Few sports fans would argue that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. No other sport has demonstrated the ability to capture the world’s imagination like soccer has over the years. And then there’s the World Cup. Soccer can be viewed as a showcase of all that soccer has to offer.
For sports fans, the tournament, which is held every four years, has produced a number of memorable moments. It has also served as a launching pad for many future stars.
Without a doubt, the FIFA World Cup tournament is the biggest sporting event after the Olympics. It is also the world’s most expensive and watched single-sport event.
The World Cup had been hosted by 17 different countries as of the 2018 edition, with 79 different nations participating. Do you require another statistic to demonstrate soccer’s global appeal? The 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification phase featured 204 national teams.
We look at some of the most important World Cup facts and records, so read on before the new World Cup Qatar 2022!
All World Cup Winners
Soccer World Cups are among the most prestigious sporting events in the world. Every four years, the World Cup brings together the world’s best national teams for a month-long competition. The host country is chosen by the FIFA Council. The list of World Cup winners, runners-up, and third-place finishers is as follows.
So, who was the winner of the first World Cup in 1930?
The first edition of FIFA’s flagship tournament took place in 1930. Uruguay was chosen to host the World Cup after winning gold in the 1928 Olympics. Only 13 teams responded to FIFA’s open invitation to compete in the tournament, with seven from South and Central America, four from Europe, and two from North America.
The 1930 FIFA World Cup was held across three stadiums in Montevideo. The main stadium, Estadio Centenario, held 90,000 people and was custom-built for the tournament.
It hosted both the semifinals and the championship game. Uruguay’s national football team defeated Argentina’s national team 4-2 in the final to win the World Cup for the first time. Argentina’s goals came from Carlos Pucelle and Guillermo Stabile, while Uruguay’s came from Pablo Dorado, Jose Pedro Cea, Victoriano Iriarte, and Hector Castro. Uruguay became the first country in history to win the World Cup.
With eight goals, Stabile finished the tournament as the tournament’s leading goal scorer. The last surviving participant of the inaugural FIFA World Cup final in 1930, Francisco “Pancho” Varallo, died in 2011 at the age of 100.
World Cup of Soccer 1934
Italy hosted the 1934 World Cup. As a result, this will be Europe’s first FIFA World Cup. It is also the first World Cup with a qualification round. The qualification saw 32 teams compete, with 16 making it to the final tournament. Uruguay, the defending champion, refused to play in solidarity with European teams who boycotted the Cup four years ago. The final list included 12 European nations, two from South and Central America and one each from North America and Africa. Egypt was the first country from Africa to be represented. The tournament took place in eight cities.
The FIFA World Cup final was held in Rome at the Stadio Nazionale PNF between Italy and Czechoslovakia. Fifty-five thousand people turned out to watch the World Cup host country win 2-1 in extra time. Antonin Puc scored Czechoslovakia’s first goal. However, Raimundo Orsi equalized in the 81st minute, and Angelo Schiavio won it in extra time for the hosts.
Oldich Nejedl (Czechoslovakia) led the scoring with five goals.
1938 FIFA World Cup
The 1938 FIFA World Cup was held in France. For the first time, the hosts and defending champions received automatic qualification. Argentina and Uruguay declined to participate because European countries had previously hosted tournaments, and Spain was unable to participate due to a civil war. Austria qualified for the tournament but was annexed by Germany before the event. As a result, 15 countries participated in the tournament, with 12 from Europe and one from Asia, North America, and South America. Cuba and Indonesia made their first FIFA World Cup appearances.
Soccer’s World Cup was held in ten venues across nine cities. The final was held at the Stade Olympique de Colombes in Paris between Italy and Hungary. Gino Colaussi and Silvio Piola both scored braces as the Italians won 4-2 in front of 45,500 soccer fans. Pal Titkos and Gyorgy Sarosi represented Hungary.
Brazil defeated Sweden 4-2 in the first FIFA World Cup to feature a third-place playoff. Brazil’s Leônidas led the way with seven goals.
The Cup was played in the shadow of WWII, and the next edition was held 12 years later.
World Cup Soccer 1950
After a 12-year hiatus, Brazil was the next World Cup host country. Several countries from South and Central America, Eastern Europe, and Asia withdrew from the tournament. The 1950 tournament ended up with only 13 teams competing. This was England’s (or any home nation’s) first Cup appearance. The World Cup was also the first to be broadcast on television. The tournament will take place in six different cities. In the first round, organizers used a different tournament structure, dividing teams into four groups. The winners of each group were then placed in another group to compete for the trophy. As a result, this was the only FIFA World Cup that did not feature a one-game final. Uruguay won the final group, with Brazil finishing second. Spain and Sweden completed the top four.
