In 1930, thirteen teams participated in the first World Cup held in Uruguay. Since then, the countries of the world have come together every four years (except in the 1940's-yes Germany, looking at you here) to play in the tournament, with 77 countries having participated in 20 tournaments as of 2014.
Despite, the large number of countries to participate, only eight of them have enjoyed the glory of actually winning it. Brazil are on the top with five (don't mention this to Brazilians right now, though), and Germany are next on the list with four, their most recent having been secured against Argentina on Sunday. Here's a quick tour of each winning nation.
Brazil 2014: Germany
Germany became the first ever European team to win a World Cup in South America, and lifted the trophy for the first time since reunification. Fittingly, in a tournament in which nothing was predictable, Germany didn't look completely convincing en route to their final against Argentina, and notably needed extra time to get past the unfavoured Algeria in the first knockout round. However, Die Mannschaft grew into the tournament, and inflicted a historic 7-1 thrashing on tournament hosts Brazil in the semis before Mario Götze's last-gasp extra time strike settled a close final. Argentina captain Lionel Messi earned the Golden Ball as a consolation which was really none at all.
South Africa 2010: Spain
The Spanish team in 2010 was special, which makes its early exit in Brazil even more of a mystery. In South Africa, Andrés Iniesta scored in the 116th minute agaist the Netherlands to give Spain their first World Cup. Six members of the team, along with their coach Vincente del Bosque, were voted onto the team of the tournament. Iker Casillas, the goalkeeper, won the Golden Glove award (previously the Yashin Award), shutting out his opponents in five of the seven matches. The team also won the FIFA Fair Play Trophy.
Germany 2006: Italy
Italy's victory over France in the final was one for the memories. Not only did Italy win 5-3 on penalty kicks, but France's captain Zinedine Zidane was red-carded for head-butting Marco Materazzi in extra-time. Italy's goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon won the Yashin Award given to the best goalkeeper, and was one of seven Italian players voted to the All-Star team. The victory gave Italy their fourth World Cup title, then second only to Brazil's five, but matched by Germany this year.
Korea-Japan 2002: Brazil
This World Cup was Ronaldo's World Cup. The old one. The Brazilian striker won the Golden Boot award (highest scoring player), scoring eight goals in the tournament. Two of those came in the final, as Brazil shut out Germany 2-0 and won their record fifth World Cup. Ronaldo was voted to the team of the tournament along with teammates Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, and Roberto Carlos finished with a 7-0-0 record and a plus-14 goal differential.
France 1998: France
If you think the header is a typo, you are mistaken! When France won the tournament in France they became the sixth country to win the tournament on home soil. France's goalkeeper won the inaugural Yashin Award, letting in only two goals, and eight French players scored in the tournament. Zinedine Zidane headlined the French attack, as France ended with a plus-13 goal differential. They were also given the FIFA Fair Play Trophy and voted the Most Entertaining Team.
USA 1994: Brazil
When Brazil faced Italy in the '94 final both teams were looking for their record fourth title. Brazil defeated Italy 3-2 on penalty kicks, becoming the first country to win the final via a shootout. Romário scored five goals and won the Golden Ball award (best player), and Brazil won the FIFA Fair Play Trophy and was voted the Most Entertaining Team. On a side note, the US chose this as the the mascot for the tournament.
In my opinion, we could have done better. A dog? A live bald eagle painted red, white, and blue would have been perfect.
Italy 1990: West Germany
The 1990 World Cup is widely considered to be one of the worst and the final was no different. West Germany (now Germany) beat Argentina 1-0 on a penalty kick in the 85th minute to win their then-record third World Cup. The victory also served as revenge for their loss to Argentina in the '86 final, but the most exciting part of the game were the two red cards handed out, the first dismissals in a final.
Mexico 1986: Argentina
Diego Maradona was the most heralded star going into the '86 tournament, and he delivered, scoring five goals and winning the Golden Ball award. Though Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 in the final for their second title, the most memorable moments from the tournament come from Maradona's goals against England in a quarterfinal match. For his second goal of the match, Maradona took the ball by himself all the way from inside his own half and scored, in what was voted the goal of the century. His first goal, which has been dubbed the "Hand of God", was a bit more controversial. England's players quickly argued for a handball and after the game Maradona referenced the goal saying it was scored "A bit with the head of Maradona and another bit with the hand of God." Cut to 40 seconds and decide for yourself.
Spain 1982: Italy
Italy beat West Germany 3-1in the final to win their record third World Cup title. The Italian side was led by striker Paolo Rossi, who won the Gold Boot award with six goals and the inaugural Golden Ball Award. He is one of three players to win a World Cup while also being the top scorer and being voted the best player. Italy's Dino Zoff was voted the tournament's best keeper.
