History is littered with great teams that enjoyed long and unprecedented periods of dominance within their chosen sports. Fans could spend hours debating the best team within a single sport – pitting Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side against the AC Milan team of 1990, or the unbeaten Miami Dolphins of 1972 against Joe Montana’s 49ers – so choosing the five greatest overall teams of all time is a virtually impossible task. However, we have managed to narrow it down to five sensational teams that dazzled fans with their collective brilliance and seized all manner of silverware.
There have been hundreds of outrageously talented football teams over the years. On the international stage, there is the indefatigable Spain side that dominated the world from 2008 to 2012, the Hungary team of the 1950s, the West Germany side of the 1970s and many more. The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Man Utd and AC Milan have had many amazing club teams over the years. Yet one team stands head and shoulders above the rest: Brazil in 1970. Manager Mario Zagallo deserves great credit for taking five number 10s – Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostao and Rivelino – and turning them into a fearsome attacking unit. The result was utterly glorious.
Brazil were blessed with irresistible attacking momentum at the 1970 World Cup, and they simply blew their opponents away. They landed in a difficult group alongside reigning world champions England, Romania and Czechoslovakia, but they won all three games. Brazil then beat Peru 4-2 in the quarter-finals and picked up a 3-1 victory over Uruguay in the semis. The final saw them lock horns with a dangerous Italian side, and many fans expected a tight contest, but Brazil ran out 4-1 winners. Pele, Gerson and Jairzinho were all on target before captain Carlos Alberto fired in the most famous goal in history. They inspired many future generations of great Brazilian players, but none can rival that side. Pele was the star of the show, and he had a hand in 14 of the 19 goals Brazil scored at the World Cup, but it was very much a collective effort.
Chicago Bulls, 1995-96
The Chicago Bulls were the dominant force in the basketball during the 1990s, winning the NBA Championship six times. They probably would have won more titles if star player Michael Jordan had not taken an 18-month break to play Minor League Baseball. They were impressive in every NBA Championship-winning season, but the 1995-96 team was the best of the bunch. It is widely considered to be the greatest NBA team ever, ahead of 2016-17 Golden State Warriors and the 1986-87 LA Lakers.
Jordan was the star man, but Scottie Pippen was also phenomenal, and rebound specialist Dennis Rodman was on fire that season. They also had great depth, with Toni Kukoc winning Sixth Man of the Year and the likes of Luc Longley, Ron Harper and Steve Kerr making important contributions. They embarked on winning streaks of 18 and 13 games during the season, and did not suffer back-to-back defeats until February, by which time they were well clear at the top of the standings. They remain the only team in NBA history to win more than 70 regular season games and the NBA Championship in a single season. The Bulls still hold the best combined regular and postseason record in NBA history at 87–13, and their exploits will live long in the memory.
Jamaican Sprint Team, 2012
The Jamaican men’s 4 x 100m relay team set a new world record of 36.84 seconds at the final of the 2012 London Olympic Games. It was an astonishing feat, which saw them eclipse the previous record of 37.04 seconds that they set the previous year. Nesta Carter and Michael Frater gave the Jamaicans a solid start in that 2012 final, but they were neck-and-neck with the US team by the time Yohann Blake received the baton. The changeover was terrific and Blake managed to keep pace Tyson Gay before handing it over to Usain Bolt. The great man was level with Ryan Bailey, but he pulled away down the home straight and crossed the line in record time.
The team featured four tremendous sprinters, but their chemistry was also superb. Collectively they were unstoppable, regularly impressing with seamless changeovers and then celebrating in style after destroying their opponents. Bolt and Blake were the two fastest men in the world at the time, but Carter and Frater were also great sprinters. Bolt, Blake, Frater and Asafa Powell picked up the third fastest time in history at the 2008 Games, while Jamaica dominate the top 10, with Nikel Ashmeade and Kemar Bailey-Cole playing important roles. They won gold again at Rio in 2016, cementing their dominance over the event.
New Zealand, 2009-18
The All Blacks dominated world rugby in unprecedented fashion from 2009 onwards, winning two World Cups and regularly tearing the opposition to shreds. They embarked on a 15-match unbeaten streak in 2009 and then went into the 2011 World Cup as the clear favourites in the betting odds. They sauntered through their pool matches unbeaten, and then vanquished Argentina, Australia and France en route to lifting the trophy. Graham Henry then stepped down, to be replaced by assistant Steve Hansen, and it proved to be a seamless transition. They cruised to victory at the 2015 World Cup, and picked up many famous victories in Test matches, while holding the world number one ranking for several years.
Their dominance finally ended with a third-placed finish at the 2019 World Cup, but they can look back with pride on all their achievements in recent years. Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick were all crowned World Player of the Year, but the collective brilliance of the All Blacks really stands out. The pre-match haka helped them achieve an early psychological advantage, and they blended technical ability with brute force to devastating effect.
Mercedes have enjoyed an unprecedented period of dominance in Formula 1 since 2014. They have won the Constructors’ Championship for the past six seasons and they are cruising to the title once again in 2020 – check here to see the latest betting odds, which make them overwhelming favourites. Lewis Hamilton has five Drivers’ Championships in that time, and teammate Nico Rosberg narrowly beat him to individual glory in 2016. There was a fierce rivalry between those two, but that only spurred the team onto greater heights. Valtteri Bottas has fully embraced his role as the number two at Mercedes since Rosberg’s retirement, and they regularly finish in the top two places in Grands Prix.
The drivers take all the glory, but it is certainly a team effort. Team principal Toto Wolff and technical chief James Allison lead technology centres in Brackley and Brixworth, where some of the world’s finest engineers work on maintaining Mercedes’ advantage over rivals like Ferrari and Red Bull. They have had the fastest car since 2014, and on race days the Mercedes team is a well-oiled machine, regularly outfoxing rivals with intelligent strategies and bold decisions.