Have you ever wondered which country is the best in each sport?
To answer this question, a detailed rubric was developed to evaluate the success of men’s national teams in competitions across various team sports. The rubric awards progressively more points to teams that advance further in international tournaments. This system was then used to determine the most historically successful national team in each team sport.
GENERAL POINTS RUBRIC
16 pts – First Place
8 pts – Second Place
4 pts – 3rd / 4th Place
2 pts – Places 5 – 8
1 pts – Places 9 – 16
BEST COUNTRY IN FOOTBALL
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. Germany is another country that is very strong in football. It has won the World Cup four times, just one less than Brazil, but they have reached the final eight times, the most of any national team.
BEST COUNTRY IN BASKETBALL
Basketball originated in the United States. Its national team is widely considered to be the best in the world. Since NBA players were allowed to play in international basketball tournaments, the United States has won all the Olympic tournaments, except for in 2004. In the 1990’s, its squad, known as the “Dream Team” was especially dominant, before other countries began to catch up. It featured such greats as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony are three more stars that have contributed to the team more recently. The next most successful team, Serbia, has only won the Olympic Gold Medal once, as Yugoslavia in 1980.
THE BEST COUNTRY IN CRICKET
Australia‘s national team is undoubtedly the most successful in cricket history, having won the Cricket World Cup a record five times. The Aussies won the tournament in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2015. Glenn McGrath, one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time, helped Australia win three consecutive World Cups. The Australian team has always been known for their aggressive and dominant style of play, often intimidating their opponents with their fast bowlers and hard-hitting batsmen. India is the second most successful team, having won the Cricket World Cup in 1983 and 2011.
THE BEST COUNTRY IN ICE HOCKEY
Ice hockey originated in Canada. Its national team is widely considered to be the best in the world, having won more Olympic gold medals than any other nation. They have also won the World Cup of Hockey twice, in 2004 and 2016. In addition, they won the Canada Cup three times, in 1976, 1984, and 1987. The Canadian team has featured many hall of fame players over the years, including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Sidney Crosby. Its North American neighbor, the United States, is the next most successful national team in tournaments allowing NHL players.
THE BEST COUNTRY IN RUGBY UNION
New Zealand is the most successful nation in Rugby World Cup history, having won the tournament three times. The All Blacks, as they are known, won the inaugural tournament in 1987 and then went on to win again in 2011 and 2015. They have also finished in third place three times, in 1991, 2003, and 2019. Rugby union is considered to be New Zealand’s national sport. It has a large number of talented players and a history of innovative and exciting play. Its neighbor, Australia is also quite successful in rugby. The Wallabies have won the Rugby World Cup twice, in 1991 and 1999.
THE BEST COUNTRY IN BASEBALL
Japan is easily the most successful team in the history of the World Baseball Classic, having won the tournament on three of five occasions. They won the inaugural edition in 2006. Former American League MVP Shohei Ohtani helped the team win the most recent tournament in 2023. The team also featured many players from Japan’s baseball league. There have been few international baseball tournaments where MLB players were allowed to participate in, but if there had been it is likely that the United States would have been the best in earlier decades. However, the team has only managed to win the World Baseball Classic one out of five times.
THE BEST COUNTRY IN VOLLEYBALL
The Soviet Union team and its successor Russia have historically been the most dominant force in men’s volleyball. The team has won the Olympic gold medal four times, in 1964, 1968, 1980, and 2012. It also has four silver medals. The Soviet Union also won several FIVB World Championships, however Russia has yet to win one as an independent nation. Still it did get second place in 2002. The Soviet Union had a centralized sports system with strong government support, including funding, infrastructure, and resources. Russia has not had as much success since the breakup. Another powerhouse in men’s volleyball is Brazil. However, before 1980, the team did not have a lot of success.
THE BEST COUNTRY IN HANDBALL
Despite only winning their first world championship in 1995, France is arguably the most successful country in handball. Since the team earned the bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics, France became a powerhouse. Its national team won the Olympic gold medal three times (2008, 2012, 2020) and the World Championship six times (1995, 2001, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017). They have produced several top center backs, including Nikola Karabatic, who won world player of the year three times, and Jackson Richardson. Croatia is another excellent national team. It won the Olympic gold medal in 1996 and 2004. It also won the IHF World Championship in 2003 as well as three silver medals.
THE BEST COUNTRY IN FIELD HOCKEY
Germany won the most recent Field Hockey World Cup in 2023. They also won back to back titles in 2002 and 2006. Furthermore, the team has won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics four times (1972, 1992, 2008, and 2012). They have consistently performed well in international tournaments. After 1980, the team has only failed to make the Olympic semi-finals on one occasion. In 12 of 15 World Cups, Germany has made the semi-finals as well. Moritz Fürste and Tobias Hauke are two German players that have won the FIH Player of the Year award. Its neighbor, the Netherlands, has also had some excellent teams in the past few decades.