Third place: USA
Fourth place: Yugoslavia
The first FIFA World Cup was one of a kind. Taking place wholly in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, the sport’s inaugural showpiece was a world away from the tournament we know today.
Four teams arrived together on the same boat and the winning goal in the final was scored by Hector Castro, who only had one hand.
It ended with a familiar outpouring of joy as the whole of Uruguay took a public holiday after the Celeste became the first world champions by defeating neighbours Argentina 4-2. Castro became known as ‘El Divino Manco’ – meaning ‘One-Handed God’,
Thirteen teams – seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America – entered the tournament.
Only a few European teams chose to participate because of the difficulty of travelling to South America. The teams were divided into four groups, with the winner of each group progressing to the semi-finals.
The first two World Cup matches took place simultaneously and were won by France and the United States, who defeated Mexico 4–1 and Belgium 3–0, respectively. Lucien Laurent of France scored the first goal in World Cup history, while United States goalkeeper Jimmy Douglas posted the first clean sheet in the tournament the same day.
Argentina made the final with a 6-1 drubbing of the United States in the semis, while Uruguay thrashed Yugoslavia by the same scoreline.
The maiden tournament had been some years in the offing.
FIFA, at its founding meeting in 1904, declared that it alone had the right to organise an international championship, yet only in the 1920s did the idea gather support.
The 1924 Olympic football tournament in Paris proved hugely popular, with more than 40,000 spectators watching Uruguay beat Switzerland in the final.
Yet when the British associations, with their professional leagues, declined to participate in that event after a row over players’ amateur status, it was evident the time was ripe for a separate international football competition.
Third place: Germany
Fourth place: Austria
Hosts Italy became the first European winners of the FIFA World Cup when the second chapter of the fledgling competition unfolded in 1934.
It was a tournament on a bigger scale than four years before, with eight host cities compared with one and live radio broadcasts taking the action to listeners in 12 of the competing countries. No British home nations were involved.
As in Uruguay, it was the home side who took the spoils, goals from Raimondo Orsi and Angelo Schiavio helping Vittorio Pozzo’s Italy secure a 2-1 comeback triumph against Czechoslovakia in the Final in Rome.
After the success of the first FIFA World Cup, there was now a 32-team preliminary round to decide the 16 finalists. In the only instance of its kind, Italy had to qualify for their own tournament by defeating Greece. Mexico provided another one-off by travelling to the finals but not playing a single game. Although they had initially beaten Cuba to earn a place, a late application by the United States left the unlucky Mexicans facing another qualifier on arrival in Rome and they lost out 4-2.
Uruguay were the most notable omission from the line-up of contenders, having declined to participate in retaliation for Italy’s refusal to travel in 1930 – thereby creating another footnote in the history books as the only holders not to defend their prize.
The South American teams that did make the long journey were soon bound for home as Argentina and Brazil, both fielding under-strength sides, suffered first-round losses to Sweden and Spain respectively.
Facism also loomed large, with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini keen to use the tournament as a propaganda tool and basking in the success of the national side.
Third place: Brazil
Fourth place: Sweden
With war clouds gathering over Europe, the third FIFA World Cup took place against a bleak backdrop, yet football – not least the flamboyantly skilful brand practised by Brazil – provided a shaft of sunshine for the French crowds during a 15-day festival.
Italy, the strongest and most consistent side, emerged as worthy winners.
But the fact that two World Cups in a row were held in Europe was met with anger in South America, which had expected the tournament to be played in their continent every second time. This led to a boycott from Argentina and Uruguay. The World Cup in 1938 was dominated by European nations, with 13 of 16 teams European. Spain, inflicted with a civil war, was absent and British nations were still not showing an interest in being part of the competition.
Together with coach Vittorio Pozzo, there were four survivors in Italy’s squad from their 1934 triumph and two of them, Giuseppe Meazza and Giovanni Ferrari, figured prominently alongside star striker Silvio Piola, scorer of two goals in the 4-2 Final win over Hungary at the Stade Olympique that ensured the Azzurri became the first team to successfully defend the trophy.
