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Countries that underachieve vs countries that overachieve in sports relative to their size

Tooting Carmen

First XV
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Underachievers

-The South Asian countries (except in cricket).
-To a lesser extent China, albeit they are particularly good in table tennis and in recent decades have done well in gymnastics too.

Overachievers

-Wales (rugby and to a lesser extent football).
-Scotland (football and to a lesser extent rugby).
-Nordic countries (hockey).
-New Zealand (rugby and to a lesser extent cricket).
-Uruguay (football and increasingly even rugby - they are now the 2nd best team in the Americas in the latter).
-Fiji/Samoa/Tonga (rugby).
-Jamaica/Trinidad & Tobago (athletics).
-Also of arguable note is the success of Puerto Rico and Nicaragua in baseball, as well as Costa Rica in football (at least when compared to the rest of Central America).
-As for Ireland, it is complicated by the fact that (1) their most prominent sports, Gaelic sports, are only played there and (2) in some sports there is one team for the whole island, while in others there are separate teams for the North and the Republic.

N.B. My main criteria for 'overachievers' are countries that have fewer than ten million people which, nevertheless, are at least fairly successful and noteworthy in certain sports. Therefore, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, which like Puerto Rico and Nicaragua are also good at baseball, don't quite qualify.
 
USA?

In "ball sports" they're pretty underwhelming in most sports that are popular elsewhere (I didn't want to say sports they didn't invent, or sports only they play)

In rugby terms, I think I heard someone say they have the most rugby players.
 
USA?

In "ball sports" they're pretty underwhelming in most sports that are popular elsewhere (I didn't want to say sports they didn't invent, or sports only they play)

In rugby terms, I think I heard someone say they have the most rugby players.

The USA is good in 7s rugby, but bad in 15s. Fortunately I like both. 7s keeps me hopeful and that makes up for the frustration I get from our 15s program.

And were freakin' great at stock car racing. :D

Big One Sport GIF by NASCAR
 
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Agree on NZ. Particularly when their climate isn't sensational for outdoor sport and they are really isolated geographically. Probably number 1 for me because they win stuff in these sports (even if they are fairly niche sports).

Fiji - rugby 7s (and now 15s). If they can get to the semifinal I would probably make them number 1. They are tiny.

Scotland, no way since the 80s. Routinely tapping players from other countries in sports and not winning anything. Recent exceptions are Andy Murray, and, if we include them as sports, snooker, strongmen and darts. The fact schoolkids cannot train in daylight for 3 months of the year (due to ludicrous clock change) doesn't help, but others do more with less.

Iceland - football and strongman

Croatia - how can they be so good for so long at football? Historically top level at handball and water polo too (yes, I did google that). If they had won a football tournament they would be my numero uno.


Too big for your standard but Spain are so good at nurturing talent. Even though they are a middle sized country I would still call them overachievers. Football (both sexes), total crazy domination of motorbikes (despite not having a manufacturer?), good at F1, top table of rugby u20s, sensational at tennis, two times defending world champs at handball. Cycling too historically, but that is less inspiring.

If any Tier2 is going to find a magical way of replicating Argentina's rugby miracle it would be Spain, hence my interest in this topic. Really mystified how Spain can get on top on a sport and then consistently stay there. Its been decades since they have been a dictatorship (which typically pump funds into sport). Their rugby u20s are probably a flash in the pan, they have minimal funding, but who knows? Could it be the start of something?

Underachiever I would mention is India. But watch out as they are now entrenched nationalists and are funding things like sprinting to a very high standard and had a decent lass at tennis. Basically, they are now shifting the notion that south Asians can't be as naturally athletic as anyone else and by removing that mental block and seemingly combining it with funds and about 1/6th of the world's population I expect them to say hello to global sport in the next 20 years. Plus, masters of kabbadi!

I would say the biggest underachiever is Japan. They pump loads of money into various sports and don't seem to get anywhere. A bit rubbish at motorsport despite having manufacturers etc. At the olympics they seem to do well only at really niche stuff like archery. For rugby they are my reverse of Spain. Things look promising externally for them but I don't have confidence that they'll ever consistently trouble the top 8 of the sport.
 
