World Cup 2022 Stadiums & Stats

world cup
Deutsche Bundespost via Wikimedia Commons

The FIFA World Cup is nicknamed ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ because, in footballing terms, that’s exactly what it is. If the Champions League is the pinnacle of club level football then the World Cup is as good as it gets as far as international football is concerned.

This section of the website is dedicated to telling you all about the World Cup and the stadiums that will be used throughout the next tournament in Qatar 2022. We’ll tell you about its history, the most famous tournaments, the rules of qualification and participation and the types of stadiums that have been used to host finals in years gone by. Since 1930 the World Cup has been the highlight of international football and we’ll be letting you know all about why that’s the case.

If you would like to see the shortlist of potential stadiums for the 2026 World Cup, split between USA, Canada and Mexico, visit our World Cup 2026 stadiums page.

Qatar World Cup 2022

football with qatar flagAs soon as the curtain came down on a fascinating, thrilling and successful World Cup in Russia in the summer of 2018, talk turned to Qatar and the World Cup in 2022. It is a version of the tournament that has been controversial from the first moment, with the nation’s human rights record called into question due its treatment of minority communities such as LGBTQ+ supporters. There were also allegations of corruption over the manner in which the country was chosen as the host nation for the competition in the first place, leading to major sponsors such as Sony, Visa and Coca-Cola calling on FIFA to launch an investigation into how Qatar was chosen as the host over other countries that were felt to be more suitable.

In what might be considered to be a sign of where the priorities of football supporters lie, neither the accusations of corruption nor the alleged use of migrant workers as what was tantamount to slaves in the building of the stadiums caused as much hand-wringing as the fact that the World Cup, which is typically a summer event, will be moved to November and December for the 2022 version of the tournament. That is because the climate in Qatar is far too hot to allow players to take to the field of play in the summer months of May to August, the Winter Olympics is taking place in February and Ramadan occurs in April. What do we know about the stadiums that will be used in the World Cup in 2022?

Qatar World Cup Stadiums

qatar stadium under construction

There are many accusations that can be, and have been, levelled at FIFA, but one thing that it would be unfair to say is that the organisation doesn’t care about football. One of the key reasons behind Qatar winning the tender to host the World Cup in 2022 is that it was promised that the upper sections of the stadiums will be disassembled when the tournament is over and shipped to countries that don’t have a particularly good footballing infrastructure. Designed by the German architect Albert Speer & Partners, the stadiums will cost Qatar around $8 to $10 billion to build, with a further $200 billion being spent on the wider infrastructure in the country to help supporters get from one venue to the next.

The spiraling costs of the stadiums has resulted in Qatar reducing their budget by more than 40%, with the likelihood being that there will be eight stadiums on offer rather than the twelve that were promised when they originally made their bid. In terms of the stadiums themselves, they differ enormously in terms of their scope and capacities. From the 86,000 plus of the Lusail Iconic Stadium through to the roughly 40,000 capacity venues that make up the majority of the grounds, supporters will find themselves enjoying a number of different locations if they head to Qatar in the winter of 2022.

One of the most interesting things about the plans for the World Cup in Qatar is what the authorities have planned to make life easier for the players in a country where heat is one of the most prominent factors. As the stadiums are mostly being built from scratch, it’s given those responsible the opportunity to build certain contingencies into the grounds in order to keep them as cool as possible. These include technology that can bring the temperature inside the stadiums down by around twenty degrees, with the hope being that these cooling systems will be more environmentally friendly than standard air-conditioning. That’s just part of the environmental side of the Qatar World Cup, with the stadiums being built with a Zero Waste policy in mind.

Lusail Iconic Stadium

lusail stadium

The main stadium for the Qatar World Cup is the Lusail Iconic Stadium, located less than twenty miles from Doha in the city of Lusail. Designed by the British firm Foster + Partners, it is surrounded by a moat and has a number of bridges that lead the car parks that are located on the outside of it. The stadium is essentially divided into two halves of a circle, with the pathways off from it also leading to local amenities such as restaurants and hotels.

Lusail Iconic Stadium boasts a roof that gives visitors the impression that it’s floating above the building below, thanks to a ring of arching columns that support it. The roof can be open or closed, depending on both the weather and what’s taking place within its confines. Though World Cups don’t have opening ceremonies on the same scale as Olympics do, there is often a celebration of football before the first match. Both this celebration and the opening game of the tournament will be hosted by the stadium, as will the final. Should fireworks be used, therefore, then the roof might be open at the start and end of the competition.

