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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 Biggest Occasion in football, all sports, and the entire World — much more popular than the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl merged together, with a TV audience in the billions.

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, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago where success hasn't even come yet, the fact that they qualified to participate is enough to have a National Holiday. For the country itself, it 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 Hungarian Revolution. France's spectacular 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. At that same tournament, a stunning bronze medal run by Croatia, only 7 years after declaring independence and 4 years after joining FIFA to play their first World Cup, helped galvanize the identity of the young nation still reeling from war. Additionally, some of the kids who watched that campaign went on to lead Hrvatska all the way to the final 20 years later, and then to another bronze medal 4 years after that.

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 Qatar in 2022, for which 206 countries competed for 32 places, with the tournament being ultimately won by Argentina.

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.note  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... However, England's governing body, The Football Association, had secretly made a replica of the trophy for use in exhibitions while it had the original in its possession, despite being explicitly told by FIFA not to do so. When The FA had to return the original for the 1970 World Cup, it had to hide its replica. In 1997, FIFA bought the replica at auction for over £250,000, about 10 times the reserve price, amid speculation that The FA may have actually kept the original. Testing proved that the auctioned trophy was a replica, and FIFA soon lent it out for permanent exhibit at England's National Football Museum, then in Preston and now in Manchester. As for Brazil, its governing body commissioned a replica (presumably with FIFA's permission) within months of the theft. The second one will not be given permanently to anyone, though the winning team does receive a replica to take home. The name of each winning country is engraved on the base plate, alongside the year of its win; the plate is replaced each Cup cycle, with the names of the trophy winners rearranged into a spiral to make room for the next champion. Because the plate will run out of space for new engravings after the 2038 World Cup, a new trophy will be made for 2042 and beyond.

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 (1924 & 1928, the two Olympics immediately preceding the foundation of the competition). In 2010, 2014 and 2022, the winning teams (Spain, Germany and Argentina, respectively) 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 — the "classic" football lined with white hexagons and black pentagons, named after its intended purpose of being more visible on black-and-white TV broadcasts — was originally introduced for Euro 1968, but made famous in the 1970 World Cup. 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 (four times), Germany (twice), Norway, Japan, and Spain (once each). 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.

Another contrast between the men's and women's World Cups involves the trophy. While the official men's trophy is retained by FIFA, a new official trophy has been made for each Women's World Cup, with the winner receiving permanent possession. Interestingly, one of the women's trophies was also stolen. The trophy awarded to Norway in 1995 was put on display at the offices of the national federation in Oslo. However, the stadium that housed said offices was renovated in 1997, and the trophy disappeared during this time and has never been found. Fortunately, FIFA remembered what had happened to the Jules Rimet Trophy, and had a duplicate made before the first women's event in 1991. This duplicate remains on display to this day at FIFA's museum in Zürich.note 

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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 Qatar 2022:

  • 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 advancing to inter-confederation playoffs.
  • North America's CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) has 35 teams play a total of three rounds, with the higher-ranked teams getting byes. The first round consists of six groups of five among the teams outside the top five in the confederation. The second round consists of the six group winners being paired off and playing a two-legged home-and-away series. The three winners of these matches then join the top five teams in a single group and play each other twice (once home and once away), with the top three finishers qualifying directly and the fourth-placed team advancing to inter-confederation playoffs.
  • Africa's CAF (Confederation of African Football) has 54 teams and three rounds. The bottom 28 teams play a two-legged home-and-away series. The 14 winners then join the top 26 teams in the second round, where ten groups of four and formed and each team in the group play each other in home-and-away matches. Each group winner is then paired off and play another two-legged home-and-away series, with each series' winner qualifying.
  • Europe's UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) has 55 teams and two rounds. In the first round, the teams are sorted into ten groups of either five or six teams and play each other a total of two times, once home and once away. Beyond sorting the teams into pots to prevent piling several strong teams into the same group, there's several other restrictions on whom can be drawn with whom, whether it's due to participation in the separate UEFA Nations League Finals, "prohibited clashes" due to politics, whether they're liable to have severe weather in the winter that could disrupt matchdays, or preventing teams from needing to travel excessively; UEFA will need a computer when they draw to make sure none of these problems arise. At any rate, once the matches are played the group winners automatically qualify. The second round will consist of the ten groups' runners-up plus the top two Nations League teams that haven't otherwise qualified; the twelve teams will be drawn into three separate four-team brackets and play single matches to determine the final three teams who qualify.
  • Asia's AFC (Asian Football Confederation) has a total of four rounds for 45 teams, not including the host Qatarnote . 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 advancingnote . The third round has two groups of six, again playing a league with the top two in each group qualifying. The fourth round has the two third-place finishers play a home-and-home — winner goes to the inter-confederation playoff.
  • Oceania's OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) has 11 teams playing for... essentially half a spot. The first round will have two groups, one of five teams and one of six, based on FIFA rankings and play a round robin in a centralized location. The top two in each group then move on to the second round, where they play home-and-away matches twice to determine the confederation champion...and goes to the inter-confederation playoff.

