Every four years, football fans all over the world (especially if their country is frequently one of the FIFA World Cup winners) shake with anticipation for this upcoming major event. Most fans who are casual spectators begin to follow the matches when they get to the more exciting parts: the group or knockout stages, before getting to the semi-finals and the championship. However, for the more hardcore and dedicated spectators, they may even keep track of the progress while the national teams are still in the qualifying stages per regional confederation - which takes place in the two or so years before the group stages!
Yes, the entire process for the World Cup lasts several years with each round, which would explain why this major sports tournament happens only once every 4 years and why it can be quite hard to make football predictions too early. But what exactly is the World Cup? Well, in the simplest terms, it’s the biggest international competition between national teams of member countries within the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA. Both the men’s and women’s national teams compete separately, and each has their respective tournaments. This has become so popular that it’s much anticipated even within the realm of sports betting, where experienced bettors can interpret match odds to place the wisest bets to win big.
Despite having upwards of 100 member countries spread across six regional confederations, the list of FIFA World Cup winners is quite small! Since the World Cup started in 1930, there have been 21 tournaments held (the only gaps being 19442 and 1946 due to World War II) and only 8 nations have made it onto the FIFA World Cup winners roster!
As mentioned, the qualification process takes years - as early as two years before the actual event year! Each of FIFA’s six confederations (covering Asia, Oceania, South America, Europe, Africa, and North and Central America and the Caribbean) have their own rules governing their qualifying stages, but their goal is the same: hold elimination matches between national teams until the top qualified countries are eligible to move to the next round.
This next round is the Group Stage where the 32 qualified teams are divided into eight groups of 4 teams that play round-robin matches against each other; the top 2 scoring teams from each move onto the next round again: the Knockout Stage.
Now one step closer to becoming one of the FIFA World Cup winners, teams have one chance to knock out their opponents and become one of the last 8 to proceed to the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and at last: the celebrated World Cup Championship match.
Armed with this information about the World Cup and how one country progresses through the competition, let’s look at the 8 countries that have become FIFA World Cup winners – ranked from fewest wins to most! Think you can guess which country has the most wins and how many?
1) England (1966)
England has one title under their belt, which they won with a score of 4-2 against Germany (then still West Germany) in extra time. During this game, striker Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick which, to this day remains the only one during a World Cup Final. Though this is England’s only major tournament win, they had quite a run at the 2018 World Cup, where they made it to the semi-finals but were eliminated by Croatia and then Belgium during the third-place play-off, landing them in 4th place.
2) Spain (2010)
Spain won against the Netherlands in extra time with a final score of 1-0. Tensions must have been very high when the 90-minute match came to an end with no goals! However, with just four minutes left in extra time, Andrés Iniesta sank a goal into the corner and gave Spain their first ever World Cup title.
3) Uruguay (1930, 1950)
Uruguay has held the title twice, the first of which was during the tournament’s very first year in 1930! During this Final match, which was a ‘rematch’ of the 1928 Olympic Gold medal match, Uruguay beat Argentina 4-2 and kicked off the legacy of FIFA World Cup winners. Uruguay’s second World Cup title came in 1950, when as the underdogs they defeated the expected winners, Brazil, with a 2-1 final score.
4) Argentina (1978, 1986)
Argentina has also won the World Cup twice. The first was in 1978 against the Netherlands and with a score of 3-1 in extra time; this also marked the Netherlands’ second consecutive loss during the Finals, and against the host country. Argentina’s second title came in 1986 against West Germany, with a score of 3-2 in regulation time.
5) France (1998, 2018)
Defending FIFA World Cup winners France are also on their second title, the latter occurring in 2018 during what was indeed an eventful match that resulted in a 4-2 win against Croatia. During the 2018 Finals, spectators saw the first-time use of the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) at the World Cup, the first ever own-goal during a World Cup final (thanks to Mario Mandžukić) and Kylian Mbappé becoming just the second teenager ever to score in a World Cup final. France’s first title was in 1998 when they were also the host country; they beat the defending champions Brazil with a 3-0 score in regulation time.
6) Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
Italy is one of two FIFA World Cup winners with four titles. Their first win was against Czechoslovakia in the 2nd World Cup, where they came back from a one goal deficit to win 2-1. They defended their title to bag their second championship in 1938, where they beat Hungary 4-2 and became the first team to win outside their own country. Their third trophy came over four decades later in 1982 against West Germany with a score of 3-1 despite a goalless first half. Finally, Italy sealed their fourth victory by beating France in the 2006 tournament. The match ended with a 1-1 tie after extra time and at the conclusion of the penalty shootout, Italy came out on top with a 5-3 win.
7) Germany (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
Germany is the second country of FIFA World Cup winners that has won the World Cup four times, though they didn't get their first title until after the over decade-long break for the Second World War. This match, ending in a 3-2 win against Hungary, is widely proclaimed as one of the most historic matches of the tournament both in terms of sports and politics. Their second title was won against the Netherlands in 1974. Germany became the first team to play in three consecutive finals in 1990, where they won against Argentina 1-0; this is when Argentina became the first team not to score in a final match. Finally, Germany bagged their fourth win (as a unified Germany; the previous three were won as West Germany) in 2014, scoring 1-0 in extra time.
8) Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Did you guess Brazil correctly? So far, they’re the only nation with five World Cup wins to their name. Their 5-2 win against Sweden in 1958 holds the record for the most goals scored in a World Cup final, and they successfully defended their title in 1962 by winning 3-1 against Czechoslovakia. For the first time in World Cup history, two former FIFA World Cup winners met again at the finals in 1970, with Brazil winning against Italy. The two nations met yet again in 1994, in the first goalless finals match that went into a penalty shootout that resulted in a 3-2 Brazilian victory. Finally, Brazil claimed their fifth title in 2002, winning 2-0 against Germany.
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