As part of the green footprint desired for stadiums in Qatar, the Lusail Iconic is surrounded by solar collectors that will be able to produce energy for it when it’s being used. A traditional dhow boat was the inspiration behind the stadium’s out enclosures, boasting a series of louvres that can be opened or closed depending on what’s wanted from them. Inside, the ground has a bowl style to it and the manner of the seating means that there are virtually no bad views. The VIP sections run along the side of the pitch, meaning that the most passionate football fans will find themselves behind the goals.

Work on building the stadium began in April of 2017. More than six years earlier, in February of 2011, it was confirmed that it would have a capacity of around twenty thousand once the tournament had come to a close. That’s an impressive drop off from the eight-six thousand seats planned for the World Cup. It is serviced by a Metro station that was built especially for the purposes of getting football fans over to the ground from Doha and the surrounding region.

Location: Lusail

Seating Capacity: 86,250

Seating Plan: Bowl Style

Approximate Cost: $769 million

Owner: Qatar Football Association

Estimated Date Of Completion: 2021

Post-World Cup Plan: Reduced Capacity Of 20,000

Al Bayt Stadium

Around fifty miles or so from the capital city of Qatar, Doha, stands Al Khor City in the municipality state of Al Khor. It is there that one of the venues for the World Cup in 2022 is being built, with Al Bayt Stadium intended to have a seashell design, which will see the roof come over in order to cover the spectators within the ground. It has onsite parking for about six thousand cars, whilst more than one hundred and fifty public buses can transport people to and from the venue for the matches. There are also both taxis and water taxis for supporters to use, which will add a degree of fun to the journey.

Aspire Zone Foundation are the ones behind the stadium and rumours are that it will be covered in a giant tent-like structure, hence the name; a A bayt al sha’ar was a tent used by nomadic people throughout the Gulf region. As with the Lusail Iconic Stadium, the top-tier of seats will be deconstructed after the World Cup and sent to a nation that is in need of a football infrastructure. The stadium will be used for semi-final matches of the World Cup and it is hoped that the tent structure that surrounds it will assist in the cooling of the venue for the matches. Parks and green areas are also being built around the stadium to ensure that its footprint will last long past the end of the tournament. It will also be the home of Al Khor Football Club.

Location: Al Khor

Seating Capacity: 60,000

Seating Plan: Bowl Style

Approximate Cost: $700 million

Owner: Qatar Football Association

Estimated Date Of Completion: September 2018

Post-World Cup Plan: Reduced Capacity Of 30,000

Ahmed bin Ali / Al Rayyan Stadium

ahmed bin ali stadium

When it comes to the stadiums being used for the Qatar World Cup, Ahmed bin Ali Stadium is unique in that it is built on the site of a previously existing stadium of the same name. The former venue opened in 2003 and could seat just over twenty thousand people, but that wasn’t considered to be enough when the venue was used for the bid for the 2022 World Cup and so it was demolished in 2015. The replacement ground will have enough seating for more than forty-four thousand people and every seat will be in the shade. The construction of the new ground began in 2016 and was a joint venture between L&T and Al-Balagh.

Al Rayyan Sports Club called the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium their home before it was demolished and they will do so again once the World Cup is completed. The ground will host matches throughout the tournament and up until the quarter-final stage and will have the moniker of Al Rayyan Stadium during the competition. Both the venue itself and the surrounding structures have been given a undulating look to reflect the sand dunes of the local area. It’s based right on the edge of the local desert, leading the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy to ensure that it’s built with environmentally friendly materials.

Location: Al Rayyan

Seating Capacity: 40,000

Seating Plan: Bowl Style

Approximate Cost: $600 million

Owner: Qatar Football Association

Estimated Date Of Completion: 2019

Post-World Cup Plan: Reduced Capacity Of 20,000

Al Wakrah Stadium

al wakrah stadium

Designed by the Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, Al Wakrah Stadium is, unsurprisingly, located in the capital city of the Al-Wakrah municipality of Qatar. Whilst the Al Bayt Stadium Stadium boasts nods to the dhow boat thanks to the louvres outside the ground, the Al Wakrah Stadium has used the traditional sailboats as the basis for its design. They used to be used by fisherman from the region throughout the Persian Gulf as they dived for pearls, but now they’re the pointed shape on which the stadium is based. As well as the football ground, the area also boasts a swimming pool and spa as well as a shopping centre. This is all part of the manner in which the stadium will have a life after the World Cup is completed.