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. The tournament was expanded to 32 teams for Australia/New Zealand 2023, with qualifying for that event as follows:

  • 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 were split into two groups of five. The groups played a single round-robin league, with the top two teams advancing to knockout semifinals and the third-place teams playing a single match whose winner advanced to the inter-confederation playoffs. The semifinal winners, plus the winner of the third-place match, gained direct World Cup entry, with the fourth-place team heading to the inter-confederation playoffs.
  • CONCACAF: Uses the CONCACAF W Championship,note  also held in the same year as men's World Cups, as its qualifier. The top two CONCACAF teams in the FIFA Women's World Rankings when the format was set in August 2020, the USA and Canada, automatically advanced to the W Championship, with the remaining 30 entrants (including hosts Mexico, which had to play in order to qualify for the event proper) drawn into six groups of five teams that played a single round-robin. The group winners joined the USWNT and Canada in the W Championship proper, where they were divided into four-team groups that played a single round-robin. The two top teams from each group gained direct entry to the World Cup, while the third-place teams advanced to the inter-confederation playoffs. The knockout stage was still consequential, as CONCACAF chose to use the W Championship as its qualifier for the 2024 Olympics. The USWNT won the tournament and an automatic Olympic berth, while second-place Canada and third-place Costa Rica will play off for CONCACAF's other Olympic berth.
  • CAF: Like CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, it uses its women's championship (Women's Africa Cup of Nations, or WAFCON) as its qualifier.note  WAFCON has its own qualifying stage, with 44 teams entering for the 2022 edition. All teams were drawn into a set of home-and-away matches, whose winners were drawn into a second round of home-and-away matches, with the survivors joining host Morocco in the WAFCON proper. The 12 teams were then drawn into four-team groups, with the top two teams from each group and the two best third-place teams entering the knockout stage. The quarterfinal winners received automatic World Cup entry; the quarterfinal losers on each side of the bracket were then matched against one another in one-off matches whose winners advanced to the inter-confederation playoffs.
  • 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 two stages:
    • Group stage: The 51 entrantsnote  were divided into nine groups, three of which had 5 teams and the rest 6. Each group played a full home-and-away schedule, with the group winners earning World Cup berths.
    • Playoffs: The second-place teams in each group entered a playoff stage. The top three teams, ignoring results against sixth-place teams, received byes into the second round. The other six teams played one-off matches, with the winners drawn into one-off matches with the top three. The second-round winners were then ranked, based on their results against the top five teams in their original group and their second-round match. The top two teams also gained direct World Cup entry, while the other went to the inter-confederation playoffs.
  • 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 27 teams entering for 2022, including Australia, already qualified for the World Cup as co-host. The AFC's top three teams in the 2018 edition of the Asian Cup (Japan, Australia, China) received automatic places in the 2022 Asian Cup, as did 2022 host India. The remaining teams were split into eight groups, four with four teams and the others with three. Each group played a single round-robin at a predetermined site, with all group winners advancing to the Asian Cup proper. The 12 participants in the final tournament were divided into three groups of four each, playing a single round-robin league. The top two teams from each group, plus the two best third-place teams, advanced to the Asian Cup knockout stage. The quarterfinal winners received direct World Cup entry; the losers would enter a playoff whose format depended on Australia's results. Since Australia went out in the quarterfinals, this meant that the three other quarterfinal losers played a single round-robin league whose winner also received direct World Cup entry. The other two advanced to the inter-confederation playoffs.
  • 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. With New Zealand automatically entering the World Cup as co-host, the WNC only determined the confederation's participant in the inter-confederation playoffs. The nine teams that entered (American Samoa did not enter due to COVID issues) were drawn into three-team groups, with the top two teams plus the two best third-place teams advancing to the knockout stage. The champion advanced to the inter-confederation playoffs.
  • Inter-confederation playoffs: Held in February 2023 in New Zealand (specifically in Hamilton and Auckland) as that country's trial run for the World Cup. The 10 teams, four seeded and six unseeded, were drawn into three groups, two with 3 teams (1 seeded) and one with 4 (2 seeded). All groups used a knockout format with one-off matches. In the three-team groups, the unseeded teams played for a chance to play the seeded team in the final, while the four-team group had semifinals featuring a seeded and an unseeded team. The winners of each group final claimed the final World Cup places. New Zealand and guest team Argentina also took part in the event, playing friendly matches against participating teams and each other.

