Football is by far the most popular sport in the world. Though most people connect easily with club-level football, national teams bring out the maximum passion among fans. As of 17 September 2020, FIFA has 210 recognised national teams, but only a handful of those take part in elite competitions like the FIFA World Cup.
Gone are the days when fans used to grow up supporting their local heroes and national teams. Thanks to football's massive global reach, teams can now build a fan base far away from their own territories, including national teams.
On the other hand, national teams can use social media effectively in these days of globalisation to keep their fans engaged even when players are busy with their clubs.
It is quite easy to ascertain the success of a team based on the silverware they have collected, but almost impossible to accurately measure their popularity. Here's where the three big social media platforms - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - come in handy. The number of followers online roughly gives us an idea about the number of fans a team has.
Though teams do not have a massive presence online like some of their players have (Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Lionel Messi have hundreds of millions of fans online), they still have a respectable number of followers on social media.
Here, we will take a look at the top 5 national football teams with the most fans across the world, based on social media followers.
All figures as on 14 October 2020.
Total followers - 11.9 million
It's not surprising to find Argentina taking a place in the top 5 most supported national football teams, thanks to the rich legacy of the team and of course the calibre of exceptional players this South American nation has produced in the last seven decades.
The two-time World Cup winners only hold on to the fifth spot by a slim margin, with a fan army of 11.9 million, and pip Portugal in the rankings, thanks to a better presence on Twitter.
Cristiano Ronaldo's team has a total of 11.4 million fans online and have a better presence on Facebook and Instagram than the Albiceleste, but don't even have a million followers on Twitter and that's what cost them a spot here.
Lionel Messi's incredible performances in national colours have kept fans satisfied for now but a lack of silverware for the country remains a thorn in their side.
Here's how Argentina national football team's 11.9 million fans are distributed across social media -
Facebook - 4.1 million likes
Twitter - 3.7 million followers
Instagram - 4.1 million followers
Total followers - 13.5 million
Germany is one of the most successful national teams, having won four World Cups (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014), three European Championships (1972, 1980, 1996), and one Confederations Cup (2017).
The German national team has always been a force to reckon with in international competitions thanks to the outstaning players in its ranks generation after generation.
Die Mannschaft's popularity and FIFA ranking have taken a hit after their Group stage exit from the 2018 World Cup and poor performances in the UEFA Nations League last year. Despite that, they are the fourth most popular national team on social media.
Here's how Germany national football team's 13.5 million fans are distributed across social media -
Facebook - 6.4 million likes
Twitter - 3.1 million followers
Instagram - 4.0 million followers