Players who excel at providing assists in World Cup matches but not scoring
A number of well-known players became the master of assisting without scoring a single goal at a World Cup final.
Being the assist provider is no longer underrated today. In modern football, the ability to create chances, including setting up teammates for goals, is essential. In fact, it can be a decisive tie-breaker when multiple players are leading golden boot standings.
However, some players are not fortunate enough to score in their World Cup appearances. They only turned provider instead. Strangely, Harry Kane, the Golden Boot winner four years ago, has become one in Qatar 2022. He is still without a goal after three games in the group stage, but has already registered three assists. It is quite a change compared to his form in Russia as he was merely a front man who barely dropped deep.
Throughout World Cup history, there were some names who seldom had the luxury of celebrating a goal. Yet, they could boast themselves as the master of the assist. One of them was in fact the former FIFA Best Player. Check out these five exceptional figures in this department.
Magnificent assist makers who went scoreless at World Cups
Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina)
Riquelme was one of the best playmakers in the mid 2000s. Yet, he only featured in World Cup 2006 despite being the star man in Boca Juniors and Villarreal throughout the decade. The Argentine playmaker became the top assist provider in the tournament with three, two of which came from corner kicks in the knockout stage against Mexico and Germany. Unfortunately, he failed to score a single goal at the global stage.
Roberto Donadoni (Italy)
Roberto Donadoni was one of the versatile wingers in 1990s. He was apart of the ‘Dream Team’ AC Milan to win three Champions Cup titles in five years from 1989 to 1994. Donadoni appeared in two World Cups and racked up four assists. The first two were created against USA and Ireland in 1990, while the latter two occurred for Dino Baggio’s goal while defeating Spain at the quarterfinals. Donadoni also assisted Roberto Baggio’s first goal at the semifinal. Sadly, he was unable to find the back of the net despite playing in 11 games at the World Cup.
Luis Figo (Portugal)
Luis Figo was the first Portuguese to win the FIFA Best Player award in 2000. It was also the same year when he made controversial move to Real Madrid from Barcelona. However, he only made his World Cup debut in 2002, when he set up Pauleta’s second goal while Portugal trounced Poland 4-0 at the group stage. Four years later, he helped his country reach the semifinal and registered three more assists in the tournament. Surprisingly, he was scoreless across his two showings on the big stage.
Juan Veron (Argentina)
Juan Veron was definitely a quality player in setting up his teammates during the late 1990s and 2000s. Unlike Riquelme, who was the best at ball control, the former Lazio and Manchester United man was more versatile. No wonder he managed to get a call-up for the World Cup final squad more often and made more assists. Veron provided five assists in total; three in France 1998 and one each in Japan-South Korea 2002 and South Africa 2010. Interestingly, those last two assists were created for a winning goal through a header against the same exact team, Nigeria. Despite featuring in three editions, Veron never had his luck when it came to scoring goals in the final round.
Thomas Hässler (Germany)
His name was often forgotten amongst the German stars in 1990s such as Jürgen Klinsmann, Rudi Völler, Lothar Matthaus or even Andy Müller. Nevertheless, Thomas Hässler’s contribution deserved more recognition as one of the great masters of assists. He was the only one who could rival Diego Maradona and Pele in providing the most assist in one single World Cup. The former Roma and Juventus man thrived in USA 1994 as he set up five goals only in as many games because Germany crashed out at the quarterfinal.
Overall, the attacking midfielder, who was once tipped as the ‘German Maradona’ due to his resemblance in physical figure and style of play to the Argentine talisman, racked up six assists. Hässler made another one in France 1998 by turning provider for Oliver Bierhoff’s goal against Iran in the last game of the preliminary round. Sadly, he was not so lucky while finding the back of the net.