In 1928 FIFA made the decision to stage their own international tournament. The 1932 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, did not plan to include football as part of the programme due to the low popularity of football in the United States. FIFA and the IOC also disagreed over the status of amateur players, and so football was dropped from the Games. FIFA president Jules Rimet thus set about organizing the inaugural World Cup tournament. With Uruguay now two-time official football world champions and due to celebrate their centenary of independence in 1930, FIFA named Uruguay as the host country. The national associations of selected nations were invited to send a team, but the choice of Uruguay as a venue for the competition meant a long and costly trip across the Atlantic Ocean for European sides. Indeed, no European country pledged to send a team until two months before the start of the competition. Rimet eventually persuaded teams from Belgium, France, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia to make the trip. In total 13 nations took part – seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America. The first two World Cup matches took place simultaneously, and were won by France and the USA, who beat Mexico 4–1 and Belgium 3–0, respectively. The first goal in World Cup history was scored by Lucien Laurent of France. Four days later, the first World Cup hat-trick was achieved by Bert Patenaude of the USA in the Americans' 3–0 win against Paraguay. In the final, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people in Montevideo, and became the first nation to win a World Cup.
After a lengthy decision-making process in which FIFA's executive committee met eight times, Italy was chosen as the host nation at a meeting in Stockholm on 9 October 1932. The decision was taken by the executive committee without a ballot of members. The Italian bid was chosen in preference to one from Sweden; It was the first World Cup to include a qualification stage. 16 teams qualified for the tournament, a number which would be retained until the expansion of the finals tournament in 1982. Uruguay, the titleholders from 1930, still upset about the poor European attendance at their World Cup in 1930, boycotted the 1934 World Cup. Bolivia and Paraguay were absent, allowing Argentina and Brazil to go to the finals in Italy without having to play any qualifying matches. Egypt became the first African team to compete, but lost to Hungary in the first round. Italy became the second World Cup champions, beating Czechoslovakia 2–1 in the final, becoming the first European team to do so.
The 1938 World Cup competition was also held in Europe, much to the consternation of many South Americans, with Uruguay and Argentina boycotting. For the first time the title holders and the host country were given automatic qualification. Following a play-off match against Latvia, Austria had officially qualified for the final round, but because of the Anschluss in April 1938 with Germany, the Austrian national team withdrew, with some Austrian players being added to the German squad. Austria's place was offered to England, but they declined. This left the Finals with 15 nations competing. France hosted, but for the first time the hosts did not win the competition, as Italy retained the championship, beating Hungary 4–2 in the final. Polish striker Ernest Willimowski became the first player to score four goals in a World Cup game during Poland's 6–5 loss against Brazil; his record was later equalled by other players, but was bettered only 56 years later in the 1994 World Cup.
The 1950 FIFA World Cup, held in Brazil from 24 June to 16 July, was the fourth FIFA World Cup. It was the first World Cup since 1938, the planned 1942 and 1946 competitions having been canceled owing to World War II. Both Germany (still occupied and partitioned) and Japan (still occupied) had not been permitted to compete for qualification. A number of teams refused to participate in the qualifying tournament, including most nations behind the Iron Curtain, such as the Soviet Union, 1938 finalists Hungary and 1934 finalists Czechoslovakia. It was the first time that India was participating in the World Cup but after the draw, the Indian football association AIFF decided against going to the World Cup, citing travel costs (although FIFA had agreed to bear a major part of the travel expenses), lack of practice time, team selection issues and valuing the Olympics over the FIFA World Cup. It was won by Uruguay, who had won the inaugural competition in 1930, clinching the cup by beating the hosts Brazil 2–1 in the deciding match of the four-team final group (this was the only tournament not decided by a one-match final). It was also the first tournament where the trophy was referred to as the Jules Rimet Cup, to mark the 25th anniversary of Jules Rimet's presidency of FIFA.
