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7 Greatest North American Players At The FIFA World Cup

Rafael Marquez World Cup
(Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

North American countries are not as powerful when it comes to football as they are in other spheres of life. The two strongest football nations from the continent are Mexico and USA.

The organisation in charge of football affairs in the region is The Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) 

USA achieved North America’s highest finish at the FIFA World Cup when it came 3rd at the first-ever World Cup in 1930.

But nevertheless, both USA and Mexico have made notable performances at the global Mundial, and both countries have also hosted the World Cup in the past.

In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the 5 greatest North American players at the FIFA World Cup.

1. Antonio Carbajal (Mexico)

Antonio Carbajal FIFA World Cup
(Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images)

Carbajal is a legendary Mexican goalkeeper who is one of the only 3 players to have appeared at five FIFA World Cup tournaments. 

He made his World Cup debut at the 1950 edition hosted by Brazil, where he was the youngest goalkeeper to play in that tournament. 

Carbajal played one match at the 1954 World Cup and three matches at the 1958 tournament. 

At the 1962 World Cup in Chile, he became the first footballer ever to appear in four World Cups, also helping his team win its first-ever World Cup match when they defeated Czechoslovakia 3–1 in the first round. 

Four years later (1968), Carbajal achieved another milestone with his fifth World Cup appearance. That record was equaled by German player Lothar Matthäus (in 1998) and by his compatriot Rafael Márquez (in 2018).

In total, Carbajal appeared in 48 international matches for Mexico. In 11 World Cup matches from 1950 to 1966, he conceded 25 goals, a record that was tied by Saudi goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Deayea in 2002.

2. Landon Donovan (USA)

Landon Donovan FIFA World Cup
(Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Landon Donovan is widely regarded as the greatest United States male football player of all time. Donavan is in 2nd place on the all-time appearance list for the United States Male National Team (USMNT) and shares the record for the all-time highest goalscorer with Clint Dempsey. He also one of the greatest MLS players of all time.

Donovan made his FIFA World Cup debut at the 2002 World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea and Japan. He started in the shocking 3-2 upset of Portugal in the group stage. His cross in the 29th minute deflected in off Jorge Costa, giving the US a 2–0 lead. 

He scored his first-ever goal at the World Cup in the 83rd minute of a 3–1 loss to Poland in the third match of the group stage. He then scored his 2nd goal of the tournament with a header which clinched a 2–0 victory over arch-rivals Mexico in the round of 16. 

USA lost 1–0 to eventual runners-up, Germany, in the quarter-finals, and Donovan was named the Best Young Player of the tournament.

He was also part of the US squad at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, in which the Americans were eliminated in the group stage. Donovan failed to score any goals or provide any assist throughout the three matches.

Donovan played every minute of the US campaign at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where he scored 3 goals as America reached the round of 16. 

His total of five goals at the FIFA World Cup is the most for any player representing a North American country.

3. Rafael Marquez (Mexico)

Rafael Marquez World Cup
(Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Marquez is regarded as the best defender in Mexico’s history and one of the best Mexican players of all time.

Marquez is the third most-capped player in the history of the Mexico national team, with 147 caps. 

At the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, he became only the fourth player to play at five consecutive editions of the FIFA World Cup — holding the record alongside compatriot Antonio Carbajal, Lothar Matthäus, and Gianluigi Buffon. He appeared at the 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018 tournaments. 

Marquez is also the Mexican player with the most World Cup matches played in history, with 19. He proudly wore the number 4 jersey for most of his career.

Marquez is the first and, to date, the only player to captain a team at five FIFA World Cups. 

He is also the first Mexican player to score in three consecutive World Cups and the second Mexican player ever to score in three World Cups. Don’t forget that he is a defender! 

With Mexico, Marquez won the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2003 and 2011 editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

4. Clint Dempsey (USA)

Clint Dempsey
(Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)

Dempsey is one of the greatest American players of all time. He is tied with Landon Donovan as the all-time highest goalscorer for the USMNT.

Dempsey’s first appearance at the FIFA World Cup was at the 2006 edition in Germany, where the USA got eliminated at the group stage. He scored America’s only goal at the tournament.

