Football World Championship History

The history of the World Championship is a bright & colorful one as football continues to spread joy to millions of fans across the world. It all began back in 1930, and the 2022 edition will be the 22nd edition of the World Championships. We’ve seen incredible moments, passionate fans and legends that have graced the game compete for the main prize, a golden trophy of the world and the title of World Champions. 

Previous International Competitions

As the World Championship continues to tour the world, take a look at every host nation since the inaugural World Championship hosted by Uruguay in 1930. The concept of co-hosting was introduced in the 2002 edition, and will be repeated in the next world championship in Canada, USA & Mexico in 2026. We already can’t wait for that one!

1930 Uruguay
1934 Italy
1938 France
1942 Cancelled during World War II
1946
1950 Brazil
1954 Switzerland
1958 Sweden
1962 Chile
1966 England
1970 Mexico
1974 West Germany
1978 Argentina
1982 Spain
1986 Mexico
1990 Italy
1994 United States
1998 France
2002 Japan & South Korea
2006 Germany
2010 South Africa
2014 Brazil
2018 Russia
2022 Qatar
2026 Canada, Mexico & The United States

Uruguay 1930: The First Football World Championship

Its hard to imagine a World Championship in the 1930s, when you think about the complicated logistics of traveling to South America in a completely different era of transportation and technology. Everything was different back then, including the trophy itself.

Just to put you in the picture. It took the French team 15 days to get to Uruguay by ship, with limited space for training. That is a feat in itself. 

Three stadiums hosted matches during the 1930 World Championships:

Estadio Centenario – 90,000 capacity

Estadio Gran Parque Central – 20,000 capacity

Estadio Pocitos – 10,000 capacity

Who won the First World Championships

Uruguay, the host nations, were the first World Champions in 1930.

They faced Argentina in the final, beating them 4-2. 68,000 people were in attendance to witness the spectacular six goal thriller. 

13 teams took part in the championships, and were initially split into 4 groups, before the semi finals and the finals. There were no qualifying parameters to enter this World Championship, which is the only time this has happened in the history of the tournament. 

The first World Championship groups and competitors:

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
Argentina Brazil Uruguay Belgium
Chile Bolivia Peru Paraguay
France Yugoslavia Romania USA
Mexico

The rule was simple: top the group to qualify for the semi finals:

Argentina v United States – Argentina winning 6-1  

Yugoslavia v Uruguay – Uruguay winning 6-1 

The World Championship 1930 Final

Final score: Uruguay 4-2 Argentina

Goals from Dorato, Crea, Iriarte and Castro brought the first World Championships home for Uruguay.

Fun Fact: Two different balls were used in either half, as the teams couldn’t agree on which ball to use, so they each selected a ball!

Best Teams in the World Championship

There have been some teams which have set standards and given us incredible memories. Some teams were so good to watch, so easy on the eye and so dominating, they earned the labels of being the best teams at the World Championships. 

  • The Netherlands
  • Spain in 2010
  • France in 1998
  • Argentina 1986
  • Italy 
  • Brazil
  • Germany 2014

Let’s start with Brazil.

These guys have dominated the World Championships, and have won it five times, as detailed below. Picking their best ever squad is impossible, but one player that helped define three spectacular and glorious eras is Pelé. He led his nation to three World Championships in 1958. 1962, 1970. He’s scored 12 goals in 14 World Championship matches, which is incredible.

Argentina 1986

Argentina’s 1986 World Championship winning team is the stuff of folklore, and one man defined that era: Diego Armando Maradona. His unpredictability, pace, crudeness and skill was unmatchable, he’s arguably the best ever player. His two goals against England in the quarter finals are probably the most talked about strikes ever. One, the infamous Hand of God, needs no explanation, but his other strike, in which he sliced through the England midfield and defense to stroke the ball into the net, was breathtaking… If there were doubts about his first goal in that game, nothing negative can be said about this one. 

Spain 2010

Spain were setting the football world alight in an era that saw them win three major tournaments in a row, one World Championship, with two European Championships either side. Their domination started in 2008 and did not stop until 2012. A team packed with unbelievable players, playing in a smooth tiki-taka style which was simply unplayable. Iniesta’s goal against the Netherlands in the final of 2010 goes down as his finest goal of his career, and he was a player who won every single trophy available to him

The Netherlands’ Total Football

Now, the Netherlands might have never won the World Championship, but they do get an honorable mention here. Three finals, 1974, 1978 and 2010 earned them the label of forever bridesmaids. The 70s’, an era of football which was solely defined by the Oranje, saw some of the best ever tactics used, and total football, a the Dutch style, is still the standard for today’s forward-minded teams. Johan Cruyff is the creator of Duthc football, and his style has also seen Ajax and Barcelona dominate European football. They’ve never won a championship, but they certainly have contributed to the victories of many other teams and nations. 

