World Cup vs. FIBA World Championship National Teams

By: 06.11.10  •  23 Comments

With the World Cup now upon us, and the FIBA World Basketball Championship right around the corner this summer, I decided to compare the national soccer and basketball teams of some of the planet’s powerhouses: Brazil, Germany, France, Argentina, Spain, England/Great Britain and the USA. How does each country’s team stack up in terms of recent success, individual stars, and world ranking?

Brazil's Leandro Barbosa

In Brazil, soccer is a way of life. Legends like Pele and Ronaldo led the national team to greatness over the years, and they’re known for playing “the beautiful game” — a flashy, individual-oriented system. This year, however, Brazil is shifting from the beautiful game to a more fundamentally-based system, evidenced by the fact that Ronaldinho is off the roster. Basketball has just started to take hold in Brazil but is gaining popularity as more Brazilians make the NBA.

– World Ranking: 14th
– Stars: Anderson Varejao, Nene, Leandro Barbosa
– Recently: Missed ’08 Olympics, won ’09 FIBA Americas Olympic qualifier

– World Ranking: 1st
– Stars: Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano
– Recently: Advanced to the round of eight in ’06 World Cup

Team USA's Landon Donovan

The USA is the one country on this list where soccer isn’t the biggest sport in the nation. Soccer has yet to gain the traction and following that it has everywhere else across the globe, while basketball is much bigger. Since NBA players have been allowed to play in international tournaments, USA Basketball has been expected to win everywhere it goes, and for the most part, they’ve come through.

– World Ranking: 2nd
– Stars: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard
– Recently: Won gold medal at ’08 Olympics

– World Ranking: 14th
– Stars: Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore
Recently: Finished last in Group E in ’06 World Cup, going winless in the tournament

Spain's Pau Gasol

While soccer reigns supreme in Spain, basketball is closing in on its heels. With the recent stardom of the Gasol brothers in the NBA and other Spaniards making the jump, basketball has taken off, but still pales in comparison to soccer; especially considering the madness that ensues when Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are in action.

– World Ranking: 3rd
– Stars: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro
– Recently: Silver medal at ’08 Olympics

– World Ranking: 2nd
– Stars: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres
– Recently: Advanced out of group play in ’06 World Cup before being eliminated in the round of 16 by France.

England's Wayne Rooney

England is home to the most famous sports team in the world, Manchester United. Soccer is a birthright in this nation, and England’s national team is followed religiously. Despite high expectations every World Cup, England has a tendency to come up short and disappoint their fans. Basketball is not too popular in GB, partially because the national team hasn’t had much success, and the stars on the national team aren’t homegrown talent.

– World Ranking: 58th
– Stars: Luol Deng, Ben Gordon
– Recently: Didn’t qualify for ’08 Olympics, automatically granted a spot in the 2012 Olympics as host nation.

– World Ranking: 8th
– Stars: Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Joe Cole
– Recently: Lost in penalty kicks to Portugal in the round of eight in ’06 World Cup.

Argentina's Luis Scola

Argentina is the rare nation that finds almost equal success on the pitch and on the court. Argentinean soccer has been wildly successful and popular over the years, led by superstar Diego Maradona, who now coaches the national team. Recently Argentina basketball has emerged on the scene with their gold medal performance in the 2004 Olympics, which has created enthusiasm for the sport never before seen in Argentina.

– World Ranking: 1st
– Stars: Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino
– Recently: Bronze medal at ’08 Olympics

– World Ranking: 7th
– Stars: Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Maxi Rodriguez
– Recently: Lost in penalty kicks in the round of eight to Germany in ’06 World Cup.

France's Thierry Henry

France is home to one of the biggest stars in the game in Thierry Henry and came so close to winning the 2006 World Cup. While stars like Boris Diaw and Tony Parker have entered the NBA in recent years, basketball in France still isn’t very popular. The national team failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, which took away some momentum from the fact that more French players are making the jump to the NBA.

– World Ranking: 15th
– Stars: Mickael Pietrus, Tony Parker, Boris Diaw
– Recently: Failed to qualify for ’08 Olympics

– World Ranking: 9th
– Stars: Thierry Henry, Franck Riberry, Eric Abidal
– Recently: Lost in ’06 World Cup final to Italy

Germany's Dirk Nowitzki

German soccer peaked in 2006 when the nation hosted the World Cup, and the national team finished third. It’s hard to replicate such success, and excitement as resulted from hosting their first World Cup in a united Germany. (The 1974 World Cup was held in West Germany.) Basketball is seeing some success both professionally with certain players making the NBA, and on the international level, but the quality and popularity of the basketball team is a long way away from matching the soccer squad.

– World Ranking: 7th
– Stars: Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman
– Recently: Finished 10th in the ’08 Olympics

– World Ranking: 6th
– Stars: Miroslav Klose, Arne Friedrich, Lukas Podolski
– Recently: Finished third in ’06 World Cup held in Germany.

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