Platini, Cruyff, Eusebio… Unlike Lionel Messi, these stars were not crowned at the World Cup

An idyllic epilogue. This is what Lionel Messi experienced on Sunday, in the twilight of his career, winning the World Cup for the first time against France (3-3, 4-2 on the tab). Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola assured this Wednesday that Messi “the greatest player of all time”while making sure he doesn’t change his mind” even though, on Sunday, Leo didn’t win the World Cup”. This victory is however played in the eyes of some observers of the mark that “La Pulga” will leave in the history of his sport. Unlike him, other legends have yet to climb to the top of the world, despite remarkable opportunities.

Johan Cruyff (Netherlands), uncrowned king

Johan Cruyff’s career was particularly marked by the aesthetics of his dribbling and his series of titles with Ajax (three-time Champions League Cup winner, eight-time Dutch champion). But his lack of trophies in the Dutch selection has always been a black spot. In the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, the player walked on water and dramatically rolled Argentina (4-0) with a double, before winning against Brazil (2-0) by scoring a goal. The Netherlands therefore arrived in a strong position for the final against Germany and set the tone for the start. From the first minute, Cruyff was alone in the opposing camp before erasing goalkeeper Sepp Maier. Uli Hoeness was forced to cut him down on the spot. Johan Neeskens converted the penalty and gave the Oranje the advantage. As the game progressed, however, the Batavians lost track and ended up losing (1-2), after a penalty from Paul Breitner and a goal from Gerd Müller.

Johan Cruyff (right) played in only one World Cup, it was in 1974. (L’Équipe)

For his only World Cup, the “Flying Dutchman” held the most prestigious awards, but did not win, despite being awarded the title of best player of the tournament. In 1978, the year the Netherlands made their second consecutive final (lost 1-3 against Argentina), Johan Cruyff was not selected. The versions differ, some argue a dispute with the Federation about bonuses, others explain the boycott of the Argentinian World Cup because of the dictatorship. Nothing was fixed, but Cruyff was never able to bring home the World Cup.

Eusebio (Portugal), a victory over Brazil and a podium

“The Black Panther” allowed Portugal to exist on the world stage. In 1966, the Seleção took part in its first World Cup in England. Eusebio scored against Bulgaria in the second match (3-0) and entered the third match against Brazil in a position of strength. Often compared to Pelé, he crosses his path and wins (3-1) by scoring twice. However, the Brazilian was forced off on a stretcher after a tackle from Portuguese Joao Morais.

Eusébio in the semi-final of the 1966 World Cup.  Despite a goal from the striker, Portugal lost to England at Wembley, 2-1.  (the team)

Eusébio in the semi-final of the 1966 World Cup. Despite a goal from the striker, Portugal lost to England at Wembley, 2-1. (the team)

After a quadruple in the quarters against North Korea (5-3), the Lusitanian center-forward will face the host country: England, at Wembley. Despite the success of their star, the Portuguese lost (1-2) and consoled themselves by beating the USSR in the minor final (2-1). Eusebio added a goal to his tally and finished on this occasion as the top scorer in the competition with 9 goals. The selection had to wait 20 years before reassessing at a World Cup, but it certainly marked spirits.

Paolo Maldini (Italy), cursed in penalties

Paolo Maldini played in four World Cups, and was sent off three times on penalties. In 1990, he took part in his first World Cup. Despite good performances, he was eliminated in the semi-finals of Argentina (1-1, 4-3 in the pens) Four years later, in the United States, a harsher result awaited the Milanese defender. After a checkered journey marked by third place in the group stage and victories in extremis in the round of 16 (2-1 against Nigeria), in the quarters (2-1 against Spain) and in the halves (2-1 against Bulgaria), the Transalpins reached the final to challenge the Brazil of Romario and Bebeto.

Paolo Maldini during his first World Cup in 1990. (A. Lecoq/L'Équipe)

Paolo Maldini during his first World Cup in 1990. (A. Lecoq/L’Équipe)

At the end of a closed opposition, the Seleçao won on penalties (0-0 ap, 3-2 on pens) after a failed attempt by Roberto Baggio. The trauma is felt, and the person concerned will declare about this failure: “This has been written on me for a lifetime. I couldn’t get over this episode. I will never get over it. I learned to live with it. » Paolo Maldini never attempted a shot on goal in the three sessions he attended, not even during the elimination against France in the quarter-finals of the 1998 World Cup (0-0 ap, 3-4 in pens), if what will reinforce the feeling of bitterness associated with these defeats.

