An in-depth analysis for FIFA World Cups

FIFA World Cup players

The most known and attractive football event in the world, is without any doubt the FIFA World Cup. Every four years, the best national teams (32 teams that qualified from the preliminaries round), participate in the event. Their aim is to win the World Cup trophy and become the best national team in football.


The main objective of the researcher is to present and analyze thoroughly some interesting historical stats about the World Cup, by making an extensive flashback to its history. The span of the flashback starts in 1930, the year that the first World Cup took place. The last part of the research presents some useful information about the current World Cup of 2018.

The first part is consisted of a thoroughly analysis about the best teams in the history of the Cup, simultaneously with a briefly introductory information about its history. Additionally, the second part, contains some more complicated stats and analyses, such as some useful graphs about the World Cup finals and the number of goals per World Cup.


The 21st FIFA World Cup, that is taking place this month in Russia, is definitely the sport event of the year. 32 national teams succeeded to qualify to the World Cup through the preliminaries round. The ambition to take part on this event and manage to compete for the title and become the best national football team is undoubtedly huge and attracting for every nation. The scepter of the trophy belongs to Germany, who was the winner in the Mundial of 2014, that hosted in Brazil.

In this research, the author apart from a briefly flashback historical analysis, focuses also on the analysis of some interesting stats for the World Cups. The aim is to inform the reader about the best national teams in the history of the Mundial, as well as the best Mundial based on the number of goals scored, along with some other impressive stats.


For the purpose of the research, the author collected and analyzed data from the 20 different FIFA World Cups that have been organized until now. Therefore, the collected data are dated back to 1930 until the latest Mundial in 2014. The mentioned data, concern the best teams in the history of the Cup. Moreover, the data analysis is also related with the World Cup finals and the overall goals scored in the mentioned Mundials.

The methodology started with a brief introductory information about the World Cups and is followed by a detailed graphical analysis for the abovementioned stats.


The first FIFA World Cup held in 1930 and hosted in Uruguay. Although, its history, started two years earlier, in 1928. FIFA decided to stage its own international football tournament; because in the Summer Olympic Games of 1932, which held in Los Angeles, the IOC did not plan to include football as part of its program due to the low popularity of the sport in USA. Thus, the FIFA president Jules Rimet and FIFA Congress decided in 1928 to stage a world championship organized solely by FIFA. The decision for the hosted country of Uruguay was proposed and decided easily, as on 1920s-30s Uruguay had the best national team. It had won two gold consecutive Olympic medals in 1924 and 1928 and also the country was celebrating its 100th anniversary of independence.

Though, the selection of a South American country to host the first World Cup was a controversial reason for non-American countries. Specifically, the European countries that wanted to participate on the event, doubted because of the long and costly trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, none European country pledged to send a team, not until two months before the starting of the competition, when Rimet persuaded four European teams to participate: Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia. In total, in the first World Cup 13 nations participated (seven national teams from South America, four from Europe and two from North America). Uruguay became the first nation to win the World Cup trophy by winning Argentina 4-2 in the final in front of almost 93.000 fans in Montevideo.


The second World Cup, hosted in Italy and was the first World Cup to include a qualifying stage. 16 teams qualified to the tournament and unlike the previous tournament there were no groups and only knockout rounds. The interesting fact on that Cup, was that the titleholder Uruguay, boycotted the event because of the poor European attendance in the previous World Cup. Egypt became the first team from Africa to participated in the World Cup. On that Mundial, twelve teams were from Europe and the rest three from South and North American (Brazil, Argentina and USA). Italy, won the tournament, defeating Czechoslovakia with 2-1 in the extra time and became the first European team to do so.


