Useful Notes / The World Cup
Shiny, ain't it?note 

The World Cup is a very important way to measure the good players, and the great ones. It is a test of a great player.

Full name being the FIFA World Cup (Fédération Internationale de Football Association — the governing body of Association Football), The World Cup is an international competition between national football teams hosted every four years. It's the Big Occasion of both football and all sports in the World — much more popular than the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl merged together.

It is also much more prestigious than almost any other sporting event — about the only other event that comes close is the Olympic Games, and even then many nations would gladly swap a fistful of Olympic Golds for a World Cup winnote . Apart from anything else, more than 300 Olympic Gold medals are awarded every four years, but there's only one World Cup winner every four.

For a team to win the World Cup means the players will be heroes for life in their native country (especially in those nations such as England and France where success is rare; in those nations such as Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago where success hasn't even come yet, the fact that they qualified to participate is enough to have a freaking National Holiday), and for the country itself can have far-reaching socio-economic effects. West Germany's surprise win against the much-vaunted Hungarians in 1954 is credited with cementing that country into a unified, confident nation-state instead of a broken, battered, occupied country, while the loss on the opposite side lead to a breakup of a sports dynasty that was cemented by the 1956 Revolution. France's win in 1998 on home soil (against Brazil, no less) with a majority of black and Arab-descended players is said to mark a turning point in positive race relations in France.

The first contest was in 1930 in Uruguay, and was won by the hosts, with only 13 entrants (it was supposed to be 16, but the long trip to South America by ship meant many of the countries across the ocean — mainly the European ones — declined the invitation). World War II meant there were no contests in 1942 and 1946. The latest contest was held in Brazil in 2014, for which 203 countries went for 32 places, and ultimately won by Germany.

The format has altered somewhat over the years, but in general there is a group stage in the beginning before it turns into a straight knock-out contest among the top finishers of those groups.

There have been two trophies. The first, the Jules Rimet trophy, was given to Brazil for its third victory in 1970, but stolen in 1983 and possibly melted down by the thieves, or perhaps it adorns some janitor's basement... The second one will not be given permanently to anyone.

In later years, the winners have taken to adorning their jerseys with a number of gold stars corresponding to their number of titles. Uruguay including two Olympic titles for a total of four stars. In 2010 and 2014, the winning teams had 'new' jerseys already prepared for their victory.

For every tournament since 1970, Adidas has provided the ball, which is generally the cutting edge of the art of ball development (stop sniggering). The first ball, the Telstar, was originally introduced for Euro 1968, but the 1970 World Cup is what made this design—with white hexagonal and black pentagonal panels arranged in a truncated icosahedron pattern—the iconic, "classic" football. More recently, the 2006 +Teamgeist Berlin ("team spirit") design was tested at Loughborough University in the UK as well as the Adidas laboratory at Scheinfeld, Germany. The 2010 Jabulani ("celebrate") was also tested at Loughborough and Scheinfeld, and featured a new design to ensure the most perfectly spherical ball ever. Despite this, every year the ball is blamed for something, regardless of its actual quality. The only time this criticism was somewhat justified was in 2010, where the new design of the Jabulani actually worked against it and caused it to noticeably "knuckle" and swerve during flight. The 2014 World Cup ball had its name chosen in an online poll of Brazilian fans, and was called the Brazuca, a term used by Brazilians to describe national pride. The balls used for the final are usually colored gold, with a bespoke design, and the names of the two teams emblazoned on them.

The Women's World Cup has been held every four years since 1991 and has been won by the USA (three times), Germany (twice), Norway (once) and Japan (once). The competition is not as prestigious as the men's tournament but has been increasing in popularity and the 1999 final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California attracted over 90,000 spectators.

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    Qualification by Confederation 
Qualifying is accomplished differently through the various qualification groups — the hosts get an automatic placenote . It is ultimately up to each confederation to decide how to allocate their berths and can change from one edition to the next. For Russia 2018:

  • South America's CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation / Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol / Confederação Sul-Americana de Futebol) is pretty straightforward: 10 teams play a straight league with top four qualifying, plus a fifth to a playoff with the OFC winner.
  • North America's CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) has 35 teams play a total of five rounds, with the higher-ranked teams getting byes as far as the fourth round. The first three rounds are a series of home-and-homes, while the fourth round consists of three groups of four each (top two in each group advance). The fifth round (known as the "Hexagonal" or "Hex") has the six remaining teams play a league with the top three qualifying directly, plus a fourth team going to a playoff with the fifth-placed AFC team.
  • Africa's CAF (Confederation of African Football) has 54 teams and three rounds. The first two rounds are home-and-home series with drawn pairs (the top 27 in the confederation get a free pass to the second round), while the third round has five groups of four teams each playing a league - each group's winner qualifies.
  • Europe's UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) has 54 teams (not including Russia, who is host and has already qualified) drawn into nine groups of six teams. The groups play a league, with group winners qualifying directly. Then the nine second-place finishers are ranked based on their record against the other teams in their group except the team that finished last in their groupnote ; the top eight of those nine are then drawn into a home-and-home against each other, with the four winners qualifying.
  • Asia's AFC (Asian Football Confederation) has a total of four rounds for its 46 teams. After a first round that has the bottom-ranked 12 teams drawn into a home-and-home with another with the six winners moving on, the second round has eight groups of five teams each play a league with the eight group winners and four best second-place finishers advancing. The third round has two groups of six, again playing a league with top two in each group qualifying. The fourth round has the two third-place finishers play a home-and-home - winner goes to playoff against the fourth-place team from CONCACAF.
  • Oceania's OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) has 11 teams playing for... essentially half a spot. The first round has the bottom-ranked four teams play a single round-robin - winner advanced to the 2016 OFC Nations Cup (which doubles as the second round of qualifying) as the eighth and final entry. The OFC Nations Cup's group stage has two groups of four teams each - for FIFA World Cup qualifying purposes, the top three finishers in each group advance to the third round; then the six teams are drawn into two groups of three to play league, with the group winners doing a home-and-home to determine who is the confederation champion...and gets the right to play a home-and-home playoff with the CONMEBOL fifth-place team.

Qualifying for the women's version is similar, but not identical to, that for the men's version. Most notably, the defending champions have never received an automatic place in the Women's World Cup. While then-two-time defending champion Germany got an automatic berth in 2011, that was because it was the host. As in the men's version, each confederation determines its own qualifying procedure for each World Cup cycle. For France 2019:
  • CONMEBOL: Uses its women's championship, Copa América Feminina, held in the same year as men's World Cups, as its qualifier. The 10 members are split into two groups of five. The groups play a single round-robin league, with the top two teams advancing to the final stage, played in the same format. The top two teams qualify directly, with the third-place team going to a home-and-home playoff with the CONCACAF fourth-place team.
  • CONCACAF: Uses the CONCACAF Women's Championship, also held in the same year as men's World Cups, as its qualifier. Regional qualifying tournaments are held in two of its three zones—Central American and Caribbean. The top two teams from the Central American zone and the top three Caribbean teams are joined in the final phase by all three members of the North American zone (Canada, Mexico, and the USA). These teams are then split into groups of four that play a single round-robin league, with the top two from each group advancing to the knockout stage. The semifinal winners qualify directly for the World Cup; the winner of the third-place match advances to the CONMEBOL–CONCACAF playoff.
  • CAF: Like CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, it uses its women's championship (Africa Women Cup of Nations) as its qualifier.note  The Women Cup of Nations has its own qualifying stage, with 24 teams entering for the 2018 edition. Four teams receive byes into the second round of WCN qualifying, with the remaining teams playing home-and-away matches for places in the second round. That round also involves home-and-away ties, with the winners of each joining the host nation in the WCN proper. From this point, the format is identical to that of the CONCACAF Women's Championship, except that the winner of the third-place match here receives a direct World Cup place.
  • UEFA: Unlike all other confederations, UEFA does not use its championship as its Women's World Cup qualifier, instead organizing a dedicated World Cup qualifying tournament with three stages:
    • Preliminary: The 16 lowest-ranked teams of the 46 overall entrants (not including France, which is automatically qualified as World Cup host) are split into four groups of four teams, each playing a single round-robin league at a pre-determined host site. The group winners and the best runner-up (with results against the fourth-place team not counted) advance to the next stage.
    • Qualifying group: The survivors of the preliminary stage are joined by the remaining 30 UEFA women's teams, and are split into seven groups of five teams. Each league plays a double round-robin league, and the group winners receive direct World Cup entry. The groups play a league, with group winners qualifying directly.
    • Playoffs: The four best runners-up from the qualifying group stage, ignoring results against fifth-place teams, advance to a knockout playoff consisting entirely of two-legged matches. The winner of the playoff final advances to the World Cup.
  • AFC: Like most of the other confederations, it uses its women's championship, the AFC Women's Asian Cup, as its World Cup qualifier. This tournament, like its CAF counterpart, has its own qualification stage, with 24 teams entering for 2018. The AFC's top three teams in the 2014 edition of the Asian Cup (Japan, Australia, China) received automatic places in the 2018 Asian Cup, as did 2018 host Jordan; however Jordan chose to compete in qualifying. The teams were split into four groups, one with six teams and the others with five. Each group played a single round-robin at a predetermined site, with the four group winners advancing; since Jordan won its group, that group's runner-up also advanced to the Asian Cup proper. At that point, the eight participants are divided into two groups of four each, playing a single round-robin league. The top two teams from each group advance to the Asian Cup knockout stage and receive direct World Cup entry. The third-place teams from each group advance to a fifth-place match whose winner also goes to the World Cup.
  • OFC: The OFC has a direct entry into the Women's World Cup, unlike the men's edition. Like the other non-UEFA confederations, it uses its women's championship (OFC Women's Nations Cup) as its World Cup qualifier. The four lowest-ranked of the 11 OFC members with women's teams play a single round-robin qualifying league at a predetermined site. The winner joins the other seven OFC women's teams at the Nations Cup. The format for 2018 has not yet been announced, but it is known that the Nations Cup winner will earn a World Cup berth.