Brazil’s Ademir won the tournament with eight goals, while Juan Alberto Schiaffino came in second with five.
1954 FIFA World Cup
After Switzerland was chosen to host the FIFA World Cup, the spotlight returned to Europe. South Korea, Turkey, and Scotland made their debut in 1954. South Korea was the first Asian nation to take part in the FIFA World Cup. Six stadiums in six cities hosted the event. The tournament reverted to its previous round-robin and knockout format. However, even in group games, extra time was used.
Hungary’s Golden Generation, which included legends such as Ferenc Puskas and Sándor Kocsis, will be remembered for this World Cup. The Hungarians reached the final but were defeated by West Germany 4-2. The final game is referred to as the Miracle of Bern.
Sixty-two thousand five hundred people packed Wankdorf Stadium to witness West Germany’s rain-soaked victory. After Puskas and Czibor put Hungary up 2-0 early on, Maximilian Marlock and Helmut Rahn (x2) found the net to add their names to the list of FIFA World Cup winners.
All German soccer players received Adidas soccer shoes with screw-in studs. It made a difference in the wet and muddy conditions, according to the players.
In the third-place match, Austria defeated Uruguay 3-1. Kocsis of Hungary won the Golden Boot with 11 goals.
World Cup Soccer 1958
Because Sweden was chosen to host the 1958 World Cup, the tournament remained in Europe. Italy, Uruguay, Spain, and Belgium were conspicuous by their absence. Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Soviet Union all made their FIFA World Cup debuts in this tournament.
Twelve European nations and four South and Central American nations competed in the Cup. The tournament took place in twelve different cities. Pele (17 at the time) was catapulted onto the world stage as a result of this event. Brazil won the final 5-2 against the hosts at Rsunda Stadium – Solna. 49,737 people attended the game.
The World Cup champions were led by Pele (x2), Vava (x2), and Mario Zagallo, while Sweden was led by Nils Liedholm and Tore Simonsson. France defeated West Germany to finish third. Only Fontaine (France) scored 13 goals to claim first place.
1962 FIFA World Cup
The World Cup returned to South America for the seventh time in 1962. This time, Chile was the host country. All of the countries involved were from Europe or the Americas. Unfortunately, this tournament was marred by a toxic atmosphere both on and off the soccer field. The first match, between the hosts and Italy, was dubbed the Battle of Santiago. The tournament took place in four different cities. The final was held at Santiago’s Estadio Nacional between defending champions Brazil and Czechoslovakia. The Brazilians successfully defended their title in front of 68,679 spectators, winning 3-1. Amarildo, Zito, and Vavá scored for the host nation, while Josef Masopust scored for Czechoslovakia. Chile defeated Yugoslavia 1-0 in the third-place playoff.
Flórián Albert, Garrincha, Valentin Ivanov, Draan Jerkovi, Leonel Sánchez, and Vavá tied for first place with four goals each.
1966 FIFA World Cup
In 1966, England became the first English-speaking country to host the FIFA World Cup. North Korea and Portugal made their debuts, while 31 African nations boycotted the event due to a lack of guaranteed spots for their continent. The event took place in eight different locations, the largest of which was Wembley Stadium. The final, which was watched by 96,924 people at Wembley Stadium, pitted the hosts against West Germany.
Alf Ramsey’s Three Lions won 4-2 in extra time. Sir Geoffrey Hurst scored three goals, two of which came in extra time. Martin Peters scored the game-winning goal for the hosts. Helmut Haller and Wolfgang Webber discovered the internet during West German standard time. In the third-place playoff, Portugal defeated the Soviet Union 2-1.
Eusebio of Portugal stood out, winning the Golden Boot with nine goals.
1970 FIFA World Cup
In 1970, Mexico hosted the ninth World Cup Soccer tournament. It was the first FIFA World Cup to be held in either Europe or the Americas. El Salvador, Israel, and Morocco made their debuts. The tournament is remembered for the fast-paced, attacking football that it featured. The Brazilian team, which included Pelé, Clodoaldo, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivellino, and Tosto, is still widely regarded as the best to have competed in World Cups.
The competition was held in five different cities, with the final held at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. Brazil won their third FIFA World Cup, defeating Italy 4-1 in front of a record crowd of 107,412 people. Pepe, Gerson, Jairzinho, and Carlos Alberto led the World Cup winners, with Roberto Boninsegna scoring a consolation goal. West Germany defeated Uruguay 1-0 to finish third.
