A sport with over 4 billion ardent fans scattered about every continent in the world, football/soccer is a sport known to galvanize public interest as well as opinion. From the major big-spending leagues in Europe to the minor leagues in Africa, the emotions that trail star-studded games can be found even among matches that do not receive prominent media attention. In recent years, a wave of revolution has swept through the world of football, as certain countries known to be home to young energetic talents have begun to climb the ladder of countries that pose formidable rivalry to other major contenders. An instance that points to this obvious fact, was the emergence of Croatia as runner-up in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, to the surprise of football fans. Coming into the tournament, the Croatian national team were never seen as the favourite to even top their group, much more progress to the final of the most prestigious tournament in men’s football. In this article, we’ll review the top-20 football/soccer playing countries in the world, ranked based on standing in the FIFA World Rankings in recent years, performance in recent matches, the popularity of the sport in the country, and the emergence of football stars who have thrilled fans with their unique talents from the country.
Currently ranked 38th in the FIFA World Rankings, Algeria had an incredible outing in 2019, They grabbed a late strike to defeat the super eagles of Nigeria in what was a tough semifinal match in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) to progress to the final of Africa’s top football tournament, which they won. Stars such as Manchester City player, Riyad Mahrez and Ismaël Bennacer, help swell the rank of the team.
Runner-up in the 2019 AFCON, Senegal is currently ranked 20th in the FIFA World Rankings, the country football squad boasts of young energetic players such as Sadio Mané, Salif Sané and Kalidou Koulibaly. These players have been key to the team’s uprising in recent years. In a recent friendly with football giant, Brazil, the team tied for a 1-1 draw.
Under the leadership of head coach, Åge Hareide, Denmark ranking in the FIFA World Rankings increased to the 14th position.The 1992 European champions, had a successful stint at the 2018 FIFA World Cup until they were eliminated by a penalty shootout by the runner-up, Croatia. Players such as Christian Eriksen and Andreas Cornelius are some of the current players who have contributed to the top form of the team.
In the latest round of FIFA ranking, the Swiss national team were placed in the 13th position. The current spot they occupy in the FIFA ranking is a clear reflection of their recent performance. At the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the dream of claiming their first major International tournament was cut short in the round of 16. Hopefully, the team gets another opportunity to win their first trophy at the Euros 2020. Captain of the team, Granit Xhaka and Liverpool winger, Xherdan Shaqiri are prominent members of the squad.
Rated the 18th best national football team in the world, the Swedish had a successful outing at the 2018 World Cup where they progressed to the last eight, for the first time since 1994. Goalkeeper Robin Olsen and Manchester United defender, Victor Lindelöf are some of the players who have been instrumental to the team’s top form.
La Roja as the Chile National Football team is called is ranked the 17th best national football team in the world. In the 2015 Copa America and the 2016 Copa America Centenario, they defeated South American football giant, Argentinia, both times to emerge winner of the top South America tournament. Despite their top form, the team failed to qualify to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, a huge disappointment to her fans. Some of the team’s key players include Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.
The Mexican national team is one of the best in the world, the team which is ranked 11th in the FIFA World Rankings, have qualified to every world cup since 1994, and have progressed to the round of 16, in the last seven FIFA World Cup. The team have also won two of the most prestigious tournament in world football, the summer Olympics and the Confederation Cup. Notable members of the team include Héctor Herrera and Jorge Sánchez.
One of the most successful national team in the world, Italy national team boasts of the best talents in the world of football. Though in recent years, the team’s performance has been on the low side, it’s past achievement still speaks for its formidable rivalry. The team have won the world cup, four times, and the European Championship, once. The team finished 15th in the latest FIFA rankings. Top talents in the team include captain Leonardo Bonucci and Lorenzo Insigne.
Los Cafeteros or better still, La Tricolor, as the Columbia national squad is called, are currently ranked 8th in the FIFA World Rankings. The 2001 Copa America winner, had their best World cup outing in 2014, finishing in the quarter-final. Some of La Tricolor stars include James Rodríguez and Juan Cuadrado.
The Dutch national squad is one that boasts of young talents making waves in Europe top football leagues. The team is also home to the 2019 UEFA Best Male player, Van Dijk. The team have competed in 10 World Cup tournaments but failed to qualify for the 2018 event. According to the latest FIFA rankings, they are ranked 12th in the world. Aside from Van Dijk, the team’s talent includes, young Juventus defender, Matthijs de Ligt and Barcelona star, Frenkie de Jong.
