5 A-League players to have played in a FIFA World Cup final

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The A-League has been able to attract some of the biggest names in football, with some needing no introduction.

However, only a handful of players have had the privilege to play in a FIFA World Cup final, and most of them have gone on to win it.

We will be looking at five A-League players that have had the opportunity to represent their nation in the FIFA World Cup final.

William Gallas – 2006 World Cup Final

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Former French defender, William Gallas, played in the World Cup final for France in 2006 and he started in all seven games for the national team in that year’s tournament. 

Gallas was playing alongside players such as Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Viera, Franck Ribéry and many more who defeated Spain, Brazil, and Portugal in their journey to the final. 

However, it came to an unfortunate end for Gallas and his team when they lost against Italy in the final via a penalty shootout. 

The 43-year-old signed for Perth Glory in the 2013/2014 season, making him the first Frenchmen to play in the A-League and played 15 matches, starting in 14 of them, and scored one goal against Wellington Phoenix.

Juninho Paulista – 2002 World Cup Final

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In 2002 Juninho Paulista, known as Juninho, was one of the many Brazilians in the country’s football history to have played in a FIFA World Cup final. He played five out of the seven matches in the tournament. 

Brazil were runners-up in the previous World Cup in 1998, so Juninho and his world-class teammates – Ronaldinho, Cafu, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Kaká, Rivaldo – were hungry to get their hands on the trophy. 

Juninho only played about five minutes in the final against Germany, after coming on for Ronaldinho in the 85th minute, however, Brazil won 2-0 and Juninho became a World Cup winning player. 

The former Brazilian attacking midfielder joined Sydney FC in 2007. Even though he spent most of his time on the bench due to a shoulder injury, he played a total of 15 matches and produced a masterclass performance against David Beckham’s LA Galaxy that ended 5-3 to Sydney.

Romário – 1994 World Cup Final 

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Romário was an iconic player for Brazil in the late 80s and the majority of the 90s and he played in the 1994 FIFA World Cup final, but it was his masterclass display at the tournament that made him stand out.

He scored five goals in the 1994 World Cup, scoring the equaliser against Sweden in the group stages and again scoring the winning goal against Sweden in the semi-final to take Brazil to the World Cup final. He also assisted Bebeto in the Round of 16 against the USA to score the winning goal. 

The striker had a golden opportunity to score the potential winner against Italy in the final in the second period of extra time but missed the target. However, Brazil went on to win the game on penalties and Romário was the last player to win the Golden Ball and the World Cup in the same tournament, as he was included in the World Cup All-Star Team.

Romário signed for Adelaide United in 2006 for a five-game guest stint. However, he only played four games for the Reds and scored just one goal against the Newcastle Jets. 

David Villa – 2010 World Cup Final 

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David Villa became one of the first-ever players for Spain to reach the FIFA World Cup final in 2010 and was one of the deadliest strikers at the tournament.

He scored five goals in seven games, including the only goal in the Round of 16 against Portugal and the only goal against Paraguay in the quarter finals.

After scoring against Paraguay, he became Spain’s World Cup all-time leading goal scorer with six goals, while Emilio Butargueño, Fernando Hierro, Fernando Morientes and Raúl have five goals.

Spain won 1-0 against the Netherlands in the final and Villa was awarded the Silver Boot for the tournament and named in the World-Cup All-Star Team. He would have won the Golden Boot, but Thomas Müller had more assists than him.

The Spanish forward was on a guest stint loan with Melbourne City from New York City that allowed him to play 10 A-League matches. However, New York wanted him back before the 10 games, so Villa played four games and scored twice for City but did not win any games.  

Alessandro Del Piero – 2006 World Cup Final

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Alessandro Del Piero was one of Italy’s finest forwards and had the opportunity to play in the 2006 FIFA World Cup final, playing five matches out of the seven.

His first start in the tournament was against the Socceroos in the Round of 16 and then he came off for Francesco Totti in the 75th minute, before he went on to score the winning goal. Del Piero scored the second and final goal in the semi-finals against Germany to finalise a place in the final. 

The Italian forward played against another A-League player – Gallas – in the final. However, he came on in the 86th minute and played the two periods of extra time and scored a penalty in the shootout. Italy went on to become champions after defeating France.   

Del Piero signed a two-year contract with the Sky Blues, earning AUD $3.5 million per season, making him the most expensive football player in Australian history. He scored the first-ever Sydney derby goal against Western Sydney Wanderers, broke the club’s record of most goals scored in a season with 11 goals, won the club’s Player of the Season award in his first season and won the Sydney FC Golden Boot in the 2013/2014 season. 

He captained the A-League All-Stars team against his former club, Juventus, in 2014 and was named in the Sydney’s and AFC’s Team of the Decade in 2015. He played a total of 48 games and scored 24 goals for the Sky Blues.  

Stats sourced from: Ultimate A-League

Featured image credit: The Football Sack

Recently, the A-League has been able to attract some of the biggest names in football. Some players need no introduction; they are household names that have dominated headlines for years and their presence will only help grow Australia’s soccer league. You may not be a fan of Australian Rules Football but if you enjoy sports betting these big-name signings might just pique your interest. The latest survey says that Australian sports betters are putting more money on the line. The question is whether or not this type of player can make an impact on the game itself. With all these high-profile stars signing up with our national competition it would seem as though we’re about to find out.

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Daniel Gualterio
Bachelor of Sports Media student from Charles Sturt University covering Macarthur FC. Passionate for the world game.

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