The best on show

Teams like Rinus Michels' Holland and the `Magic Magyars' failed to clear THE FINAL HURDLE, but in terms of overall quality they were top class. Here are the ten great teams of the World Cup.

Brazil 1970

The team that secured Brazil's third World Cup in the space of 12 years is widely regarded as one of the best units ever assembled. Defensively they were nothing special, but with the attacking capabilities of players such as Pele, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Tostao and Gerson, it was no wonder they swept all before them in Mexico.

Holland 1974

Rinus Michels' side were so accomplished they could interchange positions almost at will, a concept given the name `Total Football'. They totally outplayed the teams put in their path, crushing Bulgaria 4-1, Argentina 4-0 and beating world champions Brazil to set up a final against bitter rivals West Germany. The hosts had not touched the ball when Holland were awarded a first-minute penalty, scored by Johan Neeskens. But the Germans came back to deny the Dutch the honour of succeeding the great Brazil side of 1970 as the world's top team.

England 1970

Man for man this was arguably a better team than the one which won the World Cup four years earlier. Gordon Banks and Bobby Moore were superb at the back, while the midfield boasted Colin Bell in addition to Bobby Charlton and Alan Ball. They ran the great Brazil close in a group game in Guadalajara before a series of goalkeeping errors by Gordon Banks' deputy Peter Bonetti cost them dearly in the quarterfinals against West Germany.

Argentina 1978

They were, perhaps, fortunate to secure a place in the final of their home competition, beating Peru 6-0 when they needed to win by four goals, but in terms of overall quality they were a better side than the 1986 team which Diego Maradona steered to victory. Striker Mario Kempes finished as the tournament's top scorer, Leopoldo Luque and Ossie Ardiles provided the flair and Daniel Passarella offered defensive class, all under the guidance of forward-thinking coach Cesar Luis Menotti.

Hungary 1954

The `Magic Magyars' arrived at the 1954 finals as overwhelming favourites and 17 goals in their first two games — a 9-0 win over Korea, and an 8-3 thrashing of West Germany — suggested they would become champions. However, talisman Ferenc Puskas was injured in the brutal `Battle of Berne' quarterfinal and though he made the starting line-up for the final — once more against West Germany — he was far from fully fit and Hungary let slip a 2-0 lead to suffer a shock 3-2 defeat.

Brazil 1958

Less hyped than the 1970 Brazil model but no less deserving of recognition as one of the competition's great teams. They remain the only side so far to win the World Cup on the `away' continent and did so with a team typically oozing with flair. Garrincha and Didi were busy testing the laws of physics with their sublime balance and swerving, dipping and bending shots on goal. Mario Zagallo was a deep-lying midfielder ahead of his time and in attack Vava operated alongside a special 17-year-old named Pele.

France 1998

France's first hosting of the World Cup in 60 years coincided with a generation of players hitting their peak together. Zinedine Zidane did not have the best of tournaments but rose to the final occasion by scoring with a brace of headers. Didier Deschamps was an inspired captain and far more to his team than a simple midfield `water-carrier', as he was once disparagingly described by Eric Cantona. In Marcel Desailly, Laurent Blanc, Lilian Thuram, Bixente Lizarazu, France had as good a back four as you will ever get. Throw in promising young winger Thierry Henry and it is easy to see why Les Bleus were able to triumph on home soil.

West Germany 1974

Early on in their home competition few would have given Helmut Schon's side a prayer, having lost their opening game to East Germany while Holland's total footballers were earning rave reviews. But they improved as the tournament wore on and, with players of the calibre of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Paul Breitner, Wolfgang Overath and goalkeeper Sepp Maier, reached the final where they showed great resolve to secure their second World Cup trophy after going down by a goal in the first few minutes.

Italy 1938

Italy retained their world crown by beating Hungary 4-2 at the Parc des Princes in Paris, and the ravages of the Second World War ensured they reigned for 12 years. The inventive forward play of Giuseppe Meazza, Silvio Piola and Giovanni Ferrari provided the style to a steely line-up, led by the astute coaching of Vittorio Pozzo.

West Germany 1990

The 1990 finals were a disappointment after the Maradona-inspired high jinks of Mexico 86, but Franz Beckenbauer's side were undoubtedly the best team on show. Captain Lothar Matthaus was at his imperious best as an all-round midfielder without peer, Jurgen Kohler and Klaus Augenthaler were solid as a rock in defence, while full-back Andreas Brehme and winger Thomas Hassler provided guile from the flanks. Juergen Klinsmann's ludicrous play-acting meant many overlooked just how good a player he was, while Rudi Voeller remained dangerous in front of goal.

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