However, by the mid-1920s, with the growth of professionalism and the game establishing strong roots in Europe and South America, FIFA decided to go ahead with their own tournament which was awarded to Uruguay, the Olympic champions of 1924 and 1928. The 19 World Cup tournaments have been won by eight different national teams. Brazil have won five times and are the only team to have played in every tournament. The other World Cup winners are Italy with four titles; West Germany with three; Argentina and inaugural winners Uruguay with two each and England, France, and Spain with one title each. 1930 The 1942 and 1946 competitions, which Nazi Germany and Brazil sought to host, were cancelled due to World War II and its aftermath. 1950 When Joao Havelange was bidding to become FIFA president in 1974 he promised that if he was elected, Asian and African countries would get more opportunities to compete on the world stage. The process began in 1982 when the World Cup was increased to 24 nations and was completed in 1998 when the first 32-team tournament was staged. After some of the major upsets of the 2002 finals, a sense of order returned to the 2006 tournament in Germany, a very different country from the one that staged the 1974 finals when Germany was still divided. (JPN/Agencies)
Final: Uruguay vs Argentina
After some teething troubles and withdrawals, 13 countries entered and the European nations -- Belgium, Romania, Yugoslavia and France -- all travelled to South America on the same ship. During their two-week voyage they called in to Rio de Janeiro to courteously pick up the Brazilians.
With no qualifying competition held, the first two matches started at the same time on July 13, 1930 with France beating Mexico 4-1 and the United States beating Belgium 3-0. Frenchman Lucien Laurent scored the first goal of the tournament.
Hosts Uruguay and neighbours Argentina contested the final, which Uruguay won 4-2 after trailing 2-1 at halftime. For the first and only time every match was played in one city, the capital Montevideo.
Final: Italy vs Czechoslovakia
With FIFA's membership now at more than 50 nations, a qualifying competition was held. The final qualifier was conducted three days before the competition started, with the U.S. beating Mexico 4-2 in Rome on May 24 before being knocked out 7-1 by Italy on May 27.
Italy's ultimate triumph, to the delight of fascist leader Benito Mussolini, left both Argentina and Brazil disenchanted after they had travelled 13,000 kms for one game each in the first round. Italy beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 after extra time in the final, having trailed 1-0 until eight minutes from time. Antonin Puc put Czechoslovakia ahead after 70 minutes but Argentine-born Raimundo Orsi grabbed an equaliser and Angelo Schiavio scored an extra-time winner.
Final: Italy vs Hungary
Italy travelled to France and won the World Cup again but politics and the looming spectre of war kept away a number of top nations. Austria qualified but withdrew, though some of their players appeared in the colours of Germany, and Spain were absent as their country was ravaged by civil war.
Argentina and Uruguay also stayed away. Brazil and Poland produced one of the greatest games of any World Cup in Strasbourg with the South Americans triumphing 6-5 after extra time thanks to four goals from Leonidas who played barefoot for a spell. In the final, Italy retained their title by beating Hungary 4-2. Gino Colaussi and Silvio Piola scored twice each for Italy, while Pal Titkos and Gyorgy Sarosi found the net for Hungary.
Final: Uruguay vs Brazil
The 1950 finals have returned to the spotlight in recent years as a result of Brazil hosting this year's finals for the first time since then.
As every student of the world game knows Uruguay's win over Brazil was not strictly speaking the final but effectively the deciding game in the final pool, and a draw would have given Brazil the world title.
Their defeat, in the words of Pele and others remains the ghost in Brazil's footballing past and only a victory this summer will help expunge the memory somewhat.
After World War II (during which FIFA president Jules Rimet, the competition founder, reclaimed the trophy from Italy and kept it under his bed), the World Cup returned and Uruguay won it for a second time.
Before that, the United States beat England 1-0 in Belo Horizonte in one of the greatest upsets in the game's history and Sweden's amateurs beat an Italian side still ravaged by the Superga air disaster that wiped out champions Torino the previous year.