Another part of the stadium’s legacy is the fact that it will be the home ground of the local Al-Wakrah Sports Club who currently play in the Saoud bin Abdulrahman Stadium. Qatar Stars League league matches will take place in the venue, though the capacity will be reduced by half in line with the majority of the other grounds that have been built for the World Cup. Al Wakrah is one of the country’s oldest areas in terms of being constantly inhabited, so it’s perhaps somewhat appropriate that it’s where one of the venues will be built. The stadium will be used for group and knockout matches, up to and including the quarter-finals. As well as welcoming Al-Wakrah Sports Club after the World Cup, the likes of schools, wedding halls, restaurants and gyms will also be built in the area.

Location: Al Wakrah

Seating Capacity: 40,000

Seating Plan: Bowl Style

Approximate Cost: $587 million

Owner: Qatar Football Association

Estimated Date Of Completion: December 2018

Post-World Cup Plan: Reduced Capacity Of 20,000

Khalifa International Stadium

khakifa stadium

Also known as the National Stadium, the Khalifa International Stadium is part of the Doha Sports City complex in the country’s capital city of Doha. The complex also includes the Aspire Tower, the Hamad Aquatic Centre and the Aspite Academy, making it one of the main sports areas in the entire country. That notion is confirmed further by the fact that it hosts the likes of the Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix and many other sports. It was originally opened in 1976 with a capacity of around twenty thousand, but in 2005 it was expanded to closer to double that in order to be one of the host venues of the 2006 Asian Games. It was then redeveloped further in order to make it an acceptable venue for the World Cup when Qatar won the rights to host the 2022 version of the tournament. Named after Qatar’s former Emir Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, it boasts the cooling system promised by the Qatari’s when making their bid to host.

The idea of the ground being the country’s national stadium comes about because of the fact that it is the home of the Qatar national team and has been used for friendlies between the likes of Brazil and England, Qatar and Haiti and Spain and Uruguay. When the World Cup rolls around the idea of hosting a major event won’t take the stadium or the locals by surprise, given that it’s been the venue of the 2011 Asian Cup Final, the 2011 Pan Arab Games and the 2019 Athletics World Championships. The ground re-opened in May 2017 after the redevelopments of it were completed and fireworks were fired off the arch on the eastern side of the stadium that had been especially built for the 2006 Asian Games opening ceremony. There’s also a roof on the western side of the ground.

Location: Doha

Seating Capacity: 48,000

Seating Plan: Bowl Style

Approximate Cost: $80 million renovations

Owner: Qatar Football Association

Date Of Completion: May 2017

Post-World Cup Plan: No major changes

Qatar Foundation Stadium

qatar foundation stadium

The Qatar Foundation Stadium is another one of the grounds built for the World Cup in 2022 that’s based in the country’s capital, Doha. It is designed to look like a jagged diamond and glitters in the day before glowing when the sun has set thanks to thousands of light emitting diodes within its structure. It is located in the middle of the Qatar Foundation's Education City, meaning that it sits amongst numerous university campuses and is easily accessed by Doha’s residents. It is also the closest stadium to Qatar’s neighbour’s Bahrain, with a high-speed railway line built between the two locations specifically with the purpose of getting visitors to the ground in less than an hour. When it was first thought of it had the name of Education City Stadium, changing in order to promote the work of the Qatar Foundation.

The shell of the stadium has been partially perforated, allowing it to maintain a temperature of around twenty-four to twenty-eight degrees centigrade regardless of the temperature on the outside. Around twenty percent of the match day power is generated by a series of photovoltaic panels that have been embedded into the stadium’s panels. This is also used to provide nearby buildings with electricity on non-match days, which is part of the plan for making the stadium a sustainable resource once the World Cup is completed. These nearby buildings include clinics, gyms, a racquet sports centre and a sports complex that allows people to enjoy things as diverse as rock climbing and indoor sky diving. It is yet another ground that will shed some of its seating when it becomes the Qatar Foundation’s Sporting Hub once the quarter-finals of the competition are over and it’s no longer needed to host World Cup matches.

