With the World Cup only 59 days away it is a perfect time to look back into the history of the beautiful game that is Soccer/Football.
It is every nation’s dream to achieve the ultimate glory that is a World Cup Title.
Being the most popular sport worldwide, soccer/football is well beyond just a sport or a game, it is a passion, culture, and one of the few things that can bring the entire globe to a standstill as it does every four years at The World Cup.
Only seven nations have been graced with the splendor of holding that prestigious trophy, but every single nation has dreamt of it and shed sweat and tears just for the opportunity to play for it.
These rankings are based on International tournaments such as The World Cup, The European Championships, and Copa America, with The World Cup results obviously holding the most weight.
Here are the Top Ten Footballing Nations of All-Time…
Czechoslovakia- World Cup Runner-Up 1934
World Cup Runner-Up 1962
European Champions 1976
Czech Republic- European Championships Runner-Up 1996
Czechoslovakia has finished runner-up at The World Cup on two separate occasions. In 1934 they were downed by the Italians 2-1 and in 1962 they were defeated by the Brazilians 3-1.
They appeared in eight of the 15 World Cups during their existence, and they claimed a top eight finish four times.
In the European Championships, Czechoslovakia only managed to qualify for three of the nine tournaments, but they made sure to perform at a high level when they did.
In those three appearances they managed to win the European crown once in 1970 and gather two 3rd place finishes in 1960 and 1980.
Czechoslovakia then split to form two separate nations (Czech Republic and Slovakia) in 1992, but didn’t officially compete separately until 1994. Since then Czech Republic’s best performances seem to have been reserved for the European Championships.
They have appeared in all four European Championships with their best performance being in Euro 96 when they finished runners up to the Germans.
At Euro 2004, they made a semifinal appearance, but were eliminated on an extra time goal by the nation of Greece, who went on to win the tournament.
But the Czechs have had no such luck when It has come to the World Cup, as they have only qualified for one of the four World Cups during their existence including the fact have missed out on the upcoming South Africa 2010 World Cup.
The World Cup they did qualify for in 2006 ended in disappointment with a first round elimination the result.
The Soviet Union- European Champions 1960
European Championships Runner-Up 1964
World Cup 4th Place 1966
European Championships Runner-Up 1972
European Championships Runner-Up 1988
The Soviet Union didn’t attempt to enter qualifying for the World Cup until the 1958 tournament. After missing the first five tournaments, the Soviet Union still performed like an experienced squad.
In their first four World Cup appearances they managed four straight top eight finishes.
The best of those four results came in World Cup 1966 when they lost in the semifinals 2-1 to West Germany.
After missing out on World Cups 74 and 78, one due to disqualification and the other from failure to qualify, the Soviet Union qualified for the last three World Cups during their existence.
But all three ended with disappointing results.
The Soviet Union was more known for their success in The European Championships. They won the initial European Championships in 1960 2-1 over Yugoslavia, and continued with three consecutive strong showings at the Euros with a Runner-Up in 64, 4th place in 68, and another Runner-Up in 72.
After a bit of a dry spell the Soviets managed another runner-Up in 1988 when they were downed by the Dutch 2-0.
The Soviet Union then broke up forming separate nations with Russia, being considered the direct successor of the Soviet Union. The Russians made their debut in a formal match in 1992.
The Russians have been quiet for the most part in the major tournaments until the most recent European Championships in 2008. They have only qualified for two of the five World Cups and both of those tournaments lead to first-round eliminations.
In The European Championships they have qualified for three of the four tournaments, but only one performance was noteworthy, that being the most recent Euro 2008.
The Russians stormed the scene with a surprising semifinal run that was put to an end by Spain, the eventual Champions, 3-0.
The Russians weren’t able to build on their strong performance though, as they have also failed to qualify for South Africa 2010.
The Netherlands- World Cup Runner-Up 1974
World Cup Runner-Up 1978
European Champions 1988
World Cup 4th Place 1998
The Netherlands is a nation known for its attractive style of football. Ever since the 1970s and “Total Football” the Dutch have always been one of the most entertaining sides to watch play the beautiful game.
Johan Cruyff was the playmaker and most famous player that inspired Holland during the 70s, which clearly was the peak of Dutch football.