German efficiency

Germany has four World Championships to their name, and the most recent one came in 2014. The defining moment there: a 7-1 destruction of hosts Brazil in the semi-final. It was clear no one would be able to stop them, with even Leo Messi’s Argentina failing to lay a glove on them in the final. Mario Götze’s goal separated the teams, giving Germany their fourth world title. Germany scored a total of 18 goals at the World Championships and deserved their title.

Best Players in the World Championship

Pelé, as mentioned above is the only player to have three World Championship medals to his name and that is legendary. It’s a feat which we are unlikely to ever see again, so he has to go down as one of the best players at the World Championships. 

Brazil’s squads have always been packed with talent. Names like Ronaldo, O Fenômeno, Rivaldo, Cafú, Roberto Carlos, Socrates, Zico simply roll off the tongue and, rather scaringly, there are plenty more. The modern side consists of Neymar Jr, one of the world’s best current outfield players.

They are one to watch this year, as they always are!

The Netherlands

The Netherlands are also amongst the favorites, and the reason is simple: manager Louis van Gaal has an incredible record as manager. His 2014 side that reached the semi finals bowed out unbeaten. His win percentage is a staggering 58.45%, he is unbeaten during his third stint in charge of his country, and has won 20 career trophies to date. He’s got what it takes and has 37 matches in charge, and has only lost 4 matches. 

Argentina

This year, this Argentina squad looks unplayable. They will be spearheaded by Leo Messi, who craves a world title, but has talent in every area of the pitch. They are playing as a team and with an attacking midfielder like there’s anything is possible. Angel di Maria, Leandro Paredes, will be the ideal ball carriers to the likes of Messi, Gio Simeone, Paulo Dybala, Lauturo Martinez and co. 

Portugal

Portugal’s squad boasts a man called Cristiano Ronaldo, who, no matter what his current stats for his club are, is always a threat for his country. He’s their leader, and they’ve got plenty more in their ranks too, including João Cancelo, Rúben Dias, Pepe, Bruno Fernandes et al. Will there be a Ronaldo v Messi final in 2022?

World Championships top scorers:

Player Nation Games Goals
Miroslav Klose Germany 24 16
Ronaldo Brazil 19 15
Gerd Müller Germany 13 14
Just Fontaine France 6 13
Pelé Brazi 14 12

France’s maiden victory

The 1998 edition of the World Championships was held in France, and was one of the most colorful and fun championships to date. The host nation had never won a World Championship beforehand, but had a squad packed with talent, including Zinedine Zidane. The French actually lost their talisman due to suspension after his famous temper got the better of him in the Group Stage, but when he returned, boy was he good. His two headed goals in the final against Brazil were his crowning moment, as France put 3 past Taffarel in the Brazilian goal. France went on to dominate Europe too, beating Italy in the European Championship final of 2000. 

The Azzurri 

Of course, you can not talk about the World Championships without mentioning the Azzurri. Football and Italy go hand in hand, and it’s no wonder they have four World titles to their name. They won’t be at this edition, of course, but their history in this tournament is a rich one. Their most recent win came in 2006, but their 1982 squad was one of extra significance. Italy was a nation which hadn’t won a World Championship since their back to back wins in the 1930s, so the class of ‘82 put them back on the world stage, and made Italy the footballer’s destination. The Serie A in the late 80s and 90s was the world’s best league, the standout division and the one that attracted star players like Maradona, Gullit, van Basten, Rijkaard and hundreds more. 

Football World Championship Winner List

Only eight nations have conquered the world, with Brazil doing so an incredible five times. 12 winners have come from nations playing under the UEFA banner, while the other 9 have come from CONMEBOL nations.

5 – Brazil in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002

4 – Germany in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014

4 – Italy in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006

2-  Argentina – in 1978 and 1986

2- France in 1998 and 2018

2- Uruguay in 1930 and 1950

1- Spain in 2010

1- England in 1966

Next Football World Championships

We’re jetting across three massive countries for the 2026 World Championships as Canada, the United States and Mexico won the bid to co-host the championships. This will be the 23rd edition of the World Championships and we’re expecting another massive one!

The host cities:

USA Canada Mexico
Atlanta Toronto Mexico City
The Bay Area Vancouver Guadalajara
Boston Monterrey
Dallas
Houston
Kansas City
Los Angeles
Miami
New York/New Jersey
Philadelphia
Seattle
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