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25 Greatest National Squads of the Last 25 Years

Thomas AtzenhofferCorrespondent IIJune 4, 2012

25 Greatest National Squads of the Last 25 Years

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    This summer welcomes one of the greatest national team competitions in World Football back to the center stage, the UEFA European Championship.  This summer also sees the Olympic football tournament being played out the following month.

    After a fantastic African Cup of Nations during January, it is once again time to see the continental best of one of FIFA's six confederations lock horns, followed by some of the world's best younger talents representing their nations that have qualified for the Olympics.

    However, in anticipation of this summer's tournaments and the growing buzz around this fall's continued match-ups for 2014 World Cup qualification, we take a look back at the 25 greatest national teams of the past 25 years (1986-2011).

South Africa

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    The hosts of the 2010 World Cup have been on the outs from the top of the international scene.

    However, the late 1990s, South Africa was a dominant force that weren't afraid to take on any challenge.

    Championships (1)

    African Cup of Nations: 1996

    Runners-up (1)

    African Cup of Nations: 1998

Tunisia

3 of 26

    Much like South Africa, Tunisia is another African side that had a decent period of international success when they were a major force in Africa.

    Championships (1)

    African Cup of Nations: 2004

    Runners-up (1)

    African Cup of Nations: 1996

Russia

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    Russia have yet to capture a major championship since they were known as the Soviet Union.

    However, the rise of the country's domestic league has begun to produce better and better talents, and it is only a matter of time before the Russians make a huge splash.

    Championships (1)

    Olympics: 1988

    Runners-up (1)

    UEFA Euro: 1988

Zambia

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    Zambia shocked the African Cup of Nations with a massive victory over the believed much more powerful Ivory Coast.

    Zambia were strong in the middle of the 1990s and they will hope that their 2012 success can lead to future glory.

    Championships (1)

    African Cup of Nations: 2012

    Runners-up (1)

    African Cup of Nations: 1994

Greece

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    It did not matter that the 2004 Greek National team that traveled to Portugal to contest the European Championship did not have a major recognized star in their squad.

    The Grecian players proved once and for all that grit, determination and teamwork were enough to win one of the world's toughest competitions.

    Championships (1)

    UEFA Euro: 2004

Ivory Coast

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    One of the strongest African nations of the last decade is the Ivory Coast.  The nation made their first foray into greatness in the early 1990s.

    However, the efforts of star players such as Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and brothers Yaya and Koulo Toure have seen the nation become a perennial African power.

    Championships (1)

    African Cup of Nations: 1992

    Runners-up (2)

    African Cup of Nations: 2006, 2012

Colombia

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    Colombia is the only nation to have won the Copa America in the last 25 years outside of the dominance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.  That alone is an accomplishment in and of itself.

    The Colombians also managed a runners-up finish in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2000.

    Championships (1)

    Copa America: 2001

    Runners-up (1)

    CONCACAF Gold Cup: 2000

New Zealand

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    New Zealand is one of two nations that dominated the Oceanic Federation since its inception and are perennial powers from the smallest of FIFA's six recognized confederations.

    Australia's departure to join the Asian Confederation will likely lead to New Zealand being the sole top class nation from OFC.

    Championships (3)

    OFC Nations Cup: 1998, 2002, 2008

    Runners-up (1)

    OFC Nations Cup: 2000

Saudi Arabia

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    Saudi Arabia were the original hosts of the FIFA Confederations Cup and have been one of Asia's strongest nations in recent years.

    Their strong performances in the Asian Cup have them consistently ranked in the highest parts of the Asian Football Confederations standings.

    Championships (2)

    Asian Cup: 1988, 1996

    Runners-up (4)

    Asian Cup: 1992, 2000, 2007

    Confederations Cup: 1992

Nigeria

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    Nigeria had one of the strongest African national teams throughout the late 1980s and into the new millennium.

    The nation's second place finish at the 2008 Olympics shows there is still much promise from the nation even past their earlier prime.

    Championships (2)

    African Cup of Nations: 1994

    Olympics: 1996

    Runners-up (4)

    African Cup of Nations: 1988, 1990, 2000

    Olympics: 2008

Australia

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    Australia has been the best team in the Oceanic Football Confederation throughout its history. 

    However, in 2006 the Country decided to make a jump to the Asian Football Confederation to increase their level of competition and international recognition.

    Championships (3)

    OFC Nations Cup: 1996, 2000, 2004

    Runners-up (3)

    OFC Nations Cup: 1998, 2002

    Confederations Cup: 1997

Japan

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    Japan have dominated the Asian Confederation during the new millennium. The Samurai Blue have one of the best up and coming generations in their nation's history heading towards the 2014 World Cup and it will be interesting to see how far they can go.

    Championships (4)

    Asian Cup: 1992, 2000, 2004, 2011

    Runners-up (1)

    Confederations Cup: 2001

Cameroon

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    Cameroon ruled Africa during the late 1990s and the turn of the new millennium.  The Indomitable Lions have been frustrated by a fall in their rankings in recent years, but they are once again a young and up and coming squad with great expectations on their shoulders.

