It is a debate that will likely never end and which, over time, will see more team names thrown into the mix. But just who was the best international football team of all time?


    Now you can argue that the likes of Brazil, Germany, Italy, with their multitude of World Cup Wins have to be in amongst the argument.

    But there are a number of teams that deserve equal consideration as any of these great World Cup Winning teams. Teams that were still fantastic, but perhaps fell just short of lifting the big trophy.

    Of course, achievement in terms of trophies is a big factor. But when determining the best ever teams, we have to take a wider perspective.

    What criteria are we considering?

    In addition to honours won by teams, we are also going to consider the following:

    • The quality of individual players
    • The legacy of the team
    • How innovative the team were at their time in football history
    • Their record across a certain period of time in all competitions & friendly games
    • The quality of their coach
    • Tactics and formation changes which may have altered how football was played

    So with that in mind, let’s take a look at our top five all-time International Football teams.

    We will begin the countdown at number 5.

    5. Brazil (1981-1982) – The most beautiful Brazil team of the modern era

    After a 3rd place finish at the 1978 World Cup, the Brazil 1982 World Cup Squad looked set to make a serious challenge in Spain.

    An outstanding midfield quartet of Socrates, Toninho Cerezo, Falcao and Zico were the rock around which the side was built. Added flair came in the shape of marauding full-backs Junior and Leandro and the outstanding and hugely under-rated left winger Eder.

    Injury robbed that squad of two key players, central defender Edinho and striker Roberto Dinamite. That would prove crucial as this squad turned into the archetypical attack but cannot defend team.

    Against the USSR in their opening game Waldir Peres, their goalkeeper, fumbled in a shot from 30 yards by Bal to give the Soviets an unexpected lead, which they held on to until late in the game.

    First Socrates, the skipper and leader of the team, crashed home an unstoppable 25-yard screamer to pull Brazil level. Then Eder completed the comeback, audaciously flicking up the ball with his left foot before volleying it past the great Rinat Dasaev to give Brazil the win.

    What followed was some of the greatest football of the modern era. Wins against Scotland and New Zealand saw Brazil into the second group stage.

    There they defeated Argentina 3-1 with a fantastic display of football setting up a game with Italy, needing only a draw to progress to the semifinals.

    Italy had drawn all three group games in the World Cup up but defeated Argentina 2-1 in the opening game in Second Stage Group C.

    However, Brazil’s lacklustre defending and goalkeeping would haunt them as a Paolo Rossi hat-trick, ostensibly down to poor defending, saw Italy claim a 3-2 win to progress.

    For many, they remain the best Brazilian team never to win the World Cup.

    4. Spain (2008 to 2012) – Tiki-Taka Dominance

    From 2008 to 2012, Spain were undoubtedly the best team in the world and their blend of Tiki-Taka football, with Xavi and Anders Iniesta at the heart of midfield, dominated the game in Europe and across the globe.

    With Sergio Ramos and Carles Pujol at the heart of defence, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Juan Mata rotating in midfield and Fernando Torres in attack, teams could simply not get the ball from them.

    This team not only stylised Tiki-Taka, but with it they won the Euro 2008 Championship, defeating Germany 1-0 in the final and they then went on to win the 2010 World Cup, beating the Netherlands in extra time with Iniesta scoring the winner.

    They then became the only team to win three major international tournaments in a row with their success at the 2012 European Championships where they crushed Italy 4-0 in the final.

    3. Holland (1974-1978) – The era of Total Football

    Starting in 1974, Rinus Michels had a vision for how he wanted his Netherlands team to play. His creation became known as “Total Football’ and it revolutionised the game and led his Dutch team to two World Cup Finals, where they would be defeated by the hosts on both occasions.

    In 1974, the team was led by the brilliant Johan Cruyff, but alongside him were a cast of hugely talented and versatile players such as Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep, Arie Haan, Ruud Krol, the van der Kerkhoff brothers (Rene & Willy) and Rob Rensenbrink.

    On their way to the final, the 1974 team beat Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina and European duo Bulgaria and East Germany before taking on West Germany.

