7 Greatest National Football Teams of All Time (2/2)

 
 
English referee Reg Leafe watching the Argentinian footballer Angel Labruna in a tussle with the German footballer Georg Stollenwerk during a World Cup match in Malmo, Sweden.

Here are our 7 greatest national football teams of all time: Part 2:

14. Argentina 1941-1947

Since we would normally do a video from 7th to 1st, it makes sense to do this one 14th to 8th. Kicking us off then is the great Argentina side of the 1940’s. Argentina are one of a handful of genuine historical powerhouses on the international scene, and their team between 1941 and 1947 was a truly special one. It can be difficult to rank teams in the 1940’s due to the absence of the World Cup, but Argentina won four out of the five Copa Americas which took place in that seven year period, finishing as runners-up in the other.

The legendary River Plate team of the same era made up much of Argentina’s talent during this time, gifting them players such as Angel Labruna, Adolfo Pedernera, Jose Manuel Moreno and later Alfredo Di Stefano, but they also had the likes of Norberto Mendez and Rene Pontoni.

13. Austria 1931-1937

Hold on, I know I bore some of you with my appreciation of the historical side of the game, and more recent teams are on their way, but in the interest of accuracy, Austria’s Wunderteam of the 1930’s have to feature here. A team with a quick, fluid, passing style dreamt up in the coffee houses of Vienna and put into practice by Hugo Meisl and Jimmy Hogan, Austria went unbeaten in 14 games between April 1931 and December 1932.

The team had an excellent midfield engine in the form of Josef Smistik and a born goal scorer in Josef Bican, but their star man was Matthias Sindelar. Nicknamed the paper man, Sindelar is one of the most significant figures in the history of the game, and possibly the most talents of the pre-war era. Austria finished 4th at the 1934 World Cup, where they were controversially knocked out by the hosts Italy in Mussolini’s World Cup. The team was broken up three years later by Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria.

12. Argentina 1986-1990

Argentina's national soccer team poses for a team picture before the World Cup final against West Germany on June 29, 1986 in Mexico City. From L to R : Jorge Burruchaga, Jorge Valdano,...Argentina's national soccer team poses for a team picture before the World Cup final against West Germany on June 29, 1986 in Mexico City. From L to R : Jorge Burruchaga, Jorge Valdano,...

I told you a more modern entry was to come, and that team is an Argentina side which reached two consecutive World Cup finals. Inspired, of course, by the one and only Diego Maradona, they won the first in 1986 but lost the second in 1990. Argentina had some very good players from Oscar Ruggeri in defence to Jorge Burruchaga in attacking midfield, but Maradona was the beating heart of this team.

His displays at the 1986 World Cup were the finest peak level of performances attained by any footballer at a major international tournament, and they transformed this team from being a good side, to one that we consider the 12th greatest national team of all time.

11. England 1946-1948

There were a few people in the comments last time out who felt England’s team at the 1966 World Cup deserved to feature, I disagree of course, and I’m going to upset them even more here. The greatest England team ever assembled was during the immediate post-war period. Over these two to three years, England had a magnificent team from back to front.

At centre-half, there was the indomitable Neil Franklin. At half-back, the reliability of Billy Wright. On the flanks, the genius of Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews. Then there was the craft and guile of Stan Mortensen, Wilf Mannion and Raich Carter as inside-forwards, topped off by the clinical Tommy Lawton through the middle.

In 1946, 1947 and 1948, a period of three full calendar years, England played 18 games, of which they lost just one, as well as beating the Netherlands 8-2, Portugal 10-0 and France 3-0. Again, the absence of any World Cup during this period is a real shame, and it’s difficult to know for sure how England would have fared against Argentina or Uruguay, but they were certainly by far the best team in Europe.

10. Brazil 1997-2007

Now, this may seem like a bit of a stretch covering ten years, and it is, but picking the dates for Brazil in the nineties and noughties is no easy task. On the one hand, they won the World Cup in ‘94, reached the final in ‘98 and won it again in ‘02. But then, the team had changed so dramatically between ‘94 and ‘02 it would be wrong to include that era as one team.

For most of the decade between 1997 and 2007 though, Brazil had a pretty similar core of players, most notably the likes of Dida, Lucio, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Gilberto Silva, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Ronaldo.

That is quite a collection of talent, and we haven’t even mentioned the likes of Kaka or Robinho. Brazil probably would have won the World Cup in 1998 were it not for Ronaldo’s freak injury, they did win it in 2002 and should have done better in 2006. However, they did win four out of five Copa Americas and one Confederations Cup title in this period.

9. Netherlands 1974-1978

Dutch midfielder Johann Cruyff dribbles past Argentinian goalkeeper Daniel Carnevali on his way to scoring a goal during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between the Netherlands and...Dutch midfielder Johann Cruyff dribbles past Argentinian goalkeeper Daniel Carnevali on his way to scoring a goal during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between the Netherlands and...

Probably the omission which caused the greatest outrage in our original video, the great Netherlands team of the mid-late 1970’s missed out by virtue of never having won a major tournament. It was painful to leave them out, although still justified I feel and they did feature in our 7 greatest national teams that won nothing video, but it feels good to acknowledge them here.

Former Ajax boss Rinus Michels, together with his former Ajax talisman Johan Cruyff, gave birth to a style of play known as Total Football. This carousel approach to the game in which, in theory, every player ought to be comfortable in every outfield position, really captured the hearts and minds of football fans across the globe. The Netherlands reached consecutive World Cup finals, losing both, and if anything, their greatest crime was overconfidence.

Although Johan Cruyff was of course the star up until 1977, this Netherlands side was littered with great players, such as Johan Neeskens, Piet Keizer, Willem van Hanegem and Ruud Krol.

8. Uruguay 1923-1930

First place in this seven, so eighth overall in our ranking of the greatest ever national teams, takes us back the best part of a century. Uruguay’s success on the international stage is a remarkable anomaly that shouldn’t be possible given the small South American nations resources and population.

La Celeste have revelled in defying the odds though, and they made their first real mark on the world stage in 1924. Having won the 1923 Copa America, Uruguay were South America’s representatives at the 1924 Olympic Games. They did their continent proud, cruising to the gold medal with 7-0 and 5-1 wins against European opposition.

They repeated the feat four years later in the Netherlands, and it was clear that Uruguay were the best team and Jose Andrade the best player in the world. They hosted the very first World Cup in 1930 and, low and behold, they won that too. As well as Andrade, this Uruguay team could boast the talents of Jose Nasazzi, Hector Scarone and Hector Castro, among others.

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