The winners so far have been:

  • Uruguay (1930, 1950) — The shirts of World Cup winning countries have one star on them for each World Cup victory; Uruguay, however, has four stars, the extra two being for their gold medal wins in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics (which pre-date the World Cup).
  • Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
    • Benito Mussolini may have had something to do with the first two, hopefully his regime just hijacked the glory!
    • The subsequent victories was kind of a surprise. With Italy eliminating both Brasil and Argentina in 1982, and then winning after a huge match-fixing scandal that shocked the country in 2006.
  • Germany (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014 — first three as West Germany)
    • They have qualified for all the World Cups they've entered, and East Germany qualified for 1974, beating eventual champions West Germany in the group stage. Their first win as united Germany in 2014 made them the first European team to win in the Americas.
    • Also, thanks to their women's team winning the Women's World Cup in 2003 and 2007, Germany is the only nation to have won both the men's and women's tournaments.
  • Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) — The only team present in all tournaments, the biggest winner, and the only one to win in three continents (Europe, America and Asia).
  • England (1966) — British teams didn't turn up until 1950, having been out of FIFA between 1920 and 1946, since they didn't want to play people they'd fought against (and felt there was too much foreign influence in football!).note  The English national team is a curious cultural phenomenon. It frequently blitzes the qualifiers (exceptions being 1974, 1978 and 1994), contains some truly spectacularly talented players, particularly the (in)famous Golden Generation and proves that, outside of tournaments, they are capable of contending with the likes of Germany, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Italy and the Netherlands, with a young and fearsomely talented team thrashing Germany 5-1 in Munich in 2001. Tournaments, however, are a different story. Until 2014, the whole country invariably expected great things from its team, and always found an unfortunate scapegoat to blame for the inevitable failure, heroic or otherwise. In recent years the blame has normally fallen on the manager of the team, although in the past individual players have been blamed: David Beckham in '98 for getting sent off, Chris Waddle in '90 for missing a critical penalty, and in a rare case of an opposing player being blamed, Diego Maradona in '86 for blatantly cheating. Yes, they're still bitter about it as the decades pass. In 2010, the blame was split between the referee (who failed to see a valid goal everyone else could), the back four, Fabio Capello (whose managing of the side completely fell apart after said goal), and Emile Heskey (who had squandered multiple easy chances in the group stage which contributed to England losing the group). 2014 (when England, reaching an all new low, failed to even get out of the group and somehow managed to injure their own physio while celebrating a goal) has been blamed variously on superstar Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, over-the-hill captain Steven Gerrard, and the traditional managerial scapegoat in Roy Hodgson, though by now, even the tabloids have realised that the best they can hope for is that the inevitable failure isn't too humiliating.
  • Argentina (1978, 1986)
    • Controversially won in 1978 with a military Junta in tow.
    • The '86 win was no less controversial with the infamous "Hand of God" goal by Diego Maradona against England in the quarterfinals, although Argentinians consider the "Hand of God" as something glorious not shameful. Since they had been comprehensively beaten in the Falklands War against Britain four years before (something Maradona himself cited), upon which a lot of national pride had been staked, this is perhaps not entirely surprising. Speaking of Maradona, his second goal in that match is considered the best of all time, even by the English, because it was just that good.
  • France (1998) — Their win in 1998 helped reinforce an anti-racist attitude in much of France, as the winning side had many players of non-traditional origins, such as Thierry Henry, Marcel Desailly, Patrick Vieira and Lilian Thuram (all of black African originnote ); Zinedine Zidane (son of Algerian immigrants); Christian Karembeu (New Caledonian—i.e., Pacific islander); and Youri Djorkaeff (Armenian and Polish, also with more distant Central Asian ancestry).
  • Spain (2010) — Hot off the heels on their success in Euro 2008. First team to win the tournament after losing their opening game to Switzerland, and the first European team to win outside of Europe. Won after a rather scrappy game with the Netherlands with fourteen yellow cards and one red. Both teams were trying to end their duck of being the two most skilled teams in the world to never lift the trophy. Spain having won Euro 2012 — the only team ever to have taken two Euros and a World Cup in a row — made it the most formidable defending champion ever. First European to win a tournament outside the Old World, given their title was in South Africa.

It is notable that all of the (men's) teams who have won the World Cup so far have been from either Europe or South America, though Asian teams have periodically shone (the North Korean side of 1966, who became beloved fan favourites who were fondly remembered even most of fifty years later and the 4th placed South Korean side of 2002) and since Cameroon exploded onto the scene in 1990, African teams have been making more and more of a mark.

On the women's side, the winners have been:
  • USA (1991, 1999, 2015)
  • Norway (1995)
  • Germany (2003, 2007)
  • Japan (2011)

Unlike the men's version, no South American women's team has won; Brazil came the closest, finishing third in 1999 and runners-up in 2007.

There have been 27 total tournaments. 20 for the men, and 7 for the women. The "Final Four" teams are categorized from champion to fourth-place. If a city has two or more stadiums, they will be identified. Also, if a host city is a suburb of a larger/better-known city, that is also identified.

