Soccer World Cup: History, Finals, Winners, and Host Nations
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and few sports fans would disagree. Over the years, no other sport has demonstrated the ability to capture the world’s imagination like soccer has. And the World Cup Soccer can be thought of as a showcase of everything good that soccer has to offer.
The tournament, which is held every four years, has produced a number of memorable moments for sports fans. It has also served as a springboard for many future superstars.
The FIFA World Cup tournament is, without a doubt, the biggest sporting spectacle after the Olympics. It is also the most expensive and watched single-sport event on the planet.
As of the 2018 edition, 17 countries had hosted the World Cup, with 79 different nations participating. Do you need another statistic to prove soccer’s global appeal? The qualification phase of the 2010 FIFA World Cup featured 204 national teams.
This article examines the history of soccer’s premier tournament, beginning with the first edition in 1930. We also examine some of the most important World Cup facts and records.
All World Cup Champions
Soccer World Cups are among the world’s most prestigious sporting events. The World Cup is held every four years and brings together the world’s best national teams for a month-long competition. The FIFA Council chooses the host country. The following is a complete list of World Cup winners, runners-up, and third-place finishers.
So, who won the first world cup in 1930?
The inaugural edition of FIFA’s flagship tournament was held in 1930. Uruguay, which won gold in the 1928 Olympics, was chosen to host the World Cup. Only 13 teams accepted FIFA’s open invitation to participate in the tournament, including seven from South and Central America, four from Europe, and two from North America.
The 1930 FIFA World Cup was held in three different stadiums throughout Montevideo. The main stadium, Estadio Centenario, had a capacity of 90,000 and was specially built for the tournament.
It hosted both the semifinals and the final. Uruguay’s hosts defeated Argentina’s national football team 4-2 in the final to win the World Cup for the first time. Uruguay’s goals came from Pablo Dorado, Jose Pedro Cea, Victoriano Iriarte, and Hector Castro, while Argentina’s came from Carlos Pucelle and Guillermo Stabile. Uruguay made history by becoming the first country to win the World Cup.
Stabile also finished the tournament as the tournament’s leading goal scorer, with eight goals. Francisco “Pancho” Varallo, the last surviving participant of the inaugural FIFA World Cup final in 1930, died in 2011 at the age of 100.
Soccer World Cup 1934
The 1934 World Cup was held in Italy. As a result, this is the first FIFA World Cup to be held in Europe. It is also the first World Cup to include a qualifying round. A total of 32 teams competed in the qualification, with 16 making it to the final tournament. Uruguay, the defending champion, refused to participate in solidarity with European teams who refused to travel to the Cup four years ago. The final roster included 12 European countries, two from South and Central America, and one from North America and Africa. Egypt was the first African country to be represented. The tournament was held in eight different cities.
The FIFA World Cup final was played at Stadio Nazionale PNF in Rome between Italy and Czechoslovakia. Fifty-five thousand people watched the World Cup host country win 2-1 after extra time. Czechoslovakia’s first goal came from Antonin Puc. However, Raimundo Orsi equalized in the 81st minute, and Angelo Schiavio won it for the hosts in extra time.
With five goals, Oldich Nejedl (Czechoslovakia) was the leading scorer.
Soccer World Cup 1938
France hosted the 1938 FIFA World Cup. The hosts and defending champions received automatic qualification for the first time. Argentina and Uruguay declined to participate because European nations had hosted consecutive tournaments, and Spain could not participate due to a civil war. Austria qualified for the tournament, but Germany annexed them before the event. As a result, 15 nations competed in the tournament, with 12 from Europe and one each from Asia, North America, and South America. Cuba and Indonesia made their first-ever appearances at the FIFA World Cup (then Dutch East Indies).
The World Cup Soccer was held in ten venues across nine cities. The final was played in Paris at the Stade Olympique de Colombes between Italy and Hungary. The Italians won 4-2 in front of 45,500 soccer fans, thanks to braces from Gino Colaussi and Silvio Piola. Hungary was represented by Pal Titkos and Gyorgy Sarosi.
It was the first FIFA World Cup to feature a third-place playoff, in which Brazil won 4-2 over Sweden. Leônidas (Brazil) led the way with seven goals.
The Cup was played in the shadow of WWII, and the next edition did not take place for another 12 years.
Soccer World Cup 1950
Brazil was the next World Cup host nation after a 12-year hiatus. Several South and Central American, Eastern European, and Asian countries withdrew from the tournament. In the end, only 13 teams competed in the 1950 tournament. This was England’s (or any home nation’s) first appearance in the Cup. It was also the first World Cup to be broadcast on television. The tournament will be held at six different locations. Organizers used a different tournament structure in the first round, dividing teams into four groups. Group winners were then placed in another group to compete for the trophy. As a result, this was the only FIFA World Cup without a one-game final. Uruguay won the title in the final group, while Brazil finished second. Spain and Sweden rounded out the top four spots.
