Brazil are favourites to win the World Cup when they host the tournament this summer and in the lead up to the first game, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men are available at 3/1 with most bookies, including Winner and they certainly have the pedigree and history to pull off yet another triumph.
But what other teams won the title recently? And when we say recently, we mean only the last 5 World Cup winners, as with the tournament occurring every 4 years that already means a 20 year time-span.
World Cup winners from 1994 to 2010:
1994 won by Brazil in USA
In total, the Brazilians have won five World Titles and in the past twenty years, this great nation has lifted the famous trophy on two occasions, the first of which came back in 1994. With that they became the first country to win the World Cup three times and that third victory in 1970 allowed them to keep the famous Jules Rimet trophy. It was a huge surprise therefore that the South Americans wouldn’t even appear in a final for the next 24 years.
Any Brazilian side would be highly fancied by the bookmakers but that trophy drought made the punters just a little wary as they headed to the 1994 tournament in the United States. The squad was coached by Carlos Parreira and skippered by Dunga while their ranks contained an unknown 17 year old striker by the name of Ronaldo.
Brazil came through their qualifying group in first place and the only scare came when Parreira’s men were held to a 1-1 draw with Sweden. The side fielded a formidable strike force of Romario and Bebeto and the two men scored four goals between them on the way to the knockouts.
Few teams had really impressed in the group phase and nobody had progressed with a 100% record so Brazil were relatively confident when they were drawn against host nation USA in the round of 16. Although they had the benefit of home advantage, the United States were the weaker team but the Brazilians won by the narrowest of 1-0 margins thanks to a 73rd minute Bebeto strike.
The quarter final against the Netherlands was the tie of the round as an 81st minute Branco goal sealed an entertaining 3-2 victory. Romario and Bebeto both scored to set up a semi final against the Swedes who had performed so well against Parreira’s men in the opening rounds.
This time, there was no mistake with Romario sealing the game in the 80th minute.
Brazil had made it to their first final since 1970 and waiting for them was an Italian unit who had beaten Bulgaria by two goals to one in the semis. Roberto Baggio had almost single-handedly taken his team to their first World Cup final since 1982 but this wasn’t the showpiece occasion that we were expecting from two of football’s Superpowers.
The game was goalless after 120 minutes and ironically, Baggio missed the crucial spot kick in the shoot out to hand the trophy to Brazil. It was a disappointing final but the Brazilians didn’t care as they carried Dunga aloft to celebrate their first triumph in 24 years.
1998 won by France in France
A host nation won the World Cup for the first time in twenty years as the French, led by Aime Jacquet claimed their first and so far only trophy. France had home advantage together with some of the best players in Europe who were all peaking at the same time but defending champions Brazil started the tournament as favourites.
Brazil made it safely through to the first of the knockout rounds but were less than convincing as they lost 2-1 to Norway in their final group match. There was no Romario at France 1998 while a 34 year old Bebeto was to have little impact.
While the Brazilians struggled in their own section, the French came through with a 100% record that included wins over South Africa, Denmark and Saudi Arabia. It wasn’t exactly the strongest group but Jacquet’s men were impressive and they only conceded one goal in those three matches.
Germany and Argentina had also looked dangerous but France seemed to have been handed a relatively easy tie in the round of 16 against Paraguay. The match itself was anything but straightforward however with a solitary Laurent Blanc goal sealing a win in extra time.
France’s quarter final tie was even closer and the teams could only be split by a penalty shoot out. This was followed by a 2-1 victory over Croatia in the semis and at this stage, there was no reason to believe that the hosts could possibly overcome Brazil.
The defending Champions had recovered from that early setback against the Norwegians and were hot favourites to record a second successive World Cup triumph. However, the final itself began in mysterious circumstances with reports that star striker Ronaldo had suffered a fit on the morning of the match. The 21 year old was originally left out of the starting line up but brought back later on as he had declared himself fit.
However, it proved to be a very subdued performance from the man who would go on to dominate the scoring charts at the 2002 World Cup and Brazil provided little opposition to a rampant French side who won 3-0 with two goals from Zinedine Zidane and an injury time third from Emmanuel Petit.
2002 won by Brazil in Japan and South Korea
The 2002 tournament saw Brazil claim their fifth crown thanks largely to eight goals from Ronaldo. The man who had been the centre of a mystery four years earlier had recovered to take the Golden Boot but this was a largely forgettable tournament that was remembered for some controversial refereeing decisions that favoured the host nations.
The finals started with a shock as the 1998 winners France lost the opening game of the tournament to Senegal. The holders would crash out at the group stage with no goals and just a single point from three matches.
Brazil had no issues in progressing to the next stage, claiming maximum points as Ronaldo scored four times in the group phase. Spain had also recorded three straight wins while Italy and Germany also looked dangerous.