    Men's Tournaments 
  • 1930 — Uruguay
    Cities: Montevideo (Estadio Centenario [final] / Estadio Gran Parque Central / Estadio Pocitos)
    Teams: 13 — Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, France, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, USA, Uruguay and Yugoslavia debut
    Final Four: Uruguay / Argentina / USA / Yugoslavia
    Top Scorer: Guillermo Stábile (Argentina) - 8 goals
    The first tournament went to that little South American nation that had just won two Olympic golds in a row in football (also to celebrate the centennial of their independence from the Brazilian Empire). However, the difficulties of crossing the Atlantic Ocean by boat (airplanes were still strictly warfare tech), coupled with a dose of It Will Never Catch On, caused many European teams to decline taking part in the tournament, so only four of them (Yugoslavia, Romania, Belgium and Jules Rimet's France) crossed the ocean. This ensured near-total South American domination of the inaugural tournament, with the home side beating Argentina at the final.
  • 1934 — Italy
    Cities: Bologna / Florence / Genoa / Milan / Naples / Rome [final] / Trieste / Turin
    Teams: 16 — Austria, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland debut; Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Yugoslavia exit
    Final Four: Italy / Czechoslovakia / Germany / Austria
    Top Scorer: Oldřich Nejedlý (Czechoslovakia) - 5 goals
    Used as a tool for Benito Mussolini to promote his fascist regime, he pretty much demanded his home team's victory, which came after a dramatic game with Czechoslovakia. More people became interested in taking part of the tournament but, since the format only allowed for 16 teams to play (it was originally an invitational tournament), the first World Cup Qualifiers were played. Interestingly, this was the only time the hosts had to play in the qualifiers,note  as well as the only time the reigning champion did not return to defend the title (Uruguay refused to play in response to the European boycott four years prior).
  • 1938 — France
    Cities: Antibes / Bordeaux / Le Havre / Lille / Lyon / Marseille / Paris (Parc des Princes / Stade Olympique de Colombes [final]) / Reims / Strasbourg / Toulouse
    Teams: 15 — Cuba, Indonesia (as Dutch East Indies), Norway and Poland debut; Argentina, Austria, Egypt, Spain and USA exit
    Final Four: Italy / Hungary / Brazil / Sweden
    Top Scorer: Leônidas (Brazil) - 7 goals
    Won again by Italy who, even with a mostly renewed team, plowed their way through the tournament and defeated Hungary at the final. Even though they wouldn't win the tournament until 20 years later, Brazil's third place finish (mostly thanks to them now being professionals) made quite an impression with European spectators. 16 qualified, but only 15 played — the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany three months prior meant the Austrian players joined the German squad, and their original opponents Sweden got a free pass to the quarter-finals.
  • 1950 — Brazil
    Cities: Belo Horizonte / Curitiba / Porto Alegre / Recife / Rio de Janeiro [final] / Săo Paulo
    Teams: 13 — England debuts; Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Spain, USA, Uruguay and Yugoslavia return; Belgium, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Romania exit
    Final Four: Uruguay / Brazil / Sweden / Spain
    Top Scorer: Ademir (Brazil) - 8 goals
    The first tournament since Uruguay 1930 to start with a group stage, something all subsequent tournaments have had. 16 teams qualified, but three of them (Turkey, Scotland, and India) refused to show up, so they had to make do with 13. The home team had been achieving impressive results throughout the tournament, until that fateful July 16, when a discredited Uruguay turned the match around in the final minutes, beat Brazil on points (there was no true final; instead, the champion was determined in a final group round between these two, Sweden and Spain), and cause an entire nation to mope with grief... For a while at least.
  • 1954 — Switzerland
    Cities: Basel / Bern [final] / Geneva / Lausanne / Lugano / Zurich
    Teams: 16 — Scotland, South Korea and Turkey debut; Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany (as West Germany) and Hungary return; Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Spain, Sweden and USA exit
    Final Four: West Germany / Hungary / Austria / Uruguay
    Top Scorer: Sándor Kocsis (Hungary) - 11 goals
    Hungary came around on a roll. As reigning Olympic champions from Helsinki 1952, they had trampled England twice (6-3 in the away game and 7-1 home), and lost only one of the 30 matches they had played up until then. More resounding victories came: 8-3 vs West Germany, 9-0 vs South Korea, 4-2 vs Brazil, 4-2 vs Uruguay... But then the West Germans stood in their way again. And snatched the trophy from right under their noses, coming back from a 2-0 deficit. And that was how an entire nation rose from the ashes of war (no, really). On a side note, this tournament boasted the highest goal average of all: 5.38 (140 goals scored in 26 matches), which goes to show how much the sport has changed since.
  • 1958 — Sweden
    Cities: Borås / Eskilstuna / Gothenburg / Halmstad / Helsingborg / Malmö / Norrköping / Örebro / Sandviken / Solna (Stockholm) [final] / Uddevalla / Västerås
    Teams: 16 — Northern Ireland, USSR and Wales debut; Argentina, Paraguay and Sweden return; Belgium, Italy, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey and Uruguay exit
    Final Four: Brazil / Sweden / France / West Germany
    Top Scorer: Just Fontaine (France) - 13 goals
    Best Young Player: Pelé (Brazil)
    The tournament that introduced Pelé to the world and, along with him, showed what the magical Brazilians could do when they had a ball at their feet, as the hosts could attest in more ways than one. Brazil defeated Sweden in the final, making both countries the only hosts to lose in the final (even if 1950 was kind of different). Just Fontaine's astonishing 13-goal tally remains a FIFA record for most goals in a single tournament.
  • 1962 — Chile
    Cities: Arica [kickoff] / Rancagua / Santiago [final] / Viña del Mar (Valparaiso)
    Teams: 16 — Bulgaria and Colombia debut; Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Uruguay return; Austria, France, Northern Ireland, Paraguay, Scotland, Sweden and Wales exit
    Final Four: Brazil / Czechoslovakia / Chile / Yugoslavia
    Top Scorers: Flórián Albert (Hungary), Garrincha (Brazil), Valentin Ivanov (USSR), Dražan Jerković (Yugoslavia), Leonel Sánchez (Chile) and Vavá (Brazil) - 4 goals each
    Best Young Player: Flórián Albert (Hungary)
    Pelé sat out most of the tournament after getting injured in the second match. How could Brazil hope to defend their title without their top star? The answer was easy: with their other top star, Garrincha, who stunned the world with his disconcerting dribbles and led the "canarinho" team to their second triumph in a row.
  • 1966 — England
    Cities: Birmingham / Liverpool / London (Wembley Stadium [kickoff / final] / White City Stadium) / Manchester / Middlesbrough / Sheffield / Sunderland
    Teams: 16 — North Korea and Portugal debut; France returns; Colombia, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia exit
    Final Four: England / West Germany / Portugal / USSR
    Top Scorer: Eusébio (Portugal) - 9 goals
    Best Young Player: Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany)
    Heralded as "football coming back home", the tournament was won by the home team, though not without some controversy as the referee allowed an extra time goal from a Geoff Hurst shot that hit the crossbar, bounced on the line and fell back out. Two surprises marked this tournament: Brazil's elimination in the group stage (thanks to some heavily disorganized management, and Pelé getting pretty much broken by Bulgarian and Portuguese markers) and newcomers North Korea flushing out the Italians in the group stage. This was also the first tournament where Portugal participated, and they left quite a mark, finishing third. All African teams boycotted the qualifiers to protest a requirement that the top three teams play off against the lone Asian winner for one finals slot, as well as the readmission of apartheid-era South Africa, forcing FIFA to guarantee at least one African slot in subsequent editions.
  • 1970 — Mexico
    Cities: Guadalajara / León / Mexico City [final] / Puebla / Toluca
    Teams: 16 — El Salvador, Israel and Morocco debut; Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Peru, Romania and Sweden return; Argentina, Chile, France, Hungary, North Korea, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland exit
    Final Four: Brazil / Italy / West Germany / Uruguay
    Top Scorer: Gerd Müller (West Germany) - 10 goals
    Best Young Player: Teófilo Cubillas (Peru)
    A spectacular tournament, not only for the incontestable victory of a star-studded Brazilian team with renewed strength (and Pelé at the top of his game: even when he failed to score, he was masterful), but also for matches with the potential to keep watchers on the edge of their seat (like the dramatic semifinal between Italy and West Germany, dubbed by many as the "Game of the Century"). Plus, it can be said that modern football started here, where many now-common conventions were introduced (e.g. substitutions, yellow/red cards, more technologically sophisticated ball and so on). Their triumph here allowed Brazil to take the Jules Rimet trophy, as the first team to win three tournaments.
  • 1974 — West Germany
    Cities: Dortmund / Düsseldorf / Frankfurt / Gelsenkirchen / Hamburg / Hanover / Munich (final) / Stuttgart / West Berlin
    Teams: 16 — Australia, East Germany, Haiti and Zaire debut; Argentina, Chile, Netherlands, Poland, Scotland and Yugoslavia return; Belgium, Czechoslovakia, El Salvador, England, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Romania and USSR exit
