Here Are the Top 5 Football Countries in the World
Everyone knows about Brazil's footballing pedigree, but how impressive is it really with a population of 217 million? I am more impressed and interested in the smaller nations that have managed to have a sizable impact on the game despite their minuscule population. Here are my five best footballing countries, pound for pound.
The closest of all the Scandinavian countries to the mainland, Denmark also doubles as one of the most underrated footballing powers in the world. Denmark has had an incredible impact on the sport despite a population of just under 6 million. They gave us the Schmeichels, two of the best goalkeepers in football history, gave us Michael Landrup, widely considered to be the greatest Danish player ever, and in the modern day, we have Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. We are also looking at the least populated country to win the Euros, thanks to their 1992 triumph.
This country's population is smaller than some Midwestern American cities, yet they have made a massive impact on the international stage. At a population totaling an estimated 372 thousand, it is impossible to comprehend how Iceland reached the World Cup in 2018 and the Quarter Finals of the 2016 Euros after defeating a historical power, England, in the Round-of-16. Now admittedly, their success is all recent, but they warrant a spot as by far the smallest nation to have had the level of success they have had.
Portugal feels like a giant country because of the impact they have historically had in the sport, from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Deco, and Eusebio to the managers they produce like Jose Mourinho and Fernando Santos. Would you believe the Portuguese population is only 10 million? I didn't either when I first saw that. It is jaw-dropping that a country whose population only slightly surpasses London, Seoul, and New York City, has produced this many incredibly talented players.
3.8 million. That's the estimated population of Croatia. Yet, did you know that long before you heard the name Luka Modric, they had already finished third in the 1998 World Cup? In fact, since Croatia officially became an independent nation in 1991 and was admitted by FIFA in 1994, this tiny country has finished in the top 3 of three World Cups and two-Quarter Finals of the Euros. Thanks to the Dinamo Zagreb academy and others in the country, Croatia does not seem like it will stop producing world-class talents anytime soon.
Uruguay is the greatest pound-for-pound footballing nation on the planet. A tiny country of 3.5 million people sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has somehow held its own internationally. Of the eight countries to have won a World Cup, Uruguay is by a large margin the least populated, with the second least populated country still containing more than 40 million. In South America, they are tied with Brazil for the most Copa America wins with 17. And if you think a lot of this is because they racked up victories early, such as winning the first ever World Cup in 1930, consider that since 1980, only Brazil has won more Copa America trophies. All this, and I haven't even mentioned the legends of the game they've given us- Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan, Edison Cavani, Diego Godin, and more modern stars like Federico Valverde and Darwin Nunez. I don't know how they do it, but pound-for-pound, this is the best footballing nation in the world.