We all have that one World Cup that we remember most fondly, whether it be the first World Cup you truly remember while growing up or the one tournament that captured your imagination because of the pure football on show we all have that summer of football that we can call our own. If you fall into the first category you may have been dazzled by the different kits on show for the first time or amazed by the superstar striker you nor anyone else in your street had heard of before that tournament. While if you live among the latter category you may have experienced the great Brazil and Dutch sides of the 70s or Gascoigne’s brilliance in Turin.
It is these memories and the fondness we look back on at certain World Cup’s which makes picking the best tournament ever so objective, with Qatar 2022 now in full swing we’re sure you’ve already discussed with friends the ins and outs why certain tournaments prevail over others and while we’re sure we can’t change your mind about your personal favourite, as stats lovers at the Hex we wanted to examine three completely different World Cups, some going back further than we can remember but looking at the standout stats and incidents definitely don’t deserve to be forgotten.
The 1998 World Cup was the first tournament to use the current format of 32 nations, up from the 24 that competed at USA 94 and still holds the joint record for most goals scored at any World Cup with Brazil 2014 with 171 goals scored. The hosts lit up the tournament from start to finish, overcoming a simple group before stuttering slightly in the knockout stages to finally win their first title with Zinedine Zidane inspiring a victory against favourites Brazil in the final. The game is just as well known for the controversy that surrounded the Brazil camp after Ronaldo fell ill before the final but was in the end passed fit to play, although at nowhere near his best.
Goals from Michael Owen and Dennis Bergkamp both against Argentina are still remembered for their brilliance while Croatia shocked many by finishing 3rd in their first ever World Cup with Davor Suker collecting the golden boot along the way. Goals have been in steady decline since France 98 with 161 notched 4 years later in Japan & Korea, 147 in Germany and just the 145, 4 years ago in South Africa, before Brazil 2014 & Russia 2018 bucked the trend.
Although the 1954 World Cup may not be recalled all too often by football fans when discussing the best World Cup ever, in terms of average goals per game football fans could do a lot worse then look to the competition in Switzerland. With 16 teams competing across 26 games a huge 140 goals were scored at an average of 5.4 per game, up from 2.7 at France 98 and just 2.3 four years ago in South Africa. The World Cup is best known for ‘The Miracle of Bern’ where reigning Olympic Champions, Hungary who were also unbeaten in the 32 games prior to the final lost to West Germany.
Hungary recorded impressive victories throughout the tournament including wins against South Korea 9-0 and West Germany 8-3 in the Group Stages. They then beat Brazil 4-2 in the Quarters-finals and reigning World Champions Uruguay by the same score line in the Semi’s and expected to complete the job in the final. Their captain Ferenc Puskás who had suffered a hairline fracture of the ankle and missed the two knockout wins was rushed back for the final and when the Hungarians went two nil up it was thought that the result would be one the World expected, however West Germany had other ideas, battling back to secure their first World title and shocking everyone in the process.
Four years before the Miracle of Bern, Brazil hosted their first World Cup and like Hungary, Brazil were favourites to win their first world title. The 1950 World Cup was the first tournament in 12 years since the end of the Second World War and only involved 13 teams after a number high-profile withdrawals including Argentina and France. Although the tournament only included 13 teams and 22 games overall it still saw an impressive 88 goals scored at an average of 4 goals per game.
This was the only World Cup not to be decided by a one-match final although the last game between Brazil and Uruguay in the four team final round was the decisive fixture anyway. Brazil who had already convincingly beaten Sweden and Spain 7-1, and 6-1 respectively in the final round headed into the last game needing only a point to win the World Cup. It is thought that the crowd reached almost 200,000 in the newly built Maracana with many gathered anticipating a home victory. Uruguay of course hadn’t read the script and two second half goals completed a turnaround that is still celebrated in the country today. Brazil however suffered heavily as players were vilified and the loss even lead to the national side changing the design of their kit with the white strip worn during the 1950 tournament considered ‘unpatriotic’, this change from white to yellow and green in time for the time next world cup meant the final defeat in 1950 in some ways led to the famous yellow shirts Brazil are now famous for.
What was your favourite World Cup and why?
SHOP the official FIFA World Cup Tee collection at 3Retro.com