David Beckham looks on dejected
David Beckham looks on dejected


There was no denying that France was the best team in Europe in the year 2000. Yet, with seconds of the Euro 2000 final remaining, Marco Delvecchio’s header was all that stood between Italy and the European Championship trophy.

But then, Sylvain Wiltord squeezed the ball in from an improbably acute angle to equalize for France. In golden goal extra time, it would be David Trezeguet’s left foot strike past Francesco Toldo that finally clinched it. From near disappointment, France had turned it around to state the truism of their supremacy.

Not many other teams have done that.

Indeed, on the international stage, circumstances have arisen where superior sides have bottled it when they needed to prove their superiority most. Some international sides buckle under the pressure. Others run out of luck at the required moment. Beyond talent and skill, it is winning a trophy that certainly puts any side on football’s grand pantheon.

This latest series will look at such sides. Such immensely wondrous sides that have nothing in terms of tangible achievements to show for their brilliance. As such, this is an undertaking that aims to travel into the far reaches of history in the quest for such sides.

The list is endless, but we have settled for a select few. Indeed, these are not just sides that dazzled for a while – these are sides that had the capability to win something but ended up empty handed.

Part of this series is of course hypothetical – what does it mean to be capable of winning something? To answer that, this list will consider sides that had a good consistent run for some time on the international stage. Therefore, a side such as Senegal which had its annus mirabilis in 2002 will be ruled out for the simple fact that they failed to replicate such consistency in future tournaments.

And which tournaments are these to be considered? The World Cup certainly takes its place at the cornerstone. Around it is continental cups. And while various other regional tournaments exist, we thought it better not to consider them as these do little to give an indication as to true international dominance.

At the same time, the Olympic Games will not be considered because of the controversy that haunted it as to the ‘confusion’ of the terms amateur and professional between the Eastern and Western European sides.

The World Cup is the pinnacle for any international side
The World Cup is the pinnacle for any international side

While we do that, we also hope to capture sides which legitimately signalled an intention towards international supremacy. Thus, runs into latter stages of tournaments are of significant degree, and matter more than off the cuff giant-killings.

Our only regret in the compilation of this list is that we could not find records of Asian, Oceania and North American sides. As such, most of the teams are from Europe and South America – but that just shows that beyond these sides having more accessible records, they have also been dominating international football for a long time.

Balancing all this out has been a look into various decades so as to give this a more historical touch. The start point however seemed logically to be after 1930 – for that is when the World Cup came into being.

The only decade from then that misses out is the 1940’s – again logically. With half of that decade taken up by the Second World War, and the next half serving as the first steps to recovery, it served as the only decade in which there was minimal attempt to play football internationally.

Most of the research in compiling this has come from perusal of the brilliant book by Jonathan Wilson on tactics history; Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics; and from the website footballpantheon.com which is wonderfully curated by Miguel Delaney.

To all these effects, we have arrived at these teams.

With that having been said, we hope you enjoy;

Great International Teams that Never Won : Introduction

[images courtesy of zimbio]