Ranking the World's 10 Best Football Tournaments

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2013

Ranking the World's 10 Best Football Tournaments

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    The world of football glitters with an enormous variety of prizes.

    Aside from the huge array of domestic leagues, there are some extraordinary cup competitions taking place, each with a unique claim to fame. Across the globe, domestic cup competitions vie with international tournaments for superiority.

    Over the next 10 slides we run through the greatest knockout tournaments in world football, assessing each tournament on its global reputation and sporting challenge.

10. Copa del Rey

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    The Copa del Rey, or "King's Cup," is one of European football's most prestigious cup competitions.

    The history of the Copa del Rey is both rich and regal. Until the formation of the Campeonato de Liga in 1928, the Copa was Spain's principal domestic competition. It is the longest-running competition in Spanish football.

    Although Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are frequently distracted by European competition, for most clubs, the Copa represents the sole realistic opportunity to break the duopoly and claim silverware.

    The current holders are Atletico Madrid, who defeated rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu to win a 10th Copa del Rey title.

9. Confederations Cup

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    The Confederations Cup rose to prominence in 2005 when it was established as a vital forerunner to the World Cup.

    Since that auspicious summer, the tournament has been held in the same country that will host the World Cup the following year. The Confederations Cup has subsequently become a vital part of preparation for global football's most celebrated tournament.

    The Confederations Cup allows FIFA to assess a nation's preparations for the arrival of their most prestigious tournament.

    More importantly, it is a chance for the host nation to pit themselves against some of the world's best ahead of the real thing.

    The excitement around the current tournament in Brazil is indicative of the Confederations Cup's rising profile.

8. FA Cup

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    The FA Cup is arguably the most famous domestic competition in the world.

    Established in July 1871, it is the oldest association football competition in the world. The FA Cup has produced some of English football's most iconic moments and is partly responsible for Wembley's status as "The Home of Football."

    English clubs from the Premier League right down to the fifth tier of the FA National League are invited to compete. The tournament has subsequently become known for "giant killings": occasions when minnows overcome the odds to defeat a club with far greater resources.

    The 2013 final was a case in point, as Roberto Martinez's gutsy Wigan side showed remarkable bravery and discipline to beat the financial superpower that is Manchester City.

7. Africa Cup of Nations

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    Africa is a continent that is seemingly in love with football. This tournament pits Africa's greatest international sides against each other in a fascinating battle for supremacy.

    The continent's most successful side is Egypt. They have won the tournament a record seven times, although they have not yet managed to transfer this continental success to the global stage.

    The competition is not without its flaws. The Africa Cup of Nations generally takes place in January, meaning that many European-based players are forced to abandon their clubs to take part. This has led to the withdrawal of some of Africa's major stars.

    If the tournament is to retain its status, it may need to move in line with the European calendar.

6. UEFA Europa League

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    The UEFA Europa League is the much-maligned successor to the UEFA Cup.

    As the Champions League's younger and less glamorous sibling, the Europa League is vulnerable to snipers who criticise the competition's enormous fixture list and plethora of dead-rubber ties.

    However, a glance at the recent list of winners suggests that European football's major clubs still take the competition seriously. Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Porto have all experienced the joy of Europa League triumph in the last few seasons.

    In 2003, Porto were Europa League Champions. A year later, they lifted the Champions League. This competition is no joke.

5. Copa Libertadores

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    The Copa Libertadores is the South American equivalent of the Champions League.

    The Libertadores trophy is the most coveted prize in South American club football, and the competition's final is broadcast in an incredible 135 countries across the globe.

    The Copa has extraordinary cultural currency in South America. It has spawned the Spanish phrase "El Sueno Libertador," referring to the dream of lifting the historic prize aloft. Since the competition's inception in 1960, many have chased that dream.

    Argentine club Independiente are the most successful team in the competition's history, having claimed the Copa a phenomenal seven times.

4. Copa America

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    The Copa America is the oldest existing continental football competition.

    The first formal Copa America was held in Argentina in 1916 to commemorate the first century of Argentina's independence.

    The competition involves the teams associated with CONMEBOL as well as two other nations, frequently Mexico, Costa Rica or the United States.

    Although Brazil and Argentina are regularly referred to as South American football's "Big Two," current holders Uruguay are in fact the competition's most successful team with 15 wins to date.

3. UEFA European Championship

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    The first pan-European international tournament was held in 1958 in France.

    In the intervening 55 years, the European Championship has established itself as one of world football's most exciting competitions.

    The European Championship is characterised by its unusually competitive nature: The 14 tournaments to date have produced nine different winners. Germany and Spain currently lead the field with three triumphs each.

    In 2014, the competition will expand from 16 to 24 teams, prompting concerns that the increase in size may precipitate a drop in quality.

2. UEFA Champions League

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    The UEFA Champions League is the most glamorous club competition in world football.

    This tournament brings together the greatest teams in the world.

    As the financial clout of club football has grown, it has managed to supersede international football. In terms of the quality of play on the field, the Champions League is now the best tournament there is.

    Although the pure knockout form of the original European Cup is still missed, the re-branding as the Champions League has helped turn Europe into football's most financially powerful continent.

    There is no club competition to match the Champions League.

1. FIFA World Cup

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    There is no greater competition than the World Cup.

    The European Championship may have a greater variety of winners. The Champions League may provide better football. However, nothing matches the prestige of lifting the FIFA World Cup.

    The World Cup pips the Champions League to the No. 1 spot because of the enormous cultural impact that a victory can have. Nothing unites a nation like being crowned the best in the world.

    Next year's competition in Brazil promises to be another enthralling chapter in the story of the World Cup.


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