Brazil is entering this year’s World Cup as the host and the tournament’s favourite. Many experts have picked Brazil to win a record sixth World Cup at the event’s 20th edition. The host country has won a World Cup six times in history. Brazil’s usually a favourite anyway, and from the second it was announced that they would be hosting the 2014 World Cup, many immediately pencilled them in to win it again.
How will they fare under the enormous pressure of being expected to be crowned champions in Rio, especially considering there are mixed feelings in the country about hosting this World Cup?
Here are all the hosts in the tournament’s history who raised the FIFA World Cup trophy in front of their home country.
6. Uruguay, 1930
The inaugural FIFA World Cup was a much smaller tournament than it is today, with only 13 teams participating back in 1930. The event was awarded to Uruguay due to the fact they were reigning Olympic champions and they planned to build a new stadium as the event’s main venue. They also offered to cover the travel expenses of all participants.
All countries affiliated with FIFA were welcome to participate, but many European countries opted against making the trip to South America. That left the tournament with host Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, Yugoslavia, France, Belgium and Romania.
Uruguay were favourites entering the tournament and they didn’t disappoint. They were placed in a small three-team group with Peru and Romania. They won a tight contest, 1-0 over Peru and disposed of Romania easily with a 4-0 win.
Uruguay won the group and found themselves in the semifinals against Yugoslavia, the tournament’s final European team.
Yugoslavia went in front early 1-0, but Uruguay stormed back for a 6-1 win, including a hat trick by Pedro Cea.
The final would be an all South American affair, between Uruguay and Argentina. The final would be played in Uruguay’s new stadium (which still stands today) at Estadio Centenario in Montevideo.
Uruguay’s Pablo Dorado opened the scoring, but Argentina quickly answered, with a goal by Carlos Peucelle in the 20th minute. Argentina would go up before halftime, with a goal from the tournament’s leading scorer Guillermo Stábile.
The home country would rally in the second half though. Pedro Cea found the equalizer in the 57th minute. Eleven minutes later, Santos Iriarte would score what proved to be the World Cup winner. Héctor Castro added one late and the Uruguay won the final 4-2.
They defended their recent Olympic win and their home soil. The World Cup was set from then on, capturing the attention of soccer fans around the world. All eligible countries saw that the tournament was prestigious and worth participation.
5. Italy, 1934
The 1934 FIFA World Cup expanded to 16 teams, with more European teams willing to participate. However, this time a qualifying round took place for the 16 of 32 countries to make it. This time, Uruguay protested the event, due to many European countries not making the trip to South America four years earlier.
It was a dark tournament for the world as dictator Benito Mussolini’s goal was to use the tournament to promote fascism.
In this World Cup, there was no group stage. Just 16 teams in a single knockout tournament.
Hosts Italy would play the United States first and dispatched them easily, 7-1 getting a hat trick from Angelo Schiavio.
It took Italy two tries to beat Spain in the quarters. Following a 1-1 draw, a replay took place the next day, with Italy winning 1-0 on an early goal from Giuseppe Meazza. The two matches were extremely rough, with Italy’s Mario Pizziolo breaking his leg and three Spaniards left injured in the second game.
That sent Italy through to the semifinals for a date with Austria. A 19th minute goal from Enrique Guaita was all Italy needed for a trip to the final, where they would meet Czechoslovakia.
It was a dramatic final, with Czechoslovakia scoring in the 71st minute on a goal by Antonín Puč. Italy would rally late, as Raimundo Orsi brought Italy level 10 minutes later.
The game went to extra time, where Angelo Schiavio scored the World Cup winner in the 95th minute.
For the second straight tournament, the grand prize went to the host country and it was the first of four Azzurri World Cups. Italy also showcased what would be known as their trademark for decades, defending, having conceded only three goals in the tournament.
4. England, 1966
England’s first and only World Cup came when they were hosts back in 1966. After the 1940’s went by without a tournament, due to World War II, the 1950s gave the tournament its momentum back, and it was in full swing by the time it got to England in 1966.
The Three Lions were placed in a group with Uruguay, Mexico and France. England came away with two victories and a draw to win the group and advance to the quarterfinals, the tournament having not yet expanded to 32 teams.
The game was full of controversy and would become known as el robo del siglo (the theft of the century). Argentina’s captain Antonio Rattín was sent off, becoming the first player to be sent off in a senior international match at Wembley. Rattín refused to leave the pitch and had to be escorted by several policemen.
On top of that, Geoff Hurst’s goal for England in the 78th minute, with the Argentines disputing that Hurst was offside. It was the game’s only goal as England bested Argentina.
England met Portugal in the semis, where two goals by Bobby Charlton were enough in the 2-1 win, setting England up for a showdown with West Germany.
More controversy came in the final. After Wolfgang Weber equalized late for Germany, the game headed into extra time tied 2-2. Hurst would score his third goal of the game in the 101st minute, in what is now known as the “Wembley Goal”.
