FIFA World Cup Format Qatar 2022. Betfinal Beginner’s Guide, Part 1

5 Nov 2022Football
FIFA World Cup Format Qatar 2022. Betfinal Beginner’s Guide, Part 1

FIFA World Cup History of the Tournament 1930-1962

The madness we all have been waiting for, for four years now, is almost about to begin. The way the FIFA World Cup format works is far from simple. Components such as qualifying procedures, roster size, yellow card accumulations, and substitutions or extra-time rules can vary from one tournament to another.

Our Betfinal ultimate guide for beginners will provide all the necessary information about the World Cup Qatar 2022, its history, news and statistics to help you understand the World Cup formula and enjoy the game even more.

This is Part 1 (out of four) of the series. The whole series consists of all the crucial historical facts about FIFA World Cup Formats from the beginning of the tournament in 1930, up to the last World Cup in 2018.
In Part 4, we will cover the essentials of the upcoming World Cup Final in Qatar.

So, get your coffee ready, fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride throughout the FIFA World Cup history.

FIFA World Cup History

Before the World Cup was even created, it had been a part of the Summer Olympics. But in the 1920s, the game faced a shift to professionalism that wasn’t consistent with the Olympic spirit. That’s why the FIFA officials made plans to organise a different tournament format called – World Cup. The decision to arrange the event’s first edition was officially made on May 26, 1928.

FIFA World Cup Finals, Uruguay, 1930

The first edition of the World Cup Finals was held in Uruguay in 1930. The only time in the history of the tournament that there were no qualifications. FIFA decided that every country that was a member of the organisation would be given a chance to showcase its skills. All the teams had to do to participate was express their willingness and register their attendance.


The tournament was played with a group phase followed by Semi-finals and a final (a match for third place wasn’t played). 13 nations participated in the competition (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, France, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, United States, Uruguay and Yugoslavia). In 18 games, 70 goals were scored, including the first hat-trick in World Cup history by Guillermo Stábile. When the tournament was over, Uruguay was crowned as the first World Cup champions after the spectacular win against Argentina 4:2.


Argentina – United States 6–1
Uruguay – Yugoslavia 6–1

Uruguay – Argentina 4–2

FIFA World Cup Finals, Italy, 1934

32 countries did participate in the tournament qualifiers. They were split into two or three team groups according to their position on the map. Therefore, Spain played against Portugal, the Third Reich against France and Luxembourg and Lithuania against Estonia and Sweden. Only once in history did the host country have to go through qualifications. The Italians had to play Greece and beat them easily, 4:0.

In the end, 16 teams qualified for the Italian World Cup. Twelve from Europe: Italy, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, the French Third Republic, Spain, the Netherlands, the Third Reich, Romania, Switzerland, Sweden and Hungary. Two from South America: Argentina and Brazil, and one from North America, the United States and Africa, Egypt.

The current World Champions and runners-up – Uruguay and Argentina, did not take the tournament seriously. Uruguay opted out, explaining that the trip to Europe was too long and expensive. In fact, it was revenge for the Italian’s failure to come to Montevideo four years earlier.

Argentina admittedly arrived in Italy but with their third squad. Their best players stayed at home. It was a protest against the decision to include four Argentine footballers – Luis Monti, Attilio Demaria, Raimundo Orsi and Enrique Guaita – in the Italian national team.

England, on the other hand, still felt they were above the level to prove their superiority. As a result, the Lions didn’t participate in the competition yet again.


The set-up for the competition had changed since the first World Cup in 1930. The group phase was abandoned, and a knock-out format was introduced. If the encounter was a tie after regular time, 30 minutes extra would be added. If the match still wasn’t decided after extra time, a rematch would be arranged the following day (penalty shoot-out was not introduced until 1978).

FIFA World Cup 1934 gave the audience lots of goals; a total of 70 were scored in only 17 matches. In the end, Italy lifted up the golden trophy and became the second World Cup champion.


Czechoslovakia – Germany 3–1
Italy – Austria 1–0

Third place match
Germany – Austria 3–2

Italy – Czechoslovakia 2–1

FIFA World Cup Finals, France, 1938

The hosts of the third World Cup in history were the French. The country had performed well in hosting the Summer Olympics 14 years earlier, so FIFA had no concerns about its choice in August 1936.

The fact that two World Cups in a row were held in Europe was met with anger in South America. That led to a boycott from Two countries, Argentina and Uruguay.