The 1954 World Cup, held in Switzerland, was the first to be televised. The Soviet Union did not participate because of their dismal performance at the 1952 Summer Olympics. Scotland made their first appearance in the tournament, but were unable to register a win, going out after the group stage. This tournament set a number of all-time goal-scoring records, including highest average goals per game and highest-scoring team (Hungary), and most goals in a single match (Austria's 7–5 quarter-final victory over Switzerland). West Germany were the tournament winners, defeating Olympic champions Hungary 3–2 in the final, overturning a 2–0 deficit in the process, with Helmut Rahn scoring the winner. The match is known as the Miracle of Bern in Germany.
The 1958 World Cup was held in Sweden. The Soviet Union participated this time, most likely due to their win at Melbourne 1956. For the first (and so far only) time, all four British teams qualified for the final round. Wales was able to take advantage of a situation in the Africa/Asia zone, where the amount of withdrawals would give Israel qualification without having played a single qualifying match. This prompted FIFA to rule that qualification without playing was not allowed (despite allowing this to happen in earlier years of the Cup), and so Israel were ordered to play against one of the teams finishing second in the other groups. A tie was created, and Wales defeated Israel 2–0 twice in 1958. It was the first (and so far the only) time that a country played a World Cup final round after having been eliminated in the regular qualifiers. The tournament also saw the emergence of Pelé, who scored two goals in the final. French striker Just Fontaine became the top scorer of the tournament with a still standing record of 13 goals. The tournament was won by Brazil, who beat Sweden 5–2 in the final for their first title. To date, this marks the only occasion that a World Cup staged in Europe was not won by a European team.
The 1962 FIFA World Cup was the 7th FIFA World Cup. It was held from 30 May to 17 June 1962 in Chile. Teams representing 57 national football associations from all six populated continents entered the competition, with its qualification process beginning in August 1960. Fourteen teams qualified from this process, along with host nation Chile and defending champion Brazil, for the finals tournament. It was the first World Cup that used goal average as a means of separating teams with the same amount of points. The competition was also marred by overly defensive and often violent tactics. This poisonous atmosphere culminated in what was known as the Battle of Santiago first round match between Italy and Chile in which Chile won 2–0. Prior to the match, two Italian journalists wrote unflattering articles about the host country. In the match, players on both sides made deliberate attempts to harm opponents though only two players from Italy were sent off by English referee Ken Aston. In the end, the Italian team needed police protection to leave the field in safety.The tournament was won by champions Brazil, who claimed their second World Cup title by defeating Czechoslovakia 3–1 in the final, becoming the second team, after Italy in 1938, to successfully defend the world title.
The 1966 World Cup, hosted by England, was the first to embrace marketing, featuring a mascot and official logo for the first time. The trophy was stolen in the run-up to the tournament but was found a week later by a dog named "Pickles". South Africa was banned for violating the anti-discrimination charter. The qualifying rounds of the tournament saw a controversy when the African nations decided to withdraw in protest of only one qualifying place allocated by FIFA to the regions of Asia, Oceania and Africa. The eventual qualifiers from the zone, North Korea, became the first Asian team to reach the quarter-finals, eliminating Italy in the process, Geoff Hurst became the first and to this day the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final and Eusébio, whose team Portugal were taking part in their first World Cup, was the tournament top-scorer, with 9 goals to his name. England beat West Germany 4–2 in the final, winning the World Cup.
The 1970 FIFA World Cup was held from 31 May to 21 June 1970 in Mexico, the first World Cup tournament to be staged in North America, and the first held outside Europe and South America. Teams representing 75 nations from all six populated continents entered the competition, with its qualification rounds beginning in May 1968. Fourteen teams qualified from this process to join host nation Mexico and defending champions England in the sixteen-team final tournament. With the advancements in satellite communications, the 1970 Finals attracted a new record television audience for the FIFA World Cup as games were broadcast live around the world and, for the first time, in colour. The tournament was won by Brazil, who claimed their third World Cup title by defeating another two-time former champion, Italy, 4–1 in the final, thereby winning the right to permanently keep the Jules Rimet Trophy. The victorious team led by Carlos Alberto, and featuring players such as Pelé, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivelino, and Tostão, is often cited as the greatest-ever World Cup team. Brazil were awarded the Jules Rimet trophy permanently for their achievement.
