Best World Cup Evah

Before we nail our Ireland preview to the metaphorical door of Wittenberg church that is tinterwebs, we need to consider just a couple of things:

  • The best teams in the world usually win the competition – obvious question marks surround the BNZ teams of 1995 and 2007 – the South African team that won so memorably in ’95 did very little else, and while the ’07 team peaked 24 months later when winning the Tri Nations and beating GivvusahugShawsie and 14 other red-clad men, but BNZ blew both in truth. However, no other champions weren’t the best team (either at the time or in retrospect) and indeed neither group of Springboks were unworthy champions.  Everyone associates the 2011 New Zealand winners with the nervous wreck that fell over the line in the final, but scroll back to the semi-final, quarter-final and pool stages and they were the best team in the tournament
  • Runners-up are not necessarily the second best team in the competition – this isn’t a league, remember. While the cream normally rises to the top, no-one is going to remember the 2003 Wobblies, 2007 English or 2011 French as vintage crops. Indeed, most in English rugby seem to have wilfully expunged the Ashton era from memory, and the French lost to Tonga and were an utter shambles rescued only by the leadership of Thierry Dusautoir, one of the all-time greats
  • Ireland have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals – and have really only had two tournaments you could judge a success, and 2011 only was one because we claimed a Southern Hemisphere scalp. That’s been our level, like it or not.  Put simply, Ireland’s record in these tournaments is pretty average at best, dire compared to our pretensions

So what was all that in aid of then? Well, let’s start on the third point – Ireland haven’t progressed beyond a quarter-final. It’s hard to pinpoint a time when Ireland were obviously among the best in the world – top 8 has been our level. Are we better than that now? Easy to say yes, clearly, on the back of our back-to-back Six Nations, but it’s not that simple. If we consider England, Wales and Ireland during the Schmidt era, games between the three have resulted in two wins each. In the last edition, the teams finished with the same number of points, with Ireland taking the gong on points difference. In our view there is a fly-paper between the sides.

If there is a fly-paper between them, there is a hardback book to the level the Southern Hemisphere showed during the Rugby Championship – it would be hard to see any of the Northern Hemisphere powerhouses living with the general standard produced during the summer. But – like we said – it isn’t a league. Ireland, quite obviously, aren’t the best team in the world, or anything close to it, but while that might preclude us wining the thing, it isn’t the end of the world (see: Lievremont, Marc – 2011). A semi final would constitute a “best tournament ever”, and seems to be something of a national obsession – and it’s achievable.

The major reason to think Ireland can reasonably consider this as a great chance to better their previous best is the draw. If Schmidt was asked to pick a top seed from BNZ, SA, England and France – he’d pick France. If he was asked to pick a third seed between Wales, Scotland, Italy and Tonga – I think he’d pick Italy. Aside from the fag-end of the Deccie era, we haven’t had any trouble with Italy since before Dorce’s international career. And Italy in Rome in the spring is one thing, Italy in a World Cup is another.  They travel terribly, and have been hopeless in World Cups.  It’s a dream pool, eminently winnable. And if we do, the only preferable quarter final opponent to the runner up to BNZ’s group is the one in South Africa’s – but still, at least we’re avoiding the one from England’s group. Compare a scenario where Ireland were drawn with England and Wales in the pool stages – would you be as confident? Hardly. So that’s great.

If Ireland win their pool and lose in the quarter finals, is that a success? No, quite frankly, it isn’t – we’ve done that, four years ago, and despite the best efforts of Gerry and co. to insist otherwise, it was a disappointment. The nature of the quarter final defeat made it worse, but there is no such thing as heroic defeat in a World Cup – just defeat. If we don’t win the pool, we play BNZ – and we won’t win, lets be honest with ourselves. So to make the semis and make the tournament a success (by our definition), the path is winning the pool and beating the runners up from the BNZ pool. Can we do it, and what comes next?

The Pool

We will beat Canada with the firsts, Romania with the dirt trackers and Italy with the firsts. No doubt. Move on.

