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First XI World Cup Legends

Updated on June 21, 2014

Winning the World Cup

Winning the World Cup elevates a player's CV to another tier. It changes the tag of “Boy Wonder” or “Heir to XYZ” to "The King" or something more fanciful. This first XI list consists of the best World Cup legends.

It is a 3-5-3 formation which only includes players who had won the World Cup at least once in their career, sadly making legends such as France’s Ace Michel Platini, Portual’s Eusébio, Dutch master Johan Cruyff and Italy’s Paolo Maldini ineligible for the list.

Iker Casillas with Real Madrid Captain Band
Iker Casillas with Real Madrid Captain Band | Source

GK – Iker Casillas (Spain)

Five consecutive FIFpro World XI, one World Cup medal and two UEFA European Championships, “Saint Iker” is also Spain’s all time most capped player. A player who has won everything there is to offer while being a captain of his nation’s first ever international title, Casillas is also the youngest ever player to play in a Champions League Final with Real Madrid. Stunning reflexes, remarkable shot stopping and lightning fast off the line, Casillas still has time to add on to his bulging cabinet of personal accolades and team trophies as he is only 32, an age that is considered as “not very old” for a goalkeeper.

Franz Beckenbauer - probably the most successful player and manager ever
Franz Beckenbauer - probably the most successful player and manager ever | Source

DF – Franz Beckenbauer (Germany)

Winner as a player of the 1972 UEFA European Championship and 1974 World Cup as well as the 1990 World Cup as Germany's coach, together with club success of four Bundesliga titles and a consecutive hat trick of European Cups, “Der Kaiser” practically has no peer. Beckenbauer was a great leader as well as scorer when he played as a sweeper or libero. Totally marked Dutch Legend Johan Cruff out of his game during the finals of 1974 World Cup. Beckenbauer won the most prestigious personal prize, the Ballon d’Or, twice, which was extremely difficult for a defender.

Fabio Cannavaro, a rock for Italy
Fabio Cannavaro, a rock for Italy | Source

DF – Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)

Fabio Cannavaro captained Italy to its forth ever World Cup in 2006 and became only the second defender to scoop the FIFA World Player of the Year gong. Extremely strong in the air with great positioning sense, Cannavaro had inspired Italy’s back four on numerous occasions. The most impressive statistic was that he was able to play every single minute of every match during the route to the 2006 World Cup championship title without picking up a single yellow or red card.

Cafu holding the five-times world champion jersey
Cafu holding the five-times world champion jersey | Source

DF – Cafu (Brazil)

Most capped Brazilian player ever, Cafu ranks as one of the most consistent and best fullback ever to have played football. The only player to participate in three World Cup finals, Cafu’s long career saw his international medals haul even more impressive than club titles, with two World Cup and Copa America champion titles as well as a runners-up medal each. He did achieved success at club level such as winning the Serie A and UEFA Champions League with AC Milan, but it was at international level was Cafu recognized as one of the greatest defender.

Zinedine Zidane at his peak during his Real Madrid stay
Zinedine Zidane at his peak during his Real Madrid stay | Source

MF – Zinedine Zidane (France)

The best player of his hugely talented French side that won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 UEFA European Football Championship, there was just no stopping Zinedine Zidane when he was at his peak. Zidane is best known for his elegant techniques that took him past opponents with ease as well as his goal-scoring abilities on the pitch. A triple World Player of the Year title holder, Zidane was also named as UEFA Champions League Best Player of the Past 20 Years.

Barcelona's Xavi ia a one-club man
Barcelona's Xavi ia a one-club man | Source

MF – Xavi Hernandez (Spain)

The midfield mastero of two of the best FC Barcelona sides as well as the current all-conquering Spain national team, Xavi's strength comes from his ability to hold the ball and dictate the tempo of the game with his marvellous passing vision and range. Xavi was a graduate of Barcelona’s fame La Masia academy and together with fellow Spanish goalkeeper Casillas are the most decorated Spanish players of all time when he won everything that are on offer at club and national level.

Maradona doing what he does best, taking on players
Maradona doing what he does best, taking on players | Source

MF - Diego Maradona (Argentina)

Maradona was twice the most expensive footballer during the peak of his career and was generally regarded as the best player in the 1980s. Extremely fast and skilful with the ball, Maradona made his name during his 1986 World Cup victory which he got his best "Goal of the Century" title when he embarked on a remarkable dribble that took him past five English players before he scored, as well as the worst ever " Hand of God" accolade, an unpenalized handball that eventually knocked England out.

Manchester United's Director - Sir Bobby Charlton
Manchester United's Director - Sir Bobby Charlton | Source

MF – Bobby Charlton (England)

Started out as a dark horse and ended with football's greatest prize, Sir Bobby Charlton was regarded as the best English player and one of the greatest No. 10 ever. Extremely crucial for England's only World Cup trophy to date, he was greatly feared for his killer passes and attacking prowess. A survivor of the Munich crash, Bobby Charlton was part of four world cup finals team and went on to became top scorer for his country as well as Manchester united, a record which still stands today.

Pele The King
Pele The King | Source

FW – Pele (Brazil)

World Player and athlete of the Century, "The Black Pearl" is one of the most well-known striker in world football. Went into the 1958 World Cup tournament as one of its brightest young star, but came out a legend. He participated in four World Cup Finals from 1958 to 1970 and was part of the 1970 Brazil side which was considered the greatest team ever. In addition to 1281 goals in 1363 games, the highest figure ever tallied by FIFA, Pele is also the all-time leading scorer of the Brazilian national team with 77 goals in 92 games. The only player to have ever won three World Cup titles under his belt, Pele deserves the tag of "King of Football".

Gerd Müller with his beloved 1974 World Cup trophy
Gerd Müller with his beloved 1974 World Cup trophy | Source

FW - Gerd Müller (Germany)

Gerd Müller was the World Cup's top goalscorer with 14 goals in only two World Cups tournaments before Brazil’s Ronaldo eclipsed him. Nicknamed "Der Bomber" because of his devastating goal scoring ability, Müller raked in 68 goals with just 62 international games. A winner of the 1974 World cup, and together with Franz Beckenbauer, they formed the spine of the Germany and Bayern Munich that swept all before them.

Brazil's Ronaldo off the pitch
Brazil's Ronaldo off the pitch | Source

FW – Ronaldo (Brazil)

Played in four World Cups and won his first World Cup medal at a tender age of 17 during the 1994 tournament. Ronaldo lead the national team to another trophy in 2002 and currently holds the World Cup finals top scorer title as well as second highest for his country after compatriot Pele. One of the fastest and most lethal marksmen the world has ever seen, "the Phenomenon" is one of the three musketeers, together with Lional Messi and Zinedine Zidane, to have won the FIFA World Player of the Year award three times.

Who else do you think I have missed in this FIFA World Cup First XI list?

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    • profile image

      Piers Veltman 

      3 years ago

      Lev Yashin, Johan Cruijff, Just Fontaine and Ferenc Puskás are some you missed, but good article

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Dino Zoff was a massive legend during his time


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