After 12 long years of anticipation and preparation, the hosts Qatar played their first-ever men’s World Cup match. However, touching the peak of anticlimax, The Maroon were kicked out of their group within the next five days, making Qatar the earliest men’s host nation to be eliminated from the tournament.
Notwithstanding the ongoing competition, the men’s FIFA World Cup usually tend to be a happy hunting ground for host countries. In its 92-year history, football’s prime spectacle has been played 21 times in 22 nations (the 2002 World Cup was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea). Barring South Africa in 2010, all host countries have at least progressed to the next round, while on eight occasions they’ve featured in the final of the tournament, lifting the cup six times.
FootTheBall glances at how each home nation fared when they were bestowed with the privilege of hosting this great footballing extravaganza.
1930, Uruguay – Champions
Having won two consecutive Olympic golds in European lands, there was little doubt as to which nation was going to hold the first men’s World Cup, in which 13 teams participated.
La Celeste thrashed Yugoslavia 6-1 in the semifinals to meet Argentina at the newly-constructed, magnificent Estadio Centenario, in what was a rematch of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics gold-medal match. Uruguay came back from 2-1 down to clinch the title 4-2.
1934, Italy – Champions
With the defending champions, Uruguay, boycotting the 1934 World Cup because only four European nations travelled to the previous tournament in the South American nation, the Italians doubled up on the field to win the cup while Mussolini and his party used the competition as a propaganda vehicle off the field.
Italy started with a massive 7-1 against the United States. The second-round fixture against Spain, which lasted for 210 minutes (because of the replay!), was the toughest hurdle for the hosts’ journey to glory.
They won the semifinals versus Austria 1-0 and beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the final, scoring a dramatic winner in extra time.
1938, France – Quarterfinals
In a 16-team World Cup without a group stage, France became the team to play the least number of games as a host nation.
Les Bleus comfortably won their pre-quarterfinal against Belgium (3-1) before losing by the same margin to the defending and eventual champions, Italy, who reportedly played the final under the orders, “Win or Die”, given by Italy’s supreme leader
Men’s FIFA World Cup didn’t take place in 1942 and 1946 because of World War II.
1950, Brazil – Runners-up
Supposedly the only World Cup without a one-off final (because the team which topped the final group stage was to be adjudged the winner), we were blessed with a defacto final when Uruguay played Brazil in the final round of matches. The latter needed to beat the hosts to become world champions while avoiding defeat would have sealed the deal for Brazil.
Alas, it was not to be, as a Brazilian side that had dismantled Sweden and Spain 7-1 and 6-1 respectively lost 2-1 to the Uruguayan golden generation at the Maracanã in front of reportedly 175,000 supporters in an epic battle known as Maracanazo, which translates as The Maracanã Smash.
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1954, Switzerland – Quarterfinals
The hosts were drafted in Group 4 alongside Italy, Belgium, and England but the strange nature of the group-stage format meant that each team would only play two matches.
Switzerland won 2-1 against the Azzuri before falling short versus England. As a result, they set up a play-off for a place in the quarterfinals against Italy again. The hosts convincingly beat the then two-time world champions 4-1 but crashed out 7-5 versus Austria in the most high-scoring game in World Cup history.
1958, Sweden – Runners-up
Sweden embraced the hosting duties with grace as they reached the final of the tournament, which is to date the deepest Sweden has ever been in a World Cup.
Les Blågult were the best team in their group, outperforming Wales, Mexico, and Hungary. They also defeated the likes of the Soviet Union and the holders, West Germany before succumbing on the last hurdle against Brazil (5-2) in Råsunda Stadium, Solna.
This tournament also saw the rise of a certain 17-year-old Brazilian striker who scored twice in the final and six times in the entire campaign. He went by the name of Pelé.
1962, Chile – Third-place
Defying expectations, La Roja mustered a way out of their group, which also involved West Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and a “Battle of Santiago” versus the Azzuri.
Chile got the better of the Soviet Union in the quarterfinals but a rampant Brazil, who eventually would successfully defend their crown, proved too much for La Roja. As a consolation, Chile defeated Yugoslavia in a tight 2-1 affair in the third-place playoff.
1966, England – Champions
After a long wait of 32 years, the host nation yet again triumphed when The Three Lions crushed West Germany 4-2 at Wembley in front of an audience of over 95,000 fans.
Their gilded journey also involved victories over heavyweights like France in the group stage and Argentina and Portugal in the knockouts.
1970, Mexico – Quarterfinals
Having previously won just one World Cup finals fixture across six previous tournaments, El Tri took inspiration from the home support and doubled this number, defeating El Salvador and Belgium.
However, while the fans were rooting for Mexico, luck wasn’t as they finished second in the group behind the Soviet Union despite being level on points and goal difference. A draw of lots was used to break the impasse.
As a result, El Tri were squared up in the quarterfinals against a strong Italian side, who thumped them 4-1 at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
1974, West Germany – Champions
Although the West Germans lost their only ever match against East Germany in the campaign, they amended their faults and delighted the home fans by lifting their second World Cup. Coming twenty years after their first, they edged past a Johan Cruyff-inspired Netherlands 2-1 in the final in Munich.
