World Cup

World Cup highest appearance makers

Tom Gott
Klose is the World Cup's top scorer
Klose is the World Cup's top scorer / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages
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Making it to the World Cup is one of the greatest honours in football, but being invited back time and time again is the mark of a true all-time great.

Just 11 players in history have ever managed to turn out in at least 20 World Cup games. Lionel Messi is the closest active player to making this list, having turned out in 19 matches, but he's just one short of making the cut.

Here's a rundown of the star-studded cast who have managed over 20.


11. Bastian Schweinsteiger - 20

Bastian Schweinsteiger
Schweinsteiger bowed out in 2014 / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

Across just three tournaments, Bastian Schweinsteiger managed to rack up an impressive 20 appearances at the World Cup.

He began in 2006, where Schweinsteiger emerged on the global scene with an absolute thunderbolt in the third-place playoff against Portugal.

Schweinsteiger reached the same stage in 2010, before going one step further and winning the whole thing in 2014.

10. Javier Mascherano - 20

Javier Mascherano
Mascherano made it to 2018 / PressFocus/MB Media/GettyImages

Like Schweinsteiger, Mascherano also made his World Cup debut in 2006.

He had two runs to the quarter-final in 2006 and 2010, before playing every minute en route to a defeat to Schweinsteiger's Germany in the final in 2014.

Mascherano walked away from international duty following Argentina's elimination from the 2018 World Cup, in which he claimed the record for most caps in his country's history, 147.

9. Grzegorz Lato - 20

Grzegorz Lato
Lato excelled in 1974 / Keystone/GettyImages

Aided by the two group stage format of previous World Cups, Polish legend Grzegorz Lato made it to 20 in three tournaments between 1974 and 1982.

Lato was the top scorer in 1974, firing home seven goals as Poland finished third, before six more group-stage appearances followed in 1978.

His final seven World Cup appearances came in 1982, when Poland were knocked out at the semi-finals and bested France for third place.

8. Philipp Lahm - 20

Philipp Lahm
Lahm was used in different positions / Clive Mason/GettyImages

Right there alongside Schweinsteiger was right-back Phillip Lahm, who made the Team of the Tournament in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

His opener in 2006 - that curler six minutes in against Costa Rica - is still one of the most popular moments in recent World Cup history, and it came while he was actually playing at left-back.

Lahm played every minute in 2006, missed only the third-place playoff in 2010 and then, as both a right-back and a midfielder, played the entirety of the successful 2014 campaign.

7. Cafu - 20

Cafu
Cafu won the World Cup in 2002 / PEDRO UGARTE/GettyImages

The only player in history to play in three consecutive World Cup finals, Cafu must have thought World Cups were pretty easy.

The legendary right-back was a squad player in 1994 and didn't actually start a single game. He made two cameo appearances in the knockout rounds before an injury to Jorginho in the final saw him brought on after 21 minutes and enjoy the victory over Italy.

A permanent starter in 1998, Cafu played every game apart from the semi-final, for which he was suspended, and then shone in every minute of the 2002 triumph.

Cafu was 36 by the time 2006 arrived, but he still played in four of his side's five games as Brazil were dumped out in the quarter-final.

6. Wladyslaw Zmuda - 21

A team-mate of Lato in 1974, 1978 and 1982, Wladyslaw Zmuda went one step further and turned out for Poland in 1986 as well.

The winner of the Best Young Player award in 1974, the former centre-back played every minute of his first three tournaments.

Zmuda made the squad for 1986 but was out of the regular lineup at that point, with his only appearance coming in the final eight minutes of the 4-0 defeat to Brazil in the round of 16.

5. Uwe Seeler - 21

Uwe Seeler
Seeler is a German legend / Keystone/GettyImages

Somehow, Uwe Seeler never won the World Cup. His international career began four years after West Germany's first triumph and it ended four years before their second.

In between those two victories, Seeler turned out at four World Cups and managed an impressive 21 appearances, starting in 1958 and ending in 1970.

The closest Seeler came to winning was 1966, in which his West Germany side fell to England in the final.

4. Diego Maradona - 21

Diego Maradona
Maradona stole the show in 1986 / El Grafico/GettyImages

Diego Maradona could easily have sat atop this list had manager Cesar Luis Menotti given him the call in 1978. Maradona was a full international at the time but Menotti felt the then 17-year-old was not ready for a World Cup.

Instead, Maradona had to wait until 1982 for his debut, and after an underwhelming tournament, he went a rewrote football history in 1986 as he led Argentina to glory.

Maradona got back to the final in 1990, before his run-out in 1994 was ended after just two games following a positive drugs test.

3. Paolo Maldini - 23

Paolo Maldini
Maldini made World Cup history / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Italy and AC Milan icon Paolo Maldini didn't miss a single minute of his 23 matches at the World Cup.

Maldini made it to third in 1990 before falling short in the 1994 final, for which he spent the majority of his time at centre-back rather than his natural position of left-back.

That was the closest Maldini ever got to winning a World Cup as Italy fell at the quarter-final in 1998 and the round of 16 in 2002.

His 2,216 minutes played is a World Cup record.

2. Miroslav Klose - 24

Miroslav Klose
Klose bagged goals for fun / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

The World Cup's all-time top goalscorer, Miroslav Klose bagged 16 in 24 games across four tournaments between 2002 and 2014.

Klose bagged five headers in 2002 (a record for one tournament), and then added another five goals in 2006.

His involvement in 2010 was limited by a needless red card early in the group stage, but Klose came back in 2014 and finally managed to get his hands on the trophy.

1. Lothar Matthaus - 25

Lothar Matthaeus
Matthaus holds this record / STAFF/GettyImages

Leading the way is former midfielder Lothar Matthaus, whose five trips to the World Cup is also a record in itself.

A young squad player for his two appearances in 1982, Matthaus was an undisputed started four years later and retained that status until his final World Cup appearance in 1998.

Matthaus played in two finals in 1986 and 1990, emerging victorious in the latter, but fell at the quarter-final twice towards the end of his career.


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