The growth performance of countries proved to be very different during the recent financial crisis. The objective of the paper is to investigate why, despite the fact that the crisis hit countries simultaneously, the length and depth of the crisis turned out to be very different across countries. We apply principal component analysis to derive a single indicator for growth performance which includes different aspects of GDP dynamics before and after the crisis. Then we apply multivariate regressions analysis to analyze whether pre-crisis economic conditions and/or structural characteristics can explain the differences in growth performance in a sample of 37 countries. We focus primarily on industrialized countries but also include dynamic emerging economies. The pre-crisis conditions we investigate include the fiscal situation, trade competitiveness, output and credit growth; the structural characteristics we selected were country size, openness, the share of specific sectors and per capita income. The three indicators which proved to explain most robustly the cross country differences in the recent crisis and thus could also be used as predictors for future crises are the current account position, credit growth and GDP growth in the run-up period. Trade competitiveness improved the performance in the crisis. Past credit and GDP growth impaired country performance.