Top 5 Failed Golden Generations at the World Cup | 2014-22 Belgium join list


After Belgium were once again sent for an early bath in the World Cup, we’re taking a look at the top five failed golden generations in tournament history.

By definition, a golden generation is ‘an exceptionally gifted group of players of similar age, whose achievements reach or are expected to reach a level of success beyond that which their team had previously achieved’.

There have been many failed golden generations throughout World Cup history, who failed to live up to the hype and deliver the success that their talented squad promised.

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Failed World Cup Golden Generations

1. Belgium (2014-22)

Belgium’s golden generation failed to make it to a single final in any major competition since appearing on the scene in 2014 with a fresh, young squad featuring the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois.

The Red Devils crashed out in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup against Argentina and lost in the semi-finals in 2018 at the hands of eventual winners France, before exiting in the group stage this year.

Roberto Martinez’s side couldn’t make their way out of Group F with Morocco, Croatia and Canada, spelling the end of the former Everton manager’s time as Belgium boss.

The final chapter of Belgium’s current generation has closed, with De Bruyne previously stating Belgium had ‘no chance’ to win the tournament as they were too old before Jan Vertonghen snapped back at his teammate with, ‘we probably attack badly too because we are too old, right?’.

It has also been revealed that many members of the squad do not even speak to each other, with a personal rift between De Bruyne and Courtois hanging over the dressing room whilst Eden Hazard and Leandro Trossard are not on good terms as well as Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuyai.

2. England (2002-10)

England’s golden generation from 2022-10 still leaves football fans scratching their head to this day as to how they never managed to win a trophy with such a talented pool of players.

David Seaman, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Michael Owen could only help England to the quarter-finals in 2002.

In 2006, they added Gary Neville, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Wayne Rooney – but could only reach as far as the quarters once again, knocked out by Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal on penalties.

Despite the added help of Glen Johnson and Jermaine Defoe to an already world-class lineup, England crashed out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in the round of 16 against Germany.

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3. Netherlands (1974-78)

The Netherlands team between 1974 and 1978 are widely regarded as the greatest international side to never win a World Cup, with Rinus Michels’ revolutionary 4-3-3 formation led by Johan Cryuff taking the globe by storm.

Cryuff, the reigning Ballon d’Or winner in 1974, had led the Netherlands to the final in style, cruising through the tournament before facing West Germany at the last hurdle. Holland conceded two early goals but could only find one in response, losing 2-1 on the day.

In 1978, Cryuff was no longer a member of the squad but most of the 1974 finalists were still there – Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens, Arie Haan, Johnny Rep, Rob Rensenbrink and the Van Der Kerkhof twins.

Reaching the final once again, Holland dragged Argentina to extra-time after Dick Nanninga’s late equaliser cancelled out Mario Kempes’ opener. In extra-time however, Kempes added another whilst Daniel Bertoni sealed triumph for the South Americans.

4. Argentina (2006-present)

Since 2006, players such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Javier Zanetti, Javier Mascherano, Carlos Tevez, Javier Pastore and Diego Milito have donned the famous blue and white for Argentina but with no World Cup success.

Two straight quarter-final finishes in 2006 and 2010 were followed by a runners-up medal in 2014, losing out to Germany in extra-time thanks to Mario Gotze’s famous winner.

Argentina were knocked out in 2018 by eventual winners France in the round of 16 in a 4-3 classic and the golden generation’s final opportunity for World Cup triumph is 2022, with Lionel Scaloni’s side having booked their spot in the last eight and a tie against Netherlands to follow.

5. Portugal (2006-present)

Since Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup debut in 2006, his country have failed to make it past the round of 16 after finishing in fourth place over 16 years ago.

Whilst some may argue this cannot be considered a ‘golden generation’ for Portugal, they have already established major international success with Euro 2016 glory led by one of the greatest footballers of all-time – their World Cup record should be better.

Two round of 16 exits (2010, 2018) and a group stage exit (2014) do not reflect Portugal’s impressive squad talent over the years, and 2022 is Ronaldo’s final roll of the dice for his country with a quarter-final tie against Morocco/Spain on the horizon if they can beat Switzerland.

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