When will China and India make it to the World Cup Final? One investment bank thinks it has the answer

Guy Bentley
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Indian players with former Brazilian player Jose Roberto Gama de Oliveira (Source: Getty)

China and India may be two of world's rising economic powerhouses but when it comes to the beautiful game, these giants of the global economy are nowhere to be seen.

How long will be until the two countries which account for over a third of the planet's population make it to a World Cup final? Goldman Sachs believes it has the answer.

In a detailed analysis of the economics of the World Cup, the US banking giant concludes that it may take two generations for China to become a first-tier football nation with a chance of winning the world cup.

Meanwhile, India currently ranked 147 out of 207 countries in the latest FIFA World Ranking and, never having qualified for the World Cup, will take more than 20 years to reach a final, according to the investment bank.

Goldman Sachs details the challenges facing both countries and the possible solutions that could propel them into the top-tier of footballing nations.


The world's second-largest economy has certainly increased its impact in sports over the last 30 years. China's ranking in the Olympic medals tables has risen, but football remains an exception. Far from climbing the global rankings, China has in fact seen faced a downward trend in football rankings, remaining within the 70-100 range since 2008.

The number of registered players in China is stubbornly low - around half that of the Netherlands, which has a population below both Shanghai and Beijing.

Because sport is dominated by the Chinese government, whose priority is medal count, it has proved more efficient to invest in a large number of smaller sports and harvest a greater number of medals, than invest in one large sport such as football. Furthermore, China has proved relatively unsuccessful in sports requiring large teams.

China's relatively better performance in football during the early reform years is possibly related to the fact that Deng Xiaoping was a football fan himself. Despite the recent past, Goldman Sachs believe there is still hope yet for Chinese football. An aggressive anti-corruption campaign, which is already underway, may improve the environment for football, while many are turning to sports to counter China's rising obesity rates.


A young population, open space and rising living standards have failed to translate into the success of professional football in India. Goldman examine the situation through their growth environment score (GES) framework , which looks at the economic, social and political factors that are required for a country's growth.

Goldman find a reasonably strong correlation between rising GES and FIFA World Ranking for developing countries. While India has experienced growth, its GES score has failed to improve substantially and it has remained low in the FIFA rankings.

The report finds that the key factors holding back Indian football are poor infrastructure, competition from cricket, weak administration and lack of training. For India to up its game, it'll need the support of government, media, business and the general public. India has, however, been moving in the right direction, with the establishment of bodies such as the Indian Super League. Furthermore, football is becoming increasingly popular in urban schools and English Premier League teams have launched talent-hunting schemes in India.