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Monday, August 21, 2006

How competitive are international sports? 

Further to my post below, I've decided to include 3rd place getters (where these exist) to get a better sense of how many countries vie for supremacy in various sports.


Teams that have finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the World Cup since 1987 -
5 competitions (appearances in brackets)

New Zealand (4)
Australia (3)
France (3)
England (2)
South Africa (2)
Wales (1)

TOTAL: 6 teams


Teams that have finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the World Cup since 1987 -
6 competitions (appearances in brackets)

Germany/West Germany (4)
Brazil (3)
Italy (3)
France (3)
Argentina (2)
Sweden (1)
Croatia (1)
Turkey (1)

TOTAL: 8 teams

Olympic Men's Ice Hockey

Teams that have finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the Winter Olympics since 1988 -
6 competitions (appearances in brackets)

Finland (4)
Canada (3)
Sweden (2)
Czechoslovakia/Czech Rep (2)
Russia (2)
USA (1)

TOTAL: 7 teams


No third place.

Teams that have made the semi-finals in the World Cup since 1987 -
5 competitions (appearances in brackets - take with a grain of salt because relatively few teams qualify).

Australia (4)
Pakistan (3)
India (3)
Sri Lanka (2)
England (2)
New Zealand (2)
South Africa (2)
West Indies (1)
Kenya (1)

TOTAL: 9 teams (incl. all semi-finalists)

Conclusion: lots of sports aren't very competitive at the top level, and this is very true for union.

got me to thinking of basketball, one of the only other true global team sports.

last six tournaments, 1st, 2nd or 3rd...

* Russia/USSR
* Serbia & Montenegro/Yugoslavia/Croatia
* Argentina
* Germany

really only 5 teams, and outside of the USA/USSR/Yugolslavia block, only Argentina has made the final game itself.
Can anyone think of an openly-competitive team sport, with lots of teams vying for the top honours?

I'm drawing a bit of a blank.
I don't think there are any.

There's clearly a big difference between lots of people playing and lots of countries being very good at it.

It shows the value of tradition and knowing how to play the game properly combined with good coaching (though one leads to the other).

Look at the All Blacks. There are more rugby players in France, England and South Africa and yet we have significantly superior records to those sides.

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