Location: Doha

Seating Capacity: 40,000

Seating Plan: Bowl Style

Approximate Cost: Unknown

Owner: Qatar Football Association

Estimated Date Of Completion: 2019

Post-World Cup Plan: Reduced Capacity Of 25,000

Ras Abu Aboud Stadium

ras abu aboud stadium

Created with a modular design, the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is the third to be located in the central province of Doha. The design is intended to allow the stadium to be deconstructed in its entirety and moved elsewhere in the wake of the 2022 World Cup. Sticking with the idea of using sustainable materials, the stadium was built using removable seats and shipping containers to keep Qatar’s footprint as green as possible. The hope is that it will set a new agenda in terms of legacy planning for future sports tournaments even away from the World Cup and football in general and it is more akin to a flatpack house than a traditional football stadium. The ground will be the venue of group matches and knockout stage games up to and including the quarter-finals.

The stadium is the first of its kind in the world, with the shipping containers used being a nod to the local area’s history as a shipping hub. It is built on a temporary promontory on the area’s shoreline that will also be dismantled after the tournament reaches its climax. Hamad International Airport is around a mile or so from the ground’s location, making it one of the easiest to access for those flying into Qatar from elsewhere for the competition. The idea behind building a football ground that can essentially be taken apart and used elsewhere was the brainchild of Fenwick Iribarren Architects. Should a decision be taken to remove the hosting duties from Qatar ahead of the World Cup, the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will be the easiest to move to an alternate location, with Australia the favourite to take over as hosts.

Location: Doha

Seating Capacity: 40,000

Seating Plan: Bowl Style

Approximate Cost: Unknown

Owner: Qatar Football Association

Estimated Date Of Completion: 2020

Post-World Cup Plan: Stadium Will Be Completely Deconstructed And Used For Other Things

Al Thumama Stadium

Based in the Al Thumama neighbourhood of Doha that it’s named after, the Al Thumama Stadium was designed by Ibrahim M. Jaidah of the Arab Engineering Bureau. Jaidah created the stadium to look like a traditional Arab head covering known as a gahfiya, which lends its roof its oddly broken up appearance. The head covering is important in Arab culture, with the um nira gahfiya being one of the Qatari community’s most used pieces. The location of the stadium was actually where the Qatari bid team first demonstrated to FIFA officials that the solar-powered cooling technology that will be used during the tournament works. It was demonstrated using a miniature stadium, which remains on the site and is now a study and research centre.

The aforementioned Arab Engineering Bureau is the oldest engineering and architectural consultancy firm in the country and the stadium is the first in the history of the World Cup to be designed completely by Qatari nationals. When the tournament is over and twenty thousands seats are removed from the ground, a hotel will be built in their place. The hotel rooms will all face the pitch, making it a unique experience for guests. Also in the area are basketball and tennis courts, plus tracks for the running and riding of horses. In addition, the site boasts a FIFA-accredited Aspetar Sports Clinic.

Location: Doha

Seating Capacity: 40,000

Seating Plan: Bowl Style

Approximate Cost: $342.5 million

Owner: Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup Supreme Committee

Estimated Date Of Completion: 2020

Post-World Cup Plan: Reduced Capacity Of 20,000, Hotel On Upper Tier

How To Get To The 2022 Qatar World Cup

map of qatar stadium with football pin

The beauty of the World Cup is that it allows people to visit regions and countries that they might never head to otherwise. How many people who had never thought of going to South Africa visited the continent in 2010, for example? Likewise, how many football supporters who had never been to Russia can now scratch that off their map thanks to the country’s hosting of the 2018 iteration of the competition? It’s entirely fair to suspect, therefore, the you probably haven’t been to Qatar before and are wondering how to get there ahead of the 2022 World Cup getting started.

