FINAL: Uruguay 4 – 2 Argentina
Highlight: In group 4’s second match – USA’s Bert Patenaude scored the first tournament hat-trick against Paraguay (although until 2006, one of his goals had been attributed to another teammate).
Lowlight: The referee for the high-tension final, John Langenus requested a boat be ready at the harbor within one hour of the final in case he needed to make a quick get-away.
FINAL: Italy 2 – 1 Czechoslovakia
Highlight: In a highly aggressive semi-final match, that would have to be replayed after it ended in a draw, both the Spanish Goalkeeper, Ricardo Zamora and the Italian player, Mario Pizziolo were so badly injured that neither of them could participate in the deciding match.
Lowlight: The 1930 winners, Uruguay refused to participate in protest of many European teams who refused to travel to South America for the previous World Cup. 1934 was the only World Cup where the reigning champions did not participate.
FINAL: Italy 4 – 2 Hungary
Highlight: As a result of World War II, Italy held this title for a record 16 years. The Italian Vice-President of FIFA hid the trophy in a shoebox under his bed throughout the Second World War and thus saved it from falling into the hands of occupying troops.
Lowlight: Spain became the first country to be prevented from competing by war.
FINAL: Uruguay 2 – 1 Brazil
Highlight: Brazil dominated the competition in the final group stage thrashing Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1 before shockingly falling to Uruguay 1-2.
Lowlight: Several teams withdrew or refused to participate in qualification, including most nations behind the Iron Curtain.
FINAL: West Germany 3 – 2 Hungary
Highlight: Underdogs and newly reformed West Germany obscured the strength of the real team during the group round by using reserves and then pulled off an upset against Hungary in the final to win the Cup in a match dubbed ‘The Miracle of Bern’.
Lowlight: The quarterfinal between Hungary and Brazil was referred to as ‘The Battle of Bern’ because of the amount of in-game violence. The referee sent off 3 players and fighting continued between the teams in the dressing room after the final whistle.
FINAL: Brazil 5 – 2 Sweden
Highlight: Although he did not play until Brazil’s last group game, amongst rave reviews, a teenage Pelé dominated the competition becoming the youngest scorer to win a World Cup Winner’s Medal. His Cup campaign included a hat-trick in the semi-final.
Lowlight: The 1958 World Cup remains the only occasion where Italy failed to qualify.
FINAL: Brazil 3 – 1 Czechoslovakia
Highlight: Since Pelé was injured in the second group match, the young Amarildo stood in and played brilliantly in his stead.
Lowlight: In a first round match known as the Battle of Santiago between Chile and Italy – tensions ran high after Italian journalists wrote about the host country in unflattering articles. The match saw repeated violence from players on both sides and the Italian team had to leave the field with police protection.
FINAL: England 4 – 2 West Germany
Highlight: In the build-up to the tournament the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy was stolen from its exhibition display. A nationwide hunt for the icon ensued and was eventually discovered by a dog named Pickles who sniffed it out from where it was wrapped in some newspaper under some bushes in London.
Lowlight: FIFA had to caution Argentina for its violent style of play during the group matches, particularly against West Germany, which saw Argentinean Rafael Albrecht get sent off and suspended for the next game.
FINAL: Brazil 4 – 1 Italy
Highlight: As stipulated in the trophy rules in 1930, the third win allowed Brazil to keep the Jules Rimet trophy permanently.
Lowlight: The only blip in what was widely regarded, as the finest tournament in World Cup history was the seemingly strict officiating in the opening match, which was perhaps brought on by the introduction of yellow and red cards.
WEST GERMANY 1974
FINAL: West Germany 2 – 1 Netherlands
Highlight: The current trophy, the FIFA World Cup Trophy, created by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga was awarded to the hosts West Germany.
Lowlight: The Dutch were awarded two controversial penalties in the final where the players spontaneously decided to kick, however even this wasn’t enough to beat the host nation.
FINAL: Italy 3 – 1 West Germany
Highlight: After an extraordinary bicycle kick from German Klaus Fischer leveled the scores in extra time, France and West Germany participated in the first ever penalty shootout at a World Cup final.
