World Cup history: Winners, host nations, legendary players & more

Discover all there is to know about the history of the World Cup with our comprehensive look into its past, and the best teams and players in the competition ahead of Qatar 2022

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 27th Oct 2022


With the Qatar world cup just around the corner, and that first kick of that ball on every football fan's mind, we wanted to delve into the history of the competition, its biggest achievers, and some of the most legendary players.

From Pele’s brace in the final at 17 years old to Maradona's hand of god, Uruguay hosting too first world cup to Mexicos co-hosting in 2026 making history. If you’ve ever wanted to delve into the history of the biggest sports competition in the world, you’re in the right place, so get scrolling and learn all about it before the Qatars 2022 edition of the competition gets into full swing. 



Where did it all begin?

The world cup as we know it today feels like it's an international event that has just always been there, and that's because… it kind of has. The first world cup was held in 1930, in Uraguay, after FIFA decided they needed to stage their own international tournament, following years of the only international football event being at the Olympic Games. 

Yet, due to the travel across the Atlantic Ocean for European sides being lengthy and expensive, no European teams were scheduled to go up until two months before. Some were eventually persuaded and, in total, 13 nations took part - seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America - with host nation Uraguay ending up victorious. 

However, with World War Two on the horizon, only two more World Cups managed to go ahead before Europe broke into conflict and the international tournament stopped indefinitely until the war was over. 

Following the war's end, the competition grew and grew with more teams from around the globe getting involved until it transformed into what we know it to be today. 


Who has won the most World Cups?

Heading into Qatar 2022, Brazil has won the most world cups, with their tally at five. However, Germany and Italy are both closing the gap, with both having won the competition on four occasions. Find out more about these famous wins in the list below.

Brazil (5 titles) 

1958: At just 17, Pele scored a brace in the final against Sweden to secure Brazil's first World Cup triumph.

1962: Brazil beat Czechoslovakia to make it two consecutive World Cup wins for the South Americans, with Amarildo, Zito and Vava all on the scoresheet.

1970: Who else but Pele to score in another final and lead Brazil to their third World Cup trophy during his career, as they beat Italy 4-1.

1994: It would be a long time before they won again, but after a goalless draw, Brazil beat Italy on penalties in the final, with Baggio missing the decisive spot-kick. 

2002: Their most recent victory, and one where Ronaldo shone with his iconically awful trim, scoring twice as Brazil got the better of Germany in Japan.

Germany (4 titles)

1954: Now known as the ‘Miracle of Bern,’ coming back from 2-0 down, Helmut Rahn got the winner for West Germany to beat Hungary 3-2 in the final in Switzerland.

1974: Gerd Muller was the hero as hosts West Germany beat Cruyff’s total footballing Dutch side 2-1 in the final.

1990: After finishing runners-up in the two previous tournaments, a penalty from Andy Brehme saw West Germany beat Argentina 1-0.

2014: The first time the Bavarians won as a unified footballing outfit, with Mario Gotze bagging the winner in the 113th minute against Argentina.

Italy (4 titles)

1934: The second-ever World Cup, which saw Angelo Schiavio's goal for the Italian hosts beat Czechoslovakia after extra time.

1938: The Italians retained their title, and for the first time the host nation didn’t win the competition, with Colaussi and Piolo both hitting braces to beat Hungary 4-2 in France.

1982: It would be nearly 50 years until Italy next won the competition, where they beat West Germany 3-1 in the final as Paolo Rossi, Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli scored.

2006: Italy won on penalties, with Fabio Grosso the hero as Zinedine Zidane was sent off for France due to his i.


Who has hosted the most World Cups?

As previously mentioned, the first FIFA World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930, and the most recent World Cup was held in Russia in 2018, with this year's competition being held in Qatar. 

In terms of who has held the most world cups, the maximum number of times one country has held it has been twice, with five countries all holding this title. Italy held it in 1934 and 1990; France in 1938 and 1998; Brazil in 1950 and 2014, Mexico in 1970 and 1986; Germany in 1974 and 2006.

However, this record is set to change as Mexico will become the first country to host 3 World Cups in 2026 when they co-host the World Cup alongside USA and Canada.


Who are the most legendary players on the World Cup stage?

Miroslav Klose 

The perennial GOAT of the World Cup, Miroslav Klose is the all-time top scorer in the competition with 16 goals, and for his national team, with 71 goals in 137 games. Plus he is the only player in tournament history to appear in four consecutive semi-finals. Although pretty much every goal came from inside the box, you’ve got to be there as they say, and he always was. 

Franz Beckenbauer 

Der Kaiser didn't get his nickname without reason, the revolutionary German centre-half never finished lower than third in the three World Cups he played in. Being integral to beating Cruyff’s Dutch total football side in 1974. Plus, he is also the only person to win the trophy as both a player and a manager, very impressive. 


The inclusion of this footballing icon will be a surprise to absolutely no one, but it's truly the World Cup where the legend of Pele truly took form. From being the youngest player at 17 in the 1958 competition, scoring a brace in the final. All the way to the 1970 edition, where he scored 4 and assisted six, earning player of the competition and cementing his status as one of football's greatest ever. 

Diego Maradonna

If not for Pele, then Maradonna would undoubtedly be known as the greatest of all time, especially following the infamous Hand of God goal. However, whilst the Brazilian may have more trophies, he never singlehandedly dragged his side to a trophy like Diego did in 1986. His speedy dribbling and playful trickery were a sight to behold, and the little Argentine has gone down in footballing folklore as one of its greatest entertainers as a result.

Roger Milla

An infamous Cameroonian World Cup icon, with a number of unique accolades to his name, Roger Milla is the definition of a cult hero. Despite, never winning the competition, in the 1990 World Cup, he did help his side advance further than any other African team before them with four goals. He then returned in 1994 to become the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history at the age of 42, seriously impressive, and always worth a mention. 




Qatar is just around the corner, Skiddle has a wide range of fan park events to watch England's opening games again America, Iran, and Wales which you can find by clicking or tapping the links below:

England vs USA Fans parks - HERE

England vs Wales Fans parks - HERE

England vs Iran Fans parks - HERE


Or, if you want to find more events around the world cup, you can find more information by clicking or tapping - HERE




Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.








Header image credit: FIFA World Cup on Facebook