Ademir of Brazil won the tournament with eight goals, while Juan Alberto Schiaffino finished second with five.
Soccer World Cup 1954
The focus shifted back to Europe after Switzerland was chosen to host the FIFA World Cup. South Korea, Turkey, and Scotland made their first appearances in 1954. South Korea was the first Asian country to compete in the FIFA World Cup. The event was held in six stadiums across six cities. The tournament went back to its previous format of round-robin and knockout games. Even in group games, however, extra time was used.
This World Cup will be remembered for Hungary’s Golden Generation, which included legends such as Ferenc Puskas and Sándor Kocsis. The Hungarians advanced to the final but were defeated 4-2 by West Germany. The final game is known as the Miracle of Bern.
Sixty-two thousand five hundred people packed Wankdorf Stadium to watch West Germany win in rainy conditions. After Puskas and Czibor gave the Hungarians an early 2-0 lead, Maximilian Marlock and Helmut Rahn (x2) found the target to join the list of FIFA World Cup winners.
Adidas soccer shoes with screw-in studs were awarded to all German soccer players. According to the players, it made a difference in the wet and muddy conditions.
Austria defeated Uruguay 3-1 in the third-place match. Hungary’s Kocsis won the Golden Boot with 11 goals.
Soccer World Cup 1958
Sweden was chosen as the next host country for the 1958 World Cup, so the tournament remained in Europe. Italy, Uruguay, Spain, and Belgium were notable absences. Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Soviet Union all made their FIFA World Cup debuts in this tournament.
The Cup was contested by 12 European nations and four South and Central American nations. The tournament was held at twelve different locations. This event catapulted Pele (17 at the time) onto the world stage. Brazil defeated the hosts 5-2 in the final, which was held at Rsunda Stadium – Solna. The game was attended by 49,737 people.
Pele (x2), Vava (x2), and Mario Zagallo scored for the World Cup champions, while Nils Liedholm and Tore Simonsson scored for Sweden. France defeated West Germany to take third place. Only Fontaine (France) scored 13 goals to take the top spot.
Soccer World Cup 1962
The 1962 World Cup returned to South America for its seventh edition. Chile was the host country this time. All the nations that took part were from Europe or the Americas. Unfortunately, a toxic atmosphere on and off the soccer field marred this tournament. The first game, between the hosts and Italy, became known as the Battle of Santiago. The tournament was held in four different locations. The final was played at Estadio Nacional – Santiago between defending champions Brazil and Czechoslovakia. The Brazilians successfully defended their title with a 3-1 victory in front of 68,679 spectators. The host nation’s goals came from Amarildo, Zito, and Vavá, while Czechoslovakia’s came from Josef Masopust. In the third-place playoff, Chile defeated Yugoslavia 1-0.
With four goals each, Flórián Albert, Garrincha, Valentin Ivanov, Draan Jerkovi, Leonel Sánchez, and Vavá tied for first place.
Soccer World Cup 1966
England was the first English-speaking country to host the FIFA World Cup in 1966. North Korea and Portugal debuted, while thirty-one African countries boycotted the event due to a lack of guaranteed spots for their continent. The event was held at eight different venues, the largest of which was Wembley Stadium. The hosts faced West Germany in the final, which was watched by 96,924 people at Wembley Stadium.
After extra time, Alf Ramsey’s Three Lions won 4-2. Sir Geoffrey Hurst scored three goals, including two in extra time. The final goal was scored by Martin Peters for the hosts. Helmut Haller and Wolfgang Webber discovered the internet in standard time for West Germany. Portugal defeated the Soviet Union 2-1 in the third-place playoff.
Portugal’s Eusebio stood out, winning the Golden Boot with nine goals.
Soccer World Cup 1970
Mexico hosted the ninth World Cup Soccer tournament in 1970. It was the first FIFA World Cup in Europe or the Americas. El Salvador, Israel, and Morocco made their first appearances. The tournament is remembered for its fast-paced, attacking football. With Pelé, Clodoaldo, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivellino, and Tosto, the Brazilian team is still widely regarded as the best to have competed in World Cups.
The event was held at five different locations, with the final at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. Brazil won their third FIFA World Cup, defeating Italy 4-1 in front of a record 107,412-strong crowd. The World Cup winners were led by Pepe, Gerson, Jairzinho, and Carlos Alberto, with Roberto Boninsegna scoring a consolation goal. West Germany defeated Uruguay 1-0 to take third place.
West German Gerd Muller won the Golden Boot with ten goals.
Soccer World Cup 1974
West Germany was awarded the right to host the World Cup in 1974. This FIFA World Cup featured a new format. The first round was retained, but the quarter-finals and semifinals were replaced by a round-robin format comprised of two groups of four teams each. The winners of these two groups faced off in the championship game. Australia, East Germany, Haiti, and Zaire all made their Cup debuts.
