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Soccer World Cup History, Finals, Winners, and Host Nations

Few sports fans argue that soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Over the years, no other sport has demonstrated the ability to capture the world’s imagination like soccer has. Then there’s the World Cup to consider. Soccer can be seen as a showcase for everything 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 celebrities.

Without a doubt, the FIFA World Cup is the most important sporting event after the Olympics. It is also the most expensive and watched single-sport event in the world.

As of the 2018 edition, the World Cup had been hosted by 17 different countries, with 79 different nations participating. Do you need another statistic to prove soccer’s global appeal? Two hundred four national teams competed in the FIFA World Cup qualification phase in 2010.

We take a look at some of the most important World Cup facts and records, so keep reading before the new World Cup in Qatar in 2022!

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 selects the host country. The following is a list of World Cup winners, runners-up, and third-place finishers.

So, who won the inaugural World Cup in 1930?

FIFA’s flagship tournament held its first edition in 1930. After winning gold at the 1928 Olympics, Uruguay was chosen to host the World Cup. Seven teams from South and Central America, four from Europe, and two from North America responded to FIFA’s open invitation to compete in the tournament.

In Montevideo, three stadiums hosted the 1930 FIFA World Cup. Estadio Centenario, the main stadium, held 90,000 people and was custom-built for the tournament.

It hosted the semifinals as well as the championship game. Uruguay’s national football team won the World Cup for the first time, defeating Argentina’s national team 4-2 in the final. Carlos Pucelle and Guillermo Stabile scored for Argentina, while Pablo Dorado, Jose Pedro Cea, Victoriano Iriarte, and Hector Castro scored for Uruguay. As a result, Uruguay became the world’s first country to win the World Cup.

Stabile 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, Europe will be hosting its first FIFA World Cup. It is also the first World Cup to include a qualifying round. Thirty-two teams competed in qualification, with 16 making it to the final tournament. Uruguay’s defending champion refused to play in solidarity with the European teams who boycotted the Cup four years ago. The final list included 12 European countries, two from South and Central America and one from North and South America. Egypt was the first African country to be represented. The tournament was held in eight cities.

The FIFA World Cup final between Italy and Czechoslovakia was held in Rome at the Stadio Nazionale PNF. Fifty-five thousand people gathered to witness the World Cup host country’s 2-1 extra-time victory. Antonin Puc scored Czechoslovakia’s first goal. 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) led the scoring.

FIFA 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 due to previous tournaments hosted by European countries, and Spain could not participate due to a civil war. Austria qualified for the tournament but was annexed by Germany prior to the competition. As a result, 12 countries from Europe and one each from Asia, North America, and South America competed in the tournament. Cuba and Indonesia made their FIFA World Cup debuts.

The World Cup in soccer was held in ten venues spread across nine cities. The final was played between Italy and Hungary at the Stade Olympique de Colombes in Paris. The Italians won 4-2 in front of 45,500 soccer fans, with Gino Colaussi and Silvio Piola goals. Pal Titkos and Gyorgy Sarosi represented Hungary.

Brazil defeated Sweden 4-2 in the inaugural FIFA World Cup third-place playoff. Leônidas of Brazil led the way with seven goals.

The Cup was played against the backdrop of WWII, and the next edition took place 12 years later.

Soccer World Cup 1950

Brazil was the next World Cup host country 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. Six different cities will host the tournament. Organizers used a different tournament structure in the first round, dividing teams into four groups. The 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 final group, with Brazil coming in second place. Spain and Sweden rounded out the top four.

Ademir of Brazil won the tournament with eight goals, while Juan Alberto Schiaffino of Argentina finished second with five.

FIFA World Cup 1954

The spotlight returned to Europe after Switzerland was chosen to host the FIFA World Cup. In 1954, South Korea, Turkey, and Scotland made their debut. 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’s previous round-robin and knockout format were reinstated. 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.

Wankdorf Stadium was packed with 62,500 people to witness West Germany’s rain-soaked victory. After Puskas and Czibor gave Hungary a 2-0 lead early in the game, Maximilian Marlock and Helmut Rahn (x2) scored to add their names to the list of FIFA World Cup winners.

Adidas soccer shoes with screw-in studs were given 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

The tournament remained in Europe because Sweden was chosen to host the 1958 World Cup. Italy, Uruguay, Spain, and Belgium were noticeably absent. In this tournament, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Soviet Union all made their FIFA World Cup debuts.

The Cup featured twelve European nations and four South and Central American nations. The competition was held in twelve different cities. As a result of this event, Pele (17 at the time) was catapulted onto the world stage. Brazil defeated the hosts 5-2 in the final at Rsunda Stadium in Solna. The game drew 49,737 spectators.

