The Complete History of the World Cup from 1930 to 2018
The World Cup is nearly upon us, with 32 nations battling it out to win the most prestigious prize in the sport. In the space of a month in Russia, footballing heroes and villains will emerge and memories will be created for a lifetime. At OpenOdds we are committed to providing you with an in-depth guide about everything going on at the World Cup in Russia.
From recommended bets to star players for each team, we will cover all you need to know. Here, we will provide you with a comprehensive history of the football World Cup, including a list of World Cup winners, hosts and iconic moments that make the tournament so special.
The first ever World Cup was in Uruguay with just 13 participants, seven of which were from South America. The hosts won the final against rivals Argentina in front of 93,000 people in Montevideo.
Interestingly, given the distrust between the sides, a match ball chosen by Argentina was used in the first half, with Uruguay’s match ball used for the second.
This World Cup was boycotted by holders Uruguay due to the poor European turnout four years previously and became a platform for Benito Mussolini to promote fascism.
It included 16 teams, with Egypt the first African representatives to take part in the tournament. Italy were the champions on their home turf, defeating the Czechoslovakia 2-1 after extra time.
The Italians regained the World Cup and became the first side to win it in a different country, when they beat Hungary in the final.
As it was in Europe once again, South American nations Argentina and Uruguay decided to boycott, whilst only 15 teams played after Austria withdrew and England declined to take their place.
This was England’s first ever World Cup and they fell to a defeat to USA that was a major surprise at the time. They also lost to Spain and failed to progress from the group stage.
Uruguay produced another shock to beat Brazil at the Maracanã and win their second tournament. And, having missed the two previous tournaments after deciding not to go, it meant they had won the Jules Rimet trophy both times they’d entered.
Winner: West Germany
The West Germans secured their first ever World Cup win, defeating the star-studded Hungary team that included Ferenc Puskas 3-2 in the final.
It was also the first Wold Cup to be televised.
The World Cup that many will remember for the emergence of Pele. He became the youngest scorer at the tournament at 17, scoring against Wales. He would also score two in the final as the South Americans beat Sweden 5-2.
French striker Just Fontaine was the top scorer in ’58 with 13 goals, something that is yet to be beaten in soccer World Cup history.
Even without the legendary Pele, who had suffered with injury, Brazil managed to lift the trophy, with Garrincha the star of the tournament.
They beat Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final to retain the cup in a tournament that was marred by aggressive play and serious fouls.
The 4-2 extra time win over West Germany is the only time England have won the prestigious tournament, with Geoff Hurst the only player to score a hat-trick in a final, although the debate over whether one goal crossed the line rumbles on to this day.
Portugal’s Eusebio was the top scorer in the tournament whilst Pele was the victim of several awful tackles that hampered him and Brazil.
However, Pele wouldn’t be stopped four years later, inspiring Brazil to their third triumph in a side that is widely regarded as one of the best ever due to the stylish way they played and quality attacking players.
As well as the Santos men, Jairzinho, Tostao and Rivelino combined to make a frightening attacking unit.
They thumped Italy 4-1 in the final, with Carlos Alberto’s goal, after a fine passing move and an assist by Pele, still highlighted to this day.
Host: West Germany
Winner: West Germany
The Germans secure their second World Cup on home soil although the tournament may be remembered for the ‘total football’ played by the Dutch, inspired by Johan Cruyff.
They reached the final and took the lead but ultimately West Germany came back to win the match 2-1.
Additionally, Chile’s Carlos Caszely became the first player to be shown a red card at the tournament.
Holland are runners up once again as hosts Argentina beat them 3-1 in the final with Mario Kempes scoring twice at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires that is well-known for the ticker tape that was all over the pitch.
Star man Johan Cruyff missed the tournament with many believing he could’ve made the difference for Oranje.
Maradona’s was introduced to the world stage in Spain but it was the Italians who were victorious, securing their third title. A Paolo Rossi hat-trick against Brazil was memorable on their way to landing the trophy, with the striker also scoring in the 3-1 final win over West Germany.
Aside from that, Northern Ireland’s 17-year old Norman Whiteside became the youngest ever player to play at the tournament whilst Hungary secured the biggest win, thrashing El Salvador 10-1!