A mini-league format was used to determine the champions and Brazil, Sweden, Spain and Uruguay were the final contestants.
Friaca put the majority of the crowd into raptures when he gave Brazil a lead two minutes into the second half, but Juan Alberto Schiaffino equalised for Uruguay on 66 minutes and Alcides Ghiggia plunged Brazil into a state of national mourning when he scored Uruguay's winner 10 minutes later.
Winner: West Germany
Final: West Germany vs Hungary
Olympic champions Hungary were the overwhelming favourites for the tournament as they came into the finals unbeaten in 30 international matches.
In the previous six months they became the first continental team to beat England at Wembley, winning 6-3, before thrashing them 7-1 in Budapest, and had redefined tactics with a deep-lying centre-forward and a prototype "total football" game with players moving all over the pitch.
Hungary started the finals with thumping 9-0 and 8-3 victories over South Korea and West Germany respectively, before their involvement in the infamous "Battle of Berne" with Brazil.
West Germany though, back in the World Cup for the first time following World War Two, were no pushovers despite their group stage thrashing by Hungary and made it to the final with a 6-1 win over Austria in the semi-finals.
Hungary played some outstanding football throughout the tournament and started brilliantly in the final too, leading West Germany 2-0 after eight minutes with goals from Puskas and Zoltan Czibor.
Undeterred, the Germans made it 2-2 by the 18th minute thanks to goals from Max Morlock and Helmut Rhan. But with six minutes remaining, Rhan struck the winner to complete the biggest ever upset in the final.
Final: Brazil vs Sweden
Widely regarded as the first "modern" World Cup, the influence of TV was growing with more people seeing the matches than ever before.
There were 16 finalists for the first time and they played in four groups of four during the opening phase, before heading into a knockout competition from the quarter-final stages onwards. England had high hopes at the start of the year but the Manchester United air crash in Munich in February 1958 cost the lives of Roger Byrne, Tommy Taylor and Duncan Edwards, and without those tragic losses they went out in the first phase after a 1-0 playoff defeat to the Soviet Union.
Brazil won the trophy for the first time with the 17-year-old Pele launched on his way to becoming the greatest player of all time.
Pele scored against Wales in the quarter-finals and hit a hat-trick in a 5-2 win over France in the semi-finals, whose striker Just Fontaine scored 13 goals in the tournament, a record total for a World Cup finals.
Brazil triumphed 5-2 over Sweden in the final, with Vava and Pele scoring twice and Zagalo netting once, while Nils Liedholm and Agne Simonsson scored for the hosts.
Final: Brazil vs Czechoslovakia
Chile had been ravaged by a huge earthquake in 1960 which left thousands of buildings beyond repair. FIFA considered moving the tournament but Chilean FA president Carlos Dittborn famously pleaded: "We must have the World Cup because we have nothing else," and the tournament went ahead.
It resulted in another Brazilian triumph, though Pele played in only the opening game -- scoring a superb goal in a 2-0 victory over Mexico -- before injury sidelined him.
Brazil beat Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final with goals from Amarildo, Zito and Vava after 1962 European Footballer of the Year Josef Masopust had put the eastern Europeans ahead.
"I dreamed all my life of winning the World Cup and for a few minutes after we went ahead I thought that dream was going to come true" Masopust said in an interview in 2013, "but in the end Brazil were the deserved champions."
The tournament featured the notorious "Battle of Santiago" between Italy and Chile in which two Italians were sent off and one had his nose broken by a left hook from a Chilean player.
Final: England vs Germany
The hosts triumphed again after the trophy was stolen while on display at an exhibition in London. It was recovered by a dog called Pickles under a bush in a London garden a few days later.
Pele was again battered, this time by Bulgaria's defence in the group stages as Brazil's bid for a hat-trick faltered.
