Golden generation

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In sport, a golden generation or golden team 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.[1][2] Below is a list of teams who have been referred to by the media as golden generations, most of which played in the 21st century.


It was first coined by the Portuguese sports media to refer to a group of exceptionally gifted teenage Portuguese footballers. This group of players, spearheaded by "Golden Boy" Luís Figo, won two Football World Youth Championships in 1989 and 1991.[3] This group were close to retirement in the early part of the 21st century, leading the European sports media to spotlight the Golden Generation's chances of winning a senior trophy at tournaments such as UEFA Euro 2000, the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2004 (which Portugal hosted) and the 2006 World Cup.

Since then, it has been used by media in many different countries, with usage spreading to other areas, for example, in rugby.


Argentina national basketball team (2000–2012)[edit]

By winning the gold medal in the Americas Championship 2001, silver medal in 2002 FIBA World Championship, the gold medal in Basketball at the 2004 Summer Olympics, gold medal in FIBA Diamond Ball 2008, bronze medal in Basketball at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and gold medal in 2011 FIBA Americas Championship played in the city of Mar del Plata, Argentina. Resulting in Argentina reached the first position in the FIBA Men's Ranking at the end of the 2008 Olympic Games.[4]


Australia (2006–2014)[edit]

This Australian team waited 32 years to qualify for a FIFA World Cup tournament. This group of players formed the backbone of Australia's 2006 FIFA World Cup, 2007 AFC Asian Cup, 2010 FIFA World Cup, and 2011 AFC Asian Cup squads and was used extensively during Australia's qualification matches for those respective tournaments, with this crop of players considered to be among the best Australia have ever produced. The Golden Generation is believed to have ended during the reign of Ange Postecoglou as manager of Australia.[5][6][7][8][9][10]

Brazil (1994–2006)[edit]

Having won the FIFA World Cup five times, more than any other national team, the Brazil has had many golden generation periods, notably the 1958–1970 squad and most recently the successful team of late 1990s/early 2000s. In the 1997–2006 period, the team won one Confederations Cup (2005), three Copa Américas (1997, 1999, 2004), two World Cups (1994, 2002) and were the runners-up in 1998. Many of the players in the squad were multiple Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year winners/nominees and had successful club careers in Europe.

Czech Republic (1996–2006)[edit]

Golden generation of the Czech Republic was born in the late seventies and early eighties of the twentieth century. During that decade Czech Republic finished second in UEFA Euro 1996[11] and third in UEFA Euro 2004.[12] The national team was also qualified for the first time to a Fifa World Cup in 2006. In the beggining of the twentieth century Czech Republic was for a long time in the top five teams of the world according to a FIFA World Ranking.[13] Czech Republic was the second best team in the world in 2005.[14] The squad was full of great players. They played in the best leagues in Europe for the teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus F.C. etc. One of them, Pavel Nedvěd, even won the Ballon d'Or in 2003.[15] For the first time in the history of this small Central European country a Czech player won the Champions League. It happened in 2005 during Miracle of Istanbul. Milan Baroš and Vladimír Šmicer won this title with Liverpool FC.

England (2001–2010)[edit]

During the reign of Sven-Göran Eriksson, Adam Crozier, the chief executive of the Football Association and some members of the British media, touted players such as David Beckham, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard as the nucleus of a potential Golden Generation team. Despite some impressive performances such as the 2001 Germany vs England football match in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers and the individual players' successes at club level, inconsistency resulted in this group of players failing to live up to expectations, resulting in the group becoming synonymous with disappointment and failed potential.[16][17][18][19][20][21]

After Eriksson left in 2006 and Steve McClaren became manager, although many of the players continued to achieve success with their respective clubs, the team failed to qualify for UEFA Euro 2008, only the second time England failed to qualify for a major tournament in over 20 years (of the last 12 major tournaments). Rio Ferdinand claimed that the pressure of the "Golden Generation" tag had a negative effect on the players, restricting their ability to perform to their full potential for the national team.[22] In 2017, Pep Guardiola said he could not understand why England did not achieve more with players such as Lampard, Carrick, Scholes, Gerrard, Terry and Ferdinand and claimed they were on the same level as Spain's golden generation of 2008–2014.[23]


Germany (2006–2014)[edit]

After finishing bottom of their group at UEFA Euro 2000, the German Football Association (DFB) made plans to develop a team to play at the 2006 FIFA World Cup held on home soil. Under manager Jürgen Klinsmann, young players such as Miroslav Klose, Phillip Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger were regular members of a team which finished in third place. These players were joined by 22-year-old striker Mario Gómez as Germany reached the final of UEFA Euro 2008 under the management of Joachim Löw.