The first place you’ll want to start is with Hamad International Airport, the place that was named ‘Best Airport in the Middle East’ by Skytrax in 2015, just a year after it had opened. It’s built to cope with just shy of nine thousand passengers an hour, with that figure likely to increase in time for the start of the World Cup. It is the hub of Qatar Airways, which regularly wins awards for its service and quality. That should tell you what to expect from your trip there. Ordinarily it is necessary to obtain a visa to enter Qatar, however this requirement was waived when Russia hosted the World Cup in 2018 and is likely to be again this time around.

road to qatar 2022

In terms of what to expect when you get there, you’ll need to make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months just to be able to get through passport control. Normally you wouldn’t be able to drink in Qatar as its an Islamic state and is ruled according to Sharia Law. However, it has been announced by the Qatari government that these rules will be reneged during the period that the World Cup is on. You’d still be sensible to obey local traditions and do your best not to offend locals whilst you’re out there. When it comes to moving from one stadium to another, the Qataris are making it is as easy as possible and the internal transport infrastructure has been updated in order to assist in this.

Useful Travel Resources

Future Rounds

Third Place Play Off

FixtureUK KO TimeCityStadium
Loser S1vLoser S217th December 2022QatarTBD

World Cup 2018 Final - Sunday 18th December 2022

FixtureUK KO TimeCityStadium
Winner S1vWinner S218th December 2022QuatarTBD

Tournament Format


Qualification for the World Cup involves tournaments within the tournament. It is decided in advance how many teams will be competing in the tournament proper, with 32 being the number taking part since 1998. The initial stages of qualification, then, are about thinning down the field from 211 countries eligible to get involved to the amount needed to head to the finals.

FIFA is broken up into six different continental zones. These are, namely, Africa, North and Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Asia, Oceania and Europe. How many teams qualify from each zone for the World Cup is decided in advance and is based around the relative strength and competitiveness of of the teams in each confederation. The only team to get an automatic place in the tournament proper is the host nation; since 2006 not even the previous tournament’s winners get a free pass. If two or more nations jointly host the World Cup then they both get a place.

Using the 2022 World Cup as an example UEFA, the European body, will have 13 places available, with Russia qualifying as the host nation. CAF, for Africa, will have 5 places whilst AFC, for Asia will have 4, plus Qatar who qualify as hosts. CONMEBOL, the South American governing body, will also have four berths in the final and CONCACAF, the North and Central American and Caribbean organisation, will have 3. Finally, there will be 2 places in the finals for winners of play-offs between the top team from the OFC, the Oceanic body, and additional teams from CONCACAF, AFC and CONMEBOL.

Just to add further confusion to the whole thing, each confederation is allowed their own format of qualification for the World Cup finals. In 2014, for example, here’s a rough guide to how each governing body went about awarding the places for the tournament to the countries in their jurisdiction:

FIFA Confederations
FIFA Confederations - By EOZyo (Based on File:BlankMap-World6,_compact.svg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Continental Confederation Qualification Formats
AfricaA preliminary round narrowed the possible teams from 52 to 40 before these teams played each other in round-robin matches in 10 groups of 4 teams. The 10 winners played against each other at random, with the winners of those games qualifying for the finals.
AsiaTwo knockout rounds reduced the 43 eligible teams to 20. A group stage then pitted 5 groups of 4 teams against each other with the winners and runners-up going into two groups of 5. The winners and runners-up of that group went to the World Cup and the two third-placed teams faced each other for a spot in an inter-confederation play-off.
EuropeThe 53 eligible teams were split into 9 groups. The group winners qualified for the World Cup and the best 8 runners-up played two-legged ties against each other, with the 4 winners qualifying too.
North and Central America and the Caribbean Preliminary matches reduced the 35 teams that were eligible to 30. 24 teams played in 6 groups of 4, with the 6 strongest teams from the 30 receiving byes. The 6 winners joined them in a second group stage. Those 12 teams played in 3 groups of 4 and the top two teams from each advanced to a final group of 6. The top three teams went to the World Cup and the fourth placed team entered the inter-confederations play-off.
OceaniaThe 2011 Pacific Games decided which teams would advance to a group stage to play with New Zealand. That was called the 2012 OFC Nations Cup and the winner entered the inter-confederations play-off.
South AmericaThe least complicated confederation, South America had a single group of all the nations that didn’t qualify automatically - or everyone except Brazil, basically. The top four teams went to the finals and the fifth placed team entered the inter-confederations play-off.

The Group Stage

The format of the World Cup as it currently is has been in place since 1998. Once the 32 teams for the finals have been chosen by their respective confederations they are split into eight different groups, each containing four nationals teams. Eight teams get seeded for the group stage, with the hosts getting seeded automatically and the other seven teams seeded according to a complicated formula that works out the FIFA World Rankings of the teams and their previous World Cup performances.