What about France? The mere sight of a grizzled French prop sucking on a Gitanes or an athletic and good looking wing looking suggestively at Clare Balding used to make Paddy go weak at the knees and slack-jawed, allowing the tanned and self-confident Pierre to walk in multiple tries against us. But no longer – since the O’Leary game over four years ago, we haven’t lost to our bete-noir (thanks Gerry!). Deccie fought out two draws and Schmidt has beaten them twice. Nothing has been easy, but we still haven’t lost to them. Looking in more depth at the players in our squad, we have eleven who have never lost to the French (Madigan, Henry, Henshaw, Kearney Jr, McGrath, Murphy, Payne, Toner, Zebo, Henderson, O’Mahony), all of whom will have aspirations of being in the 23, and only Earls, Jackson and Ryan have never beaten them.

It’s a nice habit. Plus, for all the cliches about “not knowing what France will turn up”, we’re going to go out on a limb here and say that we know exactly what France will turn up – the rabble we have seen since Philippe Saint-Andre took over. They have finished fourth, sixth, fourth and fourth in their Six Nations and have a grand total of 1 (videprinter moment – ONE) win over teams that aren’t Scotland and Italy in competitive games in this entire RWC cycle. They are a directionless, shapeless excuse of a team that will be piloted by Freddy Michalak! We keep hearing about all this Herculean training they are doing, but listen – they were so woefully out of shape in recent years, it’s the least they need to avoid disgracing themselves.

The team are still – still! – constructed around the peerless Dusautoir, but the supporting cast, while individually excellent, just aren’t doing it in blue. The pack are huge, but what good is a huge pack if you can’t actually win any games on the back of it. For all the behemoth hugeness, they lack mobility.  Maestri, Atonio, Guirado – big men, but hardly sprightly, and not to be feared. What, on paper, is an impactful bench, is nothing of the sort – all we can remember is France hanging on at the end of games, not stepping on the gas. Constant chopping and changing in the backs has left us with Scott Spedding in the first team. If you cut them an even break, like England did in Twickers, they will run in a few tries, but play with accuracy and structure and you’ll beat them. Sure, it’s going to be tough going, and we’ll examine some of the micro issues in depth the week of the game, but we’re not buying any talking up of the French – this is the worst team they have had in memory, and we will beat them.


After that, we’ll be playing the runners up in the BNZ pool – likely Argentina. Ireland have been consistently ranked above Argentina in recent years, but for an odd reason: while we have hoovered up ranking points against Italy, Scotland and France, they have bled them by losing to BNZ, South Africa and Australia. Each year, they have got closer – and this year they hammered SA in Durban, having topped the Wobs in Mendoza the year before. They’ve been largely competitive, and had the best scrum in the competition for the last two years. It’s worth asking Schmidt what preparation he would prefer – playing and losing the RC or playing and winning in the 6N – there are arguments for both. And they will fancy beating us as well – they always do.

The UAR have for once done a good job, and have harvested players at home for the Super Rugby franchise that will start in 2016, with the majority of their squad now based at home. They are sprinkled with world class players (Ayerza, Creevy, Fernandez Lobbe, Sanchez, Imhoff) and are fit and rested. Similar to how Ireland will use their first three games to build up to France, Argentina play BNZ first and will use the games against Georgia, Tonga and Namibia to build up to play us.

At this juncture, this looks to us like a 50-50 match – both teams are in the bunch behind NZ, SA and Oz and around the standard of England and Wales. Still, this is what our tournament will come down to to cross the success/failure line – a one-off match with Argentina. Based on how Schmidt has prepared his teams to date, we’re backing him to pull this one off. We’re far out and injuries etc will surely have an impact, but from here, we reckon we can do it.

After that, we think Ireland will have met their match. A week after that, it’s the winner of the Group of Death (more of which anon) and for us, that’s as far as we go. A week out from Argentina facing a team who will likely have whacked Scotland pretty easily and taken off important players with 30 minutes to go. No shame, but we see a tired Ireland unable to go to the well three weeks in a row – this is a tough tournament and our best simply won’t be enough. And there is no shame in that – for this, remember, will be our best effort ever in a tournament in which we usually fall flat on our faces.

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  1. Completely agree on your comment about accuracy and structure beating France. I would back us to hold enough ball and to not give them any quick counter attack opportunities. That, to me, should be enough if we score a try.

    A LOT will depend on our set piece and kicking game, both of which are strengths for this Ireland team.

