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World Cup: Teams that have been inspired to glory by one player

Winning a World Cup is difficult at the best of times, but there are certain individuals that have galvanised their teammates and inspired their country to glory.

Ahead of Sunday's final in Qatar, which will see Argentina hope to give talisman Lionel Messi the missing piece of his career jigsaw, we have looked at some of the previous successes where one player has particularly stood out in helping his country lift the World Cup.

Kempes was the driving force in '78

Argentina first won the World Cup in 1978 and they were indebted to the performances of number 10 Mario Kempes, who was named the Best Player for the event that was hosted in his homeland that year.

Capped 43 times for his country, the now 68-year-old won the Golden Boot at the tournament after netting no less than six times, and it's worth noting that two of those strikes came in the 3-1 victory over the Netherlands in the final.

Kempes was a leading force for La Albiceleste and he even managed to recover from his penalty miss in the third group game - an incident that has cropped up later down the road for another of his compatriots.

Sensational Maradona delivers the goods

The second and most recent of Argentina's World Cup triumphs came in 1986 in Mexico, a tournament that is forever remembered for the infamous 'Hand of God' goal.

Diego Maradona was, of course, the culprit behind this goal against England in the quarter-finals, as he jumped up for a high ball in the box with Peter Shilton and knocked the ball in with his hand.

The Three Lions were outraged that the goal was allowed to stand, a strike that put Argentina 1-0 up, but the sheer brilliance of Maradona's second strike just four minutes later can't be discredited.

Picking up the ball inside his own half, Maradona dribbled past five England players - Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher, Terry Fenwick, Butcher (again) and, finally, goalkeeper Peter Shilton - before slotting into the back of the net. This has since become known as the "Goal of the Century."

Maradona grabbed a brace in the semi-final win over Belgium, taking his tally for the tournament to five, and he was eventually named Best Player after guiding his side to victory in the final against West Germany.

Messi to follow suit?

On the subject of those penalty misses, it's very interesting to note that Lionel Messi also missed from 12 yards out in Argentina's third group game in Qatar this year and it almost seems like fate that he will match the feats of Kempes and Maradona.

La Albiceleste are blessed with a lot of talent throughout their squad, as they have the likes of Julian Alvarez and Enzo Fernandez to name just a couple, but there is nobody quite like Messi and he is just one victory away from lifting the World Cup for the first time in what is his final appearance at the major event.

The Paris Saint-Germain star has, once again, been an inspirational figure for his country and he has scored no less than five times - leaving him tied with Kylian Mbappe in the Golden Boot race. Messi is 6/4 to be Top Goalscorer, while his French rival is priced at 3/4.

Not always a fairytale ending

Relying so heavily on one star player does not always produce success at the World Cup and there have been some near-misses for plenty of world-class footballers.

Croatia skipper Luka Modric, now aged 37, reached the final in 2018 before falling to France and his dreams of lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in Qatar were ended by Argentina in the semi-finals.

The Real Madrid ace won't be returning for another crack at World Cup glory and he is just one story of a world-class player that will not add this piece of silverware to his prestigious collection.

Another in this category is Johan Cruyff, the Dutch maestro was a three-time Ballon d'Or winner and enjoyed huge success on the club scene.

However, international honours eluded him and his nearest miss came at the 1974 World Cup when the Netherlands lost to West Germany in the final, while he was also part of the Dutch side that finished third at the European Championship two years later.

Roberto Baggio is also in this bracket after he finished runner-up with Italy at the 1994 World Cup, an event he top-scored for his country with five goals.

This silver medal came four years after the Italians finished third in the 1990 edition on home soil.

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