With the World Cup less than 100 days away and the excitement starting to build ahead of Russia, we’re going to look back at the five best Premier League stars who never got the chance to represent their country on the biggest stage of all.
1. Eric Cantona – FranceEmbed from Getty Images
The fiery Frenchman was well known for his nonchalant style of play and his impressive leadership skills, though he was also well known for his erratic temper which ultimately resulted in the striker never representing France at a World Cup. Cantona had a spell of being banned from the national team after calling the head coach at the time, Henri Michel, a ‘bag of….’….well, you get the point.
Another incident to stifle his chance of ever making the squad was his famous ‘Kung-fu’ kick on a Crystal Palace fan in 1995, which resulted in a ban from club and national football. Cantona was replaced by the likes of Zinedine Zidane and struggled to ever break back into the team. After the flame burned out on his chances of playing for the national team again, Eric took up beach football and actually won the ‘Beach World Cup’ with France in 2005. Not quite the same but an interesting stat to say the least.
2. Ryan Giggs – WalesEmbed from Getty Images
Boasting one of the most impressive careers in football over a 24-year period, Ryan Giggs was unfortunate enough to be born in a period of Welsh football destined to underachieve. To date, the Welsh national team have only qualified for one World Cup, coming back in 1958 where they were eliminated by a tantalizing Pele and the eventual champions Brazil, in the first round of the knock out stages.
The Welsh winger played for England at schoolboy level but committed his senior international career to Wales, despite growing up in the North West of England. Giggs holds the record for the oldest player to score during the Olympic Games football competition when he represented and captained team GB and scored a header in a 3-1 win against the UAE – arguably the highlight of his footballing career outside of Manchester United.
3. Sami Hyypia- FinlandEmbed from Getty Images
Like others on this list, Sami Hyypia had a successful club career but was never able to get over the line when it came to World Cup qualification. The nation which he represented, Finland, have never been to a major tournament in their history and have only been ranked as high as 36th in the FIFA world rankings.
It’s widely thought that the Finnish national team greatly under achieved and should have partaken in more major tournaments with the squad available during the 90’s and early 00’s. With 105 caps to his name, Hyypia is Finland’s second highest capped player of all time, scoring five goals in the process before retiring in 2010.
4. Matt Le Tissier – EnglandEmbed from Getty Images
‘Tiss’ is regarded as one of the best players ever to grace the Premier League. As a kid I would scream ‘LE TISSIER!!!’ when I unleashed a wild, long range shot in the school playground. Despite his recognition and his knack for world class goals, the Englishman never managed to put his stamp on the national team.
Le Tissier spent his whole Premier League and first division career at Southampton and his absence from the team may be down to the fact he battled at the wrong end of the table or he simply couldn’t get past the likes of Paul Gascoigne, all we know now is that England would have undoubtedly benefitted from the congenial number seven. Le Tissier scored over 200 goals in his professional career, much more than some so called ‘better players’ who earned many more caps.
5. Andrey Arshavin – RussiaEmbed from Getty Images
After some thought, I decided to include Arshavin over some more obvious players capable of making this list. A wildcard if you will. The Russian played in two European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and came closest to competing for the biggest prize of all in 2010, before Russia were eliminated in a play-off tie with Slovenia.
After the 2012 European Championships, the former Arsenal man was left out of the team for the entirety of the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign and missed out on his eminent opportunity to play against the best of the best. It’s appropriate that we end this list with a Russian who would have qualified for the 2018 World Cup as a member of the host nation with the best chance of taking any glory on home soil.
DAVID GINOLA – FRANCE 1990 – 1995 (17 CAPPS / 3 GOALS)
GARETH BALE – WALES 2006 – (68 CAPPS / 26 GOALS)
IAN RUSH – WALES 1980 – 1996 (73 CAPPS / 28 GOALS)
JARI LITMANEN – FINLAND 1989 – 2010 (137 CAPPS / 32 GOALS)
Written by Joe Threlkeld.