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Top 10 FIFA World Cup Ranked

For this list, I will be looking at all 21 FIFA World Cup tournaments from 1930-2018. I will be ranking them on things like excitement, drama, what the tournaments meant to soccer as a whole, and of course, those sweet goals. And I will try to say some positive things about all the tournaments so that way I don’t come off as biased and don’t diss anyone’s favorite World Cup.

Every country’s best result at the World Cup

10. From the oldest to the newest, my starter to my top 10 is Russia 2018. This tournament saw all sorts of excitement, Argentina and Portugal were out in the round of 16, Germany and Poland out in the Group Stage, and England finally won a penalty shootout! (oh and FYI it’s not coming home!). There was only one game that ended goalless, Iceland became the smallest country to qualify for the World Cup, and this was the big introduction to VAR, the video replay system that I think will bring the necessary change to the game we need.

9. From one world superpower to another, my next pick is USA 1994. Everyone thought the host selection was controversial, but it went down greatly. We knew it would be entertaining from the start as new rules were put in place to promote an attacking style of play, goalkeepers were no longer allowed to handle the back pass, and 3 points were given for a win instead of 2, making a win more valuable. Group E ended with all four teams on the same amount of points, that’s the first time that’s happened at a World Cup, Mexico started the Quarterfinal curse, Saudi Arabia reached the Round of 16, and Bulgaria reached the semifinal. Sadly a Colombian defender named Andres Escobar was shot dead after scoring an own goal against the US, leading to Columbia’s elimination, but there was still so much excitement. The game became Americanized with the huge stadiums, colorful jersey’s, and the last names of players printed on the back of the jerseys. A great tournament, reflected by the fact that it had the highest average attendance in World Cup history at 69,174 per match.

8. A lot of people would place this higher, but I place Switzerland 1954 at number eight. This tournament saw the highest goals per game rate in World Cup history with a 5.38, but at the time a typical formation was a 2-3-5, compare that to a modern 4-4-2. The Hungarian team from this tournament were sensational, with Ferenc Puskas and Sándor Kocsis up front, József Bozik and Zoltán Czibor in midfield, and Gyula Grosics in goal. West Germany also pulled off one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history when they beat Hungary, a team who hadn’t lost in 31 matches, in the final by a score of 3-2. There was also a quarterfinal between Austria and hosting Switzerland, the Austrians ran out 7-5 winners, that is the most goals (12) in a single World Cup game, and Switzerland was also 3-0 up in the first 20 minutes making it the largest comeback in World Cup history as well.

7. My next pick is going to our friends south of the border, Mexico 1986. This tournament saw many stunning and entertaining moments, such as Manuel Negrete’s goal vs Bulgaria, Gary Lineker’s hat trick vs Poland, the round of 16 between USSR and Belgium which ended 3-4 to the Belgians with Russian Igor Belanov scoring a hat trick. Some of the biggest highlights include quarterfinals between Argentina vs England, and France vs Brazil. Argentina vs England saw Diego Maradona score the most controversial goal in World Cup history (the hand of god) and one of the greatest goals of all time (later dubbed the goal of the century). France vs Brazil saw lots of attacking play, after extra time, the scores were 1-1, it led to a penalty shootout where Socrates and Michel Platini, the two captains, missed their penalties, and Luís Hernandez scored the decisive penalty for France. The final between Argentina and West Germany was the greatest Final in World Cup history, with the Argentines winning 3-2 thanks to a goal by unsung Argentine hero Jorge Burruchaga.

6. This next one goes to the best World Cup in terms of style of play, that being West Germany 1974. The Dutch team from this tournament were instant sensations with their Total Football they had legends such as Johnny Rep, Johan Neeskens, Ruud Krol, Willem Van Hanagem, Rob Rensenbrink, and their superstar Johan Cruyff. West Germany had a solid team as well with captain Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner, Uli Honeb, and Gerd Muller, as did Poland surprisingly with Grzegorz Lato. There was simply incredible stuff from Netherlands, especially in their second-round matches between Argentina and Brazil. West Germany and Sweden played to 4-2 in favor of the hosts in the second round. And in a surprising twist of faith saw West Germany beat Netherlands in the final.