    Final Four: West Germany / Netherlands / Poland / Brazil
    Top Scorer: Grzegorz Lato (Poland) - 7 goals
    Best Player: Johan Cruyff (Netherlands)
    Best Young Player: Władysław Żmuda (Poland)
    The first season which featured the current version of the championship trophy. 20 years before, Hungary dazzled the world with their nigh-unstoppable team. Now it was the Netherlands' turn to stun football fans, by presenting a completely unforeseen way to play football: Total Football. No player was attached to their roles in the field; instead they had full creativity to do as they wished, so long as they took the ball to the goal. Like Hungary 20 years before, the "Clockwork Orange" made headlines and got all the way to the final. Unfortunately, like 20 years before, West Germany stood in their way, turned the tables after starting off with a deficit and snatched the trophy from them.
  • 1978 — Argentina
    Cities: Buenos Aires (Estadio Monumental [final] / Estadio José Amalfitani) / Córdoba / Mar del Plata / Mendoza / Rosario
    Teams: 16 — Iran and Tunisia debut; Austria, France, Hungary, Mexico, Peru, Spain return; Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, East Germany, Haiti, Uruguay, Yugoslavia and Zaire exit
    Final Four: Argentina / Netherlands / Brazil / Italy
    Top Scorer: Mario Kempes (Argentina) - 6 goals
    Best Player: Mario Kempes (Argentina)
    Best Young Player: Antonio Cabrini (Italy)
    The military seized power in Argentina in 1976. A World Cup win on home ground had the potential to make them look good. And win on home soil Argentina did, albeit very controversially — it is said that their 6-0 win over Peru that cost Brazil their spot in the final was arranged by the Videla regime, who promised financial help to Peru if they threw the fight (Argentina needed a very difficult win by four goals to proceed), and the Peruvian goalkeeper being Argentinian-born made matters even worse. In fact, even their own traveling routes were arranged to make for easier matches: Argentina played in Buenos Aires for the first round, then in nearby Rosario for the second round, and then back to Buenos Aires for the finalnote .
  • 1982 — Spain
    Cities: A Coruña / Alicante / Barcelona (Camp Nou / Estadi di Sarrià) / Bilbao / Elche / Gijón / Madrid (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu [final] / Estadio Vicente Calderón) / Málaga / Oviedo / Seville (Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán / Estadio Benito Villamarín) / Valencia / Valladolid / Vigo / Zaragoza
    Teams: 24 — Algeria, Cameroon, Honduras, Kuwait and New Zealand debut; Belgium, Chile, Czechoslovakia, El Salvador, England, Northern Ireland, USSR and Yugoslavia return; Iran, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden and Tunisia exit
    Final Four: Italy / West Germany / Poland / France
    Top Scorer: Paolo Rossi (Italy) - 6 goals
    Best Player: Paolo Rossi (Italy)
    Best Young Player: Manuel Amoros (France)
    It looked like 1970 all over again: Brazil fielding an all-star cast and winning their matches without breaking a sweat. But then there was Italy, who shambled their way to Round 2, but apparently woke up in time to upset the Brazilian team and rush to the trophy. This tournament saw the first match decided on penalty shoot-outs: the thrilling semi-final between France and West Germany. Also, for this tournament, the number of entrants was expanded from 16 to 24, so that countries from outside Europe and South America would be more certain to represent their continents. While the top player and top scorer of the World Cup had previously been recognized by the media, this was the first World Cup in which both received actual awards.
  • 1986 — Mexico
    Cities: Guadalajara / Irapuato / León / Mexico City (Estadio Azteca [final] / Estadio Olímpico Universitario) / Monterrey / Nezahualcoyotl (Mexico City) / Puebla / Querétaro / San Nicolás de los Garza (Monterrey) / Toluca / Zapopan
    Teams: 24 — Canada, Denmark and Iraq debut; Bulgaria, Mexico, Morocco, Paraguay, Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay return; Austria, Cameroon, Chile, Czechoslovakia, El Salvador, Honduras, Kuwait, New Zealand, Peru and Yugoslavia exit
    Final Four: Argentina / West Germany / France / Belgium
    Top Scorer: Gary Lineker (England) - 6 goals
    Best Player: Diego Maradona (Argentina)
    Best Young Player: Enzo Scifo (Belgium)
    This tournament was originally awarded to Colombia, who ultimately stepped out due to lack of funds; Mexico thus became the first nation to host the World Cup twice. One man rose above the rest: Diego Maradona, who pushed his team of Argentina to their second victory, while performing his swan song with masterpieces such as his second goal against England, considered the greatest goal ever scored in the history of the sport (never mind him weaseling his way to the first goal just beforehand).
  • 1990 — Italy
    Cities: Bari / Bologna / Cagliari / Florence / Genoa / Milan / Naples / Palermo / Rome [final] / Turin / Udine / Verona
    Teams: 24 — Costa Rica, Ireland and UAE debut; Austria, Cameroon, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, USA and Yugoslavia return; Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Hungary, Iraq, Mexico, Morocco, Northern Ireland, Paraguay, Poland and Portugal exit
    Final Four: West Germany / Argentina / Italy / England
    Top Scorer: Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) - 6 goals
    Best player: Salvatore Schillaci (Italy)
    Best young player: Robert Prosinečki (Yugoslavia)
    Widely considered the worst edition, this is where football hit a low from which it never fully recovered: emphasis was put in stopping the opposition from scoring instead of the logical opposite (to the point that the Irish team made it to the quarter-finals without winning a match), and so there was too little scoring and too much snoring. Due to this, this tournament sports the lowest goal average of all, just 2.21 (115 goals in 52 matches; now go back to 1954 and compare the numbers). In the end, West Germany (in their last tournament before reunification) ousted Argentina from the World Champions' seat in a reprise of the 1986 final — only much, much duller (the only goal was a penalty kick!). One of the few interesting elements of the tournament was Cameroon demonstrating that African teams were no longer there just to make up the numbers. They shocked the world by defeating Argentina in the first game of the tournament despite having two players sent off, and reached the quarter finals.
  • 1994 — USA
    Cities: Chicago / Dallas / East Rutherford, New Jersey (New York City) / Foxborough (Boston) / Orlando / Pasadena (Los Angeles) [final] / Pontiac (Detroit) / Stanford (San Francisco) / Washington, D.C.
    Teams: 24 — Greece, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia debut; Bolivia, Bulgaria, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Switzerland return; West Germany renamed Germany (with East Germany reunified); USSR replaced by Russia; Austria, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, England, Egypt, Scotland, UAE, Uruguay and Yugoslavia exit
    Final Four: Brazil / Italy / Sweden / Bulgaria
    Top Scorers: Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) and Oleg Salenko (Russia) - 6 goals each
    Best Player: Romário (Brazil)
    Best Young Player: Marc Overmars (Netherlands)
    Best goalkeeper: Michel Preud'homme (Belgium)
    Even though the Americans' idea of football is much different, the World Cup was brought here to boost interest in the sport among a populace who prefers a derivative of rugby. America still prefers its native football to soccer (as they call this sport), but defying all expectations, USA 1994 continues to hold world records for highest public average attendance (69,000 per match, surpassing 53,000 in 1950, with a 200,000-seater stadium helping) and highest total attendance (3.6 million, even with a 24-team format) — providing the catalyst for Major League Soccer, which was created as part of a deal with FIFA to bring the World Cup to the USA in the first place. The tournament was won by Brazil, who broke their 24-year drought by beating Italy in the first final decided on penalty shootouts. Furthermore, it sparked an improvement for Team USA, qualifying for every World Cup ever since (except for 2018) and even reaching the final of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. This was also the first World Cup in which an award for the top goalkeeper was presented; previously, the "top goalkeeper" was the keeper (or keepers) named to the tournament's All-Star Team.
  • 1998 — France
    Cities: Bordeaux / Lens / Lyon / Marseille / Montpellier / Nantes / Paris / Saint-Denis (Paris) [final] / Saint-Étienne / Toulouse
    Teams: 32 — Croatia, Jamaica, Japan, South Africa debut; Austria, Chile, Denmark, England, France, Iran, Paraguay, Scotland, Tunisia and Yugoslavia return; Bolivia, Greece, Ireland, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland exit
    Final Four: France / Brazil / Croatia / Netherlands
    Top scorer: Davor Šuker (Croatia) - 6 goals
    Best player: Ronaldo (Brazil)
    Best young player: Michael Owen (England)
    Best goalkeeper: Fabien Barthez (France)
    A whole new generation of football was introduced here, with 32 contenders, thus giving a chance to almost every corner of the world to show what they were capable of. With a national side recovered from sitting out of two straight tournaments, the French hosts went on to win the tournament beating Brazil in the final, thus presenting another genius of the art to the world: Zinedine Zidane. Croatia were the surprise package, finishing 3rd in their first-ever World Cup.
  • 2002 — Japan and South Korea
    Cities (Japan): Fukuroi (Shizuoka) / Kashima (Ibaraki) / Kobe / Niigata / Osaka / Ōita / Rifu (Miyagi) / Saitama / Sapporo / Yokohama (Tokyo) [final]