Brazil came third and for the first time became noticed for their a crowd-pleasing style.
It was also the final time a unified Germany team would appear until 1994. Hitler, keen for a propaganda coup, forced some of Austria’s best players to turn out for Germany, but his hopes of victory were foiled by Switzerland.
Because of the Second World War, the World Cup would not be held for another 12 years, until 1950. As a result, Italy were the reigning World Cup holders for a record 16 years, from 1934 to 1950. The Italian Vice-President of FIFA, Dr. Ottorino Barassi, hid the trophy in a shoe-box under his bed throughout the war and thus saved it from falling into the hands of occupying troops.
Third place: Sweden
Fourth place: Spain
England arrived at their first FIFA World Cup in 1950 oozing confidence, tipped by many to ride the dazzling wing play of Stanley Matthews to win the first tournament following the end of World War II.
USA, on the other hand, made a long boat trip south to Brazil with a hopeful smattering of part-timers and were expected to do little more than make up the numbers. What happened on June 29 1950 is still considered one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, when an unknown Haitian-born student, a dishwasher, a hearse driver and no mean amount of good fortune enabled David to fell Goliath 1-0 after a 38th minute winner by Joe Gaetjens. It was an introduction to World Cup humiliation for England, sadly setting a pattern for future years.
Brazil built the planet’s biggest football stadium as a breathtaking stage for the 1950 finals but their hopes of consecrating the cavernous, three-tiered sporting cathedral of the Maracana with a first world title were shattered in another of the competition’s great surprises.
In a World Cup that concluded with a four-team mini-league, the hosts met Uruguay in a deciding fixture which proved a final in all but name. Needing only to draw, Brazil led through Friaca’s 47th-minute strike before Uruguay turned the game on its head via goals from Juan Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia. A deathly hush descended on the Maracana as some 200,000 voices fell silent and Brazil’s little neighbour to the south celebrated a second world crown.
Winner: West Germany
Third place: Austria
Fourth place: Uruguay
West Germany became world champions in Switzerland by ending the proud 31-match unbeaten record of Hungary’s ‘Magical Magyars’ in a Final forever remembered as the Miracle of Berne.
In the shadow of the Alps this was a mountain-sized upset, the Germans retrieving a two-goal deficit to record a 3-2 victory over opponents who had beaten them 8-3 just a fortnight before.
Jules Rimet, the outgoing FIFA President, handed the eponymous trophy to Fritz Walter and the football world absorbed an important new lesson: never, ever, write off the Germans.
At the tournament several all-time records for goal-scoring were set, including the highest average number of goals scored per game, which averaged out at 5.38. Hungary also set the record for the most goals scored in total at 27 and South Korea for the most goals conceded, at 16.
For the first time there was television coverage, and special coins were issued to mark the event.
England were knocked out in the quarter finals, losing 4-2 to Uruguay, despite goals from Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney.
Third place: France
Fourth place: West Germany
The World Cup of 1958 was the first to be played in a Nordic country – but it was dominated by one man from South America.
The long, sun-kissed days of a Swedish summer provided a golden backdrop to Brazil’s first World Cup triumph, the year that a 17-year-old called Pele announced his presence to football fans around the globe.
With a new-found tactical organisation and two supreme attacking talents in Pele and Garrincha, Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in the Final at the Rasunda Stadium to become the first team to capture the trophy on a different continent.
The final was played in Solna, in the Råsunda Stadium, in front of 50,000 people.
In the second half, Pelé outshone everyone, notching two goals, including the first one where he lobbed the ball over Bengt Gustavsson then followed it with a precise volley shot. His impact has arguably never been surpassed in the World Cup and the Brazilian was firmly installed as a global superstar.
The final marked the first time a World Cup host reached the last two without winning it. Additionally, the match marked the first time two nations from different continents had met in a World Cup final.
