FIFA World Cup

All-Time World Cup: Winners, Top Scorers & Complete Guide to Biggest Tournament

world cup trophy

FIFA World Cup 2018 is just around the corner and the buzz is starting to ring around the sports world and rightly so considering FIFA World Cup is the biggest sports event on every scale. Did you know, FIFA world Cup is the most watched sports event in the world ? well it is and that too by quite some margin. We can expect another thrilling month of international football in June-July 2018 in Russia. 2018 World Cup in Russia will be the 21st edition of the tournament and Brazil has the record of winning 5 world cups more than any other nation. Today we take a look at all time leading goal scorers in FIFA World Cup history.

The 21st edition of football’s biggest tournament will take place in the summer of 2018 as Russia prepares to join a long list of host nations in staging the World Cup. Excitement is beginning to spread across the globe as the 32 finalists booked their place in the prestigious competition where they will attempt to write their names into the history books. With the groups now known and the tournament itself under three months away, Goal takes a look at the history of the World Cup as well as some of the record holders.

What is the World Cup?

The FIFA World Cup is an international football tournament featuring the senior national teams from around the globe. It was first launched in 1930 and takes place every four years. Teams under FIFA’s umbrella are eligible to compete and they must qualify for the final stage of the tournament, with qualification rounds divided according to confederational affiliation. Aside from 1942 and 1946, when it was disrupted by the Second World War, the World Cup has run continuously since its inception.

How many teams compete in the World Cup?

The current format of the World Cup sees 32 finalists take part in the competition but that was not always the case and, indeed, will not always be. Just 13 teams competed in the first World Cup and that number expanded to 16 from 1934 to 1978 (with some exceptions). In 1982, the World Cup expanded to include eight more teams, bringing the total number of participants to 24.

The format we are familiar with today – 32 teams – was first introduced in the 1998 World Cup in France.

Who won the first World Cup?

first World CupThe first World Cup in 1930 was hosted and won by Uruguay. It was markedly different to the tournament that we know today in that it was an invitational and it featured just 13 teams, seven of which came from South America. Four teams from Europe participated, with Mexico and the United States completing the line-up.

The final, which was held at Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario, was an all-South American affair as hosts Uruguay took on Argentina. Uruguay won the inaugural World Cup thanks to a 4-2 victory in front of over 68,000 fans.

Who has won the most World Cups?

Who has won the most World Cups

The tournament has been held 20 times since 1930 and the full breakdown of winners can be found below.

Year Host Winner Score Runner up
1930 Uruguay Uruguay 4-2 Argentina
1934 Italy Italy 2-1 (AET) Czechoslovakia
1938 France Italy 4-2 Hungary
1950 Brazil Uruguay 2-1 Brazil
1954 Switzerland West Germany 3-2 Hungary
1958 Sweden Brazil 5-2 Sweden
1962 Chile Brazil 3-1 Czechoslovakia
1966 England England 4-2 (AET) West Germany
1970 Mexico Brazil 4-1 Italy
1974 West Germany West Germany 2-1 Netherlands
1978 Argentina Argentina 3-1 (AET) Netherlands
1982 Spain Italy 3-1 West Germany
1986 Mexico Argentina 3-2 West Germany
1990 Italy West Germany 1-0 Argentina
1994 USA Brazil 0-0 (3-2 P) Italy
1998 France France 3-0 Brazil
2002 Japan & South Korea Brazil 2-0 Germany
2006 Germany Italy 1-1 (5-3 P) France
2010 South Africa Spain 1-0 (AET) Netherlands
2014 Brazil Germany 1-0 (AET) Argentina

Note: There were no World Cups in 1942 or 1946 due to the outbreak of World War II.

World Cup winners breakdown:

Team Titles Runners-up
Brazil 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) 2 (1938, 1978)
Germany* 4 (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014) 4 (1966, 1982, 1986, 2002)
Italy 4 (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) 2 (1970, 1994)
Argentina 2 (1978, 1986) 3 (1930, 1990, 2014)
Uruguay 2 (1930, 1950)
France 1 (1998) 1 (2006)
England 1 (1966)
Spain 1 (2010)

* Three of Germany’s World Cup triumphs came as West Germany (1954, 1974 and 1990)

Who is the World Cup’s all-time top goalscorer?

Miroslav Klose

The all-time top scorer in the history of the World Cup is Miroslav Klose, who scored 16 goals for Germany over the course of four tournaments. Former Brazil star Ronaldo follows with 15 goals in three tournaments, while Gerd Muller scored 14 in just two tournaments.

Comparatively, Germany and Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller has played in just two World Cups, but he has registered 10 goals, making him the only active player with such a tally. A list of every player with 10 or more World Cup goals can be seen below.

Note: Players in bold are still active international players.

Pos Player Team Goals Matches
1 Miroslav Klose Germany 16 24
2 Ronaldo Brazil 15 19
3 Gerd Muller West Germany 14 13
4 Just Fontaine France 13 6
5 Pele Brazil 12 14
=6 Sandor Kocsis Hungary 11 5
=6 Jurgen Klinsmann West Germany/Germany 11 17
=8 Helmut Rahn West Germany 10 10
=8 Gary Lineker England 10 12
=8 Gabriel Batistuta Argentina 10 12
=8 Teofilo Cubillas Peru 10 13
=8 Thomas Muller Germany 10 13
=8 Grzegorz Lato Poland 10 20

Who has the most World Cup appearances?

Lothar Matthaus

Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaus holds the record for most World Cup appearances having played in 25 games over a remarkable five tournaments (spanning 20 years).

Matthaus is closely followed by his compatriot Miroslav Klose, with Italy legend Paolo Maldini rounding out the top three.

Diego Maradona played in four World Cups and made 21 appearances, while Brazil’s 2002 World Cup-winning captain Cafu and Germany’s 2014 leader Philipp Lahm each played 20 times.

A full list of every player who played 20 or more World Cup games can be seen below.

Pos Player Country Apps Tournaments
1 Lothar Matthaus West Germany / Germany 25 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002
2 Miroslav Klose Germany 24 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014
3 Paolo Maldini Italy 23 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002
=4 Diego Maradona Argentina 21 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994
=4 Uwe Seeler West Germany 21 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970
=4 Wladyslaw Zmuda Poland 21 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986
=7 Cafu Brazil 20 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
=7 Philipp Lahm Germany 20 2006, 2010, 2014
=7 Grzegorz Lato Poland 20 1974, 1978, 1982
=7 Bastian Schweinsteiger Germany 20 2006, 2010, 2014

World Cup trophy

World Cup trophy

The winners of the World Cup are awarded the unmistakable gold FIFA World Cup trophy. Introduced at the 1974 World Cup, it was designed by Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga and is made of 18-karat gold with a malachite base.

The trophy is 36.8 centimetres tall (14.5 inches) and it weighs 6.175 kilograms (13.61 pounds).

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About the author


Scott Staffin will manage the editorial section in Scott is a passionate soccer blogger from the United States. He is also a football player and a diehard fan of Argentina.