While a lot of people might associate football with Brazil and other South American countries, the most dominant footballing countries come from the continent of Europe. Europe is where the sport originated and that’s where the sport’s most successful and cash rich leagues are located. Even the name Coupe de Monde (the FIFA World Cup, previously known as the Jules Rimet trophy) is French. The world’s best players, regardless of their country of origin, play in Europe. Take players like Lionel Messi and Neymar who are from Argentina and Brazil, respectively, but they play professional football in Europe. In this article, we will take a look at some of the Coupe de Monde highlights of European football. Let’s get started.
Coupe De Monde: European Highlights
1930: It All Begins
The first edition of the Football World Cup, which took place in 1930 in Uruguay, did not attract a large number of European teams. Participants were invited and did not have to qualify, but many were put off by the distance to be covered and the cost of the trip. There were no flights to all corners of the world back then and transcontinental flying was difficult to say the least. The other option was to sit on a ship for weeks and sail across the Atlantic Ocean. France is nevertheless one of the competing nations and it was one of the Les Bleus, Lucien Laurent, who scored the first goal in the history of the World Cup, after 19 minutes of play against Mexico. This did not prevent the French team from being eliminated in the first round though.
1934 and 1938: Victory or Death for the Italians
The next two World Cups, organized in Italy and then in France, were marked by the political context of the pre-war period. Even more than Nazi Germany, which mainly relied on the Berlin Olympics of 1936 to try to prove its athletic superiority, it was fascist Italy which benefited from these editions of the World Cup, which it won on both occasions. At home in 1934, Squadra Azzura defeated Czechoslovakia. Thanks to a curiously favorable referee team, some would say. And on the other side of the Alps, four years later, the Italians defeated Hungary, another dictatorship then led by Admiral Horthy. Legend has it that before the confrontation, Benito Mussolini sent a telegram to his team in which he wrote “ win or die”.
Two months before the World Cup 1938 took place, the German team “swallowed” the talented Austrian team, without its star Jewish player, Matthias Sindelar for very obvious reasons. The country does not pass the 1st round.
1950: The Humiliation of England
In 1950, the world was barely recovering from World War II and Europe was a devastated continent. The World Cup took place in Brazil, the only candidate country, and in the absence of many European countries which were still reeling with the losses suffered during the Second World War. England, who had so far never deigned to participate, were in the running for the first time. However, they were humiliated by a first round exit. They even lost to the United States of America, a country not well known for its footballing prowess. That American victory has been dubbed the “Miracle on Grass” over the years.
1954: The Miracle of Bern
A year after leaving their mark on the football world by defeating England in London 6-3, the Hungarian team were the big favorites at the 1954 World Cup, held in Switzerland. The Hungarian selection revolutionized football by playing a very offensive game. It will nevertheless come up against West Germany (FRG). The two countries first clashed in the first round and the Hungarian star Ferenc Puskas was injured. Then the two teams met in the final in the Swiss capital, for a 3-2 victory for the Germans. This match, which has gone down in history as the “ miracle of Bern ”, was the first source of German national pride since the Second World War. For the Hungarians, it was a big disappointment. They had the best team by far but failed on the biggest stage.
1958: France Destroyed by Pele
The 1958 World Cup, which took place in Sweden, had British overtones, with the historic presence of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, competing separately in international football competitions. The competition was however more marked by the French team: Just Fontaine scored a staggering 13 goals, a record that still stands today. Les Bleus, who cou;d also count on Raymond Kopa, failed in the semi-final against Brazil, which featured Garrincha and a 17-year-old unknown youngster, Pelé. The Auriverde crushed the French 5-2. The Brazilians won the final with the same scoreline against Sweden.
1962: The Battle of Santiago
In the general opinion, the 1962 World Cup, which took place in Chile (devastated by an earthquake two years earlier), will not have offered a game as attractive and offensive as in the two previous World Cups. Brazil, led by Pele, who had emerged as a proper superstar, ended up dominating the tournament. The first round match between Chile and Italy is sadly passed down to posterity, having subsequently been dubbed “ the Battle of Santiago ”. The meeting, extremely violent, turned into a fight and the police were called to separate the two teams.
