The debate that emerged 10 years ago and has not stopped ever since goes around who is better: Messi or Ronaldo. The majority of fans in football have taken a side and disputes about both players haven’t stopped. Now, for a vast amount of people this has become annoying to some extent, so here we’re going to deal with a far more interesting debate: Which has been the best national team in history. A lot of teams may come to mind, but we have picked four that made their impact and wrote their page on the history of this beautiful sport.
It is impossible to not start with this team. Commanded by Zagallo as the head coach, the verdeamarela redefined football with nothing more than pure talent and chemistry, settling the foundations for Brazil’s ‘joga bonito’. Among the players that constituted this team there were some great legends, such as the following: Pelé, who is the only player to have won 3 World Cups; Garrincha, who was selected as the eighth best player of the 20th century according to IFFHS; Jairzinho, who ended up as runner-up in the goalscoring list of that World Cup (with 7 goals); and Carlos Alberto, captain of the team, who scored on the most mesmerizing goals in the history of the competition.
The history for this stunning team goes as the following. After exiting the 66’ World Cup on the groups stage, Brazil’s Football Federation determined that such a bad performance was not going to be repeated. For that reason, Mario Jorge Lobo Pagallo, a former player who won two World Cups with Brazil, was entrusted the team as head coach with the sole purpose of making a major change. The team lacked experience, as Pelé was the only one who played on the 58’ and 62’ teams that were World Champions. Zagallo was going to lead a team with low expectations, with nothing to lose, which were eventually going to rise tremendously after they played their first match.
Outstanding football was seen in Mexico. The combination of touches was extremely efficient, blended of course with great individualities through the entire field. Brazil played six matches on the tournament, winning them all. Besides this, they ended the World Cup with an average of 3,17 goals scored per game and just 1,17 conceded. These facts, in other words, gave the Brazilian squad a +2 goal difference average in the entire tournament, one of the best ever seen. They won the final 4-1 against the Italy of Boninsegna, a feat that went to the history books with the picture of Carlos Alberto scoring one of the best goals of all time.
Brazil and Italy starred one of the most classic matches of all time in Mexico’s 1970 World Cup final.
West Germany 1974
The second selection of our top 4 in nonetheless than the West Germany team of 1974. This team became historic under the command of Helmut Schön, a legendary German player and coach. This squad was ready to defy a Brazilian national team that had won 3 of the last 4 World Cups, so it was not an easy challenge. The team of West Germany was comprised of some Great Bayern Munich players, who had recently won the 1972 European Cup. We can name some stars that were on this team: Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and Sepp Maier, to name a few.
The road for them didn’t start easy. They won the first two matches of the groups stage against Chile and Australia, but the third match was the crucial one: East Germany. The political tension of the Cold War was dramatically intense and there was no bigger representation of the conflict than the clash of both nations, showing the capitalist and communist side. The whole world was watching this match, and even though both teams were classified already, the relevance of the fixture was astronomical. To make the story short, West Germany were the favorites as the players from the East were, in a considerable amount, ordinary workers back on their country. Well, the match ended 1-0 with a victory for East Germany, something nobody expected.
Beckenbauer and Bransch, captains of both teams, immortalizing a handshake that went to history.
Helmut Schön did not like this at all, so the team changed the intensity of the game. After their only loss on the World Cup, they went to the final groups stage and beat Poland, Sweden and Yugoslavia with 7 goals scored and just 2 conceded. The team advanced to the final, but they were going to face what is considered to be one of the greatest teams that have ever played the game: the ‘Clockwork Orange’. The Netherlands team, commanded by Johan Cruyff at the front, played a beautiful pressing and offensive football that settled the foundations for a vast amount of teams in the future, such as the Barcelona of 2009. Despite all of this, West Germany overcame these obstacles and won the match with a lot of passion and verticality with a score of 2-1, with goals of Breitner and Muller for Germany and Neeskens scoring for the Dutch. This team will be remembered for their compromise on the field, which of course goes by the hand with their strong winning mentality.
There has been a lot of debate about if this team should be considered as one of the greatest, but their game quality earned them a spot in this top 4. Coached by Vicente Del Bosque, this Spanish team continued to develop the style of ‘Tiki-taka’, implemented on the national team during the Euro of 2008 by Luis Aragonés (where they played brilliantly and ended champions). The team arrived to the World Cup with a lot of chemistry, with the squad mostly comprised of Real Madrid and Barcelona players where the best of both worlds collide: great explosiveness and beautiful passes.
The story started terribly for the Spaniards. They lost the first group game against Switzerland, where they weren’t loyal to their style of playing. After that moment, everything changed. Del Bosque’s team defeated Honduras and Chile to qualify first of their group. The level wasn’t the one everybody depicted on the Euro, but Spain was just starting to grease the engines.
The quality seemed to never be limited. Iniesta and Xavi had brushes on their feet, drawing exquisite passes to a deathly David Villa. The only ‘but’ of this Spanish team is that they won their 4 knockout matches with a 1-0 score. It might be true that statistically the team wasn’t offensively the best, but you just got to see them play to understand what is a strategy carried out perfectly. The midfield managed amazingly the ‘tempo’ of the match, the defense executed accurate long passes and the diagonals made by the strikers were nothing but sharp. It might be true that just 8 goals in 7 matches to win a World Cup don’t seem to be enough, but that Iniesta goal on the 116th minute on the final was one of the most deserved goals we will ever see.
Iniesta scoring that beauty on the second extra time to make it 1-0 on the WC final.
This is the only national team we included on the list that didn’t win the World Cup, but trust us, in any other occasion, they should have won it. The team was full of brilliant players, with a pair of strikers that could be categorized as two of the most clinical players on the history of World Cups: Sándor Kocsis and Ferenc Puskás. The majority may know Puskás: he’s a Real Madrid legend and the award in Europe for the player that scores more goals has his name – which is something that has to speak for itself-. On the other hand, Kocsis was a player that before the World Cup wasn’t quite known, but ended up being the skinny guy who became the goalscorer of the tournament with 11 goals. (Little parenthesis: The record for more goals scored in a World Cup belongs to Just Fontaine with 13 goals in 1958, followed by Kocsis).
In contrast with the stories of West Germany and Spain, the tale of Hungary was perfect until the end. They started the groups stage by scoring 17 goals in two games. Read that again. The team of Gusztáv Sebes was unstoppable, beating South Korea 9-0 and 8-3 West Germany. This last match has an interesting story, which is said to be the reason why the Germans ended up winning that World Cup. Supposedly, Sepp Herberger lined up the B team of Germany to rest his players and give a false impression to Hungary, so if they went through the groups stage they would play a different fixture in the future against the team of Puskás.
After qualifying, Hungary still had to prove its value against the South American teams, Brazil and Uruguay. These two sides were the champions and runner-ups of the last World Cup, but this wasn’t going to be a problem for the Hungarians. The team of Sebes defeated both with scores of 4-2, displaying an opulent style. Then, when they seemed to have the trophy on the bag, one of the biggest feats in football occurred: ‘The miracle of Bern’. West Germany arrived to the final with all the odds against them, but Herberger schemed a different match and outplayed the Hungary squad in a brilliant way. The match ended 3-2 with a brilliant game from Helmut Rahn, the German striker that scored two goals to give his team their first ever World Cup. Hungary went to the oblivion after that loss, but the elders still remember how imposing this team was.