In Italy, we call “meteora” (meteor) a football player who lives a short period of glory before fading away, back into anonymity. The World Cup is full of such stories, of players who in some way managed to find their edge right during those 30 days, once in four years, when the whole world revolves around a foot ball. They shone on the most important stage, and then quickly turned back into regular journeymen, or even worse disappeared from the calcio che conta (“football that matters”). Like a broken spell. Like a dream from which they suddenly woke up.
Antonio Guarini takes us through a journey among the Top 10 “one-hit-wonders” in the recent history of the World Cup. Some of them helped Italy climb to the top of the world, some others recall painful memories for the Azzurri. But all share the same fascinating meteora status, all found the magic formula to sparkle and shine just when it mattered most.
They may not have been Ballon d’Or winning champions, but we are sure that these names will ring a bell or two to all football lovers.
4) Mario Gotze, Hero for One Night Only
Scoring the decisive goal during extra time of a World Cup Final: How could you ask more from a 22-year-old football player? This is what happened in 2014 to Mario Gotze, the man who made Germany celebrate their fourth world title.
Having made his way in Borussia Dortmund, Gotze had just been transferred to Bayern Munich before the World Cup in Brazil. After scoring such a goal, everybody would have bet on a shining future for the little playmaker. Instead, Mario slowly but steadily declined in the following four years. Things didn’t go that good for him at Bayern. Coach José Guardiola couldn’t see him fit in his play, as his characteristics were not apt to the Catalan trainer’s tiki taka.
But towards the end of 2015, Pep Guardiola left Munich, and the Bavarians replaced him with Carlo Ancelotti. You would expect that, with a new coach, Gotze could be the cornerstone of Bayern’s new football project. Yet no, it didn’t happen.
Mario thus packed his stuff, and came back to Borussia Dortmund. Fans were convinced that, once back home, the playmaker could return to be as decisive as he was in the Brazil 2014 days. But since the beginning of 2017, he has been limited by multiple injuries, as well as by nutrition problems, up to the point that he was suggested to stop playing until he was 100% recovered. In this last season, he played 28 games only, and scored 2 goals. Too few to convince Germany’s coach Joachim Low to bring him to the World Cup in Russia.
At 26, Gotze still has plenty of time to make a comeback, retaking his spot in Borussia Dortmund and the German national side. The problem is that, when you have already hit 7th Heaven at 22, it can only get worse from there.
This is what happened to Mario Gotze, hero for one Brazilian night only – just like those creatures whose existence is condensed in a few hours. Gotze’s career, so far, has all been into that shot sent past Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Well, we wouldn’t call that a small achievement anyway.
Translated by Matteo Carnevale
Check out the other World Cup Meteors in our countdown:
10) Ahn Jung-Hwan, Italy’s Korean Killer
9) Stephan Guivarc’h, the Goalless World Champion
8) Asamoah Gyan’s Penalty Nightmare
7) Yordan Letchkov, the Bulgarian Who Made Germany Cry
6) Cuauhtémoc Blanco, the Mexican Juggler of France 1998
5) Oleg Salenko, a Day of Football Insanity