In 2002, he ended his World Cup epic in a very sad way. For his 23rd match in the competition, he was eliminated in the round of 16 by South Korea, the host country (1-2 ap). A five-time Champions League winner with AC Milan and crowned seven times in Serie A, Paolo Maldini has also had an unhappy selection career. Even during Euro 2000, Sylvain Wiltord and David Trezeguet dashed the hopes of the Italian captain.

Michel Platini (France), crossed by Germany

Michel Platini, unlike the other players on this list, won a national title: Euro 1984, the first trophy in French football. But the playmaker was even worse at the World Cup. Twice, the FRG cut short the French team’s run. The first time – and by far the most painful memory – was in 1982, during the “night of Seville”. With the penalty (27th), he responded to Pierre Littbarski’s opener (17th). A heavy foul by German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher on Patrick Battiston and a French crossbar later, both teams tried to decide in extra time.

Michel Platini in the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup against FRG (3-3 ap, 5-4 on pens) (L'Équipe)

Michel Platini in the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup against FRG (3-3 ap, 5-4 on pens) (L’Équipe)

Les Bleus lead 3-1 after two goals from Marius Trésor (93rd) and Alain Giresse (100th). But Rummenigge, after a counter (104th), then Fischer, with an acrobatic return (108th), won a penalty shootout, the first in the history of the World Cup. At 3-2 in favor of the Blues, Stielike failed against Ettori but Six missed his shot on goal. At 4-4, Bossis hit to the right of Schumacher who was pushing the ball away. Hrubesch revised his attempt and then eliminated France. Four years later, the French returned to the semi-finals after a heroic victory over Brazil (1-1 ap, 4-3 in pens), but again faced their German rivals (2-0). . A taste of unfinished business for a golden generation that approached the world summit without achieving it.

Ferenc Puskas (Hungary), unfortunate finalist

The year 1954 would be Hungary and their star striker Ferenc Puskas. The “Wonder Team” came to the World Cup in Switzerland undefeated in four years. The Hungarians first crushed South Korea (9-0) with a double from Puskas and continued their attacking frenzy by crushing FRG 8-3. Injured in an ankle, the attacker missed the quarter and the semi-final of his team, which is important to all the same in his absence.

Ferenc Puskas against FRG (3-2), in the final of the 1954 World Cup.  (L'Équipe)

Ferenc Puskas against FRG (3-2), in the final of the 1954 World Cup. (L’Équipe)

Reduced, he still takes part in the grand final that provides revenge against West Germany. This time, the physiognomy of the match was a bit different. If Puskas opened the scoring and Hungary made the break, the Germans completely reversed the course of the game and finally won (3-2). However, the best player in the competition believed to equalize at the end of the match, but he was signaled offside. The damage was done, for the first time in four years and for the worst, Hungary lost and saw its World Cup dream come to an end.

Cristiano Ronaldo, quiet in the final stage

Cristiano Ronaldo experienced the euphoria of a continental coronation at Euro 2016, but things have always been more complicated at the World Cup. In 2006, the Portuguese were eliminated by France in the semi-finals with a penalty from Zinédine Zidane (1-0). During the South African World Cup, four years later, the Seleçao fell to a Spanish team in a cloud and with the victory that beat them in the round of 16 thanks to David Villa (1-0). In 2014, the year CR7 won his first Champions League with Real, he scored just one goal in the competition, and Portugal was eliminated in the first round, ending with a heavy defeat against Germany.(4- 0).

Cristiano Ronaldo spent the last two World Cup matches on the bench.  (P. Lahalle/The Team)

Cristiano Ronaldo spent the last two World Cup matches on the bench. (P. Lahalle/The Team)

His moment may finally come in 2018. His hat-trick against Spain (3-3), in the Portuguese’s first game in the competition, sends a strong signal. But again, the striker failed to unblock the situation in the round of 16 against Uruguay, who dominated the debates (2-1). The World Cup in Qatar is definitely Cristiano Ronaldo’s last. Apart from a penalty goal against Ghana (3-2) in the group stage, the captain faces an irreversible downgrade as the competition progresses. Substituting against Switzerland (6-1) in the round of 16 and during the defeat in the quarters against Morocco (0-1), he could not leave the mark he wanted in the World Cup.

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