Paolo Rossi was the hero in Spain, his six goals propelling Italy to a third world crown. The Azzurri ran out 3-1 Final winners against a German team who had survived the competition’s first penalty shoot-out in a dramatic semi-final against France. If Italy won gold, Brazil took a share of the glory for some scintillating football before succumbing to Rossi’s hat-trick in the best game of this first 24-team finals.
Argentina 1976: Argentina are crowned at last
Hosts Argentina captured their first world title as the Netherlands suffered Final heartache for the second tournament running. Mario Kempes sealed Cesar Luis Menotti’s side’s triumph, scoring twice against the Dutch in the confetti-strewn cauldron of the Estadio Monumental to earn himself additional acclaim as top scorer. Brazil, denied a Final place by Argentina’s 6-0 win over Peru, took third place from an enterprising Italy side.
West Germany 1974:
Germany take prize
West Germany were champions on home soil – and as in 1954 their victory came at the expense of a team widely considered the world’s finest. Johan Cruyff’s Netherlands were favourites before the Final but the hosts, beaten earlier in their competition by their East German neighbours, recovered from a first-minute Dutch goal to win. It was also a memorable tournament for Poland whom Gregorz Lato fired to third place.
Sweden 1958: Brazil are champions at last
Brazil’s love affair with the FIFA World Cup began in earnest as they won the world title for the first time. A 17-year-old Pele introduced his prodigious skills to the world in Sweden, epitomising the Brazilians’ attacking flair and scoring six goals – two of them in the Final against the hosts. Third-placed France caught the eye too with Just Fontaine striking a record 13 goals.
Mexico 1986: Maradona shines
The World Cup returned to Mexico for a tournament marked by the mastery of Diego Maradona. Argentina overcame West Germany in an exciting Final but the defining match was a quarter-final against England featuring two of history’s most famous goals: the ‘Hand of God’ followed by the dribble of a genius.
USA 1994: Brazil, shoot-out kings
The United States staged a hugely successful World Cup that ended with Brazil celebrating their first world title since 1970. Forwards Romario and Bebeto were the Brazilians’ star performers while Roberto Baggio shone equally brightly for Italy despite his penalty miss that concluded the first ever Final shoot-out.
Korea/Japan 2002: Five-star Brazil
Brazil became champions for the fifth time as top scorer Ronaldo exorcised the ghosts of 1998, scoring both goals in the Final against Germany. This was Asia’s first FIFA World Cup and both host nations made history by reaching the knockout rounds.
South Africa 2010: First for Spain
South Africa put on a show. It was decorated by an octopus, exhilarating individuals, wonder goals, 11th-hour drama, the unlikeliest of undefeatables and an inimitable style sweeping Spain to glory. Andres Iniesta’s 116th-minute winner against the Netherlands put La Roja into the record books as the eighth country to capture football’s most prized crown.
Switzerland 1954: Germans achieve a miracle
West Germany were surprise winners of the 1954 FIFA World Cup, coming from two goals down to defeat Hungary in a Final forever remembered as the ‘Miracle of Berne’. Hungary were unbeaten in 31 matches and scored 25 goals en route to the Final – eight of them against the Germans in the first round. Yet it was Fritz Walter, not Ferenc Puskas who picked up the Jules Rimet Cup.
Italy 1990: West Germany triumph
When Lothar Matthaus lifted the Cup for Germany, it was an undoubted triumph for Franz Beckenbauer, who became only the second winner as both player and coach. If low on goals, Italy 1990 was certainly high on drama – from the feats of Italy’s top scorer Toto Schillaci via the tears of England’s Paul Gascoigne.
France 1998: French glory
The home of tournament founder Jules Rimet, France enjoyed an unforgettable summer as its footballers finally tasted FIFA World Cup glory, Zinedine Zidane leading Les Bleus to victory over Brazil in the Final. France 98 was the first finals with an enlarged cast of 32 teams.
Germany 2006: four for Italy
Italy won their fourth world crown in Germany, beating France on penalties in Berlin. If Zinedine Zidane’s red card was the Final’s defining image, Italy’s triumph would be remembered as a team effort with ten different Azzurri players finding the net.
It was also a special month for Germany, the goals of Miroslav Klose helping secure third place in a tournament memorable for the festival mood across the host country.
Brazil 2014: Germany triumph
Brazil 2014 proved extraordinary in all sorts of ways, with packed stadiums and passionate crowds treated to thrills, upsets and a record number of goals. It also witnessed Germany reclaim in style a Trophy they had won three times before and, in the process, become the first European team to triumph in the Americas.
Brazil 1950: Uruguay break Brazil heart
Brazil’s determination to put on a show meant they built the world’s biggest football stadium, the Maracana, for the 1950 FIFA World Cup. Yet their dream of becoming the world’s best died in that huge bowl, Uruguay capturing their second crown by beating the hosts in front of some 200,000 stunned spectators. It was not the only shock of a tournament where debutants England were humbled by the United States.
Azzurri retain crown
Italy trainer Vittorio Pozzo made history by capturing a second successive title with a rebuilt team. With Silvio Piola’s goals and Giuseppe Meazza’s leadership, Italy beat Hungary in the Final having overcome in the semi-final a Brazil side missing top scorer Leonidas. Three of his strikes came in a 6-5 victory over Poland – the best match of a tournament notable for political tensions and the absence of some leading teams.
Italy delighted their passionate home support by coming from behind to beat Czechoslovakia in the first FIFA World Cup Final played on European soil. Angelo Schiavio scored the winning goal for the Azzurri, who had overcome the highly-rated Austrian Wunderteam in the semi-finals. It was a tournament missing holders Uruguay, whose refusal to take part made them the first and only champions not to defend their crown.
The inaugural champions
FIFA President Jules Rimet’s dream was realised as Uruguay hosted the inaugural FIFA World Cup in its centenary year. Only four European teams made the long sea journey and the Final was an all-South American affair, with Uruguay beating neighbours Argentina just as they had done in the 1928 Olympic final. Trailing at half-time, the hosts triumphed 4-2 in the newly built Estadio Centenario to become football’s first world champions.
Mexico 1970: Three for Brazil, Pele
For the first time the FIFA World Cup was broadcast in colour and nothing could match the brilliance of Brazil’s yellow shirts. With Pele rejuvenated and Jairzinho scoring in every game, Mario Zagallo’s men were unstoppable – they beat Italy handsomely in the Final and, with this third triumph, retained the Jules Rimet Cup. If Brazil’s tournament, others brought plenty to the party – not least ten-goal German marksman Gerd Muller.
England 1966: Hurst the hero for England
The country that invented football, England, finally found a formula for success on the world stage. Alf Ramsey’s ‘Wingless wonders’ overcame Final opponents West Germany thanks to Geoff Hurst’s historic hat-trick, though the debate over whether his middle strike crossed the line continues to this day. Eusebio was another scoring hero, his nine goals – four of them against Italy’s surprise conquerors, Korea DPR – taking Portugal to third place.
Chile 1962: Brazil retain crown
Brazil were worthy winners, beating Czechoslovakia in the Final to retain their crown in a tournament that showcased the sublime skills of Garrincha. With Pele injured, Garrincha ensured his colleague’s absence was not felt, inspiring the Seleção to victory and finishing joint-top scorer in the process. This FIFA World Cup featured plenty else, including new 4-3-3 tactics and the infamous ‘Battle of Santiago’ between hosts Chile and Italy.