World Cups capture the imagination of the public like few other events. Even the most casual football observer can be swept up in the excitement of a national team when the tournament only comes around once every four years.
World Cup History
The World Cup, quite simply, is the biggest event in the world of sport, and certainly ranks top of the world’s biggest football events. Americans might try and tell you that the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting spectacle, but the combined viewing figures for the World Cup are astounding, with viewing figures in the tens of billions and a staggering one in nine people on the entire planet watching the final. World Cup betting is huge, too, so be sure to check out our compilation of the best sports betting sites, tips, articles and more when you’re ready to go!
The World Cup has been going since its inaugural event in 1930 when Uruguay hosted and won the competition. It featured only 13 teams including 7 from South America, with many European teams unwilling to travel all the way to South America - with the tournament yet to gain its prestige and allure. The next two World Cups were held in Europe, with the opposite problem happening, and only Brazil travelling from South America to take part. Italy won both of those tournaments, in 1934 and 1938, before war struck, meaning there wouldn’t be another tournament until 1950.
It was from this time that the tournament started to take shape and become more akin to the tournament we see today, with 16 teams taking part from a variety of continents. It also saw the first entry of a British team into the tournament. Uruguay returned, having boycotted the tournaments in Europe in the ‘30s, and won their second tournament, beating hosts Brazil in the final.
Since then the tournament has grown both in stature and in regards to the number of teams taking part, with a great emphasis on getting teams from outside of the major footballing continents of Europe and South America to take part. The tournament has more recently started to be hosted outside of Europe and South America, with the USA hosting in 1994 before South Korea and Japan took the tournament to Asia in 2002. That was also the first time any nation from outside of Europe and South America had reached the semifinals, with South Korea finishing fourth at their own tournament.
The tournament continues to grow, with the competition soon to be expanded further to a massive 48 teams from all over the world, including assured spaces for teams from Oceania and Central America, making it a truly global event that brings people of all backgrounds together in the name of the beautiful game.
World Cup Winners
The tournament has been dominated over the years by three nations: Brazil (5 wins), Germany (4 wins) and Italy (4 wins).
World Cup Best Goals
There are so many great World Cup goals that it is almost impossible to narrow it down to just a few. With so many brilliant strikes, it takes something extremely special to make it out from those 20 tournaments as being one of the best of all time.
What makes these goals so much more memorable is the meaning they had, taking their teams to the latter stages or to the title and inspiring a generation of young players at home and abroad.
Two goals stand out particularly for very different reasons.
In the final in 1970, that fantastic Brazil team, that we’ll speak about in more detail later on, blew away the Italians in the kind of style that only they knew. The final goal in a 4-1 thrashing was a fantastic team move filled with swagger and verve and finished with a thunderbolt from Carlos Alberto. The jubilation that followed from the Brazil fans made the goal all the more special and one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup.
But surely the absolute best goal in World Cup history, and painfully so for England fans, has to be that goal by Maradona. No, not the ‘Hand of God’, but his amazing solo run and finish which left England flabbergasted, and was later voted the ‘Goal of the Century’, and for good reason. At the time it had put Argentina 2-0 ahead and on the way to the semifinals. It turned out to be the winner with Argentina taking a 2-1 victory at the final whistle, on their way to winning the title. The pace, skill, drive and technique from Maradona is hard to put into words, and can surely only be appreciated by seeing:
Best World Cup Teams
We talked about the final of the 1970 tournament when looking at Carlos Alberto’s brilliant finish against Italy, and that Brazil team surely ranks as the most impressive in the history of the World Cup. They played with such swagger and dynamism - winning the tournament in style. They scored 19 goals en route to that success in just 6 games, including 4 goals in the quarterfinals, 3 in the semifinals, and 4 during their victory over Italy in the final. They won every single game at the tournament, and there is no doubting this as the most impressive and comprehensive win in a World Cup finals.
Despite their flamboyant style and abundance of goals, West Germany’s Gerd Muller finished as that tournament’s top goalscorer, and the West German national team of 1974 must rank as one of the greatest as well. Led by Franz Beckenbauer, they were another supremely attractive winner of the competition, losing only once in a surprise defeat by rivals East Germany in the first round.