After winning the UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship in 2009, Germany showcased a new set of rising young stars at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng, Dennis Aogo, Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil and Marko Marin from Germany's U21s were all included in Germany's World Cup squad, as well as Bayern Munich's Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber. This young group would play a very different style that is custom to the traditional Germany style of play. Instead, of the traditional style they played a counterattacking style that was quick and direct. This was demonstrated in their games with Australia, England and Argentina in which they scored four goals. This young group would lead Germany to the semi-finals before losing to Spain. For the qualification phase of UEFA Euro 2012, Germany went undefeated in their group, relying on young stars and newcomers Mats Hummels, Benedikt Höwedes, André Schürrle, Mario Götze and Marco Reus. Germany's FIFA World Cup 2014 qualification campaign saw Schalke 04's Julian Draxler become a regular member of the squad. The German golden generation reached its peak by winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup through an extra-time 1–0 victory over Argentina in the final.

Yugoslavia (1987–1992)[edit]

Yugoslavia's generation of young footballers won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship and finished runner-up at the 1990 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. The nation then reached the quarter-finals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup and, a year later, a Red Star Belgrade team featuring many of the national team's stars became the first Yugoslav side to ever win the European Cup. Yugoslavia qualified for UEFA Euro 1992 with seven wins from eight matches and the best goalscoring record and goal difference of any team during the qualifying phase. However, the team was disqualified prior to the tournament due to the Yugoslav Wars (it was replaced by the eventual champion, Denmark) and did not play together again after the country's division. Several players from the Yugoslav team went on to finish in third place at the 1998 World Cup with Croatia.[27][28]

Ajax (1992–1996)[edit]

The first "Golden Ajax" team was formed in the early 1970s[29]

In the mid 1990s, Ajax developed a generation of players who helped them win the 1995 UEFA Champions League Final, including:

Many of these players (as well as foreign signings like Jari Litmanen) later followed their coach at Ajax, Louis van Gaal, to FC Barcelona.

Nigeria (1994–1998)[edit]

Many of these players made up the youth national teams of Nigeria that won the 1993 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Japan and also the winning team of the 1994 African Cup of Nations. These teams were the step-up to the senior team for the world cup and were tipped to set the stage alight in USA. As a result, Nigeria reached the last 16 of the 1994 FIFA World Cup where they were within two minutes of qualifying for the quarter-finals in the game against Italy but Roberto Baggio scored to take the game to extra time. He also scored the eventual winning goal. The game ended 2–1 in favour of the Italians. However, they showed their dominance in the Atlanta Olympics where they won gold in the 1996 Summer Olympics beating the likes of Brazil in the semi-finals and Argentina in the finals.

France (1998–2006)[edit]

In late 1998 the France national football team began a period of international dominance defeating Brazil 3–0 to win the 1998 FIFA World Cup, becoming the first French team to win the World Cup. Two years later, David Trezeguet's golden goal in extra time gave France a 2–1 win over Italy to give France the 2000 European Championship. France were subsequently ranked No. 1 in the FIFA World Rankings and ranked No. 1 in the World Football Elo Ratings for two years. The team also secured the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup. Despite this impressive recent record the French team flopped at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, losing to newcomers Senegal in the opening match of the tournament and crashing out in the group stages without scoring a goal and taking only one point from their three games. Two years later they were successful at the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup. They also reached the World Cup final in Berlin at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where they lost to Italy.[30][31] The French golden team[32] was composed of the following players:

Hungary (1950–1956)[edit]

Portugal (1994–2006)[edit]

Many of these players made up the youth national teams of Portugal that won consecutive FIFA Youth Championships in 1989 and 1991. These teams were the step-up to the senior team. As a result, Portugal reached the semi-finals of 2000 UEFA European Football Championship and were runners-up four years later. They were also 2006 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists after a dominating run, though only Luís Figo was picked in the squad for the final tournament.[33][34][35] Some critics contend that many of the players underachieved at international level.[36][37]

Ivory Coast (2006–2014)[edit]

Despite winning the 1992 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the country saw an outpour of talent during the first half of the 2000s (decade). The majority of this generation consisted of talented players who enjoyed and still enjoy considerable success in Europe. Led by Didier Drogba (who is also the national team's highest ever goalscorer), several other players found contracts in the biggest football stages in the world. During this period, Ivory Coast managed its first FIFA World Cup appearances in 2006 and 2010 respectively.[40][41]

Chile (2007–2017)[edit]

Spain (2008–2016)[edit]

