Succeeding in international football is way more complicated than people tend to think, as you need to have the right players at the right level and moment in order to win a major trophy. However, in more than occasion, this hasn’t been enough for many teams to accomplish big things and those squads have been remembered as failed golden generations.
Football is about actuality, but sometimes, no matter how good a team is, there are several factors that can make them lose games and even entire tournaments that looked completely in their favor. This time we’re going to take a look at very talented teams that had everything to win, but failing at it, sometimes more than once.
These are the 10 golden generations that never won a title.
Honorable Mention: Switzerland (2006)
10. Romania (1994)
This team surprised everybody back in 1994 when they played at a great form in the FIFA World Cup. Led by players like Gheorghe Hagi, Dan Petrescu, and Dorinel Munteanu, Romania surprised everybody on their way to the quarter-finals, defeating one of the favorites to the tournament, Colombia, and finishing first in their group. They were knocked out in quarter-finals by Sweden, leaving a good memory in that tournament.
Seeing how good they played in that competition, Romania landed in France four years later expected to improve the things they did in the prior World Cup, but that time they got eliminated by Croatia in the last-16 round. Their last chance to win a major tournament arrived in 2000 when they played the EURO, qualified to the second round in a group shared with England and Germany but eventual runners-up Italy ended their hopes in quarter-finals, finishing their participation in the tournament and the best moment of the Romanian national team in history.
9. Ghana (2010)
When things weren’t going very well with African football, an internationally-unknown team showed up and left everybody shocked with their participation in the 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany. Players like John Mensah, Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah, and Asamoah Gyan helped the Black Starts to take the world by storm, qualifying to the 2006 round of 16 where Brazil took care of them.
Things looked bright for them, and added to the fact that the U20 team won the World Cup in 2009, everything pointed out that these guys were about to stun everybody once again. They did improve their participation and got to the quarter-finals, but Uruguay beat them via a penalty shoot-out after a dramatic game. After that, that generation went downhill and right now they aren’t nearly the same squad they used to be.
8. Mexico (2010s)
Back in 2005, the U17 Mexican national side achieved one of the biggest accomplishments in the history of football in that country; they won the World Cup of the category in a great fashion, trashing Brazil by 3-0 in the final and earning the attention and recognition from everybody.
This generation was expected to take Mexico to compete for important things and change their history forever, but none of the players that were part of that team could live up to the expectations. Giovanni Dos Santos and Carlos Vela, among others, were expected to change the history of Mexican football forever, but they never could do so, wasting a group of talented players who didn’t do any special to be considered great.
7. England (2000s)
Albeit England is regarded as one of the best national teams in football history, the Three Lions haven’t been able to win more than one FIFA World Cup, which was hosted by them, back in 1966. After years of poor performances in tournaments, the beginning of the 21st century looked like the perfect time for the English to change their luck.
Players like David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and more were hoped to lead this team to take it all and start winning trophies as soon as possible. However, that wasn’t the case since they always counted with great players within their ranks but just when tournaments started, the team seemed to vanish. They got eliminated in two FIFA World Cup in the same round, quarter-finals, by Brazil (2002) and Portugal (2006), same result they had in the 2004 EURO, where the Lusitanians beat the English via a penalty shoot-out.
The last chance for this team to finally proof they were capable of winning something came in the 2008 UEFA Euro, a tournament that England didn’t qualify.
6. Colombia (1994)
Colombia had had very bad years following his participation in the 1962 World Cup, but at the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s, the South American country collected the right talent to become a powerhouse, or at least be considered a dark horse, in the football world. Los Cafeteros assembled a team composed of the likes of Carlos Valderrama, Rene Higuita, Andres Escobar and others and began their journey to qualify to the 1994 World Cup.
They made it to the tournament in a great fashion, earning the tag of favorites when they beat Argentina as a visitor, with a 0-5 result in the qualifiers. Sadly for them, they couldn’t get past the group stage in the U.S. and things were only downhill for the Colombians from that point. The following tournament, only a few players of the golden generation were still part of the squad and Colombia didn’t have much to do in France, where they were unable to get past the group stage once again.