In the 1974 World Cup, The Netherlands finished Runner-Ups after losing to West Germany 2-1 in the Final.
In the 1978 World Cup a Cruyffless Holland side once again fell just short of glory losing in the Final to Argentina 3-1 in extra time, giving them consecutive World Cup Runner-Up results.
These teams can easily be argued to be the best sides to not achieve World Cup glory.
The Dutch finally did get their well-deserved championship in 1988 behind the scoring of Marco van Basten, when they won the European Championships defeating the Soviet Union 2-0 in the Final.
This ended a recent dry spell for Holland, as it took almost a complete decade to recover from the end of the “Total Football” generation.
In World Cup 98, Holland made another run for their first World Cup crown, but hit a road block in the semifinals losing to powerhouse Brazil in a penalty shootout, giving the Dutch a respectable fourth-place finish.
This talented team consisted of names like Kluivert, Bergkemp, Davids, Overmars, Van der Sar, and the de Boer brothers.
The Netherlands co hosted Euro 2000 and despite their decisive wins throughout the first four matches it was more of the same for the Dutch who never seem to finish the job.
They outplayed Italia in the semifinals and played the majority of the match with a man advantage, but they couldn’t end the deadlock after missing many glorious opportunities including two penalty kicks. They then lost in a penalty shootout and were sent out trophy-less.
The Dutch have reached at least the quarterfinals in each of the last six European Championships.
Holland has qualified for eight of the 13 European Championships and have reached the semifinals five of those times. The Netherlands has only qualified for eight of the completed 18 World Cups.
The Dutch head into South Africa 2010 as a legit contender. They breezed through qualification winning all eight of their matches and hope to put it all together for a consistent rewarding performance this summer.
Spain- World Cup 4th Place 1950
European Champions 1964
European Championships Runner-Up 1984
European Champions 2008
Spain is a nation that is commonly seen as one of the most talented in the world, but they have always underachieved at the grand stage that is The World Cup.
Spain has qualified for 12 of the 18 World Cups, but have only managed to reach the semifinals once in their history, a 4th place showing in 1950.
The Spanish have had much more success at The European Championships. They have twice been crowned champions of Europe, in 1964 and the most recent 2008 tournament where they defeated the Germans 1-0 in the final.
Spain is the only national team in history to never have won a World Cup, but have been ranked #1 in The FIFA World Rankings.
Spain is currently a powerhouse with a full roster of massive talent and can easily be labeled to favorite to win South Africa 2010 and finally reach ultimate glory, but their history of disappointment looms and quite a heavy load on the backs of this squad.
Will the likes of Torres, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Villa, and Casillas continue their International success and be the first Spanish side to conquer at the grandest stage of them all?
We will see this summer in South Africa, as a taste of World Cup glory would surely push them up in the all-time rankings.
England- WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 1966
World Cup 4th Place 1990
The English don’t have much in the trophy case, but that 1966 World Cup win is a huge accomplishment that gets them the seven spot in the current rankings.
England has participated in 12 of the 18 World Cups, but has only reached the semifinals twice, 1966 when they were crowned Champions in England and 1990 when they claimed 4th place.
The English have qualified for 7 of the 13 European Championships, but still have yet to reach a final.
Heading into South Africa 2010 England has higher hopes than ever that this could be the year for their 2nd World Cup Title.
New manager Fabio Capello has brought an organization to the squad and has brought to England a winning mentality.
England must hope for a healthy Wayne Rooney, though, and expectantly avoid team chemistry rumblings without leader David Beckham and the Terry-Bridge fiasco.
France- World Cup 3rd Place 1958
World Cup 4th Place 1982
European Champions 1984
World Cup 3rd Place 1986
WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 1998
European Champions 2000
World Cup RunnerUp 2006
The French have established themselves among soccer’s elite since the 1980’s when Michel Platini lead France to a European Championship in 84 and two semifinal appearances in World Cup 82 and 86.
The next 10 years were a disappointment due to the under performing under new management and constant controversy and trouble surrounding team leader Eric Cantona.
From 1996-2006 though the French were in top form thanks to playmaker Zinedine Zidane and the emergence of the exciting striker Thierry Henry.
