FIFA World Cup FIFA World Cup 2014

FIFA World Cup: Recipe For Success

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What makes a World champion?

by Aleks V

What does it really take to win the World Cup? Do teams that win in the Euro or in the Olympic games go on to win the World Cup as well? The answers to those and other questions help form a picture of what sort of teams tend to do well, who might win the final, and what teams have the best chances of reaching the knockout round in 4 years' time. Below is the biggest guide to World Cup-winning trends.

UEFA Euro Finalists in the World Cup

Since the start of the first European Championship in 1960, every World Cup has seen the champion of the Euro, the runner-up or both make the knockout round. On 5 occasions, the reigning European Champions were either eliminated in the group stage or failed to qualify for the World Cup at all. Spain is no stranger to such a fate, winning the 1964 Euro and ending their 1966 World Cup campaign in the group stage after two 2-1 defeats by Argentina and West Germany (Spain also won 2-1 against Switzerland, but even if they'd have gotten 3 instead of 2 points for a win, they wouldn't have qualified). Three teams, the Czechs, Denmark and Greece, won the Euro and failed to qualify for the following World Cup.

Among the many surprises of the 2014 World Cup was the elimination of reigning WC and Euro champions Spain and Euro 2012 runners-up Italy. In fact, it marks the first time in history that both Euro finalists were eliminated before reaching the knockout round. 

Germany FR and Spain won back-to-back Euro's & WC's. Four teams - Italy, Germany, Spain and France - reached back-to-back finals in both tournaments, while nine teams have reached the final of the Euro and subsequently the knockout round of the FIFA World Cup.

Olympic Champions in the World Cup

Perhaps surprisingly, more teams that won the Olympic football tournament went on to the knockout round of the following World Cup than did the winners of the Euro. Olympic champions reached the second round of the World Cup on 12 occasions, Hungary doing so twice - the 1954 and 1966 World Cups. Five teams reached back-to-back finals in the Olympics and in either the preceding or the following World Cup, among them Uruguay, Argentina, Italy, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. France won both the Euro and Olympic tournament in 1984. Not only did they make the knockout round of WC 1986, but they also finished third, beating Belgium 4:2 in extra time.

Uruguay and Italy have so far been the first and last teams to win back-to-back Olympic tournaments and WC's.

*Note: There was no football played at the Olympic tournament in 1932.

Host Nations in the World Cup

The host nation has reached the final on 8 occasions and won 6 times, making the knockout round on 18/19 occasions. South Africa became the first host nation that failed to qualify out of the group stage, losing out to Mexico on goal difference.

*Spain made the Second Round of the 1982 World Cup, which featured 12 teams playing, in essence, a second group stage, with the top teams from each of the four groups proceeding to the semi-finals. 

World Cup Winners by Region:
Europe: 10 WC's
South America: 9 WC's

*Note: Piktochart maps indicate UK rather than England.

>European Nations in South America 

5 World Cups have been hosted by South American nations.
So far, no European nation has won a World Cup on South American soil.

>South American Nations in Europe

10 World Cups have been hosted by European nations. 
Brazil was the first and so far only South American team to win a World Cup in Europe, beating the hosts, Sweden, 5-2 in 1958. 

World Cup Winners: Group Stage GF-GA

The winning side has always scored at least 2 goals in the Group Stage, Italy being the only World Cup winner to make the second round with 2 goals, a feat they accomplished both in 1938 and 1982.
Germany conceded the most goals (11) in the Group Stage when they went on to win the Cup in 1954.
Only Uruguay (1930, 1950), Brazil (1958) and England (1966) have won the World Cup while not conceding a single goal in the Group Stage.

World Cup Winners: Total Goals For-Against

The World Cup winner has scored no less than 8 goals total and has not conceded more than 14 goals overall. Spain won the World Cup scoring the least amount of goals (8). Germany's winning run in 1954 broke the record for most goals for-against by a World Cup winner (25-14). France were the first to concede the least goals (2) as winners in 1998. Italy and Spain equaled the record in 2006 and 2010.

On average, the winner of the World Cup scores a total of 14.3 goals in the tournament while conceding 4.5. Comparatively, host nation winners, on average, have both scored and conceded less goals (13.5:3.2), implying that the advantage of playing at home may positively affect a team's defensive qualities.

World Cup Winners: Average Goals Per Game

The World Cup winner scores around 2.4 goals per game in a tournament, conceding about 0.8.

2014 FIFA World Cup Match for Third Place
Brazil vs Netherlands - Saturday, July 12 at 4pm/ET (Univision)

2014 FIFA World Cup Final
Germany vs Argentina - Sunday, July 13 at 3pm/ET (ABC, Univision)  

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