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Every FIFA World Cup – ranked

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There have been 21 FIFA World Cups played since 1930.

Some have been utterly unforgettable. Filled with amazing goals, moments and players.

Some others have been, well, not so good.

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So with that in mind, we at 90min have decided to try and rank every FIFA World Cup ever.

Uruguay

A very poor quality image of the 1930 World Cup / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

The first one, and probably the worst one. It’s not to say this was a disaster of a tournament, because if it had been, we wouldn’t be looking forward to the 2022 World Cup in December.

However, with only 13 teams competing across 18 days and – let’s face it – none of these games or teams being widely recognised as some of the best ever, it’s fair to say that the 1930 tournament was a bit dire. 

Garrincha

The Garrincha tournament / Central Press/GettyImages

The 1962 World Cup was explicitly Mane Garrincha’s tournament, but very little else. 

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Rather than being remembered for its incredible goals and games, this was a tournament largely remembered for what could have been. 

Pele was at the peak of his powers in 1962, but the world was robbed of seeing the greatest player of all time during the greatest period of his career by a freak injury during a group game against Czechoslovakia. 

Had Pele been fit, the 1962 World Cup might be a bit higher on this list.

Vittorio Luigi Pozzo

The World Cup-winning team of 1934 / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

The main reason this tournament has been placed ahead of the 1962 tournament is the intrigue in the political clout which shrouded Italy’s first World Cup win. 

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Under the guidance of Vittorio Pozzo – and unconfirmed under the table help from Benito Mussolini’s regime – Italy were crowned world champions in the Stadio Nazionale in Rome on 10 June 1934. 

However, the football played during this tournament isn’t what makes it historically significant. Rather, it’s the fact that the 1934 World Cup was the first explicit permeation of politics into the sport on a global scale.

Hosted by an Il Duce ruled Italy, the 1934 World Cup proved to be a precursor for what the world would witness just two years later at the 1936 Summer Olympics: a country utilising a sports tournament as a propaganda tool. 

Andrés Iniesta

Iniesta was the hero for Spain / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

“We’ve created the most spherical ball ever.”

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“The ball is a sphere – a perfect sphere!”

“Name a more spherical ball – we’ll wait.” 

Big shout out to adidas for creating the most spherical ball ever and ruining the 2010 FIFA World Cup. 

Juan Schiaffino

The infamous final / STAFF/GettyImages

The first post-World War II World Cup, and arguably the most significant tournament in footballing history. That isn’t to say it’s one of the best or most entertaining World Cups ever though, as its placing on this list attests. 

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Significantly however, the 1950 World Cup was the stage for the greatest shock in the tournament’s history, as the host nation Brazil were beaten 2-1 by Uruguay at the Maracana in the final game, which also became a de facto final in the slightly bizarre format.

From this nadir, samba soccer would rise under the guidance of some guy called Pele.

CORRECTION-WORLD CUP-1978-ARG-NED-ANNIVERSARY

Kempes scoring for Argentina / STAFF/GettyImages

“In hindsight, we should never have played that World Cup.” (Leopoldo Luque)

The ticker tape, painted goalposts and crew neck football tops made the 1978 World Cup the most aesthetically pleasing tournament of all time; but don’t let that fool you. 

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Just like the 1934 tournament, the 1978 World Cup was explicitly utilised by its host nation as propaganda. 

Hosted by a country being subjected to a ‘Dirty War’ under the tyrannical rule of General Jorge Rafael Videla, alleged match fixing and war crimes committed during the summer of 1978 have rightfully dogged the memory of this tournament.  

FOOTBALL-ITALY-MEAZZA-WORLD CUP

Meazza pre-match / -/GettyImages

Fun fact for the ‘football hipsters’ of the world: the 1938 World Cup bore witness to the creation of the libero role. 

The tournament isn’t just one for the hipsters, however, as it also was the stage upon which the most violent game in World Cup history was played: the infamous ‘Battle of Bordeaux’.

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The 1938 World Cup had something for everyone.

