World Cup - Tournament history
As stated before, The inaugural World Cup edition featured 13 teams split into four groups; group 1 had four teams while groups 2, 3 and 4 had three teams each. The group leaders constituted the semifinals. The First World Cup saw Uruguay winning the competition after topping their group that consisted of Romania and Peru. The 1930 edition didn't have qualifiers, something that came into existence for the following edition.
Unlike the 1930 World Cup, the 1934 World Cup was a knockout tournament from the onset. Italy lifted the Cup on home territory after beating Czechoslovakia and conceded just twice in the whole tournament. The 1938 World Cup too followed the same format as the Italians defended their crown, defeating hosts France in the second round.
Owing to the Second World War and a dearth of resources at FIFA, the following two editions, supposed to be held in 1942 and 1946, were cancelled. The quadrennial event returned in 1950 with Brazil hosting the tournament. In the 1950 FIFA World Cup, the teams were split into two groups of four, one group of three and one group of two; India, who were supposed to participate, pulled out owing to travelling issues. The final game was an all South American affair with the hosts Brazil facing Uruguay. Despite taking the lead, the hosts were stunned by Uruguay.
You think of the 1954 World Cup and the first thing that comes to your mind is the Hungarian side. However, the Mighty Magyars fell to the West German side in what was another upset. The game is often remembered as the Miracle of Bern. The West Germany side won the league despite not having a professional league. 16 teams were split into groups of four groups and the top two sides made the quarterfinals.
The 1958 World Cup was held in Sweden and it was the first time Brazil lifted the Cup. The side had the likes of Vava, a young Pele, Didi, Nilton Santos and future World Cup-winning coach Mario Zagallo. Though Brazil lifted the Cup, French forward Just Fontaine set the record for scoring the most number of goals in a single tournament - 13.
The 1962 World Cup had an air of sombre and melancholy about it because of the Great Chilean Earthquake a couple of years before the event was scheduled to begin. The tournament itself wasn't the most memorable one as there was a lot of bad blood on the pitch. Brazil had quite a lot of talented players -- Garrincha, Amarildo Pele et al -- and lifted their second successive World Cup title after beating Czechoslovakia in the final.
The 1966 World Cup was held on the English shores and the three lions managed to win it in front of their own fans. Though Hungary and Portugal had good sides, Brazil not making it out of their group sure was an upset. They lost to both the sides despite winning the opening group 3 game against Bulgaria.
The other upset of the tournament was Italy's shock loss to North Korea. Despite boasting the likes of Facchetti and Rivera, the Koreans' tenacity was too much for the complacent Azzurri.
The final was quite a humdinger as West Germany equalised late to make the score 2-2 and take the game into extra time. However, Geoff Hurst's ghost goal gave England the lead and he scored his hat-trick and the side's fourth in the last minute of the game to break the West German hearts. It happens to be England's last and only World Cup.
After a disappointing performance in the '66 edition, the Brazilians returned and how in the 1970 World Cup. The star-studded team wowed the whole footballing World with their approach and won the tournament. The West Germans put in another good performance and made the semifinals but once again had to go through a painful extra time experience when they were beaten by the Italians.
The two sides who flattered to deceive in the previous edition -- Italy and Brazil -- played the final in Mexico City that turned out to be a one-sided contest in favour of the Samba stars.
Though it was the West Germans who won the 1974 World Cup, the competition will always be remembered for the Netherlands team who redefined football. Total Voetball is what they called it as the likes of Ruud Krol, Johan Cruyff, Johan Neskeens and Johnny Rep earned plaudits for their free-flowing and pressing approach. Sadly, though, the team were undone in the final as West Germany came from a goal behind to beat them 2-1 and lift the title at home territory.
The 1978 World Cup again saw the Netherlands make the final but lose to hosts Argentina. The World Cup was held in controversial circumstances considering the Military Junta, under Jorge Videla, murdered thousands who spoke up. Argentina finished behind Italy in their group but topped the second round. The Netherlands, still pretty formidable without Johan Cruyff, took the final to extra time but fell to a Mario Kempes and then a Daniel Bertoni strike in extra time.
The 1982 World Cup saw in Spain saw Italy lift the Cup for the third time. West Germany did well to reach the final, but Italy had quite a lot of talented players in Dino Zoff, Claudio Gentile, Marco Tardelli and Paolo Rossi.
The 1986 World Cup was again held in Mexico, and Argentina, with Diego Maradona leading the line in their team, lifted their second title. Maradona scored his iconic solo goal against England in the semifinals, though he also managed an equally infamous goal scored with his hand, popularly known as the hand of God.
The 1990 World Cup provided the West Germans with the chance to right the wrongs of the previous edition as they once again took on Argentina in the final. This time, though, they put in a sturdy performance and beat the Argentinians through a goal from Andreas Brehme.
England failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. Brazil and Italy were among the favourites and the two sides faced off in the final. The third-place match was between Sweden and Bulgaria as they surprised quite a few. This was the first tournament after the German unification but the Germans were surprised by Bulgaria in the quarterfinals. The final finished scoreless but Roberto Baggio's penalty miss meant the Brazlians lifted their fourth World Cup title.
Brazil were a dominant force in the '90s and they once again reached the 1998 World Cup final. However, France, who had underachieved in the '80s, had Zinedine Zidane in their ranks. They beat the men in yellow at home territory to lift their first World Cup. Special mention should go to Croatia who beat the Netherlands to finish in third place.
Asia held its first World Cup four years later. Though there were allegations of match fixing, Brazil were simply unstoppable in the 2002 World Cup as they were powered by Ronaldo de Lima and lifted their fifth title by beating Germany in the final.
Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup but faced an exit in the semifinal at the hands of Italy. The Italians then relied on penalties to beat a French team who played with 10 men after Zidane's sending off. It was his last game and an acrimonious end to what was a stellar career.
The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa and Spain, with there passing and possession brand of play, beat the Netherlands who for the third time, finished as runners-up. It was the first time a World Cup was held in Africa.
The 2014 World Cup was held in Brazil and the Germans prevailed after beating the hosts in the semifinal. It took an extra time Mario Goetze goal to settle the tie against Argentina.