Country Performance Index

World Cup Story Country Index

The question of which country has been the best over the history of the World Cup is a natural one to ask and most people confidently state that this is Brazil. It seems obvious, especially as Brazil have won more World Cups than any other country, but the question is actually more complex; not all World Cups are equal and neither are the performances delivered to win them.


There are two factors in particular we must analyse to determine a fair index, namely the degree of difficulty and the manner of performance.


Degree of difficulty does not relate to how hard a ‘group of death’ might be, which remains subjective. This is about the format of the World Cup and the geography. In the early years, the winning country only needed to play 4 games to lift the trophy, and in 1930 and 1950 there were only 13 entrants to the tournament. By 1998 the tournament had expanded to 32 teams and from 1974 onwards a winning nation faced 7 matches in a tournament, with 4 of these being a straight knockout from 1986. It has become harder to the win the World Cup. Added to this is the geographic element. 6 of the 8 teams to win the World Cup have a win on home territory. Indeed England and France have only won at home. Even Italy, with 4 wins, have achieved this in the relatively familiar territories of Italy, France, Spain and Germany. Contrast this with Brazil, whose 5 wins have all been away from home in such diverse places as Sweden, Chile, Mexico, USA and Japan. It most certainly has not been a level playing field for World Cup winners.


Winning and winning well is something we all like. There should be no debate as to who is the best team after a World Cup, but sometimes there is. In 1970, when the wonderful Brazil team showed us the beautiful game, there was no doubt at all that they were the best team. They won the tournament with a 100% win record, did not need extra time in the knockout stages, during which they outscored their opponents by 11 goals to 4. However, in the 2010 world cup, Spain managed to win despite only scoring 8 goals in 7 matches, including winning all their knockout matches 1-0, and losing to a very ordinary Swiss team in the group. Despite being a win in an away continent, it would be unfair to measure this performance as the equal of Brazil’s in 1970.


The intention of this index is not only to compare World Cup winners, but also to measure each participating country’s performance throughout World Cup history. The above principles on performance should apply to all teams. Teams winning well should be recognized for that. Teams losing narrowly should have some compensation for their effort, for instance for group games won or drawn, or for taking knockout matches into extra time or penalties.

Here is a summary of the results

It may be a surprise that the Brazil team of 2002 gets the most points. This team has always been considered quite ordinary, but actually won in an away continent and won well, with an overall goals record of 18-4 and did not require extra time in any match.


YearWorld Cup WinnerIndexRankHost nation
2010Spain7611South Africa
1990W Germany856Italy
1974W Germany7512W Germany
1954W Germany7013Switzerland

Highlights would be:

  • When Brazil win, they win well and to a high degree of difficulty, ie winning in an away continent with comfortable score lines
  • The best performance in a home world cup was France in 1998, with a 100% record albeit with some difficulty in the knockout stages
  • Early world cups suffer from the format whereby fewer games were played
  • England fare quite poorly not surprisingly, winning in quite dull style at home; although the West Germany and Argentina wins in 1970s fare roughly the same

The overall scores for each country and their overall ranking through World Cup history can be found on each country’s report card.

Rules for the Index:

  • Group matches – Round 1:
    • 5 points for a draw
    • 10 points for a win
  • Group matches – Round 2:
    • 6 points for a draw
    • 12 points for a win
  • Knockout matches:
    • 6 points for a loss after extra time
    • 8 points for loss after penalties
    • 10 points for a win after extra time or penalties
    • 12 points for a win in 90 minutes
    • 15 points for a win in 90 minutes by at least 2 goals
  • Goals per game and goal difference bonus over the tournament
    • Up to 5 points bonus for goals per game over the tournament
    • Up to 5 points bonus goal difference per gameover the tournament
  • World cup winner’s bonus
    • 5 points for winning at home
    • 10 points for winning away from home
    • 15 points for winning in an away continent if it is South America or Europe

Note: Playoffs and replays do not count as separate matches

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