The eight seeds are each put into a pot for the group draw, with the remaining 24 teams separated into the different pots based on based on their geographical location. Teams are drawn from each pot at random to decide the make-up of the different groups. No group will feature more than two European teams or more than one team from the other confederations.

The group is then played out in a round-robin style ‘mini-tournament’, during which each team plays three games against the other teams at random venues somewhere in the host nation. The final group game takes place at the same time in order to ensure no team has an advantage of knowing whether or not they’ve made it our of the group before a ball is kicked. The top two teams of each group make it through to the knockout stage of the tournament.

The Knockout Stages

Unlike with most knockout tournaments, the path to the competition’s final is worked out before the World Cup itself begins. It is decided in advance that the winners of Group A will play the runners-up of Group H, for example. The winners of Group B will play the runners-up of Group G and so on. That means that teams often know that they will get an easier draw in the last-sixteen phase of the competition if they qualify for the knockout stages as group winners.

The knockout stage is a series of one-off matches, with the outcome of the game decided on the day of the match without the need for a replay. That means that if the game is a draw at the end of 90 minutes of play then it will go a period of extra-time. If the result is still undecided then a penalty shoot-out will take place.

As the route to the final has already been decided before the knockout stage gets underway teams know who they may face in the quarter-finals. For example, the winner of Match A will play the winner of Match H etc. That system continues all the way to the final, with the semi-final matches worked out in the same manner. The knockout matches will, as is the habit in tournaments, result in just two teams left standing who will compete in the final.

The Final

Germany 2014 World Cup Winners
Germany 2014 World Cup Winners - By Danilo Borges/Portal da Copa Licença Creative Commons Atribuição 3.0 Brasil ([1]) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The two teams that were victorious in the semi-final stage go up against each other in the World Cup final. This is the showpiece event of the entire tournament and is regularly watched by hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Just like with the earlier rounds, the final of the World Cup is a one-off match that will not go to a replay. The winner of the tournament is decided on the day, with extra-time and penalties employed if necessary.

Unlike with most tournaments in club football, the third and fourth placed teams are also decided in the World Cup. This involves the two teams that lost in the semi-final stage playing against each other. The winner of this game is declared to have finished third and the loser finishes fourth. The loser of the final itself is the second-placed team and, somewhat self-explanatorily, the World Cup winners are the first-placed team.

Previous Winners

YearHostFinal ResultStadiumAttendance
2026US / Mexico / Canada-v----
2018RussiaFrancevCroatia4-2Luzhniki Stadium78,011
2014BrazilGermanyvArgentina1-0 AETEstádio do Maracanã74,738
2010South AfricaSpainvHolland1-0 AETSoccer City84,490
2006GermanyItalyvFrance1-1 5-3POlympiastadion69,000
2002S Korea / JapanBrazilvGermany2-0International Stadium69,029
1998FranceFrancevBrazil3-0Stade De France80,000
1994USABrazilvItaly0-0 3-2PRose Bowl94,194
1990ItalyGermanyvArgentina1-0Stadio Olimpico73,603
1986MexicoArgentinavGermany3-2Estadio Azteca114,600
1978ArgentinaArgentinavHolland3-1 AETEstadio Monumental71,483
1970MexicoBrazilvItaly4-1Estadio Azteca107,412
1966EnglandEnglandvGermany4-2 AETWembley93,000
1962ChileBrazilvCzech3-1Estadio Nacional69,000
1958SwedenBrazilvSweden5-2Råsunda Stadium51,800
1954SwitzerlandGermanyvHungary3-2Wankdorf Stadium60,000
1950,BrazilUruguayvBrazil2-1Estádio do Maracanã174,000
1938FranceItalyvHungary4-2Stade Olympique de Colombes45,000
1934ItalyItalyvCzech2-1 AETStadio Nazionale PNF50,000
1930UruguayUruguayvArgentina4-2Estadio Centenario 80,000

KEY: AET - After Extra Time, P - Penalty Shoot Out, , - Not Played During WWII

Home Nation Results

CountryAppsGamesWinsDrawsLosesHighestGoals FGoals AHosted
England1569292119Winners (1966)91641 (1966)
Wales15131Quarter Finals (1958)440
Scotland8234712Group Stage25410
N. Ireland313355Quarter Finals (1958)13230

