Watching England take on Algeria last night was an effort to stay awake. And in order to stay awake, I decided to do some basic research to find out as to who have been the best European teams in major tournaments for the last 20 years. I took 1990 as I cut off because 1990 World Cup was the first one I ever watched. And I have considered both World Cups and European Championships for this exercise as I believe the Euros are played at almost as good a standard as the World Cup.
The point scoring system that I have used is as below
And after that it was just a task of fitting the results of the teams into a box to come up with totals to find out which have been the best teams in Europe. And the results are below (Click to see the entire table)
A summary of the results is here below:
And the results clearly show that Germany has been the best European team of the last two decades. They were clearly the dominant team of the nineties - head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the countries. The Netherlands coming a distant second. However there has been no such dominant team in the noughties - the Italians coming marginally ahead with 27 points over Germany, France and Portugal - all of whom have 26 points.
And so the best 3 teams from Europe over the last two decades have been - Germany -64 points, Italy - 47 points and France - 44 points. Netherlands, inspite of not having won any World Cup or Euro in this period are a respectable fourth with 42 points. England (31 points) struggle to come in 6th place, just ahead of Portugal (30 points). Spain, perennial under-achievers (like the English in fact) - jump into 5th spot - thanks to their Euro 2008 win.
I think this gives a sense of perspective when we call some teams as big teams. Clearly Germany and Italy are the 2 teams from Europe which have over the years, including the last two decades, done remarkably well. France (1998-2000), Spain (2008 - 2010 ?) and Portugal (2004-2008), underachievers for long, all have had purple patches during the last two decades, possibly because of having their all time greatest squads being assembled in this period. Portugal of course can be debatable as their so called Golden generation was supposed to be playing in the 1990s, but once they started qualifying for these big tournaments consistentely in 2000, they have done quite well for themselves. While the all time greatest Dutch teams have been in the 1970s and 1980s, they have been fairly consistent in these big tournaments, thanks to their individual talents, without really cracking it big yet. I, for one, am hoping that 2010 is the year for the Netherlands.
And where does that leave England in the midst. Considering all the hype and attention that they garner, thanks to the Premier League, England have been largely disappointing in major tournaments. And with 2 draws in 2 games so far, things are looking grim for them once again.
This blog will be updated with the results of the 2010 World Cup and it will be interesting to see which European team goes the furthest in this year's edition.