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Which country has won the most World Cups?

We take a look at the most successful team in the 92-year history of the FIFA World Cup, the most prestigious international tournament in men’s football.

We take a look at the most successful team in the 92-year history of the FIFA World Cup, the most prestigious international tournament in men’s football.

Currently, Brazil are finding it a struggle to make it beyond the quarter-finals at the FIFA World Cup: the South Americans have gone out in the last eight in four of the tournament’s past five editions, including Qatar 2022. Nevertheless, the Seleção remain the competition’s greatest and most decorated nation. The only team to have qualified for every World Cup since the event’s inception in 1930, Brazil have won the trophy a record five times - one more than their nearest challengers, Germany and Italy.

Teenaged Pelé fires Brazil to first World Cup in ‘58

The Brazilians were made to wait for their first world crown, though. It wasn’t until the sixth World Cup, held in Sweden in 1958, that they finally got their hands on the trophy. Eight years earlier, they had been beaten to the title by Uruguay in a shock 2-1 defeat on home soil, but in the ‘58 final in Stockholm, it was the Canarinha’s turn to taste glory at their hosts’ expense. Led by striker Pelé, who at just 17 scored one of the great World Cup final goals, Brazil thumped the Swedes 5-2.

After victory in ‘62, memorable Brazil side lifts third World Cup in ‘70

Four years later, Brazil were world champions once more, beating Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final in Chile. It’s one of only two occasions - Italy in 1934 and 1938 is the other - that a team has won back-to-back World Cups. Group-stage elimination followed in 1966, but in Mexico in 1970, the Brazilians secured a third title in four tournaments with a side widely considered the greatest the World Cup has ever witnessed.

Certainly, their 4-1 final victory over Italy at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca does much to support that notion. The thrashing is chiefly remembered for Brazil’s fourth goal, a sublime team move that culminated in Pelé nonchalantly rolling the ball into the path of captain Carlos Alberto, whose thumping finish severely tested the strength of the net.

Brazil get to keep Jules Rimet Trophy

Mexico ‘70 was a World Cup swansong for Pelé, who scored 12 goals at four tournaments and is arguably the competition’s finest ever player. He is definitely its most decorated: no other man matches his haul of three winners’ medals.

Having lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy for a third time, the Brazilians were allowed to keep it. A new trophy, the one that is still used today, was crafted ahead of the next World Cup - and as with the Jules Rimet, it would elude Brazil’s clutches for quite some time. After finishing fourth and third in ‘74 and ‘78, respectively, the Brazilians were heavily tipped for glory when they took a star-studded, entertaining team to the World Cup in 1982. However, Tele Santana’s men were knocked out by eventual winners Italy in a memorable second group-stage game in Barcelona. World Cups ‘86 and ‘90 then also ended in disappointment.

Pelé holds the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft in 1970.
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Pelé holds the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft in 1970.STFDiarioAS

World Cup No. 4 won in US in ‘94

It was at USA 1994, under the more pragmatic Carlos Alberto Parreira, that Brazil finally won the World Cup for a fourth time. The final against Italy says it all about the difference in approach to previous, panache-heavy Brazilian teams: they won on penalties after a 0-0 draw at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.

Brazil celebrate after Roberto Baggio's crucial penalty miss for Italy.
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Brazil celebrate after Roberto Baggio's crucial penalty miss for Italy.Mark LeechDiarioAS

At a glance: World Cup wins by country

  • Brazil: five (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
  • Germany/West Germany: four (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
  • Italy: four (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
  • Argentina: two (1978, 1986)
  • France: two (1998, 2018)
  • Uruguay: two (1930, 1950)
  • England: one (1966)
  • Spain: one (2010)

Ronaldo leads Brazil to glory in ‘02 after infamous final in ‘98

In 1998, Brazil were runners-up for the second time in their history, losing the final to home nation France in a game overshadowed by the mysterious ailment suffered by star striker Ronaldo Názario. In a 3-0 defeat in Paris, Ronaldo was a shadow of his usual self. Years later, he revealed that he had suffered convulsions in the hours before the game, only for a barrage of medical tests to shed no light on what was wrong with him.

There was certainly nothing the matter with Ronaldo in 2002, however. He scored eight goals in South Korea and Japan, including a brace in a 2-0 final victory over Germany, as Brazil added a fifth star to their crest under coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Ronaldo with the trophy after Brazil's 2002 World Cup win.
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Ronaldo with the trophy after Brazil's 2002 World Cup win.OLEG POPOVDiarioAS

Quarter-final frustration again and again

Since then, though, the Brazilians have entered another period in which World Cup success has remained out of reach. Indeed, 2002 is not only the last time they won the trophy; it’s the last time they even made it to the final. In the past two decades, their best performance at the tournament is a 2014 run to the semi-finals as hosts - and that’s a last-four appearance they’d like to forget all about. Again coached by Scolari, the Seleção were walloped 7-1 by Germany, who went on to win their fourth world crown.

As in 2006, 2010 and 2018, Brazil exited the World Cup at the quarter-final stage in Qatar, losing on penalties to Croatia. Whatever happens, however, they cannot be caught as the World Cup’s most successful country this year. Four-time winners Germany and Italy were knocked out even earlier: Die Mannschaft fell in the group stage, and the Italians didn’t even qualify.

Brazil’s World Cup final wins:

  • 1958: Brazil 5-2 Sweden
  • 1962: Brazil 3-1 Czechoslovakia
  • 1970: Brazil 4-1 Italy
  • 1994: Brazil 0-0 Italy (Brazil won 3-2 on pens)
  • 2002: Germany 0-2 Brazil

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