Mario Goetze, Thomas Müller, Andre Schuerrle, Benedikt Hoewedes

Germany beat Argentina in the final / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

Mario Gotze’s incredible goal and Lionel Messi’s incredible disappearing act made the 2014 World Cup final one for the ages, but it was another game that propels the tournament into 12th place on this list:

The 7-1.

Oh my god, the 7-1.

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One of the most shocking – and impressive – performances in World Cup history occurred on 8 July 2014, when Germany emphatically beat Brazil 7-1 in the semi finals of their own tournament. 

For their own sake, Brazil really shouldn’t host World Cups.

Foot : 1/2 Final Brazil - Turkey / Wc 2002

Ronaldo and that haircut / Tim de Waele/GettyImages

It’s the first thing we think of when the 2002 FIFA World Cup is mentioned, but Ronaldo’s insanely weird haircut wasn’t the only crazy thing about this tournament. 

World and European champions France’s shocking group stage exit, referee Byron Moreno’s starring role for South Korea, and the fact Republic of Ireland legitimately could’ve got to the semi finals of the tournament, are just some of the other reasons why the 2002 World Cup was weird – really, really weird. 

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Roberto Baggio of Italy

Roberto Baggio missed a penalty / Simon Bruty/GettyImages

Very few FIFA World Cups were defined by one player: USA ’94 was one of them. 

The highs and lows of the tournament in USA – Diana Ross’s hilariously terrible attempt to kick a ball aside – were defined by Roberto Baggio. Il Divino Codino single handedly dragged a below-par Gli Azzurri side to the final, only to fall at the last hurdle.

Due to his penalty miss, the 1994 World Cup will forever be remembered for a player failing when on the cusp of greatness. 

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH64-FRA-CRO

Mbappe starred at the World Cup / GABRIEL BOUYS/GettyImages

The World Cup in which football nearly came home, but, you know, didn’t.

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Instead, Kylian Mbappe – with help from Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and co. – brought it to France by playing efficient and high quality football.

Also, shoutout to Luka Modric for being utterly amazing in the 2018 World Cup.

David Platt of England

David Platt scored a famous goal / Getty Images/GettyImages

From Luciano Pavarotti’s rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’, to Gazza and Diego Maradona’s tears, Italia ’90 proved to be one of the most memorable World Cups in history.

The football played was also pretty great too. Roberto Baggio scored a sublime goal against Czechoslovakia, Salvatore Schillaci surprisingly starred, and most importantly, Ireland got through to the quarter finals.

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Oh, and Germany wore the nicest football kit in the history of the world.

Soccer - 1998 World Cup - Final - France vs Brazil

Zidane scored a brace in the semi-final / Dimitri Iundt/GettyImages

The kits, the boots, the Zinedine Zidane, the Ronaldo. This tournament had it all. 

Zidane’s two glorious headers in that France kit, while wearing those adidas Predators is enough for this World Cup to break the top ten alone. 

Coupled with one of the best finals in recent memory, Davor Suker also shocked the world and guided Croatia to the semi finals during this tournament, and Dennis Bergkamp scored one of the greatest goals of all time.

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Pele

Pele in action / STAFF/GettyImages

The FIFA World Cup during which some 17-year-old Brazilian striker won his country its first ever Jules Rimet trophy. 

He also won the tournament in 1962…and again in 1970.

Apparently he was good. Really, really good. He’s probably the greatest footballer of all time actually.

Horacio Marcelo Elizozondo, Zinedine Zidane, Marco Materazzi

Zidane was sent off in the final / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

Any tournament with an Italy vs. Germany semi final is bound to be a classic.

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This tournament is best remembered for Zinedine Zidane’s exceptionally brutal headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the final, but it should also be remembered as a tournament which saw a number of so-called ‘golden generations’ battle it out for World football’s top prize.

France had Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry; Italy had Fabio Cannavaro, Francesco Totti and Andrea Pirlo; Brazil had Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka; and England had David Beckham, Steven Gerard and John Terry.