World Cup Stats

Tournament Statisitics
First Year1930
Number Of Teams Competing32
First WinnerUruguay (1930)
Last WinnerFrance (2018)
First HostUruguay (1930)
Last HostRussia (2018)
Next HostsQuatar (2022), USA / Mexico / Canada (2026)
Prize Money Winner$38 million (2018)
Runners-Up$28 million (2018)
Third Placed Team$24 million (2018)
Total Prize Money$791 million (2018)
Team / Country Stats
Record Number TitlesBrazil (5)
Runners-upGermany (8)
Most Top Three FinishesGermany (12)
Most World Cup AppearancesBrazil (21)
Tournament Debut ChampionsUruguay (1930), Italy (1934)
Most WinsBrazil (73)
Most Goals ScoredGermany (226)
Most Goals ConcededGermany (125)
Biggest Win All RoundsHungary 9 - South Korea 0 (1954), Yugoslavia 9 - Zaire 0 (1974), Hungary 10 - El Salvador 1 (1982)
Biggest Final WinBrazil 5 - Sweden 2 (1958), Brazil 4 - Italy 1 (1970), France 3 - Brazil 0 (1998)
Player Stats
Top Scorer FinalsMiroslav Klose (16)
Top Scorer QualifyingAli Daei (35)
Most Goals In A Single TournamentJust Fontaine (13)
Most Goals In A Single Finals GameOleg Salenko (5)
Most Goals Scored In A Qualifying GameArchie Thompson (13)
Most Tournaments Played3 - Antonio Carbajal (Mexico), Lothar Matthaus (Germany)
Youngest Player To ScorePele (17 years 7 months 27 days)
Oldest Player To ScoreRoger Milla (42 years, 1 month, 8 days)

About the World Cup

In The Beginning

Estadio Centenario
Estadio Centenario, 1930 World Cup Stadium in Uruguay - By Archivo de El País ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The first international match of any kind was played between Scotland and England in Glasgow in 1872. The first international tournament also involved those teams as well as Wales and Ireland when the British Home Championship was played in 1884. The game’s popularity grew throughout the world during the late part of the 19th Century and at the 1900 and 1904 Summer Olympics matches were played as a ‘demonstration sport’, with no medals being awarded to participants.

FIFA was founded as an organisation in 1904 and in 1906 they attempted to arrange a tournament against international teams that was outside the framework of the Olympics. It didn’t really work and is largely considered to be a failure. The 1908 Summer Olympics in London saw football recognised as an official competition in the tournament for the first time, though it was only for amateurs. By 1914 FIFA finally accepted that the Olympics’ football tournament wasn’t going anywhere so they recognised it as a ‘world football championship for amateurs’ and agreed to be responsible for the event’s management.

The 1920 Summer Olympics saw the world’s first intercontinental football tournament, as Egypt went up against fourteen European teams and Belgium ran out as the overall winners. Two more Olympic Games football tournaments took place in 1924 and 1928, with Uruguay winning both of them. Such was the popularity of these tournaments that FIFA decided that they wanted a piece of the action. Still smarting from their own failed tournament in 1906, the organisation set about trying to make sure they got it right this time.

Given that Uruguay had won the last two football tournaments in the Summer Olympics it seemed only right that FIFA should ask them to host the inaugural ‘World Championship’. Jules Rimet, the organisation’s president at the time, was the major driving force behind this new World Cup and for a time it looked like it might be another failure. The cost of travelling to South America was prohibitive for European teams and up until two months before the start of the tournament it looked like none would be going.

Eventually Rimet was able to persuade Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia to head to Uruguay for the competition, with seven South American teams and two North American teams joining them in the contest. The hosts beat Argentina 4-2 in the final in Montevideo and over 93,000 people saw them become the first ever winners of the World Cup. The 1932 Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles and the lack of popularity of football in America meant that it was dropped from the IOC’s list of sports that would be competed at the event. Two more World Cups took place in 1934 and 1938 as the competition became more prestigious than football in the Olympics, but the 1942 and 1946 World Cups were both cancelled because of the Second World War and it’s aftermath.

