World Cup History: The Ultimate Guide & Interesting Facts

Lusail Stadium
Interior view of Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, prior to an association football match between the Argentina and Mexico men's national football teams in Group C of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

As a true football enthusiast, you must have heard of the FIFA World Cup. The tournament has been the defining event of international football and the pinnacle of every player’s career for almost a century now.

The 22nd edition just happened last year in Qatar, with Argentina conquering their third title.

Let’s give you a comprehensive overview of the World Cup, from its earliest beginnings to the most iconic moments and legendary players. So, sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the incredible world of football’s biggest tournament.

A Brief Overview of the World Cup

The Football World Cup is a competition sanctioned by FIFA and held every four years.

The event is considered the most significant international championship and features the senior men’s national teams of FIFA’s member associations, currently numbering 211.

The World Cup is the most followed and widely watched sporting event globally, with an estimated 3.5 billion people tuning in from all corners of the world.

The First World Cup

The inaugural World Cup tournament took place in 1930, where thirteen teams from around the world competed in over 18 matches.

The host country Uruguay won the maiden tournament, beating Argentina 4-2 in front of over 90,000 people.

Over the years, the World Cup has grown tremendously with the addition of more teams and more games to its format.

The Growth of the World Cup

The event’s popularity led to the tournament’s expansion, both in the number of teams and the rounds of games played.

In 1978, the competition involved 16 teams, which increased to 24 in 1982, and to 32 in 1998. With the incorporation of the playoff system since 1986, the final stages have become more unpredictable, adding to the tournament’s excitement.

The Legends of the World Cup

The World Cup has produced some of the most iconic and celebrated footballers of all time. Pele’s masterful touch, Maradona’s sublime genius and Zinedine Zidane’s exceptional elegance cements their place in World Cup folklore.

At the same time, current superstars like Messi and Ronaldo aspire to emulate the greats, with the Argentinian conquering his first tournament title in 2022.

Lionel Messi lifted the trophy in Qatar, 8 years after the lost final against Germany. This time Argentina won the competition, beating France in penalty shootout.

Memorable Moments

The tournament’s history is filled with passionate matches and unforgettable moments.

The infamous 1966 final between England and Germany, Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, and Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final, are among the most infamous.

For every moment of shame, there are equally exciting moments that help us remember why we love the World Cup – Brazil’s 1970 team, the Netherlands’ “Total Football” in 1974, and Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil in the 2014 semifinals.

Last year’s showdown was also a memorable one as France and Argentina played one of the best finals ever. Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick but it was not enough, as the game ended 3-3, with Leo Messi also scoring a brace.

The decision went to penalty kicks, with Gonzalo Montiel scoring the winner against France’s captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

When and Where Will The Next World Cup Be?

After the last World Cup taking place during November and December, the next edition will go back to the traditional format, which takes place normally around June and July.

The World Cup 2026 will take place in North America, being co-hosted among three nations: Mexico, United States and Canada.

In 2030 the World Cup will take place in 6 countries across 3 continents: the opening matches will happen in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, to celebrate the 100 years of the first World Cup. The remaining games will take place in Morocco, Portugal and Spain, with the final of the competition taking place in the latter.


The Football World Cup’s consistent growth in popularity and influence has made it a pivotal point in every football player’s career, providing them with the opportunity to showcase their talents on the global stage.

With the 23rd edition of the tournament in North America coming in 2026, the excitement of US soccer fans is palpable.

As we look back on the World Cup’s journey, we must note that the event’s spirit of intense competition and camaraderie reflects the game’s true essence.

It is an event that combines passion, energy, and history and is a testament to the sport’s unique and inspiring appeal.

About Jorge Costa 140 Articles
Jorge Costa is a freelance journalist, with a Masters Degree in Journalism and Communication, through the University of Coimbra, Portugal. He specializes in sports and soccer in particular.

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