Pele (x2), Vava (x2), and Mario Zagallo led the World Cup champions, while Nils Liedholm and Tore Simonsson led Sweden. France defeated West Germany to take third place. Only Fontaine (France) scored 13 goals to take the lead.

FIFA World Cup 1962

In 1962, the World Cup returned to South America for the seventh time. Chile was the host country this time. All of the countries involved were either European or American. Unfortunately, both on and off the soccer field, this tournament was marred by a toxic atmosphere. The first match, between Italy and the hosts, was dubbed the Battle of Santiago. The competition was held in four different cities. The final was played between defending champions Brazil and Czechoslovakia at Santiago’s Estadio Nacional. In front of 68,679 spectators, the Brazilians successfully defended their title, winning 3-1. 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.

FIFA World Cup 1966

England was the first English-speaking country to host the FIFA World Cup in 1966. North Korea and Portugal made their first appearances, while 31 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 final, which drew 96,924 spectators to Wembley Stadium, pitted the hosts against West Germany.

The Three Lions of Alf Ramsey won 4-2 in extra time. Sir Geoffrey Hurst scored three goals, including two in extra time. For the hosts, Martin Peters scored the game-winning goal. Helmut Haller and Wolfgang Webber discovered the internet during West German standard time. Portugal defeated the Soviet Union 2-1 in the third-place playoff.

Portugal’s Eusebio stood out, winning the Golden Boot with nine goals.

FIFA World Cup 1970

Mexico hosted the ninth World Cup Soccer tournament in 1970. It was the first FIFA World Cup held outside of Europe or the Americas. El Salvador, Israel, and Morocco made their first appearances. The tournament will be remembered for its fast-paced, attacking football. The Brazilian team of Pelé, Clodoaldo, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivellino, and Tosto is widely regarded as the best to have competed in World Cups.

The competition was held in five cities, with the final taking place at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. Brazil won their third FIFA World Cup, defeating Italy 4-1 in front of 107,412 spectators. The World Cup winners were led by Pepe, Gerson, Jairzinho, and Carlos Alberto, with Roberto Boninsegna scoring a consolation goal. West Germany finished third after defeating Uruguay 1-0.

West German Gerd Muller won the Golden Boot with ten goals.

FIFA World Cup 1974

West Germany was awarded the right to host the World Cup in 1974. This FIFA World Cup had a completely new format. The first round remained, but the quarter-finals and semifinals were replaced with a round-robin format consisting of two groups of four teams each. In the championship game, the winners of these two groups faced off. 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 debut of Johan Cryuff. The festival was held in nine different cities. The host country defeated the Dutch national team 2-1 in the final.

At Munich’s Olympiastadion, 75,200 people watched the soccer game. The Dutch took an early lead thanks to a penalty from Johannes Neeskens. In contrast, 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 was named Golden Boot winner for his seven goals.

FIFA World Cup 1978

Argentina was awarded the right to host the 11th FIFA World Cup in 1978, relocating the tournament to South America. It was the final World Cup with 16 teams, as FIFA increased the number to 24 the following year.

This tournament was overshadowed by Argentina’s 1976 military coup and subsequent dictatorship. As a result, this edition has earned the moniker “Dirtiest World Cup Ever.”

Over the course of five days, the tournament was held in six different cities. Argentina defeated Ernst Happel of the Netherlands 3-1 in extra time at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires. Mario Kempes scored twice, once in regulation and once in overtime. Ricardo Bertoni also scored in extra time. Dirk Nanninga scored the only goal for the Dutch. Meanwhile, in the third-place match, Brazil defeated Italy 2-1.

Kempes led the team in scoring with six goals.

FIFA World Cup 1982

The 1982 FIFA World Cup was held in Spain. Algeria, Cameroon, Honduras, Kuwait, and New Zealand made their debut in the Cup, which featured 24 teams. The second stage was the final World Cup, played in a round-robin format.

The competition occurred in 17 stadiums spread across 14 cities, with all semi-finalists hailing from Europe. Italy won their third World Cup, defeating West Germany 3-1 in the final. The final was played in front of 90,000 fans at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli, and Alessandro Altobelli scored for the Azzurri, while Paul Breitner scored for the West Germans. Poland took bronze with a 3-2 victory over France.

Paolo Rossi won the Golden Boot as well, with six goals.

FIFA World Cup in 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 round-of-16 knockout games for the first time. Canada, Denmark, and Iraq were all making their tournament debuts.

