Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

World Cup: Why Brazil should have won

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 6:55 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
  • CNN worked up its own rankings for how each team should have done
  • Our table is based on FIFA ranking, manager salary and population size
  • England, Spain, Italy and Russia were the biggest disappointments
  • Costa Rica punched farthest above its weight, and Belgium also shone

See the full list of how World Cup teams stack up here.

(CNN) -- It's all over now. Germany won the World Cup, which can't have surprised anyone who watched it demolish Brazil en route to the championship.

But according to CNN's calculations, Brazil should have taken home the trophy.

While Lionel Messi was battling Thomas Muller to be the tournament's top goal scorer, while Tim Howard and Guillermo Ochoa were batting away shots on goal, while Roy Hodgson and Fabio Capello were stalking the sidelines, CNN was looking at the bigger picture.

We started with the FIFA world ranking for each team going into the World Cup, starting with Spain ranked number one, all the way down to Australia at 62.

Then we looked at how much each country was paying its manager.

Russia topped that table, paying Capello nearly $11.5 million a year, according to Nick Harris of Sporting Intelligence. England came a distant second, with Italy, Brazil and Switzerland rounding out the top five.

Soccer-mad Mexico came dead last, paying manager Miguel Herrera about $214,000.

Next we added in each country's population size, since bigger countries have larger pools to draw potential soccer stars from. The United States was the biggest country to qualify, followed by Brazil, Nigeria, Russia and Japan. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Uruguay were the smallest, both with populations under 4 million.

Then we averaged the three measures -- ranking, manager salary and population size -- to come up with our own prediction for how each team would fare in the World Cup.

Our predicted winner: Brazil. It was the second-largest country in the tournament, ranked third in the world by FIFA, and with manager Luiz Felipe Scolari's $3.8 million salary putting him fourth.

It fared well enough in the group stages, but once things got serious, the hosts completely fell apart, conceding 10 goals in their last two matches and scoring only 1.

That left it in 4th place, three below where we predicted it should end up.

Germany, on the other hand, overperformed, but not by much.

We picked it to come second, and it came first, for a rating of +1.

Our statistics also tell us who the biggest over- and under-achievers of the tournament were.

Some are obvious. The numbers suggest Costa Rica should have come 27th overall, but it trounced the big boys in the Group of Death and came out 8th, by FIFA's official statistics.

Second-place Argentina also did far better than our predictions.

Yes, it was ranked fifth in the world going into the tournament, but it didn't shell out big money for a manager -- Alejandro Sabella was the 22nd-best paid coach -- and Argentina falls in the middle of the population table. Of course, having Messi be one member of that population makes a difference, even if the Hand of God didn't touch him in the final.

Spain, on the other hand, was a giant dud. Ranked third in the CNN table, it actually came 23rd.

Only one nation came out worse: England. Ranked 10th in the world, with the second-best paid manager and and the 11th-largest population, we think it should have come fifth. It came 26th.

Italy and Russia also suffered in our rankings, partly for paying their managers so handsomely. We say Italy should have come third, not 22nd, and Russia should have tied at sixth place with the United States.

Russia actually came 24th, while Team USA came 15th.

The numbers also show one remarkable coincidence. On paper, Belgium and Greece are almost identical.

Belgium was ranked 11th by FIFA. Greece was ranked 12th.

Both have populations of about 11 million people, and the two nations paid their managers exactly the same salary.

Both teams did better than we predicted.

We picked Greece to come 18th, but it managed 13th.

Belgium did even better, coming sixth, nine places higher than our calculations suggested.

Read: Germany defeats Argentina

Read: Germany parties like it's 1990

Read: Argentina vs. Germany: By the numbers

CNN's Patrick Sung, Manuela Lanza and John Sinnott contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Keep track of the social buzz at Brazil 2014 with CNN's Facebook Pulse -- find out who the world is talking about.
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
It needed 120 minutes to separate the best two teams on the planet, but Mario Gotze's sublime strike gives Germany a fourth World Cup title.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
After 64 games, some huge shocks and 171 goals scored, now it's time to play fantasy football -- who would you pick in a World Cup dream team?
updated 6:55 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Germany won the World Cup, but these stats suggest that the host nation came top of the table at Brazil 2014 -- despite a crushing semifinal defeat.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Bare bellies, an on-pitch streaker, world leaders and superstar selfies -- the World Cup final had it all.
updated 7:32 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
Having crushed home hopes of success, Germany prevents Brazil's worst nightmare by beating the World Cup host's South American rival in final.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
One of the joys of watching the World Cup is seeing relative unknowns come to the fore. Here are 11 players to watch at Russia 2018.
updated 5:37 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Stay informed with results of the latest World Cup matches and the full schedule for the month-long tournament in Brazil.
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
In the sight of Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer, the man who would be king awaits his destiny.
updated 1:15 PM EDT, Sat July 12, 2014
Germany's semifinal demolition of World Cup host Brazil in Belo Horizonte is the game that seemingly everyone can't stop talking about.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
One of the joys of the World Cup is seeing relative unknowns come to the fore. Here are 11 players who have made their mark at Brazil 2014:
updated 12:04 PM EDT, Wed July 9, 2014
You thought Brazil's home humiliation was bad? Check out the greatest shocks in World Cup history...