    Cities (South Korea): Busan / Daegu / Daejeon / Gwangju / Incheon / Jeonju / Seogwipo (Jeju) / Seoul / Suwon / Ulsan
    Teams: 32 — China, Ecuador, Senegal, Slovenia debut; Costa Rica, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, Uruguay return; Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Iran, Jamaica, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Scotland and Yugoslavia exit
    Final Four: Brazil / Germany / Turkey / South Korea
    Top scorer: Ronaldo (Brazil) - 8 goals
    Best player: Oliver Kahn (Germany)
    Best young player: Landon Donovan (USA)
    Best goalkeeper: Oliver Kahn (Germany)
    The first tournament with joint hosts, and the first one contested in Asia. It was a rather unpredictable tournament, with many favorites falling along the way (Argentina, Portugal and France in the group stage, then Italy in the Round of 16), and Asian and African teams suddenly on the ascendant (Senegal became the second African team to reach the quarterfinals, and co-hosts South Korea clinched a decent fourth-place finish). Brazil asserted their dominance by obtaining a record fifth World Cup win, overcoming the German team led by an Oliver Kahn in the prime of his career.note  Another notable fact is that this was the USA's best performance since 1930, reaching the quarterfinals, where they lost to Germany.
  • 2006 — Germany
    Cities: Berlin [final] / Dortmund / Cologne / Frankfurt / Gelsenkirchen / Hamburg / Hanover / Leipzig / Kaiserslautern / Munich / Nuremberg / Stuttgart
    Teams: 32 — Angola, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago and Ukraine debut; Australia, Czechoslovakia (as Czech Republic), Iran, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and Yugoslavia (as Serbia & Montenegro) return; Belgium, Cameroon, China, Denmark, Ireland, Nigeria, Russia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, Turkey and Uruguay exit
    Final Four: Italy / France / Germany / Portugal
    Top scorer: Miroslav Klose (Germany) - 5 goals
    Best player: Zinedine Zidane (France)
    Best young player: Lukas Podolski (Germany)
    Best goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
    Not as exciting as Korea/Japan 2002 (based on the contestants' track records up until then, one could say it was even predictable), but not without its moments. Italy achieved their fourth win by defeating France on penalties, just after Zidane planted his head on Marco Materazzi's chest. France reaching the finals was a surprise in itself, as Raymond Domenech was probably the most mocked and despised managed in the team's history (though the team's play didn't get that much better after he left), yet they took down Spain, Brazil and Portugal before the final. The tournament was also noted as introducing the world to "modern" Germany (which earned a respectable third-place finish), as it was the first major international television event to show the country after going through reunification in the 1990s. This was the first World Cup to have an official award for best young player (i.e., no older than 21 during the calendar year of the tournament).
  • 2010 — South Africa
    Cities: Bloemfontein / Cape Town / Durban / Johannesburg [final] / Nelspruit / Polokwane / Port Elizabeth / Pretoria / Rustenburg
    Teams: 32 — Serbia and Slovakia debut; Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Denmark, Greece, Honduras, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Korea, Slovenia, South Africa and Uruguay return; Serbia & Montenegro dissolves; Angola, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Iran, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia and Ukraine exit
    Final Four: Spain / Netherlands / Germany / Uruguay
    Top scorers: Diego Forlán (Uruguay), Thomas Müller (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands) and David Villa (Spain) - 5 goals each
    Best player: Diego Forlán (Uruguay)
    Best young player: Thomas Müller (Germany)
    Best goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)
    The first World Cup held on African soil. Even though it was heralded by lively crowds (to say nothing of the ever-present, persistent droning of the vuvuzelas), many matches weren't quite as beautiful (some of them were outright sleep-inducing, like Brazil 0-0 Portugal in the group stage). Spain came out on top for the first time, after a rough, violent game against the Netherlands.
  • 2014 — Brazil
    Cities: Belo Horizonte / Brasília / Cuiabá / Curitiba / Fortaleza / Manaus / Natal / Rio de Janeiro [final] / Porto Alegre / Recife / Salvador / Săo Paulo
    Final Four: Germany / Argentina / Netherlands / Brazil
    Teams: 32 — Bosnia & Herzegovina debuts; Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Iran and Russia return; Denmark, New Zealand, North Korea, Paraguay, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and South Africa exit
    Top scorer: James Rodríguez (Colombia) - 6 goals
    Best player: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
    Best young player: Paul Pogba (France)
    Best goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (Germany)
    Linked in many people's minds to the 2016 Olympic Games, hosted by Rio de Janeiro, where the final game was held (though Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Manaus, Salvador and São Paulo also hosted some out-of-town games). Despite concerns about preparedness and security, from the sport's standpoint, Brazil 2014 proved to be quite a success, featuring electrifying matches with high scorelines, another biting incident involving Uruguayan striker Luiz Suarez (this time against Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in group play), surprise contenders like France — resurgent after a horrid 2010 performance (which saw much mediocrity, scandal and infighting) — and out-of-nowhere Costa Rica clawing their way to the quarterfinals, perennial favorites like England, Italy and defending champions Spain falling by the wayside, and increased interest in the sport from the USA after its national team's surprisingly good showing (including a record-breaking 16 saves by Everton FC goalkeeper Tim Howard in a defiant 1-2 loss to Belgium at the Round of 16)note , as well as a shocking 7-1 trouncing of hosts Brazil by Germany in the semifinal (which saw the latter's Polish-born striker Miroslav Klose overtake Ronaldo as the tournament's all-time leading scorer with 16 goals). Germany then proceeded to beat Argentina 1-0 in extra time in the final, winning their fourth trophy and becoming the first European team to win in the Americas.
  • 2018 — Russia
    Cities: Kaliningrad / Kazan / Moscow (final) / Nizhny Novgorod / Rostov-on-Don / Saint Petersburg / Samara / Saransk / Sochi / Volgograd / Yekaterinburg
    Teams: 32 — Iceland and Panama debut; Denmark, Egypt, Morocco, Peru, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sweden and Tunisia return; Algeria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cameroon, Chile, Ecuador, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Italy, Ivory Coast, Netherlands and USA exit
    Was chosen, along with the next host, in December 2010. Also linked to the Olympics (but the Winter version held in Sochi in 2014 — Fisht Stadium, where the ceremonies were held, is even one of the venues), including the spending, with nine new stadia and a rebuilt one. For the first time, all the FIFA members entered the qualifiersnote , although two countries - Indonesia and Zimbabwe - were disqualified before their matches. Further to this, two European countries - Gibraltar and Kosovo - became FIFA members and were admitted to the qualifiers before they started. Another first in this tournament is that the draw will see all the teams divided up into pots based on their strength, rather than by continent as in previous yearsnote . By qualifying, Iceland became the smallest country (by populationnote ) to qualify for the World Cup, two years after becoming the smallest country to qualify for the European Championship.
  • 2022 — Qatar
    Cities: Al Khor / Al Rayyan / Al Wakrah / Doha / Lusail / Madinat ash Shamal / Umm Salal
    Teams: 32
    Will be the first tournament in the Middle East. Curiously, Qatar have never participated in the tournament before and will be the first country in 88 years (since Italy '34) to host the tournament without having taken part in it before. Infamously controversial, how legitimately Qatar was chosen over the USA, South Korea, Japan and Australia remains dubious, and further concerns were raised over Qatar's use of what it claims is Sharia (i.e. Muslim law, which in most implementations for example makes homosexuality illegal, and also alcohol, which clashes with FIFA's sponsorship with Budweiser), climate (with temperatures routinely over 50°C/122°F during summer), and the alleged use of slave labor in its migrant-heavy labor force. Following a report by England's Sunday Times that approximately $5 million worth of bribes were given to the voting committee by Qatari ex-FIFA Vice Grand President Mohammad bin Hammam, FIFA has begun an inquiry into the incident. FIFA has alerted the USA to be prepared in case Qatar's hosting is stripped. The next development in Qatar's World Cup saga was FIFA's announcement that the tournament would be moved to November and December, when average high temperatures are in a much more manageable range of 24–29°C/75–85°F. As of May 2015, the American federal government has indicted various FIFA officials on charges of wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering, and Switzerland has announced its own criminal investigation specifically into the accusations of bribery regarding the 2018 and 2022 host selections.
  • 2026 — TBA
    Teams: 48
    To be decided on the 2018 FIFA Congress at Moscow. So far, candidates include Morocco and jointly by USA, Canada and Mexico. One major change to the format is the addition of sixteen teams to the final tournament, for a total of 48.