After The War And The Competition’s Expansion

1950 Uruguay Team
1950 Uruguay Team - By Bildbyrån (AIK Fotboll) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The World Cup resumed as a contest in 1950. It was hosted by Brazil and was the first of the tournaments to feature British teams. British teams had actually not been part of FIFA since 1920 as they were unwilling to play matches against countries that they had been at war with and they were also unimpressed with the influence of foreign countries on a game that they felt they had invented. They returned to the FIFA family in 1946 and so the 1950 tournament was the first they were able to compete in. It also saw the return of Uruguay who had boycotted the previous two tournaments, with the South American country going on to beat the hosts in the final.

Between 1934 and 1978 the World Cup was competed between sixteen teams, apart from in 1938 when Austria got absorbed into Germany after the qualifying phase meaning that only fifteen teams took part. Also, in 1950, India, Scotland and Turkey withdrew meaning that only thirteen teams played. The majority of the teams that played in the World Cup were from Europe and South America. Very few participants were from North America, Asia, Oceania or Africa.

In 1982 a decision was taken to expand the competition to 24 teams. This remained the case until 1998 when it was expanded once more to allow 32 teams to take part. The idea was that more teams from the likes of Africa and Asia would be able to take part if the competition was expanded in this way. Whilst that is exactly what happens, European and South American teams continue to dominate the World Cup to this day.

1966 And All That

world cup 1966
By National Media Museum from UK [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Speak to any Englishman about the World Cup and only one thing will be on their mind. In 1966 England hosted the World Cup finals for the only time in the competition’s history to date. The hosts finished top of their group and qualified for the knockout stages with Uruguay. They were drawn to play Argentina in the quarter-finals and bear them 1-0 at Wembley, earning the right to face Portugal in the semi-finals after they’d beaten North Korea 5-3 in the quarters. England won 2-1, putting them through to the final of the World Cup for the first time.

In the other strand of matches West Germany had beaten Uruguay 4-0 in the quarters and the Soviet Union 2-1 in the semis, setting up a clash between the old enemy that would be the ultimate showdown on a football pitch for the first time since the end of the Second World War. With Portugal beating the Soviet Union 2-1 for third place the stage was set for a blockbuster final and neither team disappointed.

Helmut Haller gave West Germany the lead after just 12 minutes before Geoff Hurst equalised 6 minutes later. Martin Peters thought he’d won it for the home nation when he struck after 78 minutes, but Wolfgang Weber struck just a minute from the whistle being blown to send the game to extra-time.

Extra-time was a close affair up until Hurst scored to put England 3-2 up. Or did he? Even to this day there remains some controversy over Hurst’s goal which was awarded after the ball struck the crossbar and appeared to cross the line. Computers have since been used to reconstruct the event, which was the last World Cup final to be broadcast in black and white, and they suggest it didn’t cross the line. Regardless Hurst struck again two minutes before the end of extra-time to put the game beyond doubt and led to the match commentator, Kenneth Wolstenholme, delivering a line that has gone down in folklore. As a celebratory pitch invasion began just before Hurst scored he said, “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now!”

World Cup Stadiums

2014 World Cup Final
2014 World Cup Final, Germany Vs. Argentina - By Danilo Borges/ Licença Creative Commons Atribuição 3.0 Brasil [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The host nation or nations of the World Cup suggest which stadiums will be used for the competition when they tender their bid to host the competition. In some cases, such as when Qatar host the tournament in 2022, this involves brand new stadiums that don’t exist yet being built in time for the arrival or the world’s best teams.

Ordinarily the final of the World Cup is held in the largest and most prestigious stadium in the country. When England hosted to tournament in 1966, for example, the final was held in the old Wembley Stadium with 96,924 people in attendance. The Estadio Centenario in Uruguay hosed the first ever World Cup final and 80,000 people watched the hosts bear Argentina, Whilst an incredible 174,000 supporters packed into the Estadio do Maracana in Brazil to watch the same team beat the hosts in 1950.

That is the best attended final to date, with the next closest seeing 114,600 attend the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City in order to watch Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 in 1986, the year that Maradona’s famous ‘Hand Of God’ goal knocked England out. Only three stadiums have held the World Cup final more than once. The Estadio Azteca did so in 1970 and 1986, the Estadio do Maracana did so in 1950 and 2014 and the Olympiastadion in Munich, Germany, hosted the 1974 and 2006 finals. The most amusing name of a stadium that has hosted a World Cup final is the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern, Switzerland that was used for the 1954 tournament.