En route to the final, they defeated Poland, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Chile, and Australia as well.
1978, Argentina – Champions
By securing the heavily politicised and propagandised World Cup, Argentina followed in the footsteps of West Germany by beating the Netherlands in the World Cup final and hoisting the golden trophy in front of home fans in their capital city of Buenos Aires. They defeated the Dutch 3-1 in extra time.
Interestingly, there was a time in the tournament when La Selección found themselves in a ditch. They were required to beat Peru by four goals or more to progress further. However, they climbed out of the predicament by winning 6-0.
1982, Spain – Round Two
To reach the semifinals in this tournament, teams had to funnel through two rounds of the group stage.
It was a highly underwhelming campaign for the home team as they barely made out of the first group stage having lost to Northern Ireland. In the next stage, they finished last in their group which consisted of West Germany and England.
La Furia Roja could win merely once from their five matches.
1986, Mexico – Quarterfinals
Becoming the first country to host the World Cup twice, El Tri made their fans proud with a heartening campaign that concluded with a 4-1 loss in penalties against mighty West Germany in the quarterfinals.
Before that, they dispatched Bulgaria, Iraq, and Belgium with conviction. It was also the last time they reached the last 8 in the World Cup finals!
1990, Italy – Third-Place
After Mexico, Italy got the opportunity to host the gala for the second time, and they served their followers an emotional rollercoaster.
Rock-solid at the back, they agonisingly conceded their first goal (and equaliser) in the tournament against Argentina in the semi-finals through a penalty, and eventually lost 4-3 to La Selección on penalties in Naples.
However, by besting England to third place, they gathered some consolation.
1994, USA – Round of 16
Only the hosts’ second appearance in the World Cup, the first since 1950, the States squeezed out of their group as the best third-ranked team, thanks to a 2-1 surprise win over Columbia.
In the next round, they got the privilege of playing the eventual winners, Brazil, against whom they held their own and lost by a respectable scoreline of 1-0.
1998, France – Champions
Les Bleus’ squad of gladiators is the last nation to perform the wonder of going all the way in a home World Cup.
The French bumped their way to the final but taught Brazil, the greatest international team, a lesson of their own book by defeating them 3-0 at the Stade de France
2002, South Korea and Japan – Fourth place/Round of 16
South Korea and Japan shared the honour of becoming the first Asian nations to host the men’s FIFA World Cup, and both countries were impressive, with South Korea’s run to the semifinals definitely being the showstopper.
The South Koreans delivered red notices to the likes of Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy, before bowing out 1-0 against Germany in the semi-finals. Much to the heartbreak of the home nation, they lost third place to the surprise package of the tournament, Turkey.
The Samurai Blue began their campaign on a high as well, topping the group that included Belgium, Russia, and Tunisia. However, in the last 16, they also yielded to Turkey.
2006, Germany – Third-place
Off the back of a poor showing in Euro 2004, Die Mannschaft had much to prove, and they displayed mettle and maturity throughout the tournament.
With three wins in three, they outclassed everyone in their group and followed it up with hard-fought victories over Sweden and Argentina. However, their luck ran out in the semifinals versus Italy when they conceded twice in the last minutes of extra time.
The Germans saw off the Portuguese 3-1 with ease in the third-place playoff.
2010, South Africa – Group stage
The inaugural men’s FIFA world cup in Africa was a rememberable gala, and credit has to be given to the fans, home and away. who created an atmosphere of celebration.
South Africa, however, became the first host nation that failed to progress through the first round. But, it’s fair to say fortunes weren’t favouring Bafana Bafana as they were placed in the “Group of Death” that included Uruguay, Mexico, and France.
Yet, they gave their nation enough reason to be proud of their team. They finished level on points with Mexico but in third place due to an inferior goal difference, and they stunned France out of the tournament.
2014, Brazil – Fourth Place
There are bad home World Cup campaigns, and then there is Brazil’s showing in 2014.
Reaching the semifinals of a men’s World Cup would be an achievement for many countries. It can also be an acceptable outcome for a team like La Seleção but not in Brazil, 2014. The humbling, the humiliating, the stupefying manner of their 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinal at home is a wound that they can perhaps never heal from.
The third-place match that followed the defeat might have been the most meaningless match ever for a Brazilian team, who obviously lost to Uruguay.
2018, Russia – Quarterfinals
While the golden days of Russian football were in the past, the Russians did well to climb out of their group by beating Egypt and Saudi Arabia and netting 8 goals in doing so. The height of their achievement was sending the Spanish home 4-3 on penalties in the Round of 16.
However, the home team’s run of fun and fairytale was stopped in their tracks by a Croatian team in the quarterfinals who themselves were aiming to venture into the realm of folklore.
2022, Qatar – Round One
Although the first nation from West Asia or, as more commonly known, the Middle-east to hold a men’s FIFA World Cup, Qatar’s display has been drab, disappointing, and mediocre, both in terms of results and the nature of performance.
They were drafted in a fairly competitive group involving Senegal, Netherlands, and Ecuador but by easily losing their first two matches, they failed to leave any mark in what was also their first men’s FIFA World Cup finals appearance.