The Brazil squad at the 1982 World Cup is regarded by many as the greatest team that failed to win the FIFA World Cup.
In football, winning the FIFA World Cup is seen as the ultimate achievement for any country or player. However, as it’s often the case with the round-leather game; the best team doesn’t always win.
Going through the World Cup history, there are several great sides who fell just short of winning the global mundial due to various reasons.
In this article, FootballOrbit presents you with a list of the 11 greatest teams that failed to win the World Cup.
Austria’s “Wunderteam” were widely tipped to win the 1934 FIFA World Cup after going 16 matches unbeaten in the build-up to the competition.
Wins over France and Hungary saw them face hosts, Italy, in the semi-final. But they lost 1-0 due to a suspicious refereeing decision.
Furthermore, the same referee went on to make more errors in the final, leading to speculations that Italian President, Benito Mussolini, influenced the outcome of the tournament.
Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950 and their fans had high expectations of victory.
The Brazilian team — featuring the likes of Ademir, Jair and Zizinho — ran rings around their opponents.
The 1950 World Cup didn’t have an actual “final”. A group stage format was used and the winners of this group would become world champions.
Brazil had smashed Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1 on their way to the last match and only needed a draw vs Uruguay to win the title.
The last game was played at a packed Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Everything was going to plan as Friaca put Brazil ahead.
But Brazil’s inability to defend saw Uruguay win 2-1 courtesy of strikes from Juan Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia.
Uruguay secured an unlikely victory that became one of the greatest upsets in FIFA World Cup history.
The match was named “Maracanazo” as Brazil failed to win the FIFA World Cup in its first attempt.
Perhaps the greatest team that failed to win the World Cup; the Hungarian side of the 1950s were the best national team in the world then.
The Golden Generation team — known as the ‘‘Magical Magyars” — boasted the likes of Ferenc Puskas, Nandor Hidegkuti, Sandor Kocsis, Zoltan Czibor and Jozsef Bozsik
They bamboozled opponents with their fluid movement and passing football.
Hungary went on a four-year 36-match unbeaten run between 1950 and 1954. In between, they won gold at the 1952 Olympics.
They were expected to win the 1954 World Cup, and started the tournament in huge fashion — crushing South Korea 9-0 and West Germany 8-3 in the group stage.
Brazil were eliminated 4-2 in the quarter-final. In the semi-final against defending champions Uruguay, the Hungarians also romped to a 4-2 victory.
The final against West Germany was expected to be a walk over for Hungary as they had already scored 25 goals in the tournament!
In the final, Hungary deservedly took a 2-0 lead and looked set to win their first ever World Cup.
However, West Germany fought back and won 3-2 in a game that would be dubbed “The Miracle of Bern”.
The Hungarian national team has never been the same since.
The French team at the 1958 World Cup became famous for Just Fontaine — who 13 goals in the tournament!!!
France also had a very brilliant playmaker in Raymond Kopa — who had been named Young Player of the Tournament four years earlier.
After thrashing Paraguay and Northern Ireland, France faced Brazil (led by Pele) in the semi-final.
But Brazil run riot with a 5-2 victory that included a hat-trick from Pele.
France eventually settled for 3rd place after beating West Germany 6-3 in the play-off.
Raymond Kopa was named as the Best Player of the Tournament.
The 1966 World Cup Portugal team heavily comprised of Benfica players.
Benfica was one of the greatest club sides of that era, winning the European Cup (now UEFA Champions League) consecutively in 1961 and 1962
Furthermore, the team was built around Eusebio — the world’s finest striker then. He eventually emerged as the tournament’s top goalscorer with 9 goals.
In the group stages, Portugal beat a Brazil team containing Pele 3-1, and famously came from 3 goals down to beat North Korea 5-3.
But they surprisingly got eliminated by hosts, England, in the semi-final after a 2-1 defeat.
The great Eusebio never played in a World Cup final. It took another 20 years for Portugal to qualify for another FIFA World Cup.
Poland was the best team at the 1974 World Cup. They beat Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Sweden, Yugoslavia and Haiti but didn’t even reach the final!!