The third World Cup in 1938 was also held in Europe, in France. For the first time the hosting country didn’t win the champion, as Italy retained the trophy, beating Hungary in the final. At that Cup, 15 teams competed (Austria had officially qualified for the final round but it withdrew its team before the starting of the competition due to political reasons), two teams (Cuba and Brazil) were from the American continent and Dutch East Indies from the Asian Continent. The rest twelve teams were from Europe. An outstanding stat on that World Cup, was the achievement of the Polish striker Ernest Willimowski who became the first player to score four goals in a World Cup match (Brazil – Poland: 6-5).

Unfortunately, the rest two World Cups (1942 and 1946) were cancelled due to the World War II. Until then, every four years the World Cup is a fact, attracting the interest of billions of fans worldwide and became steadily the most popular event in football.

Below is the table with the hosted country along with the winners and runner ups on each World Cup tournament.

Host CountryUruguayItalyFranceBrazilSwitzerlandSwedenChileEnglandMexicoGermanyArgentinaSpainMexicoItalyUSAFranceKorea/JapanGermanySouth AfricaBrazil

Through the abovementioned table, the most successful national teams in the history of the World Cups are depicted below in the chart.


Brazil is the only country to have competed in every World Cup finals series. Moreover, it is the most successful country with five victories (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) and additionally they have also lost two World Cup finals in (1950 and 1998).

Germany and Italy have won four world cups each. Germany was by far the most consistent team after 1950 as they not only won 4 world cups but also lost 4 world cup finals. Netherlands is the only team to have appeared in the final more than 2 times and failed to win the world cup trophy. They have lost three World Cup finals (1974, 1978 and 2010).


Based on the abovementioned pie chart, Brazil has won the World Cup more than any other team, with a World Cup winning percentage of 25%. Italy and Germany with a percentage, 20% are in the second place. England, Spain and France have won only one World Cup trophy (5%).

Another interesting stat, is that so far, only European or South American teams have won the World Cup. United States and Turkey are the only teams (outside Europe and South America) to have finished 3rd in world cups. The mentioned observation is analyzed on the following pie chart.



45% of the World Cup winners are from South American (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay) while the 55% are from Europe (Germany, Italy, England, France and Spain).


Usually, the World Cup final is the most attracting match of the Mundial. For example, as it mentioned above in the World Cup of 1950, almost 220.000 watched live the match at the stadium Maracana in Brazil. Unfortunately, Brazil lost the game and that day remained as the saddest day in the Brazilian football history. Most recently, in another World Cup final and more specifically during the final of 2006; one of the best football players in modern football, ended his career with one of the most characteristic moments in the history of World Cups. Zinedine Zidan at his last game, head-butt the Italian defender Marco Materazzi and ended ingloriously his career by receiving the red car in the final and in the end losing the trophy from Italy.

Some other interesting stats from World Cup finals are mentioned below in the following graph analyses.


65% of the World Cup finals ended in full time, while the 25% of the World Cup finals the winner defined in the extra time. Two times, meaning a percentage of 10%, the penalties set the World Cup champion. Brazil in 1994 won Italy and Italy won France in 2006 being more likely on the penalties shoot up. An interesting fact is that the last two World Cup finals have been determined in the extra time. In 2010, Spain won the Cup against the Netherlands and four years later Germany won the final against Argentina.

The following barplot analysis depicts the number of goals that were scored in the finals. To do so, the researcher categorized them in four different categories.



The most impressive final in the history of Mundials, was the one in 1958, were Brazil won the Cup against Sweden with 5-2. That was the only final where more than 6 goals were scored. 4 to 6 goals, have been scored in 9 different World Cup finals. The most recent one was the final in 1986. Argentina won Germany with a score; 3-2 and reached the trophy. The interesting fact is that during the last two Mundial finals only one goal was scored. The final in 1994 (Brazil-Italy: 0-0), was the only one that ended without a score and was determined in the penalties.


The following graph depicts the average goals scored in each one of the World Cups.


The most spectacular World Cup was in 1954 (Switzerland), where they were scored in average 5.4 goals per match. Correspondingly, during the Mundial of 1990 (Italy), were scored only 2.2 goals per game. A main observation is that during the last twenty years the average number of goals is close to 2.5 goals per game. 

