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The World Cup never fails to disappoint, with several shocks and surprises continuing to come to the fore every time, with all eyes on the Jules Rimet Trophy from day one. And it’s only become bigger and more glamorous with every passing tournament, featuring some of the best footballers of all time.
The competition has taken place every four years since the inaugural World Cup in 1930, apart from in 1942 and 1946 due to the Second World War. Plenty of planning is, of course, needed for such a huge event to take place, and so the next two hosts are already well underway with their preparations. The 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar, the first to be played in Winter, with the 2026 World Cup scheduled to take place in Canada, Mexico and the USA.
Here is a comprehensive World Cup winners list, from the tournament’s debut in Uruguay in 1930, all the way to Russia in 2018.
1930 – Uruguay
- 1 1930 – Uruguay
- 2 1934 – Italy
- 3 1938 – Italy
- 4 1942 & 1946
- 5 1950 – Uruguay
- 6 1954 – West Germany
- 7 1958 – Brazil
- 8 1962 – Brazil
- 9 1966 – England
- 10 1970 – Brazil
- 11 1974 – West Germany
- 12 1978 – Argentina
- 13 1982 – Italy
- 14 1986 – Argentina
- 15 1990 – West Germany
- 16 1994 – Brazil
- 17 1998 – France
- 18 2002 – Brazil
- 19 2006 – Italy
- 20 2010 – Spain
- 21 2014 – Germany
- 22 2018 – France
Hosts Uruguay kicked things off in 1930 with a victory on home soil, defeating South American rivals Argentina in Montevideo to become the first World Cup winners. Pablo Dorado, Pedro Cea, Santos Iriarte and Hector Castro netted for the hosts, with Carlos Peucelle and Guillermo Stabile on the scoresheet for the losing side.
1934 – Italy
A second successive World Cup victory for the host nation, with the Italians overcoming Czechoslovakia in extra-time in the capital. The number of teams had climbed from 13 to 16, with the third/fourth place play-off another new feature. Germany beat Austria 3-2 in that one, but all roads led to Rome, where Angelo Schiavio scored the winner in extra-time, after goals from Antonin Puc and Raimundo Orsi saw the game end 1-1 in regular time.
1938 – Italy
Italy continued their dominance on the world stage with a second successive World Cup title, this time overcoming Hungary 4-2 in Paris. Pal Titkos and Gyorgy Sarosi found the net for the Hungarians, but braces from Gino Colaussi and Silvio Piola saw the Italians become World Cup winners once again.
1942 & 1946
Not held due to WWII
1950 – Uruguay
20 years on from their first World Cup title, Uruguay were back to their very best, this time crashing the Brazilian party in Rio de Janeiro. Friaca opened the scoring for the hosts, but Juan Alberto Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia turned the match on its head to give Uruguay a 2-1 win. The 1950 match is, however, known as the ‘de facto’ final, given that the winner was determined by a final group stage, with the final four teams playing in a round-robin format as opposed to the more traditional knockout stage.
1954 – West Germany
The country may now no longer exist, but West Germany announced themselves to the footballing world in 1954, lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy at Wankdorfstadion in Bern. Just like in 1938, Hungary were once again on the losing side in the final, despite going two goals ahead after just eight minutes.
The legendary Ferenc Puskas opened the scoring in the sixth minute, with Zoltan Czibor adding a second just two minutes later. But two minutes after that, West Germany were back in the game through Max Morlock. Helmut Rahn levelled the game before it had even reached the 20-minute mark, with Rahn adding his second six minutes from time to complete a stunning 3-2 comeback.
1958 – Brazil
With a certain striker by the name of Pele in their squad, who else but Brazil could have lifted the 1958 World Cup? The star-studded side clinched their first of many world titles, overcoming hosts Sweden in a seven-goal thriller. Pele netted twice, with fellow forward Vava also scoring a brace. Mario Zagallo was also on the scoresheet for the victors, with goals from Swedish captain Nils Liedholm and Agne Simonsson not enough to worry the Brazilians, who could now call themselves World Cup winners.
1962 – Brazil
Brazil became the second team to defend their title when they defeated Czechoslovakia 3-1 in Santiago, Chile. Pele missed the match through injury, but his teammates still had talent in abundance, and it showed on the day, despite Josef Masopust shocking the world to put the Czechs in front early on.
But the South Americans rallied, and quickly turned things around through Amarildo, Zior and Vava. Almost 70,000 fans packed into the Estacio Nacional, having previously delighted in watching their beloved Chile clinch third spot by beating Yugoslavia 1-0.
1966 – England
Almost 97,000 fans travelled to Wembley to watch the home nation in action against West Germany, and they were not disappointed, with the hosts triumphant in a six-goal thriller. Both nations had proved strong in their tricky route to the final, but it was Alf Ramsey’s men who came out on top on the big occasion.
They did, however, need extra time, with the game ending 2-2 after 90 minutes thanks to goals from Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Helmut Haller and a late strike from Wolfgang Weber. But it was England striker Hurst who took matters into his own hands, scoring twice in extra-time to secure the only ever World Cup final hat-trick and a famous victory for the Three Lions.
1970 – Brazil
Brazil came back with a bang in 1970, crushing Italy 4-1 in Mexico City. It was the first final between two former winners of the competition, and indeed it would determine which country would be the first to win three World Cup titles. Having lifted the trophy as a player, Brazil boss Mario Zagallo became the first person to win the prize in both roles.
An enormous crowd of 107,412 people were watching at Estadio Azteca, expecting to see a fierce battle between these two heavyweights of world football. But in the end, Italy were no match for the stunning talent that stood before them, with Pele, Gerson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto clinching a permanent Jules Rimet Trophy for their nation.
