The Best FIFA World Cups of All Time

Waseem Jalal

At an exciting tournament which saw surprise results and plenty of goals scored from top sides across Europe, Gary Lineker won his third Golden Boot as his side took advantage of Europe’s lower division teams’ struggles and scored at will. Diego Maradona famously created his legendary ‘Hand of God’ during this competition – and Gary Lineker took full advantage by leading England to victory and becoming Golden Boot winner in one day!

Lionel Messi won the 2022 tournament by defeating France’s Kylian Mbappe to take top honors and top the golden boot rankings – that event became the benchmark to beat.


The 10th World Cup marked the debut of the FIFA World Cup trophy and marked the first tournament to open up competition between East Germany, Haiti and Zaire (now DR Congo) teams.

Under Ajax manager Rinus Michels and superstar Johan Cruyff’s direction, Netherlands mesmerised audiences with its brand of Total Football, eventually defeating West Germany to claim victory in their respective championship.

This World Cup marked Diego Maradona’s breakthrough as an exceptional talent and saw its first-ever penalty shoot-out when a knockout match ended in a draw after 120 minutes of play. Additionally, its thrilling final featured two fantastic teams that produced thrilling moments on both sides.


Mexico became the first host country ever to stage two World Cup tournaments, and their preparations were greatly complicated by a devastating earthquake only eight months prior to start of tournament. Yet Mexico managed to host one of the most captivating World Cup tournaments ever with small nations such as Costa Rica and Algeria pushing favorites Brazil all the way into semi-finals where Germany would deliver another maracanazo (part II) defeat with a 7-1 thrashing!

Argentina defeated Italy in an action-packed final, as Diego Armando Maradona cemented himself as its star player. France then crushed Johan Cruyff-led Netherlands team with technical dominance unseen before.


1990’s World Cup truly lived up to expectations, thanks to Michael Owen and Dennis Bergkamp as leading stars. Cameroon caused shockwaves by making it through to the quarter-finals and Roger Milla’s team coming within one match of winning their second crown.

West Germany won the final against Argentina 2-1 to avenge their 1986 defeat and featured 52 matches and 115 goals – an average of 2.21 per game – during a tournament featuring 52 matches and an incredible goal average of 2.21 per game; Zinedine Zidane made headlines for both his stunning panenka penalty and shocking headbutt on Marco Materazzi in this final game alone!


This year’s tournament was one of the most exciting ever held, featuring such iconic names as Michael Owen, Dennis Bergkamp and Zinedine Zidane – three big stars of 90s sports culture.

The final between France and Brazil remains one of the greatest games ever seen on an international field. Although Zidane didn’t score, his influence can still be felt throughout the match.

France, under Didier Deschamps, won their inaugural World Cup under home-ground advantage and defeated Brazil 3-0 in the final. France became the first team ever to become champions on home turf.

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The inaugural African World Cup certainly lived up to its expectations, from Siphiwe Tshabalala’s magnificent goal against Mexico in the opening game to France-Argentina final on penalties, this tournament offered incredible football action.

Luciano Pavarotti’s song ‘Nessun dorma’ would become iconic among certain generations of soccer fans during this exceptional summer for soccer – making this summer one of its greatest ever!


The inaugural World Cup held in Africa was an unforgettable tournament. From Nigel De Jong’s iconic kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso to Steven Pienaar scoring three hat-tricks and making the Bafana Bafana team the first host nation ever to reach the quarter-finals, this tournament left lasting impressions across the globe.

Argentina and Germany went head-to-head in an epic final that is still remembered today. Maradona’s pass that got past three German defenders was what eventually gave Argentina the win and will likely remain one of its defining moments.


The 2014 World Cup may have fallen short of expectations set in 2010, yet still offered plenty of excitement and memorable moments. Goalline technology finally put an end to controversial decisions which might’ve been overturned had FIFA stuck with tradition.

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James Rodriguez of Colombia scored an amazing volley while Germany’s Mario Gotze scored a magnificent winner from Germany – these moments helped broaden soccer’s appeal beyond niche niches and give it greater universality.

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