5. Portugal (2004-2006)
Despite the fact that they had a great generation in the 60s led by Eusebio and that they won the EURO a couple of years ago against France, in France, nobody doubts that the generation of players that Portugal had between 2004 and 2006 is the best in the history of the country. Players like Luis Figo, Rui Costa, and a young Cristiano Ronaldo had everything on their side to win the Eurocup in 2004, which was held by none other than themselves.
They were arguably the team with the most entertaining style of play in that tournament alongside the Czech Republic, but just like the Czechs, they couldn’t beat Greece, who went to become the champions of the tournament defeating Portugal in the inaugural and the final game of the tournament.
Two years later, the Lusitanians landed in Germany with expectations to compete for the WC, but Zinedine Zidane and his France didn’t allow them to reach their goal, ending the run of the golden generation and the last chance they had to win a big tournament.
4. Yugoslavia (1992)
This one is odd because, maybe if the events that took place in 1992 never happened, or if they happened a few months later, this team would have won the EURO instead of the surprising Denmark, which curiously landed there to replace them. A Yugoslavia national side composed of players like Davor Suker, Robert Prosinecki, and Predrag Mijatovic were set to dominate Europe and take the trophy back home after finishing the qualifiers unbeaten.
Unfortunately, the conflicts that the country was living back in the time made them get expelled from the tournament only a few days before the beginning of it. The situation was so serious that even the players knew that was the end of that team; it eventually happened and every player went on to play with a different squad, leaving fans with the desire of watching probably one of the best rosters ever assembled in European football.
3. Hungary (1954)
Albeit they had good tournaments and actually managed to win a couple of Olympic gold medals, the Hungary national team will always remember the day they had the World Cup in their hands and let it slip in front of a completely disadvantage German side. The year was 1954 and the Hungarians landed to the World Cup as the best squad in the world without any hesitation. Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis were their biggest figures and the ones expected to give their country its first WC win.
They had a great tournament and got to the final without any serious competition, but when the big game arrived, the Mighty Magyars found a very good opponent in West Germany, who never gave up and seeing how their rivals were playing, went with everything they had to tie and win the game. They eventually did so and left everybody speechless, as a nearly amateur team had beaten one of the best squads ever known in history.
After that, Hungary was never the same team and now its history is completely different than it was back in those days and more when you compare it to what Germany is today.
2. Netherlands (1974)
The Netherlands was doubtlessly the best team in the world during the decade of the 70s, showing the path to follow for the rest of national sides and scaring everybody who dared to try to stop them from reaching their goals. This team counted with the likes of Cruyff, Neesken, and Rensenbrink and at the time looked unstoppable, being considered the biggest favorites to win the 1974 World Cup.
The Dutch side, as everybody believed, didn’t have many troubles on his way to the finals, trashing rivals like Argentina and Brazil and confirming they were the best team alive at that moment. When the final arrived, West Germany had nothing to lose and a lot to win and that’s exactly what they did. They surprisingly defeat the Dutch by 2-1, winning a game that not even the most enthusiastic German fan thought they were going to win.
This team had another chance to win the title in the next tournament, where Argentina defeated them by 3-1. Several years later, in the 2010s, the Dutch had two good runs in the WC, losing the final again against Spain in 2010 and getting relegated by eventual runners-up Argentina in semis for years later.
1. Argentina (2014-2016)
Alongside the Netherlands, the Argentina national side’s streak of lost finals is very famous around the world. They had one of the best teams on earth before the beginning of the 2002 World Cup and were eliminated in the group stage of the tournament, but the most shocking case of losing streak has taken place in recent times.
Although they had the chance to have Lionel Messi as the leader of the team, the South Americans still managed to lose three consecutive finals between 2014 and 2016, earning a lot of criticism for their performances. It all started when they played the 2014 World Cup final against Germany, in Brazil. Everything looked good for the Argentinians, but Mario Gotze made sure to end their dreams with a late goal in overtime that gave Germany its 4th World Cup title.
The Following two years they took on Chile in the Copa America final, losing both via penalty shoot-outs after dramatic games with chances for both teams. Argentina hasn’t won a title since 1993 and that drought doesn’t seem to be coming to its end any time soon; they will face the Copa America this year again, but they’re currently going through a rebuilding process, so a title doesn’t look very plausible for them at this very moment.