They made a semifinals appearance in the 96 European Championship and that was the necessary step of progression needed in their journey to the top of the world.
Les Bleus brought a more defensive style game to France 98 and it was just what the doctor ordered.
They felt right at home in the first round of France 98 as they won all three matches outscoring their opponents 9-1, and that one goal allowed was a penalty.
The defense anchored by Marcel Desailly and Lilian Thuram was in top form, as the attack launched Thierry Henry to the world-class level.
France faced the defending champs in Brazil in the much-anticipated final.
Les Bleus were brought to their promiseland, as Zidane struck twice on sharp headers off corners and Petit rolled in a third in the 90th minute to give France its first World Cup Title ever.
In Euro 2000, France wanted to continue their supremacy by conquering Europe and that’s exactly what they did.
After advancing to the quarters comfortably, France defeated Spain 2-1 and in the semis they needed Zidane’s golden goal to get past Portugal.
In the final they faced Italia and were trailing 1-0 in injury time with the clock ticking, but the French never gave up.
A long free kick sent up field by Barthez took a nice bounce and Wiltord the substitute pounced on the opportunity blasting one sidenetting just by the hand of Italian keeper Francesco Toldo.
In extra time, David Trezeguet ripped the golden goal into the roof of the net bringing the French to glory once again.
World Cup 2002 was a disaster for the high hopes of France. They failed to score a goal in their 3 fixtures, as they only managed to grab 1 point in total.
Their most memorable game of the tourney was their shocking 1-0 loss to Senegal.
The 2006 World Cup brought France back to elite status. After they snuck into the second round their unexpected run began.
They edged out a close one in the Round of 16 when Viera and Zidane both struck in the final ten minutes to help top Spain 3-1.
In the quarters, France eliminated the favorites Brazil, as Henry’s volley off a set piece was all that was needed. In the semis, France met Portugal in a tight match where a penalty by Zidane was the only score.
Portugal had many appeals for a penalty of their own, but none were awarded as the French moved to the Final vs. Italia.
The Final was an even match with few scoring opportunities. Zidane struck first on a controversial penalty call, as he nonchalantly chipped one off the bottom of the bar.
France’s lead didn’t last long though as Marco Materazzi headed the sides level off a corner in the 19th minute.
After that not much happened for the French until extra time when Buffon robbed Zidane’s bullet header that would have most likely won the cup for the French.
Minutes after that Zidane and Materazzi got in a mix of words, which then lead to the well-known headbutt from Zidane. The often disciplined Zidane is no stranger to violent conduct, as he completely lost his head and was red carded rightfully so in his final match, nonetheless The World Cup Final.
France was even more shorthanded, as they fell short on fitness with Henry and Viera needing to be subbed.
In the shootout the French were defeated, as Trezeguet’s miss and Barthez’s inability to stop any of Italia’s penalties combined to lead to a second place finish.
As they stand now, The French are stuck in neutral with many critics. Manager Raymond Domenech has drawn much criticism for his squad selections and the French have performed quite poorly on a consistent basis since the 06 final.
They have the talent and youth with Ribery, Nasri, Gourcuff, and Benzema, but it just seems that the French wont be serious contenders this summer.
On the other hand few gave France’s last World Cup squad a chance and they reached the final. Fortune may be on France’s side with the controversial handball to assure qualification and their draw into what is labeled by many as the weakest group in the first round.
Uruguay- WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS (1930,1950)
World Cup 4th Place (1954,1970)
14 time Copa America Champions
6 time Copa America Runner-Up
Uruguay might be a surprise this high in the rankings, but when you take a look at their trophy case there is no reason for shock.
Uruguay has two World Cup titles, both being over 60 years ago in 1930 and 1950.
They have also been to 20 Copa America Finals, lifting the trophy an impressive 14 times.
The small South American nation’s best performances may have been well before most of us can remember, but that doesn’t take away from their achievements.
After failing to qualify for three of the last four World Cups, Uruguay will be back in action this summer in South Africa after qualifying for their 11th World Cup.
The hopes may not be high and they may have zero shot at glory in 2010, but Uruguay still deserves its place in the five spot, as they continue their complicated attempt to return to International prominence.
