The History of the World Cup
Football leagues were formed in Europe as early as the 19th century. With the surge in the sport’s popularity, there were some attempts to create international tournaments where the best players in each nation could face each other, but none of these lasted. Finally in 1930, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, established the first competitive international competition. By this time football had spread to South America, where it was brought over by English players who successfully created clubs and popularised the sport. The inaugural World Cup was held in Uruguay, and the hosts went on to win.
The first competition, whilst a great achievement, highlighted many problems. It was difficult for European teams to travel to South America because they did not have huge travel budgets, nor were there many options for travelling. The organising body, decided that the following competition should be held in Europe. Italy hosted the second tournament, and the hosts once again won the competition. Italy beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the final.
In 1938, the competition was held in Europe again, with France hosting the competition. Italy won the competition, becoming the first team to win back to back World Cup titles, but this also raised controversy. The South American fanbase complained that the competition should have been held in one of the South American countries, as it was not fair to have successive competitions in Europe.
With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, there were no competitions held until 1950, respected the South American fans by announcing that the next tournament would be held in Brazil. Brazil reached the finals in the first World Cup after the war, but were narrowly beaten by Uruguay, who clinched their second title after a 2-1 win. In 1954 the competition was held in Switzerland. In this World Cup, the European teams did extremely well and the finals were played between Hungary and Germany. Hungary lost in a controversial game against the Germans, where the Germans scored a goal after a suspect foul and the Hungarians were disallowed a goal because the referee thought it was offside, though this was hugely debated at the time.
In the following edition of the World Cup, the competition was hosted again in Europe, by Sweden. Sweden did well in the tournament, going all the way to the finals. However, they were beaten by Brazil, where a 17 year old Pele made his World Cup debut and became an international star after guiding his team to a 5-2 victory over the Swedish team.
In 1962, the competition returned to South America, and was hosted by Chile. In this competition, Pele led the Brazilian side to the finals, where they beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 to clinch their second World Cup title. In 1966, the World Cup was held in England. This competition was played in the month of July and was amongst the shortest World Cups, as the schedule was compacted. England, the hosts, reached the finals where they beat Germany in another controversial final that is still the topic of debate today. England won their first and only World Cup to date in that edition of the tournament.
In 1970, Mexico hosted the World Cup. This tournament was dominated by the Brazilians, captained by Pele who was now a household name in football. The Brazilians faced Italy in the finals, and beat them to win their third World Cup and become the nation with the most World Cup titles. In 1974, the World Cup was held in Germany, and the host nation made it all the way to the finals. The German team of the 1970s was filled with legendary players, such as Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and many more, and they faced Johan Cruyff's Dutch team in the finals. The Germans won the game, clinching their first World Cup title.
The Dutch made the finals in the following World Cup, which was held in Argentina. Here, they faced the hosts again, and Argentina beat the Dutch team 3-1 in a highly dramatic final. In 1982, the World Cup returned to Europe and was played in Spain, where Italy played against Germany in the finals, and beat the Germans 3-1. Now Italy were level with Brazil for the most World Cup titles, with 3 each.
In 1986, the World Cup was played in Mexico. Having already hosted the World Cup in 1970, Mexico became the first country to host the World Cup more than once. Argentina faced Germany in the finals, with captain Diego Maradona, and beat the Germans 3-2 to win Argentina's second title.
In the following tournament in 1990, the World Cup was held in Italy, where Argentina and Germany faced each other once again in the finals. This time the Germans exacted their revenge by beating the Argentinians 1-0. In 1994 the World Cup was held in the United States. This was the first time the tournament was held in North America, and the final saw Brazil and Italy face each other. Both teams had three World Cup titles under their belt, but Brazil came out on top, winning their fourth title and becoming the leaders for the nation with the most wins in the competition.
In 1998, the World Cup was held in France. France managed to make it all the way to the finals, where they faced the defending champions, Brazil. In a surprise upset, the hosts beat the defending champions 3-0, and won their first World Cup title. In 2002, the World Cup was held in Japan, the first time the tournament was held in an Asian country. Brazil won the competition after they beat Germany 2-0 in the finals.
The 2006 World Cup was held in Germany. This competition held a lot of promise for the host nation, though they lost to Italy in the semi-finals. Germany went on to secure a third place finish, but the competition was won by Italy. Italy faced France in the finals, and after a game that will live forever in the memories of fans, the Italians won the game on penalties.
The following World Cup in 2010 was held in South Africa, and was the first tournament to be held in the African continent. Host nation South Africa made their World Cup debut though they did not pass the group stage. The final was played between first time finalists Spain and the Netherlands, who played in their third final and had yet to win a World Cup. After a long goalless regular time, the teams headed into extra time, when a Dutch defender received a second yellow card for a challenge on Iniesta. The Spanish took advantage of having an extra man on the field and scored the only goal of the game in the 116th minute. This won the Spanish their first World Cup title, but also denied the Dutch a title after their third appearance in the finals.
In 2014, the World Cup was held in Brazil for the second time in its history. The Brazilian side did well before they lost in a shocking 7-1 rout in the semi-finals to Germany. Germany faced Argentina in the finals, for the third time in the history of the competition, and beat the Argentinians 1-0 in extra time.
In 2018 the World Cup was held in Russia. In this edition, the European teams fared better than the South American and the finals were played between Croatia and France. France beat Croatia 4-2, to win their second World Cup title.