Inspired by captain Kazik Deyna and eventual Golden Boot winner Grzegorz Lato; Poland won 6 matches, scored 16 goals and conceded just 5.
They won their opening round group with maximum points ahead of Argentina, Italy and Haiti.
Poland continued their impressive form into the second group stage, from which the group winner would go straight to the World Cup final.
Victories over Sweden and Yugoslavia meant that Poland sat level with hosts, West Germany, with the decisive game to play.
In the decisive match, Gerd Muller scored a late goal for West Germany to break Polish hearts.
Poland still managed 3rd place after defeating Brazil. The team returned home as heroes after exceeding expectations.
Netherlands (1974 & 1978)
Netherlands are famous for being “nearly men” in football. They have reached 3 FIFA World Cup finals — losing all!!!
Their Golden Generation team reached successive finals in 1974 and 1978.
Led by Johan Cruyff, the Dutch wowed the world with their “Total Football” style of play. The pattern is about passing the ball tiki-taka and interchanging positions.
In 1974, they breezed through to the final — thrashing Argentina 4-0 and defending champions Brazil 2-0 along the way.
Netherlands were up against West Germany in the final.
A Johan Neeskens penalty in the 2nd minute gave them the lead — before the Germans had even touched the ball!
But Netherlands somehow lost 2-1 to West Germany.
In 1978, the same squad returned; ready for revenge and reached the final again.
This time against hosts, Argentina. The final match went into extra-time before Argentina eventually won 3-1.
It was a sad end for that great Dutch team, who had impressed fans with their beautiful brand of football.
No nation is more synonymous with the FIFA World Cup than Brazil. The Seleção have won the tournament a record five times and have produced some of its greatest players.
Many still believe that the Brazil squad at the 1982 World Cup was the best Brazilian team of all time.
It’s very difficult to disagree. Yet, the squad did not win the World Cup; they didn’t even reach the semifinal.
Brazil waltzed through the first group phase of the 1982 tournament in Spain, topping their table with maximum points and 10 goals scored.
Furthermore, they thumped rivals Argentina 3-1 in their opening fixture of the second group stage.
However, their defensive deficiencies were exposed in their quarterfinal match against Italy.
Paolo Rossi — without a single goal at the tournament before the match — bagged an hat-trick that ended the Brazilian dream in a 3-2 win for Italy.
Italy went on to win the tournament, with Rossi emerging as top scorer.
Before France had Zinedine Zidane as their superstar, there was a certain Michel Platini.
The French national team of the 1980s was exceptional. It had the likes of Platini, Tigana, Fernandez and Giresse.
Furthermore, they played open attacking football that overwhelmed their opponents.
At the 1986 FIFA World Cup, France were set up to continue from where they had left off in 1984 when they clinched the European Championships
They advanced from their group after 1-0 wins over Hungary and Canada and a 1-1 draw with the Soviet Union.
They knocked out defending champions Italy in the second round with a 2-0 win. In the quarterfinal, France knocked out Brazil on penalties in a pulsating match.
They were highly tipped to beat West Germany in the semi-finals to reach their first ever World Cup final.
However, they lost 2-0 to West Germany and had to be content with third place after beating Belgium.
Italy desperately wanted to win the FIFA World Cup on home soil in 1990.
With Serie A the dominant force in European football, the Azzurri team was packed with talent in the likes of Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Roberto Baggio and Salvatore Schillaci — who won the Golden Boot with 6 goals.
The Italians did what they do best by defending resolutely throughout the tournament.
Four 1-0 wins and a 2-0 win over Urugauay saw them reached the semi-final to face Diego Maradona’s Argentina.
The Italians took the lead but Argentina equalised and eventually triumphed on penalties.
Belgium’s current Golden Generation of players will be remembered as one of the greatest teams that failed to win the FIFA World Cup.
Heading into the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Belgium led the FIFA world rankings as the No. 1 team in the world.
At the tournament, they proved superior to their opponents in the group stage.
Furthermore, the Red Devils showed mettle to come from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 in the last 16.
They eliminated Brazil in the quarter-finals, and were poised to win the World Cup for the first time ever.
However, they suffered a humbling 1-0 defeat to eventual champions, France, in the semi-final.