Brazil progressed from the quarter final in a tight match against Wales – the last time the home nation had qualified for a World Cup. After progressing unbeaten from the group stage, it was down to Pele to knock Wales out with a 66th minute winner. England, meanwhile, were foiled by the Soviet Union to get knocked out early on, losing 1-0 and ending third in the group behind it and Brazil.
Third place: Yugoslavia
Brazil versus Chile has perpetually been billed as a colossal mismatch. A pleasant winter’s day in Santiago – and a 1962 World Cup semi-final – provided the setting for a rare exception.
In an enthralling match, Mane Garrincha and Edvaldo Vava both scored a brace in a game that saw Pele on the bench.
Brazil won 4-2, but Garrincha’s red card left him suspended for the final. Amazingly, so besotted had the Chilean public become with the winger that they, along with Chile president Jorge Alessandri, successfully led a petition to allow him to perform in the fixture. Consequently, Brazil retained their World Cup crown with a convincing 3-1 victory over Czechoslovakia.
The South Americans successfully defended their World Cup title by defeating Czechoslovakia 3–1 in the final in the Chilean capital of Santiago. They became the second team, after Italy in 1934 and 1938, to win the World Cup twice consecutively. Host nation Chile finished third, defeating Yugoslavia 1–0 in the third-place play-off.
Brazil beat England on the way to their success, winning a quarter final 3-1 despite a 38th minute equaliser from Gerry Hitchens.
The tournament was marred by violence between players on the pitch and a toxic atmosphere. It included the first-round match between Chile and Italy, which became known as the Battle of Santiago, one of a number of violent matches played throughout the tournament. It was the first World Cup that used goal average as a means of separating teams with the same number of points. And it was also the first World Cup in which the average number of goals per match was less than three – at 2.78.
A major earthquake in 1960 meant the scale of the World Cup was limited, with some of the original venues too badly damaged to be used. The most used stadium was the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, with 10 matches.
Runner-up: West Germany
Third place: Portugal
Fourth place: Soviet Union
The defining moment in English football, and one it has strived – and failed – to match ever since.
Playing in front of home fans and their most illustrious supporter in Queen Elizabeth II, England were in a similar position to the one Brazil had found themselves in 1950, with a World Cup won on home soil, at Wembley.
The final has gone down in folklore among English fans, even those not born in 1966. Wolfgang Weber deprived the hosts of the Trophy in normal time, scoring in the last minute to make it 2-2.
A goalscorer in the regulation 90 minutes, Geoff Hurst struck twice more in extra time, the first of those two goals the most controversial in World Cup Final history: a powerful drive that hit the underside of the crossbar and, without doubt if you are an Englishman, bounced just over the line. Fans ran on the pitch and the rest is history.
The tournament roused interest the English public, but less of the fervent support you would see today.
But, as England progressed, support grew and there was an outpouring of celebration after the victory over Germany.
Villa Park was among venues used for the tournament, boasting a capacity of 52,000. Another link to the West Midlands was Lilleshall in Shropshire, which was the training base for the side ahead of the tournament.
And, while 1966 was all about England, it was also the tournament that saw a certain Franz Beckenbauer win the Best Young Player Award, with the mighty Eusebio the Golden Boot.
Third place: West Germany
Fourth place: Uruguay
Mexico saw history as Brazil made it three titles and got to keep the prestigious Jules Rimet trophy.
Defeating Italy 4-1 in the final, it saw the Seleção, featuring greats such as Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivelino, Gerson, Carlos Alberto and Clodoaldo mesmerise crowds with attacking football and skills.
The ninth World Cup, it was notable for being the first held in North America.
Despite the issues of altitude and high temperature, the finals largely produced attacking football.
It created an average goals per game record that has not since been bettered by any subsequent World Cup Finals.
With 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, in a few cases, in colour, for the first time.
For England it was a tournament to forget, and fans, who had been serenaded with the number one single Back Home, were left disappointed. Preparations were hampered by the arrest of their captain Bobby Moore in Colombia for allegedly stealing a bracelet from a jeweller’s shop – the charges were later dropped.
