Some of these players were unlucky because of the weak countries they play for while others have been prevented by unfortunate circumstances.
Playing at the FIFA World Cup is the dream of every footballer. Many football players have gained stardom through their performances at the World Cup.
The likes of Pele, James Rodriguez, Michael Owen, Thomas Muller, Kylian Mbappe, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski and Ji-sung Park announced their arrival on the global stage at the FIFA World Cup.
While the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona and Michel Platini have all played in the game’s greatest competition, there have been many more legends of the game who failed to make even an appearance at football’s premier tournament.
Some of these players were unlucky because of the weak countries they play for, while others have been prevented by injury, indiscipline and other unfortunate circumstances.
In this post, FootballOrbit presents you with 10 great footballers who did not feature at the FIFA World Cup.
Ian Rush (Wales)
Ian Rush was an extremely prolific striker for Liverpool during his two spells at the club but could not propel Wales to a World Cup appearance.
Rush is one of many great Welsh players who were never able to showcase themselves at football’s biggest tournament.
Ian Rush is Liverpool’s all-time leading goalscorer, having scored a total of 346 goals in all competitions at the club.
At international level, Rush made 73 appearances for the Wales national football team and remained the record goalscorer for his country until 2018 — with 28 goals between 1980 and 1996.
Abedi Pele (Ghana)
Abedi Pele (or Abedi Ayew) was a superb Ghanian footballer who made his name at Marseille in the early ’90s.
With Marseille, he won the UEFA Champions League in 1993 and won the Ligue 1 title 3 times.
He was voted African Player of the Year three times and he is one of the greatest African footballers of all time.
He won the 1982 African Cup of Nations trophy with Ghana but never had the opportunity of playing at the FIFA World Cup as the Black Stars failed to qualify for the competition during his career.
Abedi Pele played for Ghana 73 times. He was the top goalscorer for the Black Stars with 33 goals until 2013 when he was surpassed by Asamoah Gyan.
George Weah (Liberia)
George Weah is arguably the greatest African player ever having won the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or, as well as many other individual and team awards during his playing days for clubs in Liberia, France and Italy.
He never really had a chance on the international stage though as he played for a very weak nation. Liberia is still yet to qualify for its first World Cup till date.
George Best (Northern Ireland)
George Best is one of the greatest Manchester United players of all time. He played for a United team that included many other legendary players but the same could not be said about his international teammates.
Best appeared 37 times and scored 9 goals for Northern Ireland. A combination of the team’s performance and his lack of fitness in 1982 meant that he never played in the finals of a major tournament.
Best was considered briefly by manager Billy Bingham for the 1982 World Cup, but at the age of 35 with his football skills dulled by age and drinking addiction, as well as the fact that five years have passed since his last cap; he was not included in the Northern Ireland squad.
Alfredo Di Stefano (Spain/ Colombia/Argentina)
Alfredo Di Stefano is best known for his achievements with Real Madrid where he was instrumental in the club’s domination of the European Cup and La Liga in the 1950s.
He won the Ballon d’Or in 1957 and 1959. He is currently the 6th highest scorer in the history of La Liga and Real Madrid’s 3rd highest league goalscorer of all time.
Di Stefano played for 3 different countries at international level (Spain, Colombia and Argentina), but never managed to appear at the FIFA World Cup.
Argentina did not participate in the 1950 World Cup and he was deemed ineligible for the 1954 World Cup after having played for both Argentina and Colombia.
After acquiring Spanish citizenship, Di Stefano helped Spain qualify for the 1982 World Cup but was unable to participate because of an injury.
Eric Cantona (France)
Widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of his generation, Cantona was very influential in the revival of Manchester United as a footballing force in the 1990s and has an iconic status at the club.
At Old Trafford, he won 4 Premier League titles in five years as well as two League and FA Cup Doubles.
But he wasn’t really successfully on the international stage and never played at a FIFA World Cup.
In 1988, angered after being dropped from the French national team, Cantona referred to the coach, Henri Michel, as a “bag of shit” in a post-match TV interview and was indefinitely banned from all international matches.
After the reign of Michel, Cantona was recalled to the team by successive managers but didn’t make the squad to the 1998 World Cup on home soil, which France ultimately won.
Ryan Giggs (Wales)
Ryan Giggs is one of the most decorated footballers of all time. He spent all his club career at Manchester United where he won 13 Premier League titles (more than any other player in history), 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cup, 2 UEFA Champions Leagues, FIFA Club World Cup, Intercontinental Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and 9 FA Community Shields.
Manchester United and Liverpool are the only clubs in English football history to have won more league championships than Giggs.
Ryan Giggs played for Wales 64 times, but never played at the FIFA World Cup or any other major international tournament.
Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt)
One of Africa’s greatest footballers, Aboutrika was influential for Egypt as they won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2008, but never managed to play at the FIFA World Cup.
Aboutrika retired in 2013 with 105 caps and 38 goals.
Andrey Arshavin (Russia)
Andrey Arshavin began his career at Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2000 and went on to win numerous trophies with the club.
He gained global stardom at UEFA Euro 2008 where he impressed throughout Russia’s fairytale run to the semi-final of the tournament. This made him come 6th for the 2008 Ballon d’Or.
Arshavin thereafter joined Arsenal in 2009, becoming the most expensive player in Arsenal’s history at the time.
He never appeared at the World Cup as he was overlooked for the Russia squad to the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the country failed to qualify for another World till Arshavin retired.
Dimitar Berbatov (Bulgaria)
Dimitar Berbatov was famous for his success stints at Tottenham and Manchester United in the Premier League.
He was known for his footballing intelligence, technical ability, supreme ball control and brilliant composure in front of goal.
He made his international debut for Bulgaria at the age of 18 and later captained his country for 4 years, but never appeared at the World Cup.
Euro 2004 which was the only major tournament that he played at as Bulgaria failed to qualify for other tournaments.
Berbatov is Bulgaria’s all-time highest goalscorer with 48 goals in 78 appearances.
- Bernd Schuster (Germany)
- Laszlo Kubala (Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Spain)
- Sami Hyypiä (Finland)
- Steve Bruce (England)
- Mark Hughes (Wales)