Golden generations: Success or failure? – Part 1

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Germany’s ‘Golden Generation’ are in full force and are hot contenders for the upcoming World Cup. They have exceptional talent which include Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Mesut Ozil, Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger to name a few.

Time will tell whether or not these sets of players can be successful on the international stage but there have been many before who have tried and conquered, or unfortunately underachieved.

Let’s look at the sets of pronounced Golden Generations and rate their success. 


Most of these players completed the Portuguese youth national teams that successfully won consecutive FIFA Youth Championships in 1989 and 1991, these players were rewarded as they managed to break into the senior team. 

A team comprised of Vitor Baia, Paulo Sousa, Dimas Teixeira, Fernando Couto, Emelio Piexe, Abel Xavier, spearheaded by the exceptionally talented and technical Rui Costa and Luis Figo. They also gained a certain young Cristiano Ronaldo who almost helped them to glory in 2004.

They reached the final of EURO 2004, hosted in their native Portugal, and were odds on favourites to defeat their opponents Greece. They embarrassingly lost to the underdogs, 1-0, and failed to claim any senior level silverware.

The Portuguese Golden Generation, as many believes, was a disappointment and failed to live up to their credentials in tournaments. 


The Italians have always been blessed with technical footballers. However, since the late 90’s, they went on a surge and almost became an absolute dominant force in World Football.

In their team they had, Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Mauro Camoranesi, Francesco Totti, Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Del Piero and Christian Vieri.

This exceptional group of players lost out to, then World Champions, France in the 2000 European Championships and were abysmal at the 2002 World Cup. However, they showed their true class and under Marcello Lippi, at most players last tournament, they defeated the French Golden Generation to win the 2006 World Cup. This generation, be it last minute, managed to become a legendary success.


This team, until Spain’s arrival, were undoubtedly the greatest Golden Generation ever. They successfully won the 1998 World Cup, 2000 European Championships and two Confederations Cups.

Their successive Confederation Cup triumphs arguably, in accordance to trophies, suggest they are more successful than the Spanish team but this is debatable. 

Their team included Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram, Laurent Blanc, Didier Deschamps, Youri Djorkaeff, Christophe Dugarry, Frank Leboeuf, Bixente Lizarazu, Claude Makelele, Emmanuel Petit, Robert Pires, Patrick Viera, David Trezeguet and Thierry Henry.

The team’s jewel was Zinedene Zidane who was ever present throughout.

The French Golden era went head to head with the Italian generation and the French beat the Italian’s in the 2000 European Championship finals, however they lost to the Italians, on penalties, in the 2006 World Cup Final.

This generation of players are the only team to have ever held the European Championship, World Cup and Confederations Cup, in 2001.

This suggests that they may be the greatest international team in history.

Stay tuned for part two where England, Spain and the Ivory Coast are put under the microscope.


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