Mexico became the first country to host two World Cups but this will be remembered for Maradona. The Argentinian genius scored two memorable goals against England in the quarter-finals – the ‘Hand of God’ and the strike that saw him beat most the English defence, regarded as one of the best goals ever.
He scored a brace in the semi-final and was influential in the final as Argentina beat West Germany to win their second World Cup.
Winner: West Germany
Italia ’90 is remembered by England fans for Paul Gascoigne’s tears and penalty heartbreak in the semi-final against West Germany.
For the Germans though, it was revenge as they beat Argentina 1-0 in a repeat of the final from four years ago.
As well as that, Cameroon captured the imagination of the public and became the first African nation to reach the quarter-final.
The first final to be decided on penalties saw Brazil overcome Italy for their fourth success, with Roberto Baggio among those to miss for the Italians.
It wasn’t a memorable final but the tournament was. Maradona was sent home in disgrace after testing positive for taking performance enhancing drugs, whilst
Roger Milla becomes the oldest player to score at the finals at 42.
England had failed to qualify!
This was the tournament that Ziendine Zidane announced himself to the world, with two headed goals in a 3-0 win over Brazil for France’s first title.
However, it is also remembered for Ronaldo playing despite fainting hours before the game. The Brazil striker was the star of the tournament and world football but his inclusion in the final remains a topic for discussion among fans.
This tournament featured 32 teams for the first time and Lothar Matthaus set a joint-record in playing in his fifth finals. Meanwhile, David Beckham made himself public enemy number one in England after he was sent off against Argentina for a petulant kick at Diego Simeone before the Three Lions lost on penalties.
Host: South Korea & Japan
The first World Cup in Asia and the first held in two countries but once again it was Brazil who won – for the fifth time. Legendary full-back Cafu became the first man to play in three finals in the 2-0 win over Germany.
It also saw the emergence of Ronaldinho, with the Brazilian scoring a crucial goal against England in the quarter-final that looped over David Seaman. Was it a shot or a cross?
Co-hosts South Korea are the story of the tournament, defeating Italy in hugely controversial circumstances and then Spain to reach the semi-final stage.
France legend Zidane would end his football career with a red card after an astonishing head-butt on Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final. The Italians would go on to win a fourth title on penalties.
This was the first World Cup for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the latter playing a crucial role in England’s elimination.
He was involved in Wayne Rooney’s red card and then scored the decisive penalty to send Portugal through.
Host: South Africa
Holland would once again miss out on the World Cup but Spain did become first-time winners thanks to an extra time goal from Barcelona’s majestic Andres Iniesta in what was a surprisingly aggressive final.
It was the second major tournament success for Spain who had won Euro 2008 and they once again shone with their passing, patient style of play, whilst the use of vuvuzela’s from the stand will also be remembered for different reasons!
As for England, they were sent home by Germany after a below-par tournament although once again they exited in controversial fashion after Frank Lampard’s shot that clearly crossed the line wasn’t given by the officials.
Germany are crowned World Cup winner 2014 and secure their fourth title thanks to an extra time goal from Mario Götze against Messi’s Argentina.
However, the memorable moment was the semi-final where the Germans defeated Brazil 7-1 on their own patch playing sublime football in a result that will go down in history.
Elsewhere, Costa Rica are the surprise package, reaching the quarter-finals before losing on penalties. They came through a really tough group containing Italy, England and Uruguay, with the two European heavyweights surprisingly eliminated.
Expect excitement in Russia
Given that, you can guarantee excitement in Russia with players and different nations carving themselves into football history whether it be for good or bad.
As you can see the football World Cup history will go on forever, passed from generation to generation and fan to fan. It really is the most thrilling and eagerly anticipated month in the football calendar.
Russia will be hosting the tournament for the first time and it’s a chance for them to make a mark on the competition, although you can’t imagine that many will be looking past the usual suspects when it comes to predicting who will lift the trophy.
This is also very likely to be the last World Cup for legends such as Messi and Ronaldo, with both surely eager to cement their legacy as the greatest of all time, which winning the World Cup would certainly help with.
From individuals to teams, the World Cup is the biggest stage of them all and in Russia everyone will be there to make history and ensure they are remembered forever in football – which is what glory at the World Cup provides.