Who is the most successful nation in World Cup history?

Over the World Cup’s 92-year history, only eight different nations have won the tournament, with five others coming close and others just falling short.

The World Cup brings out all the emotion: the joy of success, despair of defeat and for the fans, the agonizing wait for another chance when things don’t go their way.

From Hungary to Croatia, many have tried and come close, while others ranging from Brazil to France have had glory aplenty.

This piece will look at the World Cup’s most successful nations.

10. Hungary (two-time finalists)

In at tenth are Hungary, who are one of two nations to play in two World Cup finals and win neither, with the other being Czech Republic. The Hungarians first reached the World Cup final in 1938, but fell to Vittorio Pozzo’s famous Italy side that year, and would have to wait before they could win football’s biggest international tournament.

They reached the final once again 16 years later as the Mighty Magyars were one of the top sides in world football. They even beat West Germany 8-3 in the group stages of that tournament but lost to them in the final in one of the more shocking World Cup results of that era.

9. The Netherlands (three-time finalists)

The Netherlands are considered one of the World Cup’s unluckiest teams ever for their brilliance in tournaments but and their subsequent failure to go all the way. They are the only nation in World Cup history to play in three finals but never win one. The first final was played in 1974 when they lost to hosts West Germany. Led by Johan Cruyff, the Dutch fell to the Germans 2-1 in the final.

Four years later they fell to the hosts again as they lost to Argentina in Buenos Aires. It took them 32 years to reach the final again and this time they squared up against the wonderful Spanish side in 2010 and last 1-0 in South Africa as Andres Iniesta scored an extra-time winner.

Johan Cruyff in action for Netherlands vs Uruguay
19th July 1974: Johan Cruyff, Dutch footballer, in action against Uruguay. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

=7. Spain (one win)

Two nations are one-time holders of the World Cup and Spain are the most recent ones with their success in 2010 being one of the most dominant wins in World Cup history. Although the tournament started with a defeat in the group stage to Switzerland, they recovered well as players such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Iker Casillas were in top form throughout.

They didn’t have an easy run either. Portugal, Paraguay and Germany were their opponents in the knockout rounds before they took on the Netherlands in the final, where it took an extra-time goal for them to seal a first World Cup honour.

=7. England (one win)

England are the other one-time winners of the World Cup having enjoyed their success back in 1966 when they were led by the great Sir Alf Ramsey. Their tournament started with a goalless draw against Uruguay before it took wins against France and Mexico to send them through to the knockout rounds.
There, they beat Argentina and Portugal before making it to the final against their old rivals West Germany. The final was won 4-2 as Geoff Hurst scored a famous hat-trick, adding to Martin Peters’ goal to ensure the tournament was won by the hosts and England had their greatest day in the sport.

Bobby Moore with the 1966 World Cup
30th July 1966: England captain Bobby Moore (1941 – 1993) with the Jules Rimet trophy, following England’s 4-2 victory after extra time over West Germany in the World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. Moore was subsequently voted ‘Player Of The World Cup’. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

=4. Uruguay (two wins)

Three teams have won the World Cup twice and Uruguay were the first to do so having won in 1930 and in 1950. In 1930, they won the tournament as hosts in what was the inaugural World Cup competition. The Uruguayans beat Peru and Romania in the group stage before taking on Yugoslavia in the semi-final and South American rivals Argentina in the final that year.

Twenty years later, they got the better of Bolivia and Sweden before their win over Brazil in what was the deciding game of that year’s tournament, as they beat the hosts in one of the most famous World Cup matches of all time.

=4. France (two wins)

France are the second nation to have won two World Cup tournaments. Their first success came in 1998, where they were the hosts of that year’s World Cup and went all the way to claim their first honour as they beat favourites Brazil in the final. Zinedine Zidane scored twice in the final, with Emmanuel Petit adding a third to claim the success.

It would take them 20 years to repeat that win, with Didier Deschamps being the head coach this time, having been the captain last time around. The French were more dominant as the tournament went on and they beat surprise package Croatia in the final in Moscow to win their second World Cup honour.

France with the 2018 World Cup
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JULY 15: The team of France celebrates with the World Cup trophy after the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

=4. Argentina (two wins)

Argentina are the final nation to have won the World Cup twice and they did so in the space of eight years. The first success came as hosts in 1978, where they went all the way in a controversial tournament beating the Netherlands in the final that year.

80 years later in Mexico it was the Diego Maradona show as he starred throughout the tournament with his most famous performance coming in the quarter-final against England at the Azteca Stadium. This time, they would beat West Germany in the final to claim their second World Cup prize and established themselves as the world’s top team.

=2. Italy (four wins)

Only two nations have won the World Cup four times and Italy were the first to do so. their first two successes came in 1934 as hosts and then in 1938. Both twins were under the leadership of head coach Vittorio Pozzo. in 1934, they beat Czechoslovakia in the final in Rome to claim their first World Cup success. Four years later, they beat Hungary in the final in France to become two-time champions.

They would have to wait 44 years until their next World Cup win, and it was in Spain in 1982. Brazil were beaten in a famous second group stage match before they beat Poland in the semi-finals and then West Germany in the final to claim their third World Cup. In 2006, with the cloud of Calciopoli hanging over them, they claimed their fourth World Cup in Germany, beating France in the final.

Italy with the 2006 World Cup
BERLIN – JULY 09: Marco Materazzi of Italy lifts the World Cup trophy aloft following victory at the end of the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Final match between Italy and France at the Olympic Stadium on July 9, 2006 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

=2. Germany (four wins)

Germany are the other nation to have won the World Cup four times and three of them came as West Germany. their first win was in 1954 in Switzerland as they secured an unlikely success over Hungary in the final. Twenty years later as hosts, they beat the Netherlands in the final in a resounding World Cup win with a squad containing stars like Gerd Muller, Paul Breitner and Uli Hoeness.

In 1990, under the leadership of Franz Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup as a player, they beat Argentina in the final to take revenge from four years prior. It took them until 2014 to win their first World Cup as a unified Germany, once again beating Argentina in the final in Brazil.

1. Brazil (five wins)

Brazil are the World Cup’s most successful nation winning the tournament on five separate occasions. Their first came in 1958 when they were led by Pele, beating hosts Sweden in the final. Four years later, they defended their trophy in Chile as they beat Czechoslovakia in the final. Eight years after that in 1970 in Mexico, Pele was in top form again as Brazil became three-time world champions, beating Italy in the final.

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It took until 1994 in the United States for them to claim their fourth title as they once again overcame Italy in Pasadena in a tense penalty shoot-out in the final. Eight years after that Ronaldo made amends for the events in France in 1998, as his eight goals throughout the tournament, including two in the final against Germany, made Brazil five-time champions and the greatest side in World Cup history.

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