Forgotten World Cup XI: Right Back – Willy Sagnol

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The forgotten World Cup XI series profiles one legendary star who has been sadly overlooked (for reasons of talent or otherwise) of football’s favourite tournament in each position.

Right back: Willy Sagnol

Who is he?

When one thinks of the World Cup runners up France squad of 2006, the name ‘Willy Sagnol’ doesn’t tend to be the first name that springs to mind. Zinedine Zidane. Thierry Henry. Patrick Vieira. Lillian Thuram, perhaps. But not Willy. Never Willy. 

Yet he was there. His name was in the squad list. He even played all 120 minutes of the 2006 final against Italy and took the fourth penalty for Les Bleus

(Above: Where’s Willy?)

He spent the good part of his career running up and down the right side of the pitch at Bayern Munich and sometimes even came on and played. His Wikipedia page declares that he was a ‘standout performer’ in the 2006 World Cup final, but this is difficult to check as it’s almost impossible to watch highlights of the match without simply skipping to the part where Zizou jammed his head into Marco Materazzi’s chest.

Who was he with at the World Cup?

As already noted, Big Willy was at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cup with the French national team. In 2002, France finished bottom of their group but reached the final four years later, where they bowed out in the final in a penalty shootout against the Italians. 

The right back clearly saw himself exempt of responsibility for the defeat – despite missing an absolute sitter in the second half, heaping the blame first on Zidane, then on Sylvain Wiltord and finally on pretty much any famous Frenchman he could think of, from David Guetta to King Louis XIV.

(Above: Big Willy Style famously not headbutting an Italian in the 2006 World Cup final

What was his highlight?

Although on the pitch he certainly did enjoy a relatively good World Cup in 2006, if the question was posed to the Willy Wonka, he’d most likely point you in the direction of a little website called Why? Well, out of 21,000 votes, the right back comes in at a cool 42nd place of the ‘Best French Soccer Players & Footballers of All Time’, sandwiched between someone called Christophe Dugarry and a man with the name Alan Giresse. However, upon closer inspection, the website tells us that there were just 2.4k voters, suggesting that someone may have voted for themselves more than once. 

Where on Earth is he now?

After slagging off all his former teammates and national heroes, ‘Willy Won’t He’ decided it was probably best to stay in Germany for a bit longer after retiring and became a coach at Bayern. The latest news is that he’s favourite to become the next Swansea manager, which is a safe 300 miles from the French mainland. 

What did he say?

“If Sylvain Wiltord hadn’t kicked the ball out for a throw we would’ve won the World Cup.


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