1966: God Saved the Queen
Invented in its modern form by the British, football and its biggest competition, the Coupe de Monde, finally landed on Her Majesty’s soil in 1966. England, which shunned the first World Cups then put on a series of poor performances, did not miss the point. Led by Bobby Moore and featuring legends like Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst, the English team performed very well and won the final against West West Germany. The final wasn’t without dispute as the West Germans claimed that one of the goals didn’t cross the goal line. However, the final score was 4-2, so that wasn’t the only difference in the game.
1970: The “Match of the Century”
For many football lovers, the 1970 World Cup is the most beautiful in history. It is true that after two editions marked by tough and defensive matches, the beautiful game was back, with matches featuring twists and turns. The semi-final between Italy and West Germany was the best match of the tournament. Trailing the whole game, the FRG equalized at the last minute, snatching extra time. They will be the craziest in the history of the World Cup, with 5 goals scored in 30 minutes, the two teams leading in turn until the Italians eventually prevailed 4-3. The German Beckenbauer even ended the match with his arm in a sling. However, despite the glorious semi final victory, Italy was destroyed by the Brazilian squad led by Pele.
1974: The Birth of Total Football
Twenty years after being initiated by Hungary, a new football revolution was underway in 1974, during the World Cup organized by West West Germany. It came from the Netherlands. Led by the star Johan Cruyff, perfectly at ease in the atmosphere of the 70s, the Dutch team flew over the tournament. They played“ total football ”, a tactic where the players are not assigned to a particular position: they attacked and defended all together like a steamroller. But like the Hungarians in 1954, the Dutch hit the wall against West West Germany, which stopped their “ romantic ” vision of football with unfailing realism, lifting the Coupe de Monde with a score of 2-1.
1978: Cruyff Boycotts the Coupe de Monde After Kidnapping
44 years after Italy in 1934, another edition of the World Cup took place in 1978 in a country under the yoke of a dictatorship. In Argentina, the military junta seized power 2 years before the World Cup and we know today that hundreds of political prisoners were locked in jails not far from the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, where the final took place. The Argentinian squad won its first ever Coupe de Monde against a Dutch team which lost its second straight final. The atmosphere was deleterious and the Dutch accused the Argentines of deliberately delaying the kick-off to increase the pressure from the crowd. The Dutch team was also without their best player Johan Cryuff, who boycotted the tournament to protest against the dictatorship and was marked by a hostage-taking of which he was the victim with his family in the previous year.
1982: The “Match of Shame”
If West Germany left its mark on the 1982 World Cup, organized by Spain which had just emerged from under Franco’s dictatorship, it was not so much for its defeat in the final against Italy. It is primarily for its “match of shame” of the 1st round against Austria. Both teams could qualify in the event of a narrow victory for the Germans. The Nationalmannschaft opened the scoring in the 10th minute and the score stayed 1-0 during the remaining 80 minutes. The boos from the crowd did not change anything, the result was approved (1-0). Two weeks later, in the semi-final against France in Seville, West Germany once again found itself at the heart of the scandal. Goalkeeper Harald Schumacher deliberately knocked out Patrick Battiston who was rushing towards the goal. The referee did not call a foul. What followed was a meeting with twists and turns. The match was decided on penalties at the end, the first in Coupe De Monde history, with West Germany emerging victorious.
1986: The “Hand of God” Strikes England Down
More than Michel Platini, who played his last World Cup, it was the Argentinian Diego Maradona who established himself as the major player of the 1986 World Cup. One particular match was to establish his legend: the quarter-final against England. In front of the 115,000 spectators at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City, he single-handedly (pun intended) knocked England out of the game. He scored the first “hand of God” goal where he used his hand to punch the ball in the goal. He then went on to score the“ goal of the century ”, after having dribbled past the entire English defense. A trick followed by a stroke of genius. The Argentines saw this victory as revenge for the Falklands War (1982) and went on to lift the Coupe de Monde.
