World Cup is on the horizon, with Russia set to play host to next summer’s footballing showpiece. Here’s your guide to the most memorable World Cup winners, previous winners, top goalscorers and fun facts. For all the latest football betting odds visit our football section otherwise, let’s get started!
The next showcase of world football’s top talent takes place across the vast expanse of Russia next summer. 2014 finalists Germany and Argentina will be there, as will record five-time World Cup winners Brazil.
Meanwhile, the competition welcomes new faces in the form of Panama and Euro 2016’s surprise package Iceland, while Egypt will also feature for the first time since Italia ‘90.
For the sixth World Cup in succession, 32 teams will contend for the sport’s ultimate prize, with the final taking place at Moscow’s spectacular 81,000 capacity Luzhniki Stadium.
With the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Thomas Muller all set to play a part, there’ll also be an exciting battle to be World Cup’s top scorer.
It’s all to play for!
World Cup 2014
Hosts: Brazil / Winners: Germany / Final: Germany 1-0 Argentina (a.e.t.)
Of all the remarkable scorelines World Cups have thrown up, perhaps none can match Germany’s 7-1 defeat of Brazil. Die Mannschaft produced one of the finest international performances in history, taking a 5-0 lead before the half-hour mark in front of a stunned crowd in Belo Horizonte.
In the process, Miroslav Klose made himself the all-time record World Cup goalscorer with 16. However, it was Colombia’s James Rodriguez who was Top Scorer at the tournament with six.
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Germany deservedly lifted the trophy after a 1-0 Extra-Time win against Argentina in the World Cup 2014 Final, though the game couldn’t match the stunning drama of their Semi-Final encounter.
Elsewhere, Costa Rica made a name for themselves, reaching the Quarter-Finals after wins over Uruguay, Italy and Greece. However, La Sele’s groupmates England weren’t so lucky. The Three Lions finished bottom of Group D, failing to win any of their three games.
Joachim Low’s Germany are joint-favourites again this year alongside France, and you can back them to retain the trophy by visiting our World Cup odds page here
World Cup 2010
Hosts: South Africa / Winners: Spain / Final: Spain 1-0 Netherlands
The tournament which introduced the world to the buzzing noise of the Vuvuzela, the first World Cup in Africa saw a new name on the trophy – Spain. However, it was plucky Ghana who won hearts and plaudits with their performances.
Striker Asamoah Gyan (later of Sunderland) spearheaded the Black Stars success as they knocked out the USA in the Second Round.
In the end, only a cynical Luis Suarez handball in their Quarter-Final against Uruguay prevented Ghana from making history by reaching the final four.
Elsewhere, Germany’s Thomas Muller announced himself on the biggest stage by winning the Golden Boot. But it was Spain who enjoyed the biggest success of all, seeing off Netherlands 1-0 in a tight Final to ensure they held the titles of European Champions and World Cup Winners.
But it could have been different. Having led England 2-0 in the knockout stages, Die Mannschaft looked to have squandered a two-goal lead when Frank Lampard’s effort crashed over the line.
However, referee Jorge Larrionda wrongly ruled out the goal, and Joachim Low’s men went on to win 4-1 against their old rivals.
World Cup 2006
Hosts: Germany / Winners: Italy / Final: Italy 1-1 France (5-3 pens]
12 years earlier, Italy had become the first side ever to lose a World Cup Final on penalties. But in 2006, they had their own moment of spot-kick salvation, defeating Les Bleus after an incident-packed clash. That result ensured Italy had won the World Cup four times – a European record.
This was the game where Zinedine Zidane netted the opener, before Marco Materazzi equalised for the Italians.
But the pair’s contributions will be better reminded for Zidane’s infamous head-butt on the former Everton man, with the France legend sent off in his final ever appearance
Elsewhere, England exited after a fractious Quarter-Final against Portugal, though Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men did beat Paraguay en route to topping Group B. Elsewhere, Australia made the knockouts for the first time ever and Miroslav Klose bagged the Golden Boot.
Meanwhile, Argentina made the Quarters, with a youngster named Lionel Messi bagging his first competitive goal for the national side.
