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What is the greatest World Cup ever?

greatest World Cup ever

Sometimes you watch a World Cup and you think ‘well, that was the greatest edition of that tournament ever.’ 

That is not always the case. Certain World Cups are boring. Or, at least, they do not live up to the billing despite having the greatest teams and players from across the globe. Regardless, the quadrennial tournament seems to always yield dramatic storylines and games as the tournament unfolds.

Yet, certain editions stick in our heads and hearts more than others. There are a number of reasons why that may be.

The 2018 World Cup is special to those in Russia because it was the country’s first time hosting the World Cup. Similarly, French soccer fans may call that the best World Cup because their country won it. Even young English fans, who saw the Three Lions reach the semifinals for the first time since Italia ’90, remember that tournament fondly.

Then again, imagine what fans of France, Argentina or West Germany felt during the 1998, 1978 and 1974 World Cup Finals, respectively. Each of those nations hosted the World Cup that year, and each won the trophy.

What is the greatest World Cup ever?

Fact remains, it is near impossible to put opinions about the World Cup aside. Albeit that is somewhat easier for a twenty-something American like myself. I have not seen the U.S. host a World Cup (but I will in 2026), and the U.S. never made it past the quarterfinals in my life.

Therefore, the greatest World Cup I can remember is 2014. At that time, I was in high school. Watching James Rodriguez and Lionel Messi light up a South American World Cup was a joy. It also helps that I could watch every game in the U.S. at a reasonable hour. That does not necessarily hold true for the 5 a.m. kickoffs in Qatar scheduled for November and December 2022.

What is the greatest World Cup you have ever watched? Was it your favorite nation lifting the golden trophy? Or, was there so much drama throughout the competition that one tournament sticks out in your memory bank?

Let us know in the comments below, some people will surely have the same response. After all, these competitions only happen every four years.

PHOTO: Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images

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  1. WC+Dave

    June 25, 2022 at 11:37 am

    It’s just too hard to choose the greatest World Cup ever. But I can say without any hesitation that France-Brazil in the 1986 quarterfinals in Mexico was the most exciting, free flowing, end-to-end game of international football I’ve watched before or since.

  2. El Jefe

    June 21, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    I’d rank them (since 1990):

    1. 1998
    2. 2002
    3. 2006
    4. 1994
    5. 2014
    6. 1990
    7. 2018
    8. 2010

  3. Ra

    June 21, 2022 at 1:35 pm

    All these “what are your favorite yadayada?” is starting to look like one of these tween magazines. I would rather read streaming news, and see a corrected and expanded TV schedule.

    • MarkB

      June 25, 2022 at 4:57 pm

      Nail on head. This is becoming exactly what you’re saying: “What’s your favorite” “Who’s the bestest” ???

  4. Mercator

    June 21, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    Man this is hard but I think 2006 for me was the best. I was in Germany and its just different having a World Cup in Europe, everything super easy and so many events. It was a good tournament capped off by most wild final I can remember.

    2002 stands out for Ronaldo’s haircut, and 2014 as well after what happened to Brazil. France 98 is still one of my favorite teams of all time. Actually I think looking back they have all been brilliant, but Russia in 18 was meh in comparison and I don’t have high expectations for the current one either. Too young to remember 94 or prior.

  5. Yespage

    June 21, 2022 at 9:35 am

    When I think of great football, I rarely ever think of tournament football. It is a completely different game which is more preventive than proactive.

    So with the quality being questionable, 2002 World Cup, without a doubt was the best to watch as the US made it to the Quarterfinals. Oddly they started hot, beating Portugal after opening up the scoring in the fourth minute. Then they beat South Korea, but due to officiating being quite intolerably bad, it end up a draw 1-1. The 3-1 loss to Poland was a collapse and it was only a 1-0 South Korea win over Portugal that saved the US’s butt.

    The US would win over Mexico, before needing to play Germany who’d win 1-0, but it was overall a very successful World Cup performance.

  6. El Jefe

    June 21, 2022 at 9:26 am

    I’ve only watched every one since 1990. But 1998 really stands out as far as the quality of games and talent. 2002 might be the runner up.

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