They came, they saw and they ever so briefly conquered at the World Cup. Here are 10 players who had their 15 minutes of fame (or 14, in one case) on the biggest stage of all.
Beauty, it seems, can also be in the eyes of the beholdee. Schillaci's eyes were the defining image of Italia 90, ablaze with fury and desire as he unexpectedly ran amok throughout the tournament. Schillaci, the center forward who started on the bench, having played only twice for Italy before the World Cup, ended up with the Golden Boot after striking six times during the hosts' stirring run to the semifinals. In Italy they still quiver at the thought of
No country has a pool of talent like Brazil, which makes it easy for players to emerge from nowhere -- and even easier for them to completely disappear. That was certainly true of Josimar, the tall, sinewy, stunningly athletic right back who became one of the stars of Mexico 86. The 24-year-old had never played for his country when he made his debut in the third group game against Northern Ireland, and smashed an
A star was born, but seemed intent on self-destruction. Josimar said he "just lost it" because of overnight fame: There were problems with team management and then the police, including arrests for beating up a prostitute and cocaine possession. Like Schillaci, this World Cup star would win only 16 caps for his country.
The story would eventually have a happy ending: Josimar, with help from another Brazilian right back,
You could argue that this is a dubious inclusion -- Gascoigne won 57 caps for England and played effectively at Euro 96 -- but he was never the same player once his
The joy of the World Cup is the way in which the haves and the have-nots mix, sometimes to the point that they are barely distinguishable. Armstong had been a reserve with second-division Watford the previous season, a 28-year-old whose career was going nowhere, but he was the best British player at Espana 82.
If the three men at the top of this list were fine players who simply lost their way, then Armstrong is the ultimate example of the World Cup's wonderful capacity to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. He scored three goals -- including one that would change his life -- as Northern Ireland unexpectedly escaped the group stages, and covered an incredible amount of ground. Armstrong attributed his newfound running power to the weight he lost in the Spanish heat. It was heat he would have to get used to: Armstrong's
Technically, Armstrong played in two World Cups -- he came on as substitute against Brazil in 1986 -- but that was an afterthought, a reward for his unforgettable heroism four years earlier.
Next time you internally bemoan someone's ingratitude, spare a thought for Salenko. At 24, he scored five goals in one game for Russia at the World Cup -- and was never picked again. It's an extraordinary story, apparently attributable to the whims of new coach
He may have made only three appearances for the U.S. and never even got American citizenship, but Gaetjens is deservedly enshrined in soccer folklore, having caused a major football earthquake by scoring the
Moran is the only player to make his debut in a World Cup final, but that does not tell half the story. (Technically, it was the final match of a group stage rather than the final, but for all intents and purposes it was the latter.) He was just 19 and he was playing in front of a crowd of about 200,000 at the Maracana, nearly all of whom were desperate for Moran's Uruguay to lose. It is impossible to imagine such pressure, or how he must have felt when
The lively forward started only one game at the 2002 World Cup, the essentially meaningless third-place playoff against South Korea, but he left a significant mark -- and not just because his looks, hair and style led to his being called the "Beckham of the Bosphorus." He came off the bench in every other game, scoring a
As paint dried, grass grew and the forgettable 1994 final between Brazil and Italy dragged on, the Brazilian substitute Viola provided the kiss of life with a memorable extra-time cameo, when he violated the previously untroubled Italian defense. They were his 14 minutes of fame. One memorable sinuous dribble in particular burned its place in the memory, leaving watchers to wonder why he had not been involved earlier in the tournament. The truth may be that he simply had fresh legs, while everyone else was on their last legs, but it's better to indulge the romantic viewpoint.
He made only two more appearances for his country,
The romance of Total Football, of defenders who were equally adept in attack and vice versa, found full expression through Brandts in 1978. Brandts was a 22-year-old who had played only one game for Holland before the tournament; he came in for the first match of the second stage, against Austria, and