Top 10 Best FIFA World Cups That Will Be Remembered Forever

Tags: #Football ,   #Soccer ,   #FIFAWorldCup ,   #WorldCup ,   #footballislife

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2022-09-26 13:44:13

The FIFA World Cup is a celebration of soccer. Yet, sometimes, the competition turns out to be underwhelming, as we mention in our Top Ten Worst FIFA World Cups. Still, more than a couple of tournaments had us enjoying (almost) every game, and this is their story. So, let us take you through the best moments of FIFA World Cup history!

10. Switzerland 1954 – High-Scoring Festival

1954 FIFA World Cup Switzerland logo
1954 World Cup gave some incredible scores

Opinions about the 1954 World Cup are divided, and that's not a surprise since the competition was pretty strange. For almost every bright moment, another was so baffling that it won't ever be repeated. This was the first tournament that resembled modern FIFA World Cups. For the first time since 1934, we had 16 teams competing, as they were divided into four groups, with the two best progressing to the quarterfinals. However, the strange round-robin system meant that two top-seeded teams never played against each other!

The 1954 FIFA World Cup final was very surprising

This is also by far the highest-scoring World Cup, with almost 5.5 goals per match! However, that's primarily thanks to some very weak sides. For example, South Korea somehow allowed 16 goals in only two games! Also, the quarterfinal, where Austria beat Switzerland 7-5, is hard to forget. Still, the biggest moment came in the final when West Germany made a huge upset by beating favorites Hungary. This happened even though they were down 2-0 after only eight minutes of play! Therefore, Germany finally turned into giants at this tournament, while Hungarians slowly faded into oblivion.

9. Brazil 2014 – Brazilian Tears, Again

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil logo
It wasn't meant to be for Brazil at the World Cup 2014

Soccer finally came back to Brazil in 2014, so everyone had high expectations. Passionate local fans filled stadiums while hoping that the home side would win the trophy after the famous defeat against Uruguay 64 years ago. Practically all the best teams managed to qualify, including all previous World Cup champions. The tournament had some shocking results, but the biggest sensation was the elimination of titleholders Spain, sent home after losing the first two games. Italy and England were also embarrassing, as Costa Rica topped their group.

Germany was the favorite, but could anyone expect what would happen?

Still, the knockout phase brought us almost on surprises, with favorites Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, and Argentina deciding about the medals. While the final wasn't particularly memorable, Germany's destruction of Brazil (7-1) was unreal! The other surprise was that Leo Messi was officially the tournament's best player, despite losing the final and playing pretty underwhelmingly.

8. Russia 2018 – The Croatian Sensation

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia logo
2018 FIFA World Cup was better than many expected

Many were quite skeptical about the first World Cup in Eastern Europe, but Russia proved to be the perfect host. However, Italy, the USA, and the Netherlands couldn't experience it since they failed to qualify. On the other hand, Panama and Iceland had their debuts. There was only a single surprise in the opening round, but it was the biggest possible! Like Spain four years earlier, Germany was eliminated in the first round after suffering two defeats.

The best single moment of South Korean soccer history!

In the knockout rounds, the miracle happened, as England finally beat someone on penalties! Still, once they reached the semifinals, their title dreams were crushed by Croatia, the tournament's biggest surprise. However, they couldn't match France in the final, where we saw six goals! Finally, let's not forget the excellent Red Devils from Belgium who won the 3rd place game. While there weren't many particularly memorable moments, Russia 2018 gave us quality soccer and tight games. That's all we ever needed!

7.  West Germany 1974 – The Birth of Total Football

1974 FIFA World Cup West Germany logo
World Cup in 1974 gave us the match between two Germanies

In 1974, we got the new FIFA World Cup trophy, which is still in use. Once again, 16 teams came to compete, including East Germany, Haiti, and Zaire (now DR Kongo), who all debuted. East and West Germany even played in the same group, and surprisingly, the hosts suffered a defeat. Despite the loss, West Germany was still considered the second favorite, behind only the dominant Dutch side. Led by their superstar Johan Cruyff, the Netherlands demonstrated Total Football.