    Women's Tournaments 
  • 1991 — China
    Cities: Foshan / Guangzhou (final) / Jiangmen / Zhongshan
    Teams: 12 — Brazil, China, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden and USA debut
    Final Four: USA / Norway / Sweden / Germany
    Top scorer: Michelle Akers (USA) - 10 goals
    Best player: Carin Jennings(-Gabarra) (USA)
    The inaugural women's tournament, featuring twelve teams on three groups, won by USA against Norway, 2-1.
  • 1995 — Sweden
    Cities: Gävle / Helsingborg / Karlstad / Solna (Stockholm) (final) / Västerås
    Teams: 12 — Australia, Canada and England debut; Chinese Taipei, Italy and New Zealand exit
    Final Four: Norway / Germany / USA / China
    Top scorer: Ann-Kristin Aarønes (Norway) - 6 goals
    Best player: Hege Riise (Norway)
    The first FIFA Women's World Cup hosted in Europe.
  • 1999 — USA
    Cities: Chicago / East Rutherford, New Jersey (New York City) / Foxborough (Boston) / Palo Alto (San Francisco) / Pasadena (Los Angeles) (final) / Portland / San Jose / Landover, Maryland (Washington, D.C.)
    Teams: 16 — Ghana, Mexico, North Korea and Russia debut; Italy returns; England exits
    Final Four: USA / China / Brazil / Norway
    Top scorer: Sun Wen (China) and Sissi (Brazil) - 7 goals
    Best player: Sun Wen (China)
    Like USA 1994 five years earlier, USA 1999 set a record — its final, won by USA against China via a 5-4 penalty shootout (with 0-0 on regulation time), is the most attended game in the history of women's sports (not just football) with over 90,000 live spectators. This edition also saw the final tournament expand to 16 teams, at which it remained through 2011.
  • 2003 — USA
    Cities: Carson (Los Angeles) (final) / Columbus / Foxborough (Boston) / Philadelphia / Portland / Washington, D.C.
    Teams: 16 — Argentina, France and South Korea debut; Denmark, Italy and Mexico exit
    Final Four: Germany / Sweden / USA / Canada
    Top scorer: Birgit Prinz (Germany) - 7 goals
    Best player: Birgit Prinz (Germany)
    Best goalkeeper: Silke Rottenberg (Germany)
    The 2003 Women's World Cup was originally to be hosted by China, but due to the SARS outbreak the tournament had to turn to the previous host. Won by Germany against Sweden, 2-1, in a game that reached sudden-death.
  • 2007 — China
    Cities: Chengdu / Hangzhou / Shanghai (final) / Tianjin / Wuhan
    Teams: 16 — Denmark, England and New Zealand return; France, Russia and South Korea exit
    Final Four: Germany / Brazil / USA / Norway
    Top scorer: Marta (Brazil) - 7 goals
    Best player: Marta (Brazil)
    Best goalkeeper: Nadine Angerer (Germany)
    As compensation for having the 2003 tournament withdrawn from them due to the SARS outbreak, China was automatically given the 2007 edition, which began with a wrecking of Germany against Argentina, 11-0 (the highest scoring match in the tournament's history) and ending with the same team mopping Brazil, 2-0, to become the first back-to-back champion in the tournament, as well as the first champion in either the men's or women's version not to surrender a goal.
  • 2011 — Germany
    Cities: Augsburg / Berlin / Dresden / Frankfurt (final) / Leverkusen / Mönchengladbach / Sinsheim / Wolfsburg
    Teams: 16 — Colombia and Equatorial Guinea debut; France and Mexico return; Argentina, China, Denmark and Ghana exit
    Final Four: Japan / USA / Sweden / France
    Top scorer: Homare Sawa (Japan) - 5 goals
    Best player: Homare Sawa (Japan)
    Best young player: Caitlin Foord (Australia)
    Best goalkeeper: Hope Solo (USA)
    In perhaps the most surprising run in Women's World Cup history, Japan took down the hosts and co-favorites Germany in the quarterfinals, beat perennial power Sweden in the semis, and then stunned the other favorite, the USA, with a 3-1 penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw in regulation time — an emphatic Throw the Dog a Bone moment for a country still reeling over a massive earthquake and tsunami a few months earlier.
  • 2015 — Canada
    Cities: Edmonton / Moncton / Montreal / Ottawa / Vancouver (final) / Winnipeg
    Teams: 24 — Cameroon, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand debut; China returns; Equatorial Guinea exits; North Korea banned for doping
    Final Four: USA / Japan / England / Germany
    Top scorer: Célia Šašić (Germany)note  and Carli Lloyd (USA) – 6 goals
    Best player: Carli Lloyd (USA)
    Best young player: Kadeisha Buchanan (Canada)
    Best goalkeeper: Hope Solo (USA)
    The most recent edition, which saw further expansion of the tournament into a 24-team format. Also the first time that any World Cup match for either sex was played on an artificial surface (in fact, all matches were on such surfaces). Given the almost universally negative reception by both fans and players, it will likely also be the last time that any World Cup match is playing on an artificial surface. Additionally, North Korea was banned from the 2015 tournament after several of their players tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during the 2011 edition, making them the first team ever banned from a Women's World Cup. It will definitely live under the shadow of poor officiating and the turf fields, both of which had a tremendous impact on certain results. The tournament was fraught with surprises, such as Australia defeating top contenders Brazil in the Round of 16, England knocking out hosts Canada at the quarterfinals, only to suffer an own goal defeat against Japan, 1-2, before redeeming itself by blanking world #1 Germany for third-place (its best placing in any World Cup of any gender since the men won 1966), and USA seemingly playing flatly during the group stage, only to explode against China during the quarterfinal, blank Germany at the semifinals, and avenge its 2011 finals loss to Japan with a 5-2 thumping, scoring its first four goals in the first sixteen minutes, including a hat-trick by Carli Lloyd capped off by a goal from halfway across the field.
  • 2019 — France
    Cities: Décines [Lyon] (final) / Grenoble / Le Havre / Montpellier / Nice / Paris / Reims / Rennes / Valenciennes
    Teams: 24
    France will host the last edition of the decade.