1990: “Germany Always Wins”
In 1990, the World Cup was held in Italy and the teams present adapted to the style of play of the host country. Goalies and defenders will prevail and the number of goals per game was agonizingly low, with a lot of boring games ending on penalties. In this game, West Germany, which played its last competition before Reunification (which took place three months later), was the strongest. The West Germans eliminated the English in the semi-final, then the Argentines in the final. Such was the West German dominance that England striker Gary Lineker said, “football is a simple game: 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and in the end, Germany always wins ”.
1994: Surprise semifinalists
In the United States in 1994, the final was a Brazil-Italy classic, won on penalties by the Brazilians. The semi finals featured two unlike teams in Sweden and Bulgaria. They had a fairytale run which ended in the semi finals. The 3rd place match-up ended with Sweden beating Bulgaria 4-0.
1998: Vive la France
Before the 1998 world cup, the French team had featured great players like Michel Platini but they had never lifted the Coupe De Monde. Even though they had been participating in the competition since 1930, they had never even reached the final. The 1998 iteration of the Les Bleus was a dominant squad. Featuring stars like Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Didier Deschamps, Emmanuel Petit, Lilian Thuram, and David Trezeguet, France had a dream tournament where they ended up winning 3-0 in the final against favourites Brazil.
2002: Italy and Spain suffer under questionable refereeing
The Coupe De Monde was organized for the first time in Asia (South Korea and Japan). The 2002 World Cup was the scene of many surprises. Several favorites were prematurely eliminated, including defending champions France who were bounced out in the first round itself. The final was between Germany and Brazil but the biggest surprise came from South Korea as the hosts eliminated Spain and Italy on the way to the semi final. However, the refereeing in both those games was extremely questionable. Two Spanish goals were controversially cancelled while the Italians suffered questionable offside calls and saw players being sent off.
2006: The “headbutt” heard around the world
Dominated by the European selections, the 2006 World Cup or Coupe de Monde, which took place in Germany, ended with a France-Italy final. This was French legend Zinedine Zidane’s last game before his retirement. The legendary midfielder played very well and France looked all set to lift its second Coupe de Monde. Only here, after scoring the only goal of the French, Zidane lost his nerves during extra time. He responded to the provocations of the Italian defender Marco Materazzi and hit him with a head butt in the chest. Materazzi also sold the headbutt very well and Zidane was eventually sent off. The game ended with Italy winning on penalties.
2010: Spain dominates with tiki taka
In the final of the 2010 Coupe de Monde, which was being held for the first time in Africa, it was probably the two best teams that had never yet won the competition who faced each other: Spain and the Netherlands. Low. Spain were on a dominant run after winning the Euro 2008 and featured legendary players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Iker Casillas, Carlos Puyol and Sergio Ramos. “La Roja” went on to win the final against the Dutch who suffered their third Coupe de Monde final defeat, a record.
2014: Germany annihilates Brazil at home
For the Brazilians, winning the World Cup which took place at home in 2014 was a dream scenario. However, the dream ended in a nightmare at the hands of Germany. The Brazilian team was led by Neymar Jr. The pressure from the public was immense. It was also probably partly responsible for the failure of the Auriverde in the semi-final against West Germany, future winner of the trophy. The Nationalmannschaft literally marched on the host country and the game ended with an unimaginable score of 7-1 which left millions of Brazilians in tears.
2018: Vive la France 2.0
The last version of the Coupe de Monde in Russia witnessed the rise of a great talent: Kylian Mbappé. The young Frenchman stood out, especially during a round of 16 match contested against Argentina where he tortured the opposing defense with his speed. In the final against Croatia, he scored a goal that helped Les Bleus to a dominant 4-2 win. He also became the second youngest scorer in history to score a goal in a World Cup final, behind Pele.