This tournament will be 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 featured the Mexican Wave phenomenon in 12 venues across 11 cities.

Argentina defeated West Germany 3-2 in the final at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. With 114,600 people in attendance, the stadium was completely full. Argentina’s goals came from Jose Brown, Jorge Valdano, and Jorge Burruchaga. West Germany’s goals came from 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 after scoring six goals.

Soccer World Cup 1990

In 1990, Italy hosted the FIFA World Cup. 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-point victory were implemented. It was also the first World Cup to be broadcast in HD. The event was held in 12 cities at 12 different locations.

West Germany won their third World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Argentina in the final. The 1990 World Cup final was held in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico in front of 73,603 spectators. 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 considered the most successful World Cup to date, with a record number of spectators. Greece, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia were all making 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 festival was held in nine cities across the country. This FIFA World Cup broke several viewing records due to the large stadiums. The final was held in front of 94,194 people at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. After the game went into extra time with no goals, Brazil won on penalties. 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.

FIFA World Cup in 1998

France hosted the first FIFA World Cup in 1998, which featured 32 nations. Croatia, Jamaica, Japan, and South Africa all made their World Cup debuts as a result. The Golden Goal rule was also introduced in this edition.

The tournament was held in ten different cities. Zinedine Zidane led France to their first World Cup victory, defeating Brazil 3-0 in the final. The final was played in front of 80,000 spectators at the Stade de France in Paris. After Zidane scored twice in the first half, Emmanuel Petit scored late. Croatia defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in the third-place playoff.

FIFA World Cup 2002

The 2002 FIFA World Cup was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan. It was the first World Cup to be 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, while the Netherlands did not.

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 of Europe and the Americas to do so. Brazil and Germany met at International Stadium Yokohama in the 2002 World Cup final.

Brazil won the World Cup in 2002 with a 2-0 win led by Ronaldo. Ronaldo was also awarded the Golden Boot for his eight goals, despite scoring both goals in the final. Turkey defeated South Korea 3-2 in the third-place playoff.

FIFA World Cup 2006

Germany will host the 18th edition. The competition was held in 12 different cities. 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. After a 1-1 tie, the Italian national team won the 2006 World Cup final on penalties in front of 69,000 spectators.

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. Germany’s Miroslav Klose won the Golden Boot in 2006 after scoring five goals in the World Cup.

FIFA World Cup 2010

South Africa was chosen to host the 2010 World Cup. The African continent hosted the first World Cup. The tournament was held in ten cities across nine states.

Slovakia and Serbia, both newly formed nations, made their FIFA debuts. North Korea has qualified for its second World Cup appearance. The tournament’s favorite, Spain, won the final, defeating the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time.

The FIFA World Cup final was held at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium in front of 84,490 spectators. Andres Iniesta scored the game’s lone goal. Germany defeated Uruguay 3-2 in the third-place playoff.

Diego Forlan, Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa each scored five goals in Spain’s World Cup victory in 2010, sharing the tournament’s top goalscorer honors and making World Cup history.

Brazil was selected to host the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in 2014. Furthermore, for the first time since 1986, the world’s most important soccer event was held in South America.

The tournament took place in 12 cities across the country. Bosnia and Herzegovina were the only newcomers among 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.

Seventy-four thousand seven hundred thirty-eight spectators watched Mario Goetze win the Cup in extra time 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.

Colombia’s James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot after scoring six goals in Germany’s World Cup victory, adding to World Cup history.

FIFA World Cup 2018

Russia is the latest European country to be chosen to host the World Cup in 2018. The tournament took place in 12 different cities across the country.

Iceland and Panama are the two most recent FIFA World Cup participants. 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, which was packed with 78,011 fans. Mario Mandzukic, a Croatian striker, scored for both teams.

In addition to Mandzukic’s goal, France received 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, becoming the World Cup’s most prolific goal scorer.

World Cup in 2022

Qatar is hosting the FIFA World Cup from November 21 to December 18, 2022. In 2022, the World Cup will be held in the Arab world for the first time. Following the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, this will be the second World Cup held entirely in Asia. It will also be the World Cup’s final edition with 32 teams.

This will be the first World Cup not held in May, June, or July due to the extreme heat in Qatar during the summer months. 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 in terms of land area. Switzerland was the second-smallest country to host the World Cup in 1954. Switzerland, which is three times the size of Qatar, only required 16 national teams for the 2022 World Cup, as opposed to the current 32.

Qatar became only the second country to be awarded the 2022 World Cup despite never having qualified for a previous World Cup.

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