Top 10 Best FIFA World Cups That Will Be Remembered Forever

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

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-01-29 18:00:08

The FIFA World Cup is a festival of association football. Yet, sometimes, the competition is underwhelming, as shown in our Top Ten Worst FIFA World Cups list. Still, more than a couple of tournaments had us enjoying (almost) every game. So, let us take you through the best moments of FIFA World Cup history and answer what the best World Cup was!

10. 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 returned to Brazil in 2014, so everyone had high expectations. Passionate local fans filled stadiums hoping the home side would win the trophy after the famous upset against Uruguay 64 years ago. Almost all the best teams managed to qualify, including every previous World Cup champion. The tournament produced shocking results, but the biggest was the elimination of titleholders Spain, sent home after losing the first two games. Italy and England were also awful, as Costa Rica topped their group.

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

Still, the knockout phase brought us almost no surprises, with favorites Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, and Argentina deciding the title. 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 playing pretty underwhelmingly. It's worth mentioning that this tournament also has an excellent World Cup video game.

9. Russia 2018 – The Croatian Sensation

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

Many were 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. The opening round featured a single surprise, but it was the biggest! Like Spain four years earlier, Germany was out 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 remember the excellent Red Devils from Belgium, who won the third-place contest. While there weren't many particularly memorable moments, Russia 2018 gave us quality football and some of the best World Cup games.

8.  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, with the hosts suffering a surprising defeat. Despite the loss, West Germany was still 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. After the Netherlands took the early lead, West Germany scored two and won the title. To this day, Cruyff & Co remain probably the strongest team never to lift the trophy.

7. Qatar 2022 - Argentina Finally Back on Top

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 logo
Players rised against all odds to give us a great tournament

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will forever remain controversial, as the country didn't deserve to host the tournament. Yet, players and teams (except the awful Qatari side) gave us many wildly entertaining games! The group phase was exhilarating, as many outsiders produced excellent results. This includes Japan and Morocco, which even topped their groups! Furthermore, Saudi Arabia humiliated Argentina, proving they are vulnerable.

Argentina had more impressive teams, but this one won it all!

Yet, these old favorites had an easy draw, not facing serious opposition until the final! Their rival there was France, who easily dominated their games, with a meaningless defeat against Tunisia. Yet, the final was a spectacular affair! While Messi scored his fourth (!) penalty kick, Mbappe netted a hat-trick to take the game to the penalties. Yet, South Americans were luckier and won their third title as one of the least impressive teams to do it. This is because Argentina won only four games in the tournament without beating a single high-ranked team. Yet, it wouldn't be fun if the best nation won every time!

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 the 2002 FIFA World Cup was disappointing, everyone expected so much from the first tournament in unified Germany. The hosts weren't among the favorites this time, but they made their presence felt. An incredible eight nations debuted, including exotic sides like Togo or Trinidad and Tobago. However, no one talked about former World Cup champions Italy and France. Both teams weren't considered favorites, with almost everyone focusing on 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's red card for headbutting. This tournament gave us many classics, 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 while not allowing a goal in all four games! Finally, the World Cup anthems were excellent this time.

5.  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 moved to Mexico, making it the first country to stage it twice. It was a massive challenge for the nation suffering from 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 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 makes this tournament legendary is a player considered the best ever. No one in the history of World Cups was such a key factor as Diego Armando Maradona. In seven games, he scored five times and made as many assists, with the last 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!

4. 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 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 feared that the quality of play would suffer due to high heat and altitude, there were almost three goals per game. Even though the tournament brought back all previous champions, 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, scoring more than three goals per game. Their attacker Jairzinho made history by netting in every match, which hasn't been repeated since. Finally, this was the first WC tournament broadcasted in color!

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 Netherlands players. Many also pointed to FR Yugoslavia, which had its best team ever. However, they disappointingly bowed down in the round of 16.

Remember the best moments of the 1998 FIFA World Cup

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

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. 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 as the leading scorer. So, why is this tournament not on top? For 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 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, setting a World Cup record, as Russia trashed Cameron 6-1. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia advanced from the group stage, and Diego Maradona was back. His suspension remains highly controversial, costing his team an early elimination. Meanwhile, it was a joy to watch Brazil demonstrating explosive, attacking soccer while the Italians showed their defense art. The final won by Brazil (with a very young Ronaldo) was anticlimactic, but the 1994 World Cup is still the best in history! 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 will always be exciting, and we hope that future tournament editions will be close to this level.