It proved to be the World Cup winner, but questions were raised if the ball had actually crossed the line. Modern film studies have claimed it didn’t. English players and fans claimed it had.
The bottom line is, it was ruled a goal. England added one late in extra time and took the final 4-2. Maybe the robbery of Frank Lampard’s goal in 2010 against Germany was a way of balancing things out.
3. West Germany, 1974
In a time where Germany was divided, West Germany was awarded the 1974 FIFA World Cup. As fate would have it, their group saw them placed with Soviet state East Germany.
The two sides faced each other in their last group game, with West Germany having already assured themselves a spot in the second group stage. Still, it was a politically charged affair, which East Germany won by a score of 1-0. The loss seemed to light a fire under West Germany, who made adjustments and stormed through the rest of the tournament.
The final eight teams were placed in two round-robin groups of four. West Germany was placed with Poland, Sweden and Yugoslavia. West Germany won all three group contests, defeating Yugoslavia 2-0, and Sweden 4-2.
With West Germany and Poland both tied at four points in the second group stage, their clash was to decide who would go through to the World Cup final. Gerd Muller scored the deciding goal in the 76th minute for a 1-0 victory.
West Germany would meet the Netherlands in the final. West Germany fell behind early, as Johan Neeskens converted a penalty kick for the Dutch in the 2nd minute. West Germany would answer as Paul Breitner scored on a penalty kick himself in the 25th minute. West Germany got the winner just before halftime, with Muller again scoring the decisive goal.
That brought the World Cup to the hosts and Germany had their second World Cup.
2. Argentina, 1978
Argentina was a country long overdue for a World Cup and when they were awarded the 1978 edition, putting added pressure on them.
The country was ruled by a military dictatorship at the time, and this World Cup was not without controversy. Many countries contemplated whether they would participate.
Argentina would play all their matches at night, allowing Argentina to know where they stood in the group. Eventually FIFA changed the rules so final group games would be played simultaneously.
Argentina finished second in the initial group stage, behind Italy, but picked up their play in the second group stage. They beat Poland 2-0 and played Brazil to a 0-0 draw.
In came more controversy. Argentina scheduled their game after Brazil’s last group game, to determine what they would need to do to advance. With Brazil’s 3-1 win over Poland, Argentina knew they would need to win by four goals or more against Peru to advance.
Peru played a terrible game and Argentina won 6-0. Allegations arose that Peru was bribed or threatened to allow Argentina to win by the wide margin. Nothing was proven, and Argentina advanced to the final to face the Netherlands.
With the score tied 1-1 going into extra time, Argentina thrilled their home crowd as Mario Kempes, the tournament’s leading scorer, gave Argentina the World Cup winner in the 104th minute. Daniel Bertoni added one ten minutes later, and Argentina had its long awaited first World Cup.
1. France, 1998
France hosted their second World Cup in 1998, having hosted 50 years earlier in 1938.
The 1938 World Cup had 16 teams. The 1998 World Cup was the first in which 32 teams qualified for the tournament, adopting the format that stands today.
There were high hopes for Les Bleus, as they had one of the world’s best players Zinedine Zidane in his prime and a whole nation behind them.
They had several up and coming stars, including Patrick Viera and a 20-year-old Thierry Henry.
France drew a group with Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, fully expecting to progress. They did so dominantly, defeating South Africa 3-0, Saudi Arabia 4-0 and Denmark 2-1, totalling 9-1 on aggregate scores.
Their knockout games were much tougher, starting with Paraguay in the Round of 16. Paraguay held the game scoreless through 90 minutes, setting up the drama of extra time, with the golden goal rule in effect (sudden death).
Laurent Blanc was the hero for France, striking a bouncing ball at the edge of the six-yard box to put France through to the quarterfinals.
Their next test was even tougher, facing the 1994 runner-up in Italy. Again, France found themselves in a scoreless draw through 90 minutes and neither side could break through in extra time, setting up a penalty shootout.
With France up 4-3 and Italy down to their last kick, Luigi Di Biagio struck the crossbar, and France was through to the semis.
France conceded just their second goal of the tournament early in the second half against upstart Croatia, but didn’t trail for long. Lilian Thuram would equalize a minute later. In the 69th minute, Thuram fired home a shot from the edge of the penalty area to put France ahead. Employing the stingy defence they had shown all tournament, France held on and would face Brazil in the final.
The story of the final was the mystery surrounding Brazilian legend Ronaldo and whether he would play. He was initially ruled out for the final, but was reinstated just 45 minutes before kickoff. However, he and Brazil’s attack proved to be ineffective.
Zidane scored two goals, both off headers from corner kicks. His goal in the 27th minute gave France the lead and he scored a second in the opening half’s stoppage time to put Brazil in an inescapable hole.
France added one late with Emmanuel Petit’s second goal of the tournament. The host country won for the first time in 20 years and Les Bleus finally had a World Cup.
France set a record, conceding just two goals in the entire tournament, a feat that would be matched by Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010.