The best teams never to win the World Cup

The best teams never to win the World Cup

Before Germany kick off their semi-final against Spain, they may wish to take a look at their footballing history. Looking through their World Cup wins you could be forgiven for thinking they’ve rained on the parades of some of the best sides to have graced the game. This should act as a warning to Die Mannschaft; their previous teams have proven that the best team doesn’t necessarily win. In this vein of thinking, I look at who are the best teams never to win the World Cup.

1. Hungary 1954

The Magnificent Magyars are best known in England for exposing how the rest of the world had caught up with football’s creators with their crushing 6-3 win in Wembley. The Olympic Champions were ahead of their time with their fluid movement and passing and boasted the likes of Ferenc Puskas, Nandor Hidegkuti and Sandor Kocsis. They crushed South Korea 9-0 and West Germany 8-3 in the group stage, out-fought Brazil 4-2 in an violent quarter-final before sending defending champions Uruguay by the same scoreline. They were set up for another win in the final were they faced West Germany again and everything seemed to plan when they went 2-0 up, but West Germany fought back and won 3-2 in game that would be dubbed “The Miracle of Bern”. Hungarians revolted against their government in 1956 and their national team has never been the same since.

2. Netherlands 1974

Probably the most famous nearly men in football, the Dutch team showed their Total Football to the world in 1974. Their pattern-weaving passing and interchanging of positions allowed them to breeze through to the final, thrashing Argentina 4-0 and forcing holders Brazil into resorting to violent tactics in their 2-0 win, where they met West Germany in the final. A Neeskens penalty saw them ahead before the Germans had even touched the ball, but by half-time they were 2-1 down and Johan Cruyff was marked out of the game – their fate was sealed. 4 years later they set off without Cruyff for Argentina and suffered the same fate.

3. Brazil 1982

The type of team that Brazilians long for today and the reason Parreira and Dunga decided to play the way they did. A side containing Zico, Sócrates, Éder and Falcao scored goals that defied belief, beating all those that came before them until they met Italy in the second round. Their defensive deficiencies were exposed as the previously goal-less Paolo Rossi scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win; Italy went on to win the tournament with Rossi top scorer.

4. Brazil 1950

Playing on home soil, it was a tournament they really should have won but suffered from the exact same problems as the 1982 team. Ademir, Jair and Zizinho ran rings around their opponents, smashing Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1 in the final round, but their inability to defend saw Uruguay win 2-1, with Penarol forwards Schiaffino and Ghiggia scoring the goals.

5. France 1986

Before Zizou, there was Platini. Before the grinding wins, there were beautiful losses. A 1-0 win over Canada and a 1-1 draw with the Soviet Union weren’t the greatest results to start a World Cup, but the casual way Platini, Tigana, Fernandez and Giresse stroked the ball about was excellent to watch and victories over holders Italy and Brazil gave France a hope of winning their first World Cup. A hope West Germany cut down in the semi-final in a 2-0 win.

6. Uruguay 1954

The champions from Brazil four years earlier possessed a team more than capable of defending their trophy: Varela and Schiaffino remained, Ghiggia was gone but had been replaced by the arguably better Calos Borges and Julio Cesar Abbadie while Real Madrid legend-to-be Jose Santamaria arrived in defence. They destroyed Scotland 7-0 and beat England 4-2 in the next round before succumbing to Hungary by the same scoreline in one of the most exciting games of the tournament.

7. Portugal 1966

Based around the talents of Mozambique-born Eusebio, the 1966 Portugal side are often dismissed as a one-man team because of the goalscoring prowess of the “Black Pearl”. The team was heavily supplemented by one of the greatest club sides of the sixties in Benfica and used all its ability to create a unit capable of getting the best from its talisman. In the group stages, they beat a Brazil team containing Pelé 3-1, a Hungary team as good as they’ve had since the Magnificent Magyars with one of Europe’s best forwards in Florian Albert and came from 3 goals down to beat North Korea. A switching of venues meant their plans before the game against hosts England were interrupted and they exited in a 2-1 loss in their first World Cup. It would take another 20 years for them to qualify for another.

8. France 1958

This team is famous for Just Fontaine and his 13 goal tally that is unlikely ever to be overhauled and could mistakenly be put down in the same one-man team category as Eusebio’s Portugal, but the real star was playmaker Raymond Kopa, who had been named young player of the tournament 4 years earlier. After thrashings of Paraguay and Northern Ireland, France were set up to play Brazil for a place in the final. They were holding their own until defender Robert Jonquet was injured 30 minutes in, allowing Brazil to run riot, winning 5-2 including a hat-trick from Pelé. They finished in 3rd place after beating West Germany 6-3 in the play-off and Raymond Kopa was named player of the tournament.

9. Austria 1934

The “Wunderteam” were widely tipped to win the 1934 World Cup after going 16 matches unbeaten in the build-up to the competition. Wins over France and Hungary saw them up against hosts Italy in the semi-final which they lost 1:0 due to a suspicious refereeing decision, the same referee then went on to make more mistakes in the final leading some to believe that Mussolini had ensured an Italian victory by unfair means.

10. Italy 1990

The Italians were desperate to win a World Cup on home soil in 1990 and did what they stereotypically do best: defend. Four 1-0 wins and 2-0 win over Urugauay saw them head into a semi-final showdown against Maradona’s Argentina with a previously unknown Salvatore Schillaci the scorer of most of their goals. Walter Zenga set a record of 517 minutes without conceding a goal then made a mistake that allowed Argentina to equalise and they went out on penalties.

2 thoughts on “The best teams never to win the World Cup

  1. How about France 1982? Argentina 2006? Brazil 1950? Brazil 1998?

    I think there should be a list for the worst world champions also. England 1966? France 1998?

    1. Brazil 1950’s in there 😀

      Argentina 06 and Brazil 98 just missed the cut (although if I remember correctly the latter were first to go), as did Holland 98. Always considered that French 82 as lesser to the 86 squad and they were a bit close to include both.

      Might do that, although I might leave it until closer to an international tournament (assuming I can remember!)

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