Against old foe West Germany in the quarter final, the reigning champions took a two-goal lead, but then gave it all away as Franz Beckenbauer, Uwe Seeler and Gerd Müller dumped them out.
The defeat wasn’t just bad news for football fans.
It is said the widespread gloom played a significant role in the surprise defeat of Harold Wilson’s Labour government in the general election four days later.
The 1970 World Cup was the first in which referees were able to flash yellow and red cards.
And it was also marked by the publishing of Panini’s first sticker book, initiating a global craze for collecting and trading stickers that remains to this day.
In 2017, a complete 1970 World Cup Panini sticker album signed by Pelé sold for a record £10,450.
West Germany 1974
Winner: West Germany
Third place: Poland
Fourth place: Brazil
A tournament notable for the absence of the England team, who failed to qualify despite being in a relatively weak group.
England had to beat Poland at Wembley to get through and certainly won on chances – 35 to two. Unfortunately the final score was 1-1 and there would be no trip to West Germany.
It was left to the Dutch to wow the World Cup of 1974 and the ever efficient Germans to win it.
This was the tournament of Total Football, a showcase for the majestic talents of Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer, who shone in the spotlight vacated by Pele, leading their respective Dutch and West German sides through to a final showdown in Munich on 7 July 1974.
As against Ferenc Puskas’s Magnificent Magyars 20 years earlier, it was West Germany who emerged triumphant, coming from behind to claim their second world crown at the expense of the favourites.
In England’s absence, Scotland shone but still failed to get out of their group thanks to scoring fewer goals against Zaire than Yugoslavia and Brazil. It was tough on the Scots, who had managed to draw against both the Brazilians and the Yugoslavs and they have still yet to progress beyond the group stage of any major finals.
The tournament is considered one of the best in terms of quality of football, which is some achievement as it was largely held in bad weather.
It also brought together East and West German sides for the first time, with the East winning during the groups stage match thanks to a late Jürgen Sparwasser goal.
Carlos Caszely of Chile became the first player to be sent off with a red card in a World Cup match, during a match against West Germany.
Third place: Brazil
Fourth place: Italy
Losing finalists at the very first World Cup, Argentina’s footballers reached the pinnacle on home soil 48 years later.
They were propelled by the goals of Golden Shoe winner Mario Kempes and the fervour of their impassioned followers.
The snowstorm of shredded blue and white paper, swirling inside the stadiums in Buenos Aires and Rosario, offered a defining image of the tournament.
Amid Argentina’s celebrations, there was sympathy for the Netherlands, runners-up for the second tournament running, following a 3-1 final defeat at the Estadio Monumental.
After Dirk Nanninga’s header had equalised Kempes’s first-half opener, the Dutch came within a whisker of winning when Rob Rensenbrink struck a post in the dying seconds of normal time. Destiny beckoned a reprieved Argentina, however, and Kempes and Daniel Bertoni seized the glory with extra-time strikes.
England were absent for the second tournament in a row, this time denied by Italy in the qualifiers on goals scored.
So it was again down to the Scots to promise so much but also disappoint yet again, despite a wonder goal by Archie Gemmill in a 3-2 group stage win over Holland that was ultimately not enough to get them through on goal difference.
Away from football, the tournament was marred by controversy, domestic politics, and alleged interference by the Argentine authoritarian military junta government. It used the tournament as an opportunity for nationalistic propaganda and to seek legitimacy on the world stage just a few years before it invaded the Falkland Islands.
Runner-up: West Germany
Third place: Poland
Fourth place: France
Ron Greenwood’s only World Cup as England manager, it was also the only one to feature an unusual format where there were two separate group stages.
England, captained by Kevin Keegan, won all three matches in the first group stage, beating France 3-1, with a brace from Bryan Robson, Czechoslovakia 2–0, with the help of a Jozef Barmos own goal, and World Cup newcomers Kuwait 1–0, with Trevor Francis on the mark.
