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Ten best footballing Nations in the World

Updated on July 2, 2015
Arthur Nwokolo profile image

Arthur graduated from Modibbo Adama Federal University, Yola-Nigeria in 2011 and is very passionate about sports, food, and nature.

Brazuca Football and World Cup Trophy
Brazuca Football and World Cup Trophy | Source

Football is to many a religion, to some a tradition while to others a way of life. This is why the game I love so much will always be bigger than the politics played within. When I was a kid playing football on footpaths with bare foot and a ball made from dried plantain leaves and stems, we were told that Brazilians worship, eat and breathe football making them the most successful footballing nation in the world with five world Cups amongst other cups (except of course the Olympic gold medal in football). Formed in 1904, Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) happens to be the world governing football body that is in charge of marketing, making rules and regulation governing football and is also responsible for sanctioning individuals, groups, organizations or associations under its jurisdiction. Perhaps that’s why Joao Havelange a Brazilian happens to be the second longest serving FIFA President for 24 years (after French Jules Rimet for 33 years). Just like other organizations, the obvious fact still remains that FIFA has had its own fair share of failure and success.

Football in the Early years
Football in the Early years

FIFA who is responsible for the organisation of football's major international tournaments, started the inaugural Men's World Cup which was hosted by Uruguay in 1930 and the corresponding Women's World Cup hosted by China and commenced in 1991.

Let's take a look at the best National teams in terms of their success in both world and continental football over the years. Here we go:

Golden Brazilian Team that won the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup
Golden Brazilian Team that won the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup | Source
Ronaldo and Ronaldinho
Ronaldo and Ronaldinho


Brazil is said to be the most successful football nation in all categories of FIFA organized football tournaments. They have won five world cups in Men Category more than any other country. Brazil is all about football and that's why they have proved it by providing the highest number of footballers in the top five European leagues.

Brazil have produced world famous footballers who have won the FIFA World best players more than any other country. Pele won the World Cup for Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970

They have produced best footballers like Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé (pictured inset) who is widely regarded to be the greatest player of all time, Garrnicha, Ronaldo de Lima, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Romario and currently Neymar.

In Youth Level football Brazil has been very outstanding winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup five (5)times in 1983, 1985, 1993, 2003, 2011. They have also won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in three occasions (1997, 1999 and 2003) a record only bettered by an African Country Nigeria who has won it a record four times.

In female football, although Brazil have not won the World at this category but they were runners-up in 2007 when they were defeated by Germany 2-0 in the final which was hosted in China.

Germany World cup winning team of 2014 in Brazil
Germany World cup winning team of 2014 in Brazil


Germany is regarded as the best European nation in terms of football having won four world Cups including the last 2014 World Cup hosted in Brazil.

Germany won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Germany won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
German Legend, Franz Beckenbauer
German Legend, Franz Beckenbauer
German Fans
German Fans

Germany is arguably the most successful national team in Europe and one of the most successful teams in international competitions having won a total of four World Cups (in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014) and three European Championship (in 1972, 1980 and 1996).

Germany became the only European team to have won the World Cup in a South American soil when they defeated Argentina 1-0 in the final of 2014 World Cup in Brazil. They are the only nation to have won the World Cups in both Men and Women Categories. Germany’s seven goals in the 7-1 defeat of host nation Brazil in their 2014 World Cup quarterfinal match took their total tally in World Cup history to 223, surpassing Brazil's 221 goals to first place overall.

At Youth Level football, West Germany won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1981 and were runner-up 1985 FIFA U-17 World Cup.

In Women's category, Germany has won the FIFA Women World Cup twice consecutively in 2003 and 2007 after they were led by inspired Birgit Prinz (pictured above)

They have produced quality players over the years and they include Gerd Müller (who racked up fourteen goals in two World Cups (1970 and 1974) Franz Beckenbauer (who won the World Cup as the national team's captain in 1974 and as a Coach in 1990, thus becoming the first person to win the World Cup as both captain and coach), Jurgen Klinsmann, Oliver Kahn Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose (who is the current all-time World Cup record goalscorer with 16 goals)

