Preparing for Qatar: Every World Cup Host Ranked By Performance

Hosts England Get the World Cup

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is just a few short months away, but a lot of factors remain to be determined. One of the most pressing questions is that of hosts Qatar – will they be able to progress through their group, despite having a mainly domestic-based untested squad?

I’ve already done a review of Qatar’s group (which you can find here). However, with host performances in recent years, they’ll struggle to perform up to the usual standards. Here is every World Cup host ranked by performance.

21. South Africa 2010: Was South Africa a fun host with a great atmosphere? Undeniably. Was South Africa the worst host nation of all time? Also undeniably. They are the only host nation ever to fail to make it out of the group stages.

20. USA 1994: This is remembered as the best-attended World Cup in history, but let’s just say it wasn’t because of the performance of the Americans. They advanced out of the group stages thanks to an Escobar own goal and then promptly lost in the Round of 16 to Brazil.

19. Spain 1982: Spain won just one game as hosts (against Yugoslavia) but that was enough to take them into the second round. Defeat to West Germany and a tie against England confirmed they wouldn’t be going any further.

18. Switzerland 1954: Going further back into the archives of weird World Cup formats, the Swiss played Italy twice, England once, and not Belgium in the group stages. Weird. Two victories against Italy got them to the quarterfinals where they lost to Austria, 7-5.

17. France 1938: Back when the World Cup was a knockout tournament – without group stages – France became the first World Cup host to not win the tournament. They beat Belgium before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual winners Italy.

16. Mexico 1970: The first North American team to host the World Cup, Mexico did well in 1970. They finished the group stages without conceding a single goal but lost in the quarterfinals against Italy, who would reach the final.

15. South Korea & Japan 2002: This was a tricky one to place seeing as both host nations had varying levels of success (they shared the role of hosting, like the US, Canada, and Mexico will in 2026.) South Korea reached the semifinals thanks to penalty kicks and some dubious calls, whereas Japan lost in the round of 16 to Turkey.

14. Russia 2018: Say what you like about the methods Russia used to become hosts, but this is a rating strictly based on performance. The Russians eased through the group stages with two wins from three matches before upsetting Spain on penalty kicks to reach the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, they lost on penalties to Croatia, who eventually lost to France in the final.

13. Mexico 1986: Sixteen years after first hosting, Mexico again held the World Cup. The result? The quarterfinals, again. This time they lost on penalties to West Germany, who, similarly to opponents Italy in 1970, would go on to play and lose the final.

12. Brazil 2014: My personal favorite World Cup, hosts Brazil were great … until they weren’t. An ugly 7-1 defeat at the hands of eventual winners Germany in the semifinals undid all the progress of the previously undefeated side. To cap it off, they embarrassed themselves in the third-place game with a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands.

11. Italy 1990: A strong side with a young Roberto Baggio and a younger Paolo Maldini, Italy went undefeated in the group stage. In the knockouts, they beat Uruguay but struggled to a 1-0 victory over Ireland. They lost on penalties to Argentina in the semis, but the hosts at least claimed third thanks to victory over England in the third-place game.

10. Chile 1962: In a tournament famous for violence and negative play, Chile managed to impress. In the group stages, they won all but one match, including a famously violent affair against Italy. They then reached the knockouts, where they beat Lev Yashin’s Soviet Union before losing a high-scoring match to future winners Brazil. They won the third-place game 1-0 against Yugoslavia.

9. Germany 2006: Led by Miroslav Klose, Germany looked destined to reach the finals for a second straight tournament. A perfect record in the group stage and victory against Sweden and Argentina sent Germany to the semis. However, a minute away from penalties, Italy miraculously scored twice and went on to win the World Cup. The hosts did beat Portugal in the third-place game.

8. Brazil 1950: You thought 7-1 was bad? For Brazilians, the 1950 World Cup is worse. Dominating the first round and winning their first two matches in the second, Brazil was a lock to win. Even FIFA president Jules Rimet thought so, preparing a congratulatory speech for Brazil. They promptly lost 2-1 to hand Uruguay the trophy.

7. Sweden 1958: Admittedly, Sweden had a pretty weak group of Wales, a depleted Hungary, and Mexico. Still, they finished the group stage undefeated, and then beat the Soviet Union and West Germany to reach the final. The hosts took a stunning lead against Brazil before the Brazilians, specifically a 17-year-old named Pelé, ran riot and won 5-2.

6. Italy 1934: As hosts of the second-ever World Cup, Italy won the knockout stage style tournament. A 7-1 victory over the United States set the stage, with Italy beating Spain on penalties to reach the semifinals. In the semis, Italy beat Austria by one goal to set up a final with Czechoslovakia, which they won in extra time.

5. Uruguay 1930: Uruguay played just four games in the first-ever World Cup, but that was all it took. Victories against Romania and Peru sent the hosts to the semifinals, where they demolished Yugoslavia 6-1 before beating Argentina 4-2 to become the first champions of the World Cup. They then decided not to participate in 1934.

4. Argentina 1978: One of the more controversial World Cups. On the final day of the second stage, Argentina needed to better Brazil’s result to reach the final. The result? A 6-0 win over Peru, who had finished the first round unbeaten. No match-fixing has ever been proven, however, and it’s possible that Argentina was just that good. They finished with just one loss and beat the Netherlands in the final.

3. England 1966: Wait, England won the World Cup in 1966? Why don’t they ever mention that?

All jokes aside, this was a very good English team. They went the entire tournament unbeaten, conceding zero goals in the group stage and beating the likes of Portugal and Argentina. The final is also controversial, but in the end, England won by two goals against West Germany to prove themselves as one of the tournament’s most successful hosts.

2. West Germany 1974: Germany didn’t need to wait long for revenge. As hosts in 1974, they lost just one of the six games they played in the first two rounds to advance to the final. This included victory over Poland, who had prevented England from qualifying. Legend Gerd Muller then scored the winner in the final against the Netherlands, one of the World Cup’s top teams. Still, Germany isn’t my number one…

1. France 1998: France’s first World Cup win came in 1998 as hosts. They finished with a 100 percent record in the group stages, conceding just one goal. They beat Paraguay, Italy, and Croatia in the knockouts to reach the final, where they beat defending champs Brazil 3-0. Zinedine Zidane scored a brace, with Emmanuel Petit scoring the other. Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet didn’t even make it off the bench. Simply the best host in World Cup history.

Image courtesy of National Media Museum from UK, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons.

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