This put England through to the second stage, where they were put into a three-team group with West Germany and Spain. They drew 0-0 with both nations, exiting the tournament undefeated, but having hardly set the world alight either.
Italy became world champions for the third time in 1982, their triumph on Spanish soil made memorable by the scoring feats of six-goal striker Paolo Rossi and an iconic celebration by Marco Tardelli. The romantic-minded may have shed a tear for Brazil and France – unlucky losers in two of the finest matches of any FIFA World Cup – but few begrudged Enzo Bearzot’s men a 3-1 victory over a rugged West Germany team in a final in which Rossi’s opening goal secured him the Golden Shoe to complete a personal redemption story even more dramatic than the Italians’ revival after a faltering start.
Brazil were hotly fancied at the start of the tournament, and comfortably topped their first group. But their victory over Argentina in the second group was not enough to see them through, as they crashed to Italy in a pulsating 3-2 defeat in Barcelona.
Scotland qualified, but following impressive 5-2 win over New Zealand in the so-called ‘group of death’, they lost 4-1 to Brazil. A 2-2 draw with the Soviet Union saw them go out on goal difference.
Runner-up: West Germany
Third place: France
Fourth place: Belgium
This was the World Cup that made an international superstar of Diego Maradona, Argentina’s diminutive inside forward being both hero and villain in the tournament.
Unquestionably a prodigious talent, Maradona arrived in Mexico amid a blaze of media hype, something the 25-year-old had no problem in living up to.
This would be England manager Bobby Robson’s first major tournament, with the man who succeeded Ron Greenwood four years earlier under intense pressure having failed to qualify for the 1984 European Championships.
His team’s early performances in Mexico did little to improve the situation, with England losing their opening game to Portugal 1–0, and only managing a goalless draw against Morocco – with Ray Wilkins getting sent off. England’s fortunes improved in the final group game against Poland, which they won 3-0, with Gary Lineker scoring a hat-trick.
The win was enough for England to finish second in their group, and qualify for the knockout round of 16, the second-group stage having been dispensed with.
A 3-0 victory over Paraguay earned England a quarter final tie with Argentina, just four years after the two countries had been at war. What would have been a feisty encounter at the best of times had the added spice of pitting England’s free-scoring Gary Lineker against Maradona, who had set the tournament alight with his amazing skills.
And so it turned out, with Maradona putting Argentina ahead in the most controversial of circumstances, television replays showing him clearly punching the ball into the net.
Maradona then made the score 2–0, dribbling from inside Argentina’s half and around several English players before scoring. Lineker pulled back the score to 2–1, but England failed to equalise. There was some consolation for Lineker, who won the Golden Boot with his six goals.
Argentina comfortably beat France 2-0 to land a place in the final against 1982 runners-up West Germany.
The 115,000 capacity crowd at the Azteca Stadium saw the South Americans take a two-goal lead, only for the Germans to get back on level terms with two late goals in the space of seven minutes.
With just six minutes remaining, Maradona conjured up one more piece of genius to flick a perfect pass into the path of Jorge Burruchaga, who strode away from the German defence and slid the ball past Harald Schumacher.
Winner: West Germany
Third place: Italy
Fourth place: England
England headed to Italy amid controversy, forced to play their group games in Sardinia and Sicily amid concerns about the behaviour of England fans.
Bobby Robson had announced he would be standing down as England manager after the tournament, having secured a job at PSV Eindhoven amid ferocious tabloid pressure over both his results and his private life.
Against this backdrop of negativity, England did surprisingly well, with break-out performances from Aston Villa midfielder David Platt, and Tottenham’s Paul Gascoigne. Also in the squad was Wolves’ Steve Bull, whose prodigious goalscoring ability earned him a place despite having never played in the top flight.
After opening the tournament with a 1–1 draw against Ireland and a 0–0 draw against the Dutch, England beat Egypt 1–0 to win the group with four points.
In the round of 16, Platt scored a 119th-minute winner against Belgium after the game went into extra time.