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). Since their two wins in the early half of the 20th century, they've usually been present at the tournament, but their best result has been two 4th place finishes, in 1954 and (controversially) in 2010.
  • 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 were kind of a surprise, with Italy eliminating both Brazil and Argentina in the second round in 1982 after stumbling through three draws in the first round, 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, though they've subsequently been eliminated at the group stages in both 2018 and 2022 (the only times this has happened in their history).
    • Also, thanks to their women's team winning the Women's World Cup in 2003 and 2007, Germany is the first nation to have won both the men's and women's tournaments. Spain would join that club in 2023.
  • Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) — The only team present in all tournaments (not only of the men, but the female verson too!), the biggest winner, and the first team to win in three continents (Europe, North America and Asia). That being said, they have consistently fallen short since their 2002 victory, going out at the quarter-finals at every subsequent World Cup except 2014, which they hosted and were widely expected to win, only to finish fourth after being unexpectedly beaten 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals, and then losing 3-0 to the Netherlands in the third-place playoff.
  • 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 regularly proves that, outside of tournaments, they are capable of contending with the likes of Germany, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Italy and the Netherlands. Tournaments, however, are a different story. They won 1966 at home (with some controversy over a "ghost goal"), but consistently underachieve for such a hyped team, aside from a pair of fourth-place finishes in 1990 and 2018.
  • Argentina (1978, 1986, 2022)
    • 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 Argentines 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. It is equally unsurprising that the English have a very different opinion. 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.
    • The 2022 win, however, was widely celebrated by footballing neutrals as a fairytale finale for their captain, legendary attacker Lionel Messi, generally considered one of the greatest footballers in history and playing his fifth and almost-certainly last World Cup at age 35. Messi did not disappoint, scoring in every stage of the tournament (including the opening goal in a shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening group match, making them the second team to win the trophy after losing their first game after Spain in 2010) as he led his country to a hard-fought victory in the final, which finished 3-3 in extra time before going to penalties, with him hitting the net for a third time in the shootout. This also made them the first holders of the Copa América to win the World Cup (having won that tournament the previous year thanks to a goal by veteran midfielder Ángel Di María, who also scored in the World Cup final), and the second team to win in three continents (South America, North America and Asia), after Brazil in 2002.
  • France (1998, 2018) — 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). Repeated in 2018, with players such as N'Golo Kanté, Kylian Mbappé, Paul Pogba, Samuel Umtiti and so on playing large roles in helping France win their second World Cup, twenty years after their first. Most recent team to win the World Cup on home soil, having hosted the 1998 tournament.
  • Spain (2010) — Won the tournament in 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 team to win a tournament outside the Old World, given their title was won in South Africa.

It is notable that all of the (men's) teams who have won the World Cupnote  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 fondly remembered decades 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, with the Moroccan team of 2022 becoming the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final (ultimately also finishing in 4th). Additionally, in the 21st century, winning the World Cup has come to place something of a curse on the team for the next tournament, with four of the six defending champions getting unceremoniously eliminated in the group stage (France in 2002, Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018) - time will tell if France's hard-fought but ultimately unsuccessful title defence in 2022 (they became the first team since Brazil in 2002 to reach back-to-back finals, eventually losing to Argentina on penalties) marks a change in this pattern.