North Korea entered folklore with their 1-0 win over Italy with the only goal scored by Pak Do Ik, and for leading Portugal 3-0 in the quarter-finals before losing 5-3. Portugal's Eusebio, who struck four times in that match, and who died earlier this year, finished as top scorer with nine goals. England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra time in a thrilling final at Wembley where Geoff Hurst made history by becoming the first, and so far only player, to score a hat-trick in the final.
His second goal, England's third, remains controversial and after 48 years a debate still rages about whether the ball crossed the line after bouncing down from the crossbar.
For the fifth successive final, the team that scored first lost. Helmut Haller put Germany ahead before Hurst drew the scores level.
Martin Peters put England back in front before Wolfgang Weber's last-minute equaliser sent the game into extra time when Hurst scored twice more.
Final: Brazil vs Italy
The first World Cup finals to be televised live in colour to a global audience have a special place in the sport's history. It is regarded as the best tournament of all.
Despite the high altitude at which most matches were played and many noon kick-offs in the searing heat of the day to suit European TV schedules, many of the games were of the highest quality.
Brazil fielded the greatest side the world has ever seen and not one player from any of the 16 teams was sent off in the entire competition.
Holders England and favourites Brazil were drawn to play in the same opening round group and produced a classic match in Guadalajara.
England were derailed in the quarter-finals by West Germany, who gained revenge for their final defeat at Wembley four years earlier.
As both Brazil and Italy had won the World Cup twice before, the winners were sure to take permanent possession of the Jules Rimet trophy.
Goals from Pele, Gerson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto meant the trophy returned to Rio, where it was later stolen and never recovered.
Winner: West Germany
Final: West Germany vs Netherlands
Host: West Germany
Pele had retired aged 31 and Brazil's great team had broken up by the time West Germany hosted the 10th World Cup.
Unlike the heat of Mexico, most of the matches were played in cold, wet conditions, even though the organizers had used a computer to forecast the period for the best weather.
But more than the weather had changed since Mexico. FIFA had a new president, Brazilian Joao Havelange, who was to oversee massive changes in the game during his 28-year tenure.
Netherlands, having shaken off their amateur game in the early 1960s, were back for the first time since 1938 and had developed a new pattern of tactical play under coach Rinus Michels dubbed Total Football.
It was a system that demanded every player, bar the goalkeeper, had the ability to play in any position at any time. Johan Cruyff was the focal point of the team, one of the greatest players in history, and he led the Dutch to the final. There they met West Germany, European champions and a side skippered by their own all-time great Franz Beckenbauer.
The Germans also had Gerd Mueller, one of the finest goalscorers of all time, and Sepp Maier, an outstanding goalkeeper. All three were Bayern Munich team mates, who that year assumed Ajax Amsterdam's mantle as European champions.
They also triumphed over the Dutch in the World Cup final, winning 2-1 at Munich's futuristic Olympic Stadium after falling behind to a first minute penalty, scored by Johan Neeskens, before a German player had touched the ball.
Final: Argentina vs Netherlands
Argentina had been bidding to stage the World Cup since the 1930s but when the tournament was finally held there the country was under the control of a military junta. As a result, the finals were played in a tense atmosphere.
Several European countries considered boycotting the event or trying to get it moved but FIFA insisted it went ahead as planned.
Brazil were still in the doldrums and the world had a first glimpse of France's rising talent Michel Platini, destined to become one of the game's greats and later the president of UEFA.
Argentina, coached by the chain-smoking Cesar Luis Menotti, had a fine team which included striker Mario Kempes and brilliant midfielder Osvaldo Ardiles.
They strode powerfully, bar a defeat by Italy, through to the final, even if a 6-0 win over Peru in the second phase match which guaranteed their place in the final was seen later to be something of a 'manufactured result' between the two South American nations.
As in 1974, a superb Dutch team battled through to face the hosts in the World Cup final, and again they gained scant reward for their popularity, enterprise and brilliant play. Argentina won 3-1 in extra-time with Kempes scoring twice.
