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WC Debate: Who Are The Greatest-Ever World Cup Nation?

WC Debate: Who Are The Greatest-Ever World Cup Nation?

With the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign set to kick off in full in Europe this weekend, Goal.com conducts a study to find out who the greatest-ever World Cup nation is…

The history books will tell you that Brazil are the most successful World Cup country with five triumphs, followed by Italy with four, Germany three, Argentina and Uruguay two each, and finally France and England with one apiece.

However, this does not tell half the story. What about Czechoslovakia and Holland who both twice finished as runners-up? What about Hungary who lost in the final in 1938 and 1954, and Sweden who have been fourth or higher on four occasions? And what about all the other nations who have played their part in making the World Cup the greatest sporting event on the planet?

Losers and small details are often forgotten as the years pass by, so in view of this Goal.com have drawn up a league table with the all-time World Cup rankings.

We have adopted a simple formula which awards points depending on what stage each country reached in each past tournament, before adding up all these points and coming up with a final total, and thus a ranking.

Thirty points are awarded for winning the World Cup, meaning that Brazil pick up 150 points in this category, having won the trophy on five occasions. Fifteen points are the reward for each second place finish, 10 for reaching the semi-finals (11 for third place), seven points for making it to the quarters, four for the last 16, and two for simply qualifying for the finals (group stages). Thus, if you add up Australia's total, they finish with 6 points - 2 for reaching the group stages in 1974, and 4 for making into the second round in 2006.

Points System

Winners – 30 pts
Runners-Up – 15
Third Place – 11
Fourth Place or Semi-Finals – 10
Quarter Finals – 7
Round of 16 – 4
Group Stages – 2

It is important to remember that the system of the World Cup finals has changed over the years. In 1930 there was no third and fourth play-off, therefore both Yugoslavia and the United States pick up 10 points for reaching the semi finals. There was no knockout round of 16 until 1986. In 1982 the second round consisted of four groups of four, with the winner of each pool going through to the semis. To simplify things, we have only awarded four points to countries that were knocked out in the second phase in Spain.

However in 1974 and 1978, where there were only two groups of four in the second round, eliminated teams at this stage are awarded seven points. In 1950 there was no one-off final, as a four-way round robin, between winners Uruguay, runners-up Brazil, and third and fourth Sweden and Spain respectively, decided the top positions.

Finally, a note on countries who have altered politically over the years. Germany’s points-tally includes West Germany from 1949-90, and the unified Germany from then onwards. The USSR counts Russia’s contribution after the collapse of the old Soviet Union, while Czechoslovakia takes into account the Czech Republic after Slovakia’s independence in 1993. Yugoslavia’s tally only includes the achievements made by the country up until the time of the ethnic conflicts in the early 90s. Thus, Serbia (who were known as Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro and then just Serbia from 2006), Croatia, and Slovenia are recognized in their present form.

All-Time World Cup Rankings

1)    Brazil – 247 pts (5 World Cups)
2)    Germany – 223 (3)
3)    Italy – 196 (4)
4)    Argentina – 134 (2)
5)    Uruguay – 101 (2)
6)    France – 96 (1)
7)    England – 94 (1)
8)    Sweden - 71
9)    Holland – 59
10)    Spain – 58
11)    Hungary - 57
12)    Czechoslovakia – 54
13)    Yugoslavia - 52
14)    USSR – 45
15)    Mexico – 44
16)    Austria - 40
17)    Poland - 38
18)    Belgium – 38
19)    United States - 31
20)    Switzerland - 35
21)    Portugal – 25
22)    Chile 25
23)    Bulgaria - 24
24)    Romania – 23
25)    South Korea – 22
26)    Peru - 20
27)    Paraguay - 20
28)    Scotland - 16
29)    Denmark – 15
30)    Ireland – 15
31)    Cameroon – 15
32)    Croatia - 13
33)    Turkey - 13
34)    Northern Ireland - 13
35)    Nigeria – 10
36)    Saudi Arabia - 10
37)    Morocco - 8
38)    Colombia – 8
39)    Norway – 8
40)    Costa Rica – 8
41)    Japan - 8
42)    Tunisia - 8
43)    Wales - 7
44)    Ukraine – 7
45)    North Korea – 7
46)    East Germany – 7
47)    Senegal - 7
48)    Australia – 6
49)    Ecuador – 6
50)    Serbia - 6
51)    Iran – 6
52)    Bolivia - 6
53)    Algeria - 4
54)    Egypt – 4
55)    El Salvador – 4
56)    South Africa - 4
57)    Ghana - 6
58)    Greece – 2
59)    Ivory Coast - 2
60)    Israel - 2
61)    Togo – 2
62)    Iraq – 2
63)    Cuba - 2
64)    United Arab Emirates – 2
65)    Indonesia – 2
66)    Zaire – 2
67)    Haiti – 2
68)    Honduras – 2
69)    New Zealand – 2
70)    Canada – 2
71)    Jamaica – 2
72)    Slovenia – 2
73)    China – 2
74)    Trinidad & Tobago – 2
75)    Angola - 2

Thus as you can see, according to Goal.com’s study, five-time winners Brazil are indeed the greatest-ever World Cup nation. Germany are in second above Italy, despite winning one less World Cup than their rivals. This is mainly due to the fact Germany have also finished runners-up four times, as well as third on three occasions. There is then a big gap in points until the two South Americans of Argentina and Uruguay, who have both won the showpiece twice. France are in sixth on the strength of their excellent performances in the past decade. Meanwhile, England, who have only twice made it past the quarter finals, winning the trophy in 1966, are in seventh.

Runners-up in 1958, Sweden, are the highest ranked country never to have won the World Cup. Some surprisingly poor performers are Spain, in 10th place, and Portugal, who are way down in 21st. South Korea are the best performing Asian team, while Cameroon are the lions of Africa.

So there you have it – Brazil are the kings of the World Cup!

What are your views on this topic? Do you agree with this study that hails Brazil as the greatest ever World Cup nation? Do you agree that Germany should be above Italy, despite winning one less trophy? What are your thoughts looking ahead to South Africa 2010? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think

Carlo Garganese

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