Skills in Modern Football

Football Moves
Dribbles past the opponent
Leg Over
Dribbles past a sturborn opponent defender
Put the ball in between opponent's legs
Holds down
Use to score a goal
Italy World Cup winning team of 2006 in Berlin, Germany.
Italy World Cup winning team of 2006 in Berlin, Germany.
Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon

Italy: Italy is considered by many as the most successful football nation after Brazil and tied with Germany, having won four World Cups in 1934,1938, 1982 and 2006 with runners-up in 1970 and 1994 (when they lost to Brazil in penalty shootout after Roberto Baggio's miss). They have won the UEFA Euro Championship title once in 1968 and were runners-up twice in 2000 and 2012. They won Gold medal in 1936 Summer Olympic Football game.

The Italian professional football league popularly known as Serie A known is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world and it is often depicted as the most tactical national football league which have produced several world class player such as Dino Zoff, Roberto Baggio, Paolo Rossi, Giafranco Zola, Paolo Maldini Alessandro Del Piero, Andrea Pirlo, Gianlugi Buffon.

Two World and Argentina Legends, Maradonna and Lionel Messi
Two World and Argentina Legends, Maradonna and Lionel Messi
Argentina Fans
Argentina Fans

Argentina: Argentina is another country from South America who has in the past and recent times been seen as a major force in the game of football. Argentina has made five World Cup final appearances winning a total of two, winning first in 1978 after defeating Netherlands 3-1 in extra-time and also won in 1986 by inspired Diego Maradona and his teammates in a 3-2 victory over West Germany.

Argentina has also been successful in Copa America winning it 14 times, one short of Uruguay’s 15 titles. Argentina has won the FIFA U-20 World Cup a record six times in 1979, 1995, 1997, 2001,2005, 2007.They have also won two consecutive Gold medals in football in the Olympic Summer Games at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. But they have not replicated their successful performances in the Women football.

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Spain World Cup winning team of 2010 in South Africa
Spain World Cup winning team of 2010 in South Africa
Xavi and Iniesta, Best Midfielder in the World
Xavi and Iniesta, Best Midfielder in the World
Spanish Fans
Spanish Fans

Spain: Spanish football saw a tremendous improvement over the past decade all thanks to a local club Barcelona FC’s invention of tiki-taka style of play orchestrated by Barcelona duo of Xavi and Iniesta in the midfield. Spain became World Champions after they won the first ever World Cup tournament held by an African country in 2010 South Africa after beating Netherlands 1-0 in final with an extra-time goal from Andres Iniesta (pictured inset). Thus they became one of eight national teams to have been crowned World Cup champions and the first European team to win the title outside of Europe.

Spain has won the European Championship three times (1964, 2008 and 2012) and won a Gold medal in Summer Olympic football games in 1992. In a span of four years, they won the European Championship two successive times in 2008 and 2012, defeating Germany 1-0 and Italy 4-0 respectively and capped it with winning the World Cup in 2010.

The team's achievements have led many football analyst, experts, former players and fans worldwide to argue that the 2010 and 2012 Spanish national team is among the best ever international sides in world football.

They won the FIFA U-20 World Cup hosted by Nigeria in 1999 were Xavi Hernandez was discovered.

They have produced prominent footballers in the past and present, notably are Andoni Zubizarreta, Raul Gonzalez, Carles Puyol, Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez, David Villa, Fernando Torres and Andres Iniesta.

Uruguay Copa America winning squad of 2011
Uruguay Copa America winning squad of 2011
Uruguay Champions of Copa America 2011
Uruguay Champions of Copa America 2011
Uruguay Fans
Uruguay Fans

Uruguay: This country is a worthy mention for their contribution towards the growth of football as they have won the World Cup two times. They have won Gold medals in football at famous Summer Olympic twice in 1924 and 1928 even before the creation of the World Cup.

After two years of Olympic glory, they won the first edition of the World Cup as a host country in 1930 and another in 1950 when they caused a major upset by defeating host nation Brazil 2-1 in the final match which received an attendance higher than any football match ever.

Uruguay has also won the Copa America a record 15 times more than any other country in South America including Brazil and Argentina, most recently having won the 2011 Edition and they are the smallest country in terms of population to have won the World Cup with about 1.75 million inhabitants when they were champions in 1930.