The 1974 edition is remembered for the Dutch team’s Total Football and the emergence of Johan Cryuff. The event was held in nine different locations. The host country defeated the Dutch national team 2-1 in the final.
The soccer game was watched by 75,200 people at the Olympiastadion in Munich. The Dutch took an early lead thanks to a penalty from Johannes Neeskens. However, Paul Breitner quickly equalized with a penalty, which Gerd Muller won for the hosts. In the third-place playoff, Poland defeated Brazil 1-0.
Grzegorz Lato of Poland won the Golden Boot after scoring seven goals.
Soccer World Cup 1978
Argentina won the right to host the 11th FIFA World Cup in 1978, bringing the tournament back to South America. It was the final World Cup soccer tournament with 16 teams, as FIFA increased the size to 24 for the following edition.
This tournament was overshadowed by Argentina’s 1976 military coup and subsequent dictatorship. As a result, this edition is also dubbed the Dirtiest World Cup of All Time.
The tournament was held in six different locations across five cities. Argentina defeated Ernst Happel Netherlands 3-1 after extra time in the final at Estadio Monumental – Buenos Aires. Mario Kempes scored twice, once in regulation and once in overtime. Ricardo Bertoni also scored in extra time. The only goal for the Dutch was scored by Dirk Nanninga. Meanwhile, in the third-place match, Brazil defeated Italy 2-1.
Kempes led the team in scoring with six goals.
Soccer World Cup 1982
The 1982 FIFA World Cup was held in Spain. Algeria, Cameroon, Honduras, Kuwait, and New Zealand debuted in the Cup, featuring 24 teams. This was the final World Cup with a round-robin format in the second stage.
The event was held in 17 stadiums across 14 cities, and all of the semi-finalists were European. Italy won their third World Cup after defeating West Germany 3-1 in the final. The final was played in front of 90,000 spectators at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. Azzurri’s goals came from Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli, and Alessandro Altobelli, while the West Germans got one from Paul Breitner. Poland won the bronze medal with a 3-2 victory over France.
Paolo Rossi won the Golden Boot as well, with six goals.
Soccer World Cup 1986
Mexico has been chosen to host the FIFA World Cup for the second time. The number of participating nations remained at 24, but the format was changed to allow for the first time round-of-16 knockout games. Canada, Denmark, and Iraq all made their tournament debuts.
This tournament is remembered for Diego Maradona’s brilliance, which included the ‘Hand of God’ goal and the famous solo goal against England in the quarter-finals. The event occurred in 12 venues across 11 cities and included the Mexican Wave phenomenon.
Argentina defeated West Germany 3-2 in the final at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. A record 114,600 people packed the stadium. Argentina’s goals came from Jose Brown, Jorge Valdano, and Jorge Burruchaga. West Germany’s goals were scored by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller. France defeated Belgium 4-2 after extra time in the third-place playoff.
Gary Lineker of England won the Golden Boot in the 1986 FIFA World Cup with six goals.
Soccer World Cup 1990
The 1990 FIFA World Cup was held in Italy. West Germany, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia all made their final appearances, as the event was quickly followed by the collapse of the Eastern European Block. Costa Rica, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates made their debuts.
This World Cup was regarded poorly in terms of football played, and it still holds the record for the fewest goals scored. As a result, the back-pass rule and three points for a win were implemented. It was also the first World Cup to be broadcast on high-definition television. The event was held in 12 different cities at 12 different venues.
West Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in the final to win their third title. The 1990 World Cup final was played in front of 73,603 spectators at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Andreas Brehme scored the game-winning penalty. Italy defeated Bobby Robson’s England team 2-1 in the third-place match.
While West Germany won the World Cup in 1990, Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci won the Golden Boot with six goals.
Soccer World Cup 1994
Following the first Women’s World Cup in 1991, the United States hosted the Men’s FIFA World Cup in 1994. It is regarded as the most successful World Cup to date, with a record number of spectators. Greece, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia made their tournament debuts. A unified German national team competed for the first time since 1938, and Russia made its first appearance since the dissolution of the USSR.
The event was held in nine different cities. This FIFA World Cup broke several viewing records thanks to large stadiums. The final was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and 94,194 people attended. Brazil won on penalties after the game ended goalless after extra time. Sweden defeated Bulgaria 4-0 in the third-place playoff.
Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) and Oleg Salenko (Russia) shared the Golden Boot with six goals each.
Soccer World Cup 1998
France hosted the first FIFA World Cup in 1998, which featured 32 nations. Croatia, Jamaica, Japan, and South Africa made their World Cup debuts as a result. The Golden Goal rule was also introduced in this edition.
