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May 17, 2018
May 17, 2018

The history of the World Cup

When did the World Cup start?

Who has won the most World Cups?

Which World Cup has had the most goals?

Who are the World Cup top scorers?

The history of the World Cup

The 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup will be hosted by Russia and begin on June 14, 2018. Although bettors will be analysing the odds to try and find value in this year’s tournament, there’s several interesting stats and facts from throughout World Cup history. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about the World Cup.

When did the World Cup start?

The World Cup first took place in 1930. Prior to the first World Cup, the Olympics were seen as soccer’s major international competition (although there were tournaments in previous years, soccer’s inclusion in the 1900 games was the first officially recognised by the International Olympic Committee).

The birth of the World Cup is credited to the FIFA President at the time, Jules Rimet, and the Secretary of the French Football Federation, Henri Delaunay. The official decision to stage a “world championship” was made on May 28, 1928 at the FIFA Congress in Amsterdam.

The youngest team (by average age of the squad) to win the World Cup is Brazil in 1970 (24.36 years) and the oldest World Cup winning squad was Italy in 2006 (28.22 years).

Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden were all contenders to host the first World Cup but Uruguay was the stand out candidate - they had won the two previous Olympic soccer tournaments and offered to cover all the costs for participating nations.

Thirteen nations took part in the first ever World Cup; hosts Uruguay, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, France, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, the United States and Yugoslavia. The first games were played simultaneously with France beating Mexico 4-1 and the United States defeating Belgium 3-1.

Uruguay started the 1930 World Cup in the same way they ended it, with a victory at Estadio Centenario in Montevideo - the first a 1-0 win against Peru in the group stage and the last a 4-2 victory against Argentina in the final that saw them crowned as the winners of the first ever World Cup.

Who has won the most World Cups?

Hosting the World Cup has obvious advantages - the host country won the first two tournaments (Uruguay in 1930 and Italy in 1934). Italy then retained the title in 1938 before the tournament was cancelled in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II.

The competition resumed in 1950 with Uruguay winning their second title. Germany became the third team to win the World Cup with their triumph in Switzerland in 1954 before Brazil won their first title in 1958. Since then, the Brazilians have gone on the win the World Cup a record five times (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) - Italy and Germany are close behind with four titles each.

Below is a table showing which country has won the most World Cups: 

Who has won the most World Cups?

Country

No. World Cup wins

Winning years

Brazil

5

1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002

Germany*

4

1954, 1974, 1990, 2014

Italy

4

1934, 1938, 1982, 2006

Argentina

2

1978, 1986

Uruguay

2

1930, 1950

England

1

1966

France

1

1998

Spain

1

2010

*Includes representation as West Germany from 1954-1990.

Which World Cup has had the most goals?

Two of the more recent World Cup tournaments (1998 and 2014) hold the record for the most goals with 171 and the two oldest (1930 and 1934) have the record for the fewest with 70.

However, when accounting format changes and the number of games played – there were only 18 matches in the 1930 tournament compared to 64 from 1998 onwards – the 1954 World Cup has had the most goals (5.38 per game) and 1990 the fewest (2.21).

Who are the World Cup top scorers?

Although Germany haven’t won the most World Cup titles, they do have one of the most impressive tournament records - they have reached the quarter-finals or better 17 times, the semi-finals 12 and the final on eight separate occasions. Because the Germans have played the most games in tournament history (106) it is no surprise that they have scored the most goals (224).

Pele’s goal against Wales in 1958 makes him the youngest goal scorer in tournament history at 17 years, 7 months and 27 days.

Hungary’s total of 27 (5.40 per game) in 1954 is the most by any team in one World Cup - their goal difference of +17 (+3.2 per game) is also the highest. Hungary scored nine against South Korea in 1954 and after conceding seven against Turkey in their second game, South Korea hold the record for the most goals conceded in one tournament (16) and the worst goal difference (-8.0 per game).

Miroslav Klose of Germany is the all-time leading goal scorer in World Cup history with 16 goals. Frenchman Just Fontaine holds the record for the most goals in a single tournament (13 in 1958) and Oleg Salenko has scored the most goals in a single match (five in Russia’s 6-1 win against Cameroon in 1994).

Other stats, facts and records from World Cup history

There have been eight different winners of the 20 World Cup tournaments but only two nations have ever retained the title (Italy in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962).

Brazil is also the only team to compete in every World Cup tournament and their most famous player - Pele - has won the most World Cups (three). Mexico’s Antonia Carbajal and Germany’s Lothar Matthäus have played in the most tournaments with five each (Gianluigi Buffon was in the squad for five tournaments but only played in four).

Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside has the honour of being the youngest player to ever play in the World Cup at 17 years and 41 days (1982) while Colombian Faryd Mondragón is the oldest at 43 years and 3 days (2014) - Egypt's Essam El-Hadary (45 years old) will surpass this record once he plays during the 2018 World Cup.

Pele’s goal against Wales in 1958 makes him the youngest goal scorer in tournament history at 17 years, 7 months and 27 days. Cameroon’s Roger Milla is the oldest at 42 years, 1 month and 8 days (vs. Russia in 1994).

The youngest team (by average age of the squad) to win the World Cup is Brazil in 1970 (24.36 years) and the oldest World Cup winning squad was Italy in 2006 (28.22 years). Italy’s World Cup success in 2006 was also only the second time since West Germany in 1974 that a team had won the World Cup with a squad made up of players from only one domestic league (Serie A) – the Italy side in 1982 (Serie A) being the other occasion.

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