Thirty-seven teams took part in the preliminary rounds. Following the example of the previous World Cup qualifiers, they were divided into groups or pairs according to their geographical location. Sure to participate in the tournament were the host, France, and the defending champions, the Italians.
During the qualifiers, it turned out that it was not only France and Italy, who won the promotion without stepping on the pitch. The same was done by the teams of Cuba, the Netherlands East Indies, Brazil and Romania, as their qualifying rivals withdrew from competing for the right to participate.


16 teams competed for the Golden Trophy. Twelve from Europe (France, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Third Reich, Norway, Romania, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, Belgium and Austria) and one each from South America (Brazil), Central America (Cuba) and Asia (Dutch East Indies).
The competition format was exactly the same as four years earlier in Italy. The 16 participants were divided into pairs for the 1/8 finals.


Hungary – Sweden 5–1
Italy – Brazil 2–1

Third place match
Brazil – Sweden 4–2

Italy – Hungary 4–2

Therefore, Azzurri became the first team in football history which defended their title.

The 1938 World Cup finals included 18 matches in which 84 goals were scored.

Because of the Second World War, the next tournament had to wait until 1950.

FIFA World Cup Finals, Brazil, 1950

The devastating Second World War killed the World Cup for 12 years. When the war dust had settled for good, FIFA returned to the tradition that started in 1930 and again organised the world’s biggest and most exciting football tournament. Brazil was awarded the right to host the championship.

Brazilians offered to play the tournament in 1949, but FIFA wanted to continue the four-year interval between the competitions.

Canarihnos, as the hosts, and Italy, the current champion, had a secure entry into the World Cup. There were still 14 places to be filled and 32 applicants. Due to the war’s actions, Germany and Japan were banned from the tournament. Soviet Union, Hungary and Czechoslovakia refrained from participating for political reasons.

In addition to Brazil and Italy, teams from Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mexico, the United States, England, Spain, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and India won the opportunity to enter the tournament.

Officially, 13 teams took part in the 1950 World Championships as Scots, Yugoslavians, and Indians dropped out of the finals.


The organisers decided to innovate the tournament by arranging it in a revolutionary manner. All the contestants were divided into four uneven groups:

Four teams in Group 1 – Brazil, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Mexico.

Four teams in Group 2 – England, Spain, Chile and the USA.

Three teams in Group 3 – Italy, Sweden and Paraguay.

Group 4 consisted of only two teams, Uruguay and Bolivia. Both of them played only one game against each other. Uruguay beat Bolivia 8-0 and got an easy path to the knockout stage.

The winner of each group was promoted to the final round. In practice, the final round was a four-team group again, where everyone had to play against everyone. In theory, there was a high risk that the new World Champion would be known before the end of the tournament.


Brazil, Spain, Sweden, and Uruguay, succeeded in winning their respective groups, and they played each other in the second round. The last game, between Uruguay and Brazil, was the decisive one. The match was played at the Maracana Stadium and is considered one of the most fascinating World Cup finals ever, with an attendance of 199,854!
Uruguay, who had chosen not to partake in the 1934 or 1938 tournaments, won the battle 2:1 and collected their second title out of two participations.

Final Round
Brazil – Sweden 7–1
Uruguay – Spain 2–2
Brazil – Spain 6–1
Uruguay – Sweden 3–2
Sweden – Spain 3–1
Uruguay – Brazil 2–1

FIFA World Cup in 1950 included 22 matches in which 88 goals were scored. A curiosity is that it was the first time the players had numbers on their backs.

FIFA World Cup Finals, Switzerland, 1954

The 1950 World Cup was not yet well over when the world began to recognise the footballing power of the Hungarian national team. Gusztava Sebes’ players had been dazzling the world with their skills for over four years, and as a result, they were major candidates to win the 1954 World Cup.

The host of the fifth World Cup was already known at the end of 1950. FIFA, founded in 1904, received two proposals to host the championship – from Switzerland and Sweden. In order to celebrate the organisation’s 50th anniversary, it was decided that Switzerland, the country where FIFA’s headquarters is located, would host the World Cup. Sweden was assured of hosting the tournament four years later.

The hosts, and the defending champions, the Uruguayans, were guaranteed a place in the 1954 World Cup. There were still 14 spots to be filled. Forty-five countries applied to participate and were divided into groups or pairs.

An interesting fact is worth mentioning, which concerns the double-header qualifier between Spain-Turkey. The ‘La Roya’ boys were the clear favourites, which they proved in the first meeting, winning 4:1.
In the return match, however, the Turks beat Spain 1:0. The two-match score was, therefore, 4:2 for Spain. Still, at the time, the goal balance was not considered. As a result, an additional match on neutral territory was called for. There was a 2-2 tie in the game played in Rome. In such a situation, it was necessary to flip a coin, and the luck was on the Turkish side.