In the latest FIFA World Rankings, Vatreni were placed at the 7th spot, moving 3 spots up from the previous ranking. The Kockasti, as the national team is often referred to, had their best outing in the FIFA World Cup in 2018, where they battled France in the final. The team’s success can be attributed to the presence of top strikers such as 2018 Best FIFA Men’s Player winner and captain of the side, Luka Modric, and vice-captain, Ivan Rakitic.
Die Roten Teufel it (The Red Devil’s), are a top contender in the world of football. The team currently occupies the number one position in the FIFA World Rankings. At the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the team defeated England to emerge bronze winners. Top talents in the team include captain, Eden Hazard, PSG defender, Thomas Meunier and goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois.
In the world of South American football, La Celeste (The Sky Blue), which is the nickname of the Uruguayan nation side, is a major contender. They have played in about 13 World Cup tournaments and have won two and also, have emerged Copa America champions on 15 occasions. They are ranked the 5th best national football side in the latest FIFA World Rankings. Stars in the squad, include, Barcelona striker, Luis Suarez, and OSG forward, Edinson Cavani.
Portugal is ranked the 6th best national football team by FIFA, in it’s latest round of ranking. The team have been prolific in recent years, winning the 2016 Euros, as well as the maiden edition of the UEFA Nations League. Key players that have contributed immensely to the success include 5 times Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Manchester City midfielder, Bernardo Silva.
Nicknamed La Furia Roja (The Red Fury), the Spanish are usually deadly and furious on the field, the team is one of the most successful national football sides in Europe. The team have been in every World Cup since 1978 and won the 2010 FIFA World Cup. They have been crowned European champions, on three occasions. They are currently ranked 8th in the FIFA World Rankings. Notable players in the team include captain Sergio Ramos and Goalkeeper, David De Gea.
Under the headship of coach, Gareth Southgate, the English national football side has been picking form. In the 2018 World Cup, the team had an impressive run until the semifinals, where they were defeated by Croatia. In the maiden edition of the UEFA Nation’s league, the team finished third. The team occupies the 4th position in the FIFA World Rankings. Key players in the English national side, includes youngster, Marcos Rashford, Raheem Sterling and captain, Harry Kane.
In international football, Germany is no doubt, one of the most successful national side, the four-time World Cup winner, surprised the world in the 2014 World Cup when they defeated hosts Brazil, 1 – 8. After conquering the World in 2014, they progressed to win the Confederations Cup, winning two of the most prestigious tournaments in international football. But in the 2018 World Cup, they finished at the bottom of the group which many tipped them to top, probably affected by the trailing curse of the champions. They are currently ranked 14th in the world. Star players in the national side include captain and goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer and forward, Timo Werner.
The reigning world champion, Les Bleus as the French national side is often referred to, is currently the 2nd best national football side according to the latest FIFA rankings. The squad is just one of the three national sides to have won the World Cup, the Confederations Cup and the Olympics. They hold two World Cup titles, two Confederations Cup, two Olympics medals and two European Championships. Key players in the team include French Wonderboy, Kylian Mbappe, Manchester United forward, Paul Pogba and Barcelona ace man, Antoine Griezmann.
La Albiceleste (The White and Sky-Blues) are just one of three national football teams to have won the three most prestigious tournaments in international football, the World Cup, the Confederations Cup and the Olympics. The team have won the World Cup on two occasions and the Confederations Cup once. They are also the most successful team in the Copa America, having won it 14 times. In recent years, the team have not won any major international tournament, but they are still major rivals in the world of football. They are ranked 9th in the FIFA World Rankings. Top players in the team include 5-time Ballon d’Or winner and captain, Lionel Messi, forwards, Sergio Agüero and Paulo Dybala.
Call them the Seleção (The National Squad) or the Esquadrão de Ouro (The Golden Squad), the Brazilian national side is the most successful national team in the major international tournament, the FIFA World Cup. The team have won the tournament, 5 times, more than any national team, and also have earned Confederations Cup glory on 4 different occasions. The team have also qualified for every edition of the world cup since it’s inaugural edition. They are third in the latest FIFA World rankings but have been in the number one spot 159 times. Seleção has also won all three of the most prestigious tournament in world football. The team have seen great football legends as part of its squad in the past, such as Pele and Ronaldo. Key members of the team include PSG star, Neymar, Liverpool goalkeeper, Allison Becker, and Liverpool forward, Roberto Firmino.
There you have it—Our power ranking of the top-20 football (soccer) playing countries in the world in 2020. Which country did you expect on this list? Please share with us in the comment section below.