World Cup 2002
Hosts: Japan & South Korea / Winners: Brazil / Final: Brazil 2-0 Germany
After winning World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000, France’s era of dominance came to a sudden end in the first showpiece to take place in Asia. Les Bleus were beaten in their opener by a Senegal side whose entire starting XI played in France! Roger Lemerre’s men finished bottom of their group and got the early flight home.
Their absence wasn’t the only curious thing about the knockout stages. South Korea became the first ever Asian side to make the Semi-Finals, knocking out Italy and Spain along the way.
However, South Korean ace Ahn Jung-hwan – who was on loan at Italian side Perugia at the time – found his club contract cancelled, with the club’s owner claiming he had “ruined Italian football”!
As for the final, Brazil ended their heartache of four years prior, with a comfortable 2-0 defeat of Germany in Yokohama, with the legendary Ronaldo bagging both goals, to finish Top Scorer with eight.
However, they almost didn’t reach the final at all. However, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men almost didn’t reach the final at all.
They trailed 1-0 to England in the Round of 16, before a turnaround sealed by Ronaldinho’s sumptuous free-kick, which left David Seaman red-faced and Brazil 2-1 winners.
World Cup 1998
Hosts: France / Winners: France / Final: France 3-0 Brazil
The image of Zinedine Zidane, arms aloft, lifting the famous gold-and-green trophy remains the proudest in French football history. But perhaps the most heartwarming story of the tournament was the emergence of Croatia.
Having spent the early 1990s under the shadow of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, a bruised Croatia headed into their first World Cup on the back of a solid Euro ’96 outing.
However, few expected what came next, with Croatia reaching the Semi-Finals via an unforgettable 3-0 defeat of Germany in Lyon – thanks largely to Golden Boot winner Davor Suker.
That said, the goal of the tournament was arguably scored by England’s teenage sensation Michael Owen.
After progressing from the group stage, England played out a thrilling Round of 16 game against Argentina. Owen’s mazy solo run and stunning finish put the Three Lions 2-1 up in Saint-Etienne, before La Albiceleste came back to draw in normal time, before winning on penalties.
However, it’s obviously the triumphant hosts who are most associated with this tournament. They breezed past Brazil 3-0 in the Final at Stade de France, with Zinedine Zidane netting twice before Arsenal man Emmanuel Petit put the icing on the cake in injury time.
World Cup 1994
Hosts: USA / Winners: Brazil / Final: Brazil 0-0 Italy [3-2 pens]
You’ve seen the rocking baby celebration, right? Brazil’s Bebeto invented that one at this tournament – and that remains one of many legacies from the summer that saw ‘soccer’ explode Stateside.
Along the way, Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland recorded a historic victory over Italy, and Saudi Arabia shocked everyone by reaching the Round of 16 in their first ever World Cup appearance.
The USA also made the knockouts, in a hugely popular tournament which fuelled the popularity of the nation’s MLS (Major League Soccer), which had formed late in 1993.
In the knockouts, there were plenty more shocks, as both Sweden and Bulgaria made the Semi-Finals. But in the ultimate showdown at the Rose Bowl, it was two familiar names who faced off.
After 120 tight and nervy minutes, Brazil held their nerve on penalties, as Italian legend Roberto Baggio blazed his spot-kick over to end the Azzurri dream.
In the Top Scorer tussle, nothing could separate Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichkov and Russia’s Oleg Salenko.
World Cup 1990
Hosts: Italy / Winners: West Germany / Final: West Germany 1-0 Argentina
No World Cup has been more synonymous with music than Italia ’90. Specifically, opera legend Luciano Pavarotti’s rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’, which became the anthem of the summer’s competition.
On the pitch, it was all about England’s near-miss against West Germany. It was the Semi-Final where the Three Lions’ Paul Gascoigne shed his iconic tears after picking up a suspension, and where West Germany secured penalty shoot-out heartbreak for their opponents in Turin.
Top scorer was the unlikely Salvatore ‘Toto’ Schillaci. The gloriously excitable striker only scored seven times in his entire career for Italy, and six of those came at this tournament.
