The Russian World Cup of 2018 will be the 21st iteration of this, the greatest football tournament on earth. The previous 20 have been shared by just eight teams; Brazil, naturally, lead the way with five wins and are closely followed by Germany and Italy, both of whom have four wins under their belt. Argentina and Uruguay have two apiece and the rest of the wins are shared between Spain, France and England. Divvy those results up and it stands at nine wins for teams from South America and eleven for the European sides – even enough, one might suggest.
However, a closer examination will reveal that the spread of those wins between the two regional powerhouses is somewhat skewed in recent times in favour of the European sides. The last time a South American team won was Brazil in 2002. Before that, it was Brazil again in 1994 and then Argentina in 1986. That’s three South American wins from nine tournaments played across the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and whatever you call this decade. If a South American team doesn’t win outright in Russia, that would likely make it four consecutive tournaments for European sides.
Is this statistical flim-flam or does it indicate something deeper? If the latter, might it be that European sides are becoming stronger with time whilst the reverse is true for Brazil et al? As is so often the case in many a puzzling conundrum, it could come down to money. The vast majority of the top South American players ply their trade in Europe as, in addition to the quality of the clubs, the wages are generally orders of magnitude greater than back home. Whilst this is undoubtedly detrimental to the club game in their native countries, it’s harder to make that same argument for their national teams. Lionel Messi, for example, never played a club game in Argentina but has often been the sole force dragging his national team through games and tournaments. Granted, he is utterly exceptional as a player but the point still stands.
Can the Europeans dominate in Russia? Find the best odds on the outright winners at our top bookmakers below:
The Northern/Southern Hemisphere Divide
Another school of thought has it that the impact of so many quality players from South America playing for Europe’s biggest clubs over the last number of decades has been the rising tide that has lifted the European’s boats in terms of technical skill and quality. This theory has been used as an excuse for explaining away the ills of rampant capitalism in an economic sense and is largely bunkum but might just hold some water when it comes to making sense of the current disparity in World Cup winners between the two sides of the Atlantic.
Understood in terms of the most simplistic quid pro quo situation, South American players come to Europe in search of lucrative careers which can set them up for life and European players, who rarely if ever travel the other way, learn alongside them and then transfer these skills to the national setting.
Like we said, it is simplistic and it’s possible that we’re suffering from a form of ‘recency’ bias but right or wrong, the current trend is very much in favour of the big European teams. Most markets make Brazil favourites to buck this pattern. Fail in this regard and all signs will point to European hegemony.
World Cup Winner: Brazil – 4/1 from Bet365