  2. curates_egg

     /  September 15, 2015

    “It’s hard to pinpoint a time when Ireland were obviously among the best in the world – top 8 has been our level.” – 2007 lads. We were obviously among the best. We were clearly better than the home nations, so that put us in the top 5 (and we had beaten the Safas and the Aussies). I know nobody likes continually harking back to it but the hindsight of the utterly bizarre and still unexplained tournament form does not take away from the fact we were among the best in world.

    “The major reason to think Ireland can reasonably consider this as a great chance to better their previous best is the draw. I” – this is the nub of it.

    “We’re far out and injuries etc will surely have an impact,” – this is the big risk. All it would take would be one or two injuries in key positions to reduce our solid and deep squad to a pretty average top tier prospect.

    You are bullish on France. It is probably the long heartbreaking history but the “positive sounds” coming out of the camp do make me concerned. They do have some impressive individuals and they always manage to play some good games in World Cups. They were a shambles under Lievremont last time out but should have won the thing.

    • Yes, in 2006-2007 you could legitimately say we were up there with the best. Heady days!

      It could also be argued though that the signs of dreadfulness were already showing themselves by the time the tournament got going. I like your description though, it really was one of the most bizarre and complete falls from grace to occur in any recent sport in recent memory. Shaggy’s description of the aftermath to encapsulate it. He told a story of two fans giving him grief over how rubbish it had been and the money they had spent etc. and they were almost demanding to know what had gone wrong. Shaggy said his response was : ‘You want to know where it went wrong? I’m the one who wants to know where it went wrong!’

      • curates_egg

         /  September 16, 2015

        Right now, I wouldn’t say we are clearly better than any of the top 4 6 Nations sides. England and Wales have only been beaten in Landsdowne Road…and we were lucky to beat France on both occasions. We only have to play one of them but France are going to beat us again at some point: they are big, powerful and have some really good players in the mix too. Head-to-head, they beat us in lots of positions. We can’t keep beating them on the seats of our pants forever.

      • SportingBench

         /  September 16, 2015

        Weren’t the 2007 warning signs some very lackluster performances in the warm ups?
        haven’t we been very lackluster in the warm-ups to this RWC? I think the difference is likely to be that Joe has fewer untouchables though and that will eventually focus minds

  3. rugbygareth

     /  September 15, 2015

    Very well written as always!

  4. SportingBench

     /  September 15, 2015

    Ah come on. Where is your wild optimism.
    I enjoy the build up to a RWC better than the actual tournament because before the play starts I get to think for a moment that Ireland might actually end up World Champions and this year that scenario is less far-fetched than normal.
    How about we get to a semi-final against Eng or Wales who are beat up from the “Group of Death” and in a 6N slugfest we fall over the line because of greater discipline, preparation and structure?
    Then we face France – who went ballistic in their quarter with NZ (who choked obviously) and scraped passed Aus who are destroyed post the GoD and beating SA and to be honest are simply happy to have earned their respect. In the final. We win (obviously).

  5. Every time I get worried about the French game I close my eyes and whisper “Scott Spedding”, and suddenly I feel fine.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  September 15, 2015

      Speding gets a hard time of it, granted, he suffers by not being Poitrenaud/Heymans, but, he’s built like a train(100kg easily) runs hard, is positionally ok, huge boot, he’s not a liability, and is in better form than Kearnage. The fact they have Parra as third choice 9 and Michalak at ten makes me feel we can beat them, peppering aerial bombs at Spedding and banking on him fluffing his lines is hopeful at best.

  6. @CompleteBore

     /  September 15, 2015

    I know the draw couldn’t be kinder to Ireland, but it is annoying that the first serious game Ireland play isn’t until October (Match 28 according to the RWC app) and the big one isn’t for 3 and half weeks (Match 39!). Thankfully there are some cracking looking games coming up first.

    And two or three big scores will allow the band-wagon to get rolling again and the whole country can go back to assuming we’re going to hockey France and Argentina and then get very angry if it doesn’t come to pass.

    I’m not sure if its a good thing, but at least with France v Italy coming up first we get the chance to see how both are travelling.

  7. What ever happened to the good old days when you could still not know what France will show up?

    I’m not going to be surprised if we top the pool. But neither will I be surprised (or ungrateful) if Dusautoir drags France kicking and screaming to the final again. To play us, naturally!

