10 International Teams That Used to Be So Much Better Than They Are Right Now

While the usual suspects have always usually been at the top of international football, there is also a degree of fluidity when it comes to others who become good, often the result of a Golden Generation emerging, but eventually fade away. Here's a look at 10 international teams who have experienced precisely that over the last two decades and are now no longer anything like as good as they used to be. Iceland aside, it hasn't been a good few years for Scandinavian football! Highest FIFA...

Paraguay

Highest FIFA Ranking: 8th (March 2001)

Current FIFA Ranking: 38th


From being a regular feature of the World Cup between 1998 and 2010 - even reaching the knockout rounds on three of those four occasions, Paraguay have endured something of a mini-slump in recent years.


They failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and although the 2015 Copa America resulted in a semi-final appearance after previously reaching the final in 2011, La Albirroja were dumped out at the group stage last year and are in danger of missing Russia 2018.

Scotland

Highest FIFA Ranking: 13th (October 2007)

Current FIFA Ranking: 59th


Scotland have never been especially brilliant at international football - never progressing beyond the first round of the World Cup or European Championship in 10 separate attempts over a period of 44 years will tell you that much - but now they don't even qualify at all.


Despite a handful of near misses since, it was 1998 the last time that Scotland reached the finals of the major tournament. The Scots enjoyed a real surge up the FIFA rankings in 2007 after slumping to their a record low 88th in 2005 but have since fallen out of the 50 again.

South Africa

Highest FIFA Ranking: 16th (October 1996)

Current FIFA Ranking: 64th


South Africa set an unwanted record in 2010 when they became the first World Cup hosts to fail to make it beyond the first round of the tournament on home soil.


A South African golden generation won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996, reached the final again two years later and qualified for consecutive World Cups in 1998 and 2002. Fast forward, and the Bafana Bafana have endured multiple group stage exits at AFCON in the years since and failed to even qualify in 2010, 2012 and 2017.

Bulgaria

Highest FIFA Ranking: 3rd (June 1995)

Current FIFA Ranking: 55th


Bulgaria haven't been seen at an international tournament since conceding nine goals in three games at Euro 2004. A decade earlier the Golden Generation of Hristo Stoichkov and Yordan Letchkov reached the World Cup semis after stunning holders Germany.


The country has lacked a real star since Dimitar Berbatov called time on his international career in 2010, with the majority of the current squad playing domestically in Bulgaria.

Romania

Highest FIFA Ranking: 3rd (September 1997)

Current FIFA Ranking: 47th


Romania were an international side to be feared back in the 1990s when a Golden Generation led by Gheorghe Hagi reached the knockout rounds of three consecutive World cups during the decade and then made it to the quarter finals at Euro 2000.


It has been something of a different story since, with group stage exits at Euro 2008 and the expanded Euro 2016 all the country has to show. Getting to Russia 2018 and a first World Cup since 1998 also looks like it might already be a task beyond the current crop.

Denmark

Highest FIFA Ranking: 3rd (May 1997, August 1997)

Current FIFA Ranking: 51st


International football cult heroes in the 1980s during the 'Danish Dynamite' era and later European champions against the odds in 1992, Denmark continued to punch above their weight well into the early 2000s with knockout round placings at several tournaments.


A group stage exit in South Africa is their only World Cup showing since 2002, while the Danes were also knocked out of Euro 2012 early and didn't even make it to Euro 2016.

Sweden

Highest FIFA Ranking: 2nd (November 1994)

Current FIFA Ranking: 34th


Zlatan Ibrahimovic was unfortunate that he arrived on the scene just too late to be part of a Golden Generation of Swedish players. The country finished third at the 1994 World Cup and later made it through the group stage at three consecutive tournaments at global and European level between 2002 and 2006.


Ibrahimovic was eventually left to carry an average side on his own, though. Sweden haven't qualified for either of the last two World Cups and not a lot was expected of them at Euro 2016 when they were met with a third straight group stage exit.

Norway

Highest FIFA Ranking: 2nd (October 1993, July-August 1995)

Current FIFA Ranking: 86th


A suitable comparison for the Norway of the mid-1990s would be the Belgium of today. The Scandinavian nation managed to rise towards the top two of what were then new FIFA rankings and yet arguably underwhelmed at two World Cups given their standing.


The squad was also filled with players plying their trade in England, with exactly half of the 22-man group that went to France '98 contracted to Premier League clubs - think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tore Andre Flo, Stig Inge Bjornebye and Oyvind Leonhardsen.

England

Highest FIFA Ranking: 3rd (August 2012)

Current FIFA Ranking: 14th


England's brief rise to third in the FIFA rankings in August 2012 is quite unrepresentative over the country's plight on the international stage over the course of the last decade.


Still living off former World Cup glory from 1966 and having consistently failed to deliver on incredible promise between 1998 and 2006, England have been in a dreadful tournament slump for the past 11 years. The Three Lions haven't won a knockout game since 2006 and haven't even been beyond the group stage in the last two tournaments they've played in.

Netherlands

Highest FIFA Ranking: 1st (August-September 2011)

Current FIFA Ranking: 32nd


It's not really clear why the Netherlands are suddenly struggling. The Dutch were pioneers in the 1970s, European champions in the 1980s, World Cup finalists in 2010, and World Cup semi-finalists most recently in 2014, with plenty of success at various points in between.


They still have a talented group of players at present, albeit perhaps not quite up to the standard of previous vintages, yet they failed to reach an expanded Euro 2016 in a qualifying group they would have usually walked and are now at risk of missing the 2018 World Cup.

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