Eastern European soccer is not exactly a match for the football hot-spots of central and Western Europe, as no former Eastern Bloc team has won the FIFA World Cup. However, there have been some great Eastern European soccer teams that have had world-class players at their disposal. For example, the 1954 Hungarian team is one of the best teams that has never won the cup after their defeat in the final. More recently, teams such as Croatia and Bulgaria have made it to the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup; and then Greece won the UEFA European Championships. These are a few of the great players who starred for such teams.
Puskas was one of the stars of the Hungarian team that made it to the 1954 final. For Hungary Puskas played in what was then an inside-left position, otherwise one of the forwards that led the Hungarian front line. Puskas goal-scoring record for Hungary eclipsed even his team-mate Kocsis, as he scored 84 goals for the Hungarian team, which was almost a goal a game. With Hungary he won the 1952 Olympic soccer championship, and was influential in the 1954 World Cup where he was one of the players of the tournament.
At club level Puskas starred for the great Real Madrid teams, having immigrated to Spain after the Hungarian Revolution of the late 1950s. Puskas scored hundreds of goals for the Real Madrid teams that dominated Spanish and European soccer into the 1960s. Puskas won three European Cups, and scored two hat-tricks in the 1960 final against Frankfurt and in the 1962 game with Benfica. So Puskas was quite possibly the best Eastern European soccer player to have played.
In more recent times Suker was a prolific striker for Croatia. In Euro '96 Suker scored three goals, including a fantastic chip in their 3 - 0 win against Denmark that helped the Croats reach the last eight. However, it was in the '98 FIFA World Cup that Suker was most prolific as he scored six goals in several games during Croatia's run to the semifinals. Suker scored in six of their seven games, which ensured that he won the Golden Boot as the '98 World Cup top goal scorer. Little wonder that Suker was selected as Croatia's player for the UEFA Jubilee Awards, and he also scored a record number of goals for the team.
At club level Suker played most of his games in La Liga for club teams such as Sevilla and Real Madrid. He had his best season with Madrid when he was the team's top goal-scoring player in '97, and the team won La Liga in that same year. In 1998, he also played his part in Real Madrid's Champions League winning team.
Stoichkov starred for Bulgaria during the 1990s and was inspirational in 1994. In that World Cup Stoichkov scored six goals. Consequently, Bulgaria reached the semifinals of the cup; and Stoichkov was also the Golden Shoe winner. Stoichkov was the 1994 European Footballer of the Year.
Stoichkov played most of his soccer with Spanish giants Barcelona. Stoichkov played either as a striker or a winger, as he had lots of pace, great crossing and dribbling. As such, Stoichkov was one of the best forward players in a team that dominated La Liga. It was also the first Barcelona team to win the European Cup in '92.
Kocsis was another player of the great Hungarian teams of the '50s, and scored more than a goal a game for them. Kocsis was a prolific striker, and was especially effective from the air with superb ball heading. The striker was at his best in the 1954 FIFA World Cup where he scored 11 goals. Kocsis was the top goal-scoring player of that cup.
The player also played for Honved, in Hungary, where he scored hundreds of goals in the Hungarian League. Later in his career he signed for Barcelona, where he won two Spanish league titles. In addition, he also won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup with Barcelona in 1960.
They are four Eastern European soccer players who starred for the great Hungarian, Bulgarian and Croatian teams. They all played in Spain for either Barcelona or Real Madrid, and were great players for those clubs. With such players it is surprising that an Eastern European team has yet to win a FIFA World Cup.