On the women's side, the winners have been:

  • USA (1991, 1999, 2015, 2019) - The dominating force among the women, who had never finished lower than third until a disastrous 2023 campaign by its standards.note  This has also helped paint the sport as a mostly female affair for Americans, along with that other stereotype.
  • Norway (1995) - Avenged their defeat in the first final by beating the USWNT in the semifinals before a title. However, the team has been in severe decline after winning gold at the 2000 Olympic Games.
  • Germany (2003, 2007) - First country with men's and women's titles. Won their first title after surprising the US team at their own ground in the semifinals, and followed it with an outstanding showing of Germanic Efficiency, as the victorious 2007 team conceded no goals the whole tournament!
  • Japan (2011) - The "Nadeshiko Japan" of Homare Sawa pulled out an impressive Dark Horse Victory, by beating in succession hosts and defending champions Germany in extra time, then strong Sweden in a comeback, and finally the USA in a penalty shoot-out.
  • Spain (2023) – Won its first title despite a backdrop of conflict between players on one side and their federation and manager on the other, thanks to a burgeoning talent pipeline. Joined Germany as the second country with men's and women's titles.

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.

Speaking of Brazil, not only have they appeared in every men's tournament, they've been in every women's tournament as well. However, with there having been only 9 Women's World Cups to date (as opposed to 21 for the men), six other nations have been present at every women's edition — Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden, and the USA.

