FIFA World Cup

Data check: From Pele’s Brazil to Low's Germany, which was the greatest World Cup team?

Perhaps the best judgement of a team’s skill is its Elo rating. The measurement takes into account parameters like home advantage and goal difference.

Some of football’s greatest players and teams have reached Russia as the greatest sporting show on earth is about to commence.

The Fifa World Cup has thrown up many surprises, but it’s hard to compare the greatest teams across generations. Was it Brazilian Samba of the 1970 tournament, Puskas’ Hungary in 1954, or the German Mannschaft in 2014?

Which team was the greatest at the sport’s most important tournament? Perhaps the best judgement of a team’s skill is its Elo rating. The measurement, unlike the world rankings, takes into account parameters like home advantage, goal difference and even the opponent’s ability. For example, a team with high Elo rating gains little from winning against a lower-ranked team.

These ratings fluctuate a lot during the World Cup due to high-ranked teams playing each other. The Elo rating is considered a much more realistic measurement of a team’s ability.

By that measurement alone, Germany and Brazil have arguably produced the best World Cup teams and with good reason, winning nine trophies between them.

Since 1970, Brazil have been outside the top four teams only once, living up to their perennial favourites tag. Germany don’t have the same dominance across tournaments, but during their 2014 campaign, their Elo rating of 2,223 was the highest ever for a team at the World Cup.

A top Elo rating isn’t a guarantee to win either. Brazil have been considered the best team at the tournament nine times, including this year’s World Cup. They’ve converted that only five times. Germany on the other hand, have won the cup four times, but have only topped the Elo rating thrice, converting all three into wins.

Since 1986, the team with the highest Elo rating won the World Cup. Out of the last 20 tournaments, the top Elo ranked team has won 15 times. Uruguay’s triumph in 1950 is the only time a team outside the top 3 Elo ranked teams has taken home the cup.

The next successful set of teams consists of Italy, Argentina and Uruguay. All three have had fluctuating fortunes. Italy’s failure to qualify for the tournament this time around was the latest was emblematic of their slump post their 2006 win.

Uruguay are arguably one of the most volatile teams during the World Cup. They peaked during at the inaugural tournament in 1938 and scraped through to a victory in 1950.

Their continental rivals, Argentina, tasted success much later – Mario Kempes in 1978 and Diego Marradona in 1986. Oddly enough, both teams have the exact same Elo rating of 2,039, but both aren’t Argentina’s best eleven at the world cup. Lionel Messi’s 2014 team with a rating of 2,064 is considered slightly better, but only picked up the runner-up medal.

Unfortunately, this year, La Albiceleste isn’t as formidable.

For a handful of teams, there has been a single run at the World Cup that has eventually seen them lift the trophy once. England, France and Spain are always contenders and round up the top teams.

England have only reached the last four twice. Winning in 1966 and the semi-finals in 1990, but as a team their average Elo rating at the World Cup is a formidable 1,970.4, the third highest after Brazil and Germany.

The French team, on the other hand, are an anomaly. Les Bleus have wrangled top-four finishes at five World Cups, but going by their Elo alone, it wouldn’t seem likely.

A lot of France’s successful runs have been around a talisman. Just Fontaine in 1958, Michel Platini in 1982 and 1986, but their 1998 and 2006 campaigns had their strongest teams, centred around Zinedine Zidane. But despite periodic successes, France’s Elo rating ebbs and flows from the bottom to top.

The Spanish mirror World Cup form like their English counterparts. They’ve squeezed into the last four only twice, winning recently in 2010 with one of the best teams at a World Cup. According to their Elo scores, their most recent triumph is fifth best team at the World Cup.

But there are a few teams that, despite a very high rating, haven’t managed to clinch the trophy. Ferenc Puskas led Hungary was arguably the greatest team to never win a World Cup. Most recently, the Netherlands led by Robin Van Persie is sixth best World Cup team of all-time, but never lifted the trophy.

The Dutch consistently finish within the top four, but have lost all three finals they’ve made. Though their 2014 team is their best, they only made the semi-finals.

Top 10 Elo ratings at the World Cup

Team Rating Won the World Cup Year
Germany 2223
Yes 2014
Brazil 2194
Yes 1962
Hungary 2186
No 1954
Brazil 2173 Yes 1970
Spain 2165
Yes 2010
Netherlands 2154
No 2014
Brazil 2142
No 1978
Brazil 2142
? 2018
Yes 1974
Brazil 2139 Yes 1958
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”


“Like what?”


A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”




“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:


This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.