In a game of everymen, football's unusually tall players stick out like redwoods among saplings. In point of fact, many of these giants suffer for their physical exceptionalism in a game that showcases and celebrates compact frames, low centres of gravity and greyhound quickness. But football is truly democratic, and all are welcome. Here FIFA.com takes a closer look at some of the lankier practitioners of this beautiful game.
One of the most effective lanky field players to appear in a FIFA World Cup™ was Jose Torres (1.93m - 6ft 4in), strike partner to Eusebio in the brilliant Portuguese side at England 1966. Scoring 14 goals in 34 appearanes for Portugal between 1963 and 1973, the prolific target man also grabbed 226 in 259 games for Benfica. Looking particularly gangly in that famous game against the significantly shorter North Koreans in '66, he scored the final goal in a 5-3 come-from-behind win.
Torres, who went on to coach his country at Mexico 1986, played his final international in an unsuccessful qualifying campaign for Germany 1974, a tournament where Sweden were led by one of the tallest - and most effective - wingers in Scandinavian football history: Ralf Edstrom (1.92m - 6ft 3in). He scored a brilliant volley against Uruguay and his elegance in spite of his towering height helped the all-amateur Swedes roar to the second group stage, where they were finally eliminated, though only just, by eventual champions Germany. He scored in that rain-soaked classic too, grabbing four overall in the finals. Today, Norway and Aston Villa's John Carew (1.93m - 6ft 4in) is following in Edstrom's Scandinavian footsteps.
From Koller to Crouch
Towering outfield players are popping up increasingly frequently in the modern era. Czech Republic international Jan Koller (2.02m - 6ft 7in) participated at the 2006 world finals and for such notable clubs as Sparta Prague, Borussia Dortmund and Monaco. Serbian striker Nicola Zigic (2.03m - 6ft 8in) has endured a harder time winning a regular place at Valencia, but he still represents a significant threat up front on loan at Santander, and is considerably taller than most goalkeepers he's likely to face.
Perhaps the most notable and endearing 'beanpole' in the modern game is Peter Crouch (2.02m - 6ft 7in). A surprisingly elegant and inventive player with the ball at his feet, the only thing clumsy about Crouch is the way he looks, with his impossibly long legs and arms uncontainable by a normal size shirt. He is currently a fans favourite at Portsmouth, and has amassed 30 caps for England including a run-out at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
Arguably the most effective giant strikers currently plying his trade is Bayern Munich's Luca Toni (1.96m - 6ft 5in), who took over the club's target man mantle once held by the rigid but prolific Carsten Jancker (1.93m - 6ft 4in) and shares a changing room with Belgian international defender Daniel van Buyten (1.96m - 6ft 5in). Toni scored 33 goals for the Bavarian giants last term and won a FIFA World Cup in 2006 with Italy. The hosts of those German finals had in their team two beanpoles of their own in the form of Per Mertesacker (1.98m - 6ft 6in) and Christoph Metzelder (1.94m - 6ft 4in). Lining up for Sweden that summer was Zlatan Ibrahimovic (1.92m-6ft 3in), perhaps the most technically gifted of our giants and a player recently named Italy's best for 2008.
Current USA and Standard Liege defender Oguchi Onyewu (1.93m - 6ft 4in) is one of the most physically impressive outfield players in the game. Elsewhere in CONCACAF, recently retired Costa Rican striker Paulo Wanchope (1.93m - 6ft 4in) scored 45 goals for his national side and enjoyed a fine club career in England and Spain. Dennis Lawrence (2.01m - 6ft 6in) of Trinidad and Tobago, meanwhile, has had his share of memorable meetings with Wanchope and Onyewu down through the years in regional competition.
Asia and Africa have their big men too. Iran's current coach and legendary striker Ali Daei (1.92m - 6ft 3in) scored 109 goals for the national team over 13 years, thanks in large part to his size and heading ability. Current Arsenal and Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor (1.92m - 6ft 3in) is considered one of Africa's best, in the same vein as the likes of Nwankwo Kanu (1.98m - 6ft 6in) and the late, great Marc Vivien Foe (1.88m - 6ft 2in).
Most recently, Belgian international Marouane Fellaini (1.94m - 6ft 4 in), 24, is making waves at Everton, where tempestuous Scot Duncan Ferguson (1.93m- 6ft 4in) spent ten seasons terrorising defences with his aerial prowess. Bolton take the cake, though, recently signing the man known as 'China's Peter Crouch,' Yang Changpeng (2.09m - 6ft 10 1⁄2in). The striker has yet to make a first team appearance, but he has the distinction of being the tallest active outfield player in the game.
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