Let's say this first – to win a FIFA World Cup, you have to be good. However, some teams won the trophy despite not being the best. Instead, they knew how to win ugly, had a lot of luck, or an unfair advantage. In our top ten rankings, we combined all these factors with stats to determine the lowest-performing World Cup winners. Therefore we'll focus on the overall impression, not purely based on numbers. So here they are, the top worst national teams to win the FIFA World Cup.
10. 1998 France
In 1998 France hosted one of the best FIFA World Cup tournaments and won it by easily beating Brazil. Therefore, they became only the seventh nation to win the trophy. On paper, this was an excellent team, with many players in their prime. Hence, we'll mention Thuram, Zidane, or youngsters, including Henry and Trezeguet. Based on their form and the squad quality, France was one of the favorites to win it all. Yet, except in the somewhat controversial final, they could have been more remarkable.
Yes, they've won their group, but there's nothing impressive about beating Saudi Arabia and South Africa, probably two of the weakest sides in the tournament. After barely beating Denmark to win the group, France wasn't convincing in the knockout stages. First, they defeated Paraguay by scoring a golden goal in extra time. Next, in the quarterfinals, they were lucky to win on penalties against the excellent Italians. Finally, they were losing against Croatia in the following round before somehow overturning. Well, at least their matches were exciting, unlike some other teams we'll mention.
9. 1938 Italy
Italy really enjoyed these single-elimination World Cups, as they won both of them! On the eve of WWII, the team was under pressure to deliver, knowing that a single subpar game meant the end. However, they prevailed, despite facing some tough opponents. After barely winning against Norway in extra time, Italy defeated the hosts France in a tight quarterfinal.
In the semifinals, they faced Brazil, the best team in the tournament. However, South Americans couldn't play their top star Leônidas, resulting in one of the biggest FIFA World Cup myths. Finally, in the title decider, Italy triumphed over Hungary in an entertaining six-goal affair. Yet, this team wasn't awe-inspiring in a tournament lacking some top teams. The glorious Austrians lost their spot as they joined the Germans, while Argentina and Uruguay boycotted the competition. Therefore, Italy had it much easier than it should be.
8. 2010 Spain
It's hard to argue that in 2010, Spain triumphed without much help from referees or luck. Yet, the way they played is the worst ever produced by a World Cup winner. Here we had a team forcing a mind-boggling 4-6-0 formation with minimal ambition upfront. Instead, they made a billion passes, holding the ball as much as possible. This all resulted in incredibly dull affairs, with goals coming from tap-ins. Even then, Spain never looked convincing. They lost their opening match against Switzerland before scoring only twice against the weakest side – Honduras.
In the elimination rounds, Spain won all their matches 1-0, but the ugliest was the final. With 14 yellow cards, it set the record, and the only goal came in extra time. In the end, Spain scored eight times in seven games! Thankfully, four years later, they went out of the World Cup after humiliating defeats against The Netherlands and Chile. While they continued with their play style, it was the end of the Spanish dominance.
7. 1982 Italy
No one expected much from Italy in 1982, as they didn't look great in qualifiers. Furthermore, in 1980 there was a huge match-fixing scandal in Italian football involving even their best player, Paolo Rossi. After being suspended for three years, Rossi had his sentence reduced to lead his team in Spain. Yet, watching them was painful, as the team managed only three group-round draws. Regardless, they squeezed through by scoring more goals than third-placed Cameroon.
Still, they found redemption, as they beat Argentina, Brazil, and West Germany in the final, for the unlikely triumph. They were most impressive in their last match, as they took a massive 3-0 lead only 10 minutes before the end. All this saved Italy from taking some of the top spots on our list, as they turned the nightmare into a fairy tale ending. In a way, they showed us that everything is possible at the World Cup, and that's the beauty of it!
6. 1950 Uruguay
The 1950 FIFA World Cup was a mess, so it had to be on our list of the worst tournaments. Yet, in these circumstances, Uruguay prevailed while doing almost nothing! It all started in qualifiers, as they had to play precisely ZERO games to reach the finals! This was because Ecuador and Peru withdrew, with only Paraguay and Uruguay left. However, as the first two from the group qualified, they never had to play each other. Yet, things became even weirder once the World Cup began.
After many teams withdrew, Uruguay was put in Group 4 with two instead of three other teams. Yet, France also abandoned the competition, leaving only Bolivia as their opponent! Furthermore, as the weakest side who also qualified because others gave up, Bolivia lost 8-0! Therefore, Uruguay qualified for the final round, where they barely beat Sweden (3-2) and survived against Spain (2-2). That meant they needed to win their last match against Brazil, which they also narrowly did (2-1). Consequently, Uruguay became world champions after playing only four games, including qualifiers. Thus, this is a record that won't be broken!
5. 1934 Italy
The 1934 World Cup was strange, as there were no group stages. Instead, you would need only four triumphs to win it all, with a single defeat sending you home. Even if you believe Italy had little help as host, their performance could have been more magnificent. Yet, their initial triumph against the USA (who reached the semifinals four years earlier) was impressive. However, that was it. In the quarterfinals, they couldn't defeat Spain, needing a rematch the following day! Nevertheless, they prevailed by scoring a single goal.