    A key thing will be how Joe uses his squad, and I think the key times to do it are against Italy and in the QF (if we top the pool, otherwise there’s no room for maneuver obviously). It won’t be anything crazy like playing Jackson or Madigan against the Argies, it’ll be more subtle things like unleashing NWJMB at them. I can see much tinkering with the backrow going on throughout the tournament until the semis, which may not be a bad thing.

    But sure lookit, Johnny, Mads and Jackson are all going to fall over and we’ll need Keatley to come back from holiday on the Munster bench to kick over the winning penalty in the final anyway, so who needs optimism?

    • D6W

       /  September 15, 2015

      Is keatley now second choice at Munster, he did not start last weekend?

      • I’d say he was just rested in a game that Munster half expected not to win and to give Bleyendaal some time in the saddle. After Keatley’s collapse towards the end of last season, despite being publicly backed by Foley to the point where Hanrahan felt he had to leave, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more rotation between the two this season.

    • D6W

       /  September 15, 2015

      Also, after the warmups, I would not be surprised if NWJMB is now the starting lock ahead of Toner.

  8. It will take a lot more than 4 years to make my knees stop going jelly at the prospect of the French.

    I *know* they’re a shambles
    I *know* we have their number

    But until that final whistle I will have my face behind my hands expecting a shellacing

    • connachtexile

       /  September 15, 2015


    • Amiga500

       /  September 15, 2015

      I still have nightmares about Vincent f**king Clerc.

    • like button! the French have kicked our arses too many times to be dismissed

    • osheaf01

       /  September 16, 2015

      Bernat-Salles in 1998. Vincent Clerc in 2007. That insane game in 2006 that we might have won, had that prop whose name I forget scored from 2 metres out with 5 to go.
      They always beat us when it counts. That would be a first for Irish rugby, right there, if we beat them.

  9. ORiordan

     /  September 15, 2015

    UAR not ARU! Whether the Australian Rugby Union has for once done a good job is another topic altogether…;)

  10. robith

     /  September 15, 2015

    No matter how much I know the French are shambles, until that final whistle goes my hands will be over my face

  11. BFBB

     /  September 15, 2015

    Agree with you in many senses, but have to say if we lose to anybody in this tournament bar NZ I will be disappointed to a certain extent. You can extend that fly-paper to SA and Aus who are not far ahead of us and France/Arg who are not far behind. Of course we may lose to any of these teams even if we do ‘turn up’ but we would definitely be right to enter any of those games with confidence. There is no hoodoo re any of those teams anymore….and in fact over the course of the last 8 years (2WC cycles) the only team we have a poor win ratio against is France, who you are discounting on recent form (fair enough to a certain extent). Having watched a good chunk of the rugby championship I cant agree that the quality was high this year.

  12. Lop12

     /  September 15, 2015

    Good piece. I would view our sequence of games as far more attractive than that of the winner of the GOD. Having a soft QF is one thing, having it following three extremely tough and likely abrasive pool games levels the playing field in the QF significantly. Id be more than surprised if a SF from our pool isn’t fresher than a SF from the GOD!!!

  13. Blaisemick

     /  September 15, 2015

    I never disagree with you guys at WOC but are you absolutely, positively sure we can’t beat the BNZs if we meet them in the QF?

    Here’s what I’d do for what it’s worth; play like drains in the group, beating everyone, just, but losing to France. Throw the kitchen sink at BNZ (we HAVE to beat them sometime!). World Cup summary; beat BNZ, get to a semi final and who bloody cares after that! Move aside Joe Schmidt! 😉

    • XYZ

       /  September 15, 2015

      Without doubt the best time to play bnz is in the quarters, but they will still thump us. Sigh.

      • Lop12

         /  September 15, 2015

        Whoever plays NZ in the QF from our pool also has two (if not three) less days to prepare than they do. Not a help

  14. One point of confidence we can take from the warm-ups for the matches against FRA and potentially ARG is how well our scrums have gone. Our scrummaging in aghaidh na Sasanaigh – and that despite chopping and changing in the front row in the course of the match – was perhaps the most positive thing we were able to take from the run-out in Twickers. I agree, that we will beat Italy. However on the basis of their performance against Wales, in which they did a lot of good stuff and were often quite threatening with ball in hand, we will need to go out against them all guns blazing. They’ll be no push-over.

    • D6W

       /  September 15, 2015

      Agree that our scrum looked good against the ENglish, but bear in mind the French scrum mashed the english scrum in St Denis.

