|World's Best Soccer Teams|
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 00:00Written by Simon Wright
Football (soccer) is the world's most popular team sport and is played across the globe both at international and domestic level. Since its creation, in 1848, there have been some fantastic teams which makes it particularly hard to single out just a few.
Nevertheless, I will attempt to do so and hopefully you will agree with my choices!
1. Brazil's 1970 World Cup winning team:
Brazil have won the World Cup more times than any other nation and hold a special place in the hearts of many football fans. Going into the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Brazil were trying to regain the trophy, having seen England steal their crown in 1966. Brazil were spearheaded by star striker Pele who many consider to have been the greatest player ever. Pele had won the World Cup as a precocious teenager in 1958 and again in 1962, so was looking for an incredible third win to sign off from international football.
Brazil were not just a one-man team, however. Whereas Diego Maradona almost single-handedly inspired Argentina to victory in 1986, Pele was augmented by an immensely powerful supporting cast in 1970. Names like Rivelino, Gerson, Jairzinho, Tostao and marauding fullback Carlos Alberto meant that this was an preposterously talented team, even by Brazil's high standards. Sometimes, though, it's not enough to be the best. Brazil's 1982 team is one of the best that I've ever seen but fell to a Paolo Rossi inspired Italy. The thing that elevates Brazil's 1970 team to such heights is that they played great football and managed to win the tournament. They also signed off with one of the finest ever displays of football brilliance, hammering a strong Italian team 4-1 in the final. Pele, Gerson, and Jairzinho scored to put Brazil in command at 3-1 and then Pele set up Carlos Alberto for a fantastic fourth goal that has endlessly been repeated subsequently and is considered one of the greatest World Cup goals of all time. Italy are a nation that are renowned for their defensive qualities but they had been ripped apart by a superior team. The success of Brazil's 1970 team goes far beyond the mere winning of a trophy. It also sets a benchmark for other teams to aspire towards and shows why football has been described as the beautiful game.
2. Real Madrid 1956 1960
Real Madrid have been the most successful club in terms of winning the prestigious Champions Cup; a trophy that has now been re-branded as the Champions League. Madrid won the competition five years in a row from 1956 to 1960, creating a spell-binding period of dominance that has yet to be matched. Madrid in their all white strip featured some of the cream of world talent (in an era when teams tended to be much less multi national) and their stars included Argentina's Alfredo Di Stefano and Hungary's plump midfield magician, Ferenc Puskas.
Di Stefano, incredibly, managed to score in each of Real's five finals and this included a hattrick in a 7-3 win against top German team, Eintracht Frankfurt, in 1960. However, Puskas managed to out-do him in that 1960 final, scoring Real's other four goals!
Madrid's dominance in the European Cup during this period is the main feature that sets them out as one of the greatest football teams of all time. They backed up this success by winning their domestic Spanish league in 1954, 1955, 1957, and 1958. They also, like the Brazil 1970 team, played in a stylish attacking manner, scoring lots of goals. Looking at the scores in those five European triumphs (4-3, 2-0, 3-2, 2-0, 7-3) demonstrates the goal threat that they possessed!
3. Liverpool 1976 1984
Both the Brazil 1970 side and the great Real Madrid team of the Fifties are regarded as true greats in the history of football. However, they were both before my time, so I wanted to include a team from more recent years that I had actually seen play. Admittedly, I only remember Liverpool from the late 1970s but their period of greatness spanned a decade, starting with the great Bill Shankly as manager and continuing under Bill Paisley's leadership.
Liverpool were as dominant in the Seventies and early Eighties as Man Utd were in the Nineties. However, their four European Cup triumphs trumps Man Utd's two wins and their team was put together with much less money. Whilst my Brazil and Real Madrid picks represent teams that oozed with attacking adventure and individual artistry, Liverpool's success was based on true teamwork. They had an excellent goalkeeper, a solid defence, an industrious and skilful midfield and (in the likes of Dalglish and Rush) the best attack in England.
As a young Arsenal fan I used to find it frustrating how consistent and dominant Liverpool were but you had to admire how good they were. Liverpool won the European Cup in 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1984. This made them, by far, the most successful club team in Europe during this period. Domestically, they won the league in 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, and 1984. It's worth remembering that there wasn't the same divide between the haves and the have-nots during this period. The huge TV revenues that have come into the game in recent years had not yet happened so smaller teams such as Aston Villa, Ipswich and Nottingham Forest were able to compete against the likes of Man Utd, Arsenal and Spurs. However, no-one could get close to the levels that Liverpool routinely reached.
Football is all about opinions and there will be many who will disagree with my three picks. I'm sure there will be plenty of people who would want to find a place for the great AC Milan team from the late Eighties, or Alex Ferguson's Man Utd team. At international level, a case could be made for Germany's team in the 1970s, or maybe those who worship style over results might find a place for the Dutch team from the 1970s or the dazzling Hungarian team from the Fifties.
Where there can be little debate, however, is that football continues to create drama that draws millions of people to becoming life-long fans. It's interesting to delve back through the history books and see the stars and the teams that defined various eras but we can also look forward to many more great teams emerging in future years.