World Football: Top 10 International Teams of the Year
2011 has come to a close, and it has been another solid year of world football. We've seen great goals, great skill, and sound, fluid execution by the world's best players.
Internationally, we have seen national teams deliver in the clutch. There are a number of countries that deserve to be on a top 10 list. This list isn't just about the current FIFA World Rankings; but also about countries that have won some serious hardware.
Let's take a look at the top 10 international teams of the year.
It wasn't just Japan's men's national team that brought home the bacon. The women also did their part.
The men won the 2011 AFC Asian Cup with victories over Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South Korea and Australia. In addition, the Blue Samurai progressed to the Fourth Round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying in the Asian Zone.
As for the women, they made even greater history, going on the miracle run of miracle runs. Fueled by the memory of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Nadeshiko Japan slayed New Zealand, Mexico, Germany, Sweden, and the USA on penalties to win their very first FIFA Women's World Cup.
Mexico make this list by way of their dominance in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. After a 3-0-2 record in their spring friendlies, they steamrolled past their competition: 5-0 shutout wins over El Salvador and Cuba, a 4-1 destruction over Costa Rica, a 2-1 victory over Guatemala, a 2-0 shutout over Honduras and a 4-2 victory over their northern rivals, the USA.
Overall, Mexico secured a 11-1-4 record in all matches this year, with the only defeat coming against Brazil in a friendly.
Portugal, under manager Paulo Bento make this list thanks to their FIFA World Ranking and their efforts in UEFA Euro 2012 qualification.
In spite of defeats to Norway and Denmark on the road and a surprising 4-4 draw at home to Cyprus, they scored at least one victory over each of their opponents in their group before crushing Bosnia and Herzegovina 6-2 on aggregate.
Overall, Portugal secured a 6-2-2 record in all matches this year, with an additional defeat early in the season to Argentina.
With Brazil hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Mario Menezes decided to do some tinkering, incorporating Neymar's potential.
Brazil did not impress at the Copa America, but then again, they did not stink it up for the most part, with the only defeats coming against France, Germany and Paraguay on penalties in the Copa America. Brazil finished 2011 with a 9-3-4 record.
It was just another solid year for Cesare Prandelli's Azzurri, who finished 2011 with a 8-2-2 record.
Italy's year was highlighted by their dominance in Euro 2012. Despite a scoreless draw with Northern Ireland and a 1-1 draw with Serbia, they defeated Estonia 2-1 and 3-0, the Faroe Islands 5-0 and 1-0, Serbia 3-0, and Slovenia in identical 1-0 scorelines.
Fabio Capello's England will have to deal without the services of Wayne Rooney at UEFA Euro 2012. Nonetheless, they have had another consistent year to make it to this top 10 list.
The Three Lions did not lose a single match in qualification, scoring a 4-0 win over Bulgaria, a 3-1 rout over Switzerland, a scoreless draw with Montenegro, a 2-0 shutout over Wales, a 2-2 draw against Switzerland, a 3-0 shutout over Bulgaria, a 1-0 victory over Wales and a 2-2 draw over Montenegro.
What, Argentina did not make this list, you may ask? Yes they don't because they didn't win the Copa America. Actually, Las Albicelestes are taking a few steps back this year. In their place on this list is another South American powerhouse: Uruguay.
Despite a humble 1-0-2 record in the Group Stage of the 2011 Copa America, Uruguay upset Argentina in the knockout stages on penalties before defeating Peru and Paraguay to win their 15th continental title.
In addition, though FIFA World Cup Qualification is just beginning in the CONMEBOL region, the Charruas are floating at the top of the table with a 2-0-1 record (seven points) and are on track to qualify for Brazil 2014.
If Longcat is long, then Orange Crush is orange, and Bert van Marwijk's Oranje have been crushing their opposition to check in at third on this list.
The Netherlands' only setback in UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying came against Sweden, but that was long after they had already punched their place in the field of 16.
While they have been stumbling a little as of late, there is no question that the Oranje's form for the most part has made them one of the world's most dominant national teams.
Perfect is as perfect does for Joachim Löw's Germany, who took no prisoners en route to a perfect 10-0-0 record in UEFA Euro 2012 qualification.
The scorelines tell no lies as to the dominance of Die Mannschaft in Europe.
1-0 over Belgium. 6-1 over Azerbaijan. 3-0 over Turkey. 3-0 over Kazakhstan. 4-0 over Kazakhstan. 2-1 over Austria. 3-1 over Azerbaijan. 6-2 over Austria. 3-1 over Turkey. 3-1 over Belgium. Simply dominating. If this isn't the hallmark of a European Championship contender, I don't know what is.
This year, Germany rolled off to a 9-1-3 record, with their only loss coming against Australia.
Never missing a beat from their successful FIFA World Cup run, Vicente del Bosque's Spain are the No. 1 team on this list after wiping out every opponent in Euro 2012 qualification.
4-0 and 6-0 blowouts of Liechtenstein, identical 3-1 scorelines over Lithuania, 3-2 and 3-1 victories Scotland, and 2-1 and 2-0 results the Czech Republic are the hallmark of a bona fide European powerhouse.
Spain finished 2011 with a 9-2-1 record in all matches played.