What was your first World Cup? Besides your home country, what nations do you usually support? 

Cover photo: Stock-Freelr/Pixabay


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MisterKD Says:

Where is South Africa that was such a fire world cup. I remember being so hyped for that when I was younger. And with that Spanish team unforgettable.

December 28 at 09:51:20 PM

Noah Says:

According to the. open poll on BBC, Qatar hosted the best World Cup yet in living memory of our generation. This is primarily due to the hospitality and manner of the Islamic country largely stemming and guided directly by the Qur’anic principles love, respect and honour to guest. This is Islam and that is the key reason why it’s remains fastest growing faith in the world and this is the way of our prophets and messenger from God.

From Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Ishmael, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, John, Jesus and Muhammad. They were all united on the same faith — the belief in the oneness of God.

December 28 at 04:35:38 PM

Be Tilly Says:

1994 was the absolute worst WC.

December 27 at 08:02:39 PM

Altair justice Says:

A list by American,😂

December 27 at 11:27:11 AM

Jimbo Says:

Qatar 2022 was the best world cup history has ever seen to this day by miles away. I doubt anywhere soon we will ever see anywhere near this world cup.

December 26 at 10:44:00 PM

Queti Says:

I am sorry I do not agree with this order. I would probably not even consider 1994 in the top10. The final was not memorable, there were no goals scored in the whole game and then they ended up in penalty kicks.
1970 I think is one of the best World cups ever and I would say this year's world cup 2022 is a close 2nd.
Other memorable ones 74, 82, 86 and 98.

December 22 at 10:36:19 PM

Michael Wendom Says:

It's fine to disagree, as ranking the best World Cup isn't a science. I'm studying World Cups for decades now and this is just my honest opinion. You are right about the final match in 1994, but the rest of the tournament was excellent.

December 23 at 10:52:43 AM

Hesham Says:

It’s mind boggling that you didn’t even include the last edition in your list. Most goals scored, most underdog wins, best final in history. You instead chose as number 1 a final in a country that has nothing to do with football and where the final ended goalless.

You’re supposed to be unbiased as a journalist. Clearly that’s not the case!

December 22 at 08:03:23 AM

Michael Wendom Says:

We just added Qatar. Well, USA is much better football nation then Qatar, and in 1994 they passed the group stage and were barely beaten by Brazil. Yet, Qatar was by far the worst team in this World Cup and didn't deserve to play.

December 22 at 02:01:20 PM

The Sean Says:

Agree... I was in Qatar, I was in USA 94 France 98 and Germany 06 but USA was sometimes special. I also loved watching Brasil 14 from home

Qatar was or felt fake. Everything just was wrong.

December 21 at 10:55:15 PM

Michael Wendom Says:

I'm glad we have very similar opinions, but Qatar tournament was still excellent. I can agree that many games were pretty much fixed, as many favorites purposely lost in their last group match games. France - Tunisia, Spain - Japan, Brazil - Cameron and Portugal - Korea are just a few examples. This happened in previous tournaments, but it was more prelevant than ever in Qatar.

December 22 at 02:05:36 PM

Mic Says:

1970, 1982 and 1986 were the best tournaments because of the pure football and great games it produced. 1982 produced the greatest game ever, 1986 had Maradona and 1970 like 82 was an amazing spectacle. Also 1998 is not a fan favourite, who tells that guy this nonsense.

December 19 at 06:17:51 PM

Exceed Says:

This list is biased, obviously written from someone from the states calling the worlds game “soccer”. The best football World Cup was obviously France 1998, with both Mexico’s ‘70 & ‘86 coming in 2nd and 3rd. All those tournaments introduced many firsts, successfully, and featured both Pelé and Maradona.

December 19 at 04:45:47 PM

MikeDchy Says:

No way was 1998 better than 1970 and 82. 1998 had too many controversies that favoured France all the way through the knock out stages. It was all golden goals, extra time and penalty wins for France. Maradona said it was a fix for the hosts before the tournament even started. Coincidence? I think not especially when you consider that this was Blatter's first time in charge, and we all know what he was about, nothing but corruption.

January 29 at 12:40:56 AM

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