Gerd Muller of West Germany won the Golden Boot with ten goals.
1974 FIFA World Cup
In 1974, West Germany was awarded the right to host the World Cup. This FIFA World Cup had a brand new format. The first round was kept, but the quarter-finals and semifinals were replaced with a round-robin format with two groups of four teams each. The champions of these two groups met in the championship game. Cup debuts were made by Australia, East Germany, Haiti, and Zaire.
The 1974 edition is remembered for the Dutch team’s Total Football and Johan Cryuff’s debut. The event took place in nine different cities. In the final, the host country defeated the Dutch national team 2-1.
The soccer game was watched by 75,200 people at Munich’s Olympiastadion. A penalty from Johannes Neeskens gave the Dutch an early lead. Paul Breitner, on the other hand, quickly equalized with a penalty, which Gerd Muller won for the hosts. Poland defeated Brazil 1-0 in the third-place playoff.
Grzegorz Lato of Poland was awarded the Golden Boot for his seven goals.
1978 FIFA World Cup
In 1978, Argentina was awarded the right to host the 11th FIFA World Cup, bringing the tournament back to South America. It was the last World Cup with 16 teams, as FIFA increased the number to 24 for the following edition.
Argentina’s 1976 military coup and subsequent dictatorship overshadowed this tournament. As a result, this edition has been dubbed the Dirtiest World Cup Ever.
The tournament was held in six different cities over the course of five days. Argentina won the final 3-1 after extra time against Ernst Happel of the Netherlands at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires. Mario Kempes had two goals, one in regulation and one in overtime. In extra time, Ricardo Bertoni also scored. Dirk Nanninga scored the only goal for the Dutch. Meanwhile, Brazil defeated Italy 2-1 in the third-place match.
Kempes had six goals to lead the team in scoring.
1982 FIFA World Cup
Spain hosted the 1982 FIFA World Cup. Algeria, Cameroon, Honduras, Kuwait, and New Zealand debuted in the Cup, featuring 24 teams. The second stage was the final World Cup with a round-robin format.
The event was held in 17 stadiums across 14 cities, with all semi-finalists hailing from Europe. Italy won their third World Cup with a 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final. The final was played in front of 90,000 people at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium. 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 also won the Golden Boot with six goals.
1986 FIFA World Cup
For the second time, Mexico has been chosen to host the FIFA World Cup. 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 all made their first appearances in the tournament.
Diego Maradona’s brilliance, which included the ‘Hand of God’ goal and the famous solo goal against England in the quarter-finals, will be remembered for this tournament. The event featured the Mexican Wave phenomenon in 12 venues across 11 cities.
Argentina won the final 3-2 against West Germany at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. The stadium was packed to capacity with 114,600 people. Jose Brown, Jorge Valdano, and Jorge Burruchaga scored for Argentina. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller scored for West Germany. In the third-place playoff, France defeated Belgium 4-2 after extra time.
Gary Lineker of England won the Golden Boot with six goals in the 1986 FIFA World Cup.
World Cup Soccer 1990
Italy hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1990. As the event was quickly followed by the collapse of the Eastern European Block, West Germany, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia all made their final appearances. Costa Rica, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates all made their first appearances.
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 the three-point win were instituted. It was also the first World Cup to be televised in high definition. The event took place in 12 cities at 12 different venues.
West Germany won their third World Cup by defeating Argentina 1-0 in the final. The 1990 World Cup final was played in front of 73,603 people at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. The game-winning penalty was scored by Andreas Brehme. In the third-place match, Italy defeated Bobby Robson’s England team 2-1.
While West Germany won the World Cup in 1990, Salvatore Schillaci of Italy took home the Golden Boot with six goals.
World Cup Soccer 1994
The United States hosted the Men’s FIFA World Cup in 1994, following the first Women’s World Cup in 1991. With a record number of spectators, it is considered the most successful World Cup to date. Greece, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia all made their first appearances in the tournament. For the first time since 1938, a unified German national team competed, and Russia made its first appearance since the dissolution of the USSR.
The festival took place in nine different cities. Because of the large stadiums, this FIFA World Cup broke several viewing records. The final was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in front of 94,194 people. Brazil won on penalties after the game went into extra time with no goals. In the third-place playoff, Sweden defeated Bulgaria 4-0.
With six goals each, Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) and Oleg Salenko (Russia) shared the Golden Boot.
