The World Cup is the ultimate stage on which the game’s brightest stars get to shine every four years.
Famous names have cemented their legacies by starring in previous editions, seizing the opportunity to leave a mark that will forever remain in the competition’s history.
Lionel Messi and Argentina are in serious danger of watching Russia 2018 from afar. After a 0-0 draw with Peru last time out, they need a win in Ecuador on Tuesday to have a chance of qualifying automatically.
Here, we take a look at some other greats who missed out on playing in previous World Cups.
Alfredo Di Stefano
Di Stefano scored more than 300 goals for Real Madrid, won 15 titles and claimed the prestigious Ballon d’Or award twice in an outstanding career. However, having previously played international football for Argentina and Colombia, he missed out on the 1958 World Cup with his adopted homeland, Spain, when they finished second in their qualifying group to Scotland.
Eusebio was a star of the 1966 World Cup, finishing as the tournament’s top scorer with nine goals, as Portugal made it to the semi-final stage, where they lost to eventual winners England. Yet the player nicknamed the Black Pearl never played in the tournament again. The Portuguese made a mess of qualifying for Mexico 1970, finishing bottom of a group that included Romania, Greece and Switzerland.
Fresh from winning LaLiga with Barcelona, and widely regarded as one of the world’s finest players, the 26-year-old missed out on the opportunity to stamp his authority on the biggest stage of all after Portugal finished behind Germany and Ukraine in their qualifying group for the 1998 World Cup in France.
Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten
It is hard to believe that a side containing such attacking riches failed to make the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, but a play-off defeat to neighbours Belgium ensured Netherlands – and their team of superstars – never made the trip to Central America.
The Manchester United legend missed out on the 1994 World Cup in the United States after France lost at home to Bulgaria in their final qualifying match, when a draw would have sufficed. He dipped out on a home tournament four years later as well, with manager Aime Jacquet instead choosing to build his team around Zinedine Zidane.
Ryan Giggs and George Best
They are two of British football’s most decorated players, but neither was ever able to demonstrate their considerable talents at a World Cup as Wales and Northern Ireland respectively failed to ever make a major tournament during their illustrious careers.
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