  15. Yossarian

     /  September 15, 2015

    I think part of the reason for our under performing at world cup is that we are judging expectations based on 6 nations form. 6 nations we have the advantage of our player welfare program delivering players in top condition while the french and english have beaten themselves up in their respective leagues.(not that that is french teams only problem!) It is a small margin of difference but when you are winning back to back 6 nations on points difference these little things add up.
    would we be as confident if we had lost the two 6 nations?would England be going in with (even) more expectation?
    i reckon the Argentinians would only love to have us in the quarters, just like the welsh before them.
    We are better coached than before but we do seem to have a massive psychological issue with World Cups. A semi-final would be a massive achievement.

    • McShane

       /  September 15, 2015

      To be honest, Argentina might prefer facing France in the QFs. They always seem to relish beating up on the French (see: 2007). I could see them showing up and doing nothing but kicking drop goals just to troll Les Bleus (see: 2014)

      • Don

         /  September 15, 2015

        FFS, that made me choke on my dinner. The mental image alone is priceless.
        Troll the French with drop goals… utter genius!

  16. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  September 15, 2015

    I agree with your assessment (up to a point!) of our prospects and also the realistic analysis of what helps drive this confidence i.e. a very favourable draw. However (and a little unexpectedly) the article also reinforces my main concern that we may settle for a successful tournament (semi) when this kind draw also plots a far from impossible route to a really fantastic tournament and the final.
    All very well comparing QF’s v Scots & Argies but – as has been mentioned – the Group A games are going to knock a lot out of the winners (not to mention if that’s England then the Scots can be guaranteed to sow it into them in the QF in Twickers).
    I remember reading ROG’s book a few years ago on hols and he was reflecting on the QF v Wales in ’11. He remembers thinking beforehand that a win not only gets them to the semis but guarantees them TWO more games because even a semi loss means a game in the Bronze Final (which was a prospect he clearly relished).
    As chance would have it Dallaglio’s book had been left in the house we had rented (much better read!). He was reflecting on their semi in 2003 and he mentioned a conversation with Jason Leonard before it. Leonard basically said they had to win it, if only because otherwise they’d have to play that shit losers match – he’d played in it in ’95 and it was the worst experience of his life!!
    I remember being really struck by the difference in mentality and ambition – especially as O’Gara would fancy himself as a bit of a ‘Roy’ in the ambition stakes.
    Long winded way of saying I hope the mentality of ‘a semi will do’ does not seep in and rob us of the possibility of going all the way to the big one?

    • Fair point. Earls said before the QF last time he was looking forward to the semi – which struck us as the wrong mentality as well. What we keep hearing from camp i.e. we’re in it to win it, sounds like the “right mentality”.

      But cmere, who knows – RWC tournaments are pressure cookers – you don’t know how you’ll react at high altitude.

    • D6W

       /  September 15, 2015

      Interesting, although the 2007 Bronze medal match turned out to be the game of the tournament. You could tell the Argies were delighted to have got so far, and the French simply did not want to be there. But you could almost see it dawning on the French that what was worse than playing in 3rd place playoff was losing twice to Argentina on their home soil. A brilliant game ensued.

  17. Punk Anderson

     /  September 15, 2015

    “… an athletic and good looking wing looking suggestively at Clare Balding…” Is this what happens when you are based in “sad” and “dull” Croydon?

    WOC, good point on Michalak. Picking a squad is always subjective, but amazing to me that neither Trinh-Duc or Cami Lopez could make the team, yet Freddy is the preferred no. 1.

    Whether it’s team selection or the recent results, the voodoo of the French team rising up for a magical tournament just doesn’t seem to be there this time around.

  18. I haven’t seen Gerry suggest losing a QF is a good performance, though he has observed out that France at 18/1 are better value than Ireland at 9/1, which is a fair enough. If Ireland can be contented with its draw than surely the French can also be.

  19. Don

     /  September 15, 2015

    I don’t agree with your last paragraph lads, and I don’t think Joe or any of the lads in the camp would either. You’re there to win it. They believe they can and that is the only mentality to go into a tournament with.
    To even think you are not good enough is to invite disaster.

