Since the World Cup began in 1930, only seven nations have felt the joy of winning the big prize. Still, other teams have turned in great performances in making the final four.
To avoid repercussions from outraged soccer fans, I’ve come up with a simple system to pick the Top Ten (actually eleven, due to a tie). I’ve awarded 10 points for a World Cup victory, 5 for second place, three for third place and a single point for fourth place. The countries that made the list may surprise you.
10. Czechoslovakia and Hungary (tied with 10 points). Czechoslovakia came close on two occasions, finishing second in 1934 and 1962. Hungary did the same, earning the runner-up spot in 1938 and 1954. Czech Republic qualified for the 2006 World Cup, while Slovakia and Hungary did not.
8-9. England and Netherlands (tied with 11 points). Almost all of England’s points came from its home victory in 1966. The Dutch had back-to-back second-place finishes in 1974 and 1978.
7. Sweden (12 points). The Swedes placed third in 1994, breaking a long final four drought that lasted since their second-place finish in 1958.
6. France (17 points). Winning the World Cup at home in 1998 put the French on the list. France has been relatively consistent over the years, reaching the final four in 1958, 1982 and 1986.
5. Uruguay (22 points). Some of you may be saying “Huh? Uruguay?” The South American nation hosted and won the first World Cup in 1930 over Argentina. Uruguay proved that was no fluke by winning the 1950 World Cup over another perennial powerhouse, Brazil.
4. Argentina (30 points). After finishing second in the first World Cup in 1930, Argentina had to wait nearly 50 years for another crack at the title. The Argentineans won it all in 1978 and 1986. The nation also finished second in 1990.
3. Italy (44 points). The Italians won consecutive Cup titles in 1934 and 1938, and they added a third championship in 1982. Italy also reached the final four on four other occasions since 1970.
2. Germany (57 points). The Germans (or West Germans during the Cold War) have shown remarkable consistency, reaching the final four 10 times. Germany won the Cup in 1954, 1974 and 1990.
1. Brazil (67 points). No surprise here, as the Brazilians have an unparalleled five World Cup titles to their credit. Their dominance extends across the years, with title wins in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. The legendary Pele played on Brazil’s first three championship teams. Cafu and Ronaldo were part of Brazil’s latter pair of victories.