Ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer, we decided to take a look at some trends and patterns from previous tournaments to try to give us some insight into who could win the competition this time around. In this article, we focus on the previous winners of the World Cup and analyse some of the statistical similarities they share.
Read our guide about which outsiders and dark horses to look out for at the 2018 in World Cup in Russia here.
European & South American Domination
The 2018 World Cup in Russia will be the tournament’s 21st incarnation since the inaugural competition took place in 1930 in Uruguay. Eight captains from different countries have lifted the trophy over the past 88 years, though every winning nation has come from either Europe or South America.
So far, teams from Europe have lifted the World Cup 11 times (Germany x4, Italy x4, Spain, France, England x1) and teams from South America have triumphed on 9 occasions (Brazil x5, Argentina x2, Uruguay x2).
Incredibly, no team from outside either Europe or South America has even made it to a World Cup Final. South Korea came close to breaking the continental duopoly in 2002 when they reached the Semi Finals. The United States also appeared in the Semi Finals in 1930.
This suggests… Either a South American or European nation will lift the trophy in July.
Nine of the last ten World Cup tournaments hosted by countries in Europe have been won by teams from the same continent. Brazil won the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and they remain the only non-European nation to lift the World Cup on European soil.
Similarly, in seven of the eight tournaments hosted in South America, a country from that continent has gone on to lift the World Cup. Germany bucked that trend to win it in 2014, beating Argentina 1-0 in the Final in Rio de Janeiro.
History suggests then, that the winner of World Cup 2018 in Russia will come from Europe, making the likes of Spain, Germany and France good bets to become world champions this summer.
This suggests… An European team is the most likely winner of the World Cup.
Host With The Most?
The World Cup has been won six times by the nation hosting the tournament. Uruguay lifted the trophy on home soil in 1930 and Italy repeated the trick four years later in 1934. England were the next nation to make home advantage count, winning their only World Cup at Wembley in 1966.
West Germany went all the way when they hosted the competition in 1974 and Argentina did likewise when they won it in 1978. France’s triumph in 1998 was the last time the host nation won the World Cup on their own turf.
Priced as long as 40/1 to win the 2018 tournament, Russia’s chances of adding their name to the list of World Cup winning host nations this summer is extremely slim. With the backing of their passionate home support, a run to the Last 16 or even the Quarter Finals isn’t out of reach, but anything beyond that would be a huge surprise.
Quality in Qualifying
Five out of eight of the previous World Cup winning nations won their pre-tournament qualifying group, which seems a relatively low number. It shows that consistency during qualification isn’t always a sure fire indication of more success to come.
World Cup winners’ Italy (’82), West Germany (’90) and Brazil (’02) all finished in either second or third position in their respective qualifying sections.
Incidentally, the winners of the most recent trio of World Cup tournaments were all group toppers (Italy ’06, Spain ’10 and Germany ’14). A common trait among the previous eight World Cup winners has been their high points accumulation averages in pre-tournament qualifiers.
Seven of the last eight world champions have won at least 75% of the points on offer in their qualification fixtures. The average points accumulations for those teams stands a little higher at an impressive 78%.
The data also shows us that six of those eight previous winners won at least 63% of their qualifying games, though it’s no surprise to see teams on their way to the summit of international football winning their matches more often than not.
In 2010, the all-conquering Spain side of the Vicente del Bosque era won 100% of their World Cup qualification matches en-route to lifting the trophy in Johannesburg. They are the only winner since 1982 to have had a perfect win record from their qualifiers.
2014 winners Germany came close to matching the Spaniards when they won 90% of their UEFA region qualification games, while eventual 2006 champions Italy came out on top in 70% of their pre-tournament fixtures.
Winners of the 1990 World Cup, West Germany, won just 50% of their qualification games on their way to being crowned the best on the planet, as did 2002 winners Brazil, who won only half of their matches in reaching their ultimately successful tournament in Asia. Those are joint lowest qualification win percentages of any World Cup winning nation.
Read our in depth article about the best and worst teams from the various World Cup Qualification regions here.
This suggests… The eventual winners of the World Cup will have taken at least 75% of qualifying points (Brazil, France, Portugal, Germany, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Senegal, Tunisia)
Back to Back Winners
No team has been able to retain the World Cup since Brazil won successive tournaments in 1958 and 1962. With a four year gap between competitions, achieving success through generational transitions has proved a near impossible task.
Argentina came within touching distance of matching Brazil’s feat when they followed up their 1986 tournament win by reaching the World Cup Final again in 1990. Unfortunately for them, they lost out 0-1 to West Germany who gained revenge on the Argentineans who had beaten them 3-2 in the Final of ’86.
Italy were the first nation to achieve back-to-back success on the biggest stage, winning the second and third World Cup Finals in 1934 and 1938.
Having won the World Cup in 2014, Germany are priced at around 9/2 to become the first nation in fifty six years to retain the trophy this summer in Russia.
This suggests… Germany are unlikely to break the mould and retain the trophy.
The World Cup’s most successful team Brazil were made pre-tournament favourites before six of the last nine competitions. Failing to live up to their billing, Brazil won the World Cup just twice during that period, and only once as favourites too.
In those nine World Cups held between 1982 and 2014, only two of the favourites heading into the tournament managed to go on and win. Eventual champions Spain were 7/2 favourites in 2010 and winners Brazil 7/2 favourites in 1994. Brazil are once again the bookmakers pick to win the World Cup before the tournament starts in Russia.
This suggests… Pre-tournament favourites, Brazil, are poor value to buck the trend in Russia.
Ranked as the fifth likeliest team to win the World Cup in 1982, Italy beat the odds to lift the trophy in Madrid, beating West Germany 2-1 in the Final. The odds they beat were as long as 11/1, which are the longest pre-tournament odds of any World Cup winner.
The Italians defied their critics to repeat their unexpected success of 1982, by winning the tournament again in 2002 as the bookmakers’ fifth favourite. Italy were priced as underdogs at 19/2 to go all the way in Germany, though as they quite often do, the Azzurri proved a lot of their doubters wrong.
Tipped to win the 2002 World Cup in Japan/South Korea, Argentina exited the tournament at the Group Stage, becoming the only favourite in the last nine World Cups to do so. In the other eight World Cup Final competitions, the favourites were eliminated from the tournament at the Quarter Final stage at the earliest. Beaten finalists that year Germany, were priced at a whopping 20/1 to win the 2002 World Cup before it got under way.
This suggests… A team priced at shorter than 11/1 is most likely to emerge victorious this summer.
World Cup Trends Takeaways
While nothing in football is ever certain, we can take a number of potentially valuable insights into the likely winners in Russia from the wealth of information and statistics available to us. Based on these trends we’re expecting one of the following teams to make a strong run for the World Cup Trophy: Spain, France, Belgium.
Keep up to date with our World Cup betting tips and predictions here.