Final: Italy vs Germany
An expanded World Cup of 24 teams included an increase in the number of finalists from Asia, Africa and the CONCACAF region of North and Central America but it was the Europeans who dominated the competition.
The format, however, left much to be desired. After the teams were split into six groups of four, the top two in each advanced to a second round of 12 with four groups of three.
Hosts Spain were eliminated in the second phase after losing 2-1 to West Germany and drawing 0-0 with England, who also went out despite being undefeated in their five matches.
Champions Argentina also went out in the second phase, losing to Italy (2-1) and Brazil (3-1), when Diego Maradona was sent off.
Italy battled through to the last four after starting the tournament poorly with three draws in their opening group matches against Poland (0-0), Peru (1-1) and Cameroon (1-1).
But they came to life in the second phase, following up a 2-1 win over Argentina with a 3-2 victory over Brazil in one of the best World Cup matches of all time.
The Germans arrived after their epic victory over France in the semis in Seville when they battled back from trailing Michel Platini's side 3-1 in extra-time to force a 3-3 draw, eventually going through on penalties.
But they went into the final with their best player Karl-Heinz Rummenigge not fully fit. He went off soon after Italy took a 2-0 lead in the 68th minute of a game which they eventually won 3-1 to become world champions for the third time.
Rossi maintained his scoring form with the opening goal early in the second half while Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli added the others. Paul Breitner scored a late consolation for the Germans.
Final: Argentina vs vs West Germany
Colombia were due to host the 1986 World Cup but pulled out three years earlier saying the cost was prohibitive and their infrastructure could not support it.
The tournament consisted of 24 teams but FIFA introduced a knockout second round of 16 nations rather than the second round groups of 1982.
Champions Italy made it as far as the second round where they lost 2-0 to France, while favourites Argentina, hosts Mexico, England, Brazil and West Germany were among those who reached the last eight.
The outstanding match brought together England and Argentina for the first time since their armed conflict over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands in 1982.
Argentina emerged the victors on June 22 at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico where Diego Maradona won the match with his infamous "Hand of God" goal and his utterly brilliant second when he dribbled from inside his own half, took on and beat half the England defence before rounding goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score.
Argentina beat Belgium in the semis, when Maradona scored another dazzling solo goal, to reach the final, while West Germany, as they had done in 1982, beat France in the semis.
The South Americans were the better team for much of a thrilling final at the Azteca and built a 2-0 lead after 56 minutes with goals from Jose Luis Brown and Jorge Valdano.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voeller pulled Germany level with eight minutes to go before a dinked pass from Maradona set Jorge Burruchaga away and he made no mistake with an 85th-minute winner.
Winner: West Germany
Final: West Germany vs Argentina
The 1990 finals in Italy were a curious mixture of good and bad games, the final fitting into the second category. There were also several wonderful surprises and days of woeful refereeing.
Penalty shootouts began to decide more matches and, although the fans in soccer-mad Italy were passionate about it all, the event left behind bittersweet memories.
Italy's failure to reach the final and the disappointing quality of that showpiece occasion were two of the main reasons.
Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci, who had only played twice for Italy before the finals, emerged as the competition's top scorer with six goals and became an instant national hero.
Champions Argentina were stunned in the opening match when they lost 1-0 to Cameroon and although they recovered to reach the final, that defeat underlined their vulnerability.
West Germany won a poor final with a late penalty from Andreas Brehme and Argentina finished the match with nine men, the first team to have a player, or even two, dismissed in the title decider.
Franz Beckenbauer became the first man to captain and later coach a side to World Cup success.
Final: Brazil vs Italy
Host: United States
FIFA's decision to stage the finals in the United States was a brave one, even though it failed to realise the goal of establishing soccer as a major sport there in the immediate years afterwards.
It did, though, produce a fine World Cup, marred only by a drab 0-0 draw in the final.