As for the Final, it was a real dud. Argentina beat Germany 1-0 in a fractious game best forgotten.
World Cup 1986
Hosts: Mexico / Winners: Argentina / Final: Argentina 3-2 West Germany
Sir Alex Ferguson identified Mexico ’86 as the best tournament of the modern era, and it’s fair to say he had a solid argument.
Tournament first-timers Denmark were the surprise package, beating West Germany and hammering Uruguay 6-1. Elsewhere, top scorer Gary Lineker caught the eye for England, managing a six-goal haul which saw him secure a move to Spanish giants Barcelona.
In the final, Argentina took a two-goal lead against West Germany, before two quickfire goals saw the scores tied at 2-2 after 80 minutes.
Step forward midfielder Jorge Burruchaga, who slotted home an ice-cool winner with just seven minutes left on the clock. Breathless and brilliant stuff, over 30 years later!
World Cup 1982
Hosts: Spain / Winners: Italy / Final: Italy 3-1 West Germany
This was the tournament introduced the world to cuddly mascot Naranjito, produced an iconic goal celebration and saw arguably the finest World Cup Semi-Final in history.
Things kicked into gear on the opening round of fixtures, as Algeria defeated West Germany in one of the biggest ever tournament shocks.
The Home Nations impressed, too. England reached the second phase, as did Northern Ireland – with Gerry Armstrong securing their place with the only goal in a 1-0 defeat of Spain. Not too shabby.
In the second Semi-Final, West Germany trailed 3-1 to France in Seville in Extra Time. But the battling West German side sensationally drew level, going on to win a nail-biting penalty shoot-out 5-4.
Then-France captain Michel Platini called it his “most beautiful game” of all time – despite defeat for Les Blues.
The tournament’s final wasn’t too bad either, though decidedly more one-sided. An unusually attacking Italy side stunned Germany by taking a 3-0 lead, with Marco Tardelli celebrating the second with an emotional, fist-shaking run towards the bench. Jupp Derwall’s men got one back, but this was the Azzurri’s day, and their tournament.
World Cup 1978
Hosts: Argentina / Winners: Argentina / Final: Argentina 3-1 Netherlands (a.e.t.)
Few settings of football’s biggest competition saw more shocks than World Cup 1978. Along the way, Scotland beat the Netherlands, Austria eliminated holders West Germany and Peru won their first-round Group.
A wide-open tournament where nobody looked able to dominate in the first or second Group Stage, the final threw up an intriguing tussle between 1974’s beaten finalists and the hosts. It was a monumental tussle at Buenos Aires’ Estadio Monumental.
Amidst an iconic flurry of ticker tape, the World Cup Final of 1978 saw Golden Boot winner Mario Kempes put a dominant Argentina ahead, before a late Dirk Nanninga equaliser for Oranje.
That took this clash into extra-time, with the hosts securing an emotional triumph on home soil, thanks to Kempes’ second and a clincher from tricky winger Daniel Bertoni.
World Cup 1974
Hosts: West Germany / Winners: West Germany / Final: West Germany 2-1 Netherlands
It’s usually the FIFA World Cup winners who are remembered best, but 1974’s showpiece was all about the glorious nearly-men of the Netherlands. The Dutch became renowned for their totaalvoetbal (total football) which revolutionised tactics in the sport.
Boasting the legendary Johan Cruyff (the man behind the famous ‘Cruyff Turn’) and midfield maestro Johan Neeskens in their ranks, they ran riot.
The swashbuckling Netherlands side saw off Argentina (4-0), Brazil (2-0) and East Germany (2-0) en route to a Final against West Germany.
1-0 ahead within two minutes at Munich’s vast Olympic Stadium, the men in orange looked destined to lift the trophy.
But suddenly, and remarkably, they collapsed. Paul Breitner and Gerd Muller grabbed goals for Germany, and the pragmatic hosts held on for a victory which dismayed the purists.
The Golden Boot went to Poland’s Grzegorz Lalo, with the winger striking seven times for Poland, as they finished in Third Place.
