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German footballer Lothar Matthaus, widely regarded as the most robust and versatile midfielder from the country, has made the most appearances in the FIFA World Cup over the years.

The amount of time a player spends at the highest level often is a major factor in determining his greatness. To not just make it to multiple World Cups for your national side, but also play so many games is a top-draw achievement in a footballer’s career. 

Here’s a list of the most capped players in the history of FIFA World Cup.

Lothar Matthaus (West Germany) - 25 matches in FIFA World Cup

Matthaus, who made a whopping 150 appearances for West Germany, played 25 matches for his national side at the World Cup. He was in the World Cup squad in 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998. 

He was a part of the triumphant squad in 1990 under Franz Beckenbauer, where he also scored the winner against Czechoslovakia in the quarter finals. Matthaus was named captain of the squad in 1994 and 1998. 

Miroslav Klose (Germany) - 24 matches in FIFA World Cup

Striker Miroslav Klose has played 24 World Cup matches for the Germans and netted 16 goals. He holds the record for the most goals scored in the tournament and made the second highest appearances. 

Incidentally, Klose went past Ronaldo Nazario’s 15-goal record with a goal against Brazil in the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup. He also appeared in the final against Argentina, which his side won in extra time.

Paulo Maldini (Italy) - 23 matches in FIFA World Cup

Italian stalwart Paulo Maldini appeared 23 times for Italy at World Cups. Unfortunately for the player, who despite having a prolonged 25-year club career, could not win a the world title with his country. 

The former AC Milan player featured in the final against Brazil in 1990, which Italy lost on penalties. 

Diego Maradona (Argentina) - 21 matches in FIFA World Cup 

The 1986 World Cup, to this date, is referred to as the Diego Maradona World Cup. Such were his exploits in that tournament as he dribbled past defenders for fun and scored goals at will.

Maradona made 21 appearances across four editions of the World Cup and scored eight goals.

Uwe Seeler - 21 matches in FIFA World Cup

Uwe Seeler was one of West Germany’s finest ever strikers, scoring 535 goals for club and country in 653 appearances. 

The former Hamburger forward represented his nation in the 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 editions of the World Cup, becoming the first-ever player to make 20 appearances in the tournament (21 matches). 

He also scored nine times, including goals in the quarter-finals of the 1966 and 1970 editions against Uruguay and England, respectively. 

Wladyslaw Zmuda - 21 matches in FIFA World Cup

Hailed as the greatest Polish footballer of the 20th century, Wladyslaw Zmuda was a pillar in his side’s defense, who appeared in four consecutive World Cups from 1974 to 1986. 

He played 21 matches in the FIFA World Cup and was also named the best young player in his first appearance at the tournament in 1974, where Poland finished third. 

Cafu (Brazil) - 20 matches in FIFA World Cup

Brazilian fullback Cafu is the only player in history to feature in three different World Cup finals, in 1990, 1998 and 2002. Brazil lost to France in 1998, but defeated Italy and Germany in 1990 and 2002, respectively, making Cafu a two-time World Cup winner.

Cafu also holds the record for the most appearances in the World Cup for the tournament’s most successful team, Brazil (five time champions). He played 20 matches for his national side. 

Whilst Pele has three World Cup medals, he appeared only in the 1958 and 1970 finals. He did not appear in the 1962 World Cup final against Czechoslovakia due to an injury.

Most matches in FIFA World Cup history

Rank

Player

Team

Appearances

1

Lothar Matthaus

Germany

25

2

Miroslav Klose

Germany

24

3

Paolo Maldini

Italy

23

4 =

Diego Maradona

Argentina

21

4 =

Uwe Seeler

Germany

21

4 =

Władysław Żmuda

Poland

21

7 =

Cafu

Brazil

20

7 =

Philipp Lahm

Germany

20

7 =

Grzegorz Lato

Poland

20

7 =

Javier Mascherano

Argentina

20

7 =

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Germany

20

Images: AFP / KURT SCHORRER

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