the tournament, including a decisive goal in the quarterfinals against Spain, helping Italy clinch their first-ever World Cup trophy.

Silvio Piola (1938, Italy)

Regarded as one of Italy’s finest strikers, Silvio Piola played a crucial role in Italy’s successful defence of their World Cup title in 1938. Piola’s brace in the final confirmed Italy’s dominance in the early years of the World Cup.

Óscar Míguez (1950, Uruguay)

Óscar Míguez was the driving force behind Uruguay’s second World Cup win in 1950. His attacking prowess yielded a total of five goals throughout the tournament, including a brace in the semi-final against Sweden. Míguez’s performance was instrumental in Uruguay’s shock victory over Brazil in the final, a match famously known as the “Maracanazo”.

Fritz Walter (1954, Germany)

Captaining the German side to their first World Cup win in 1954, Fritz Walter demonstrated excellent leadership skills. Despite challenging weather conditions in the final, known as the “Miracle of Bern,” Walter’s inspiring play guided his team to a surprising 3-2 victory over the mighty Hungarians.

Pele (1958, Brazil)

The 1958 World Cup introduced the world to a 17-year-old Brazilian named Pele. His skill, agility, and flair were unmatched throughout the tournament. Scoring six goals, including a hat trick in the semi-final and two in the final, Pele led Brazil to their first World Cup triumph.

Garrincha (1962, Brazil)

Despite the absence of an injured Pele, Garrincha stepped up magnificently to guide Brazil to their second World Cup in 1962. His dribbling skills, creativity, and four goals earned him the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball, solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time.

Bobby Charlton (1966, England)

Bobby Charlton was the fulcrum of England’s World Cup victory on home soil in 1966. Playing as a midfielder, his exceptional vision, passing, and goalscoring ability were critical to England’s success. Charlton scored three goals, including both of England’s goals in the semi-final victory over Portugal.

Pele (1970, Brazil)

In 1970, Pele again led Brazil to World Cup success, showcasing his unrivalled skillset and footballing genius. Directly contributing to half of Brazil’s goal in the tournament, Pele was a driving force in what is often considered the greatest football team ever assembled.

Franz Beckenbauer (1974, Germany)

Known as “The Kaiser,” Franz Beckenbauer was a commanding presence in Germany’s 1974 World Cup triumph. Beckenbauer’s unique ability to excel as a defender and midfielder was pivotal in Germany’s victory. His leadership, vision, and tactical intelligence helped Germany secure their second World Cup.

Mario Kempes (1978, Argentina)

Mario Kempes was the star of the 1978 World Cup. His goalscoring instinct and clinical finishing were on full display as he scored six goals, including two in the final, leading Argentina to their first World Cup title.

Paolo Rossi (1982, Italy)

After a slow start to the tournament, Paolo Rossi exploded into form, scoring six goals in Italy’s final three matches, including a hat trick against Brazil in the group stage. Rossi’s goalscoring heroics led Italy to their third World Cup victory.

Diego Maradona (1986, Argentina)

Diego Maradona delivered one of the most iconic performances in World Cup history in 1986. His brilliant solo runs, including the infamous “Hand of God” and the “Goal of the Century” against England in the quarterfinals, confirmed his status as one of the greatest players ever. Maradona’s five goals and five assists helped Argentina claim the trophy in Mexico.

Lothar Matthäus (1990, Germany)

Lothar Matthäus was instrumental in Germany’s 1990 World Cup victory. Known for his robust midfield play and leadership, Matthäus scored four goals in the tournament, becoming the fourth German player to win the Ballon d’Or.

Romário (1994, Brazil)

Romário was the protagonist of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup victory. His quick feet, clinical finishing, and eye for goal were unmatched, as he scored five goals, leading Brazil to World Cup glory in the USA.

Zinedine Zidane (1998, France)

Zinedine Zidane dominated the 1998 World Cup with his exceptional skill and vision. Zidane scored twice in the final, powering France to their first World Cup title on home soil. Brilliant performances during the 1998 tournament cemented Zidane’s place as one of the greats of the game.

Ronaldo (2002, Brazil)

After overcoming a serious injury, Ronaldo shone in the 2002 World Cup, scoring eight goals, including two in the final against Germany. His performances were a testament to his resilience, leading Brazil to their record fifth World Cup title.

Fabio Cannavaro (2006, Italy)

Fabio Cannavaro was a rock in Italy’s defence during the 2006 World Cup. His leadership, combined with his defensive prowess, helped Italy win their fourth World Cup. Cannavaro’s performances earned him the Ballon d’Or, making him one of the rare defenders to win the award.

Andrés Iniesta (2010, Spain)

Andrés Iniesta was the heartbeat of Spain’s 2010 World Cup-winning team. His vision, creativity, and ability to control the tempo of the game were instrumental to Spain’s success. Iniesta scored the winning goal in the final, securing Spain’s first-ever World Cup title.

Manuel Neuer (2014, Germany)

Manuel Neuer revolutionized the role of goalkeeper in Germany’s 2014 World Cup run. His sweeps outside the box and shot-stopping abilities were pivotal in Germany’s success. Neuer’s performances earned him the Golden Glove award.

Antoine Griezmann (2018, France)

Antoine Griezmann was a key figure in France’s 2018 World Cup victory. His four goals and two assists, including a goal in the final, showcased his importance to the team. The 2018 tournament was the peak of Griezmann’s career, after which he secured a €120m move to Barcelona.

Lionel Messi (2022, Argentina)

Regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of football, Lionel Messi finally won his first World Cup with Argentina in 2022. His exceptional dribbling, playmaking, and vital goals propelled Argentina to their third title, providing a fitting culmination to his legendary career.