The tournament was held at ten different locations. France won their first World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Brazil in the final, led by Zinedine Zidane. The final was played in front of 80,000 spectators at the Stade de France in Paris. Zidane scored twice in the first half, and Emmanuel Petit added another late. Croatia defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in the third-place playoff.
Soccer World Cup 2002
The 2002 FIFA World Cup was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan. It was the first World Cup held outside of Europe and the Americas, as well as the first to be co-hosted by multiple countries. China, Ecuador, Senegal, and Slovenia qualified for the first time, with the Netherlands missing out.
The tournament was held in 20 different locations across two countries. Despite some contentious results, South Korea advanced to the semifinals, becoming the first country outside Europe and the Americas to do so. Brazil and Germany met at International Stadium Yokohama in the 2002 World Cup final.
Sixty-nine thousand twenty-nine fans watched as Ronaldo led Brazil to a 2-0 victory, claiming their fifth title and becoming the 2002 World Cup winner. Ronaldo, who scored both goals in the final, also won the Golden Boot with a total of eight goals. Turkey defeated South Korea 3-2 in the third-place playoff.
Soccer World Cup 2006
Germany was chosen to host the 18th edition. The tournament was held in 12 different locations. Angola, the Czech Republic, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Serbia, and Montenegro all made their FIFA debuts.
Germany was the favorite to win, but they were defeated in the semifinals by Italy after injury time. Italy and France advanced to the final at Berlin’s Olympiastadion. In front of 69,000 spectators for the 2006 World Cup final, the Italian national team won the game on penalties after the final match had ended 1-1.
Zinedine Zidane scored from the penalty spot in the seventh minute, and Italy equalized in the 19th minute through Marco Materazzi. Zidane was sent off in extra time for his infamous headbutt on Materazzi. Germany defeated Portugal 3-1 in the third-place match. With five goals in the 2006 World Cup, Germany’s Miroslav Klose won the Golden Boot.
Soccer World Cup 2010
South Africa was awarded the hosting rights for the 2010 World Cup. This was the first World Cup to be held on the African continent. The tournament was held in ten different locations across nine cities.
Slovakia and Serbia, both newly formed nations, made their FIFA debuts. North Korea has qualified for its second World Cup appearance. Spain was the tournament’s favorite, and they delivered with a 1-0 extra-time victory over the Netherlands in the final.
The FIFA World Cup final was played in front of 84,490 people at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. Andres Iniesta scored the game’s lone goal. Germany defeated Uruguay 3-2 in the third-place playoff.
While Spain won the World Cup in 2010, Diego Forlan, Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa each scored five goals to share the tournament’s top goalscorer honors and make World Cup history.
Soccer World Cup 2014
Brazil has been chosen to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament. And, for the first time since 1986, the world’s most important soccer event was held in South America.
The tournament was held at 12 different locations in 12 different cities. Bosnia and Herzegovina were the only newcomers out of the 32 teams. The German national team famously defeated Brazil 7-1 in one of the semifinals. In the final, they defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time. The final was held at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium.
In extra time, Seventy-four thousand seven hundred thirty-eight people watched Mario Goetze win the Cup for Germany. Germany became the first European country to win the World Cup in the Americas. The Netherlands defeated Brazil 3-0 in the third-place playoff.
As Germany won the 2014 World Cup, Colombia’s James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot with six goals, adding to World Cup history.
World Cup 2018
Russia became the latest European country to be granted the honor of hosting soccer’s premier tournament in 2018. The tournament was held in 12 locations across 11 cities.
Iceland and Panama are the newest countries to compete in the FIFA World Cup. France won their second World Cup with a 4-2 victory over Croatia in the final. The final was held at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, with 78,011 spectators in attendance. Mario Mandzukic, a Croatian striker, scored for both teams.
Aside from Mandzukic’s own goal, France also had goals from Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and Kylian Mbappe. Meanwhile, Croatia’s second goal was scored by Ivan Perisic. Belgium defeated England 2-0 in the third-place playoff.
England striker Harry Kane won the Golden Boot after scoring six goals for the Three Lions, making more World Cup history.
World Cup 2022
Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup from November 21 to December 18, 2022. The 2022 World Cup will be held in the Arab world for the first time. After the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, this will be the second World Cup held entirely in Asia. Furthermore, it will be the final World Cup with 32 teams.
Due to the heat in Qatar during the summer months, this will be the first World Cup that will not take place in May, June, or July. The 2022 World Cup final will take place on December 18 at 18:00 local time at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.
Qatar is the smallest country to have hosted the FIFA World Cup regarding the land area. Switzerland was the next smallest country to host the World Cup in 1954. Switzerland is three times the size of Qatar and only required 16 teams for the 2022 World Cup, rather than the current 32 national teams.
Furthermore, despite never qualifying for a previous World Cup, Qatar became only the second country to be awarded the 2022 World Cup.