Argentina- WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS (1978,1986)
World Cup Runner-Up (1930,1990)
14 time Copa America Champions
12 time Copa America Runner-Up
Argentina has solidified a spot at No. 4 with their two World Cup titles, two-second place finishes, and fourteen Copa America titles.
They are always a threat to win any tournament they are in, and are sure to put to display some creative exciting soccer. They are full of young talent at all times and are always a goal scoring force.
When you think Argentina, one name comes to mind immediately and that is Maradona. Maradona brought brilliance to the soccer field, with unseen skills and amazing dribbling ability.
Maradona is arguably one of the best soccer players to ever have played. But present day Argentina has what may be a Maradona of their own in Lionel Messi.
Messi has stormed the globe with frightening resemblance to Maradona’s game and he now wants a taste of some of his World Cup success.
In World Cup 2006, Argentina once again fielded a strong of a side as any of the competition, and it was just a matter of making the most of all that talent.
They also realized that the pattern of a difficult group would continue, as their group was as tough as any group in the tournament once again.
Throughout the first round Argentina seemed to rise to the top of the competition and were being labeled the strongest side entering the second round.
This was well deserved as they were on the top of their game and combining for some brilliant goals.
The round of 16 proved to Argentina that there was going to be no more easy games the rest of the way as Mexico pushed them to the edge, until the goal of the tournament by Maxi Rodriguez sent the Argentines through to the quarters.
In the quarters, Argentina was faced with the challenge no one enjoys in The World Cup, and that’s facing the host nation.
It didn’t help at all that the host nation was world power Germany. Argentina seemed to be outplaying Germany and was up 1-0 with less than 12 minutes to play when the host nation who was throwing everything forward in desperation finally hit the equalizer off the foot of golden boot winner Klose.
This then lead to penalties where Germany and their premier goalkeeper Jens Lehman proved to be too much for the Argentines.
Argentina once again couldn’t reach its goal of grabbing their third title, but they once again proved they have all the talent it takes.
Looking at the current Argentina squad they will be labeled by many as a sure favorite. Lionel Messi will get most of the headlines, but the whole squad is loaded with talent.
The Argentines will surely develop a cohesive display in South Africa 2010 and will run deep into the tournament as this is an ideal and realistic opportunity for their third World Cup Title.
West Germany- WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 1954
World Cup 4th Place 1958
World Cup Runner-Up 1966
World Cup 3rd Place 1970
European Champions 1972
WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 1974
European Championships Runner-Up 1976
European Champions 1980
World Cup Runner-Up 1982
World Cup Runner-Up 1986
WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 1990
Germany- World Cup 3rd Place 1934
European Championships Runner-Up 1992
European Champions 1996
World Cup Runner-Up 2002
World Cup 3rd Place 2006
European Championships Runner-Up 2008
Germany is the clear choice for No. 3 as their trophy case is as full as any nation.
Their three World Cup titles, four runner ups, and three third-place finishes prove that it’s almost a guarantee to see The Germans in the semis of The World Cup.
They have also won three European Championships to go along with two runner-ups.
These achievements were thanks to famous German stars like Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthaus, and Jurgen Kilinsmann.
In the 96 European Championship, Germany were in top form as they won their third Euro Championship behind Jurgen Kilinsmann and the golden goal in the final by Oliver Bierhoff.
In the 98 World Cup, Germany easily advanced to the second round. In the round of 16 they pushed by Mexico 2-1 behind the goals of Klinsmann and Bierhoff again.
But in the quarters they ran into a hot Croatian side, which pulled the upset over the Germans 3-0.
Germany would bounce back after a disappointing Euro 2000 at World Cup 2002.
New team captain Michael Ballack helped The Germans push to the final as the team’s playmaker and leader.
Oliver Kahn won The Golden Ball, but Ronaldo and Brazil proved to be too much in The Final, as the Germans earned their fourth runner up finish.
In World Cup 2006, Germany being the host of the Tournament would usually be seen as the favorites with their history, but with a young inexperienced team for the most part under new coach Jurgen Kilinsmann, there weren’t that high of expectations.
