There were certainly a lot of eyebrows raised when it was announced that Qatar would be hosting the 2022 World Cup.
But, after much controversy and much discussion, the major tournament is now here, with 32 nations travelling to the country to compete for the prestigious trophy.
Hosts Qatar are certainly not among the favourites to win the competition, with this feeling reserved for the likes of Brazil, France and Argentina. England and Belgium have also been involved in this discussion.
Qatar will become the 18th country to host the World Cup, with eight different nations winning the competition throughout its history. And from those eight champions, six of them have won one of their World Cup titles on home soil.
The only two nations to miss out on a World Cup win as host are Brazil, who finished as runners-up in 1950, and Spain, who reached the second round in 1982.
Here are the six times the hosts won the World Cup:
Uruguay – 1930
Uruguay have a huge history in the World Cup, not least because they hosted and won the very first ever World Cup in 1930, which saw 13 teams take part. There may have been just 18 matches played in total, but Uruguay were made to work for the title, particularly in their final meeting with fellow South American side Argentina.
But the Uruguayans came out on top that day in Montevideo, defeating the Argentines 4-2 to secure the longstanding honour of becoming the first-ever world champions. A second title arrived 20 years later as Uruguay defeated Brazil 2-1 in 1950. This was followed by another top-four finish in 1954, with the South Americans losing 3-1 to Austria in the third-place encounter.
Italy – 1934
Like Uruguay, Italy also won their first World Cup as host, before going on to win the competition again in the future. With four titles, Italy are the joint-second most successful country at the World Cup, level with Germany and just one behind Brazil. Italy are also one of two nations to have won consecutive World Cup titles, along with Brazil, who achieved the feat in 1958 and 1962.
The Italians will not be present in the upcoming edition, and have been somewhat vacant from the international stage in recent years, last lifting the World Cup trophy in 2006. Titles also came in 1938 and 1982, but the 1934 event was perhaps the most special, with Italy defeating Czechoslovakia 2-1 after extra time in Rome.
England – 1966
Equally special was England’s 1966 triumph in the capital, with the Three Lions winning their only World Cup to date on a momentous day at Wembley. The trophy this year was also secured in extra time, with the hosts edging past West Germany 4-2. Hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst stole the headlines in London that day, with Martin Peters also on the scoresheet.
It has, however, been largely uneventful for England on the big stage since then. But should Gareth Southgate’s side take the momentum from their semi-final appearance at the 2018 World Cup, they could be in for quite a ride in Qatar this winter with their exciting team.
West Germany – 1974
Bucking the trend for nations winning their first World Cup on home soil is Germany, who lifted their second trophy as hosts in 1974. The footballing powerhouse had previously secured the title of the best nation in the world in 1954, albeit as West Germany. Again, it was under the name of West Germany that the nation clinched the 1974 World Cup, beating the Netherlands 2-1 at the Olympiastadion in Munich.
West Germany won their third title 16 years later with a 1-0 win over Argentina in Rome, with a fourth title following in 2014, again with a 1-0 victory against Argentina, this time after extra time and indeed as Germany, not West Germany. Along with two wins, Germany have finished as runners-up on four occasions, more than any other nation.
Argentina – 1978
Another extra time victory came in the following World Cup, when hosts Argentina came face to face with the Netherlands. Painfully for the latter, they were on the receiving end of yet another World Cup final loss, with the home side running out as 3-1 winners in Buenos Aires.
Mario Kempes and Daniel Bertoni were the heroes that day, with the latter scoring a brace at Estadio Monumental. Argentina picked up their second World Cup title just eight years later, defeating West Germany 3-2 in Mexico in 1986. Lionel Messi and Co. will want to recreate some more Argentina history this winter, with the South Americans boasting a hugely talented World Cup roster as always.
France – 1998
Again, like Uruguay, Italy and Argentina, France lifted their first World Cup on home soil, before going on to win the competition again. Their second win came in Russia in 2018, 20 years after their first, when at France 98’ the hosts put on a show for their home fans.
The likes of Zinedine Zidane, Frank Leboeuf and Didier Deschamps were all in action at Stade de France, helping Les Bleus to a 3-0 defeat against a star-studded Brazil side, which included talents such as Cafu, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo. The likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe were the heroes of the French side that lifted the 2018 title two decades later. They are among the favourites to clinch the trophy in Qatar, with Mbappe again in fine form going into the tournament. They are, however, without the injured Pogba and N'Golo Kante.
World Cup winning statistics
17 – Countries have hosted the World Cup
5 – Countries have hosted the tournament on more than one occasion; Brazil, France, Italy, Germany & Mexico
6 – Of the eight champions have won one of their World Cup titles on home soil
5 – Nations have had their best World Cup results while serving as hosts; Switzerland 1954 (quarter-finals), Sweden 1958 (runners-up), Chile 1962 (third place), Mexico 1970 & 1986 (quarter-finals), South Korea 2002 (fourth place)
2 – Times the host nation has finished as runners-up; Brazil (1950) and Sweden (1958)
1 – Host nation has failed to advance beyond the first round; South Africa (2010)
11 – World Cups hosted by UEFA nations, more than any other confederation
3 – Host nations for the 2026 tournament; Canada, Mexico & the USA
3 – Mexico will become the first country to host three World Cups when the 2026 tournament arrives