Is Brazil or Germany the most successful nation at the FIFA World Cup? A rubric was developed to determine which team has been the most historically successful. The points rubric awards progressively more points the further a national team went in the playoffs. The results suggest that both teams could make a good argument, since their scores are extremely close.
16 pts – World Cup winner
8 pts – Second Place
4 pts – Reached final 4 teams
2 pts – Reached final 8 teams
1 pts – Reached final 16 teams
(This only counts teams that played a knock-out game or reached the 2nd round of games)
TOP 5 MOST SUCCESSFUL NATIONS
1. BRAZIL – 128 pts.
Brazil has won the World Cup five times, the most of any country. It has had relatively consistent success throughout the decades. However, it has been awhile since the team’s last win back in 2002, where it was lead by Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho. The national team has also been second place twice and third place twice. Interestingly enough, despite hosting the World Cup twice, it never became champions on home soil.
2. GERMANY – 125 pts.
Although the German men have won the World Cup four times, one less than Brazil, they have reached the World Cup final eight times, the most of any national team. Germany also has the most third place finishes, with four. Their most recent win came in 2014, ironically on Brazilian soil. However, in the last two World Cups (2018 and 2022), Germany’s team did not even make it out of the group stage.
3. ITALY – 92 pts.
Like Germany, Italy has also won the World Cup four times, but it has had less consistant success. The team won the first two World Cups held in Europe, in 1934 and 1938. Their most recent win was in 2006 in an overtime victory against France. However since then the team has failed to make it out of the group stage of the tournament. The situation has gone from bad to worse, as the Italian national team did not even qualify for the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.
4. ARGENTINA – 86 pts.
The Argentinians won the World Cup in 1978, 1986, and most recently in 2022. Argentina also were runners-up three times, most recently in 2014, when they were defeated by the Germans in the final. However, prior to 1970’s, the national team was not especially successful at the World Cup. The big problem is that they did not even play in four of the nine tournaments, for a variety of reasons.
5. France – 65 pts.
After Argentina, the drop off is pretty large. The French team has only recently become elite. They won their first World Cup on won soil in 1998. They later earned a second place finish in 2006. With the help of star Kylian Mbappé, France won yet again in 2018 and earned second place in 2022. Before 1998, France actually struggled to qualify for the tournament, missing out five different times.
For a the full table of all national teams ranked and a breakdown of success by each World Cup see: