How it works
It is, admittedly, almost impossible to compare national teams from different eras. It is also impossible to compare aesthetics or tactics without delving into opinion. What isn’t impossible, however, is to compare the cold numbers of results and how teams fared against the opposition available to them at a given time. So, for example, Spain 2007-10 winning 49 games out of 54 as well as two major tournaments over three years is clearly more impressive than even the mighty Hungary 1951-54 winning 28 games out of 33 and no major tournaments over four years.
That’s relatively neat though. How to compare the two great Brazil sides? One beat all before them on the way to the 1970 World Cup in a glorious year. The other slipped up slightly more often but kept their class long enough to win two almost-as-wondrous World Cups between 1958 and 1962.
The key, then, in attempting to calculate the greatest international side of all time is to strike a balance between longevity and impact. As such, three main categories were chosen:
Once a side’s span was decided – depending on factors such as manager in charge, core of players or simply period of time when performances were at their peak – their success in actual tournaments was weighted and measured. Victory in the World Cup itself brought 100 points, a final appearance 80, a semi-final 65 and so on down. A European Championship win brought 90 meanwhile and Copa America 70. So, for example, France 1980-86 won Euro 84 and reached the semi-finals of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. This gave them 220 points out of a potential 290. That was then calculated as a percentage and, since 220 is 76% of 290, that side were awarded 76 points.
Dominance figures awarded:
|World Cup||Euro||Copa America||Other continental||Confed|
However, this creates the obvious problem where a team who only excelled in one tournament – such as Argentina 1978 – can claim 100 points and easily outstrip a side like France who won just as much but also excelled in tournaments aside. So, a side’s dominance figure was multiplied depending on the amount of tournaments they were involved. If two then by 1.1, if three then 1.2, if four 1.3 and so forth. So France, ultimately, ended up with a dominance figure of 91.
* Note: the Olympic games were not considered due to the fact its status has changed so often. Most obviously, communist countries were able to field their full teams as “amateurs”
Very simply, this measures the nature of performance in a tournament. Winning a World Cup with seven wins out of seven (Brazil 2002), after all, is more impressive than drawing three matches (Italy 1982). So, as with a league, three points were awarded for a victory and a point for a draw (including penalty shoot-outs). Those figures were then calculated as a percentage of the total points possible. So, in 1982, Italy won 15 out of a possible 21 giving them a score for that tournament of 71%. This was then added to their score for the Euro 80 campaign (60%) with an average obtained. So Italy 1982 ended up with an impact score of 66.
This uses the same method as the ‘impact’ figure except takes in all results – competitive and friendly – over a side’s span. West Germany got a total of 95 points from 147 available (49 games) between 1988 and 1992 so ended up with a consistency figure of 65 (65%).
The three figures were then added together.
However, given that certain sides achieved landmark milestones that only add to their legend, the following bonus points were awarded.
Bonus points awarded:
|2 World Cups in a row||20|
|World Cup, European Championship double||20|
|2 other trophies in a row||10|