Let’s face it, most of the time in the world of football, we care a lot more about the individual players than the actual team. Case in point: the most capped player for North Korea is named Kim Yong-Jun. He has made 53 appearances for the North Korean football team, and yet I am certain that nobody has ever heard of him (or any of the other North Korean players, for that matter), and thus we hear nothing about North Korea in the days leading up to the World Cup. They would probably have more publicity if they just let Kim Jong-Il play striker. Wouldn’t that be something?
Anyhow, individual accomplishments at the World Cup are what players are remembered for, how legacies are created, and how legends are made. If you can’t succeed at the World Cup, you will not necessarily be forgotten (see: George Best), but you will most certainly be remembered worldwide (obviously) for your accomplishments or failures on the grand stage (see: Roberto Baggio).
Some individual facts for your enjoyment (and your enjoyment only):
- Antonio Carbajal (Mexico) and Lothar Matthaus (Germany) have both played in the most FIFA World Cups, appearing in 5 each. Of the two, Matthaus holds the record for most matches played, appearing in 25 world cup matches for ze Germans.
- Pele (do I really need to put ‘Brazil’ here?) has his name on the most world cup trophies, being a champion on three separate occasions (1958, 1962, 1970)
- Paolo Maldini has been up on the silver screen for the longest amount of literal time. In his international career, Maldini logged 2,217 minutes for Italy at the coupe du monde.
- Cafu (Brazil) has won the most matches as a player, having been on the winning side of a world cup match 16 times.
- Diego Maradonna (again, you should know he’s from Argentina. If not, perhaps you should consider not coming to this website anymore… or killing yourself) has captained the most matches for his country at the world cup, getting that lovely yellow armband 16 times.
- The youngest ever player at the world cup was Norman Whiteside for Northern Ireland in 1982 at 17 years and 41 days. The youngest player to appear in a final was Pele at 17 years and 249 days. The youngest player to appear in a qualifying match was Soleymane Mamam (Togo) at 13 years and 310 days. That would make him an 8th grader. Remember what you were doing in 8th grade? That’s right. You were discovering the wonders of touching your penis. Shame on you for not being in a world cup qualifying match.
- The oldest player ever at the world cup was Roger Milla for Cameroon at 42 years and 39 days (1994). The oldest player to appear in a final was Dino Zoff (Italy) at 40 years and 133 days (1982). The oldest player in a qualifying match was MacDonald Taylor from the US Virgin Islands (which is here, in case you were wondering) at 46 years and 180 days in 2004. The oldest ever captain was Peter Shilton for England at 40 years and 292 days (1990)
- (fat) Ronaldo has tickled the twine the most times of any international player. He has 15 career goals at the tournament. Of those 15 goals, he scored them in 11 different matches, which is also a record.
- Overall, including qualifying, (you won’t see this coming) Ali Daei of Iran has scored the most goals of any other player. He has 35.
- Just Fontaine of France is by far the best golden boot winner of all time. He somehow managed to net 13 goals in the 1958 installment of the tournament. Unfortunately, he was forced to retire due to injury a few years later and could not add to this total. Impressively, though, his 13 goals in the single tournament put him at 3rd place in the standings for all time career goals scored by a player.
- Archie Thompson proved that Australians are complete dicks (okay, well maybe not entirely, but for this match they were) as he holds the all time record for most goals in a qualifying match. He scored an unheard of 13 goals in a qualifying match against American Samoa. Go on then. Guess the final score. 13-0 you say? Take a look at this.
- Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick for England against ze Germans in the 1966 final remains the highest total of any player in one final.
- Sander Kocis of Hungary gets little attention from anyone, but his records are certainly impressive. He holds the record for most matches played in a world cup with at least 2 goals or more, scoring at least twice in four different world cup matches. What’s more impressive? He did it in four straight world cup matches. He’s also tied with three others for the most hat tricks in a world cup with two. Yeah. He did that in consecutive games too.
- Alcides Ghiggia of Uruguay (4 goals in 4 matches), Just Fontaine of France (13 goals in 6 matches, and Jairzinho of Brazil (7 goals in 6 matches) are the only three men to ever accomplish the feat of scoring in every match they ever played at the world cup.
- Pele holds the record for youngest goalscorer at the world cup, youngest player to score a hat trick at the world cup, and youngest player to score in the final, doing it all in fine style at the 1958 tournament at the tender age of 17.
- Hakan Sukur’s (Turkey) 11 second goal in 2002 against Korea was the fastest in world cup history. Ebbe Sand (Denmark) took 16 seconds to score off the bench in 1998 to have the fastest goal after being substituted on. Johan Neeskens (Netherlands) took a wee bit longer at 90 seconds to score the fastest goal in the final.
- The man, the myth, the legend, Alessandro Del Piero is the War Machine of world cup goalscoring – it’ll make sense in a second, I promise. His 121st minute goal against Germany in the 2006 is the latest goal to be scored in the tournament’s history. The Ironman title, however, belongs to Geoff Hurst. He left his late game heroics for the best time by scoring in the 120th minute against Germany in the 1966 final to lead England to their one and only title.
Zan Rathore, the author of this post, also writes the Zan Rathore’s Sports Blog.