So I thought this would be easy off the top of my head; but found myself getting unsure about halfway through. Here's my best guess.
1. China 2. India 3. USA 4. Indonesia 5. Brazil 6. Pakistan 7. Mexico 8. Bangladesh 9. Russia 10. Japan
With regards to the World Cup - it's not Iceland that should bother you. Iceland qualify through a different confederation so it's not directly comparable. You should be ashamed about Costa Rica and Panama - tiny countries with shit football teams who directly outcompeted the USA - that's the humiliating part.
China I've always found odd. Given the huge investment in making the country competitive at the Olympics it surprises me that they cannot find 11 quality footballers to impress on the world stage in the world's most popular support. People have tried to explain this based around culture in East Asia not being into football, or with explanations based on the average physical characteristics, but both fall flat to me. Football is enormously popular in East Asia - look how many of the advertising boards in the World Cup, Premier League or Champions League are in Chinese. And the real baffler is why much smaller countries in Asia have better football teams than China. North Korea has a better football team than China. It makes no sense to me.
I had the same top 5 as everyone else but thought Mexico would make the top ten. also guessed Nigeria correctly.
I thought Mexico had more as well. I didn't even think about Nigeria; which is stupid of me, as just a couple of weeks ago I remember the commentator at the World Cup mentioning that Nigeria makes up about a quarter of the population of Africa (although now I check that's apparently not true - more like a 6th)/
Then I began wondering what the top 10 countries in population were, so I looked it up and was surprised at about half of them - would never have guessed.
So now we've left this thread for some time for people to guess; I'm curious what you were surprised by and what countries you thought were bigger? I always used to love pub quizzes, so spent a lot of time looking at things like Olympic host cities and biggest countries in the world; so for me this was familiar and more just an memory exercise than anything involving reasoning. I'm curious how you thought differently and also why, in case there was any conscious logic involved.
I wouldn't have put Mexico in the top 10. Maybe I would have guessed around 30.
The US government's estimates say that Mexico's about 3 million people less, putting it in 11th place behind Japan.
Seems like time to break out one of my favourite viral images:
This is even more astonishing when you think that a lot of that circle is occupied by seas, mountains, deserts and dense jungle. Most of the world's population is actually crammed into a few small places. Another nice graphic below showing the distribution of population within East Asia, China is huge, but much of it is basically empty of people.
While the biggest countries in the world was not something surprising to me - I only recently learned the population distribution among US states, and this did surprise me. I would have guessed the top three - but I never realised how large are the differences in population between them. The names of US states are of course all very familiar, and places like Montana look huge on the map, so to learn that a lot of states have negligible population was a bit of a shock.
No fewer than 11 states have a population smaller than the city where I live. According to citypopulation.de I live in the 377th largest urban area in the world, so not exactly a vast metropolis.
California, Texas and New York collectively make up almost a quarter of the US population.