Lowlight: In the semi-final between France and West Germany, while the German Keeper Harald Schumacher was blocking a goal from Battiston, he jumped, completely missed the ball, rendered the French player unconscious, and knocked two of his teeth out. Although the referee didn’t rule the shocking move foul, play was interrupted to carry Battiston off the field on a stretcher.
FINAL: Argentina 3 – 2 West Germany
Highlight: The Argentinian team was captained by Diego Maradona who scored the infamous “Hand of God” goal in the quarter-final against England. The tournament also saw the appearance of the phenomenon dubbed the ‘Mexican wave’.
Lowlight: Portugal, making their first appearance in 20 years, went on strike during the competition in what was called the ‘Saltillo Affair’. Players refused to train between their 1st and 2nd games and were eliminated by Morocco in the final group match.
FINAL: West Germany 1 – 0 Argentina
Highlight: Cameroon emerged when they opened the Cup with a shock victory over Argentina. Roger Milla’s 4 amazing goals and his flamboyant celebrations made him one of the tournament’s biggest stars and after reaching the last 8; Cameroon became the 1st African nation to achieve this on the world stage.
Lowlight: Widely regarded as one of the poorest World Cups ever, the goal average per game was just over 2 and a record 16 red cards were issued, including the first ever dismissal in a final. The back-pass rule was also introduced 2 years later to discourage time wasting.
FINAL: Brazil 3 – 2 Italy
Highlight: Brazil became the first nation to win four World Cup titles when they beat Italy 3-2 in a penalty shootout after the game ended 0-0 after extra time.
Lowlight: The tournament saw the end of Diego Maradona’s World Cup career after he was expelled for failing a drug test. Additionally, Colombian defender Andrés Escobar was a tragic figure after he scored an own goal against the US and eliminated his team. Escobar was shot to death outside a bar only ten days later, apparently in retaliation.
FINAL: France 3 – 0 Brazil
Highlight: For the first time, the group stage was expanded from 24 teams to 32 with eight groups of four.
Lowlight: The build up to the final was largely dominated by news of Brazilian striker, Ronaldo having a convulsive fit before the match. He was initially excluded from the starting line-up before being reinstated just over an hour before the final.
SOUTH KOREA/JAPAN 2002
FINAL: Brazil 2 – 0 Germany
Highlight: After putting in a joint bid, the 2002 World Cup was the first to be held in Asia and so far the only World Cup tournament to be held in two nations. It was also the last cup that used the golden goal rule.
Lowlight: Saudi Arabia was eliminated as the worst team in the tournament with 3 defeats, no goals scored and an embarrassing 8 – 0 loss to Germany.
FINAL: Italy 5 – 3 France
Highlight: In a dramatic final, which ended in 1-1 after extra time, Italy won their first World Cup title in 24 years during the deciding penalty shootout.
Lowlight: In perhaps one of the most memorable moments, the final saw Zinedine Zidane headbutt Marco Materazzi’s chest in retaliation to verbal insults. The offence saw the veteran French player sent off in his last-ever match. The incident was extensively lampooned on the internet and in pop culture, including a Family Guy parody episode, numerous online GIFs and a novelty song titled Coup de Boule (Headbutt) reaching the top of the French charts.
SOUTH AFRICA 2010
FINAL: Spain 1 – 0 Netherlands
Highlight: In a bidding war open to only African nations, South Africa became the first African country in history to host the World Cup tournament.
Lowlight: The 2010 finals amplified international awareness of the vuvuzela, a long horn blown by fans during matches. The horn became something of a controversy with many players complaining that it interfered with team communication and audiences watching on television felt as though the sound of the horn drowned out every other sound broadcasted.
Pre-tournament Highlight: All of the previous world cup champions have qualified for the 2014 contest and it will be the first tournament to use goal-line technology.
Pre-tournament Lowlight: Several protests have taken place with many groups angry at the amount of money being spent on the World Cup finals.
Source: Wikipedia: FIFA_World_Cup