There have been 30 total tournaments: 21 for the men, and 9 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 countries became interested in taking part of the tournament but, since the pure knockout tournament 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 first and, so far, 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). This edition also marks the first time an African team would participate in the World Cup with Egypt's qualification to the final stages.
  • 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 for what was again a knockout tournament, 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, in the only occurrence of a walkover in the history of the tournament. Indonesia's participation (as the Dutch East Indies) would mark the first time an Asian team successfully qualified to participate in the World Cup.
  • 1950 — Brazil
    Cities: Belo Horizonte / Curitiba / Porto Alegre / Recife / Rio de Janeiro [final] / São 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. Also the first tournament in which all players wore numbered jerseys, though players did not necessarily wear the same number throughout the tournament. 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
    The first World Cup with persistent squad numbering, with each player wearing his assigned number throughout the tournament. 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 /no 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. At the same time, this was the first World Cup to see a scoreless draw, with Brazil–England in Group 4 being the first, followed by Sweden–Wales in Group 3. Every tournament since then has had at least one such match.
  • 1962 — Chile
    Cities: Arica [kickoff] / Rancagua / Santiago [final] / Viña del Mar (Valparaíso)
    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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: 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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: West Germany
    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. Also, Oceania would finally gets their first representation in the World Cup, after Australia (then a member of OFC) qualified for the first time in this edition. This is also the last men's World Cup in which no match went to extra time (it's since happened once for the women, in 2007).
  • 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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: Argentina
    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 . This was the first World Cup in which all players and staff of the winning team received winners' medals; previously, only the players on the pitch at the end of the match received medals.note 
  • 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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: Brazil
    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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: Brazil
    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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: England
    Widely considered the dullest 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). 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 lower quality (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. Oh, and its theme song was pretty good, too.
  • 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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: Brazil
    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. It was also the first World Cup in which squad numbers appeared on the front of jerseys as well as the back, plus the first in which player names were added to jerseys.
  • 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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: England / 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, Poland, 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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: Belgium
    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 - though their elimination was somewhat controversial due to referee Byron Moreno's dubious decisions), 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 very respectable 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, 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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: Brazil / Spain
    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 manager 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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: 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 vuvuzelasnote ), 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, with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta. Also notable for South Africa becoming the first ever World Cup host nation to be eliminated in the group stage, and for a controversial quarter-final between Ghana and Uruguay in which Ghana came excrutiatingly close to becoming the first African semi-finalists, were it not for Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez using his hands to block Asamoah Gyan's shot from going in the net - Suarez got sent off, and Ghana were given a penalty, which Gyan blazed over the crossbar, before Uruguay won the resulting penalty shootout. Unusually, its only unbeaten team were not champions Spain (who lost their opening match 1-0 to Switzerland), but New Zealand, who were eliminated in the group stage after drawing all three of their games (which included a 1-1 draw against defending champions Italy).
  • 2014 — Brazil
    Cities: Belo Horizonte / Brasília / Cuiabá / Curitiba / Fortaleza / Manaus / Natal / Rio de Janeiro [final] / Porto Alegre / Recife / Salvador / São Paulo [kickoff]
    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)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: Colombia
