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In sports, Golden Generation is a term often used to describe an exceptionally gifted group of players who achieve a level of international success beyond what their team had previously achieved.

Below is a list of teams who have been referred by their countries' media or by the soccer press as "golden generation" style teams. The term has also been used to describe the Ireland national rugby union team of the 2000s.


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 several Football World Youth Championships in 1989 and 1991.

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


Portugal national football team

First generation

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 and Nuno Gomes were picked in the squad for the final tournament.
Some critics contend that many of the players underachieved at international level.

Second generation

As the original Golden Generation phased out, a new group of "Golden Boys" emerged in Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. The younger footballers now make up the Portuguese team and are considered the next level of the "Golden Generation", also nicknamed the "Platinum Generation" . The most prominent of the younger players of the new team include:

Australia national football team

After failing to qualify for numerous World Cups the Socceroos finally qualified for the 2006 Finals. The Australia squad was strong enough to qualify for the second round and many consider it the most talented group of Australian footballers ever assembled.

Bulgaria national football team

In the 1990s, the Bulgarian national football team achieved international success at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals, defeating such football powerhouses like Germany, France and Argentina. Before that they had not won a single game.

Second Generation

In 2003 the Bulgarian team qualified for UEFA Euro 2004; these were some of the most talented players in the Bulgaria squad:

Croatia national football team

First Generation

In the mid-to-late 1990s, the Croatia national football team achieved international success, reaching the quarter-finals of 1996 UEFA European Football Championship and the semi-finals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup.Like their Portuguese counterparts many of their golden generation players, they also won a Football World Youth Championship. The likes of Davor Šuker, Igor Štimac, Robert Prosinečki, Robert Jarni, and Zvonimir Boban were all part of the former Yugoslavia's win in the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championships.

Second Generation

Bilić took over as coach after the 2006 World Cup and helped integrate a new generation of youngsters. The "Bilić Boys" went to the Euro 2008 as a fancied team, having denied traditional powerhouses England a place in the finals.

English national football team

Early in 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. However, this group of players as many England teams failed to live up to expectations during Eriksson's tenure, resulting in the term falling out of common use. Although many of them have achieved success with their respective clubs, the team failed to qualify for Euro 2008 - only the second time they failed to qualify for a major tournament in over twenty years (of the last twelve major tournaments).

French national football team

First generation

The brilliant generation of players who became the first French team ever to win the World Cup, in 1998, before David Trézéguet's golden goal gave France the European Championship two years later – becoming the only team in history to win back-to-back the World Cup followed by the Euro. During this concentrated time frame, the Zinédine Zidane era swept all before it on the international stage, where the French decade of success was undisputed, adding another title, the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup to the trophy cabinet, and another two years later, the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup, and once again reaching the World Cup Final in Berlin at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. While Zidane's retirement after the 2006 World Cup was said to have been the end of the golden generation, many agree that the golden era well and truly ended when France failed to string together at Euro 2008 – a tournament where the national team lost its first match to rivals Italy for the first time in over 30 years and also recorded its worst ever defeat in over 40 years (a 1–4 capitulation to Holland). It was the first time ever in 15 years that France had been defeated in two consecutive matches and the first time in 16 years where France failed to pass the group stage at a Euro. These statistics alone suggest that the era had finally come to an end, with the departure of Zidane having a major influence in the decline. The end was made evident when veterans Lilian Thuram and Claude Makélélé announced their international retirements on June 17, 2008. As Makélélé exclaimed: "I have sweated for this [Les Bleus] shirt and it has brought me 100% happiness, so there are no regrets. A new generation can take the reins and come together. I am totally with them."

Second generation

Iraq national football team

Iraqi football reached a peak in the 1970s and 1980s - Iraq qualified for the 1986 World Cup and the Olympic Games 3 times in Moscow, Los Angeles and Seoul. Iraq also won the 1982 Asian Games, the Arab Nations Cup 4 times, the Gulf Cup of Nations 3 times, and the 1985 Pan Arab Games fielding a B team. Iraq finished in 4th place in the 1976 AFC Asian Cup - the last Asian Cup Iraq would participate in until (1996).

Republic of Ireland national football team

Then there was the brilliant "Golden Generation" of Republic of Ireland youth football of the late 1990s. Under the guidance of Brian Kerr, the unfancied Republic won the UEFA U-16 and U-18 European championships in 1998. In 1997, they finished third at the World Youth Cup in Malaysiamarker, after losing 1-0 to eventual champions Argentinamarker. In 1999, they played at the World Youth Cup in Nigeriamarker, where the Republic reached the last 16 before going out on penalties to the hosts. Many of the players went on to play at Japan and South Korea in 2002, where the team reached the second round before succumbing to Spain on penalties.

Romania national football team

In the 1990s, The Romania national football team achieved international prestige, peaking at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, where they reached the quarter-finals.

Swedish National Football Team

In the 1990s, the national team of Sweden reached impressive results at the Euro 92 and peaking with their third place at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Football fans in Sweden still have fond memories of the "magical summer of 1994" and consider this team, which reach 2nd place on FIFAs World Ranking, one of the best the country ever had.

Japan national football team

In Japan, the players who were born in 1975 to 1979 are referred to as "The Golden Generation" (黄金世代: Ougon Sedai).

Especially, born in 1979 are narrowly referred to as "The Golden Generation". They won the silver medals at 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship. In a wide sense, those who were born in 1975 to 1978 are also included in the generation, because they were qualified the group stage at 1995 FIFA World Youth Championship, 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship and the 2000 Summer Olympics, .

