Which is Harder to Win, the World Cup or the Champions League?


Walking through the lanes of Reddit, I saw this question posed in the comment section of a football-related post and couldn’t figure out the answer to it. After a few days of thinking, I think I have reached nowhere. I would however try to offer an olive branch and probably you could decide for yourself which comes on top in a World Cup vs Champions League battle.

The World Cup

No transfer market

The biggest argument in World Cup’s favour is that the teams are bound by nationality. A manager is stuck with the players he has. No matter the money, a national coach cannot go ahead and buy players from another country. They have to make do with what they have. This is the sole reason why Messi and Ronaldo for all their greatness, cannot win the World Cup. Despite being the two greatest players of this generation, both are stuck with a mediocre team that cannot support them to the World Cup title.

If you ask them if they want a World Cup or a Champions League I’m certain both would ask for the former as it is something that has eluded them all their lives. The 2022 Fifa World Cup would be both Messi’s as well as Ronaldo’s last chance at the coveted cup.

Mostly Knockout games

While teams get two games in the Champions League (apart from the Final), the world cup has only knockout games throughout the tournament. One loss and you’re out. There isn’t another leg like the Champions League for a comeback. This increases the uncertainty factor which in turn makes the tournament more difficult than the Champions League which has the security of a home match.

So when it comes to the importance of each match in the World cup vs Champions league battles, the World cup certainly comes on top.

Truly a global event

Although Champions League is also watched all over the world, only European Clubs get to play in it, unlike the world cup where every country in the world participates in. There are 211 national association members under FIFA as opposed to just 55 under UEFA. Every World Cup breaks viewership records of the last one pointing to the increasing success of the World Cup. This massive following brings in with it, immense pressure for the players who are also burdened with keeping the name of their country on top.

Given the players are representing their countries, there is far more seriousness given to a world cup than a Champions League. The fact that the World Cup takes place after 4 years also plays a huge role in making it feel dearer than the Champions League which is organised every year.

In terms of the absolute reach of their games, the World Cup is far bigger than the Champions League. The World Cup games are watched by people who don’t even watch any other football matches. Football becomes truly a world sport when the World Cup is on.

Very few past winners

The most shocking fact of this whole debate is that only 8 teams have won the World Cup so far as opposed to 22 who have won the Champions League. The probability of a new team winning a world cup is very less than a new club winning the Champions League. It is possible as a one-off chance for weaker teams to go all the way and win the Champions League with a good expenditure on the team which is not the case for National Teams in the World Cup.

Champions League

Far tougher teams

Of all the quality of the World cup and the excitement it produces, the fact that the Champions League produces a higher quality of football cannot be denied. Teams in the last 8 of the Champions League are far better than that of the last 8 of a World Cup. The last Champions League winner could easily defeat the last World Cup winner. In this case, Bayern Munich can easily defeat the French National team on the football pitch.

Champions League teams have a bigger player pool to choose from as opposed to the national teams. This means the stronger teams that reach the Champions League are far more technically sound than their World Cup counterparts. All the World’s greatest players could be found in the last 8 of the Champions League which is not true for the World Cup. Oftentimes, players like Haaland, Salah, Mane, Lewandowski etc are out early in the World Cup whereas in the Champions League they play towards the end of the tournament as well.

In terms of outright team strength in the Champions League vs World Cup debate, the Champions League teams come on top.

Focus is divided

The Champions League is a season-long tournament which means it’s held along with other tournaments. Managing players so they stay fit to play all the tournaments is a tougher task than just focusing all your energy on one tournament. Often times teams have to let go of the romance of one tournament in the hope of a better chance in another. Teams that have a good chance in the Domestic League often lift off the throttle in the Champions League so it does not distract their title charge. This management of resources for longer duration makes winning the Champions League a bit tougher than a single tournament like the World Cup which is played for just a month.

Much more unpredictable.

A team like Ajax reached the Semi-Final in the last year’s Champions League. Chelsea in 2021 went all the way and won the Champions League despite not playing that well in the Premier League. Meanwhile, in the World Cup, teams like Spain, Brazil, France and Germany are always the contender for the title. Higher-level unpredictability makes the Champions League more difficult than the World Cup.

When it comes to unpredictability in the World Cup vs Champions League debate, the Champions League wins.

What do you think is tougher to win? The FIFA World Cup or the Champions League. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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