Some outsider stars managed to thrive in the world cup final round despite not playing in Europe or South America, where the major leagues are.
Playing in major club competitions, either in Europe or South America, has long been a goal of every footballer on the planet. It is the place where they can experience the most competitive leagues. Unfortunately, not everyone can have such opportunity, especially for those from outside UEFA and CONMEBOL regions.
The domestic leagues in CONCACAF, CAF or AFC have been deemed less competitive compared to the one in those regions. However, that does not mean those playing outside Europe or South America lack of quality. Some did manage to shine in World Cups, a few were even awarded or nominated for the tournament’s accolades such as Golden Ball, Best Young Player or Best Goalkeeper.
World Cup 2022 definitely is one big stage for them since they do not have to deal with congested fixtures as their counterparts.
It is interesting to see how many of them could thrive in Qatar. These are the previous outsider stars who stole the show in the past.
The Outsider Stars who Succeeded at the World Cups
Luis Hernandez (Mexico 1998)
The Mexican forward was well known for his eye for goals. He might have only been able to bring El Tri to the round of 16 but managed to shine with his four goals in France 1998. It was the most goals scored by any Mexican player in a single world cup edition. The record even still stands today. Surprisingly, the prolific striker only played for the local club, Necaxa at that time before signing with Tigres UANL afterwards. Hernandez eventually never set his foot in Europe till he hanged his boots.
Yoo Sang-Chul (South Korea 2002)
He was the versatile defensive midfielder in South Korea squad for 2002 world cup. Yoo Sang-Chul, who made his debut and scored one in France 1998, was the second captain in Guus Hiddink’s team. He featured in all seven games in the tournament and helped Taeguk Warriors reach semi final. Despite only playing for J-League side, Kashiwa Reysol, Sang Chul was one of the top performers in the tournament. He registered one goal and an assist plus was named in the World Cup All-Star Team.
Hong Myung-Bo (South Korea 2002)
He is probably the one of the few World Cup outsider stars who never had a chance to play in European leagues. Myung Bo was already at the last stage of his career when captaining the team in 2002 edition. The 33-year old then defender was playing for Pohang Steelers at that time but nominated for the tournament’s Golden Ball. The former South Korea boss in Brasil 2014 was eventually awarded Bronze Ball due to his impressive form while bringing his country to advance to the last four. After the world cup, he moved to MLS side, LA Galaxy before retiring in 2004.
Gabelo Canejo (Costa Rica 1990)
This shot-stopper was unknown before the world cup began. Yet, he suddenly was on the spotlights due to making a number of clinical saves between the sticks. His stunning form helped Costa Rica beat Scotland and Sweden at the group stage. His actions also prevented them from losing by a large margin to Brasil. The Cartagines man back then denied at least seven shots on target from Careca and Co. Muller eventually found the back of the net to defeat El Ticos but it was Canejo’s outstanding saves which became the headlines.
Sadly, he was injured afterwards and missed out the round of 16 against Cekoslovakia. His country was hapless against Thomas Skuhravy and Co and dismantled 4-1. Canejo’s impressive performance earned him a prestigious accolade, 1990 World Cup Best Goalkeeper, alongside Argentina’s Sergio Goychochea who featured in more games. Such led him to a move to Spanish’s Segunda Division side, Albacete.
Landon Donovan (USA in 2002)
He was barely unheard of prior to the tournament. Donovan was still 20-year old at that time and had been unable to break Bayer Leverkusen’s first team after joining in 1999. The American frontman switched side to San Jose Earthquakes on loan from 2001 and made his mark at the World Cup 2002. The former LA Galaxy star scored two goals in four matches. Surprisingly, he won the Best Young Player award as he brought USMNT to go through quarterfinal. It was the highest stage they could progress since 1930. Despite his success in the international fixtures and MLS, he only spent his three brief loan stints in Europe with Everton and Bayern Munich during the league break.
Cesar Sampaio (Brasil in 1998)
He was the key figure in Selecao under Mario Zagallo’s tutelage from 2007. The former Palmeiras defensive midfielder shone in France 1998 by netting three times, one at the opener against Scotland and a brace versus Chile in the round of 16. Sampaio also played in all seven games, including the final, despite only playing for the Japanese club, Yokohama Flugels.