The Netherlands never looked better than in 1974, and this trashing of Argentina proves it

This radical strategy meant that any outfield player could take any position, which was an unsolvable riddle for the competition. The Netherlands scored 14 times until the final while allowing a single goal, making it one of World Cup history's most dominant sides. However, it wasn't meant to be, as, after the Netherlands took the early lead, West Germany scored two and won the title. To this day, Cruyff & Co are probably the strongest team never to lift the trophy.

6. Germany 2006 – The Tale of Two Dark Horses

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany logo
We've seen some beautiful long-range goals at World Cup 2006

As 2002 FIFA was such a disappointment, everyone expected so much from the first tournament in unified Germany. The hosts weren't among favorites this time, but they've managed to make their presence felt. Incredibly, eight nations had their World Cup debut, including such exotic sides as Togo and Trinidad and Tobago. However, no one talked about former World Cup champions Italy and France. Both teams weren't considered favorites, with almost everyone talking about one side – Brazil.

The 2006 final was such an emotional event

Still, these were the squads we watched in the memorable final, which saw Italy becoming the champions for the fourth time after legendary Zinedine Zidane was red-carded for headbutting. This tournament gave us many classics, lots of beautiful long-distance goals, and a fairytale story about two giants back on top. Oh, and this World Cup had a truly bizarre moment, as Switzerland was eliminated, even though they haven't allowed a goal in all four games!

5. Mexico 1970 – Pelé  and The Strongest Team Ever

1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico logo
Mexico 1970 was all about Brazil

This was the last tournament where the Jules Rimet trophy was awarded, and easily, it was the best by then. Once again, 16 teams fought for the title, with eight advancing from the group stages to the quarterfinals. While many were afraid that soccer quality would suffer due to high heat and altitude, there were almost three goals per game. Even though the tournament brought back all previous champions, no one doubted that Brazil was a huge favorite.

No one could stop Brazil in 1970, as they scored some beauties

Once Pelé finally decided to come back, the dream team was complete. The biggest reason Mexico 1970 is highly ranked was this Brazilian team, which scored more than three goals per game. Their attacker Jairzinho made history by scoring in every match, which wasn't ever repeated. Finally, this was the first WC tournament broadcasted in color!

4.  Mexico 1986 – One Man Show

1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico logo
No one took Argentina seriously at World Cup 1986

Initially awarded to Colombia, the World Cup tournament was moved to Mexico, making it the first country to stage it twice. It was a massive challenge for the nation, which suffered a devastating earthquake in 1985. Despite this, they heroically managed to prepare for the event in the year of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Disaster. The competition also had a new format. Like in the previous tournament, 24 sides participated, but now 16 teams advanced to the knockout stages. This also meant that Bulgaria and Uruguay qualified for the elimination round, despite only scoring two points in their groups!

No one was so dominant as Maradona in the 1986 FIFA World Cup!

But what made this tournament legendary was a player considered the best ever. No one in the history of World Cups was such a key factor as was Diego Armando Maradona. In seven games, he scored five goals and made as many assists, with the last one giving his side the win in the final. Still, many will remember his controversial quarterfinal performance against England. First, he scored the ugliest goal in history (using his hand!) before netting the best one. Receiving the ball at his half, he passed five players before scoring. No man in the history of World Cups had such a god-like performance!

3. France 1998 – Fan Favorite Final

1998 FIFA World Cup France logo
World Cup 98 gave us everything we could have hoped for

France 1998 introduced the new format, allowing 32 teams to compete for the title. For the first time, we saw Croatia, Jamaica, Japan, South Africa, and FR Yugoslavia. The quality of teams was probably the best in history after the 1994 edition. Brazil and France were among the favorites, but we also saw the new generation of England, Argentinian, or the Netherlands players. Many were also pointing to FR Yugoslavia, which had the best team in history. However, they ultimately bowed down in the round of 16.