    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 Luis Suárez (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 (Luzhniki Stadium [final] / Spartak Stadium) / 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
    Final Four: France / Croatia / Belgium / England
    Top scorer: Harry Kane (England) - 6 goals
    Best player: Luka Modrić (Croatia)
    Best young player: Kylian Mbappé (France)
    Best goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: Spain
    First edition hosted in Eastern Europe, as well as linked with the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted by Sochi, both in the host stadiums (Fisht Stadium was also used for the ceremonies) and the spending. For the first time, all FIFA members entered the qualifiers (except host Russia), although Indonesia and Zimbabwe were disqualified before their matches, while Gibraltar and Kosovo made their debut. Another first in this tournament is that the draw saw all qualified teams divided into pots by strength instead of locale as in previous yearsnote . This edition also introduced video assistant referees (VAR), designed to help reduce the risk of human error in match officiating, as well as a "fair play" tiebreaker, wherein demerits are handed depending on the amount of yellow and/or red cards accrued (-1 per single yellow, -3 per double yellow, -4 per single red, and -5 per yellow-and-red). Arguably the least predictable edition since Korea/Japan 2002, with Italy and Netherlands not even passing the qualifiers, defending champions Germany going out in the group stages for the first time (and the fourth time a defending champion fell so early in the last five editions) with a surprising final defeat against also-ran South Korea, an underperforming Argentina somehow managing to squeeze through to the Round of 16, and hosts Russia reaching the quarter-finals—and in some style, too—despite being the lowest-ranked participating team according to the FIFA rankings. Also, for the first time since Spain 1982, no African team made it to the Round of 16, with Senegal narrowly losing a spot to Japan due to a worse fair play rating (-6 against Japan's -4, all on single yellow cards). The Final Four, all European teams, were quite unexpected: the "golden generation" of Belgium, which cut through surprise package Japan and powerhouse Brazil; a youthful France that had a more relaxed group stage before coming alive at the expense of powerhouses Argentina and Uruguay; England defying expectations by finally winning a penalty shootout, albeit after a rough, foul-ridden Round of 16 tie with Colombia, before blanking Sweden; and surprise package Croatia winning all three of its group stage matches, including a 3-0 against Argentina, before surviving penalty shootouts against Denmark and Russia. At the end of the semifinals, France and Croatia edged their way to the final, with Belgium earning its best-ever finish with a 2-0 victory over England in the third-place match, before France outlasted Croatia in a quite bizarre finale (including the first time a player scored both an own goal and a goal, courtesy of Croatian player Mario Mandžukić) with a final score of 4-2, to score its second-ever World Cup trophy and first on foreign soil, with nineteen-year-old super rookie Kylian Mbappé becoming the second-ever teenager to score in a Final since Brazil's Pelé in Sweden 1958, and manager Didier Deschamps, himself the captain of France's first championship team twenty years ago, becoming only the third-ever man to win World Cups both as a player and a manager (following Brazil's Mário Zagallo [Sweden 1958 and Chile 1962 / Mexico 1970] and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer [West Germany 1974 / Italy 1990], as well as the second-ever winning captain-turned-manager after Beckenbauer).
  • 2022 — Qatar
    Cities: Al Khor / Al Rayyan (Education City Stadium / Ahmed bin Ali Stadium / Khalifa International Stadium) / Al Wakrah / Doha (Stadium 974 / Al Thumama Stadium) / Lusail [final] / Madinat ash Shamal / Umm Salal
    Teams: 32 — Qatar debuts; Cameroon, Canada, Ecuador, Ghana, Netherlands, USA and Wales return; Colombia, Egypt, Iceland, Nigeria, Panama, Peru and Sweden exit; Russia disqualified
    Final Four: Argentina / France / Croatia / Morocco
    Top scorer: Kylian Mbappé (France) - 8 goals
    Best player: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
    Best young player: Enzo Fernández (Argentina)
    Best goalkeeper: Emiliano Martínez (Argentina)
    Fair Play Trophy Winner: England
    The first tournament held in the Middle East and the Arab world. Curiously, Qatar had never participated in the tournament before, making them the first country in 88 years (since Italy 1934) to host the tournament without taking part in it before. Infamously controversial, with questions hanging over Qatar being chosen for a slew of reasons.note  In the event, Qatar lost all 3 games in a group in which they hoped they’d have a chance after their Asian Cup win in 2019, scoring just the 1 goal, becoming the second ever host nation to be eliminated in the group stage. Group B, which involved the Irani team drawn with England, Wales and USA, was overshadowed by civil unrest in Iran in the prior weeks and months, which led to several players being uncomfortable with singing the national anthem. They were eliminated after losing to USA in a relatively incident-free match. Despite the distinct lack of enthusiasm towards the hosts, on the pitch it has generally been agreed to be a very entertaining World Cup, with a great deal of drama - Saudi Arabia beat Argentina, Australia shocked Denmark, Morocco topped a group including 2018 finalists Croatia and a much fancied Belgium side (which promptly went out), Ghana and Uruguay met in a grudge match from 2010 (Ghana lost but took Uruguay out with them), and for a brief period, it looked like Japan and Costa Rica were both going through at the expense of European