FIFA World Cup History – Winners, Hosts, Stats

By  //  November 30, 2022

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The FIFA World Cup first took place in 1930, and has been held every four years with the exception of 1942 and 1946. Over that time it’s developed into the biggest sporting tournament in the world, and as we head into the 22nd edition of the event it now has a long and storied history.

Here is everything you need to know about the history of the FIFA World Cup, from the winners to the past hosts and all the most notable stats.

FIFA World Cup Winners

In 21 editions of the FIFA World Cup, eight teams have won it in total. Of those, Brazil, Germany and Spain are comfortably the most successful; the latter two have won it on four occasions, while Brazil is the only team to have won five – and World Cup betting odds suggest they are a great chance of making it six this year.

Sitting behind them with two World Cup wins are both Argentina and France (who are the reigning champions), while each of England and Spain have won it on one occasion.

There’s a strong geographical theme in common with all of these teams; every single one of them comes from either Europe or South America. And no one else has really gone close to upsetting the apple cart.

The United States came in third place way back in 1930, while South Korea is the only recent team not from one of those two powerhouse continents to go close to winning, making it to the semi-finals in 2002.

That aside, every team in the semi-finals in history has been from Europe or South America, and that doesn’t appear likely to change this year. 

FIFA World Cup Hosts

Over the course of its 22 editions, the FIFA World Cup has bounced around to a number of different countries. Overall, it’s been held in 17 different locations, with Brazil, France, Germany, Italy and Mexico the only nations to have held it on multiple occasions; they’ve each hosted it twice.

Europe has been its most common destination, hosting 11 of the 22 editions of the event, though it has spread its wings a little more of late; South Africa became the first African nation to host it in 2010, South Korea and Japan became the first countries to share hosting duties and also the first Asian nations to host in 2002, while this year Qatar will be the first nation in the Middle East to host the event. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly given that it has typically been held in strong footballing nations, the host country has performed relatively well on average at the World Cup.

In 21 attempts, the home team has won six times – including the first two editions of the event – finished runner-up twice, and made it to the semi-finals on five more occasions, meaning that in 13 of the 21 completed World Cups the host nation has made it to the final four.

FIFA World Cup Stats

Take a look at some of the most interesting FIFA World Cup related stats below.

Most Goals (Player)

Over 2,500 goals have been scored in World Cup history, but the most one player has ever managed is just 16. That record belongs to Germany’s Miroslav Klose, who reached that number over four tournaments between 2002 and 2014.

Brazil’s Ronaldo managed 15 in three World Cups, Germany’s Gerd Müller is one back with 14 – which he managed in just two editions of the event – while France’s Just Fontaine is in fourth place with 13 – which, incredibly, he managed in the 1958 World Cup alone.

Unsurprisingly, that’s the most goals a player has ever managed in one edition of the tournament.

Most Goals (Team)

Brazil is the most successful team in World Cup history, so it should come as no surprise that they have scored the most goals at the event too, with 229 in total. Germany sits just behind them with 226, before a huge gap follows to Argentina in third with 137.

Italy and France sit fourth and fifth with 128 and 120 respectively, while no other team had cracked triple figures prior to the 2022 World Cup.

Golden Boot

The Golden Boot – or Golden Shoe, as it was known as from 1982 to 2006 – is awarded to the player who scores the most goals at the World Cup. In 21 editions of the event, no player has ever won it on multiple occasions.

Thomas Müller and Miroslav Klose, both of Germany, have each gone close, winning it once and finishing runner-up another time, but no player has managed two Golden Boots.

Just Fontaine’s aforementioned 13 goals in 1958 is the highest number scored to win the award, while at the very next event in 1964, just four goals were needed to earn a share in an award which was split by six different players. 

Golden Ball

The Golden Ball is the award given to the best player at the event, and like the Golden Boot it’s never been won by the same player on multiple occasions. Ronaldo has gone the closest; he won it in 1998, before finishing second to Germany’s Oliver Kahn in 2002.

Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest names in the history of the sport have won this award, including the likes of Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi and, as mentioned, Ronaldo.

Biggest Win

In their opening game at the 2022 World Cup, Spain demolished Costa Rica to the tune of seven goals, but even that fell a couple short of the biggest margin in World Cup history.

That number sits at nine, which has been achieved on three occasions. The first was in 1954 when Hungary defeated South Korea 9-0, while Yugoslavia defeated Zaire with the same scoreline 20 years later. The last time such a significant defeat occurred was in 1982, when Hungary (again) beat El Salvador 10-1. 

The FIFA World Cup is the most watched sporting event in the world, and having first been played in 1930, its nearly 100 years of history is a major reason for the prestige which surrounds it.

From the winners of the event to the most prolific individual players, the above facts are some of the most notable elements of the World Cups extensive history.