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FIFA World Cup – A History 1962 to 2002

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1962 Hosts for the 1962 edition were Chile despite recently having suffered a devastating earthquake. Brazil were favorites to retain the trophy but Chile thought they had a world-beating plan of action. Before they played Italy they ate spaghetti and won. Before they played Switzerland they ate Swiss cheese and won. Before they played Russia they drank vodka and won (must have been an interesting game). So when they came up against Brazil in the semi finals, what did they do? Did they eat Brazil nuts? No, they drank coffee and promptly lost 4-2. Brazil once again claimed the trophy by beating Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final.

Statistics Host Country: Chile

Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, England, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay, USSR, West Germany, Yugoslavia

Final: Brazil 3, Czechoslovakia 1

Top goal scorer: Drazen Jerkovic, Yugoslavia (5)

1966 In 1966 the World Cup came back to where the modern game of football began in 1863, England and the trophy was destined to stay there for four years. It might have stayed there permanently because when it was put on show at the Westminster Central Hall in London four months before the tournament was to start it was stolen. Seven days of acute embarrassment ensued while authorities tried to find the missing cup without any result. Eventually a black and white dog called “Pickles” found it underneath a hedge wrapped in newspaper whilst doing what dogs do under hedges. Pickles shot to stardom and the English Football Association had a replica of the trophy made – “just in case”. The replica can still be seen at the English National Football Museum.

The 1966 World Cup was memorable for several reasons. It was the first World Cup to have a mascot – “World Cup Willie”, a lion dressed in the English strip. It was a World Cup marred by vicious tactics on the field and by poor refereeing that saw Brazil literally kicked off the pitch in the first round. The final against West Germany was also memorable due to one of the most controversial goals in Cup history. In extra time Geoff Hurst of England launched a shot that hit the underside of the goal crossbar and bounced down. The referee ruled that it had landed behind the goal-line and was therefore a goal. The West Germans protested that it did not go behind the line but the linesman upheld the referee and the goal stood. Hurst put the matter beyond doubt in the last minute by scoring.

Statistics Host Country: England

Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, North Korea, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay, USSR, West Germany

Final: England 4, West Germany 2 (after extra time)

Top goal scorer: Eusebio, Portugal (9)

1970 Mexico 1970 was Brazil’s and Pele’s World Cup. After 1966 when Brazil were knocked out in the first round, Pele had vowed never to play in the World Cup again. Fortunately he was persuaded to make a final appearance in 1970. Hopes were high in England for a repeat of the 1966 success but matters were not helped when the England captain was jailed for four days on manufactured charges of stealing a bracelet in Guadalajara a couple of weeks before the opening game. Those, the humid playing conditions and Gerd Muller in devastating form, were enough to see West Germany take their revenge in the quarter final for the defeat in the previous competition’s final. But Brazil seemed unstoppable thanks to their magnificent attackers but their defense was questionable. Could the Italian front line turn this to their advantage? At half time it seemed that they could with the score line at 1-1 and the Brazilians obviously demoralized. But after half time Pele took charge laying on passes that led to two Brazilian goals and finding the net himself. Brazil had won the World Cup for the third time and therefore was allowed to keep the Jules Rimet Trophy permanently. Some year later it was stolen and never recovered. It is presumed it was melted down.

Statistics Host Country: Mexico

Countries: Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, El Salvador, England, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Romania, Sweden, Uruguay, USSR, West Germany

Final: Brazil 4, Italy 1 (after extra time)

Top goal scorer: Gerd Muller, West Germany (10)

1974 In 1974, West Germany played hosts for the competition for the new trophy, the FIFA World Cup. West Germany had a tremendously strong side but then so did Holland with its brand of “total football” and Poland. Holland beat Brazil 2-0 to face West Germany in the final in Berlin but the German ultra efficient football machine held out against the inspirational Dutch to grab a late winner.

Statistics Host Country: West Germany

Countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, East Germany, Haiti, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Scotland, Sweden, Uruguay, West Germany, Yugoslavia, Zaire

Final: West Germany 2, Netherlands 1

Top goal scorer: Grzegorz Lato, Poland (7)

1978 1978 saw the FIFA World Cup being held in Argentina and it was one of the most controversial with very strange refereeing and organizational decisions seeming to favour the home country. In a second-round match Argentina needed to score at least four goals against Peru. It scored six and Peru were heavily criticized for giving the game away. In the final Argentina seemed to have an extra man in referee Sergio Gonella. His decisions were so blatantly pro Argentina that there were calls (particularly by the Dutch) for the match to be re-played in a neutral country – calls that fell on deaf ears.