Despite a strong pedigree at club level, with teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, Spain frequently underachieved at international level. However, they won their first major trophy since the 1964 European championship after defeating Germany in the Euro 2008 final. This was followed by success in the 2010 World Cup against the Netherlands and in 2012, Spain were again crowned European champions after defeating Italy 4–0. The first team in history to achieve three successive international titles. This has led many commentators and experts to declare this Spanish team as the greatest international team in the history of the game. With Barcelona's Xavi and Andrés Iniesta at the helm, this golden generation of technically gifted players have been credited with changing some of the standard model rules of the game. Spain played most of Euro 2012 with a so-called false number 9; replacing the traditional central forward role with a playmaker. In each of their three tournament wins, Spain completed more passes than any other team in the competition. Along with passing, the other distinctive part of their game is ball possession. Spain have had majority possession in every competitive game since the start of Euro 2008, save the final game of Euro 2008 against Germany. Spain's tactical game has been dubbed "tiki-taka". Spain has ended each of the last five years at the top of the FIFA World Rankings. Despite embarrassingly being eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup 2014, the Golden Generation has ended in 2016 with the retirement of players such as Iker Casillas.

Belgium (2013–)[edit]

The current Belgium national team is seen by many as the most talented generation Belgium has ever had. A large number of their players currently play in England in the Premier League. In October 2013, the team qualified for the 2014 World Cup, Belgium's first appearance at a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup, and rose to fourth in the FIFA World Rankings in October 2014.[42] In November 2015, the team topped the FIFA World Rankings and held onto the coveted spot until April 2016.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (2010–)[edit]

The current Bosnia and Herzegovina national team was seen by many as the most talented generation the nation has ever had.[45][46][47] They qualified for 2014 FIFA World Cup, their first ever World Cup since their independence and got their first ever victory against Iran on 25 June 2014.

Algeria (2014–)[edit]

The Algerian team which reached the second round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been described as a golden generation, or a "second golden generation" in reference to the Algerian team which reached the 1982 and 1986 World Cups and which won the 1990 African Nations Cup.[48][49][50]

Colombia (2012–)[edit]

The current Colombian team; which reached the round of 8 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup (after not qualifying to the competition at all for 3 consecutive times), won a third place at Copa América Centenario and whose most of its men play in European football leagues is also described as a "second golden generation" in reference to the team that played between that mid '80s and mid '90s and qualified to 3 consecutive world cups.

Ice hockey[edit]


Born in the early 1970s, the Swedish national ice hockey team had a golden generation of players that achieved great success in the NHL and eventually won gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics, beating Finland with 3–2 in the gold medal game.


Born in the mid-1980s, the Canadian national men's hockey team has had a golden generation which contributed to five consecutive IIHF World U20 Championships between 2005 and 2009, and subsequently won back-to-back gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.[51][52][53] Eleven players have also won the Stanley Cup and four are members of the Triple Gold Club.

Finland (2014-)[edit]

Born in the mid to late 1990s, the Finnish national men's hockey team has had a golden generation of young stars. Finland won the IIHF World U20 Championships in 2014 and 2016. In the 2016 NHL Draft, three of the top five picks were Finnish. [54]

Rugby union[edit]

Ireland national rugby union team[edit]

Since 2001, Ireland's team has been chosen from a solid base of players, led by Brian O'Driscoll whose debut in 1999 has been linked to a transformation in the team's fortunes.[55] Under-21 Triple Crown victories in 1996 and 1998 and an under-19 World Cup win in 1998 occurred with many members of those teams going on to become the golden generation of the 2000s.[55] The senior team had only once in the 1990s won two Five Nations Championship games in one year (1995).[55] However, the team of the 2000s were close runners-up in the expanded Six Nations Championship several times, and were disappointingly knocked out of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, failing to advance from the pool stage.[56] Four Triple Crowns during the 2000s equaled the amount Ireland had won in the previous one hundred years.[55] A two-win Six Nations campaign in 2008 was the exception, leading to the departure of manager Eddie O'Sullivan.[55]

Their crowning moment came under Declan Kidney in 2009 when they won the Grand Slam and Six Nations Championship. They remained unbeaten throughout 2009, beating World and Tri Nations champions South Africa in their final match of the year. The Sunday Independent proclaimed the 2000s as "the greatest decade in the history of Irish rugby. In the space of 10 years we have progressed from penury to riches".[55] Most of this group of players have also led their respective Irish club/provincial sides to unprecedented success, with Munster winning the Celtic League in 2003, 2009 and 2011 and the Heineken Cup in 2006 and 2008; and Leinster winning the Celtic League in 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2014 (as well as finishing runner up in 2010, 2011 and 2012), the Amlin Challenge Cup in 2013 and the Heineken Cup in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

See also[edit]


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