The World Cup final is the biggest fixture in football, a game which sees the globe stop to watch as two nations battle it out to be crowned world champions.
The quadrennial nature of the World Cup only adds to its appeal and prestige, with just a select few footballers fortunate enough to feature in the tournament’s showpiece.
Featuring in a World Cup final is arguably the culmination of a body of work for professional footballers but a select few have suffered heartbreak when it comes to the tournament’s showpiece.
Here are four famous names who were suspended for the World Cup final.
Claudio Caniggia – 1990
Claudio Caniggia was a prominent part of Argentina’s run to the final at Italia ’90, but two yellow cards saw the forward sidelined for the final in Rome.
Caniggia had scored twice during Argentina’s passage through the knockout rounds, scoring the winner in a huge clash with rivals Brazil in the last 16, before netting again as La Albiceleste dumped out host nation Italy in the semi-finals.
His absence saw Argentina fall to a narrow defeat to West Germany in the final and Caniggia believes the result would have been different had he been in the South American’s side.
“I was so good and I felt to so confident,” he told TyC Sports in April 2018. “I saw the Germans as being easier than the Italians or Brazilians.
“They would have brought me down and resulted in a penalty or someone would have kicked me. I’m sure that we would have defeated the Germans.”
His second booking of the tournament, received just ten minutes before full time, meant he never got the chance to prove his theory.
Alessandro Costacurta – 1994
In what should have been a campaign of triumph, Alessandro Costacurta endured a difficult 1994 as he missed out on the two biggest fixtures in the game.
The AC Milan defender was a notable absentee for the Rossoneri’s Champions League final win over Barcelona in Athens, having been suspended for the game after he was sent off in the semi-final win over Monaco with his side leading.
Costacurta then suffered the double agony of missing the World Cup final after another suspension saw the centre-back ruled out of the decider with Brazil.
A yellow card in the semi-final win over Bulgaria saw Costacurta sidelined as Italy were beaten on penalties in the United States.
Laurent Blanc – 1998
France were crowned world champions for the first time in 1998, as Les Bleus triumphed on home soil.
It was a fine achievement for Aimé Jacquet’s side, who saw Zinedine Zidane score twice in the final win over Brazil at the Stade de France.
Laurent Blanc – a key figure in the side at centre-back – was forced to watch on in the final, however, following a controversial red card in the semi-final win over Croatia. The defender had earlier scored the World Cup’s first Golden Goal winner against Paraguay in the last 16.
🪨 A defensive rock in France's #WorldCup-winning team of 1998 🥇
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 19, 2021
Blanc was dismissed in the semi-final after he caught Slaven Bilic with a wayward arm, though replays showed that the contact was minimal.
Bilic’s theatrics conned the referee and cost Blanc his place in a World Cup final. It was, cruelly, the only red card of his entire career.
Michael Ballack – 2002
Michael Ballack’s career was one of both huge success and incredible near misses, with no campaign underlining his unlucky streak more than 2001/02.
The midfielder formed part of a Bayer Leverkusen who chased a treble until the season’s final weeks, before a late collapse saw the German side finish as runners-up for the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League.
Ballack headed to the World Cup that summer as a key part of Germany’s plans, where the brilliance of the goalscoring midfielder and Oliver Kahn helped carry an unfancied team into the latter stages.
⏲️ 75 minutes: The No13 scores the only goal to make Germany the first nation to reach 7 Finals 😀
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 25, 2020
Ballack was crucial to his side’s success and scored the decisive goal in both the quarter-final and semi-final, though he missed out on a place in the final through suspension. The German picked up his second booking of the tournament for a cynical foul on South Korea’s Lee Chun-soo just four minutes before scoring the winner against the host nation.
It was a selfless moment as he brought down the South Korean to stop a dangerous break, but one which Ballack admitted reduced him to tears in the dressing room at full-time. He was powerless as Germany fell to defeat in the final, as Ronaldo’s double crowned Brazil world champions.