The ultimate 1954 World Cup line-up was as follows: Switzerland, Uruguay, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Scotland, Turkey, Federal Republic of Germany, Yugoslavia, Brazil, Mexico and South Korea.


16 teams participated in the tournament’s final stage, and 26 matches were played. It was the fifth time for the World Cup tournament and the first that could be seen on television.
A new competition format was tested in Switzerland. The 16 teams were divided into four groups, with two sides receiving the status of ‘Favourites’. The other two were unseeded.
The “Paper Favourites” only played matches against seemingly weaker teams. The third group encounter was to be played only by teams with the same number of points.

The Brazilians and Yugoslavs advanced from Group A, the Hungarians and Germans from Group B, the Uruguayans and Austrians from Group C and the English and Swiss from Group D.


West Germany, Austria, Hungary and Uruguay succeeded in the Quarter-finals and went on to the Semi-finals, where West Germany thrashed Austria 6-1, and Hungary defeated Uruguay 4:2 after extra time. In the Final, the German side turned out to be better and crashed the favourites, Hungary, 3:2.

Uruguay – England 4–2
Austria – Switzerland 7–5
Hungary – Brazil 4–2
West Germany – Yugoslavia 2–0
West Germany – Austria 6–1
Hungary – Uruguay 4–2 a.e.t
Third place match
Austria – Uruguay 3–1
West Germany – Hungary 3–2

In 1954, the Germans won their first World Cup Trophy. At the same time, they broke Hungary’s streak of 32 consecutive matches without defeat.

The tournament achieved the highest goal-average rate in World Cup history, with an astonishing 5.38 goals per match – 140 goals in 26 games. The most excessive production of goals (12) came in the Quarter-final game between Austria and Switzerland: 7-5 after 90 minutes. This goal-scoring record still remains unbeaten.

FIFA World Cup Finals, Sweden, 1958

Gilmar, Djalma Santos, Nilton Santos, Didi, Zito, Vava, Zagallo. Just before the start of the 1958 World Cup, Brazil had valuable footballers to frighten their opponents with. Under pressure from the media and fans, Coach Vicente Feola co-opted into the squad two players who were then anonymous to the world. How much did Pele and Garrincha change the history of football? The answer is obvious.

As promised by FIFA in July 1950, the organisation of the 1958 World Cup was entrusted to Sweden. In all previous World Cups, it had always been some nations that didn’t wish or weren’t able to partake. In the 1958 edition, all countries in the football world (55) were involved in the qualifications.
Most of them were divided into three-team continental groups.

The main tournament featured 16 teams: Sweden, West Germany, England, France, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Wales, Austria, USSR, Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Mexico.
They were split into four groups. Argentina, Northern Ireland, Czechoslovakia and West Germany faced each other in Group A. Group B included Yugoslavia, France, Paraguay and Scotland. Group C brought together Mexico, Sweden, Wales and Hungary. The most interesting were the duels in Group D, in which the teams of England, Austria, Brazil and the USSR checked in.


Several innovations were introduced in the Swedish championship. For the first time, a final ladder was laid out, thanks to which there was no need to draw pairs in the knock-out stage.

In addition, the matches were broadcast live on television. Admittedly, only in Sweden. Other countries still had to admire the players’ exploits only from a replay.

The format consisted of the first phase with four four-team groups. Two teams from each group would advance to a final knock-out stage, which included quarter-finals, semi-finals, third-place match and a final.

The FIFA 1958 World Cup also got some attention for rough and unfair manners on the field. Oddly enough, substitutions were still not allowed back then, and an injury would lead to missing a player for the team.


West Germany, Northern Ireland, France, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Wales, Brazil and the Soviets advanced to the knock-out stage.

Brazil, France, Sweden and West Germany won their encounters and progressed to the Semi-finals, from which Brazil and Sweden would go ahead to play in the final.

Sweden could not resist the Brazilians, and they lost 5-2. The result was a goal record in the World Cup finals history (the previous one had been six goals in the 1930s final when Uruguay defeated Argentina 4:2).

FIFA World Cup 1958 included 35 matches in which 126 goals were scored. The 3,6 goals per match rate was lower than in all previous World Cup editions.

An interesting fact to mention here is that when Pele scored against Wales, he became the youngest goal scorer (17 years and 239 days) in the history of the tournament.