England faced surprise package Cameroon in the quarter finals, the first African team to reach this stage. Platt again opened the scoring, but Cameroon quickly turned the game around to lead 2–1. Lineker subsequently won and scored a penalty in the 83rd minute to ensure the game went to extra time. He then scored a second penalty, to see England reach the semi-finals.
West Germany took a 60th minute lead against England in the semi final, but Gary Lineker equalised in the 80th minute to take the game into extra time and penalties, which the Germans won 4-3 – setting up a rivalry that would run for decades.
England lost 2-1 against Italy in the match for third place, their only normal-time defeat in the tournament.
In the final, West Germany avenged their 1986 defeat with a 1-0 victory over Argentina, Andreas Brehme scoring the only goal of the game in the 85th minute.
The tournament was also notable for a strong performance by the Republic of Ireland, who were knocked out by Italy in the quarter final.
Third place: Spain
Fourth place: Bulgaria
England’s failure to qualify for the 1994 tournament had brought an end to Graham Taylor’s unhappy time as manager, leaving the British broadcast media championing Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland.
The decision to hold the tournament in the USA had raised a few eyebrows, the country not being known for being an Association Football power. But what it lacked in heritage it made up for in commercial know-how, proving to be the most lucrative ever, with a record total attendance of broke tournament records with overall attendance of 3,587,538.
Brazil were crowned the winners after defeating Italy 3–2 in a penalty shoot-out at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, near Los Angeles, after the game had ended 0–0 after extra time. It was the first World Cup final to be decided on penalties.
It also made Brazil the first nation to win four World Cup titles. There were three new entrants in the tournament: Greece, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia; Russia also appeared as a separate nation for the first time, following the break-up of the Soviet Union, and for the first time since 1938, a unified Germany took part in the tournament. They were also defending champions, but were eliminated in quarter-finals by Bulgaria.
It was the first World Cup where three points were awarded for a victory instead of two and also the first with the back-pass rule. This was done to encourage a more attacking style of soccer after the defensive tactics and low-scoring matches of the 1990 World Cup. This resulted in an average of 2.71 goals per match.
The Republic of Ireland, featuring Aston Villa’s Ray Houghton, Steve Staunton, Paul McGrath and Andy Townsend, reached the round of 16, where they lost 2-0 to the Netherlands.
Third place: Croatia
Fourth place: Netherlands
England’s bitter rivalry with Argentina reached fever pitch when the sides met again in an ill-tempered contest which saw no fewer than six yellow cards and two penalties.
Once again, the Argentinians triumphed in controversial circumstances, with David Beckham being sent off in the 47th minute for violent conduct after lashing out at Argentina’s Diego Simeone. The match finished 2-2, with extra time failing to produce a winner, and England losing 4-3 on penalties.
England, managed by Glenn Hoddle, had come second in Group G, having beaten Tunisia 2–0 in the first game, followed by a 2-1 defeat to Romania and a 2–0 win over Columbia.
Ironically, given the Beckham incident, England won the FIFA Fair Play award during the tournament, while Michael Owen was crowned the best young player.
Hosts France reached their first final against four-time champions and hot favourites Brazil, having seen off Paraguay, Italy and Croatia in the knockout stages.
Brazil defeated Chile, Denmark and the Netherlands having won their group.
France, denied the services of the suspended Laurent Blanc, could have been forgiven for feeling apprehensive, especially with the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cafu, Bebeto and Roberto Carlos lining up against them. Nevertheless, coach Aime Jacquet won the tactical battle against opposite number Mario Zagallo, and Zinedine Zidane was at his imperious best. Thanks to his brace and a late goal from Emmanuel Petit – when they were down to 10 men – Les Bleus finally achieved their moment of glory.
Scotland also took part in the tournament, but finished bottom of their group losing to Brazil and Morocco, but holding Norway to a draw.
South Korea/Japan 2002
Third place: Turkey
Fourth place: South Korea
The 2002 World Cup was the first to be played in Asia, and will be remembered by many for its breakfast-time games, which saw many pubs opening early.