New Zealand always take in a few medals for rowing at the Olympics

Boxing is definitely our Olympic niche
 
Agree on NZ. Particularly when their climate isn't sensational for outdoor sport ....
what? top of the north island is a subtropical climate, and whilst the south is colder is generally dryer than fair chunks of europe due to the southern alps catching the predominant weather from the west
 
Underachiever I would mention is India. But watch out as they are now entrenched nationalists and are funding things like sprinting to a very high standard and had a decent lass at tennis. Basically, they are now shifting the notion that south Asians can't be as naturally athletic as anyone else and by removing that mental block and seemingly combining it with funds and about 1/6th of the world's population I expect them to say hello to global sport in the next 20 years. Plus, masters of kabbadi!
They still will seldom if ever qualify for the major world cups like football, rugby, basketball etc. This being said, it is true that Indian (and Pakistani) actors have got noticeably more muscular in recent decades, and nowadays are at least the equal with Hollywood in that respect. 😀
 
what? top of the north island is a subtropical climate, and whilst the south is colder is generally dryer than fair chunks of europe due to the southern alps catching the predominant weather from the west
Never talk weather to a Scotsman or he will bore the hind legs off you...

I will Google the weather in the "land of the long white cloud" (the polynesians knew their stuff!). I'm just taking the first results that come up.

Highlanders play under a roof for a reason. Even if average rainfall isn't heavy, Otago has 167 days of rain per annum.

For context, that is the same as Glasgow (incredibly wet city). Edinburgh has a modest 129 days per annum (I live here for a reason). Manchester is 152, Cardiff is 149 days.

Canterbury has 183 days of rain per annum.
Auckland has 162 days of rain (obviously at a pleasant temperature)

So basically, every major city in NZ is coming back on Google the same or more days of rain than any city in the UK.

Hurricanes in Wellington (where I was thinking of in terms of weather during Super Rugby for being a SH Galway) , which has weather described as:

"It is generally very windy all year round with high rainfall; average annual rainfall is 1,250 mm (49 in), June and July being the wettest months. Frosts are quite common in the hill suburbs and the Hutt Valley between May and September"

Everything is relative but I stand by saying the NZ climate is "not sensational for outdoor sports". The figures are worse than I thought to be honest although obviously a large part of your population is in the warmer Auckland area..

Still, could be Galway at 230 days or Skye at 279 days (why do people risk a holiday there?)
 
Underachieving any country with a population around 1 billion or over ie China and India. Pretty sure with the right time and resources, training you could find the people to pretty much dominate most sports.
 
In terms of rugby, we all underperform relative to the Pacific Isles.
In terms of population size though, that's a red herring as opposed to the numbers of players, clubs, and investment of resources.
 
In terms of rugby, we all underperform relative to the Pacific Isles.
In terms of population size though, that's a red herring as opposed to the numbers of players, clubs, and investment of resources.
Good summary. I think there's a law of diminishing returns that kicks in pretty quickly as participant numbers increase in sport. By and large, casual observers will perceive smaller nations as overachieving and larger ones as underachieving.
 
@Bruce_ma gooshvili come on, you know for everything you find on the info web there can be found the opposite



1696367548360.png

"In simple terms, almost the whole of New Zealand is warmer and sunnier than the UK. "

my original comment was based on spending years living in both and basic geography like NZ's NH equivalent position would be spain meaning we just get more daylight hours

This is the first time iver ever heard someone suggest the UK has a better climate than a literal pacific island
 
Samoa and Tonga do well in league. Samoa made the final if the league World Cup. Sure league is not all that big a sport, but when you consider union and league together and that samoa and Tonga are good at both, that tells you something.

New Zealand is likely only to remain competitive at rugby due to our samoan and Tongan population too, plus those that come over on scholarships for high school.

