| Brazil | China | Denmark | England | France | Germany | Italy | Mexico | Nigeria | Portugal | Scotland | Spain |
Brazil are arguably the most famous team in international football. With a record five FIFA World Cup titles and scorers of ‘the perfect goal’ in the 1970 FIFA World Cup final, they are known for playing an attacking, fluid, flowing Samba-style of football. Brazil has produced some of the greatest and most exciting players ever to have graced the game, such as Pele, Garincha, Socrates, Zico, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar, the list goes on and on and on. So good was the Brazil team of the 60s and 70s it was said that “os Ingleses o inventaram, os Brasileiros o aperfeiçoaram” (“The English invented it, the Brazilians perfected it”).
In 2002, China qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first and only time so far in their history. Their best accomplishments on a continental front was in 1984 and 2004 when they reached the final of the AFC Asian Cup. With the creation of the Chinese Super League it is expected it is only a matter of time before they become a football superpower and a force in international football.
Until 1971 only amateurs were allowed to play for the Danish national team, meaning they did little on the international stage. Since then, they have given the game some world-class names who have played important roles for clubs around Europe. Their greatest achievement by far was their surprise success at the UEFA European Championship in 1992, after replacing Yugoslavia at the last minute. The beat both the reigning European champions Holland and the world champions Germany on the way to the finest moment in Danish football history.
Regarded as the birthplace of the beautiful game, England are one of the heavyweights of international football. Having played in the first official international football match against Scotland in 1872, England are a team steeped in great history and tradition. Despite this, they have amazingly only won one FIFA World Cup, which was back in 1966 on home soil. Having produced some of the most famous names in world football, England are known for their physical, quick and direct style of play. With fans who have a passion and loyalty that is rivalled by few, England are well supported wherever they go around the world.
France had success in the 1980s winning the 1984 UEFA European Championship, and were one of the most exciting teams in Europe at the time. So impressive was the French style of play they earned the nickname the “Brazilians of Europe”. The opening of the national centre for football in Clairefontaine in the late 80s proved to be a turning point in French football. After a string of bad performances in the early 90s, it was graduates from this centre that played a pivotal role in France’s first FIFA World Cup win in 1998, followed by the European Championship triumph two years later.
Traditionally defined by an organised, efficient and strong style of play, Germany are one of the most successful nations in world football. Regularly reaching the final stages of major tournaments, Germany have four FIFA World Cup titles and a record three UEFA European Championships. Having continuously produced players of the highest calibre, Germany are and always will be a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.
Simply one of the most consistent and successful teams in football, Italy have won four FIFA World Cups and a UEFA European Championship. Traditionally shaped by a strong emphasis on a solid defence, Italian teams are notorious for being difficult to break down, but being very elegant and skilful on the ball. The Italians have produced some of the greatest defenders of all time, while many of their forward-thinking players are among the very best to ever have played the game.
Mexico have hosted the FIFA World Cup on two occasions, most recently in 1986 where they reached the quarter-finals. Over the years they become a mainstay of the major tournaments, having qualified for the last six consecutive World Cups, making them one of only six teams to do so. Their greatest success came in 1999 when they won the FIFA Confederations Cup, beating the likes of Brazil on the way to victory. Boasting a record ten CONCACAF Gold Cup wins, they are now one of the most consistent teams in the Americas.
In April 1994, Nigeria climbed to fifth in the FIFA World Rankings, the highest position an African team has ever reached. This was also the same year they won the Africa Cup of Nations and qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time. Boasting exciting and talented players, Nigeria continued to grow their status as one of Africa’s major football nations and won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games. However, in recent years they have not quite lived up to those standards on the world stage, but did enjoy an impressive victory in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Their greatest achievement was as recent as 2016 – a historic win over France to claim the UEFA European Championship and finally lift their first major title. Portugal are now no longer considered the greatest football nation never to have won a major tournament. Having produced a host of world-class footballers, their recent sides have at times been electrifying, based around their sensational attacking talents of stars including the current World Player of the Year – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Scotland, along with England are the oldest international team having played in the first international fixture in 1872. The 70s and 80s provided what would be the glory years for Scottish football, qualifying for five consecutive World Cups. During this period there was an influx of exciting Scottish talent into the English game, many would become legends as they got their hands on major European trophies. Recent years have not been as kind for Scotland, having failed to qualify for a major tournament since 1998. Scotland’s Tartan Army of fans are among the most passionate and devoted in the world of sport, following their team everywhere around the globe.
Spain were once viewed as one of the nearly-men of world football, but this all changed in 2008 – and how. After winning the UEFA European Championship they set off on the path of dominating international football with one of the best teams to ever take to a football field. With their ‘tiki-taka’ approach, Spain would become world champions in South Africa in 2010 and two years later were the first nation to retain the European crown, a period of superiority that included a remarkable 35-game unbeaten run – a record they share with the Brazil team of the mid-90s.