But Germany proved all of its doubters wrong as they easily cruised into the second round. They then easily disposed of a solid Sweden side behind the finishing of Podolski.
They then played an extremely even match I previously described vs. Argentina where they won in penalties behind the brilliance of Lehman. In the semis though there run came to an end, as they lost in the match of the tournament hands down to the eventual champions, Italia.
The Germans enter this summer as solid contenders. They are a machine when it comes to International Performance, as they are as consistent as they come.
Germany has reached the semifinals of the World Cup more than any other nation on the planet with 11 last four appearances.
No reason to expect otherwise in South Africa 2010, as the Germans will fight to climb even higher in the all-time rankings.
Italia- WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 1934
WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 1938
European Champions 1968
World Cup RunnerUp 1970
World Cup 4th Place 1978
WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 1982
World Cup 3rd Place 1990
World Cup RunnerUp 1994
European Championships Runner-Up 2000
WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 2006
Calcio is an enormous part of the Italian culture and it is no big surprise to see the Italians this high in the rankings at the No. 2 spot.
With four World Cup Titles, two runner ups, a third-place finish, and a European Championship, Italia has an impressive history, present, and future to say the least.
Italia is known for its classy play, natural skills, and great defensive style. The technical abilities and tremendous tactical execution of the Azzurri is can’t be competed with.
Italia won their first two World Cups in 1934 and 1938 behind legendary goal scorer Giuseppe Meazza.
Their third World Cup crown was won in 1982 when they defeated West Germany in the Final 3-1. And their fourth World Cup Championship came at the most recent World Cup in Germany 2006.
In World Cup 1994, Italia lost in the Final to Brazil, in the battle to become the first nation to win four World Cups.
This match was decided on penalties and Italian star Roberto Baggio will forever be remembered for his heartbreaking penalty miss just over the crossbar that clinched the Brazil win.
Despite the excruciating miss from Baggio he can hardly be blamed, as his goal scoring performances in USA 94 were legendary.
In World Cup 1998, Italia wasn’t given much of a chance at winning the Cup, as they passed number 10 on to the young Juventus star, Alessandro Del Piero.
They breezed through the first round and the round of 16 behind the great goal scoring of Vieri, but in the quarters they met the host nation and eventual Champions, France.
They played yet another tight 0-0 match but were eliminated on penalties, as Luigi Di Biagio sent a whole nation into agony when he rang one off the crossbar.
This was the third straight World Cup Italia was eliminated on penalties, and it was becoming a huge mental block for the whole nation.
In Euro 2000, Italia was ready to bounce back and put on a great display of will in the first round earning all nine possible points.
In the quarters they defeated Romania easily 2-0 behind another goal from the emerging superstar, Francesco Totti.
In the semis they played a tough Dutch team who pushed Italia to their limit and outplayed the Italians for the most part, but they still couldn’t get anything by the top of form Francesco Toldo.
In penalties, Italia broke their supposed jinx after Toldo kept three of the four penalties from conversion.
In the final Italia met the Champions of the World, France. Italia struck first, after a beautiful set up was finished off by Delvecchio.
They held this lead through 90 minutes and outplayed the French and were just waiting for the whistle, to set them off into celebration.
Yet it came a minute too late as a late push in the 4th minute of stoppage time saw the equalizer buried by the French.
But agony continued, as the French went on to bury the golden goal and send Italia home a runner up instead of with The European Championship, which was basically in their hands.
World Cup 2002 was one mauled with controversy for the Italians. The final result will read that the Italians were eliminated in shocking fashion to South Korea in extra time in the round of 16, but conspiracies arose as Italy was clearly done in by multiple inexcusably bad calls by the officials.
Italy had a handful of valid goals taken back throughout the tournament, but the most disastrous officiated match came against the hosts in what will be forever remembered as one of the biggest controversies in World Cup history.
But World Cup 2006 was where all this tragedy would be cured, as this was the year Italia, “The Azzurri” would win it all for the fourth time.
Italia wasn’t seen as a favorite at this tournament, as they had a lot of hopes on a recovering out of form Francesco Totti.