titans Spain and Germany. In the end, the Germans went out anyway, for the second tournament in a row, but Japan went through with Spain in second place, before going out on penalties after a heroic performance against Croatia. England and France both waltzed through the group and the Round of 16, comfortably disposing of Senegal and Poland respectively, setting up a quarter-final between two of the tournament favourites which France narrowly won. Brazil more or less eviscerated South Korea 4-1 before being edged out on penalties by a wily old Croatia side, and Portugal one-upped them by beating Switzerland 6-1. Morocco continued its surprise run, first knocking out Spain on penalties in the Round of 16 and then taking out Portugal to become the first African team ever to make the semifinals, ultimately finishing fourth after losing to Croatia in the third-place playoff. (Not only were they the first African country to make it to the semifinal, they were also only the third non-European or South American side to do so - following the USA in 1930 and South Korea (on home soil) in 2002.) The knockout stage saw an off-field tragedy when prominent American soccer journalist Grant Wahl died of a ruptured aortic aneurysm while covering Argentina–Netherlands. The US, meanwhile, performed respectably, forcing a no-score draw with England, before running headfirst into the Dutch in the Round of 16. The final of this tournament is already being considered one of the best in the competition's history - Argentina, led by iconic legendary veteran Lionel Messi, took on defending champions France (led by Kylian Mbappé, Messi's club teammate at Paris Saint-Germain and generally considered his heir apparent as the greatest active men's player) in a match that finished 3-3 after extra time (with Messi scoring 2 goals and Mbappé becoming the first man in 56 years to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final), with a penalty shootout resulting in Argentina winning their first title since 1986 and Messi winning the only trophy missing in his collection.
  • 2026 — Canada, Mexico and USA
    Cities (Canada): Toronto, Ontario / Vancouver, British Columbia
    Cities (Mexico): Guadalajara, Jalisco / Mexico City / Monterrey, Nuevo León
    Cities (USA): Arlington, Texas (Dallas) / Atlanta, Georgia / East Rutherford, New Jersey (New York City, New York) [final] / Foxborough, Massachusetts (Boston) / Houston, Texas / Inglewood, California (Los Angeles) / Kansas City, Missouri / Miami Gardens, Florida (Miami) / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania / Santa Clara, California (San Francisco) / Seattle, Washington
    Teams: 48
    First edition to have multiple hosts since Korea/Japan 2002 (as well as the first with three countries). One major change to the format is the addition of sixteen teams to the final tournament, for a total of 48. It is also the first edition where all six FIFA confederations are guaranteed at least a slot. As per an agreement between the three winning nations, Canada and Mexico will host a number of games (all in group stages) apiece, with the USA holding the remaining games (including the playoff matches). As a result of the expansion in teams, the number of games to be played will increase from 64 to 104 with the addition of a Round of 32 - this means the winners will have to play eight matches. In light of the great cloud of controversy surrounding the selection of Qatar 2022 (and, to a lesser extent, Russia 2018), the host selection process was changed from a closed-doors meeting between a select few executives to a televised voting by representatives of all eligible member-nations (barring the bidding nations and any territories of one with separate FIFA membership), with the "United" bid handily winning against Morocco, 134-65 (with one "neither" entry from Iran and abstentions from Cuba, Slovenia and Spain; besides the four bidding nations, US territories Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands were rendered ineligible due to Morocco protesting a potential conflict of interest, while Ghana was serving suspension due to bribery charges). Like Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018, this edition is also partially linked to the 2028 Summer Olympics hosted by Los Angeles (with the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as San Diego, hosting some out-of-town matches). Also of note is that the Cup will be held during the US' celebration of 250 years of independence.
  • 2030 — Morocco, Portugal, and Spain; with opening matches taking place in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay
    Cities (Morocco): Agadir / Casablanca / Fes / Marrakech / Rabat / Tangier
    Cities (Portugal): Lisbon [Estádio da Luz / Estádio José Alvalade] / Porto
    Cities (Spain): To be selected from A Coruña / Barcelona [Camp Nou / Estadi RCDE] / Bilbao / Gijón / Las Palmas / Madrid [Santiago Bernabéu (final) / Metropolitano] / Málaga / Murcia / San Sebastián / Sevilla / Valencia / Vigo / Zaragoza
    City (Argentina): To be determined, but likely Buenos Aires
    City (Paraguay): To be determined, but likely Asunción
    City (Uruguay): Montevideo
    Teams: 48
    Marking the 100th anniversary of the World Cup, this will be the second consecutive edition to have multiple hosts, and the first to encompass three continents. In 2023, FIFA announced that the Morocco–Portugal–Spain bid, one of two bids remaining after a couple of others dropped out, would be the primary host for 2030. The other remaining bid, a joint bid from Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, got the consolation prize of the three opening matches, one each in all of the countries except Chile, largely out of the first World Cup being held in Uruguay.note  While the two Iberian countries and Morocco are the official hosts, FIFA has announced that all six hosts will get automatic entries.