The semifinal was the same: Italy defeated Austria 1-0, arranging the final against Czechoslovakia. While the Eastern Europeans were leading only 10 minutes before the final whistle, the hosts somehow survived into extra time before scoring the decider. Another fact that tarnishes their legacy is that the 1930 champions Uruguay boycotted the event. Finally, while there was never proof, some sources claim that Benito Mussolini personally picked referees.
4. 2022 Argentina
With so many great players on the team, Argentina was the top favorite to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Yet, they began with the biggest humiliation in the country's football history! The defeat against Saudi Arabia proved their vulnerability, and the shaky performances continued. Luckily for them, their group was the weakest, so they dispatched the very limited Mexican and Polish sides.
Their fortune continued, as they only faced favorites in the final. Furthermore, they couldn't beat the average Netherlands, needing the penalty shoot-out to eliminate them. Their only impressive performance came in the semifinals against Croatia (3-0), a team that won only one of their six games! Finally, Argentina self-destructed against France in the finals, as they led 2-0 before barely surviving into overtime. Ultimately, they became the first world champions to win two penalty shoot-outs! Penalties also saved Argentina in regular play, as they took five of them, with a few very controversial ones. Furthermore, unimpressive Leo Messi scored four of his seven goals from the spot!
3. 1966 England
England won the 1966 World Cup fair and square, as they were the best team and played magnificently. Well, that's if you ask English fans! The truth is that everything looked like England had to win the title at any cost, despite not showing much on the field. For example, the men in black encouraged brutal plays against Pelé and the other Brazilian players. Yet, when they still scored somehow, goals were often disallowed. Furthermore, South American teams trained on fields without goalposts! Yet, Europeans also suffered when playing against England, like France, who lost thanks to very strange referring.
It wasn't much better in the knockout phase, as England barely won against Argentina in the quarterfinals with a push from the arbiter. While their success in the semifinals against Portugal was clean, the final wasn't. Even though it was hard to judge if Hurst scored that controversial goal, everyone knew the decision would be in English favor. In the aftermath, Pelé almost quit football, and South Americans wanted to abandon FIFA membership. It took years or even decades for these wounds to heal, and we wonder if it was worth it? As of now, England never even played in the final again, with many still calling their triumph a massive injustice.
2. 1978 Argentina
In 1966, England won the title on their home soil, often employing dirty tactics. Only 12 years later, their massive rivals, Argentina, did the same. While it helped that Argentina had a great team with Mario Kempes (Maradona was deemed too young to receive the call), many predicted what would happen even before the tournament. At the time, Argentina was under a military regime killing its opponents. Therefore, the government thought winning the competition would improve its image. As any other result wasn't acceptable, they took drastic measures, and FIFA turned a blind eye.
Argentina could have looked better in wins against France and Hungary, and Italy managed to defeat them. It was even worse in the second round, as they needed a massive four-goal victory against Peru to top Brazil. Well, how did they know what they needed to do? Because it was fixed for them to play the last match in the group, of course! While there is no proof of foul play, it's hard to believe that the best Peruvian team ever could regularly lose 6-0. Additionally, the final against The Netherlands was an ugly affair. Therefore, there were dirty fouls, hostile crowds, and a referee doing what he could to help the hosts. Yet, this controversial triumph changed nothing, with people continuing to suffer in Argentina for years.
1. 1954 West Germany
A long time ago, Germans weren't considered among the top favorites. In fact, in 1938, they were eliminated in the first round and couldn't even compete in 1950. Despite qualifying relatively easily, the team was humiliated in the group stage after Hungary destroyed them 8-3. Yet, thanks to some bizarre rules, West Germany played a playoff game against Turkey, qualifying for the quarterfinals. Interestingly, they would be eliminated by modern rules, as Turkey had a far better goal difference.
After a win against Yugoslavia, West Germany did look impressive facing Austria, scoring six goals in the semifinals. Yet, nobody believed they could somehow defeat Hungary in the final. However, despite the Hungarians scoring twice in the first ten minutes, the Germans managed a massive upset, triumphing 3-2. Regardless, many will say they were fortunate, as Hungary had a much more challenging route. Despite winning their group, they faced Brazil and Uruguay, two of the best South American sides. Tired and bruised, they also didn't have much help from their top star Puskas, who wasn't healthy. Furthermore, witnesses claimed that German players used doping, as many of them later felt sick. This was the first time when one dominant team didn't win the title, followed later by The Netherlands in 1974 and Brazil in 1982.
Unpredictability is why we love sports, as in the FIFA World Cup, not always the best side wins. So, if a team plays ugly or is fortunate, that is still fine. However, there's no excuse when the triumph is marred with controversy, dirty tactics, and bribes. As the FIFA World Cup is such an important event in human society, we need to remember what happened and not let the same mistakes repeat.
In your sentiment, what are some of the worst FIFA World Cup champions? Were we too harsh on some of the teams?
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