Sven-Goran Eriksson had become England’s first foreign manager, and entered the competition in good spirits following a 5-1 victory over Germany.
Ironically, England’s first game was against Eriksson’s native Sweden, the sides settling for a 1–1 draw.
England finally got the better of Argentina, with Beckham – sent off the last time the two sides clashed – scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot.
A disappointing 0–0 draw against Nigeria saw them finish runners-up in their group.
A 3-0 win over Denmark, with goals from Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand, and Emile Heskey, saw them play favourites Brazil in the quarter-final.
Brazil went into the tournament having experienced the worst qualifying campaign in their history, and manager Luiz Felipe Scolari controversially ignored pleas by supporters to reinstate star striker Romario to the side.
An early goal from Owen gave England hope, but a blunder by keeper David Seaman saw England lose 2–1.
Brazil beat Turkey 1-0 in the semi-final, with Germany beating South Korea 1-0 in the other semi.
The stage was set for a classic final, with Ronaldo scoring both goals to secure the Samba boys a record fifth World Cup win.
Both holders France and second favourites Argentina were eliminated at the group stage.
Third place: Germany
Fourth place: Portugal
England’s so-called ‘golden generation’ went into the 2006 World Cup with high hopes, having won eight of their 10 qualifiers.
The first game, against Paraguay, started well, when England benefited from a third-minute own goal, but that would be the only goal of the game, and Capello’s side looked unconvincing.
The second game, against Trinidad and Tobago who had never qualified before, also proved tougher than expected. England took the lead in the 83rd minute through Peter Crouch, although many thought the goal should have been disallowed, and Steven Gerrard put the game to bed in stoppage time.
A 2-2 draw with Sweden was enough to see them win the group, but questions were still being asked about performance levels.
In the last 16 stage, a free kick from David Beckham saw England win 1–0 against Ecuador.
England were held to a goalless draw by Portugal in the quarter final, but went out on penalties as Ricardo became the first goalkeeper to save three penalties in a shoot-out. Ricardo saved from Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Jamie Carragher; the only England player who converted his penalty was Owen Hargreaves. Portugal won the shoot-out 3–1, despite misses from Petit and Hugo Viana.
Germany reached the semi final, having dispatched Argentina on penalties. But the hosts went out to Italy in the semis, losing 2-0 in Dortmund.
An action-packed final saw Italy take on France at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. The only goals of the game came from player of the tournament Zinedine Zidane, and Marco Matterazi, but Zidane blotted his copy book when he was sent off for butting Matterazi.
Italy won the match 5-3 on penalties to win their fourth World Cup.
It would be Sven-Goran Eriksson’s last tournament as England manager, the Swede having announced his departure beforehand amid reports about his private life and a sting by News of the World’s infamous ‘fake sheikh’ Mazher Mahmood.
South Africa 2010
Third Place: Germany
Fourth Place: Uruguay
'England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks – Easy' ran the headline on the front page of The Sun, as the newspaper pondered what it saw as a favourable draw.
Now under the stern eye of Italian coach Fabio Capello, appointed following Steve McClaren’s brief and disastrous spell in charge, England went to South Africa in good form, having won nine out of the 10 qualifiers.
But England looked flat right from the start, beginning the tournament with a poor 1-1 draw against the US, thanks to a major error by goalkeeper Robert Green.
A goalless draw against Algeria saw the players booed off the field by their own fans, a microphone picking up Wayne Rooney complaining about their reception. Rumours began to circulate that the England players were finding Capello’s austere, disciplinarian regime a culture shock after Eriksson’s more relaxed approach.
England eventually qualified as runners up to the US with a 1–0 win over Slovenia, but their failure to win the group meant they would draw favourites Germany in the final 16.
Fears about how they would cope against sterner opposition proved correct when Germany took the lead after 20 minutes, with Miroslav Klose opening the scoring. Twelve minutes later Germany doubled the lead.