Italia worked hard to get past the first round by defeating Ghana and European disappointment Czech Republic. The team was gelling very nicely and had excellent chemistry and a deep bench, and began the start to an epic run for their fourth star.
In the round of 16 they drew a tough gritty side in Australia, coached by Hiddink the former coach of South Korea.
Australia worked them hard for the whole 90 minutes and they had to come together even more as a team, as they had to overcome an awful red card decision by the ref on Materazzi.
But Italia persevered behind the fighting Gennaro Gattuso who was an animal in the midfield. Then in stoppage time, Totti sent a long ball to Grosso who made two very nice moves to penetrate the defense and get inside the box where he cut back again beautifully in the box and was tripped up and rewarded a penalty.
Up stepped Totti, who buried the penalty to push Italia into the quarters where they would meet Ukraine. Italia came out firing in this match up with victory as their only option.
A great one two between Zambrotta and Totti led to a blast from Zambrotta from a distance to put Italia up and there they would stay for good after Luca Toni’s 2 headers iced it 3-0.
Then the semi finals match up with Germany, the host nation, clearly the best game of the tournament. This was a war.
Italia never had lost to Germany in The World Cup before and Germany had never lost in Dortmund, one trend had to end and after 118 minutes of scoreless soccer, Italia struck twice in extra time in glorious fashion, to push The Italians to the final vs. France.
In the Final, Italia were forced to once again overcome their penalties jinx and this time there was no stopping them as all five Italian shooters buried their penalties with authority to send Italia to their fourth World Cup Title.
Italia could easily be the No. 1 nation in the rankings if it wasn’t for the “Superga Air Disaster” back in 1949.
This tragic airplane crash killed off the bulk of the Italian National team and set Italia back a complete generation in International competition.
The Italian are set to defend their World Cup crown this summer in South Africa. They once again aren’t getting much consideration as contenders, but it is well known that The Azzurri can never be counted out.
Brazil- WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994,2002)
World Cup RunnerUp (1950,1998)
World Cup 3rd Place (1938,1978)
World Cup 4th Place (1974)
8 time Copa America Champions
11 time Copa America Runner-Up
Brazil has to be ranked in the No. 1 spot as they have five World Cup titles (most of any nation), two runner-ups, and two third-place finishes.
Brazil is known for their flashy skillful play and their amazing attack and goal scoring ability. They have consistently been referred to as the best footballing nation for the past 50 years.
Brazil won the World Cup in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002. They have also won eight Copa America titles. Their first three Cup victories were behind the legends of Pele and Garrincha.
World Cup 94 showed Brazil moving towards the top of Soccer History as they broke away from the three-way tie in top of World Cup History and defeated the Italians in a shootout to become the first nation with four World Cup titles.
Romario played a huge role in this run for the cup and was the key player for Brazil throughout the tournament.
In World Cup 98, Brazil didn’t have as strong of an overall team as they did in 94, but they had the goal-scoring machine Ronaldo and a key attacking midfielder in Rivaldo to put the pressure on all the worlds’ defenses.
Brazil managed to outscore and outclass all of its opponents throughout the tourney, but had many close calls. In the final though they met the host nation in France, where they were completely outplayed and sent home with a runner up, thanks to Zidane’s magical performance.
In World Cup 2002, Brazil got right back on top of the World as they breezed through competition in grabbing their fifth World Cup title and spacing themselves on top of the world.
Ronaldo once again was a goal scoring machine as the only tough matches Brazil had were a 2-1 victory over England, a close call 1-0 win in the semis over Turkey, and a 2-0 victory in the final over Germany.
In World Cup 2006, Brazil was once again labeled the favorites, but watching them play in that tourney one could see they definitely didn’t have what it took to win this World Cup.
They lacked the defense and it was clear that their forwards were out of form, but saying both of those things Brazil was still Brazil and they did manage to still string together great attacks and even when being outplayed they could still hang a 3-0 on their opponents like they did to Ghana in the round of 16.
In the quarters, Brazil was eliminated by a hungrier French team 1-0.
Going into South Africa 2010 Brazil are once again looking like world-beaters with a complete squad full of talent and a strong mentality behind their manager Dunga.
They will be the most common pick to expand the glory of their nation and space themselves further from a charging Italian side.