1998 FIFA World Cup
In 1998, France hosted the first FIFA World Cup, which featured 32 nations. As a result, Croatia, Jamaica, Japan, and South Africa made their World Cup debuts. This edition also saw the introduction of the Golden Goal rule.
The tournament took place in ten different locations. France won their first World Cup, defeating Brazil 3-0 in the final, led by Zinedine Zidane. The final was played in front of 80,000 people at Paris’ Stade de France. Emmanuel Petit scored late after Zidane scored twice in the first half. In the third-place playoff, Croatia defeated the Netherlands 2-0.
2002 FIFA World Cup
South Korea and Japan co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup. It was the first World Cup held outside of Europe and the Americas, and it was also the first to be co-hosted by several countries. For the first time, China, Ecuador, Senegal, and Slovenia qualified, while the Netherlands did not.
The tournament took place in 20 different locations throughout two countries. South Korea advanced to the semifinals despite some contentious results, 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 2002 World Cup with a 2-0 victory led by Ronaldo. Ronaldo, who scored both goals in the final, was also awarded the Golden Boot for his eight goals. In the third-place playoff, Turkey defeated South Korea 3-2.
2006 FIFA World Cup
The 18th edition will be held in Germany. The tournament took place in 12 different cities. FIFA debuts were made by Angola, the Czech Republic, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Serbia, and Montenegro.
Germany was the favorite to win, but they were defeated after injury time in the semifinals by Italy. Italy and France advanced to the final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. The Italian national team won the 2006 World Cup final on penalties in front of 69,000 spectators after the game ended 1-1.
Zinedine Zidane scored from the penalty spot in the seventh minute, and Italy equalized in the 19th minute through Marco Materazzi. For his infamous headbutt on Materazzi, Zidane was sent off in extra time. In the third-place match, Germany defeated Portugal 3-1. Miroslav Klose of Germany won the Golden Boot in 2006 after scoring five goals in the World Cup.
2010 FIFA World Cup
South Africa was awarded the right to host the 2010 World Cup. The first World Cup was held on the African continent. The tournament took place in ten different cities across nine states.
Both Slovakia and Serbia, newly formed countries, made their FIFA debuts. North Korea has qualified for its second appearance in the World Cup. Spain was the tournament’s favorite, and they delivered in the final, defeating the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time.
The FIFA World Cup final was played in front of 84,490 people at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium. The game’s lone goal was scored by Andres Iniesta. In the third-place playoff, Germany defeated Uruguay 3-2.
During Spain’s World Cup victory 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.
Brazil has been chosen to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. In addition, the world’s most important soccer event was held in South America for the first time since 1986.
The tournament was held in 12 different cities across the country. Out of the 32 teams, Bosnia and Herzegovina were the only newcomers. In one of the semifinals, the German national team famously defeated Brazil 7-1. They defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time in the final. The final was held at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Seventy-four thousand seven hundred thirty-eight people watched Mario Goetze win the Cup for Germany in extra time. Germany became the first European country to win the Americas World Cup. In the third-place playoff, the Netherlands defeated Brazil 3-0.
Colombia’s James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot with six goals as Germany won the 2014 World Cup, adding to World Cup history.
2018 FIFA World Cup
Russia became the latest European country to be awarded the honor of hosting the World Cup in 2018. The tournament was held in 12 cities across the country.
Iceland and Panama are the two newest FIFA World Cup competitors. France won their second World Cup, defeating Croatia 4-2 in the final. The final was held at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, which drew 78,011 spectators. Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic scored for both teams.
France also received goals from Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and Kylian Mbappe, in addition to Mandzukic’s own goal. Meanwhile, Ivan Perisic scored Croatia’s second goal. In the third-place playoff, Belgium defeated England 2-0.
England striker Harry Kane won the Golden Boot after scoring six goals for the Three Lions, becoming the most prolific goal scorer in World Cup history.
2022 World Cup
The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar from November 21 to December 18, 2022. For the first time, the World Cup will be held in the Arab world in 2022. This will be the second World Cup held entirely in Asia, following the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. It will also be the final World Cup with 32 teams.
Because of the extreme heat in Qatar during the summer months, this will be the first World Cup not held in May, June, or July. The 2022 World Cup final will be held at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on December 18 at 18:00 local time.
In terms of land area, Qatar is the smallest country to have hosted the FIFA World Cup. In 1954, Switzerland was the second-smallest country to host the World Cup. Switzerland is three times the size of Qatar and only needed 16 national teams for the 2022 World Cup, rather than the current 32.
Despite never having qualified for a previous World Cup, Qatar became only the second country to be awarded the 2022 World Cup.