Remember the best moments of the 1998 FIFA World Cup

Other favorites progressed steadily, with Croatia being the only surprise, winning the bronze medal. France's dispatching of Brazil in the final (3-0) is among the most memorable moments, but there are so many matches we want to watch again and again. It was a genuinely outstanding World Cup, even though it introduced the stupid and short-lived Golden Goal rule.

2. Spain 1982 – The Triumph That No One Expected

1982 FIFA World Cup Spain logo
Italy's win at the 1982 World Cup was a pure miracle

For the first time, 24 sides qualified for the World Cup, and among them was Kuwait, which never managed to repeat this success. This was one of the strongest tournaments judging by the teams and players participating. Maradona was finally introduced to the world, but everyone talked about the mighty Brazilian side. Many consider this team on par with the one winning the title in 1970.

Italy and Brazil gave us the best match on the 1982 FIFA World Cup

However, it wasn't meant to be as Italy surprisingly eliminated them after the second group stage, before winning the title that no one expected. The hero was the striker Paolo Rossi who claimed six goals, being the top scorer. So, why is this tournament not on top? There are several reasons, including scandalous referee decisions in the host's games and the disgraceful, fixed match between Germany and Austria.

1. USA 1994 – A True Superstar Festival

1994 FIFA World Cup USA logo
Massive crowds and the largest gathering of stars made FIFA 94 World Cup the best so far

Even the biggest optimists doubted that the 1994 FIFA World Cup would be memorable. After all, soccer wasn't among the favorite sports in the States. But once the competition started, everyone realized how wrong they were. On average, almost 70.000 watched every game, and they had so much to see! Never before and after so many soccer legends gathered, despite England and Yugoslavia (suspended) not participating.

Remembering the best moments of the best FIFA World Cup ever!

Despite the heat, matches were exciting, and it's hard to list the most memorable ones. We've seen Roger Milla score at 42, Russia trashing Cameron 6-1, Saudi Arabia advancing from the group stage, and mighty Argentina led by Diego Maradona once again. His suspension because of weight-loss products remained highly controversial, and it was the reason why his team failed to pass the round of 16. Meanwhile, it was a joy to watch Brazil demonstrating explosive, attacking soccer while Italians showed their defense art. The final won by Brazil (with very young Ronaldo) was anticlimactic, but the 1994 World Cup still remains the benchmark! Oh, and who could forget about the legendary penalty miss?

We enjoyed remembering all these World Cups on our top ten list, as they remind us why soccer is the biggest sport on Earth. Watching these classics won't ever be boring, and we can only hope that future editions of the competition will be close to this level.

What was the first World Cup you've watched? Besides your home country, what other nations do you usually support? 

Cover photo: Stock-Freelr/Pixabay


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Vincent Says:

I wish FIFA would continue releasing some of these old games on YouTube, like they did during the pandemics. I don't understand why they are selling them, or put them on streaming? I would gladly pay for the opportunity to watch Mexico 1986 in the best quality available.

September 26 at 01:44:13 PM

Tom Says:

1990 and 1994 most entertaining, been boring ever since.

September 25 at 08:53:29 AM

Mario Gvinitta Says:

The first World Cup I watched was Italy 90, so of course I'm very fond of it. Yet, I understand why it's not in the top 10. It was slow, dirty and very low on scoring.

August 10 at 10:04:14 AM

MF Says:

No wonder the 94 USA WC came 1st on this list. Nobody but the Americans call it "soccer" :(

June 17 at 07:36:44 AM

SickSimon Says:

I recently watched almost every USA 94 game and I loved it! The atmosphere, the games, the players... it was all nearly perfect.

June 07 at 09:21:43 AM

Setati Says:

Where did you get them. Would so much love to watch the 1994 World Cup again

July 20 at 06:57:55 PM

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