In contrast to the above mentioned graph with the average number of goals, the following graph depicts the total number of goals scored in each World Cup.



So far, during the Mundial of 2014 and the one in 1998, were scored the most goals, with 171 goals in 64 matches. The World Cup of 2002, is in the second place with 161 goals in 64 matches. The less goals, were scored during the first two World Cups that have been organized. More specifically, in 1930 only 70 goals were scored in 18 matches and four years later, they were also scored 70 goals, but in 17 matches.


The abovementioned graph depicts the average attendance per World Cup. The World Cup that hosted in USA (1994), had almost 69.000 attendances per match. In the second place, with an average attendance of 52.918, was the 2014 Mundial that hosted in Brazil. Based on geographical terms, the most numerous European World Cup, was the 2006 Mundial (hosted in Germany) with almost 52.500 spectators per match. In South America, the latest World Cup (2014 – Brazil) that mentioned above was the most numerous. In North America, the Mundial of 1994 that was also mentioned above was the most numerous. Lastly, (the only Mundial that took place) in Asia (2002 – Korea/Japan), 42.268 spectators per match participated on the event. While eight years ago the first Cup that organized in the African continent (2010 – South Africa) almost 50.000 spectators per match participated on Cup.


The 21st World Cup is hosted for the first time in Russia and takes place this June in 11 different cities of the Russian Federation, only 88 years after the initial tournament in Uruguay (1930).

Some interesting facts about this World Cup are:

  • It is the first time in the history of Mundials, that all of the 209 FIFA member associations were eligible for the qualifications in the preliminaries round.
  • Iceland and Panama qualified for the first time to the finals, with the former becoming the smallest country in terms of population to reach the World Cup.
  • For the first time, three Nordic countries (Denmark, Iceland and Sweden) and four Arab nations (Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia) managed to qualify to the group stage of the Mundial, with many of the mentioned countries, having chances to continue even further.
  • The notable absences of this Mundial are the four-time champions Italy (who will not play in a World Cup for the first time since 1958) and the three-time runner-up national team of Holland (for the first time since 2002).
  • Italy will be the only one of the eight teams to have won the competition who doesn’t compete in Russia.

Finally, another interesting fact about the current World Cup, is that other than South Africa (that hosted the event in 2010) all hosts nations continued at least to the second round of the Cup. In almost 30% of cases (6/20), the hosted country, reached the trophy (the last one was France in 1998).


The 21st Mundial that is taking place this month in Russia is without any doubt the sport event of the year. The 32 national countries that succeed to qualify from the preliminaries round, divided in eight different groups, aiming to proceed to the next round of top16 and why not to raise their chances for the trophy.
Undoubtedly, Brazil is the most successful team in the history of World Cups, aiming to win this July its 6th trophy. The chances are with them, as it is supposed to be one of the favorite teams among with Spain, France, Argentina and Germany. As it is seemed, the legend of the World Cup winner will continue to exist, as the main favorites are either from Europe or South America.


Summarizing, the 2018 FIFA World Cup has every clue needed to become one of the best and most spectated World Cup. The FIFA World Cup that started 88 years ago and used to be hosted every four years since 1930, is the main football event for this month.
Though, the question of whether Germany will keep its scepter or not, or even if there is going to be a surprise in the upcoming final. Or which national teams will shine with its presence is undoubtedly very interesting and will be answered in the following weeks during the Russian World Cup.

BIBLIOGRAPHY (2018). 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ – [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018]. (2018). [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].

Know, 1. (2018). 19 Awesome World Cup Facts – Updated April 2018 (Recommended). [online] Roadtrips. Available at: [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018]. (2018). World Cup Football Winners List. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].

The History of the World Cup. (2018). The History of the World Cup. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2018). World Cup | History & Winners. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].

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