One year from now, July 11 2010, the FIFA World Cup final will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the FNB staidum or Soccer City as some might call it. Who will it be? It’s hard to say, but as always Brazil are early favorites to win – they always are. Spain will be another favorite to win, in an attempt to become the first European World Cup winner to win the trophy outside of Europe. (Brazil is the only non-European country to win the trophy on European ground – 1958 in Sweden). A week ago we published a post, ranking the NBA teams from 2000-2009. We awarded points for teams playoff performance, and we will do the same here –
1 point for getting to the World Cup group stage
2 points for losing in round 2 of the world cup
3 points for losing in the Quarter Finals
4 points for losing in the Semi Finals
5 points for finishing runner up
7 points for being World Champion
We used this scoring system on all nations that played in the last five world cups – 1990 in Italy, 1994 in the United States, 1998 in France, 2002 in Japan and the Korea Republic and 2006 in Germany. 7 nations have played in all five – Argentina, Brazil, Germany (West Germany in 1990), Italy, South Korea/Korea Republic, Spain and the United States. Korea and the United States didn’t make it into our top eight, not getting enough points, with the entrance score being 10 points, meaning a nation “averaged” at least qualifying into the second round. So here are the top 8 nations in the last five FIFA World Cups –
Number 8 – Spain – 11 points
It’s weird thinking that only 3 years ago, after Spain’s 3-1 loss to France in the 2006 World Cup second round, the national team players were branded losers. Spain always had gifted players, among the best around the continent, especially in the middle of the field, but only in Euro 2008 did everything come together, and La Furia Roja won the Euro 44 years after winning their first and only major trophy. They’ll be heading into the 2010 World Cup as favorites, or one of the top four favorites to go all the way, despite the 2-0 shocking loss to the United States in the Confederations Cup. They are perfect were it matters, in the World Cup Qualifying group, winning six of six so far.
Spain have reached all the World Cups in the last 20 years, and actually have been to the last eight World Cups, missing the event last in 1974. But their achievements in the last five have been pretty disappointing – 2 quarter finals (1994, lost to Italy and 2002, lost to Korea), 2 second round appearances in 1990 and 2006 and once, shamefully, didn’t make it out of the group stage, in 1998, including the memorable loss to Nigeria 3-2. In Spain They’re hoping Fernando Torres, David Villa, Xavi and and Andres Iniesta can lead the team to glory for the first time in the World Cup.
Number 7 – The Netherlands – 11 points
The Netherlands, or Holland, have 11 points, like Spain, but they reached the Semi Finals in 1998 only to lose to Brazil there in penalties. The Oranje are always one of the more popular teams no matter where they play, with many still having fond memories of the 70’s team that made 2 world cup finals in 1974 and 1978, led by Johan Cruyff and the 1988 team the won the Euro, with Marco Van Basten starring back then.
Since then, Holland are always considered one of the favorites in any tournament they play, but fact is, dutch soccer isn’t as dominating as it once was – Yes they did reach the semi’s in 1998, but they also missed the World Cup in 2002 under Louis Van Gaal, the current Bayern Munich manager. They reached the quarter finals once, in 1994, losing 3-2 to Brazil in a great match and also have two second round finished in 1990 (loss to West Germany) and the violent game for 2006, losing 1-0 to Portugal. The Dutch team did play brilliantly at times in the 2008 Euro’s but lost in the quarter to Russia. They have qualified already for the 2010 World Cup, winning seven out of seven so far in the group qualifiers. Holland do have an amazing roster in the midfield and attack, with Huntelaar, Sjneider, Van Der Vaart, Robben, Van Persie and more, but have a lot of problems with their back four, which could mean another disappointing exit in 2010.
Number 6 – England – 12 points
Every World Cup, every tournament – England are always one of the teams on the shortlist of potential winners. Well potential and ability during the money time don’t always agree with each other – England haven’t won anything since the 1966 world cup held in England. So why is there a feeling this time it’s going to be different? Maybe it’s Fabio Capello coaching the team now, or maybe it’s the domination of English club in the Champions League, but I think there’s a feeling that come next summer, England are going to be a legit threat on the World Cup trophy.
England didn’t make it to the 1994 world cup in the United States, and they also didn’t make it to the 2008 Euro, but they’re still number six. One Semi Final, back in 1990, with Bobby Robson on the lines, and one penalty missed by Stuart Pearce that sent England home. Another Penalty defeat, this time to Argentina in 1998, an instant classic, with Michael Owen scorching the field with a brilliant goal and one David Beckham red card. 2002 – Quarter Final exit, losing to Brazil despite Owen putting the team in front, and one crazy Ronaldinho goal with David Seaman to blame. 2006 – quarter final exit again, penalties again, Portugal to blame, Wayne Rooney sent off, Cristiano Ronaldo to blame. Can Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney and the rest finally make the words “It’s coming home” true?
Number 5 – France – 13 points
Funny with France being number five – they didn’t make the world cup in 1990 and 1994, still hungover from the 1980’s squad that won the 1984 Euro’s and reached two world cup semi’s in 1982 and 1986. But then came 1998, and Zidane, and the 3-0 Les Bleus victory over Brazil in the final, and France were World champions for the first time. France also won the 2000 Euro, with a golden goal by David Trezeguet. And then came the 2002 World Cup, that started with an amazing upset loss to Senegal, 1-0, in the opening match, and eventually winning only one point in the group stage without scoring any goals. In 2006 the French were back in form and reached the finals after beating Spain, Brazil and Portugal only to lose to Italy in the final, in penalties, and have Zidane headbutt Materazzi in one of the most memorable moments in World cup history.
