Nine players we still can’t believe played in a World Cup final
The World Cup final is the biggest game in football, so it always features the biggest stars in football, right? Well, not always.
Obviously, nobody who makes a World Cup squad for any nation, never mind a nation strong enough to play in a final, is a bad footballer. But they aren’t necessarily world-class either.
Sometimes, players sneak into squads and watch their team progress from the bench, only to be called upon as a result of injury or to get a few pity minutes as the seconds of the last game ebb away.
Here, we take a look at nine players who we still can’t really believe got on the pitch in the most important match of them all.
We can’t really remember Kramer doing anything in the 2014 World Cup final – which is apt because neither does he.
After playing just once in all the games prior to the final against Argentina – as a 109th-minute sub in the round of 16 – Kramer was given the nod for the showpiece after Sami Khedira was injured in the warm-up.
But just 14 minutes in, he suffered a collision with Ezequiel Garay and was severely dazed. He was initially allowed to play on but later went up to the ref to ask if he was playing in the World Cup final. The ref told Phillip Lahm and Kramer was taken off in the 32nd minute.
“I can’t really remember much of the game,” he told the German newspaper Die Welt.
“I don’t know anything at all about the first half. I thought later that I left the game immediately after the tackle.
“I have no idea how I got to the changing rooms. I don’t know anything else. In my head, the game starts from the second half.”
The final was one of just 12 caps he won for his national team in a career that’s seen him win a grand total of zero club honours with Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Dutch team that reached the 2010 final against Spain was not full of star names. While they all got a good number of caps, the likes of John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Eljero Elia never exactly set the world alight at club level.
The unlikliest name to feature on the card for the final, though, is without a doubt that of Braafheid.
In summer 2010, he’d just come off the back of a pretty bad loan spell at Celtic, where he was dropped after Tony Mowbray, the manager who brought him in in February, was sacked in March.
Bert van Marwijk was undeterred and took him as part of the squad, bringing him on in the final. Braafheid’s most notable contribution was getting hit in the head with the ball.
Zero appearances for Bayern Munich during two years on their books between 2000 and 2002. Zero appearances for Liverpool during three years on their books between 2002 and 2005.
But a substitute appearance in the 2006 World Cup final. In place of Patrick Vieira, no less.
Diarra actually went on to play 44 times for France and played in the Champions League for Bordeaux, but for Bayern and Liverpool fans, this one was a real head-scratcher.
A Copa Libertadores winner in 1999. A World Cup winner in 2002. A Champions League winner in 2003.
But ask anyone who saw Roque Junior play for Leeds how he managed any of that and they will ask one question: how?
In the Brazilian’s seven appearances for the Yorkshire club, which came just 18 months after he’d won football’s biggest prize, Leeds conceded 25 goals and lost six times. He was promptly sent back to parent club AC Milan.
Not only did Kleberson win the World Cup with Brazil in the same side that featured Roque Junior, but he was one of the tournament’s standout players and earned himself a transfer to Manchester United.
His brilliance in Japan and Korea, though, was probably down to the fact that he was in the middle of the season with Brazilian club Atletico Paranaense, and in peak physical condition, while most of the players around him were suffering the effects of a long, hard European season.
Roy Keane soon realised that was the case, and according to fellow former United man Eric Djemba-Djemba, left nobody in any doubt as to his opinion.
In 2020, Djemba-Djemba told Bettingapps: “I remember one Champions League game at Old Trafford, we went into the dressing room and Roy Keane was screaming at [Kleberson].
“He said, ‘You need to wake-up! You need to give everything, you need to tackle! Why don’t you want to want to play? You just won the World Cup! What’s happened? You need to play better!’”
After 30 games in two seasons, United let Kleberson go to Besiktas.
The ultimate World Cup everyman, Guivarc’h played in six of France’s seven games at World Cup 98.
Famously, he didn’t score a goal at the tournament, but still French coach Aime Jaquet started him in the final ahead of Christophe Dugarry, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet.
At the time, he was a Newcastle player, having been signed by Kenny Dalglish for £8million in January of that year. He played four games, scoring once on his debut, before Ruud Gullit arrived in the summer and stuck him firmly on the bench.
Guivarc’h was sold to Rangers at a £4.5million loss in November.
As for his international career, his record reads: 14 caps, one goal, one World Cup winner’s medal.
Eder spent most of his career yo-yoing between the top two divisions in Germany with Nurnberg. But a late move to Bayern Munich and some good form got him a place in Franz Beckenbauer’s 1986 World Cup squad and he started every game.
Eder’s entire international career was limited to that single calendar year, however. Nine caps, all in 1986, one of which was the biggest game in football.
He was tasked with helping to keep Maradona quiet. But while El Diego didn’t score, he did set up the winner for Jorge Burruchaga with a beautiful pass.
This one isn’t anything to do with Schumacher’s ability as a goalkeeper. He won two German titles, three German cups in his club career. He earned 76 caps for Germany, won a European Championship and played in not one but two World Cup finals.
But we still can’t believe he played in the 1982 edition.
Why? He should at least have been suspended. And if you ask most French people, they’d probably tell you he should have been in prison.
Schumacher had infamously done this to France’s Patrick Battiston in the semi, which saw Battiston needing oxygen on the pitch.
It’s the 40th anniversary of the infamous Schumacher/Battiston incident during the epic 1982 World Cup semi-final between West Germany and France.
— 1980s TV Football Heaven (@1980sHeaven) July 8, 2022
Felix was part of the Brazil 1970 team, one of the greatest to ever play the game. He must have been pretty good, then.
Well, we’ll leave the explanation for this one to Arsenal legend Bob Wilson.
“Without question, he is the most incompetent goalkeeper to win a World Cup medal,” Wilson once said.
“He was born lucky to play in a side which, if he let in three goals, had the talent to go up the other end and score four.”