1974 – West Germany
West Germany lifted their second World Cup exactly 20 years after their first, this time defeating an exciting Netherlands side featuring the likes of Johan Cruyff. But even the legendary figure couldn’t showcase his skills against a stern West German defence in Munich, who were key to their nation becoming World Cup winners once more.
An early Johan Neeskens penalty did, however, put the Netherlands ahead, but Paul Breitner levelled things from the spot soon after. Iconic striker Gerd Muller then netted in the 43rd minute to secure a 2-1 victory. Defending champions Brazil meanwhile fell to a third place play-off defeat to Poland.
1978 – Argentina
Argentina finally joined their South American neighbours Brazil and Uruguay on the most important podium of all in 1978, with the Netherlands once again narrowly missing out, and once again losing out to the host nation for the second tournament in a row.
Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires played host to the match, with Argentine forward Mario Kempes continuing his fine form in the tournament by scoring the opener late in the first half. Dick Nanninga’s 82nd-minute equaliser forced extra-time, but Kempes was once again on hand to restore home joy, with his compatriot Daniel Bertoni securing a 3-1 win five minutes from time.
1982 – Italy
Having included 16 nations from 1954 to 1978, the tournament was increased to 24 participants, with Italy topping the tree at the end of it all in 1982 to become World Cup winners yet again. Second half goals from Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli gave Enzo Bearzot’s side a commanding 3-0 lead over West Germany at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A consolation goal from Paul Breitner will have annoyed the defensively solid Italian side, but they couldn’t let such a minor detail worry them in the end, with the match ending 3-1 in favour of the men in blue. Rossi clinched the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards, with goalkeeper Dino Zoff becoming the oldest player to lift the trophy at the age of 40.
1986 – Argentina
Four years later and West Germany were back in contention, but they were once again on the losing side, coming out on the wrong end of a 3-2 encounter with Argentina. Well over 100,000 were back in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City to watch their favourite superstars in action.
The Argentines went 2-0 up thanks to Jose Luis Brown and Jorge Valdano, only to be pegged back to 2-2 thanks to efforts from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller. But Jorge Burruchaga was the hero on the day, with his 83rd-minute winner securing glory for Argentina, who became World Cup winners for the second time in eight years.
1990 – West Germany
An exact repeat of the match four years prior, but this time it was West Germany who had the last laugh on their way to becoming World Cup winners. This final was, however, much less dramatic, with Andreas Brehme’s late penalty all that could separate the sides. It was a fine ending in the fascinating tale of West German football, with a unified Germany formed soon after.
1994 – Brazil
If the 1990 final was a drab affair, then the 1994 final was even more so, with the match between Brazil and Italy going the distance after a goalless draw. It was the first World Cup to be decided on penalties, and it was the Brazilians who returned home from the USA victorious, with iconic figures such as Franco Baresi and Roberto Baggio missing their spot-kicks for the Italians. Regardless of how close it was, Brazil were overjoyed to be World Cup winners once more.
1998 – France
Four years later, Brazil made their way into the final two once again, but no one was capable of denying hosts France with glory on home soil that summer. Superstar Ronaldo was a shadow of his usual self, with it later emerging he had suffered a fit on the day of the final. Zinedine Zidane’s two goals led to a Man of the Match performance, with Emmanuel Petit adding a third in Saint-Denis, despite a red card for Marcel Desailly.
2002 – Brazil
Joint-hosts South Korea did their best to cause an upset, but just like France four years prior, it would take a brave nation to get in the way of a determined Brazil side featuring some of the greatest stars that the game has ever seen. Lethal striker Ronaldo netted a brace in Yokohama to secure yet another world title for the Brazilians.
2006 – Italy
It seemed like an age since Italy’s last World Cup win, such was their frequent success on the international stage. But they were truly back to their best that summer, but found themselves locked in a penalty shootout with France after a 1-1 draw. Zidane’s infamous red card is perhaps the most notable sending off in World Cup history, with France’s confidence perhaps a little shaken as Italy won the shootout 5-3 to become World Cup winners for a fourth time.
2010 – Spain
By this stage, it was Spain who were in the middle of a period of international football dominance. Having lifted the Euro 2008 trophy, they took that confidence into South Africa in 2010. A stern Netherlands side forced the Spaniards into extra-time, but Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta was on hand to send the entire country into euphoria.
2014 – Germany
In a nail-biting encounter in the Maracana, extra-time was needed to separate superpowers Germany and Argentine. The host nation certainly had a dilemma on their hands, however, not knowing which side to root for. The choice was a difficult one, either to support their fierce South American rivals Argentina, or to choose a German side that had just defeated their beloved Brazil 7-1 in an extraordinary semi-final.
The final certainly wasn’t as one-sided as that remarkable game in Belo Horizonte, with Brazilian hearts breaking further in their 3-0 third place play-off loss to the Netherlands. But all eyes were on the final, where after a goalless 90 minutes, substitutes Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze linked up in the final third, with the latter guiding a volley past Sergio Romero.
2018 – France
Just two years on from their Euro 2016 heartache against Portugal, France were back into the final two, this time on the world stage, with a resilient Croatia side all that was standing in their way of becoming World Cup winners. Both teams had battled their way through to the very end, knocking out the likes of Argentina and England in previous rounds.
Both halves in Moscow ended in a 2-1 advantage for France, ending in a 4-2 victory for Didier Deschamps’ men. Croatia veterans Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic found the back of the net, but their efforts were outdone by Man of the Match Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and rising star Kylian Mbappe, with Mandzukic also scoring an own goal in what is the highest-scoring World Cup final since 1966.