    They earned a penalty in the opening minute before a German player had touched the ball, which Neeskens converted, but Germany scored twice before half time and then hung on as the Dutch applied huge pressure to claim the win.

    In 1978, the Dutch team lacked Cruyff but were perhaps a stronger unit. Arie Haan and Johnny Rep scored a number of incredible goals from distance as once again, they progressed to the final where they lost in extra time to Argentina.

    It took until 1988 for the Dutch to break their international trophy hoodoo when winning the European Championships, relying on the talents of a new generation of superstars led by Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten.

    2. Brazil (1970) – Pele’s swansong

    The 1970 Brazil World Cup winning team was Pele’s swansong in international football and it was a fitting one as the legend led the team to an outstanding World Cup success in Mexico.

    An outstanding supporting cast featuring Clodoaldo, Rivelino, Tostao, Gerson, Carlos Alberto and Jairzinho provided Pele with the platform to weave his magic in the tournament.

    Incredibly, it is three of his misses that perhaps most signified Pele’s genius. In the Group Stage, he saw his header destined for the goal saved by Gordon Banks in what is known as the save of the century.

    He also had a shot from the half-way line against Czechoslovakia that went narrowly wide with the keeper beaten.

    But the best was saved until the tight semi-final with Uruguay. Having just taken the lead, Tostao played Pele in on goal and the Brazilian raced onto the through ball as the Uruguayan keeper advanced.

    In perhaps THE greatest moment of football genius ever seen, Pele got to the ball first, but instead of taking it around the keeper, he dummied the ball. The keeper had no idea what had happened as Pele scampered around to try and slot it home.

    He dragged his shot wide with two defenders getting back, one on the line, but in truth, it didn’t matter. It is THE most sublime moment of football skill you will ever see.

    The Brazil 70s team regularly top the poll of best teams ever. Perhaps they were, but there is one team that were equally dominant, brilliant and perhaps changed football into the modern game we know today.

    1. Hungary (1950-1956) – The Magnificent Magyars

    No team has come close to changing the way football was played, or been so far ahead of their main opponents, than the fantastic Hungarian team of the early to mid 1950s.

    Having lost the 1938 World Cup Final to Italy in Italy, the Hungarians had built another outstanding team in time for the 1954 World Cup Finals.

    Players such as Czibor, Hidekguti, Boszik, Kocsis, Grosics and Puskas would utterly dominate over half a decade, losing one game only over that period, winning Olympic Gold and the Pan-European Games, but falling short in the biggest ever World Cup Final upset.

    What was remarkable about this team was that it changed the way football is played, adopting a 3-2-3-2 formation and then a flexible 4-2-4 formation.

    They played a version of Total Football long before the Dutch in 1974 and they were wingless wonders long before Alf Ramsey’s England in 1966.

    At times, this Hungarian team was so far ahead of its main rivals it was embarrassing. In 1953 they came to Wembley to play an England team that had never lost to a European team in its history.

    They didn’t just beat England, they trounced them 6-3 in front of 105,000 stunned spectators.

    England wanted revenge. They could not believe that a team could beat them so easily and so just prior to the 1954 World Cup, England travelled to Budapest to face Hungary again.

    This time Hungary won 7-1 in front of 92,000 fans at the Nep Stadion. It still ranks as England’s heaviest football defeat.

    In the 1954 World Cup, they began with a 9-0 win over South Korea and then beat West Germany 8-3. 4-2 wins over super-powers Brazil and Uruguay, the World Cup holders, then followed.

    The final against West Germany was expected to be a formality. Hungary had put 8 past the Germans earlier in the tournament and duly, Hungary went 2-0 up within 8 minutes.

    However, Germany struck back twice to level after 18 minutes and despite constant Hungarian pressure, it was the Germans who scored the winner, with Helmut Rahn scoring the winner on 84 minutes.

    Hungary had a goal dubiously disallowed, an obvious penalty declined and hit the woodwork in the final few minutes as they laid siege, but Germany hung on.

    The 1956 Hungarian revolution robbed the team of a chance to win the 1958 World Cup but without doubt, for the six years from 1950 to 1956, this Hungary team was the best the world has ever seen.

    And it isn’t even close.

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