Top 10 favorites that didn't win the FIFA World Cup
10. Germany (1994)
The defending Champions West Germany were appearing for the first time as unified Germany, since 1938. The team was extremely strong and had all the characteristics to defend their title against the best in the world. On a seemingly easy path to the finals, Germany ended up losing to Bulgaria, thanks to a fantastic diving header by Yordan Letchkov. They easily topped the group that had Spain, Bolivia and Korea Republic before beating Belgium. Bulgaria spelt the end of this fantastic German team that should have retained the title with ease.
09. England (1982)
With the likes of Bobby Robson, Terry Butcher, Ray Wilkins, Phil Thompson, Kevin Keegan, Glenn Hoddle and Terry McDermott in the side, England were favourites to win the title. They began by thrashing a strong French side and topping their group which also had Czechoslovakia and Kuwait. Going into Round 2, they were placed alongside West Germany and Spain. After drawing against West Germany, England needed a win against Spain, something that never came. One of the best England squads for a world cup was eliminated with a whimper.
08. Italy (1990)
If there was ever a strong Italian side, then it was this. With a defence that boasted of Franco Baresi, Giuseppe Bergomi, Paolo Maldini and Luigi de Agostini, Walter Zenga’s goal was well protected. The midfield was full of flair with Roberto Donadoni, Nicola Berti and Giuseppe Gianni while Carlo Ancelotti provided perfect cover to the back four. The strikers were phenomenal – Gianluca Vialli, Salvatore Schillaci, Roberto Baggio, Aldo Serena and Roberto Mancini.
They began well, winning a group that had the mighty Czechs, and Austria & USA. They beat Uruguay comfortably, before beating Republic of Ireland in the quarters. Italy went into their semi-finals against defending champions Argentina without having conceded a goal. They ended up losing to Argentina on penalties after the match ended 1-1 in extra time. Italy beat England for third place but the hosts would never have a better team to win the world cup, than this.
07. Holland (1998)
The team was destined to win, picking up from the Total Football Phenomenon. With almost the entire golden generation from Ajax in their lineup, Holland were playing like a club-side. They won a group with Belgium, South Korea and Mexico. They went on to beat Yugoslavia by 2 goals to one, before taking on Argentina in a fierce battle. In the semis, Holland took on favourites & defending champions Brazil and dominated the game with brilliant football. However, Patrick Kluivert failed to put away almost 8 clear-cut chances, taking the match to penalties. Claudio Taffarel, saved stopped two shots to put Brazil into the finals, and a fantastic Dutch side out.
06. Brazil (1950)
The tournament was said to be a foregone conclusion, with host nations Brazil clear favourites. Brazil topped group A, predictably, by beating Yugoslavia & Mexico and drawing with Switzerland. In the final group stage, the group winner would be crowned world champion, something that Brazil were favourites for. They beat Sweden 7-1 followed by a 6-1 smashing of Spain. With only minnows Uruguay in the way, Brazil only needed a draw to clinch the title. After taking the lead in the 47th minute, Uruguay fought back through Juan Alberto Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia, winning the match 2-1. A fantastic Brazilian lineup lost out to overconfidence while the Uruguayans were given the trophy on the run, as they ran from the Maracana fearing for their lives.
05. Holland (1978)
After loads of speculation, a strong Dutch side arrived in Argentina. Despite their strong team, there were reports of protest against the Dutch FA, because the team was refusing to travel to Argentina which had just undergone a military coup. The side got through the group stage in second place, beating Iran, drawing with Peru but losing to Scotland. In the second group stage, they came into their own as a more settled team beat Austria, drew with West Germany and then beat Italy to reach the finals. In the finals, Argentina had already ruffled the Dutch with numerous off-field tactics that had rattled the entire squad. On the pitch, there were numerous efforts to waste time and cause more delays, leading to frustrated Dutchmen. Everything fell apart as Argentina and Mario Kempes ran all over the Dutch.
04. Brazil (1986)
A team that boasted of the likes of Zico, Socrates, Careca, Josimar and Edinho doesn’t usually end up not winning the world cup. This one did! After waltzing through the group stage, beating Spain, Algeria and Northern Ireland, Brazil smashed 4 past Poland before losing to Michele Platini’s France in the penalties. Even though the Brazilian side was aging, as compared to the 1982 team, they still had the quality and consistency required to make them the best team in the world. That they didn’t get there, was a matter of pure chance and bad luck.
03. Argentina (2002)
This Argentina side was said to be the strongest team ever, in the history of the Argentine FA, to go for a World Cup tournament. The Argentine side was placed in the Group of Death, alongside arch rivals England, Sweden and Nigeria. However, with the likes of Roberto Ayala, Javier Zanetti, Walter Samuel, Juan Pablo Sorin, Ariel Ortega, Gabriel Batistuta, Juan Sebastian Veron, Diego Placente, Diego Simeone, Pablo Aimar, Kily Gonzalez, Hernan Crespo and Jose Antonio Chamot in the side, there was no way they were going to lose.
The strongest team in the tournament started off with a win against Nigeria. Despite their wildest efforts, England shoved 10 men in their own box to stop Argentina from equalizing a 44th minute penalty. Needing a win against Sweden, Argentina only managed a 1-1 draw, getting knocked out of the world cup in the first round itself.
02. Holland (1974)
There has been no better form of team play, in a world cup, than the 1974 Dutch side led by Johan Cruyff. The team combined the beautiful Total Football style of football with the individual talent of players like Arie Haan, Johnny Rep, Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens and Johan Cruyff. The team swept Uruguay and Bulgaria aside in the group stages, drawing with Sweden.
In the second round, they beat Argentina 4-nil, before beating East Germany 2-0 and then defeating the defending champions, Brazil, 2-0. In the finals, against West Germany, Netherlands got a goal in the second minute and continued to dominate proceedings, however West Germany fought back and Paul Breitner and Gerd Muller took them to victory on home turf.
01. Brazil (1982)
How this team didn’t walk away with the world cup trophy is anybody’s guess. With over 7 world class players, like Zico, Socrates, Serginho, Junior, Eder, Edevaldo, Falcao, Edinho and Renato at their peak, in their lineup, teams would shiver at the sight of the canary yellow jerseys. The team beat a strong Soviet Union side 2-1 before hitting four past Scotland and New Zealand.
In the second round, Brazil were placed in a group with Italy and defending champions Argentina, Brazil beat Argentina 3-1. Needing a draw against Italy, to qualify, Brazil took the lead through Socrates. Paolo Rossi, who had been off colour so far, got Italy back into the game with two goals in 20 minutes! Falcao equalized only for Rossi to get his hat trick and send Brazil out of the tournament.
A team that is said to be better than almost any club-side, the 1982 Brazilian squad played a brand of football that has been head & shoulders above any other team in the history of the sport. They were truly the best team ever to never win a world cup.
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