Latin American footballers have been leading protagonists of the FIFA World Cup. In the first century of history of the most followed sporting event on the planet, icons like Pelé, Maradona and Ronaldo set records that seem very difficult to break. At PanamericanWorld we prepared a selection of seven impressive feats by players who were able to combine talent with perseverance.
PELÉ, THE ONLY FOOTBALLER WITH THREE WORLD CROWNS
The best footballer of the 20th century —in spite of what the fans of the great Diego may believe— set several World Cup records. Pelé is the only player to have won the tournament three times. Additionally, he shares the record for most appearances in final matches with three.
“O Rei” Pelé lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970. At the tournament in Sweden, while barely 17, this football legend was key in Brazil’s first successful campaign. Pelé scored a hat trick against France in the semifinal. Then, in the final, he scored twice against the hosts.
Pelé’s contribution to the second Brazilian title, in Chile ’62, was more limited. He scored in the opening match, but he suffered an injury in the second that kept him from appearing again in that tournament. Even with their star sidelined, that formidable Brazilian team remained unbeaten and won their second World Cup in a row.
Pelé’s swan song at the World Cup could not have been better. At the 1970 tournament in Mexico, “O Rei” scored four goals, including one in the final against Italy. He truly was a football legend.
TWO MEXICANS ARE AMONG THE THREE PLAYERS WHO HAVE APPEARED IN MORE WORLD CUPS
Mexican players Antonio Carbajal and Rafael Márquez share, along with Lothar Matthäus of Germany, the record for most World Cups attended, with five.
Carbajal was ranked by FIFA as the best goalkeeper from CONCACAF in the 20th century. Nicknamed “La Tota”, he appeared in the 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962 and 1966 World Cups.
Meanwhile, Márquez played in 19 World Cup matches (the most by a Mexican), many of them as captain. He got his World Cup debut at the tournament in Korea-Japan 2002 and concluded his participation with the “Tricolor” at the Russia 2018 edition.
Related article: Top 10 Goals for Latin America in World Cups
CAFÚ AND RONALDO, THE BRAZILIANS WHO WORE THE JERSEY AT THREE CONSECUTIVE FINALS
Four players have been part of squads that participated in three consecutive World Cup finals. Two of them are Brazilian: Cafú and Ronaldo. Both were in the “Canarinha” squad that reached the final in 1994, 1998 and 2002. In two of those occasions, the Brazilians came out on top. Ronaldo did not come out on the pitch when Brazil defeated Italy on penalties in 1994, but he was then a protagonist in the other two finals. Meanwhile, Cafú was a starter in all three matches and was the team’s captain in 2002, so he got to be the first to lift the trophy.
DIEGO ARMANDO MARADONA, THE GREAT CAPTAIN
Maradona scored the most famous goal in the history of the World Cup, and the Argentine genius still holds the record for most matches played as captain. Diego wore the armband at all seven matches played by the “Albiceleste” in México ’86. Then, he also led the team at the following tournament, in 1990, when Argentina once again reached the final. Finally, at the 1994 edition in the United States, Maradona played in Argentina’s first two matches, but was afterwards expelled from the World Cup when he tested positive for ephedrine, a drug banned by FIFA.
CARLOS ALBERTO PARREIRA, THE MANAGER WHO PARTICPATED IN MORE WORLD CUPS
Parreira holds the record of having managed at six editions of the World Cup. The veteran Brazilian manager helmed Kuwait in 1982. Afterwards, he was the United Arab Emirates’ gaffer in 1990. Four years later, he became a world champion with Brazil. In 1998, Saudi Arabia hired him to take the national squad to the World Cup in France; but poor results led the Saudis to sack Parreira while the tournament was still unfolding. Then, in 2006, he made a comeback as the manager of Brazil, but the “Canarinha” was defeated by France in the quarterfinal. Lastly, in 2010, he was on the sideline for South Africa, although he didn’t manage to take the hosts through to the second round.
THE HAT TRICKS OF GABRIEL OMAR BATISTUTA
In the more than 800 matches played at the football World Cup, only 52 hat tricks have been scored. And only one player has managed to score hat trick at two different editions: the Argentine Gabriel Omar Batistuta.
“Batigol” scored three times in Argentina’s win versus Greece (4-0) at the USA ’94 tournament. Then, in France ’98, this formidable striker also managed to score on three occasions in the same match, this time against Jamaica.
THE PERSEVERANCE OF FARYD MONDRAGÓN AND FELIPE BALOY
Perseverance also has its rewards. That’s why Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón has a spot in our list of records held by Latin American footballers at the World Cup.
Mondragón made the Colombian squad at the USA ’94 World Cup, where he made no appearances, and was then the starting goalkeeper at the following edition in 1998. 15 years and 363 days went by before Mondragón, then 43, got to play in another World Cup match. This is the record amount of time between two World Cup appearances by a player.
Another Latin American footballer, Panamanian Felipe Baloy, holds another record related to longevity. In Panama’s only appearance at a finals tournament, in Russia 2018, Baloy became the oldest player to score on his World Cup debut, when he found the net against England at 37 years and 120 days of age.