They, combined with some of elder players, reached the final at 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup and won the AFC Asian Cup consecutively (2000 and 2004). As a co-host country of 2002 FIFA World Cup, they qualified the first round with 7 points (2 wins 1 draw).

Their brilliant achievement are due to the training strategy of Japan Football Association, as well as the success of J. League. Many of the players have moved to and played at football teams in Europe.

born in 1979
born in 1975-1978

Greece national football team

In the 2004, The Greek national football team achieved international prestige, triumphing at Euro 2004 and causing one of the biggest upsets in football history. They could perhaps be considered the antithesis of a "Golden Generation" because of a massive deficiency in individual talent; succeeding ahead of so many more gifted European sides through tactical ingenuity and luck.

Turkey national football team

In the mid 1990s to early 21st Century, the Turkey national football team achieved international success, reaching the quarter-finals of the 2000 UEFA European Football Championship and the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2008.

Spain national football team

Despite having a formidable reputation at the youth level that regularly produces quality players, the Spanish team had been known as the perennial underachievers for never making it past the semi-final of any major tournament since their Euro 64 triumph. This generation of homegrown players, with the exception of naturalized Spanish citizen Marcos Senna, finally claimed the ultimate prize the Euro 2008. Many of the squad, like Casillas, Torres and Xavi, had enjoyed much success at the youth tournaments.

Ajax Amsterdam

First Generation

AFC Ajax won the European Cup three times consecutively in the early seventies. These 'homegrown' players contributed largely to achieve this prestation. The likes of Cruijff, Neeskens and co went on to thrill the world with their "Total Football" at the 1974 FIFA World Cup.

Second Generation

AFC Ajax's world renowned youth academy produced the majority of the stars who took Ajax to victory in the UEFA Champions League 1994-95.

Finland national football team


Manchester United

During the 1998-99 season Sir Alex Ferguson won the unpreceded "Treble" (UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and Premier League) with a number of younger players who came through the academy. See Fergie's Fledglings.

Rugby union

Ireland national rugby union team

From 2001, Ireland's team has been chosen from a solid base of immensely talented players, led by Brian O'Driscoll whose debut in 1999 has been linked to an extraordinary transformation in the team's fortunes.[340684] "Rugby's golden children exploded with the boom", Sunday Independent, Sunday November 15 2009 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 noughties. The senior team had only once in the 1990s won two Five Nations Championship games in one year (1995). 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, not winning it. Four Triple Crowns during the 2000s equalled the amount Ireland had won in the previous one hundred years. A two-win Six Nations campaign in 2008 was the exception, leading to the departure of manager Eddie O'Sullivan.

Their crowning moment of the decade came under Declan Kidney in 2009 when they won the Grand Slam and Six Nations Championship. They remained unbeaten throughout the entirety of 2009, beating World and Tri Nations champions South Africa in their final match of the year.11/28/nytimes>[340685] "Ireland End Year Unbeaten With South Africa Win", The New York Times, Published: November 28, 2009 The Sunday Independent proclaimed the noughties as "the greatest decade in the history of Irish rugby. In the space of 10 years we have progressed from penury to riches". What was more, 2008 had seen no competition for one of the golden generation's leading lights, Ronan O'Gara, yet by 2009 David Humphreys and Jonathan Sexton were both competing against him for just one place on the team. Sexton's emergence, which came during 2009,11/28/nytimes/> would lead the way for a new generation of greats...

First generation

Second generation

Other uses

Sometimes this description is used for participants of World War II or when referring to a country's importance in history.


  1. [1]
  2. 'Golden Generation' Must First Beat World Champion France : Can Portugal Go the Full Distance? - International Herald Tribune
  3. - Soccer - Euro 2000 - Portugal's golden generation aims to fulfill promise - 2 June 2000
  4. - Soccer - Portugal's golden generation just misses glory - 4 July 2004
  5. [2]
  6. [3]
  9. Deco, Ronaldo lead Portugal's new 'golden generation'
  10. Socceroos dried and tested: no drain, no gain - Sport -
  11. Socceroos warned against taking Oman lightly - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  12. Socceroos fail to fire | The Courier-Mail
  13. SBS The World Game
  14. Amy Lawrence: High life set to inspire Bulgaria | Football | The Observer
  17. McClaren ends the golden era | Football | The Guardian
  18. England's golden generation are big heads | Football | The Observer
  19. Fallen idols: England's sporting flops - MSN UK News, Special Report, Fallen idols: England's sporting flops - news & weather
  20. BBC SPORT | Football | World Cup 2006 | Teams | England | End of road for wayward England
  21. When did England last play well? - International, Football - The Independent
  22. England, Beckham booted from Euro 2008 - Soccer -
  23. Finals bow for Zidane
  24. End of an era for France
  25. End of the golden era for France
  26. Italy rolls; Dutch bounce
  27. Crushing loss to Netherlands leaves Domenech short of answers and France nearer Euro 2008 exit
  28. France sunk as Italy grab lifeline
  29. Les Bleus exit Euro 2008
  30. French players missing Zidane
  31. France duo call it quits
  32. French duo end international duty
  33. Final curtain for France legends
  34. The Irish U18 European Champions of 1998
  35. FIFA World Youth Championship 1997
  36. BBC SPORT | EURO2000 | ROMANIA | Romania's yellow peril
  37. - Osim carrying Japanese hopes
  38. Greece win Euro 2004
  39. The sound of no hands clapping - Turkish Daily News 31 March 2002
  40. - Golden future for the Oranje
  41. Rugby World Cup: Ireland's dying light stings Reddan in hunt for late revival | Sport | The Guardian
  42. Irish News UK - News from the Irish Community in Britain
  43. The Greatest Generation (Revised)

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