In the near 80-year history of the World Cup, just three nations have dominated the event. Between them, Brazil, Germany and Italy have won 12 of the 18 tournaments to date, including seven of the last ten. Collectively, the three have been runners up on eight occasions, meaning that at least one of these countries has been present in all but two World Cup finals.
A pattern of periods in which each has been at their most productive is also distinct. Between 1958 and 1970, Brazil alone were victorious three times. From 1974 to 1990, Germany and Italy secured three trophies while in of the four finals from 1994 to 2006, Brazil and Italy accounted for a further three wins. Of the 76 nations who have ever made it to a World Cup, why just three have been so triumphant can perhaps provide an indicator for future successes.
The production of great players is an obvious pre-requisite. Brazil (6.4 to win in South Africa, 3.2 to reach the final) have arguably had the most formidable conveyor belt of world-class footballers in the last 60 years. From Pele and Garrincha who tasted success first in 1958, to Jairzinho and Rivelino in 1970 and from Romario in 1994 to Ronaldinho in 2006. With most Brazilian players born into poverty – and all lived under a dictatorship during the 1970s – football provided an escape and a freedom to enact their ‘beautiful game’.
Appropriately, the bright yellow shirts adopted in the 1950s led initially to an equivalent vibrancy on the pitch then ultimately to the glittering gold of the World Cup trophy. But over-riding all, perhaps, was the opportunity for this long-time developing nation to excel in at least one area over the traditional political and economic powers in Europe.
Such patriotic unity can also be attributed to the ascendancy of Germany (15.5 to win next summer, 5.6 to reach the final) and Italy in this competition.
Each country was left devastated following the Second World War and one way of restoring national pride was on the football field. Indeed, it seems that achievement in the face of adversity is a common bond between Germany and Italy. Both developed a defensive style of play in the post-war period, the Germans focusing on the efficient break up of play and counter-attack and the Italians on the ‘Catenaccio’ suffocation of the opposition forward line.
Germany’s wins in 1954 and 1974 both came against technically superior sides who played a much-admired style of football – the ‘Magnificent Magyars’ of Hungary and the ‘Total Football’ of the Netherlands.
Italy’s two most recent successes immediately followed domestic controversy in Serie A – the 1982 match-fixing and betting allegations that included soon-to-be star, Paolo Rossi, and the 2006 ‘Calciopoli’ scandal. When under pressure, it seems, the two nations rise to the challenge and find a collective mental strength and fierce determination to prove doubters and critics wrong.
With each habit-forming victory grows the belief that their team is the best and psychologically Brazil, Germany and Italy (14.5 to win in 2010, 6.8 to reach the final) go into tournaments confident that it is their destiny to win, while most others are beaten before a ball is even kicked.
Another significant factor is the performance of a nation’s club sides in international competition. In 28 seasons from 1966 to 1994, a German or Italian side featured in the European Cup final on 19 occasions and the UEFA Cup final 15 times. Between them during this period, Germany and Italy won three of the eight World Cup finals and were runners up five times, either side missing from a World Cup final only once in 1978.
The 1990s saw an exodus of Brazilian talent to the elite European leagues and now virtually all internationals are based on the continent. Providing mutual benefit for European clubs and the national side, Brazil ended the barren years of the 70s and 80s in 1994.
Despite the freedom of movement players enjoy worldwide, it can still be said that the performance of club sides will affect the outcome of the World Cup. 2009 Champions League winners, Barcelona, boast five members of 2010 tournament favourites, Spain 5.7. But having only once ever made the semi-finals, and no European nation having won a World Cup outside of its own continent, the smart money should probably be on the usual samba suspects.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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