There have been a fair dozen Licensed Games for the Cup, and one licensed pinball table: World Cup Soccer.

Tropes found in this sporting event:

  • The Artifact: While most team kits use the colors in their country's national flag, the German kit is black and white, and the Italian kit is all or mostly blue. This is because black and white, on the one hand, and blue, on the other, were the heraldic colors of the royal houses of Hohenzollern and Savoy, which reigned in Germany and Italy, respectively, before these countries became republics in 1919 and 1946. Meanwhile, the Russian national team still uses the same dark red kit with a few golden details design used by the Soviet Union, despite the USSR's dissolution in 1991 (FIFA recognizes the Russian team as heir of the Soviet team and attributes the latter's historical statistics to the former). Changing the kit's design would be unthinkable in the case of Italy, whose national team is well known by its nickname Gli Azzurri ("The Blues").
    • The dark red and golden kits, which Russia used between Euro 2012 and 2016, were actually a throwback to the days of the Russian Empire. The 2018 home kit, yes, is a throwback to the USSR's red and white, much like many of Adidas' designs for the year.
  • Calvinball: While a few tournaments were more straightforward (1934-38: single-elimination tournament; 1958-70: 16 teams in 4 groups, the top 2 of each group qualify; 1986-94: 24 teams in 6 groups, top 2 plus 4 best third places qualify; since 1998: 32 teams in 8 groups, the top 2 in each qualify) the format was sometimes too complicated. One of the official films even said the qualifying rules were difficult even for nuclear physicists.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: Whenever two teams with the same color meet, one is forced to use a secondary. It's happened five times in the finals, all on the men's side: two teams in yellow in 1958 (Brazil won wearing blue), white in 1966 (England won in red, and thus that jersey is reserved for special occasions), blue in 2006 (this time, Italy won over a French team in white) orange/red in 2010 (Spain won wearing blue against the Netherlands) and white in 2014 (Germany won against Argentina, who were in dark blue)
  • Consolation Prize:
    • Runner-ups not only earn medals, but also the winners of the third-place match, played between the losers of the semifinals.
    • Every team that participates in the tournament earns some prize money. Obviously, the further your team advances, the higher the reward. However, even those teams eliminated in the group stages will still earn prizes numbering in the millions of dollars (for the men) just for participating. The prizes are considerably smaller in the women's edition.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Overmatched games can get to this - the records are Hungary 10-1 El Salvador (1982) for men and Germany 11-0 Argentina (2007) for women (women's football in Argentina doesn't have the same relevance as men's yet). And sometimes even games between traditional squads get lopsided (2014 had Netherlands 5-1 Spain and Germany 7-1 Brazil).
  • Dark Horse Victory: Sometimes they play each other, ensuring one of them goes even further. 2014 in particular saw two of them (Greece and Costa Rica) go head-to-head in the knockout stages, ensuring that one of them would go further in the tournament than they had ever gone before.
  • Down to the Last Play: A few games got settled by a last-minute goal. A particularly shocking moment was when Portugal tied the USA in Brazil 2014 at the 95th minute. The US women's team is also responsible for the latest goal in World Cup history, already in extra time: 122 minutes, equalizing against Brazil and forcing the penalties. There have also been some crucial misses, the most famous being that Luis Suárez handball late in extra time against Ghana in the 2010 quarter-final, and Asamoah Gyan missing the resultant penalty. Uruguay went on to win 4-2 on penalties.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Uruguay 1930 didn't have a third-place match. Consequently the third- and fourth-placed teams (the USA and Yugoslavia, respectively) were determined by their overall performance. Also, it was an invitational tournament, meaning anyone who wanted to play could (but since so many didn't, the tournament ended up with three less teams than it was supposed to have).
    • Brazil 1950 had no official World Cup Final. The game that is considered to be the de facto final, Brazil vs. Uruguay (1-2) was in fact just the last game of a round robin between four teams, but it was the decisive game since both Sweden (two losses) and Spain (one draw, one loss) were out of contention for the title. Brazil only needed to draw the game but lost and Uruguay became champion.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: One or two teams usually show up out of nowhere and overperform in each iteration of the tournament.
  • Establishing Series Moment:
    • Brazil 2014 had two of these. The first goal of the tournament was an own goal, by Brazil. However, an even bigger moment was how the Netherlands annihilated Spain 5-1 in their opening match, foreshadowing the numerous curb stomps and goals the 2014 edition had to offer.
    • The finals of all three Cups of The '50s: 1950 saw Uruguay beat hosts Brazil, giving them a Shocking Defeat Legacy and proving the Cup is unpredictable; 1954 had another surprise in the then-unbeatable Hungary losing to Germany, which were then established as a powerhouse; and 1958 had Brazil winning it all to set their place as the kings of Association Football. The latter two even repeated in a way (the Germans again beat a purposed favorite with their less flashy game in 1974, and Brazil became the first team with three, four, and five titles in 1970, 1994 and 2002.)
  • Every Year They Fizzle Out:
    • For men, the Netherlands, who got to 3 finals (and two more semifinals) and lost them all. For women, Brazil (one lost final, one third place, despite the tournament's highest scorer ever, Marta) and Sweden (one lost final, two third places).
    • For men, this was also the case of Spain for a long time before their 2010 win. If you watch a Spanish show made before 2010, there is a big chance that someone will complain that the national team never wins. If you watch a show made after 2010, there is a big chance that any flashback will have a character commenting that the mere idea of the national team winning is ridiculous.
    • England are the archetypal example, and up to the 2014 World Cup, were invariably hyped up by the English press as this being their year, despite a penchant for going out in the Quarter Finals - or, in 2010, the Round of 16 in a 4-1 loss to Germany, and in 2014, in an Epic Fail, didn't even manage to get out of the group. At this point, either the manager, the long English season (the only European one without a Winter break) or the referee is usually blamed. In the 2010 example, there was actually some justice to this accusation: when Germany were 2-1 up, England midfielder Frank Lampard shot from distance and the ball hit the bar, going in, before being scrambled out. However, the referee deemed that it hadn't crossed the line, changing the entire complexion of the game (though it doesn't change the fact that England were played off the park). There is also some justice to England being a much fancied team - frequently ranked in the top 8 in the world, the 'Golden Generation' side of Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Neville, Lampard, Gerrard, Beckham, Rooney and Owen contained some of the best players on the planet, and was good enough that there wasn't room for the likes of Paul Scholes, Sol Campbell and Jamie Carragher in the starting XI, and was capable of putting in some truly spectacular performances in qualifying (being the highest scorers in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup) and friendlies (notable victories including the 5-1 demolition of Germany in Munich in 2001). They just had terrible luck with injuries, tended not to play as a team (the Gerrard-Lampard dilemma baffled four successive England managers) and for a group of players who were almost all Champions League and Premier League winners, peculiarly prone to stage fright.
  • Exposition Diagram: You don't understand what a 4-4-2 formation is? Wait for some graphics to come up at the start of the match to show you!
  • Germanic Efficiency: Germany are the only country to win both the male and female World Cup, and just the Brazilian men and US women have more titles than them. Germany's efficiency even extended to their penalties, as they owned the longest streak of converted penalties in history, and it was treated as a national shock when Lukas Podolski missed a penalty in 2010. This puts them at a direct opposite to England, who are generally considered to be unable to score a penalty to save their collective lives - it also explains why it was an Englishman, Gary Lineker, who remarked that "Football is a simple game. Twenty two men kick a ball around for ninety minutes and at the end the Germans win."
  • Heroic Rematch: At times a decisive game will a repeat of the group stage (the 1954 and 1962 finals, the Brazilian semifinals in 1994 and 2002), or of a previous tournament (both the 1986 and 1990 finals for men and the 2011 and 2015 for women had the same teams but different results). And it might happen even on the group stage, as the first game of 2010 finalists Spain and Netherlands in the next cup was against each other.
  • History Repeats: Many matches repeat often. The men's record is 7 for Brazil vs Sweden (including the 1958 Final, and the Swedes never won: 2 draws, 5 defeats), Germany (West Germany) vs Serbia (Yugoslavia) (4-1-2) Germany vs Argentina (4-2-1, including three different finals; Argentina only won the 1986 final, and one of the draws is a knockout game the Germans won on penalties). The women's one is 5 for USA - Sweden (3-1-1, all in the group stage).
    • Brazil, Italy and Germany won their fourth titles 24 years after the third, eliminating the hosts on the knockout round, and with a final that entered extra time (only the Germans averted the penalty shootout) against a team that primarily wears blue (though France had to play Italy on white jerseys). And all their third titles were against a fellow two-time champion that eliminated the home team.
    • England going out in the Quarter Finals was something you could set your clock by, until 2010 (when they went out in the Last 16) and 2014 (when they were eliminated after two matches)
    • Speaking of group drawing, since 1994 in the men's tournament, Argentina and Nigeria have fallen into the same group five times out of seven (the exceptions being 1998 and 2006, for which Nigeria did not qualify). Their 2010 group was even a near-repeat of the 1994 one, with Greece and only a different fourth country (Bulgaria in 1994, South Korea in 2010).