But perhaps the closest challengers to that 1970 Brazil side are a more recent team, namely the 2010 Spanish World Cup winners. Their victory coincided with tiki-taka at its peak, with Xavi and Iniesta dominating the midfield - their carousel of passes leaving opponents only dreaming of touching the ball. Spain didn’t score a lot of goals in the competition, but the complete domination that they exerted over their opponents makes them instantly memorable.
Great World Cup Moments
For England fans, the greatest World Cup moment is probably the final goal in the 1966 final against West Germany, made so perfect by the famous line of commentary from Kenneth Wolstenholme: “They think it’s all over… it is now!”
Another great moment, in part because of the legendary celebration, was Marco Tardelli’s goal against West Germany in the 1982 World Cup Final. In a tense final, Tardelli’s goal gave the Italians a 2-0 lead which looked insurmountable given the tactical brilliance of their side.
There are so many other great memories and great goals, none more so than those scored by Carlos Alberto and Diego Maradona as mentioned earlier, but perhaps an equally memorable moment came on the other side of the goalscoring coin, as Gordon Banks made the most iconic save in World Cup history to deny Pele in the 1970 World Cup. It remains a testimony to his supreme ability in the England goal and is perhaps the greatest save of all time.
World Cup Best Matches
The semi-final between Italy and West Germany in the 1970 World Cup wasn’t instantly memorable in regulation time, with Italy taking an early lead before West Germany equalised in the last minute to take it to extra time. However, the match earned its ‘Game of the Century’ tag with an amazing period of extra time, with a still standing record of 5 goals scored during the extra period. The game swung back and forth in extra time, with both teams leading at different points, but Italy’s eventual winner came just seconds after West Germany had made it 3-3. It’s certainly hard to find an example of a more exciting finish to a match - particularly a semi-final of a World Cup.
Perhaps the only game to trump that match was the epic battle between the catenaccio of the Italians and the illustrious play of the Brazilians in 1982. These were two of the best World Cup teams for very different reasons, with Brazil supremely attractive, and Italy dogged, determined and effective. The match finished with Italy winning by a 3-2 margin thanks to a well-taken hat trick by top scorer Paolo Rossi but also contained great goals from Socrates and Falcao which made it a match to remember.
Best World Cup Nations
Brazil have made the most appearances at the World Cup Finals, having played at every single World Cup since the first in Uruguay in 1930. Germany and Italy were level behind them on 18 (out of 20) before the 2018 competition, but Italy failed to qualify for the tournament in Russia.
Brazil are also the most successful side in the history of the competition, having won five times. Italy and Germany and the teams behind them once again, having won four times.
Germany take the honours as the highest scoring team in the history of the tournament, with 221 goals scored. Hungary scored the most goals in a single World Cup, with an amazing 27 in 1954 (at an average of 5.38 goals per game)
Spain might have had one of the greatest teams in World Cup history in 2010, but they also have the dubious honour of being the lowest-scoring champions, with just 8 goals in their successful campaign.
Brazil have played in an amazing 7 campaigns whilst remaining unbeaten.
Only Brazil (1958/1962) and Italy (1934/1938) have ever retained the title.
You can read even more about the World Cup, World Cup match betting, football betting and more in our articles.
The 2018 World Cup Ready to Make History
The wonderful thing about football and the World Cup is that whenever we watch, we are seeing history in the making, and 2018 offers another opportunity for nations to write their names into the history books. Whether making their debut in the tournament, like Iceland and Panama in 2018 or looking for their first tournament win, each nation has the chance to become legendary in their home nation with their performances in Russia. Likewise, there is the potential for a nation to be humiliated and let down, writing their names into the history books for all of the wrong reasons - just ask any England fan over the last several tournaments! It’s all gearing up for a sensational tournament in Russia with a number of teams believing it will be their year. Whoever you believe will make World Cup history this year, make sure to take advantage of the exclusive offers and bonuses available from the best football betting sites by looking at our reviews.