  20. John

     /  September 15, 2015

    I am going to share a recurring dream which I have been having over the last few months regarding this tournament…
    It begins well from an Irish perspective as Canada are easily dealt with, not a cricket score by any means but a healthy winning margin. We are aided by Cudmore being yellow carded for a trademark incident of thuggery. Keith Earls comes off the bench to score a brace of tries before suffering a soft tissue injury.

    The train rolls on to Romania who are flattened by the 2nd string. Jackson runs the game at 10 with such poise and gets the backline moving to such an extent that Ulster fans the world over begin to wonder aloud whether he should start against Italy in place of St. Johnny. Luke Fitzgerald comes off the bench to score a brace of tries before suffering a soft tissue injury.

    Italy is surprisingly uneventful for the most part, in my dream I see a highlight reel of Italian roughhousing punctuated by Johnny kicking penalties (Joe obviously chooses to ignore Ulster’s pleas for Paddy J) in fast forward until late in the game when a hospital pass from Tommy Bowe leaves Johnny on the floor after a big hit from an Italian front row whose face is obscured.

    Johnny is out of the French game but will be back for the quarter final. Joe puts a brace face on it and selects Madser at 10 (Ulster says nooo!). Madigan ends up having a great game but so does Thierry et al. We lose a brilliant game by two points. The nation wails a collective sigh of regret.

    So its the ABs in the Quarters. Johnny is passed fit and both Fitzie and Earls have overcome their collective soft tissue issues. In my dream, the game takes place on a very wet (almost comically so) night in Cardiff (I have no idea where this game is scheduled to be played). In a brutal and brushing contest, we win. 21-18. Johnny kicks everything including a ROG like last minute drop goal which is accompanied by a quick camera pan to the stands where ROG stands and slow claps with a look that says “That’ll do pig, that’ll do”. Then I wake up…

    • I really enjoyed that. Go back for another sleep and try and get to the semi-finals this time…

      • John

         /  September 15, 2015

        Thanks guys, excellent blog as always.

        I think the reason I wake up then is because everything thereafter would be something of an anti-climax.

        Even if they lost the resulting semi, the open top bus journey to the Aras would be assured.

  21. zdm

     /  September 16, 2015

    I’m living in Oz now and it’s interesting to see how they analyze the WC down here, particularly the NH teams.

    None of the SANZAR teams want to face Ireland and all the commentators I’ve watched are talking up Henderson in a big way. The southern hemisphere sides seem genuinely nervous about meeting Ireland which is probably new territory for us.

  22. Matt

     /  September 16, 2015

    Ireland’s fate is ultimately in their own hands, which it hasn’t always been.

    If they execute their game plan with accuracy and pace they will reach the semi-final. Play to their potential and a crack against a team we can beat in a semi is on.

    Drop the ball, poor set piece, missed tackles/kicks and or poor game management and we will fall short of this.

    Schmidt’s teams have always been accurate and well prepared, I have faith in him and faith in them, let’s pray for the good health of Murray, Sexton and Ross.

    • SportingBench

       /  September 16, 2015

      I think you make really important point Matt. Ireland lost to a Wales side we could have beaten at the last World Cup (and in the last 6N) through a break down in basic skills – poor passing, dropping the ball, missing tackles.
      When the pressure goes on in a RWC it is these basic skills that become most critical and all too often Ireland lack them. Poor basic skills under pressure is also why we struggle for tries in big games as too often passes are just a little forward or a little behind or else the receiver just fails to grab. Fine margins on the basic skills but a focus on these is the reason the SH are generally better than the NH where weakness are sometimes overlooked in favour of a wildly optimistic focus on the highlight reel.
      The reason to be optimistic this RWC though around is the Joe Schmidt clearly understands the importance of basic skills in pressure situations and Ireland’s historic failure to prioritise them. This is why he would prefer a winger who tackles, chases and presents a ball well rather than a more exciting “make them miss” winger.

  23. I’d argue there isn’t much between any of the top 8. Granted between wales- Australia and Ireland-New Zealand it’s impenetrable, kryptonite-like flypaper, but flypaper nonetheless.

  24. Roundy

     /  September 17, 2015

    Imagine for a minute the Argies beat the AB’s! What would our match v France look like then?

    • This thought struck my mind – Argentina have been competitive with them, and there must be *some* chance they flame out. Spain had a similar age/success profile in the soccerball WC2014

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