Platini, Cruyff, Van Basten, Maldini, The Kings Without A World Cup Crown

By Dialogo
May 19, 2010

Frenchman Michel Platini, Dutchmen Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten, and Italian Paolo Maldini are four great figures of soccer history who retired without having experienced the feeling of hoisting the World Cup, the sport’s most prestigious trophy. The cruelest case may be that of Johan Cruyff, the leader of that Netherlands Orange Machine that amazed spectators at the 1974 World Cup in Germany and that permitted itself the luxury of beating Brazil in the second round (2-0), but that fell to the host team in the final (2-1). The former player for Ajax and Barcelona chose not to participate in the Argentine World Cup in 1978, where his team again finished second. “Cruyff was a better player, but I was a world champion,” German Franz Beckenbauer said in reference to comments about the injustice of his German team’s 1974 championship victory over the great Netherlands team at that World Cup. Michel Platini and Marco Van Basten also never won a World Cup, but at least they could console themselves by winning the Euro Cup with their teams in 1984 and 1988, respectively. Platini led a fantastic French team that managed to reach the World Cup semifinals in Spain in 1982 and in Mexico in 1986, but that ran into Germany in the semifinals on both occasions. The first time, in Seville, France was winning 3-1 at halftime, but Germany ending up tying the match and then winning on penalty kicks. “If the World Cup had been played every year between 1982 and 1986, France would have won two or three times,” Michel Platini affirmed afterward. At least France won the 1984 Euro Cup in Paris, defeating Spain in the final (2-0), with goals by Platini and Bruno Bellone. The French star scored nine times in that tournament. Van Basten, for his part, won the 1988 Euro Cup in Germany, scoring a total of five goals, including a hat trick against England, the goal that won the semifinal match against the host team, and a goal in the final against the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, at the 1990 World Cup in Italy his team fell to West Germany, the ultimate winner, in the second round. Paolo Maldini, for his part, played for Italy in four World Cups between 1990 and 2002, without ever winning the championship, despite reaching the final in the United States in 1994, losing to Brazil on penalty kicks, and the semifinals in Italy in 1990, where the host team was eliminated by Diego Maradona’s Argentina, also on penalty kicks. In 1998, Italy was eliminated by their French hosts, also on penalty kicks, in the quarterfinals, while in 2002 the team fell to South Korea in the round of sixteen, in a controversial match refereed by Ecuadorean Byron Moreno. Other great players who never won the championship were Spanish goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora, who was helpless against Benito Mussolini’s Italy in 1934, Soviet player Lev Yashin, Hungarian Ferenc Puskas, whose team lost to West Germany in the final in 1954, and Brazilians Zico and Sócrates in 1982. Spaniards Paco Gento, in 1962, and Luis Suárez, in 1966, were also unable to bring home the championship. Argentine Spaniard Alfredo Di Stéfano, who never even got to play in a World Cup, deserves a chapter of his own. Di Stéfano, who was playing for Real Madrid at the time, was going to compete for the Chilean World Cup in 1962, but an injury before the tournament prevented him from competing in any of the matches.