Currently, the nation has a very small population of around 3.25 million inhabitants which explains why they are successful as a football nation. They have also produced famous players like Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez of Barcelona, Spain and Edison Cavani of PSG, France.

France World Cup winning team of 1998 on home soil
France World Cup winning team of 1998 on home soil | Source
Platini and Zidane
Platini and Zidane

France: France football started in 1904 when they played their first official match and their national senior team has experienced much of its success during three major Golden generations, in 1950s, 1980s and most significant coming from late1990-early 2000s. During those years France won the 1998 World Cup on home soil defeating favorites Brazil 3-0 in the final and where runners-up in 2006 loosing on penalty shoot-out to Italy

France won the UEFA Euro Championship on two occasions, in 1984 hosted by France and in 2000 hosted by. They have also won the FIFA Confederation Cup in 2001 and 2003, won a Gold medal in 1984 Summer Olympic Football.

In youth level, France have also been performing well winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup just once in 2013 and FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2001.

Notable prominent players from France are Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane (pictured inset), Thierry Henry, Marcel Desailly.

England World Cup winning team of !966 on home soil
England World Cup winning team of !966 on home soil
Legendary Bobby Charlton
Legendary Bobby Charlton
Frank Lampard and Steve Gerrard
Frank Lampard and Steve Gerrard

England: England national football team is the joint-oldest in the world; it was formed at the same time as Scotland whom they played in the world’s first officially recognized international football match on 30th November, 1872 in Scotland and thus football originated from both country. Led by the legendary, Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst (who scored a hat-trick in that final) England won the 1966 World Cup which was hosted by them.

Although England has won the World Cup, they have never won the European Championship which has left many to question their performances over the years. The English Premier League organized by England FA, has brought an unprecedented success to World football in terms of revenue generated and players income.

They have made famous players like Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, David Beckham Micheal Owen, Frank Lamaprd, Steven Gerard, Wayne Rooney.

Orange Boys, Netherlands National team of 2010 World cup
Orange Boys, Netherlands National team of 2010 World cup
New Era of  Robin Van Persie, Holland
New Era of Robin Van Persie, Holland

Netherlands: Holland is a force to reckon with when it comes to football at both junior and senior levels. The Dutch (as they were popularly called) is well known as the best country in terms of her achievements in youth level football development all across Europe and it was in late 1970’s that Total football was invented by the then captain Johan Cruyff and national team Coach Rinus Michels. The Dutch made giant strides, qualifying for two World Cup finals within that decade where they runners up for two consecutive times (1974 and 1978) suffering defeat to West Germany and Argentina respectively.

Netherland national football team won their first ever major tournament in1988 European Championship hosted by West Germany after defeating the USSR (Russia) 2-0 in the final. They won the bronze medal in 1908, 1912 and 1920 Summer Olympic football games.

From 1990 to 2005, the Dutch invested hugely on youth development and that almost payed off when in between those years the national football team reached the semi finals of UEFA Euro Championship in (1992, 2000, and 2004), became runners-up in the 2010 World Cup and local club Ajax FC co

Dutch youth system have produced great players for the World including Marco Van Basten, Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard, Dennis Bergkamp, Clarence Seedorf, Edwin Van der Sar, Patrick Kluivert, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Robin Van Persie.

Portugal National team of 2004
Portugal National team of 2004 | Source
Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo
Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal: Portugal is nation that made history in World football when during their debut appearance in the 1966 World Cup held in England, they defeated Soviet Union 2-1 to claim the third place finish. Legendary Mozambique-born Portuguese player Eusebio was the highest goal scorer in that tournament with nine goals to his credit, as he was one of the few players in the world to score four goals in a World Cup match against Korea.

Often termed as the Perennial Underachievers, Portuguese golden generation came in early 2000-2008 when led by Captain Luis Figo they nearly won the Euro 2004 which was hosted in Portugal only to be pipped 1-0 by rivals Greece in the final.

In Youth level, Portugal won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1989 and 1991

But Portugal would be remembered largely for the players that have produced over the years in world football which include Eusebio, Brazilian-born Deco, Rui Costa, Ricardo Carvalho, Luis Figo and 3-times FIFA Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo (who currently plays for Real Madrid in Spain)


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