Argentina 1978: Argentina
Argentina became the fifth country to win the World Cup at home when they beat the Netherlands 3-1 in the final. Maradona was not yet a part of team, but the team was not lacking in star power. Striker Mario Kempes won the Golden Boot award with six goals and was voted the best player of the tournament. Argentina's Ubaldo Fillol was voted the best goalkeeper.
West Germany 1974: West Germany
Playing in its own country, West Germany beat the Netherlands 2-1 to win its second World Cup. West Germany became the fourth country to win at home, and after losing to East Germany in the group stage, they didn't lose again. The team's Sepp Maier was voted the tournaments best goalkeeper. Seven players scored at least one goal and one of them was a guy named Wolfgang. Wolfgang! This was the first World Cup to feature the current design of the World Cup trophy.
Mexico 1970: Brazil
Brazil topped Italy 4-1 to win its third World Cup. The team finished with a perfect 6-0-0 record and a plus-12 goal differential, while averaging just over three goals per game. Seven members of the team scored at least one goal, with Jairzinho scoring seven and Pelé adding four. Pelé was voted as the best player of the tournament. Captain Carlos Alberto scored a goal in the championship game that many consider to be one of the finest goals in the history of the World Cup.
England 1966: England
Perhaps sick of seeing Brazil win two straight World Cups, England won on home soil, becoming the third country to do so. Geoff Hurst had the first and only hattrick in a World Cup final, and England went on to beat West Germany 4-2 in extra time. Midfielder Bobby Charlton scored three goals in the tournament and was voted the best player, and Gordon Banks was voted the best keeper.
Chile 1962: Brazil
Brazil defeated Czechoslovakia 3-1 to successfully defend their World Cup title. Though Pelé was injured early on didn't play after the second game, Brazil would not go away. Garrincha and Vavá were two of the top scorers of the tournament with four apiece, both tying for the Golden Boot, and were two of five Brazilians named to the All-Star team. Garrincha was also voted the best player of the tournament.
Sweden 1958: Brazil
Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in Sweden to win its first World Cup. Pelé scored two goals in the final (six overall) at just 17 years old and Vava added two as well (five overall), to help Brazil win the final. Midfielder Didi was voted the best player and Pelé was voted the best young player, and were joined by four teammates voted to the All-Star team. One of Pelé's goals in the final is widely hailed as one of the finest scoring sequences ever.
Switzerland 1954: West Germany
West Germany beat Hungary 3-2 to win its first World Cup. The final still stands as one of the greatest upsets in soccer history, and as one of the greatest achievements in German soccer history. The Hungarians, who played professional football, had beaten the Germans, who were all amateurs, 8-3 in the group stage, and finished the tournament with a plus 17 goal differential. Nevertheless, the Germans, were led by Helmut Rahn's two goals and found a way to win. Over the whole tournament, Germany had four players with at least four goals.
Brazil 1950: Uruguay
Uruguay won the first World Cup in 12 years, after the '42 and '46 World Cups were cancelled due to WWII, by beating Brazil 2-1 in the final match of the second group stage. The 1950 World Cup featured the only time the tournament was decided by group play and points. Leading Uruguay by one point, all Brazil needed was a tie to win the tournament, but they could not hold on to their one goal lead. Brazil pushed the change in format because two group stages guaranteed more games and thus more ticket revenue than a group stage and a knock-out round did. FIFA initially resisted, but acquiesced when Brazil threatened to withdrawal. Uruguay's Roque Máspoli was voted the tournaments best goalkeeper, and he along with five of his teammates were voted to the All-Star team.
France 1938: Italy
Italy successfully defended its title in the third World Cup by defeating Hungary 4-2. Italy was led by strikers Silvio Piola and Gino Colaussi, who scored five and four goals, respectively. Both scored twice in the final, and were two of the six Italians voted to the All-Star team. During WWII, the Italian vice president of FIFA, hid the World Cup trophy under his bed in a shoe-box so that occupying troops would not steal it.
Italy 1934: Italy
In the second rendition of the World Cup, Italy beat out Czechoslovakia 2-1 to win its first World Cup title, also becoming the second team to win it at home. Italy was led by Giuseppe Meazza, who was voted the best player and voted to the All-Star team with five of his teammates.
Uruguay 1930: Uruguay
Uruguay won the first ever World Cup in the same year that they were celebrating the 100 year anniversary of their constitution. Uruguay had four different scorers in its 4-2 victory over Argentina, but were led from behind by the tournament's best player José Nasazzi, and Enrique Ballestrero, the tournament's best goalkeeper. Back in 1930, your grandparents weren't born yet, there were no ballpoint pens, and Batman and Superman did not yet exist. This is the tournament in which the US progressed the furthest: third place. 84 years later, we have not come close. Also, soccer balls looked like this:
and referees looked like this:
Yep. It's fair to say we've come a long way.