Who never won the World Cup they deserved?
World Cup, football

Who never won the World Cup they deserved?

Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to go down in history as one of the greatest footballers in history never to win the World Cup, having been eliminated for the fifth time at the age of 37.

Meanwhile, Gareth Southgate’s England team have also failed to reach the heights of their predecessors in 1966 despite an abundance of talent.

We’ve looked back over the history of the World Cup to see how these disappointments rank among the other top players and teams who never quite ascended to international football’s summit.

Considering only those who reached at least one World Cup semi-final, we have identified 10 players and five teams who failed to win the trophy their talents deserved.

At the top of the list is Italy’s Roberto Baggio, who may not be the most talented player without a World Cup medal but was arguably the most undeserving to miss out. One of the most gifted attacking midfielders in the history of European football, he was denied World Cup glory three times by penalty shoot-outs.

In 1990, as the world’s most expensive player, he justified his price tag with three goals, including one that ranks among the best ever scored at a World Cup. Despite converting his kick in the semi-final shoot-out, Italy were eliminated by Argentina.

Four years later at USA ’94, he scored five goals, dragging Italy to the final almost single-handedly to justify the prestigious Ballon d’Or award he had won the previous year. However, with the match ending goalless, he tragically missed the decisive penalty which saw Brazil triumph instead.

In 1998, Baggio made amends for his miss, converting the first penalty in their quarter-final shoot-out against France, but his team-mates were unable to hold their nerve and it was Les Bleus who went on to win the trophy.

Dutch haunted by near-misses

Perhaps the most gifted footballer never to lift the World Cup was Johan Cruyff, who was part of the revolutionary Netherlands team that reached the final in 1974.

Powered by the ‘Total Football’ philosophy developed at Cruyff’s Ajax, the Dutch changed the way people thought about tactics forever.

In 1974, they convincingly dispatched both Brazil and Argentina on their way to the final and took an early lead before ultimately losing 2-1 to hosts West Germany.

Four years later, the Dutch repeated the trick with a new manager and without Cruyff, who had retired from international football. They were once again denied by the hosts in the final, with Argentina winning 3-1 after extra-time.

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