So where do France go this time? They didn’t make it out of the group stage in the 2008 Euro and are currently second in their qualifying group, behind Serbia, but right now they’re in the playoff spot and still with a chance to win first. With Ribery, Benzema, Gourcuff, Henry and more it’s hard to believe that France won’t make it to South Africa, but I don’t think they’ll be one of the favorites to win it. That actually might be a good thing for them.
Number 4 – Argentina – 14 points
The first of two South American teams on our list, and a team in a lot of trouble in their qualifying group while the countries most famous son is coaching the team. September 5, 2009 – mark it down – Brazil are coming to Argentina. Argentina haven’t missed a World Cup since Mexico 1970, but haven’t been as successful as they’d like to be in the last 20 years. They did win it in 1978 and 1986, but after reaching the Final in 1990, losing to West Germany 1-0, Argentina haven’t been further than the Semi final. 1994 – Diego Maradona back on the team that started out very well, but he was found positive for ephedrine and got sent home – Argentina lost in the second round to Romania. 1998 – Quarter Final loss to Holland in a great game, but a beautiful Dennis Bergkamp goal sent the Albicelestes home. 2002 – Lowest of the low. After dominating the South American qualifiers, Argentina fail to qualify from the group stage for the first time since 1962, and lose to their arch rivals England 1-0, with a David Beckham penalty to complete his personal revenge. 2006 – A great display in the group stages including a 6-0 demolition over Serbia, a great 2-1 victory over Mexico in the second round but than it was Germany with penalty kicks that sent Argentina home.
As we said earlier, Argentina aren’t really cruising through the qualifiers and have already lost four times, including a humiliating 6-1 loss to Bolivia. Maradona has an amazingly talented group, with Messi, Aguero and Tevez to top the squad, but something isn’t clicking, and there is a real chance of Argentina not finishing in the top four. They have four games left, including one in Paraguay and one in Uruguay. Not something to smile about.
Number 3 – Italy – 20 points
They may be the defending world champions, but Italy currently can’t be anything to be proud of. They looked horrible in Euro 2008 and were knocked out by Spain in the quarter final and couldn’t qualify from the group stage this summer in the confederations cup, with a loss to Egypt and a 3-0 defeat to Brazil. The team looks old, and the youngsters climbing up the ranks aren’t good enough right now, and maybe still won’t be by next year.
Italy hosted the tournament in 1990 and lost in the semi’s to Argentina after a penalty shootout, as the crowd in Naples cheered for their club hero, Maradona. In 1994 it was again penalties that crushed the Italain hopes, this time in the finals as Brazil went on to win the trophy after Roberto Baggio missed the final kick. 1998 – penalties again, loss again, this time against eventual champions France. 2002 – Again outed by the host nation, this time South Korea, in a very controversial match with a lot of dubious ref calls. 2006 – The 24 year wait for a title was over – and Italy were finally on the winning side of a penalty shootout, in the Finals, against France.
Italy lead their group, still undefeated after six games with four left, but the team doesn’t look good in Marcello Lippi’s second tenure as head coach, and although it’ll be a big shock if they don’t make it to South Africa, with the way the team looks right now, don’t be expecting Italy to reach far in the world cup.
Number 2 – Germany – 22 points
Germany were actually West Germany from 1950 to 1990, and all their world cup trophies, three of them, with the last one coming in 1990, were achieved as West Germany, although the National unified German team keeps those titles under its name. There used to be a saying ” Soccer is a game you play for 90 minutes, and in the end Germany wins.” Although still a dominant and strong side, Germany isn’t what it used to be although the 2006 World Cup and the rise of the Bundesliga in recent years may hint that the German national team could be a contender again.
It’s not as if Germany were bad – they just weren’t as good as people expect from the German side in 1994 and 1998 and also the 2000 and 2004 Euro’s. There was the 1990 World cup win in Italy over Argentina, but then came the 1994 shocking loss to Bulgaria in the quarter final, in a world cup that many thought Germany would win, or at least reach the final of. In 1998 came another Quarter final exit, with another surprise loss, this time to Croatia. In 2002 it was another surprise, but this team the surprise was Germany made it to the Final, but lost to Brazil 2-0. In 2006, on their home soil the team produced some very nice soccer displays, but lost in the semi final to Italy.
Germany are first in their qualifying group, but it’s still isn’t over there, with Russia giving them a good fight for the top spot. The Germans aren’t among the best teams and heavy favorites to win, but they do have an outside chance of going far in 2010.
Number 1 – Brazil – 24 points
Most of the nations on this list see themselves as contenders for the World Cup title every four years, but it’s something else with Brazil and Brazilians. Doesn’t matter who’s in the squad and what’s the situation, Brazilians believe, the team believes, that they are the best. And winning the thing isn’t enough, they have to do it in style in order to satisfy the fans. But still, these expectations are there for a reason, and in the last 20 years Brazil have been the best World Cup team without a doubt. Twice World champions – 1994, victory over Italy in the finals after a penalty shootout, breaking a 24 year drought with Romario and Bebeto leading the team, and 2002, with Ronaldo, Rivaldo and a bit Ronaldinho and a 2-0 win over Germany in the final. In 1990 it was a second round exit with a loss to archrivals Argentina. The Brazilians claim that the Argentinians drugged their water, some even confessed. In 1998 Brazil reached the final but were beaten 3-0 by France and in 2006 a heavily favored side pre-tournament was very dissapointing from the first moment and lost to France in the Quarter final.
Brazil are first in the South American group although it’s not exactly smooth sailing, but they’ll get to South Africa eventually, and with another trophy for the cabinet won in the 2009 Confederations cup they’ll be THE favorites to win the 2010 World Cup.