Most Successful Men's National Football (Soccer) Teams

Team Brazil dukes it out with Team North Korea in international competition at the FIFA World Cup.
Team Brazil dukes it out with Team North Korea in international competition at the FIFA World Cup.

Association Football (or Soccer) just may be the most popular sport around the world. In some countries, stadiums can even invoke images akin to a civil war as strong team allegiances often lead to verbal and even physical confrontations. When it comes to national teams, however, international competition can put a whole nation's esteem on the line. We have listed those countries whose respective national men's soccer teams have fared the best in FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games appearances.

8. Russia/USSR (2 Olympic Golds

The Soviet Union men’s national football team was renamed the CIS national football team after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Currently, FIFA recognizes the CIS national team as the successor of the Soviet team, assigning the previous records of the Soviet team to the current one. The team attained a prestigious position in world soccer by winning the Olympic soccer title twice, once in the 1956 Summer Olympics, held in Australia, and the next time in the 1988 Summer Olympics, held in South Korea. Though the team has not won any FIFA championships, it has managed to qualify in all the World Cups with the exception of two, in 1974 and 1978. The Soviet team also achieved the UEFA European Championship title in 1960 against the Yugoslavian national soccer team.

7. Hungary (3 Olympic Golds)

The Hungarian national team was formed towards the beginning of the 20th Century, and first appeared on the international scene in the 1912 Summer Olympics Game in Sweden. There, it suffered a devastating defeat, losing 7-0 against England. However, the later years of Olympic participation brought glory to the team, as it performed exceptionally well and won 3 gold medals in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Though the team has not won any FIFA World Championship titles, it has managed to maintain a respectable position in the FIFA record by winning two silver medals in the 1938 and 1954 FIFA World Cup tournaments. The team also came third in the 1964 UEFA European Football Championship.

6. Argentina (2 FIFA World Cups, 2 Olympic Golds)

Argentina and France are the only two nations in the world of soccer to have won three important championships recognized by FIFA, these being the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, and the Confederations Cup. The men’s national soccer team of Argentina competed in five FIFA World Cup final matches, winning two. The first one came in 1978 against the Netherlands, and the second one in 1986 against West Germany. The team also won the Olympic gold medal in the Athens Summer Olympics in 2004, and again at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. Besides the World Cup and Olympic Championships, team Argentina has also been the champion in 6 of the 14 football competitions of the Pan American Games, as well as having won the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1992, and earning several gold medals in the South American Championship games.

5. United Kingdom/England (1 FIFA World Cup, 3 Olympic Golds)

Though no single team of the United Kingdom currently exists, with England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each having their own separate national teams, the achievements of these teams in international tournaments has been quite significant, earning recognition for the entire United Kingdom. The England national men’s soccer team earned the FIFA championship title in the 1966 FIFA World Cup held in the team’s home country. A few minor tournaments have also been won by the England team. In the case of Olympics, however, the United Kingdom participates as a unit and sends a special team to compete in the Olympics. The major achievements of this Great Britain Olympic soccer team includes winning 3 Olympic gold medals, in the years 1900, 1908, and 1912, respectively.

4. Uruguay (2 FIFA World Cups. 2 Olympic Golds)

The Uruguay men’s national soccer team and its embers have been frequent achievers in the South American championship games, winning the Copa América for a record 15 times. The team has also won two FIFA World Cup titles, one in 1930 in their home country, by defeating Argentina. The second one came in 1950, when they defeated their neighbors, Brazil, in a close 2-1 match. The team has also won more Olympic gold medals than the Italian, Brazilian, and German teams, though they have more World Cups than does Uruguay. Olympic Golds were bagged by the team in the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympic games. The 1980 Mundialito, an extremely competitive championship game between former world cup winners, was also won by Uruguay. The small size of the nation further highlights its achievements in international soccer. In fact, it is the smallest country in the world to win Olympic gold medals and two FIFA World Cup championships.

3. Italy (4 FIFA World Cups, 1 Olympic Gold)

The Italian national soccer team is historically one of the best in the world, winning 4 FIFA Word Cups and 1 Olympic Gold. The team realized FIFA championships in the years 1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006. They also successfully defended their position as champions in the 1938 FIFA World Cup, and were the reigning FIFA champions for 16 years between 1934 and 1949, since the Olympics and other major competitions had to be suspended due to the outbreak of war between 1938 and 1949. Besides gold, the Italian team has earned 2 silver medals and 1 gold metal in the FIFA World Cup games. In the Olympics, the team has not had much recent success since they had won their first, and only, Olympic Gold way back in 1936. Besides the above victories, the team has also captured 3 Olympic Bronze medals, 1 UEFA World Championship, and attained the third place in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

2. East/West/Unified Germany (4 FIFA World Cups, 1 Olympic Gold)

The Germany men’s national soccer team is one of the most outstanding soccer teams in the world, representing the country in international games since 1908. After the conclusion of World War II, the team was banned from participation in international sports until 1950. The division of Germany after the war also led to a split in the team and three teams from Germany, namely the West Germany, East Germany, and Saarland teams, were formed. However, after German reunification, the teams reintegrated into a single national team representing the country. The German teams have earned 4 FIFA World Cup titles, doing so in 1954, 1974, 1990, and 2014. Besides gold, the teams have also won 4 silver and 3 bronze medals in the FIFA World Championships. The German teams also emerged victorious in three European Championships, namely those held in 1972, 1980, and 1996. East Germany won the Olympic Gold in 1976, adding another significant achievement to the excellent record of the German national teams.

1. Brazil (5 FIFA World Cups)

Brazil has the most historically successful men's national soccer team in the world, with an unparalleled world record of possessing 62 official international titles to its name. The Brazilian soccer team has won five FIFA championships, in the years 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002, respectively. Even though the early years of the team did not yield much success, the team first came into prominence in the 1950 FIFA World Cup, which was hosted in Brazil itself. The Brazilian team played exceedingly well that year and ended up reaching the finals, though it ultimately lost the game to Uruguay. Besides gold, the team has also won 2 silver and 2 bronze medals at the FIFA World Cup. The saga of success of the team is also reflected in its victories in the FIFA Confederations Cup, where it has bagged 4 championship titles. The Brazilian men’s national soccer team has also won several titles in the South American Championship tournaments. Despite these tremendous achievements, the team has been, as of yet, unsuccessful in winning a gold medal in the Olympics. However, it has won 3 silver and 2 bronze Olympic medals nonetheless. Without question, the men's national soccer team has long been a source of pride, and a unifying national symbol to rally around, for the people of Brazil.


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