Matthew Upson responded quickly to get England back into the game, and Frank Lampard appeared to have scored the equaliser with a superb half-volley from 25 yards. But inexplicably, the goal was ruled not to have crossed the line, despite replays showing it clearly to have done so. German goalkeeper Neuer later admitted he knew the ball had crossed the line.
The German media reported it as revenge for Geoff Hurst’s contentious goal in the 1966 final, while the English media criticised FIFA’s refusal to implement goal-line technology.
As England pressed forward with increasing desperation for an equaliser, Germany took advantage and scored two more goals. England’s 4–1 defeat was their all-time worst World Cup score.
Spain, who had never proceeded beyond the quarter finals before, proved to be the surprise package, with 1-0 wins over Portugal, Paraguay and Germany taking them to the final against the Netherlands – which they also won 1-0.
Third Place: Netherlands
Former West Bromwich Albion manager Roy Hodgson was at the helm for England, but it was not a happy tournament. England were drawn in a group with former winners Italy and Uruguay, as well as Costa Rica, the first time three former champions were placed in the same group. England performed brightly enough in the opening game against Italy, but lost 2-1.
Claudio Marchisio had put Italy ahead on 35 minutes, but Daniel Sturridge equalised within two minutes leaving the two sides on level terms at half-time. But Mario Balotelli scored on 50 minutes, and England were unable to take advantage of their chances in the second half.
England also lost 2-1 to Uruguay in their second game, meaning they were eliminated after just two games. The final match against Costa Rica finished as a goalless draw, and the last remnants of England’s ‘Golden Generation’ were sent home without a win in the nation's worst ever showing in the tournament.
Germany reclaimed the world title in style, becoming the first European team to triumph in the Americas.
Joachim Low’s side dispatched the host side in the semi finals with a thumping 7-1 victory, but found Argentina a tougher nut to crack in the final. With the game still goalless at the end of normal time, Mario Goetze scored the only goal of the game in the 112th minute. It was the third World Cup final in a row that had required extra time, securing Germany their fourth World Cup.
Third place: Belgium
Fourth place: England
The 21st World Cup was controversially held in Russia amid allegations of bribery and corruption. England arrived amid low expectations. The humiliation of the 2014 World Cup was compounded by a lacklustre showing at the 2016 European Championships.
The untested Gareth Southgate had become their third manager in two years, taking over from Dudley-born Sam Allardyce who held the job for just 67 days before falling foul of a newspaper sting.
England’s first game against Tunisia began well, with captain Harry Kane putting them head in the 11th minute. Tunisia drew level in the 35th minute when Ferjani Sassi scored from the spot. But a dogged performance saw Kane grab a winner in the 91st minute.
In the second match, England demolished minnows Panama with a 6-1 victory, their highest ever goal tally at the World Cup. Kane scored a hat-trick and John Stones was on the mark twice, with Jesse Lingard getting the other goal of the game.
With England and Belgium both safely through to the final 16, there was little to play for in the final group game. Indeed pundits suggested that losing might actually be advantageous, as second place would avoid being in the draw with four of the world’s top seven sides.
Both teams fielded second-string teams, with England making nine changes, and Belgium triumphed 1-0.
England played Tunisia in the round of 16 game, taking the lead through a Harry Kane penalty, before Tunisia equalised in stoppage time.
With extra time yielding no further goals, England won 4–3 on penalties, the first time England had won a World Cup shoot-out. Eight yellow cards were branded in the heated atmosphere.
A 2-0 quarter-final win over Sweden in Samara, with goals from Delli Alli and Harry Maguire earned England a place in the semi-finals, where they would play Croatia.
Kieran Trippier gave England a fifth-minute lead, but the team conceded a second-half equaliser and lost the game 2-1 after extra time.
They played Belgium for a second time in the tournament for the third-placed play-off, and lost 2-0, taking fourth place – their best result since 1990.
Croatia went on to meet France in a pulsating final, which France won 4-2.