    Championships (4)

    African Cup of Nations: 1988, 2000, 2002

    Olympics: 2000

    Runners-up (3)

    African Cup of Nations: 1986, 1988

    Confederations Cup: 2003

Egypt

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    Egypt may have been in the news for perhaps the worst footballing riot in history this past February, but that takes nothing away from the dominance the nation has shown in the African Cup of Nations over the past decade.

    The Pharaohs have never lost a championship match in Africa's top competition which says loads about their character.

    Championships (5)

    African Cup of Nations: 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010

Denmark

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    Denmark's Red and Whites were a stout European nation in the middle of the 1990s.  There recent form has shown them to be a squad on the rise once again with great young talent.

    This summer will see them tested heavily at the European Championship.

    Championships (2)

    UEFA Euro: 1992

    Confederations Cup: 1995

United States

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    The United States have had some bright moments in the last ten years.

    As a nation that is arguably getting better every year of international football that they play, huge things are expected of them in the next Gold Cup and World Cup.

    Championships (4)

    CONCACAF Gold Cup: 1991, 2002, 2005, 2007

    Runners-up (5)

    CONCACAF Gold Cup: 1993, 1998, 2009, 2011

    Confederations Cup: 2009

Netherlands

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    There is little to say about the Clockwork Orange that has not been said.  The Netherlands are one of the best attacking teams in all of football.  If their defense was quite as top notch, they could be much further up this list.

    Championships (1)

    UEFA Euro: 1988

    Runners-up (1)

    World Cup: 2010

Uruguay

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    Uruguay have become one of the most feared nations from South America. 

    With tough defenders and relentless attacking the Sky Blue are becoming a major force to be reckoned with once again.

    Championships (3)

    Copa America: 1987, 1995, 2011

    Runners-up (2)

    Copa America: 1989, 1999

Mexico

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    The only thing holding Mexico back from the top six is their failure to have won a World Cup.

    North America has been dominated by Mexico for the history of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and the nation has even had top class moments in the Copa America as well.

    Championships (7)

    CONCACAF Gold Cup: 1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2011

    Confederations Cup: 1999

    Runners-up (3)

    CONCACAF Gold Cup: 2007

    Copa America: 1993, 2001

Italy

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    Italy's is a national team in transition as the old generation is giving way to the next.  However, the transition has been a rocky one at that.

    The nation's crowning moment of the last 25 years was their victory in the 2006 World Cup, which saw them pull to second all time in the history of the tournament with four titles.

    Championships (1)

    World Cup: 2006

    Runners-up (2)

    World Cup: 1994

    UEFA Euro: 2000

Spain

22 of 26

    The Spaniards are the national team of the moment as they have been the best team in the world in the last four years.

    This summer will see them hope to defend their European title against some of the world's toughest competition.

    Championships (3)

    World Cup: 2010

    UEFA Euro: 2008

    Olympics: 1992

    Runners-up (1)

    Olympics: 2000

France

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    France may have "handled' their way into the 2010 World Cup, but there is no doubting the nation's pedigree during the last 25 years.

    The Tri-Colors have gotten their hands on two of the game's best trophies in the last decade, and nearly had two World Cup's to their name had it not been for some crazy antics that eventually saw penalties decide the game.

    Championships (3)

    World Cup: 1998

    UEFA Euro: 2000

    Confederations Cup: 2003

    Runners-up (1)

    World Cup: 2006

Germany

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    Germany are one of the world's best perennial powers in the game and they head into this summer's UEFA European Championship tournament as the heavy favorite.

    The nation has never lost the European Championship after placing as the runners-up in the previous tournament, so we shall see how that turns out for them if they can make it past their Group D opponents.

    Championships (2)

    World Cup: 1990

    UEFA Euro: 1996

    Runners-up (4)

    World Cup: 1986, 2002

    UEFA Euro: 1992, 2008

Argentina

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    Argentina have been phenomenal to say the least of the South American footballing powerhouse in the last quarter century.

    However, even with their best hand forward and excellent efforts, they are still held back by their closest neighbors.

    Championships (6)

    World Cup: 1986

    Copa America: 1991, 1993

    Confederations Cup: 1992

    Olympics: 2004, 2008

    Runners-up (6)

    World Cup: 1990

    Copa America: 2004, 2007

    Confederations Cup: 1995, 2005

    Olympics: 1996

Brazil

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    No nation has come close to being half as dominant as the Samba Stars in the last 25 years or even in history as Brazil boasts the greatest international footballing history of any nation.

    Championships (10)

    World Cup: 1994, 2002

    Copa America: 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007

    Confederations Cup: 1997, 2005, 2009

    Runners-up (7)

    World Cup: 1998

    Copa America: 1991, 1995

    Confederations Cup: 1999

    CONCACAF Gold Cup: 1996, 2003

    Olympics:1988

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