In a sense, it was a World Cup held in a bubble. Around the stadiums, or in the cities where matches were played, there was a level of local interest and the competition did produce the biggest total attendance figures in World Cup history.
But millions of Americans had no idea the World Cup was happening in their country and, if they did, they were not in the least bit interested.
The champions were now playing as a unified German team and were expected to do well. So, too, were Brazil and Italy.
It was an open World Cup and it produced surprises. Romania, with Gheorghe Hagi in his pomp, and Bulgaria, with Hristo Stoichkov pulling the strings, flew the flag for the newly liberated Eastern European nations.
The tournament followed the same pattern as 1990 with 24 teams moving into a knockout stage, which is where Argentina, the United States and the Nigerians went out.
Argentina, whose skipper Diego Maradona was suspended after testing positive for doping, lost 3-2 to Romania while Brazil and Italy eventually battled through to the final in Pasadena.
Then, for the first time in World Cup history, the final was decided on a penalty shootout after a dour goalless draw under a blistering sun.
Brazil won it 3-2 after the "Divine Ponytail" Baggio, who had been Italy's hero with six goals, blasted his penalty high over the bar.
Final: France vs Brazil
Japan, South Africa and Jamaica were among the debutants at France 98, which began with champions Brazil beating Scotland 2-1 in Paris on June 10.
Brazil were again expected to do well but France were expected to do even better with the benefit of a far-sighted national youth training program producing the likes of Zinedine Zidane, David Trezeguet, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry.
France, debutants Croatia, Brazil and Netherlands made it through to the last four.
Brazil beat the Dutch on penalties in one semi-final and France edged Croatia 2-1 in the other to set up a first final between the hosts and the champions.
In the end, France won their first World Cup with even more ease than the 3-0 result suggests. Brazilian striker Ronaldo had a seizure on the night before the final and was clearly unfit to play - but did.
Brazil had no answer to the brilliance of Zidane, who ran the match and scored twice. Emmanuel Petit added the coup de grace in the last minute with the third goal.
The scenes on the Champs Elysees on the night of the final will never be forgotten by those lucky enough to be there. The World Cup, invented by the Frenchman Jules Rimet, had finally come home.
Final: Brazil vs Germany
Host: South Korea/Japan
The decision to stage the first World Cup in Asia in South Korea and Japan was one of the most profound FIFA have made. Decades of animosity between the two countries had created a situation that would have resulted in national shame for whichever nation lost the vote to host the tournament.
Their shared and difficult history was something that even FIFA could not solve and, in July 1996, FIFA did the most pragmatic and sensible thing by making them joint hosts.
The competition threw up surprise after surprise, starting with the opening match in Seoul when debutants Senegal beat holders France 1-0.
This, clearly, had the makings of a World Cup with a difference. But that was just the start. France and Argentina departed early, while the co-hosts, swept along on a tide of passionate support, exceeded expectations as South Korea reached the semis and Japan the second round, where they lost to a good Turkish side.
Brazil avoided the errors the other fancied nations were committing. They won all three group matches against Turkey (2-1), China (4-0) and Costa Rica (5-2) before beating Belgium 2-0 in the second round.
That set them up with a quarter-final against a strong England side who somehow lost their way after being a goal ahead against 10 men, after Ronaldinho was sent off.
Before departing, Ronaldinho had scored with a free kick that flew over David Seaman's outstretched arm from 40 meters to secure Brazil's 2-1 victory.
Germany, South Korea and Turkey also made it through to the last four. Brazil beat Turkey 1-0 and Germany beat South Korea by the same score.
Despite having reached the deciding match of the previous 16 World Cups 12 times between them, Brazil and Germany had never previously met at a World Cup.
Brazil were the hot favourites, Germany were difficult to beat and it was not until the 67th minute that Brazil broke through, Ronaldo scoring the first of his two goals.
The second arrived 12 minutes later as he finished as tournament top scorer with eight goals.
