As Qatar prepare to host the 22nd edition of the World Cup, we look back on the heroes of the past the organisers are excited to emulate.
When Qatar was announced as the host of the 2022 World Cup, they became the 18th country to take on the honour of welcoming the planet’s best footballers to their door. France, Italy and Brazil have hosted two tournaments, while the USA will join them in 2026, where joint hosts Mexico will become three-timers.
The first tournament stretches all the way back to 1930, where the inaugural hosts also turned out to be the winners as Uruguay came back from 2-1 down against Argentina in the Montevideo final (the only city to be used in the competition), to prevail 4-2.
La Celeste (The Sky Blues) have reached one other final, in 1950, where they were also victorious, beating Brazil 2-1 on their own patch, in Rio de Janeiro. However, the runners-up there were, in time, to embark on a successful run of their own.
Italy, albeit amid some controversy, would win back-to-back Jules Rimet Trophies in 1934 and 1938, keeping that trophy for a further 12 years, due to the outbreak of the Second World War, before the aforementioned 1950 edition.
In total, eight countries have won the competition, yet one of the best never to lift the World Cup was Hungary. The Mighty Magyars had an unbelievable unbeaten sequence of 49 matches between 1950 and 1956 and also clinched gold at the Helsinki, Tokyo and Mexico Olympics.
During that run, the Hungarians decimated an England team who hadn’t lost at home in their 90-year history, 6-3; then hammered them 7-1 in Budapest. However, their 3-2 defeat by West Germany in the Bern final in 1954 is their best tournament performance.
As for Brazil, it was the discovery of a certain 17-year-old named Edson Arantes do Nascimento – otherwise known as Pele – that would inspire them to three wins in four tournaments (1958, 1962, 1970), with England, in 1966 of course, breaking the sequence.
Back to West Germany and they would win on home soil in 1974, beating the great Netherlands side of Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens. Argentina would repeat the trick as hosts in Buenos Aires four years later, and the Germans again succumbed when Italy got themselves back on the winners’ rostrum in Spain in 1982. Finally, a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina won their second title at Mexico 86.
West Germany gained revenge at Italia 90, before Brazil reached three finals in a row winning on penalties against Italy in the USA (1994), losing to the hosts in France (1998) and regaining the trophy in South Korea and Japan, against a reformed Germany in 2002.
Penalties would again be needed to give Italy their fourth success, against France in Germany 2006, while Spain’s golden generation recorded a debut victory in South Africa 2010 (either side of two European Championships wins).
Germany destroyed a sorry Brazil 7-1 in the semi-final of their second time as hosts, on the way to also denying Lionel Messi and Argentina in 2014, before France beat Croatia 4-2 (which is the most popular final score) in Russia 2018.
World Cup winners by total:
Brazil, five (from seven finals)
Germany, four (eight finals)
Italy, four (six finals)
Argentina, two (five finals)
France, two (three finals)
Uruguay, two (two finals)
England, one (one final)
Spain, one (one final)