The Olympics and World Cup are bonded in many ways -- global sporting events, national pride, even the sport of soccer, which made its Olympic debut in 1900, 30 years before the first World Cup.
With that and the Olympic NCAA Tournament bracket in mind, which 2014 World Cup nations would fare best in the Olympic arena? Here’s what the eight groups would look like if countries were represented by their greatest Olympians:
Croatia, whose athletes competed under the Yugoslavian flag until 1992, looks strong here with Kostelic, the only woman to win four Alpine skiing medals and three golds at a single Winter Games.
Brazil, the host of the next Olympics in 2016, boasts a sailor who won medals at the last five Olympics. Mbango is Cameroon’s only individual Olympic champion, winning triple jump gold in 2004 and 2008. Mexican Capilla, a four-time medalist, never finished worse than fourth in six Olympic diving events.
Australia holds the biggest star power with Thorpe, the world’s greatest swimmer before Phelps grabbed the mantle and a nine-time medalist.
Wuest won five medals in Sochi, more medals than any other athlete. Spain’s Cal has entered five Olympic canoe events since 2004 and never finished lower than second. Massu is an oddity, never making it past a Grand Slam fourth round yet being Chile’s only two-time Olympic champion, both in 2004.
Japan would be the favorite here with Kato, a 12-time medalist and the last gymnast to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles in 1968 and 1972.
Greece, the home of the Olympic movement, has the Albanian-born Dimas. Dimas is the only weightlifter to win, together, three Olympic golds and four overall. Urrutia, one of two Colombians to win Olympic gold, threw the discus and shot put in 1988 but didn’t win her gold until the first Olympic women’s weightlifting competition in 2000. Tiacoh won Cote d’Ivoire’s only Olympic medal, a 400m silver in 1984.
Coe, a four-time 1980s middle distance medalist for Great Britain, is the most recognizable name but perhaps not the most accomplished in this tight group.
Take Italy and Mangiarotti, who entered 14 Olympic events and won medals in 13 of them, debuting at 17 and running through age 41. Poll, a three-time freestyle swimming medalist over 1996 and 2000, is one of two Costa Rican Olympic medalists. Her sister is the other. Uruguay’s only Olympic golds came in soccer in 1924 and 1928, with Andrade among the stars of those squads.
France highlights the group with Killy, the last man to win three Alpine golds at a single Winter Games.
Perez, a two-time medal-winning race walker, is Ecuador’s only Olympic medalist. Swiss Ammann is the only ski jumper with four individual Olympic titles. Honduras has zero Olympic medals. Bengtson, a striker on its World Cup squad, scored all three Honduran group-stage goals at London 2012, helping it to the quarterfinals.
If there’s a “Group of Life,” this is it. Perhaps Argentina leads it with midfield maestro Mascherano, who was on its 2004 and 2008 Olympic title teams.
Bosnia and Herzegovina hasn’t won any medals since its independence from Yugoslavia. Delibasic won silver and gold for Yugoslavia in 1976 and 1980 but was born in the Bosnia and Herzegovina area and reportedly named Bosnia’s Sportsman of the Century. Rezazadeh, the Iranian Hercules, won Olympic heavyweight titles in 2000 and 2004. Ajunwa, who made Nigeria’s 1991 Women’s World Cup squad, is its only individual event Olympic champion (1996 long jump).
If only the U.S. World Cup team had a presence as powerful as Phelps on this list. The swimmer is of course the most decorated Olympian of all time in golds (18) and total medals (22).
Germany’s Fischer is the greatest Olympic kayaker of all time with 12 medals. No Ghanaian has won gold, but Quartey came the closest with a light welterweight silver in 1960. Mota won Olympic marathon gold (1988) and bronze (1984) for Portugal, in addition to several other major world marathons.
This could be considered the Group of Death. It starts with Russia’s Latynina, who held the record for most Olympic medals (18) before Phelps broke it in 2012. She was born in Ukraine and competed for the Soviet Union but considers herself Russian now.
Van Innis won twice as many golds (six) and medals (10) than any other Belgian and is the most decorated archer in Olympic history. Kim won six Olympic archery medals from 1988 through 2000, taking a break to have two children in between. Morceli has just one Olympic medal, gold in the 1996 1500m, but was the world’s greatest miler of the early 1990s.