Final: Italy vs France
Although Juergen Klinsmann's hosts were knocked out in the semi-finals, it was a celebratory tournament, with the innovation of "Fan Miles" a great success and Germans displaying patriotic support for their team, something rarely seen in the country since the Second World War.
The traditional powers all survived the opening phase and six former champions made it to the last eight: Germany, Argentina, Italy, England, Brazil and France with Ukraine and Portugal the others.
Although there was a dearth of goals in the later stages, Ronaldo set an all-time World Cup scoring record with his 15th goal in the finals, beating Gerd Mueller's record of 14 established in 1974.
Germany recovered from their 2-0 defeat to Italy in the semi-finals to beat Portugal in the third place playoff, leaving the stage set for the final between Zinedine Zidane's France and the impressive Italians.
Both teams scored inside 19 minutes with Zidane giving France the lead from the penalty spot after seven minutes and Marco Materazzi equalising for Italy 12 minutes later.
Those two players were involved in the most dramatic moment of the tournament near the end of extra time when Zidane, in the last act of his dazzling career, headbutted Materazzi in the chest and was sent off. Italy claimed their fourth World Cup after winning the shootout 5-3 with David Trezeguet, who scored France's golden goal winner against Italy in the Euro 2000 final, the only player to miss a penalty.
Final: Spain vs Netherlands
Host: South Africa
Spain, who won the European title in 2008, became the eighth different country to be crowned world champions at the end of a disappointing finals which were the first to be played on African soil.
A World Cup that promised so much, failed to deliver on so many levels. Of the six African countries taking part, only Ghana survived the group stages and South Africa became the first hosts to be eliminated in the first round.
Many matches were played in freezing weather in stadiums where the atmosphere was killed off by the incessant drone of vuvuzelas. To top it off, the final itself was the worst since 1990 with only an extra-time goal from Spain's Andres Iniesta separating the teams as Spain became the first side from Europe to win the World Cup outside their own continent.
Referee Howard Webb handed out 14 yellow cards in the final and sent off John Heitinga of the Netherlands before Spain recorded their fourth successive 1-0 win after beating Portugal, Paraguay and Germany by the same score on their way to the final.
The tournament had started brightly for the hosts with Siphiwe Tshabalala scoring a stunning first goal in a 1-1 draw with Mexico, but even a win over 2006 finalists France could not stop them being eliminated.
Brazil will host the World Cup for the first time since 1950 from June 12 to July 13 and will be favourites to become world champions for the sixth time. They played some excellent football to beat Spain 3-0 in last year's Confederations Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, and there is huge optimism that Luiz Felipe Scolari can repeat his 2002 achievement of making Brazil champions again.
The build-up to the finals has been overshadowed by long delays in stadium construction and the violent protests that marred last year's Confederations Cup hang over the tournament. FIFA and local organisers are optimistic those scenes will not be repeated, but nothing can be ruled out as the tournament approaches.
However, by the mid-1920s, with the growth of professionalism and the game establishing strong roots in Europe and South America, FIFA decided to go ahead with their own tournament which was awarded to Uruguay, the Olympic champions of 1924 and 1928.
The 19 World Cup tournaments have been won by eight different national teams. Brazil have won five times and are the only team to have played in every tournament. The other World Cup winners are Italy with four titles; West Germany with three; Argentina and inaugural winners Uruguay with two each and England, France, and Spain with one title each.
The 1942 and 1946 competitions, which Nazi Germany and Brazil sought to host, were cancelled due to World War II and its aftermath.
When Joao Havelange was bidding to become FIFA president in 1974 he promised that if he was elected, Asian and African countries would get more opportunities to compete on the world stage. The process began in 1982 when the World Cup was increased to 24 nations and was completed in 1998 when the first 32-team tournament was staged.
After some of the major upsets of the 2002 finals, a sense of order returned to the 2006 tournament in Germany, a very different country from the one that staged the 1974 finals when Germany was still divided.