5. Breaking into the top World Cup’s ever in the top 5 is Brazil 1950. Many things about this tournament were last minute, for example, there were supposed to be 16 teams, but there ended up only being 13 because 3 withdrew. Brazil was phenomenal as ever winning their games by massive scores, England who were thought to be the best team in the world were humiliated in Belo Horizonte after losing 1-0 to an amateur USA team. The biggest highlight of all was the decisive match, this tournament didn’t have a winner take all final, instead, the top 4 teams played in a final group, meaning the hosts only needed a draw to become World Cup champions. All the newspapers proclaimed Brazil as champions, the mayor of Rio had already claimed them champions, but Uruguay hadn’t read the script, the Uruguayans proceeded to win 2-1 and cause heartbreak amongst the Brazilian faithful.

4. Another World Cup known for Brazil is Sweden 1958. This tournament saw many incredible feats, which included Wales and Northern Ireland reaching the quarterfinal, this tournament also saw a French striker Just Fontaine score 13 goals, to this day that’s the most by a single player in one tournament. Brazil also had great players in Didi, Vava, Garrincha, Bellini, Nilton Santos, Djalma Santos, and a 17-year-old Pele. To this day Pele is the youngest ever goalscorer, and the final between Brazil and Sweden saw the youngest and oldest goalscorers in the final, Brazil’s Pele at 17 and Sweden’s Nils Liedholm at 35. This was also the first tournament to have a proper Group stage with groups of 4 and a knockout stage.

3. I will probably lose a lot of you with this next pick because my bronze medal goes to France 1998. This was the first tournament where the golden goal rule was used, it only happened once, but it would change the game for about 8 years. There were also many brilliant players from Michael Laudrup, Lilian Thuram, Davor Suker, Marcel Desailly, Zinedine Zidane, and of course Ronaldo (no not Cristiano). France 1998 set the standard for all other 32 team World Cups in the future, yeah there were 22 red cards, but all the players were really giving their all to win. There was David Beckham who was scrutinized because he cost England the World Cup, and there was Ronaldo’s exclusion from the final but was put in later on, but the best story was how France’s team, dubbed the Rainbow Warriors, overcame right-wing criticism to become World Champions. And say what you want about Diego Maradona and Carlos Alberto, Dennis Bergkamp’s goal against Argentina is the greatest goal in World Cup history.

2. Getting silver in this competition in Mexico 1970, I know a lot of people would’ve put this at number 1, but 2 out of 21 is nothing to be ashamed of. This whole tournament, the plan of attack, was attack, and the Brazilians were most sensational of them all. West Germany got revenge against England having lost to them in the final 4 years earlier, The final between Italy and Brazil was a Brazilian celebration with a 4-1 victory and got to keep the Jules Rimet trophy forever. The semifinal between Italy and West Germany was regarded as the match of the century, many think this but the first 90 minutes ended 1-1, extra time was beyond special with the game ending 4-3. This tournament was a World Cup of firsts, the first to be hosted outside of Europe and South America, and the first to be broadcasted live in color.

1. Winning the competition for the best World cup in history is Spain 1982. This tournament had it all, from Group 1 having only one decisive result, West Germany and Austria creating the best result for both teams in the disgrace of Gijon, Hungary pounding El Salvador 10-1, Bryan Robson scoring for England in the 25th second against France, the France v Kuwait controversy, Northern Ireland beating hosts Spain 1-0, Brazil showing why they were the best in the world, Paolo Rossi putting in the best individual performance against Brazil as he scored a hat trick as Italy won 3-2, the semifinal between France and West Germany ending 3-3 after extra time resulting in the first ever penalty shootout (not to mention Harald Schumacher’s challenge on Battiston), and Marco Tardelli’s crazy goal celebration in the final as Italy ran out 3-1 victors over West Germany. This tournament is well and truly untouchable with all that went down and was the first modern World Cup.

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