Ranking the 8 Toughest Football Competitions to Win

Ranking the 8 Toughest Football Competitions to Win

Isaac Darko
updated at May 26, 2024 at 3:23 PM
In this article:
English Premier League logo
ENG Premier League
FIFA World Cup logo
FIFA World Cup
UEFA Europa League logo
UEFA Europa League
UEFA Champions League logo
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
English Football League Championship logo
ENG EFL Championship
CONMEBOL Copa America logo
CONMEBOL Copa America
  • It takes immense levels of skill - and often luck - to win these tournaments
  • From the World Cup to the Euros, every trophy presents its own challenge
  • Sports Brief has ranked the eight toughest competitions to win in football

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Football enthrals fans worldwide with its unpredictability and excitement. Whether it's the drama of the Premier League or the surprise upsets by Champions League teams, there’s something for everyone.

The most successful teams naturally draw the largest audiences, as viewers are captivated by elite midfielders crafting perfect opportunities and strikers scoring with ease. Yet, even fans of major competition teams often haven't seen their team win the top prizes.

Sports Brief has ranked the eight hardest competitions to win in world football.
Sports Brief has ranked the eight hardest competitions to win in world football. Photos by Franck Fife/Marc Atkins/Rob Newell.
Source: Getty Images

Winning isn’t everything, but it remains a universal desire. Achieving victory in the biggest tournaments demands consistency, drive, and often a bit of luck, requiring everything to align perfectly.

This is when the most seasoned players make a difference. With these challenges in mind, Sports Brief has ranked the eight toughest competitions to win, considering several key factors.

Toughest football competitions

1. Champions League

The Champions League is where players become legends, history is made, and fanbases unite.

Its rarity underscores the challenge of winning it. Despite dominating the Premier League, Manchester City struggled in UEFA's top competition until they won in 2023 against Inter Milan, via The Guardian.

Some clubs, like Chelsea in 2012, have defied the odds to claim victory, but such triumphs are becoming increasingly rare.

2. Premier League

The Premier League might not have the prestige of the World Cup, Euros, or Champions League, but it is very tough to win.

With 38 matches, including highly competitive winter months, near-perfection is required.

Since Pep Guardiola's arrival, many world-class teams have missed the title.

Liverpool once finished with 97 points and still came second, while Arsenal had 89 points in 2023/24 but were runners-up.

Beating a powerful club like Manchester City over a season is the ultimate challenge, demanding consistency without relying on luck, except for avoiding injury crises.

3. World Cup

Every footballer's dream trophy is the World Cup. It's the pinnacle of football, captivating the world every four years.

In 2022, Argentina achieved a fairytale ending, defeating France on penalties to give Lionel Messi his first World Cup, per ESPN.

His long wait highlights the trophy's difficulty. At least seven nations typically believe they can win, each boasting world-class squads. Winning requires skill and luck, as Argentina demonstrated in Qatar by narrowly overcoming several opponents.

4. Euros

International tournaments are incredibly challenging, with a nation's legacy decided in just a month.

The Euros, though less demanding than the World Cup as they cover only one continent, still feature numerous world-class teams like Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Germany, and England.

Only one team can emerge victorious, making the competition fierce. Despite winning a World Cup, England has yet to claim the title of European Cup.

5. African Cup of Nations

Major international tournaments demand peak performance from teams to win.

The African Cup of Nations is particularly chaotic, held mid-European season with players often fatigued and facing tough conditions.

Despite featuring many world-class players, there have been surprising underdog victories, like Zambia in 2012 and Algeria in 2019. These unpredictabilities keep it from ranking higher on the list.

6. Copa America

This tournament is held in South America every four years. Despite Lionel Messi's Argentina often being favourites, Messi has only won it once, highlighting its difficulty. The tournament demands peak physical, mental, and technical performance, with smaller, physical teams posing constant challenges, reflecting the competitive nature of South American football.

7. Europa League

The Europa League, UEFA's second-tier competition, is uniquely challenging.

Unlike the Champions League, it involves long trips to Eastern Europe or Scandinavia, with matches on Thursdays complicating domestic campaigns.

Competing in the Europa League requires impressive performances, making every match tough.

8. Championship

The Championship, England's second-tier league, isn't as easy to win as it may seem. Known as the "greatest league in the world" by some, its unpredictability challenges even the most seasoned fans.

Every team fights fiercely, making free-flowing football difficult. Despite major budgets, teams often struggle to secure promotion on their first attempt, highlighting the league's challenge in reaching the Premier League.

4 managers who won PL, FA and League Cup

Earlier, Sports Brief also analysed the only managers who have managed to claim all the English titles: the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the League Cup.

Only four managers have managed this feat in the history of the Premier League.

The four tacticians include Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. The duo have enjoyed an incredible run in the English top flight, with Pep winning six EPL crowns.

Isaac Darko photo
Isaac Darko
Isaac Darko is a La Liga, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga editor at Sports Brief with a Degree in Journalism and Communications from Ghana Institute of Journalism (2010)