The 1974 FIFA World Cup was held in West Germany from 13 June to 7 July. The tournament marked the first time that the current trophy, the FIFA World Cup Trophy, created by the Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga, was awarded. The tournament also saw a new format, where the two top teams from each of the earlier four groups were divided into two groups of four each again, the winner of either group playing each other in the final. Ninety-eight countries took part in the qualifying tournament, and some of football's most successful nations did not qualify. The tournament was held mostly in bad weather, and the stadia had few protected places. Few western European nations had qualified, of which most were eliminated early. Fans from the Eastern neighbor states were hindered by political circumstances. The West German hosts won the competition by beating the Netherlands 2–1 in the final, but it was also the revolutionary Total Football system of the Dutch that captured the footballing world's imagination. The victory was the second for West Germany, who had also won in 1954.
The 1978 World Cup was held in Argentina, causing controversy as a military coup had taken place in the country two years earlier. The format of the competition stayed the same as in 1974: 16 teams qualified, divided into four groups of four. Each group played a round-robin with two points for a win and one for a draw, and goal difference used to separate teams level on points. Iran and Tunisia were first time participants. Tunisia won their first match against Mexico 3–1 and became the first African team to ever win a world cup game. The 1978 World Cup was won by Argentina who beat the Netherlands 3–1 after extra time in the final. This win was the first World Cup title for Argentina, who became the fifth team (after Uruguay, Italy, England and West Germany), to be both hosts and world champions. Argentina, the Netherlands and Brazil were the gold, silver and bronze medalists respectively.
Spain hosted an expanded 1982 World Cup which featured 24 teams, the first expansion since 1934. The teams were divided into six groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the second round, where they split into four groups of three. The winners of each group advanced to the semi-finals. Cameroon, Algeria, Honduras, New Zealand and Kuwait were the debutants. The final was won by Italy after defeating West Germany 3–1, making Italian captain Dino Zoff the oldest player to win the World Cup and Alessandro Altobelli to become the first substitute player to score in the final. It was Italy's third World Cup win and first since 1938. The holders Argentina were eliminated in the second group round. The tournament's top scorer was Paolo Rossi of Italy with six goals, including a hat-trick in a second group game against Brazil and one in the final.
The 1986 FIFA World Cup was held in Mexico from 31 May to 29 June. The tournament was the second to feature a 24-team format. Colombia had been originally chosen to host the competition by FIFA but, largely due to economic reasons, was not able to do so and officially resigned in 1982. Mexico was selected as the new host in May 1983 making them the only country to host two World Cups. Canada, Denmark and Iraq made their first finals. José Batista of Uruguay set a World Cup record being sent off after a mere 56 seconds into the game against Scotland. The quarterfinal match between England and Argentina is remembered for two remarkable Diego Maradona goals, later regarded as player of the tournament, the first, the controversial handball goal, and the second, considered to be the Goal of the Century. In the final, Argentina beat West Germany 3–2, inspired by Diego Maradona, who set up Jorge Burruchaga for the winner. Argentina became only the second team to win the World Cup outside their own continent, this time in North America.
The 1990 FIFA World Cup was held from 8 June to 8 July 1990 in Italy, the second country to host the event twice (the first being Mexico in 1986). Teams representing 116 national football associations from all six populated continents entered the competition, with its qualification process beginning in April 1988. A total of 22 teams qualified from this process, along with host nation Italy and defending champion Argentina. An unpleasant episode marred the South American preliminaries: during the match between Brazil and Chile, a firework landed close to the Chilean goalkeeper Rojas, who then feigned injury by cutting his own face with a razor blade he had hidden in his glove. His team refused to continue the match (as they were down a goal at the time). The plot was discovered and resulted in a 12-year suspension for Rojas and to Chile being banned from the World Cup in 1994. After finishing runners-up in the two previous tournaments this World Cup was won by West Germany, who claimed their third World Cup title by defeating reigning champions Argentina 1–0 in the final, a rematch of the previous final four years earlier.