These ‘golden generations’ didn’t disappoint. The tournament was awash with shocking moments (Graham Poll’s triple booking of Josip Simunic), great goals (Argentina’s team goal against Serbia & Montenegro) and ridiculously brilliant games of football (Italy vs. Germany).

Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Ray Wilson, George Cohen, Bobby Charlton

Moore lifting the World Cup / Evening Standard/GettyImages

The Three Lions’ crowning achievement, and an achievement that the English populace have refused to let the rest of the world forget about.

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The tournament itself was – in fairness – pretty brilliant.

North Korea (yes, NORTH Korea) shocked the world with an astonishing win over Italy and Eusebio scored a million or so goals against basically every country in the world.

However, the main reason this tournament is ranked so highly, is the final between England and West Germany – even if England won it. 

SWITZERLAND-FOOTBALL-WORLD CUP

The 1954 World Cup / -/GettyImages

There’s a really good reason the 1954 World Cup has broken into the top five in this list: there were an average of 5.4 goals per game.

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Also, the world bore witness to the historically brilliant Hungarian ‘Magical Magyars’, and the historically shocking way in which they lost to West Germany in the final.

Diego Maradona, Peter Shilton

Maradona’s ‘hand of god’ / Getty Images/GettyImages

Like the 1994 World Cup, the Mexico ’86 was defined by one player. This time however, it was a player who guided his nation to glory.

Diego Maradona, basically single-handedly, dragged Argentina to their second World Cup triumph. 

Through his very, very funny ‘Hand of God’ goal against England, and his subsequent solo effort, which was very, very amazing, ‘El Diego’ simultaneously made himself the most significant footballer of his generation, and the 1986 World Cup one of the best ever. 

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WORLD CUP-1974-WEST GERMANY-AUSTRALIA

Muller was on fire in 1974 / STAFF/GettyImages

In the summer of 1974, Total Football was created and then quickly dismantled by the two best German footballers of all time: Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller. This narrative alone makes the ’74 World Cup worthy of its place in the top three. 

Johan Cruyff had led arguably the most exciting team in history to the World Cup final, where they would face the hosts West Germany. While the Dutch had won plaudits around the world for their expansive style of play, Beckenbauer and Muller proved to be a bridge too far for Cruyff and co. 

Tarcisio Brugnich, Pele

A famous final / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

The best team of all time.

The best player in World Cup history.

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The best goal ever scored.

The ‘Match of the Century’. 

But it’s not the best World Cup ever? Surprisingly, no. 

Despite not being number one on this list, the 1970 World Cup is undoubtedly a classic. Pele led the greatest football team ever to glory in the Azteca Stadium. They were so good in fact, that they were allowed to keep the Jules Rimet trophy after winning the tournament.*

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*Maybe that’s a lie, but they did get to keep the trophy, and they were really good. 

Dino Zoff

Zoff with the trophy / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

This tournament is just the best. It just is. There’s no debating it. It’s the best. Here are some of the reasons why:

– Italy vs. West Germany is the greatest World Cup final of all time.

– Marco Tardelli’s celebration.

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– The teams at this World Cup were so good that a Brazilian side which boasted the likes of Socrates, Zico and Falcao didn’t even make the semi finals.

– The France vs. West Germany semi final.

– Paulo Rossi’s unbelievable hat trick against Brazil.

Due to the aforementioned, the 1982 FIFA World is without question, the greatest international tournament ever.

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Algeria 2-1 Nigeria: Super Eagles suffer comeback defeat despite Moffi scores

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Fulltime: Algeria 2-1 Nigeria

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Newcastle set to finalise deal for Garang Kuol

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Australia international Garang Kuol is set to finalise a move to Newcastle United, sources have told 90min.

90min revealed earlier this month that Newcastle were in talks with his club Central Coast Mariners, and now a deal is understood to be in place with Eddie Howe’s side seeing off competition from various clubs, including German giants Borussia Dortmund.

Newcastle were waiting for Kuol to complete his international duty with Australia this month before finalising the deal. The 18-year-old made his debut against New Zealand on Sunday and is now believed to be heading to Europe.

