How Many Teams Have Retained The World Cup?

Liam Bewsher

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How Many Teams Have Retained The World Cup?

The Qatar 2022 World Cup kicks off in just a couple of days now, with holders France looking to retain their crown after their triumph in Russia four years ago. And in potentially doing so, they would become just the third-ever nation to retain the World Cup.

Yes, just two countries previously have won world football’s biggest prize back-to-back. Brazil and Italy are the only countries to have ever achieved this feat, with the Azzurri being the first to do so in both 1934 and 1938. Brazil would follow suit 20 years later, winning their first World Cup in 1958, and winning at the subsequent tournament in 1962. Here’s how they both did it…

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Italy’s Successes in 1934 & 1938

The European nation of Italy was the first country to ever retain the World Cup, winning it for the first time in 1934, and for a second time four years later in 1938.

Their win in 1934 actually came on home soil, beating off competition from Sweden for the right to host the competition. This edition of the tournament discarded a group stage phase, with it being just a straight knockout tournament of 16 teams. The Italians faced the USA in their first match and proceeded to thrash them 7-1, with forward Angelo Schiavio bagging a hat-trick and winger Raimundo Orsi also scoring a brace.

The Azzurri were drawn against Spain in the next round, with the contest finishing 1-1 after extra time. Rules at the time stated that if a match were to end in a tie after extra time, then the match would have to be replayed the next day.

Italy would triumph 1-0 in the replay, with Giuseppe Meazza scoring his second of the tournament to get his side to the semi-finals, where they would face Austria. Enrique Guaita would score the only goal of the match and his only goal of the tournament to send Italy through to the final in Rome against Czechoslovakia.

Antonin Puc scored in the 71st minute to give Czechoslovakia the lead, but Orsi bagged his third goal of the tournament to draw Italy level ten minutes later. The game then went to extra time, with star man Schiavio going on to score what would be the winning goal to crown Italy as world champions.

Italy’s next win came in 1938, with the success meaning that manager Vittorio Pozzo is still the only manager to lift the World Cup twice with the same country. The 1938 edition would also be the last World Cup to use a straight knockout format, with just 16 teams (then 15 due to Austria’s withdrawal) competing that year.

Italy were taken to extra time by Norway in their opening match, but they would eventually triumph 2-1. Italy took the lead after just two minutes, but a goal from Arne Brustad seven minutes from full-time took the game to extra time, with Italy going on to win through star player Silvio Piola’s winner.

They would face hosts France next, with a second-half brace from Piola sending them through to the semi-final stage after early first-half goals from both sides. Brazil were the Azzurri’s opponents in the semi-finals, and they could only muster a goal through Romeu three minutes from full-time after Gino Colaussi and Giuseppe Meazza had scored earlier in the half.

The aforementioned win took Italy through to the final, where they would go on to play out a 6-goal thriller with Hungary. The Italians had themselves a 3-1 lead at half-time, with Colaussi scoring two and Piola scoring the other. Hungary would reduce the deficit to one through Gyorgy Sarosi 20 minutes from time, but Piola bagged his second of the game and fifth of the tournament 12 minutes later to secure Italy’s second World Cup.

Brazil & the Rise of Pele

After suffering heartbreak in the final eight years earlier and exiting in the quarter-finals in 1954, Brazil finally picked up their first of five World Cups in 1958.

A strong group-stage showing was a sign of things to come, with Brazil beating Austria 3-0 and the Soviet Union 2-0, with Jose Altafini and Vava bagging two goals each in those games. Sandwiched in between those two wins was a goalless draw with England, but it was the game against the Soviet Union that will live long in the memory – because it was the World Cup debut of a teenager who went by the name of Pele.

Because there were only four groups of 16 teams competing, there was no round-of-16 stage, and instead went straight to the quarter-finals. Brazil were drawn against Wales, and they triumphed over the Dragons 1-0, with Pele bagging the game’s only goal in the 66th minute.

The goal against Wales meant that Pele was (and still is) the youngest goalscorer in World Cup history at 17 years and 239 days. Brazil would then take on France for a place in the final, and they would ultimately run out 5-2 winners. The match was tied 1-1 after early goals from Vava and Just Fontaine, but Brazil were about to receive a major advantage. French defender Robert Jonquet suffered a broken leg in a clash with Vava, and because substitutes were not allowed in the World Cup back then, France had to play on with ten men.

Just three minutes after the injury, Didi scored to put Brazil back in front, and they would dominate the rest of the match. A stunning second-half hat-trick from Pele ensured that Brazil would be going through to the final, where they would face hosts Sweden. And it would be a 2nd consecutive 5-2 win for the Selecao, as they ran out winners by that scoreline again. Two goals from Vava in the first half and two more from Pele in the second half helped Brazil to what was their first-ever World Cup triumph.

Chile was the location of Brazil’s next World Cup triumph, with the South American country being awarded hosting rights for the 1962 tournament.

Brazil’s group stage performance was similar to 1958, with the Selecao picking up two wins and a draw from their three group matches – a 2-0 win over Mexico and a 2-1 win over Spain, with their draw coming to Czechoslovakia.

Pele tore a thigh muscle in that match and so had to sit out the rest of the tournament. But in his absence, other players stepped up – especially Amarildo, who scored both goals in the win over Spain. Again due to it being a 16-team tournament, the knockout phase skipped the round of 16 and went straight to the quarter-finals, where Brazil beat England 3-1. Two goals from Garrincha and one from Vava helped Brazil to the semi-finals, where hosts Chile awaited.

The Chileans put up a good fight but ultimately lost 4-2, with both Garrincha and Vava scoring two each to take their personal tallies for that tournament to four and three respectively.

The win over Chile saw Brazil into the final, where they would face 1934 runners-up Czechoslovakia. At half-time, it was 1-1, with Amarildo getting Brazil back into the game after Josef Masopust had opened the scoring. But, two goals in nine minutes from Zito and Vava turned the game on its head, and Czechoslovakia were not able to mount a comeback, meaning that Brazil were once again World Cup winners.

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