    • On the women's side, the USA and Sweden, both of which have qualified for all seven tournaments to date, have been together five times—first in 1991, and in every tournament from 2003 on. Their 2003 and 2007 groups were identical, with Nigeria and North Korea joining them. The 2011 group was a near-repeat of the previous two, with Nigeria replaced by Colombia. From the USWNT's perspective, the 2003 group was a near-repeat of 1999, with Sweden replacing Denmark.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Own goals. 2014 had one starting the Cup, and 2015 had a spectacularly unfortunate one ending England's hopes of reaching the final.
  • Home Field Advantage:
    • The host usually outperforms (Sweden's only final, Chile and South Korea's only semifinals, Mexico's only quarterfinals and Switzerland's last), at times even winning (all champions but Brazil and Spain have done so; in fact, France and England's only titles, in 1998 and 1966, were at home). For the drawing of opponents, hosts are also placed among the top seeds (if they're not already there), ensuring that their opponents in the first round will be weaker on average than if they were drawn normally. The only true Epic Fail by a home team was South Africa in 2010, becoming the first to not even pass to Round 2 — though they did go out with a win against France (even if this is somewhat tempered by the fact that the French had gone on strike) and considering South Africa's lowly status (while its people enjoy football, they're still more of a rugby nation), it wasn't a surprise.
    • Since 1975 Brazil epitomized this trope: winning 62 straight competitive international matches on their home turf. This trend continued through the 2014 tournament which was held in Brazil... until the Germans absolutely destroyed them in the semifinal by a score of 7-1. The third place match was also a blowout, 0-3 to the Netherlands, with the home crowd booing.
    • In an expanded sense of home field, all but one of the tournaments on European soil were won by European teams (Brazil won in '58), and all but one of the tournaments on the Americas were won by South American nations (Germany won in 2014). The tournaments hosted in Asia and Africa were won by Brazil (the only one to win in three continents, if both Americas are counted together) and Spain respectively.
    • While in the male tournament it's very common, in the women's cup only the United States managed to get to the semifinals or further at home (won in 1999, third in 2003). The others all fell in the quarterfinals: China (1991 to Sweden, 2007 to Norway), Sweden (1995 to China), Germany (2011 to underdog Japan, who went on to win the Cup), and Canada (2015 to underdog England - and given their possible path to the finals was somewhat easy after Brazil lost, many argued FIFA had purposedly seeded the tournament so the home team could get to the decision).
  • Homogenous Multinational Ad Campaign: In the biggest sporting event in the world with ad boards, the only way to work.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Golden Goal in 1998 and 2002 allowed Laurent Blanc (France v Paraguay '98), Henri Camara (Senegal vs Sweden '02), Ahn Jun-Hwang (S Korea vs Italy '02) and Ilhan Mansiz (Turkey vs Senegal '02) to end the game, no questions asked.
    • Also in the 2003 women's final, with Nia Künzer winning the World Cup in this same manner (Germany vs Sweden).
  • Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Football coverage in general.
  • Large Ham Announcer: Mexican commentators.
  • Loophole Abuse
    • The whole "interfering with play" part of the offside law has been much abused by attackers. Italy and AC Milan former international striker Fillipo Inzaghi was said to have been "born offside"; he was more often than not caught in the wrong.
    • The Non-Aggression Pact of Gijón took loophole abuse to a completely new level. It was bad enough that it caused FIFA to change the rules and comparisons to Gijón always arise when two teams could benefit from an agreement.
  • Men Buy from Mars, Women Buy from Venus: Ad breaks tend to involve commercials aimed at men during the World Cup, even though there is a high number of women watching. Indeed, the Trope Namer Mars have made themselves the Official Chocolate Supplier to the England Team.
  • Music at Sporting Events: Every match is preceded by the playing of both teams' national anthems. Much national pride ensues, especially when the fan contingent from one country is large enough and sings along loud enough to be heard on television. Brazil took a step further at home in 2014. As the Brazilian anthem is too long, a shortened version is played at World Cup matches. By the end of it, however, the crowd kept singing until the real end of the lyrics at every match.
    • Subverted quite brutally in 2010. Matches in general showcase songs and music from the nations of the two teams playing, as well as the Cup hosts. Italia 90 featured Luciano Pavarotti. With that in mind, people were looking forward to the soulful music of South Africa when they ventured to the Cradle of Human Life. And instead, they got this.
      Des Clarke: I thought the vuvuzela was an absolute assault on the ears...and this is coming from someone that comes from a country that produced the bagpipes.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The infamous Non-Aggression Pact of Gijón caused a rule change requiring the last two matches of each group to be played at the same time.
  • Opposing Sports Team:
    • The United States, whom everyone loves to thump on even though they are a mid-level team at best (at least on the men's side). A lot of this has to do with the other kind of football that they like, and how obnoxious the arguments between each side tend to be. There's a mixture of this and Every Year They Fizzle Out, since the USA consistently make it out of the Group Stage, only to be knocked out by teams ranked worse than them (especially infamous in 2006, given that at one point in time, they were the #5 team in the world and only managed to win one point). American fans and players, however, see themselves differently.
    • A few (particularly Wales, Scotland and either side of Ireland) consider the England team to be this as well - just google "Anyone But England".
    • The 1982 West Germany team definitely qualifies. Some of their supporters even disowned them!
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Not only players feel terrible for the defeat - just see Messi's sadness receiving the Golden Ball - but the runner-ups hardly get any historical love, with the exception of the Hungarian "Golden Team" of 1954 and the Dutch "Clockwork Orange" from 1974\8.
  • Shirtless Scene: Now banned by FIFA (the rules do state that taking off your shirt awards you a yellow card, though most of the time, players do it anyway), but that didn't stop Andrés Iniesta from shedding his to showcase a shirt honoring his dead friend when he scored the Cup-winning goal against the Netherlands in 2010.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Being eliminated in the group stage when you're the defending champions. It happened to Brazil in 1966, France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014. This has yet to happen in the women's version; the only defending champion that failed to reach at least the semifinals was Germany in 2011, who went out in the quarterfinals.
  • Trade Snark:
    • According to ESPN, it is not the World Cup, but the World Cup™ (yes. Every single graphic, regardless of context, says this).
    • FIFA has also aggressively been trying to combat non-sponsors making "unauthorized associations" with the tournament, primarily by forcing host countries to ban "ambush marketing" in and around tournament venues. In 2006, a Dutch brewery got in trouble for having fans wear "leeuwenhose" (orange colored overalls with a lion's tail and their logo on it, distributed with their beer before the tournament) to a Dutch game, considering it ambush marketing. They pulled the same stunt in 2010, but this time with orange miniskirts that were modeled by the wife of a Dutch player in advertisements; a group of 36 attendees wearing them were ejected from the game, two were arrested and sent to court, and an ITV Sport personality got fired after it was revealed that he had resold tickets intended for family to the brewery.
    • In 2010, discount airline Kulula was pressured into pulling an advertisement that contained football and South African imagery (yes, even Vuvuzelas), and had described themselves as "The Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What", all but lampshading that they were not an official sponsor. After FIFA complained, they introduced a new ad further lampshading the incident with the new tagline: "Not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between". Furthermore, they offered free flights to anyone named Sepp Blatter (the current FIFA president) "for the duration of that thing that is happening right now"; and of course, the honors went to a Boston Terrier named Sepp Blatter.
  • Trope Codifier: The language-neutral yellow and red penalty cards, based on similarly language-neutral traffic lights, were introduced at the 1970 World Cup and have spread to other sports since then.
  • Trope Co. Trope of the Week: Four of the individual awards have one of the partner's names ("Mastercard All-Star Team", "Gillette Best Young Player", and two for Adidas, Golden Ball — best player — and Golden Boot — top scorer). Plus, the "Budweiser Man of the Match" chosen in the website by fans.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: A few games get so violent that one of those, the 2010 final (46 fouls, 13 yellow cards and one red), illustrates that trope's page. Other four are known as "Battle of *". Brazil-Colombia in 2014 had a record 54 fouls, one giving Neymar a Game-Breaking Injury. And the 1982 semifinal had German goalkeeper Toni Schumacher tackling French striker Patrick Battiston so hard it caused unconsciousness, broken teeth and cracked ribs. And worse, the referee didn't even stop play.
  • Use Your Head: On one hand, we have head goals (the arguably most famous being Pelé's in the 1970 final). On the other hand, we have the infamous Zidane headbutt in the 2006 final, which got him expelled from the last game in his career.
  • We Win... Because You Didn't: Any match where a draw is enough to qualify a team while the other one absolutely needs to win. Moreover, a draw for a poor team against a good team feels like a win for them, and a loss for the good team (case in point, the Trinidad & Tobago team holding Zlatan Ibrahimović's Sweden to a 0-0 draw in 2006).
  • Who Needs Extra Time?: A few even prevent knockout games from going into extra time, such as Italy scoring a penalty against Australia in the 95th minute in 2006. Or in "Who Needs Penalties", finishing in extra time - England 1-0 Belgium in the 1990 round of 16, Germany 2–1 Sweden in the 2003 final (a sudden-death goal in the 98th minute), Italy 2-0 Germany (2 goals, at 119' and 121') in the 2006 semifinal, and the 2010 and 2014 Finals, both of which ended 1-0 with goals scored in the 110th+ minute.

Alternative Title(s): FIFA World Cup