Millennium Post

Vanishing Stars

There is no point watching the World Cup because Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t be playing in it, at least that’s what he says. While the striker has always been his own biggest fan, he does have a point that the tournament will not be as exciting without him. The 32-year-old is in the best form of his career and has shown his full repertoire of spectacular goals: Martial arts-style volleys, overhead kicks from 30 yards, dipping shots from all angles. In the last calendar year, he has 47 goals for Paris Saint Germain and Sweden, including four hat-tricks.

However, in last week’s must-win clash between Portugal and Sweden, it was Christiano Ronaldo who had the last laugh. The Real Madrid striker scored a brilliant hat-trick to help his team seal its WC 2014 berth while Sweden bowed out despite Ibrahimovic scoring to classy goals. After the game got over, Ibrahimovic told UEFA website, ‘Why did we lose? To be honest, they were better than us. We should be proud. We couldn’t have done better than we did. Of course, we could look back at our mistakes, but these things happen. They punished our mistakes. After making it 2-1 it felt like we were on a roll, our hopes grew, but unfortunately they made it 2-2 soon afterwards.

Looking back, there have been many renowned players who, despite playing brilliantly for their respective clubs, didn’t ever get the chance to play in a World Cup. And the biggest name in that absentee list is British great George Best. A legend at Old Trafford, Best scored 138 goals with the Red Devils and was widely considered the best player in England during the early part of his career. While a legend in Manchester, Best rarely showed the same eye for goal representing Northern Ireland.

However, Northern Ireland did not qualify for the World Cup Final in 1966, ‘70, or ‘74, and while the side did qualify in 1982, Best’s talents were deteriorated by his alcohol abuse, and he was not chosen. The legendary Alfredo Di Stefano was described by Pele as better than a Maradona, and yet bizarrely, the Real Madrid great never played in a World Cup. The reasons though, are more complicated than some of the others above. Born in Argentina, he played for his country, but they didn’t play in the 1950 World Cup. He then became a Colombian international, and never made a World Cup. He became a Spanish National in 1956, but the Spanish didn’t qualify for the 1958 World Cup. Finally he led them to the 1962 Finals, but he got injured before the tournament and couldn’t play.

Another big name is France great, Eric Cantona. He might have defined the Man United team of the 1990s, but he never made it to a World Cup for France, despite being first capped in the late 1980s. He had fallen out with management before the 1990 World Cup so wasn’t selected for France’s Italian adventure, he was apart of the squad that failed to make the 1994 World Cup, and he retired in 1997, a year before France won the World Cup.
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