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FIFA World Cup History: Past Winners, Runners-Up, Leading Goalscorers & Golden Boot Recipients

The two semi-finals, third-place play-off, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup final will all take place this week. We have been treated to a memorable competition in Qatar, and Croatia, Argentina, Morocco, and France are left battling it out for the trophy.

The World Cup is arguably the biggest sporting event in the world, and the competition has a rich history. In this World Cup history piece, we take a look at the past winners, runners-up, leading goalscorers, and previous Golden Boot recipients.

We also look ahead to the current World Cup schedule and give you our Qatar 2022 predictions along with the latest FIFA World Cup odds.

Past Winners

Uruguay were the inaugural winners of the World Cup back in 1930, and the South American side also picked up the trophy in 1950. However, Brazil are the most successful nation in World Cup history, winning in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002.

Germany are the most successful European country. The Germans have won four World Cups, with the last of those coming on Brazilian soil in 2014. They have also been losing finalists four times.

Italy have also won the World Cup on four occasions. The Italians won the second version on home soil in 1934, and their final triumph was on German turf in 2006.

Over the years, there have been eight different winners of the World Cup, with five of those coming from Europe and three from South America.


Five nations have reached a World Cup final but have never lifted the trophy. Netherlands have been runners-up three times and are the most successful country in World Cup history not to win the trophy. They were losing finalists in 1974, 1978, and 2010.

Germany have been runners-up more than any other nation, missing out on the gold medal in four finals. The most recent was in Yokohama, Japan in 2002 when they lost 2-0 to Brazil.

Argentina, who are one of the four nations left in the 2022 World Cup, have been runners-up three times. They have also won the World Cup twice and are fourth in the all-time standings in World Cup history.

Croatia are the most recent runners-up of the World Cup, reaching the final in 2018. The Croatians are looking to make it to the 2022 final, also. 

Along with Holland and Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Sweden have also reached the final but have never lifted the World Cup trophy.

Leading Goalscorers

Since the first competition way back in 1930, there have been over 2,500 goals scored in World Cup history. The first player to score a World Cup goal was Frenchman Lucien Laurent.

Just Fontaine still holds the record for the most World Cup goals scored in a single tournament. The French striker netted 13 times at the 1958 tournament in Sweden. Four years earlier, Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis scored 11 in Switzerland.

The tournament in South Africa in 2010 saw four players finish on the same number of goals for the first time in World Cup history. Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, David Villa, and Diego Forlan all scored five goals each.

The last two top scorers in the competition have ended on six goals. Colombia’s James Rodriguez scored six at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, while England’s Harry Kane helped himself to six at the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

With his goal against Ghana in Portugal’s opening game of the 2022 World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score in five World Cups. However, Ronaldo has never won a World Cup Golden Boot.

Golden Ball Recipients

The World Cup Golden Ball was introduced back in 1982, with the award recognizing the best player of the tournament. The first winner was Italy’s Paolo Rossi in Spain 1982. Four years later, the late, great Diego Maradona won the award in Mexico.

Brazil had back-to-back Golden Ball winners in 1994 and 1998. Romario was named the best player in the United States, while Ronaldo won the award in France four years on.

Zinedine Zidane had a memorable tournament for France in 2006. He guided Les Bleus to the World Cup final but was sent off for an infamous headbutt in his final game in professional soccer. The French great won the Golden Ball but France missed out on the World Cup trophy on penalties. 

The most recent Golden Ball winner in Russia was the outstanding Luka Modric. Modric’s stunning performances guided his nation to a silver medal in 2018.

2022 World Cup Odds & Predictions

Croatia, Argentina, Morocco, and France are the four nations left in the 2022 World Cup. There is a packed World Cup schedule this week, with the semi-finals taking place in midweek before the weekend’s third-place play-off and World Cup final.

France are the defending champions, and Didier Deschamps’ troops are the favorites to lift the trophy in Qatar. In the semi-finals, the French take on Morocco, who are the first African nation to make it to the last four of a World Cup.

We fancy France and Argentina to progress and contest the final. The French are priced at +110 to retain their crown, while the Argentinians are available at +170 to get their hands on the World Cup trophy for the first time since 1986.

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