I don't know what it's like in other countries but sport has any that big amongst kids any more, with less than half of high school students playing any sport whatsoever. So NZ probably isn't going to be that good in the future.

For a while australia were major overachievers in the nineties and naughties. They won huge amounts of gold medals at Olympics, were good at rugby, great at cricket, league, netball.
 
@Bruce_ma gooshvili come on, you know for everything you find on the info web there can be found the opposite



View attachment 18002

"In simple terms, almost the whole of New Zealand is warmer and sunnier than the UK. "

my original comment was based on spending years living in both and basic geography like NZ's NH equivalent position would be spain meaning we just get more daylight hours

This is the first time iver ever heard someone suggest the UK has a better climate than a literal pacific island

Bloody internet. Its even saying NZ gets heavier rain but less days of it than the UK, which is the complete opposite of what I was finding. :(
 
Bloody internet. Its even saying NZ gets heavier rain but less days of it than the UK, which is the complete opposite of what I was finding. :(
that could be skewed because the west coast of the south island is one of the wettest places in the world, our predominant weather is generated by the Australian landmass and so comes from the west.....picks up water over the tasman sea and then hits the southern alps dumping it again on the west coast....meaning the majority of the south island gets very dry norwesters, so the total is a lot of water in a small area and most of the population experience dry and warm
 
It's almost like... living somewhere gives you a better idea of what a place is like than 5-10 minutes on google...
 
Let's put tiny Liechtenstein in here as in regard of Olympic Medals related to population they're top level (having some successful skiing athletes).

Then Netherlands definitely, having a top level soccer team, being world class in speed skating (133 medals), besides being one of the top field hockey nations and producing a lot of world class cycling athletes.

Also Slovenia (2 Mio inhabitants only) in recent years regarding climbing and cycling (plus a longer history in winter sports).

Then Cuba dominating Boxing and also being decent at Baseball, also definitely overachieving.

Lithuania ( 3 Mio inhabitants) is a Top 10 country in world basketball, definitely overachieving. Similar with even smaller Latvia in ice hockey.

Hungary is dominating at water polo and a decent side in fencing.

Top underachieving being Bangladesh (150 Mio plus Inhabitants) not having won a single olympic medal. Iran and Egypt (80 and 100 mio inhabitants respectively) are also imo underachieving.
 
It's almost like... living somewhere gives you a better idea of what a place is like than 5-10 minutes on google...
Using that logic I look forward to shutting down any remark you make about another nation. My sources were also data raised in the countries in question. Kiwiwomble was also referencing UK weather yet you do not challenge that. You also provide no data to contribute to the discussion, but thanks for your pithy contrubution, :p

I still consider my sources in quoting precise annual rainfall figures for UK and NZ cities to be broadly reliable. Unless you consider there is a giant rainfall calculation misinfromation programme run by Iran to produce information like this.


Kiwiwombles data was for country versus country, but mine was for cities versus cities. People, by and large, live in cities and therefore a city versus city comparison is more accurate. But it is hard to reconcile the different datasets available online and draw conclusions. That is why I mentioned things like Hihglanders playing under a roof.

My point stands, NZ rainfall in cities means it not have sensational weather for outdoor sports which makes success in cricket in particular surprising. Up here in fairly dry Edinburgh it is considered almost too wet for cricket (probably because we are a soft lot and Kiwis are not). People are entirely free to hold a different opinion but my observations were meant as a compliment towards NZ's culture of open air sports.
 
Using that logic I look forward to shutting down any remark you make about another nation.
If I ever claim that being English gives me greater knowledge of another country than people who live in that country; and insist on my greater knowledge for several posts - feel free.

My sources were also data raised in the countries in question. Kiwiwomble was also referencing UK weather yet you do not challenge that. You also provide no data to contribute to the discussion, but thanks for your pithy contrubution,
Yes, a 5-10 minute google session.

Kiwiwomble was also referencing UK weather yet you do not challenge that. You also provide no data to contribute to the discussion, but thanks for your pithy contrubution,
Almost like I didn't care. You're welcome.
 

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