Friday, July 9, 2010

If Spain Win Sunday, Where Would They Rank?

By no means am I putting the cart before the horse, but 4 years ago before the final we had an interesting discussion here along the same lines. Namely, we pondered that *if* Zidane led France to victory in the 2006 World Cup, where would he rank among the all time greatest players? Obviously that did not come to pass, but it was quite an interesting discussion.

So *if* Spain win Sunday, they would be reigning European & World Champions, and would have only lost 2 of their last 60 or so competitive matches, while becoming the first team ever to lose their opening World Cup match and go on to win the tournament. Where would you put them among the all time great teams?

Off the top of my head, the all time great teams include(not necessarily in order but as a group):

Hungary 1950-1954 (sorry Netherlands, this is the best team to never win World Cup)
Uruguay 1924-1930
Brasil 1958-1962
West Germany 1972-1974
Brasil 1970
Netherlands 1970-1978
France 1998-2001

Brasil 70 has taken on a life force of it's own with regard to best team ever discussions, but these other teams all had sustained success over multiple tournaments/extended time periods, not just one (of course Brasil 70 can be viewed as the culmination of Brasil 1958-70, so no problem there). I am probably forgetting a couple, as I'm sitting in Cleveland airport at 7am after a no sleep redeye, but these are the main ones that come to mind.

Where would you put Spain? In this group? For me they would join this group. Beyond that, how would you rank these teams, or how would you group them into different echelons?


A10 said...

Italy did win back to back World Cups 1934-1938. I'm biased though. Happy travels ya "Chowdah Head".

Varun said...

Absolutely agree with Hungary, what they did to germany earlier in '54WC was incredible.

Uruguay yup 1st footballing superpower.

Brazil '70 is too much now, ppl just have formed opinion thats it.
Dutch too, for some time
Without a WC win there is that Federer and French open thing, yes but yes, could be better thingy.

Personally i rate them the best ever.
Because the kind of football they play is THE most difficult that this sport has to offer,
Because of the sheer depth and quality of the active squad and outside squad as well.
Most of all, because of 2 losses in 4 YEARS in modern day football which is at the pinnacle with regard to anytime in history.

The longevity is what makes them great not 30 days 7 matches. You can't be average/good for 4 years with the record they have, you have to be the Very Best There Ever Was.

moinllieon said...

My vote would probably end up going to that 1970 Brasil squad. As cliche as it may be, it's cliche for a reason.

A couple of nitpicks on your timeline (because that's what I do). I consider the '70 squad as a separate from the '58-'62 squad, 8 members of the '58 squad was also on the '62 squad. If you count Pele, then that's 9. I might actually put that team as the 2nd best of all time. Just crazy how good Brasil was back then. But I think Pele was the only one left by '70, hell, the left winger/midfielder in the '58-'62 team was the coach in '70 (Zagallo).

The crazy thing is that Brasil squad went from best in the world (maybe history) to behind the times by '74. Amazing how far that Dutch squad pushed the evolution of football tactics.

But looking at your teams I noticed something, West German team overlaps them: ('72-'76 vs. '74-'78). Remember that West German lost the '76 final on that famous PK shootout. That means in the 70s oversaw the peak of 3 great footballing nations. Maybe it's a case of the rest of the world catching up? When they finally did in the 80s, they cancelled each other out and nobody emerged as dominant. Consider that people consider the '82 and '86 World Cups as among the greatest ever (Platini, Zico, Socrates, Rivelino, Maradona, Gentile, Rossi). Maybe we are all short-changing the teams of that era. How else do we account for the absence of a generally acknowledged "great team" from that era? WWII accounted for the break in the 30s and 40s, but there's a huge gap from '78 to '98. Why?

At a club level, the dominance of national teams in the '70s closely followed that of particular clubs: Ajax first and then Bayern Munich. But '78 is the start of a dominant era for English clubs that lasted until the '85, which then past to Italian clubs. I wonder what happened there. I've no idea, I'm just rambling by now. Sorry about that.

TL,DR: '70 Brasil still best, followed probably by '58 Brasil. Agree with you on the Hungry side of the early 50s. As for this Spanish side? Let's wait until the final is finished before we discuss this further.