World Cup 1970
Hosts: Mexico / Winners: Brazil / Final: Brazil 4-1 Italy
After a dismal showing in 1966, Brazil bounced back in style four years later under the guidance of legendary manager Mario Zagallo. Canarinhos won every game they played in the tournament, scoring 19 goals in their six matches.
The first World Cup to be screened on Colour TV was a vibrant affair, set amidst the heat and pageantry of the Mexican showcase. England’s Gordon Banks produced a save from Pele regarded as the greatest ever, while West Germany’s Gerd Muller (Top Scorer with 10 goals) tied defences in knots, and Pele spearheaded another Brazilian triumph.
The South Americans beat Italy 4-1 at the Azteca Stadium in the Final, but it’s Germany’s 3-2 defeat of England which remains the tournament’s most memorable game.
The Three Lions surrendered a 2-0 lead in the Quarter-Final, with Die Mannschaft clawing their way back to win it in Extra Time.
World Cup 1966
Hosts: England / Winners: England / Final: England 4-2 West Germany (a.e.t.)
England fans still wax lyrical about the class of 1966, who won their first ever World Cup after perhaps the most iconic final of all time.
The hosts breezed through the Group Stage before a 1-0 victory over Argentina, and a 2-1 Semi-Final defeat of highly-rated Portugal, whose Eusebio grabbed the Golden Boot.
That set up the legendary Final clash with Germany in front of a packed Wembley Stadium, in the July sunshine. However, things weren’t looking so hot for the Three Lions when Helmut Haller fired Die Mannschaft into the lead.
England recovered to go 2-1 up, with goals from Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, before a late German goal took the game to Extra-Time.
West Ham United legend Hurst restored England’s lead with an infamous goal (or non-goal) which slammed down from the crossbar and was deemed to have crossed the line. And, right at the death, he made it 4-2.
“They think it’s all over. It is now!” cried commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme as Geoff Hurst netted the winner, before Bobby Moore collected the trophy from Queen Elizabeth II.
World Cup 1962
Hosts: Chile / Winners: Brazil / Final: Brazil 3-1 Czechoslovakia
The amount of attacking talent on show in the ’62 edition was – even by World Cup standards – something special.
Brazil’s Garrincha jinked through defences, while Chile’s Leonel Sanchez left defenders dazed and England’s Bobby Charlton struck fear into the world’s top goalkeepers with his fearsome strikes.
There weren’t too many shocks in this tournament, though the Soviet Union’s emergence as a footballing power was visible as they reached the knockout stages in style.
In the end, it was more glory for Brazil. Czechoslovakia took the lead in the Final in Santiago, but the South American side roared back, with tournament joint-top scorer Vava eventually sealing a 3-1 victory.
World Cup 1958
Hosts: Sweden / Winners: Brazil / Final: Brazil 5-2 Sweden
Talking of Home Nations interest, all four of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were involved in the 1958 edition.
The latter two made it as far as the Quarter Finals, with the Dragons defeated 1-0 by a talented Brazil side. Their goalscorer that day was a 17-year-old by the name of Pele.
Scotland and England both exited in the group – but the latter faced the eventual winners in the group stage, as the pair played out the first ever 0-0 draw at a World Cup finals.
Canarinho went on to beat France 5-2 in the Semi-Finals, before recording the same scoreline in a Final rout of Sweden.
But the tournament’s biggest slice of history lies in having the all-time record scorer at a World Cup. Step forward France’s Just Fontaine, who bagged an astonishing 13 goals in their five tournament games.
World Cup 1954
Hosts: Switzerland / Winners: West Germany / Final: West Germany 3-2 Hungary
While West Germany lifted the trophy (more on that later), the finest game of this tournament came in the Quarter-Finals.
That was Austria 7-5 Switzerland. Spectators in Lausanne certainly got their money’s worth in this one. The Swiss went 3-0 up inside 20 minutes, before five goals in 10 minutes saw Austria take a 5-3 lead.
