2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

11 June - 11 July

2010 FIFA World Cup™

Greats of the world stage

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It will not be long before football fans are debating which players have left the greatest imprint on South Africa 2010 and, in the process, joined the long list of players immortalised for their exploits on the game's greatest stage.

Here FIFA.com remembers the exploits of 10 stars of FIFA World Cups™ past – not just tournament winners but those who, down the decades, have illuminated the event with their goals and skills. How many of our selection would fit into your personal top ten? And who could join them in 2010? Just click 'Add your comment' to join the debate.

Leonidas da Silva (Brazil, 1938)Became the first Brazilian to finish top scorer, his seven goals helping A Seleção reach their first semi-final – starting with a hat-trick in a 6-5 victory over Poland. Coach Ademar Pimenta's decision to rest him for the semi-final against France proved costly as Brazil succumbed 2-1. Leonidas’s acrobatic skills earned him the nickname the Rubber Man while another of his monikers, 'the Black Diamond', featured on a chocolate bar he endorsed after the tournament.

Obdulio Varela (Uruguay, 1950)Elusive inside-forward Juan Schiaffino and speedy winger Alcide Ghiggia got the goals that gave Uruguay the 1950 crown against Brazil but the driving force was captain Varela. A powerful central midfielder, his influence was such that the South Americans lost none of the seven FIFA World Cup matches in which he played. In the 1950 climax at the Maracana, he used all his wiles to help his side recover their composure after Brazil scored first – grabbing the ball and arguing with the referee. He explained later: "I knew they would go on and thrash us if we didn’t cool the game down."

Just Fontaine (France, 1958)The Marrakesh-born Fontaine set a record with 13 goals in Sweden. Ironically, he would not have started but for an injury to France’s first-choice forward Rene Bliard yet he began with a hat-trick in a 7-2 rout of Paraguay and finished with four goals in the play-off for third place against West Germany. Feeding off Raymond Kopa’s creative brilliance, he also found the net in every game in between.

Bobby Moore (England, 1966)The image of Moore wiping his hands clean before collecting the Jules Rimet Trophy from Queen Elizabeth sums up the immaculate style of the man who skippered England to the world title. His intelligence and composure in the hosts' defence helped them earn four straight shutouts between the first round and semi-finals, and he showed his footballing ability in the Final by delivering balls for Geoff Hurst to score the first and last goals in the 4-2 triumph over West Germany.

Pele (Brazil, 1970)Pele’s love story with the FIFA World Cup had the happiest possible ending in 1970 as Brazil won their third title – 12 years after he scored twice in their first Final success. He had threatened not to return to the world stage after being kicked out of the 1966 finals but rolled back the years in Mexico in a team rich in forward talent, notably the outstanding Jairzinho. Headed the Final opener against Italy, though arguably his most memorable moment was a wonderful dummy on Uruguay goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz – he shot wide but his sheer ingenuity made the football world smile.

Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany, 1974)Johan Cruyff captured the imagination of neutrals with the Dutch runners-up, but it was Germany’s own total footballer, Beckenbauer – the man who defined the role of the libero – that became the first captain to lift the new FIFA World Cup Trophy™. An imperious figure at the back, he had caught the eye in midfield at his first FIFA World Cup in England eight years earlier – scoring twice on his finals debut against Switzerland. Leading his country to the cup on home soil was his crowning glory as a player and he repeated the feat as a coach at Italy 1990.

Paolo Rossi (Italy, 1982)The Squadra Azzurra's forward found redemption in Spain when, just back from a ban for his involvement in a match-fixing scandal, he propelled Italy to the world crown with six goals. The adidas Golden Shoe winner gave no greater show of his poaching prowess than his hat-trick that ended the hopes of Brazil in a five-goal second-round thriller. Hit two more in the semi-final defeat of Poland, then Italy's first in the Final win against West Germany.

Diego Maradona (Argentina, 1986)Dominated the 1986 tournament, inspiring the Albiceleste to their second world triumph. Scored two of the FIFA World Cup's most famous goals in the quarter-final against England – the first punched in by the "Hand of God", the second a superb slaloming run through the heart of the English defence. He produced a near replica in the semi-final against Belgium to finish with five of Argentina's 14 goals, and set just as many, notably the pass to Jorge Burruchaga for the Final winner against West Germany.

Zinedine Zidane (France 1998)The son of Algerian parents was a fitting poster boy for Aime Jacquet's multi-ethnic France team that prevailed on home soil. 'Zizou' was France's creator-in-chief, although they had to manage without him for two matches after a red card against Saudi Arabia in the first round. If that was an unhappy augury of his 2006 Final meltdown, French fans will prefer to remember his Final contribution in '98, the No10 heading in two corners to send his team on their way to a 3-0 victory over Brazil.

Oliver Kahn (Germany, 2002)The adidas Golden Ball winner kept five clean sheets in the Far East – three in succession in the knockout rounds as Germany eked out 1-0 wins over Paraguay, United States and Korea Republic to reach the Final. The Americans, in particular, could be forgiven recurring nightmares about Kahn, who made a string of superb first-half saves to keep Germany in the match. Alas for Kahn, his error in spilling a shot by Rivaldo let in Ronaldo for Brazil's first goal in Germany's Final defeat – the first he had conceded in 427 minutes.

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