At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Dempsey became only the second American to score in more than one World Cup when he scored the equalising goal against England in the Americans’ first match, where the English goalkeeper Robert Green made that infamous error as he allowed slipped through.

Dempsey’s disallowed goal later in the tournament against Algeria in the group stage was very controversial. He was flagged offside, but replays later showed that he was onside.

He captained the USA at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he scored against Ghana in the 29th second in a group stage match. It was the fastest goal in American World Cup history and also the fifth-fastest goal in all-time World Cup history. 

With his goal against Ghana, Dempsey became the first American player to score in three consecutive World Cups.

He scored his fourth World Cup goal in a 2–2 draw against Portugal. This goal drew Dempsey level with Bert Patenaude as the second-highest goalscoring American at the World Cup, one goal behind Landon Donovan.

5. Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)

Guillermo Ochoa World Cup
(Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Ochoa became famous for his outstanding performances at the World Cup. He was named as a member of the Mexican squad to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups but did not make any appearance. His debut FIFA World Cup appearance was at the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

In the second group stage match against hosts Brazil, Ochoa made four incredible saves — including a breath-taking one following a powerful header from Neymar — that helped secure a shocking 0–0 draw. 

His save against Neymar drew comparisons to Gordon Banks’ famed 1970 World Cup save against Pelé. Ochoa was named man of the match, earning praise from many, including Brazilian head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. 

Ochoa himself commented on his performance, saying, “It was the match of my life. To do it in a World Cup, in front of all the fans, it’s incredible”.

Ochoa conceded one goal in the group stage in the 3–1 victory against Croatia that qualified Mexico for the round-of-16. He started in the round of 16 match against the Netherlands, in which he made several crucial saves to hold on to Mexico’s 1–0 advantage. However, the Dutch ultimately won 2–1 through a penalty scored in the 91st minute. His performance was praised, and he was named man of the match for a second time despite being on the losing side.

In Mexico’s opener against Germany at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Ochoa made a total of nine saves — notably pushing a goal-bound Toni Kroos free-kick onto the crossbar and ultimately securing a clean sheet in the famous 1–0 victory over the defending champions. 

He went on to play in all four of Mexico’s games, making a total of 25 saves — more than any other goalkeeper in the tournament except Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois, who managed 27 saves in seven games.

Ochoa will be looking forward to further enhance his FIFA World Cup legacy at the upcoming 2022 edition in Qatar. He is one of the footballers who could retire in 2022, and play his last World Cup.

6. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica)

Bryan Ruiz World Cup
(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Bryan Ruiz played in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, but it was at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that he made his mark. The midfielder was at the heart of Costa Rica’s incredible run to the quarterfinals of that World Cup.

After defeating Uruguay 3-1 in their opening match, Ruiz scored Costa Rica’s only goal as they shocked four-time champion Italy 1–0 to qualify for the round of 16.

In the round of 16, he also scored his team’s only goal as they drew 1–1 with Greece. Ruiz finally converted his kick as Costa Rica prevailed 5–3 in the penalty shootout to reach the quarterfinals.

He also took part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but Costa Rica lost their first two group games. However, in the last group-stage match against Switzerland, he scored a last-minute equalizing goal from a penalty spot in a 2–2 draw, but the goal was later given as an own goal from the goalkeeper.

7. Keylor Navas

Keylor Navas 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

 

The former Real Madrid goalkeeper is also one of the greatest North Americans at the FIFA World Cup. Navas made his World Cup debut at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he conceded just one goal in a group that consisted of Italy, England, and Uruguay, and also kept two clean sheets.

In the round of 16 match against Greece, Keylor Navas made several saves in normal time and saved Theofanis Gekas’ penalty during the shootout. That led to him being named man of the match and Costa Rica reaching the quarter-finals for the first time ever.

Costa Rica were knocked out on penalties in the quarter-finals against the Netherlands, but Keylor Navas was also named the man of the match.

He played at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and started all three group games making 10 saves and conceding five goals.

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