Fans in Britain were also able to enjoy the tournament, with this the first World Cup broadcast on TV in the region. England and Scotland (for the first time ever) participated, with the former making the knockouts and the latter leaving without a point.
The tournament culminated with West Germany coming from 2-0 down to beat Hungary 3-2, in a fittingly dramatic end to one of the most exciting World Cups of all time.
However, credit also goes to Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis who ended the tournament with a then-record 11 goals.
World Cup 1950
Hosts: Brazil / Winners: Uruguay / Final: Uruguay 2-1 Brazil
The first post-war World Cup was a fantastic festival of football. An odd format saw the winner decided by a second Group Stage.
But while this setup was quickly ditched, it provided the framework for perhaps the most exciting – and unlikely – World Cup Final result of all time.
Brazil sat top of the Final Round Group by a single point, ahead of the tournament’s last match – a clash between the hosts and Uruguay.
A crowd of 199,854 crammed into the Maracana for a game which has become a part of footballing folklore.
Ahead of the game, Brazilian newspaper O Mundo was so confident it printed an early edition with a photo of Brazil with the caption “these are the world champions”.
And Selecao seemed to have the tournament won when Friaca put them 1-0 up in front of a jubilant crowd.
After all, they needed just a point to secure glory. However, Juan Alberto Schiaffino and Akides Ghiggia netted twice for Uruguay to stun the hosts and lift the World Cup trophy.
Brazil legend Ademir was Top Scorer with eight goals – and hung up his international boots in 1953 following 47 goals in 39 games.
Talking of history makers, England became the first of the Home Nations to appear at a World Cup finals. They exited in the group stage, but beat Chile 2-0, with Blackpool star Stan Mortensen netting the country’s first ever goal in the competition.
World Cup 1938
Hosts: France / Winners: Italy / Final: Italy 4-2 Hungary
The Italians broke new ground here. Not only did they become the first ever back-to-back World Cup winners, but they also became the first side to lift the trophy outside of their homeland.
This goal-filled tournament produced Brazil’s famed 6-5 victory over Poland, Hungary’s 5-1 Semi-Final demolition of Sweden, and a shock Quarter-Final berth for underdogs Cuba.
However, it was Italy who took the crown. They beat France 3-1 in their own backyard before defeating Brazil to reach the final.
However, Canarinho ace Leonidas did get the World Cup Golden Boot with seven goals.
As for Italy, braces from veteran Gino Colaussi and Silvio Piola ensuring a 4-2 Final victory over Hungary, in front of a largely jubilant crowd of 45,000 in Paris.
World Cup 1934
Hosts: Italy / Winners: Italy / Final: Italy 2-1 Czechoslovakia (a.e.t.)
The World Cup Group Stages were shelved for this tournament, with a straight-up 16-team knockout the order of the day.
Czechoslovakia’s Oldrich Nejedly was the tournament’s top goalscorer, scoring five times and dazzling the crowds as the exciting Czech side made it to the Final.
However, it was gritty hosts Italy who won the tournament after Extra-Time in Rome, with Bologna striker Angelo Schiavio ensuring global glory for the Azzurri.
The first tournament to feature an African team, in the form of Egypt, the 1934 tournament showed the gradual expansion of the beautiful game’s top tournament to all corners of the world.
World Cup 1930
Hosts: Uruguay / Winners: Uruguay / Final: Uruguay 4-2 Argentina
The first ever FIFA World Cup kicked off in July 1930, as France defeated Mexico 4-1 in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo.
Four sides made it out of the tournament’s quartet of groups, with the hosts joined by the USA, Argentina and Yugoslavia.
Not the slick tournament of today, the 1930 Final saw the sides disagree over who was bringing the ball along, with FIFA intervening to ask both Uruguay and Argentina to bring a ball along for either half of the game.
In the end, it was the hosts who made it count, with Uruguay winning the first ever World Cup.
The hosts came from 2-1 down in the second half to beat La Albiceleste 4-2, despite a superb performance from Argentina’s tournament top scorer Guillermo Stabile.
But having won the first ever World Cup, Uruguay would have to wait 20 years to lift the trophy again.
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