The real controversy began in the round of 16 when some shocking refereeing decisions helped South Korea to overcome the Italians by two goals to one. The joint hosts would then go on to beat Spain in the quarter finals and in doing so, they had removed two of the main threats to a Brazilian victory.
Ronaldo continued to inspire his country with a goal in the round of 16 against Belgium but it was Ronaldinho whose cheeky free kick eliminated England in the quarters. Both semi finals finished 1-0: Germany eventually put an end to South Korea’s campaign while a solitary Ronaldo strike was enough to eliminate Turkey.
The final should have been a showpiece occasion between two of the strongest countries in World football but it was a disappointing, one-sided affair. This time, Brazil were determined not to allow any slips ups and two second half strikes from Ronaldo helped seal the trophy for an incredible fifth time.
2006 Won by Italy in Germany
Host nation Germany had won the World Cup on home soil back in 1974 and after making the final four years earlier, they were widely tipped to do so again. The home side certainly started proceedings in awesome form as two goals from Miroslav Klose aided a 4-2 opening win over the Costa Ricans.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side then needed an injury time Oliver Neuville strike to edge past Poland before Klose recorded another brace in a 3-0 victory against Ecuador.
While Germany eased through qualifying, Italy were comfortable enough as they progressed from Group E although Marcello Lippi would have been disappointed with a 1-1 draw against the United States. France’s qualifying campaign was much worse and after scraping through with five points, few would have given the 1998 Champions any hope of progressing to the final.
Germany continued their bright start to the tournament with a comfortable, 2-0 win over Sweden in the round of 16 while Italy were less than convincing as a late Francesco Totti goal saw them edge past unfancied Australia. France suddenly found some form however as they stunned a strong Spanish side with a 3-1 win.
The host nation received a much bigger test in the quarter finals and Germany needed penalties to progress against Argentina. Meanwhile, France continued their resurgence as a Thierry Henry goal against the holders Brazil put them through to the semis while Italy also returned to form with a 3-0 demolition of Ukraine.
Germany remained favourites to reach the final on home soil but Klinsmann’s men looked to be heading for another penalty shoot out as their semi with Italy went into extra time. Suddenly, the game was turned late on and Lippi’s team reached their first final since 1994 thanks to a goal from Fabio Grosso in the 119th minute and a second from Alessandro Del Piero in injury time.
A solitary Zinedine Zidane penalty had seen France beat Portugal and the same man put the French ahead from the spot when the 1998 winners met Italy in the final. Zidane scored after just seven minutes but the lead was short lived as Marco Materazzi levelled things up ten minutes later.
The remainder of the 2006 final was largely forgettable except for the notorious incident when Zidane head butted Materazzi squarely in the chest. The Frenchman saw red and it’s a measure of the final that everyone remembers the sending off and not the game itself which Italy won after another penalty shoot out.
2010 Won by Spain in South Africa
2010 produced another largely forgettable final but the build up to the match between Spain and the Netherlands was far more entertaining. This last tournament was held in South Africa and the Rainbow Nation served up an unforgettable atmosphere as the finals headed to a new continent.
Spain had won the 2008 European Championships but had started this tournament in the worst possible fashion with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Switzerland. However, victories over Chile and Honduras helped them to qualify as winners of Group H.
2006 Champions Italy were dumped out at the first possible stage – finishing behind lowly New Zealand after a terrible group campaign. Meanwhile, eventual finalists the Netherlands were looking especially strong having won all three games against Denmark, Japan and Cameroon.
The Dutch continued that run with a 2-1 victory over Slovakia in the round of 16 which was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. Spain faced a tricky tie against neighbours Portugal and progressed via the narrowest of 1-0 outcomes thanks to a second half David Villa strike.
Brazil remained in contention with a straightforward, 3-0 victory over Chile while Germany progressed in emphatic fashion – beating England by four goals to one.
By now, Brazil had emerged as favourites but were to be dispatched by Holland in the quarter finals. The Dutch had emerged as serious contenders and went on to book their place in the final itself with an entertaining, 3-2 victory over the Uruguayans.
Another, solitary David Villa strike took the Spanish to the next round as they overcame Chile but few expected them to get past a strong German side who had demolished old rivals Argentina by four goals to nil. However, a third straight 1-0 result saw Spain through and we were all relishing what should have been a thrilling clash against the Netherlands.
What we saw, however, was a bad tempered final littered with yellow cards and a late sending off for Holland’s Jon Heitinga. Referee Howard Webb was certainly busy but the English official was also thought to be lenient when he issued a mere booking to Nigel De Jong for a horrendous, chest high challenge on Xabi Alonso.
A tight final was drifting towards penalties before Andres Iniesta helped Spain claim the match with a winner deep into extra time which sealed the game with a familiar Spanish scoreline – 1-0. That also made Spain the latest world cup winners and current tile holders.