    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)
    Fair Play Award winner: Germany
    The inaugural women's tournament, featuring twelve teams in three groups. FIFA was reluctant to use the "World Cup" for this tournament, instead officially calling it the "1st FIFA World Championship for Women's Football for the M&M's Cup". (Some time between the 1995 and 1999 editions, FIFA retconned it as the first Women's World Cup.) Additionally, all matches were played with 40-minute halves instead of the standard 45. The USA won the inaugural final 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)
    Fair Play Award winner: Sweden
    The first FIFA Women's World Cup hosted in Europe and the first in which matches were the standard 90 minutes. However, it was still officially branded as the "FIFA World Championship for Women's Football".
  • 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 goalsnote 
    Best player: Sun Wen (China)
    Fair Play Award winner: China
    The first Women's World Cup to be officially branded as such. 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), was the most attended game in the history of women's sports (not just football) with over 90,000 live spectators, a record that lasted for more than 20 years.note  This edition also saw the final tournament expand to 16 teams, at which it remained through 2011. It was also the first in which the current design of the women's trophy was used.
  • 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)
    Fair Play Award winner: China
    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)
    Fair Play Award winner: Norway
    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 (at the time 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. So far, this edition is also the only World Cup for either sex where no teams made a debut and all teams participating had participated in at least one previously held tournament. It's also the only Women's World Cup, and the last World Cup for either sex, in which no knockout matches went into extra time.
  • 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)
    Fair Play Award winner: Japan
    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)
    Fair Play Award winner: France
    The first women's tournament to feature 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 played 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 a hideously unfortunate defeat to Japan, losing 1-2 thanks to an own goal, before redeeming themselves by beating 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. Lloyd became the first, and to date only, player with a hat-trick in normal time of a World Cup final.note 
  • 2019 — France
    Cities: Décines [Lyon] (final) / Grenoble / Le Havre / Montpellier / Nice / Paris / Reims / Rennes / Valenciennes
    Teams: 24 — Chile, Jamaica, Scotland, and South Africa debut; Argentina and Italy return; Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Mexico, and Switzerland exit
    Final Four: USA / Netherlands / Sweden / England
    Top scorers: Megan Rapinoe (USA),note  Alex Morgan (USA), and Ellen White (England)note  - 6 goals
    Best player: Megan Rapinoe (USA)
    Best young player: Giulia Gwinn (Germany)
    Best goalkeeper: Sari van Veenendaal (Netherlands)
    Fair Play Award winner: France
    France hosted the last edition of the decade. The tournament had to deal with a couple of controversies even before the opening match. Despite FIFA's claims to be working to promote the women's game, the scheduling of the final sent a decidedly mixed message. You would think that the biggest match in the women's game should be the biggest event in world football on that day, right? Nope. The finals of not one, but two men's continental championships were on the same day as the final—the Copa América in Rio de Janeiro, and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in Chicago. The next brouhaha arose when the first tickets were printed in May 2019. Countless fans who bought multiple tickets for a given game found that they weren't adjacent, and in some cases were in different sections of the stadium. This included married couples and families with young children. While FIFA allowed purchase of multiple tickets, it made no provision for allowing them to purchase adjacent tickets. As for the tournament itself, the opening group matches saw several major milestones. Brazil's Formiga became the first player of either sex to appear in seven World Cups; her teammate Marta took sole possession of the record for most career World Cup goals by a player of either sex (17); and the USWNT broke Germany's record from 2007 for most lopsided win, destroying Thailand 13–0. The tournament as a whole was most notable as the coming-out party for European women's football, with seven of the eight quarterfinalists being UEFA members... though in the end it was the usual suspects of the USWNT successfully defending their title in dominating fashion, never trailing during the tournament. The event was also marked by officiating controversies. FIFA chose to unveil several significant rules changes at the World Cup, most notably regarding the positioning of keepers during penalty kicks, and announced some of those changes literally days before the event began. On top of this, it mandated the use of video review of keepers' positions, with more than one penalty being ordered retaken after review. And according to these stories, FIFA and the local organizers dropped the ball on promoting the event, especially in Paris. In fact, the last match to be held in Paris was a quarterfinal.
  • 2023 — Australia and New Zealand
    Cities (Australia): Adelaide (Tarntanya), South Australia / Brisbane (Meaanjin), Queensland / Melbourne (Naarm), Victoria / Perth (Boorloo), Western Australia / Sydney (Wangal, Gadigal), New South Wales (Stadium Australia [final] / Sydney Football Stadium) note 
    Cities (New Zealand): Auckland (Tāmaki Makaurau) / Dunedin (Ōtepoti), Otago Region / Hamilton (Kirikiriroa), Waikato Region / Wellington (Te Whanganui-a-Tara)
    Teams: 32 – Haiti, Morocco, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Vietnam, and Zambia debut; Colombia, Costa Rica, and Denmark returnnote 
    Final Four: Spain / England / Sweden / Australia
    Top scorer: Hirata Miyazawa (Japan)
    Best player: Aitana Bonmati (Spain)
    Best young player: Salma Paralluelo (Spain)
    Best goalkeeper: Mary Earps (England)
    Fair Play Award winner: Japan
    The most recent women's edition, the first with co-hosts, saw the final tournament expand to 32 teams. It was also the first Women's World Cup to be hosted in the southern hemisphere, the first FIFA senior (i.e., not age-restricted) tournament in Oceania and the first FIFA tournament of any type hosted across multiple confederations (Australia: AFC, New Zealand: OFC). The consistent usage of dual names (as a sign of respect to Indigenous Australians and Māori) in all signage, broadcasts, stadiums and online material for each host city is a World Cup first, while dedicated base camps for all participating teams (long a norm for the men's competition) were provided for the first time in Women's World Cup history. The opening stages saw a few shockers, with co-host New Zealand stunning Norway in the opener, in turn to be shocked by the debuting Philippines in their next game; Colombia upsetting Germany; and another first-timer, Morocco, winning a game and eventually reaching the round of 16. However, NZ also became the first Women's World Cup host nation (and third ever host nation overall) to exit in the group stages. This nearly befell Australia as well after their shocking loss to Nigeria - only to be averted after Australia thrashed Canada during their final group stage match, making Canada the first ever reigning Olympic champions to be eliminated in the group stage. Brazil and Germany also went out in the group stage (the latter for the first time ever), and if a stoppage-time shot by Portugal hadn't hit the post, the USWNT would have also gone out in the group stage for the first time. That proved a harbinger for the USWNT's earliest-ever exit from a major tournament, going out on penalties to Sweden in the round of 16 and leading to savage criticism from 2015 hero-turned-commentator Carli Lloyd (among many others). The emergence of European sides was further cemented, with three of the four semifinalists coming from that continent. It ended with Spain becoming the second nation to claim men's and women's titles. The real controversy came after Spain's win—during the trophy presentation, the president of the national federation kissed one of the winning players on the lips, with the player stating it wasn't consensual. Within three weeks, the president resigned—but not until FIFA suspended him for 90 days and launched an inquiry (later issuing him a three-year ban); the entire Spain women's coaching staff apart from the head coach resigned; the head coach was fired; the federation called for the president's resignation; and more than 80 Spanish women's players, including every member of the Cup-winning squad, announced they wouldn't play for the national team again until the president left office.

There have been a fair dozen Licensed Games for the Cup (most of them, since 1998, being spin-offs of EA's FIFA series), and one licensed pinball table: World Cup Soccer.

Alternative Title(s): FIFA World Cup