Kuol and his camp have already agreed terms with Newcastle ahead of a move that would be finalised in January – at which point the Magpies will decide on what to do with him in the short-term.

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Scott SaundersGraeme BaileyToby Cudworth and Sean Walsh bring you a brand new episode of Talking Transfers. The team discuss Jude Bellingham’s future, Bayern Munich’s interest in Harry Kane, widespread Premier League interest in Mykhaylo Mudryk and plenty more. Available on all audio platforms.

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download the episode in full!

As it stands, Kuol would not qualify for a work permit, but that matter could change quickly if he is involved at the World Cup finals. This won’t be known until manager Graham Arnold names his squad in a few weeks.

Newcastle are understood to already have a plan in place to send Kuol on loan to another league in Europe – the length of which will be determined by his work permit standing.

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Jurgen Klinsmann & Danny Williams on why so many USMNT players succeed in Germany

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Germany has long been a breeding ground for American players, but why do so many success stories from across the pond begin their European adventure there?

The United States men’s national team’s biggest stars first trained in the Bundesliga before making their jump elsewhere, from Christian Pulisic to Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams. Giovanni Reyna, meanwhile, is continuing his rapid rise with Borussia Dortmund.

This is nothing new, with the likes of Landon Donovan and Fabian Johnson all using the German top-flight to kick-start successful careers at both club and international levels.

So, is it the similarities in culture between the United States and Germany that makes it such an attractive destination, the style of play, or something else?

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“I think culture-wise, Germany and the US are very similar. They’re two countries that are full of ‘doers’. They don’t want to wait for the other nations, they’re just doing their thing. America is doing its own thing and Germans just like to go ahead and do their thing,” former USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told 90min.

“The German culture is very open to young talent coming in and giving it a shot, try it out, see how far you can take it. And if it doesn’t work, you can still go back home, no problem at all. The Bundesliga is known for giving young players chances. 17, 18, 19 years of age. If you’re good, that’s all it takes, the coach will throw you into the cold water and you’ve got to swim, and if the water is too cold, no problem, we can slow down the process.”

As a former US international who was born and raised in Germany, Danny Williams has experienced the pathway between the two countries better than most. The 33-year-old midfielder got his break at Freiburg back in 2010 and also went on to represent Hoffenheim before playing in England with Reading and Huddersfield Town.

He echoed Klinsmann’s sentiments regarding Germany’s willingness to give youth a try, owing – in his opinion – to the country’s much smaller ownership model when compared to clubs in the Premier League.

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“I think Germany is one of the best places to develop as a young player because most of the clubs don’t have big owners and there isn’t as much money around like at Chelsea, Arsenal, or Tottenham,” Williams told 90min.

“That’s fine because they still go on and play for those clubs if they succeed in Germany. The tactical and technical education is very good in Germany. I was fortunate enough to go through my youth in these academies and what you learn there is amazing. What I really like about Bundesliga is these young guys are given a chance and they’re trusted by the coach to make the step into the first team, have game time, and not come and be replaced by a superstar if you don’t perform in one or two games, like at Man Utd. They’re a bit more patient with you.”

Across his time in charge of the USMNT and as head coach of multiple Bundesliga outfits, including Bayern Munich, Klinsmann has seen first-hand just how players can excel in Germany, with so many American stars across Europe owing their success to the country.

“I think over decades now, the Bundesliga has proven that model, that’s why a lot of young players give it a shot,” Klinsmann added.

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“It’s just wonderful to see so many American players fight their way through it. Maybe they end up in another league but at the end of the day, they have their starting point in the Bundesliga where they become really good, especially if you’re talking about players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, or Tyler Adams. It’s a calibre of player that’s rare to have so many of them in the United States.”

Klinsmann and Williams spoke to 90min at the ‘Bundesliga Common Ground Project Event’ in NYC. For information and more from Williams and Klinsmann, check out our latest our article here and more of our video content from the event on our Twitter and Instagram.



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