Most Capped Players in World Cup History

With the World Cup group stage draw coming up on Friday, it’s time to find out some more about the history of the biggest sporting event on the planet – the top ten, well actually eleven, players in World Cup history in the number of matches played.

19 Appearances – Ronaldo (Brazil), Wolfgang Overath, Berti Vogts, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (West Germany)


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Four players, three of them German, one of them Brazilian, and also the top scorer in World Cup History, Ronaldo. Although still active he probably won’t be part of Dunga’s side in South Africa, but who knows. If he’ll be there or not, his place in the history books is safe, with 15 World Cup goals in 19 matches spread over three tournaments (1998, 2002, 2006. He went to the 1994 world cup but didn’t get to play), and above all scoring two goals and securing Brazil’s fifth World Cup victory in 2002, beating Germany 2-0 in the final.

Wolfgang Overath

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Wolfgang Overath is the least known player of the four, but was a key member of the West Germany teams in three World Cups (1966, 1970, 1974), achieving a rare 1-2-3 place medals in his World Cup career, which was spent mostly with FC Koln at the club level. He also scored three goals in the World Cup.

Berti Vogts

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Another West Germany player later turned head coach of the national side is Berti Vogts, who managed Germany to victory in the 1996 European Championships. Vogts hasn’t seen too many good days as manager since then, having unsuccessful stints s with Scotland and Nigeria (currently manages Azerbaijan), but they can’t tarnish his accomplishments of his playing days in the 60’s and 70’s, being part of Borussia Mönchengladbach’s fantastic side and the World Cup winning 1974 West German side. Vogts played in three World Cups (1970, 1974, 1978) and was one of the favorites of the German crowd, earning the nickname “der Terrier” for his tenacity and nonstop effort on defense.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

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The final player, and probably most famous of this German group is current Bayern Munich chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the only one in this group without a World Cup trophy. Rummenigge played in three World Cups (1978, 1982, 1986), scoring 9 goals in his 19 World Cup caps, leading the team to the World Cup finals twice – twice finishing as runners up, once to Italy in ’82 and once to Argentina in ’86.

20 Appearances – Uwe Seeler (West Germany), Grzegorz Lato (Poland), Cafu (Brazil)

Uwe Seeler

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We begin with the fourth German on the list, another player who played only for West Germany, Uwe Seeler, who got to play in four World Cups, between the two W. Germany wins (1954, 1974), with his best finish with the national team being the final at London in 1966, losing to England 4-2. Seeler, starring for Hamburg during the 50’s and 60’s was the first player to score in four World Cups (beating Pele by a few minutes), scoring nine World Cup goals, the only player to score at least 2 in each of his four World Cup appearances.

Grzegorz Lato

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Next is another prolific scorer, Polish Grzegorz Lato, the best scorer of the 1974 World Cup with 7 goals and a total of 10 goals in three World Cups (1974, 1978, 1982). Lato, who played with Stal Mielec (a third division team today, two-time champions in the 70’s), was part of Polish Golden era which included an Olympic gold in 1972 and two third place finishes in the World Cup (1974, 1982).


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Now, a little bit of rest from attacking players, it’s time for some defense, and a bit of a modern taste. Brazilian Cafu played in four World Cups (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006) making three World Cup Finals (only player to do that), winning two World Cups (1994, 2002), the only player on this list with two. After the 2006 World Cup Cafu, 36 at the time, expressed his interest in playing for the fifth time in the WC, but has retired since.

21 Appearances – Wladyslaw Zmuda (Poland), Diego Maradona (Argentina)

Wladyslaw Zmuda

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Wladyslaw Zmuda is another player from the Polish Golden age, playing in four World Cups (1974, 1978, 1982, 1986), finishing twice in the third place. He played only once in the 1986 World Cup, the 4-0 round of 16 defeat to Brazil. He won the Best Young Player of the Tournament in the 1974 World Cup.

Diego Maradona

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Diego Maradona needs no introduction. He played in four World Cups (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994), made it twice to the World Cup finals, and famously led Argentina to their second (and last, so far) World Cup trophy in 1986, beating West Germany 3-2 in the final. Maradona scored 8 goals in his 21 appearances, with his two most famous goals coming in the 1986 quarter final match against England – the first nicknamed “the hand of god” and the second has been voted as the greatest goal ever scored in the World Cup. He finished his WC career in 1994, after failing a drug test, testing positive for Ephedrine. He’ll make his return to the Mondial this summer as Argentina’s head coach.

Paolo Maldini, Italy, 23 Appearances

Paolo Maldini

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Finally, someone who doesn’t have to share his place in history. Maldini played in four World Cups, never winning a trophy with national team he played 126 times for, unlike his success at club level with AC Milan (7 league titles, 5 Champions League trophies). He made the final of the World  Cup in 1994, losing to Brazil after a penalty shootout. He retired from the national team after the 2002 World Cup.

Lothar Matthaus, Germany/West Germany, 25 Appearances

Lothar Matthaus

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One of only two players to participate in five World Cups (Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal being the other, and first actually), Matthaus started his WC career in 1982 and finished it in 1998. He made the finals with West Germany three times, winning the World Cup in 1990 after the 1-0 over Argentina in the final, winning the Silver Ball (second best player in the tournament). He scored six goals in his World Cup career, four of them in 1990.