The biggest event in global football is just around the corner, albeit at an unusual time of year compared to every other edition.
As the excitement builds ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, nostalgia inevitably conjures many fond memories of previous tournaments, especially when remembering players who dazzled on the biggest stage.
Diego Maradona – Argentina
Were it now for the singularly brilliant abilities of Diego Maradona, it’s entirely fair to say that Argentina would not have won the FIFA World Cup in 1986.
They were actually considered to be a side of rather average capabilities, past their best having lifted the trophy in 1978, then fallen well short of expectations at the 1982 tournament.
Quite simply put, Maradona was outstanding in 1986.. According to many experts, he was the singular difference that took an average side all the way to the final, where they beat West Germany. Along the way there was a fateful encounter with England in the quarter-finals, leaving an enduring memory in FIFA World Cup lore.
Maradona opened the scoring with one of the most controversial goals in football history, leaping to challenge England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, producing the infamous ‘Hand of God’ moment. Nevertheless, the second finish by Maradona was pure wizardry, still replayed to this very day whenever we remember his phenomenally gifted ability.
Pele – Brazil
Often referred to as the “Black Pearl” during his prime, Edson Arantes do Nascimento is easily one of the most naturally gifted players ever to grace a football pitch, better known of course as Pele. As a raw youngster, he debuted with Santos at the tender age of 15, before making his full debut with the Brazilian national team aged just 16.
By the age of 17, Pele was already an international superstar, appearing at his first ever FIFA World Cup finals in 1958, forming an iconic part of the Brazil golden generation. Labelled as O Rei do Futebol, The King of Football by millions of adoring fans, he lifted the trophy with Brazil in 1958, 1962, and for a third time in 1970, when he scored the opening goal of a 4-1 victory against Italy.
Given that Pele produced so many wonderful goals, choosing one to highlight is virtually impossible, although thankfully the internet can provide us with some stunning videos of the great man doing what he did best. We may rave about the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo these days, but nobody will ever compare to the pure brilliance of Pele.
Roger Milla – Cameroon
Having already highlighted two of the greatest footballers of all time, our third choice may actually come as a surprise, although what Roger Milla encapsulated with Cameroon was a pure and simple joy. Amidst all the pressure and expectation, football remains a sport based around the basic principle of enjoyment and living for the moment, which remains his enduring FIFA World Cup legacy.
On the global stage, few people had ever heard of Roger Milla before the 1990 World Cup, despite having debuted with his national team in 1973 and played at the 1982 World Cup. Therefore at the ripe old age of 38, when many strikers have retired, his enthusiasm was an absolute marvel to behold.
Sporting a huge smile whenever he scored for Cameroon in 1990, Roger Milla created an iconic image with his goal celebrations, running towards the corner flag to dance in an expression of delight. But the story doesn’t end there, because Roger Milla remained in great shape at the age of 42, becoming the oldest ever World Cup scorer at the USA 1994 tournament. He never won the World Cup, but he certainly won our hearts.
Who will dazzle in Qatar 2022?
According to the latest odds, Brazil is the outright favourites to lift the golden World Cup trophy in Qatar this year, followed by England and then reigning champions France. But whomever you are backing, don’t forget to search for top online betting sites, supported by clear and concise reviews. Thorough insights are what SBO aims to provide, making their expert recommendations and analysis a useful tool ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
This could be the final World Cup tournament featuring Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with both veteran superstars keen to go out with a bang. Yet we could also enjoy some emerging talents, as the next generation of potentially world-class players looks to define their careers. Whoever shines the brightest at the 2022 World Cup, we are sure it will be a tournament that gives us many great moments to cherish.