Statistics Host Country: Argentina

Countries: Austria, Argentina, Brazil, France, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, West Germany

Final: Argentina 3, Netherlands 1 (after extra time)

Top goal scorer: Mario Kempes, Argentina (6)

1982 An expanded World Cup was launched in 1982 in Spain. Eight more teams participated bringing the total to 24. The idea was to allow the lesser footballing countries to enter the tournament. The idea was vindicated by impressive displays by Algeria and Cameroon. Italy proved to be unstoppable that year and defeated the strong West German side 3-1 in the final even after Antonio Cabrini of Italy became the first player to miss a penalty in a World Cup final.

Statistics Host Country: Spain

Countries: Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Czechoslovakia, El Salvador, England, France, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Peru, Poland, Scotland, Spain, USSR, West Germany, Yugoslavia

Final: Italy 3, West Germany 1

Top goal scorer: Paolo Rossi, Italy (6)

1986 Colombia had been chosen to host the 1986 World Cup but was unable to due to economic considerations so the venue was switched to Mexico despite strong efforts by Holland and the United States to have the competition on home soil. Brazil, the favorites were knocked out in the quarter finals by France on penalties. Another quarter final saw Argentina’s Diego Maradona famous “hand of God” goal against England. Several billion TV viewers saw him use his hand to punch the ball into the back of the English goal but the referee did not. It was a blatant cheat that still rankles with English fans today as it saw their team go home. In the final against West Germany he showed that he didn’t need to cheat to win as he brilliantly led his country to a hard fought win by 3 goals to 2.

Statistics Host Country: Mexico

Countries: Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Northern Ireland, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, Uruguay, USSR, West Germany

Final: Argentina 3, Germany 2

Top goal scorer: Gary Lineker, England (6)

1990 The 14th World Cup was without doubt the most boring so far. Every team was so scared of losing that games became low-scoring brutal chess matches. Both semi finals went into extra time and then went on to be decided by penalty kicks. The final contested by West Germany appearing in its last World cup before unification and Argentina. In a dour and dirty struggle with two sendings off. West Germany won 1-0 by way of a penalty.

Statistics Host Country: Italy

Countries: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, England, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, United States, USSR, West Germany, Yugoslavia

Final: West Germany 1, Argentina 0

Top goal scorer: Salvatore “Toto” Schillaci, Italy (6)

1994 FIFA saw the United States as an untapped market as far as football (or soccer as the Americans call it) was concerned and so decided to award the 1994 tournament to them. Italy were on song with their play-maker Roberto Baggio playing some sublime football. Argentina were hopeful that a newly re-called Maradona could steer them to success but the hope evaporated when he proved positive for a banned substance and was sent home in disgrace. The U.S. on home ground had a better than expected tournament finally going out to Brazil. Earlier they had beaten Colombia thanks to an own goal by Colombian Andres Escobar who was shot dead when he arrived back home. The final between Brazil and Italy was an absorbing game of Brazil’s irresistible attacking force meeting Italy’s immovable defensive force. Predictably the match ended 0-0 after extra time so it went to the penalties and sudden death. Roberto Baggio of Italy sent his kick high over the cross-bar and Brazil were the winners.

Statistics Host Country: United States

Countries: Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Germany, Greece, South Korea, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, USA, Sweden, Switzerland

Final: Brazil 1, Italy 0 (3-2 on penalty kicks)

Top goal scorer (Joint): Oleg Salenko, Russia and Hristo Stoitchkov, Bulgaria (6) 1998 France, played host to an expanded World Cup with the number of participants brought up to 32. Nobody thought that France had a chance of winning and everyone was very surprised when the made it to the final. Amazement took the place of surprise when the managed to destroy Brazil 3-0 in the final. To this day nobody who isn’t French can explain how they did it. Serious hooliganism reared its ugly head during the early stages of the tournament when English fans rampaged through Marseille and German fans attacked a police officer with an iron bar and left him permanently brain damaged.


Host Country: France

Countries: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Paraguay, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia, United States, Yugoslavia

Final: France 3, Brazil 0

Top goal scorer: Davor Suker, Croatia (6)

2002 For the first time the World Cup had co-hosts in Japan and South Korea. It was also the first to be held on the continent of Asia. Fears of major rioting due to hooligans proved unfounded due to the superb preparations by the co-hosts and the whole tournament had a party atmosphere. It was also a tournament of upsets. In 1998 the United States had finished last but in 2002 they sailed into the quarter finals before being knocked out by Germany. France, the holders were eliminated in the first round without scoring a single goal and Italy left the tournament early after some poor refereeing. In the end it was Brazil and Germany who contested the final with Brazil winning by two goals.


Host Countries: Japan, South Korea

Countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, United States, Uruguay

Final: Brazil 2, Germany 0

Top goal scorer: Ronaldo, Brazil (8)

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Football

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  • Posted On January 14, 2007
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