10 – Uruguay 1930 – Winners
As the reigning Olympic football champions and pre-tournament favourites, Uruguay lived up to the hype and celebrated the centenary of their independence by lifting the inaugural World Cup. Uruguay’s powerful attacking play ensured their progression to the final and also the future of the tournament. The success of the side and the fervent local support generated for the sport convinced FIFA that the tournament was viable, a fact football fans are grateful for to this day.
9 – Sweden 1958 – Runners-up
Yellow was the colour in 1958 as Sweden progressed to the final, only falling at the final hurdle to Brazil, thanks largely due to the dribbling genius of Garrincha and an emerging 17-year-old by the name of Pele. Unfortunately for the Swedes, this tournament was when he announced himself on the world stage and despite Sweden benefiting from new World Cup features such as professional players and constant crowd noise, they couldn’t make the final step to lift the trophy. Sweden outstretched meagre expectations, topping their group before overcoming a strong Soviet Union side in the quarter-finals and dispatching reigning champions West Germany in the semi-finals on their way to recording their best ever World Cup finish.
8 – Italy 1934 – Winners
Italy faced pressure not only from their passionate home support, but also from Benito Mussolini’s government. Hosting the World Cup was as much a PR stunt for the fascist regime as it was a football tournament. On top of this inexorable pressure, the tournament scheme was quick to punish, with the straight knockout format meaning one mistake could eliminate the Azzurri. The Italians combined consistency with character, overcoming Spain, in the first game in World Cup history to be replayed after the sides were tied at 1-1 after extra time in the quarter-finals.
7 – West Germany 1974 – Winners
Far from dazzling the world with scintillating football, West Germany’s victory over the Netherlands was very much a triumph of defence and discipline over attacking flair. The Germans, typified by their captain Franz Beckenbauer, won out over Johan Cruyff and Holland’s Total Football, serving the perfect riposte to the group stage humiliation inflicted by J