By Alex Morrey-Jones
Hosting a FIFA World Cup is a huge honour for any country, as fans from all around the globe flock to support their nation in the quest for football immortality. With Qatar hosting the 22nd edition of the World Cup, they join the prestigious list of countries to have welcomed football’s greatest international tournament. With the backing of home support, the host nation often finds an extra gear to spur them on and progress into the latter stages of the tournament. Unfortunately for Qatar, their World Cup debut ended in the group stages, losing all three of their matches. Despite failing to pick up a point, the Qatari national team did their country proud, representing the nation at their first ever World Cup. On six separate occasions, the host nation has gone on to emerge victorious, much to the delight of their surrounding fans. An unforgettable event topped off with the perfect ending, but how did they do it?
The inaugural World Cup was hosted in Uruguay, with only thirteen teams participating and every single match was played in the capital of Montevideo. The teams were divided into four groups and the winner from each group automatically progressed to the semi-finals. The hosts beat Peru and Romania, 1-0 and 4-0 respectively, to reach the semi-finals. Uruguay then faced Yugoslavia, and swept them aside with a comfortable 6-1 victory. The other semi-final was between Argentina and the United States, which ended with the same 6-1 scoreline to the Argentines. Nearly 70,000 fans attended the first ever World Cup final between Uruguay and Argentina on July 30th 1930. The hosts took an early lead before falling behind 2-1 and trailing at the break. Three second half goals saw a miraculous comeback for the “home” side and they prevailed as 4-2 winners. The first FIFA World Cup was hosted and won by Uruguay, the first of their two World Cup wins, with the second coming in 1950.
The following World Cup was hosted in Italy in 1934. In a slightly different format, sixteen teams participated in a straight knockout tournament, with the best eight teams being seeded so they would not face each other in the Round of 16. Hosts Italy faced the United States in the first game of the tournament and gave them a similar thumping to the one they had faced four years earlier at the hands of Argentina, with Italy cruising to a 7-1 win and progressing to the quarter-finals. There they faced a Spain team who edged Brazil 3-1 in their opener. Italy and Spain met in Florence, with the hosts falling behind before levelling just before half time. The game ended a tie and went to a replay, where the Italians won 1-0. A semi-final at the San Siro saw the Italians beat Austria 1-0, an early goal was enough to book their place in the final. The second ever World Cup final saw a thrilling match between Czechoslovakia and the hosts, Italy. The Azzurri fell behind with twenty minutes to go, and needed a equaliser ten minutes from time to send the game to extra time. In the 95th minute, a goal from Schiavio put the Italians in front, and they went on to secure the win. The host nations maintained their 100% record of winning the tournament they were hosting, after Uruguay’s win four years earlier on home soil.
Despite the first two hosts of the World Cup winning the tournament, that pattern wouldn’t continue…until thirty-two years later. 1966. England, often considered the “spiritual home of football” hosted their first and only World Cup, and the hosts didn’t disappoint their fans. England cruised through the group stages without conceding a single goal. Alf Ramsey’s side then saw off Argentina with a 1-0 win in the quarter-final, before defeating Eusebio’s Portugal 2-1 in the semi-finals. West Germany had beaten Uruguay and the Soviet Union to book their place in the final against England, the only World Cup final held at the original Wembley. A historic final that is undoubtedly the greatest ever day for English football. However, West Germany took the lead after twelve minutes before Geoff Hurst equalised before half-time. A cagey second half saw both teams push for a winner, but it was Hurst again who put England ahead to lead 2-1. In the final minute of normal time, West Germany found an equaliser and forced the game to extra-time. England took the lead again before Hurst sealed the win and claimed his hat-trick. To this day, the only treble scored by a player in a World Cup final…and also the only World Cup England have ever won.
Eight years later, West Germany hosted the World Cup in 1974. The only game they lost across the whole tournament was in the group stages…to East Germany, who went on to top the group. West Germany progressed to the knockout stages while beating Chile, Australia, Yugoslavia, Sweden and Poland along the way, in the old World Cup format that contained two group stage rounds. The knockout stage consisted of just two matches, the third place play-off and the final. After advancing from the first group stage, a second group stage round, consisting of just two groups, would determine the final, the winner of each group. West Germany and the Netherlands topped each group respectively, and met in the final. The Olympiastadion hosted the final in front of over 75,000 fans. It took less than two minutes for the Netherlands to take the lead from the penalty spot, before West Germany were awarded a penalty of their own, and equalised from twelve yards. Moments before half time, Gerd Muller fired the Germans into the lead, one of his sixty-eight goals for the national side. An astute second half performance was enough to see West Germany become the fourth side to win the World Cup on home turf, with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands.
Four years later, Argentina were hosting their first and only World Cup finals, and unfortunately for the Netherlands, it would end in similar fashion to their last campaign. The 1978 World Cup was a controversial one, to say the least. With political unrest, and suspicions of match-fixing, some players, including the legendary Johan Cruyff, refused to take part in the finals. Despite this, the host nation were focused solely on putting on a show for their fans around the country. Argentina beat Hungary and France in the group stages before losing their final group match to Italy. They were still able to progress through the first round as runners-up. In the second round, Argentina finished level on points with local rivals, Brazil, but a superior goal difference was enough to book their place in the final. The Netherlands topped the other group to secure their place in a second successive World Cup final as they looked to do one better than their last effort. Mario Kempes opened the scoring for Argentina, before the Dutch equalised with eight minutes left on the clock. In extra time, a second goal for Kempes and a third goal added by Daniel Bertoni lead Argentina to a 3-1 triumph. This was their first World Cup victory, but only had to wait eight years before Diego Maradona brought the trophy home again in 1986.
The sixth, and most recent, time a nation has hosted and won the World Cup, was in 1998. A star-studded French side contained the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Zinedine Zidane and many, many more. Often considered one of the most formidable national sides ever assembled, the 1998 Les Bleus side won every single game and only conceded two goals on their way to lifting the trophy. France swept Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia aside in Group C to advance to the knockout stages with ease. Despite their dominance in the group, France needed extra time to beat Paraguay 1-0 thanks to a Laurent Blanc goal in the 114th minute. A quarter-final matchup with Italy proved to be another difficult affair, with the French failing to score in regulation time again, but this time the match went to a penalty shootout. For the second match running, Blanc was the difference, scoring the winning penalty in the shootout. Incredibly, the French only trailed for one minute throughout the whole tournament. Suker put Croatia in front in the semi-final before an instant French response as they eventually ran out 2-1 winners. An iconic performance from Zidane in the final, who scored twice, saw France tear through an equally mouthwatering Brazil side, as they secured a 3-0 win to confirm them as world champions for the first time. Twenty years later, France were crowned for a second time in Russia, as they beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 final.
So who will be the next side to win the FIFA World Cup on home soil? The United States, Canada and Mexico will all be looking to claim the trophy for the first time in 2026 as all three nations host the next tournament.