The 1994 FIFA World Cup was held in nine cities across the United States from 17 June to 17 July 1994. The 1994 World Cup was the best attended in history, with average attendance of nearly 69,000. The total attendance of nearly 3.6 million for the final tournament remains the highest in World Cup history, despite the expansion of the competition from 24 to 32 teams (and from 52 to 64 matches) in the 1998 World Cup. Yugoslavia was excluded due to UN sanctions, Russia played their first World Cup competition as a new country, with Greece, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia as the other first-timers. Diego Maradona being banned mid-tournament after testing positive for recreational drugs. . Oleg Salenko of Russia became the first player to score five goals in a single World Cup finals game in his country's 6–1 group stage win over Cameroon. The same match, 42-year old Roger Milla scored the only goal for Cameroon, becoming the oldest player ever to score in a World Cup match. Brazil became the first nation to win four World Cup titles when they beat Italy 3–2 in a penalty shootout after the game ended 0–0 after extra time, the first World Cup final to be decided on penalties.
The 1998 World Cup was held in France. For the first time in the competition, the group stage were expanded from 24 teams to 32, with eight groups of four. A total of 64 matches were played in 10 stadiums located across 10 different host cities, with the opening match and final staged at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis. Debutants Croatia finished a commendable third. Iran beat the Maldives in qualification by the widest margin in World Cup history – 17–0. In the finals, the second round match between France and Paraguay witnessed the first Golden Goal in World Cup history, as Laurent Blanc scored to give the hosts a 1–0 victory.The tournament was won by France, who beat Brazil 3–0 in the final. France won their first title, becoming the seventh nation to win a World Cup, and the sixth (after Uruguay, Italy, England, West Germany and Argentina) to win the tournament on home soil.
The 2002 FIFA World Cup was held in South Korea and Japan from 31 May to 30 June. It was also the first World Cup held in Asia, and the last in which the golden goal rule was implemented. Togolese Souleymane Mamam became the youngest player ever to take to a World Cup preliminary game field at 13 years, 310 days in Lomé in May 2001. Australia defeated American Samoa 31–0 in a preliminary match – a new record for the margin of victory, and the highest-scoring match ever. Defending champions France and co-hosts Korea Republic (South Korea) and Japan automatically qualified and did not have to play any qualification matches. (This was the last time that the defending champions automatically qualified). The tournament was a successful one for teams traditionally regarded as minnows, with South Korea, Senegal and USA all reaching the last eight. France were the defending champions but were eliminated in the group stage after earning a single point. Brazil won the tournament for a record fifth time, beating Germany 2–0 in the final.
The 2006 World Cup was held in Germany. It was the first World Cup for which the previous winner had to qualify; the host nation(s) continue to receive an automatic berth. Four African teams also made their debut in the world cup finals Togo, Cote d'Ivoire, Angola and Ghana. Teams representing 198 national football associations from all six populated continents participated in the qualification process. The 2006 World Cup stands as one of the most watched events in television history, garnering an estimated 26.29 billion non-unique viewers, compiled over the course of the tournament. The final attracted an estimated audience of 715.1 million people. The final match-up was between Italy and France, in which French captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the last 10 minutes of extra time for a headbutt to the chest of Italian central defender Marco Materazzi. Italy went on to win 5–3 in a penalty shootout, the score having been 1–1 after 90 minutes and extra time.
The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa. It was the first cup hosted on African soil. The tournament was noted for its highly defensive opening matches, controversies surrounding goal-line technology, and the introduction of vuvuzelas. In the final, Spain, the European champions, defeated third-time finalists the Netherlands 1–0 after extra time to win their first world title, becoming the eighth nation to win the tournament, and the first European nation to win the tournament outside its home continent. Though considered as one of the tournament favorites, the Spaniards won the cup despite scoring only 8 goals in 7 games and losing their opening match to Switzerland. David Villa led the squad in scoring with 5 goals. In a final which saw a record number of yellow cards distributed and the extremely violent play from the Dutch side, the 10-man Netherlands squad were defeated 1–0 in the 116th minute of extra time by an Andres Iniesta goal.