Quarter Finals
West Germany – Yugoslavia 1–0
Sweden – Soviet Union 2–0
France – Northern Ireland 4–0
Brazil – Wales 1–0
Sweden – West Germany 3–1
Brazil – France 5–2
Third place match
France – West Germany 6–3
Brazil – Sweden 5–2

FIFA World Cup Finals, Chile, 1962

At the FIFA congress in Lisbon in 1956, it was agreed that the World Cup would return to its roots to South America in 1962. The desire to host the seventh championship in history was shown by four countries: Spain, Germany, Argentina and Chile. Argentina was the overwhelming favourite, but ultimately the tournament’s organisation was assigned to Chile.

According to tradition, the host team, Chile, and the defending champion, Brazil, were assured of a place in the World Cup Finals. 56 teams have expressed willingness to participate, and only 16 qualified.

Although African and Asian nations joined the qualification round, only American and European countries would perform in the final tournament. The African and Asian teams had to play extra qualification matches against European teams, which decreased their chances. No African nation would reach the final tournament until 1970 when FIFA finally gave the Confederation of African Football one guaranteed place.

The list of participants was as follows: Chile, Brazil, Bulgaria, Switzerland, West Germany, Hungary, USSR, England, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Yugoslavia, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico.


There was no fiddling with the rules. They were almost twinned to those that worked wonderfully four years earlier, with one difference.
The group’s playoffs (in case of equal points obtained by the second and third teams) were abandoned. Instead, the qualification was to be decided firstly by the goal ratio and secondly by the number of goals scored. And even if this did not result, the matter was meant to be left to chance – a coin flip.

The teams were divided into four groups, each playing matches in one of the host cities. Uruguay, Colombia, the USSR and Yugoslavia took on each other in Arice; Chile, Italy, West Germany and Switzerland in Santiago; Brazil, Mexico, Czechoslovakia and Spain in Vina del Mar; and Argentina, England, Bulgaria and Hungary in Rancagua.

Some games were very rough, and the brutality escalated several times into fighting incidents in which boxing and kicking took place on the field. Like in the previous World Cup tournament, no substitutes were allowed, which provoked players to unfair play. Neither were yellow and red cards yet taken into practice – a player could have been sent off, though, which happened six times in the Chilian tournament.


Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, West Germany, Chile, Italy, and Brazil advanced from the group phase.

In Quarter-finals, Brazil, Chile, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia won their matches and qualified for the Semi-finals, where Chile faced Brazil and Czechoslovakia played against Yugoslavia.

In the end, Czechoslovakia and Brazil played for the FIFA World Cup trophy.

By winning the final game in 1962, Brazil defended its title and became the second nation ever to do that – following Italy which achieved that in 1938.

Chile – Soviet Union 2–1
Yugoslavia – West Germany 1–0
Brazil – England 3–1
Czechoslovakia – Hungary 1–0
Brazil – Chile 4–2
Czechoslovakia – Yugoslavia 3–1
Third place match
Chile – Yugoslavia 1–0
Brazil – Czechoslovakia 3–1

FIFA World Cup 1962 included 32 games in which 89 goals were scored. The 2,78 goals per match ratio was by far the lowest in a World Cup tournament and revealed a new swing in the game where the team’s tactics had become more focused on defence.

.. To be continued in Part 2: 1966 – 1990

So watch the space and follow our Betfinal Blog at to find Part 2 of this article and other news, interesting facts, statistics and betting tips to help you choose your best betting strategies possible.

Here are some statistics to summarise the FIFA World Cup Format History in numbers.

Teams with most titles and finals 1930 – 2018

Team Titles Finals Participation
Brazil 5 7 21
Germany 4 8 19
Italy 4 6 18
Argentina 2 5 17
France 2 3 15
Uruguay 2 2 13
England 1 1 15
Spain 1 1 15
Netherlands 0 3 10
Hungary 0 2 9
Czechoslovakia 0 2 8
Sweden 0 1 12
Croatia 0 1 5

Reference: Football World Cup History – Football history.

World Cup, the final games 1930 – 1962

Year Result
1930 Uruguay Argentina 4-2
1934 Italy Czechoslovakia 2-1 (a.e.t)
1938 Hungary Italy 2-4
1950 Uruguay Brazil 2-1
1954 West Germany Hungary 3-2
1958 Brazil Sweden 5-2
1962 Brazil Czechoslovakia 3-1

a.e.t stands for after extra time

Reference: Football World Cup History – Football history.

Numbers of participants and games

Year      Teams    (finals)              Teams        (qualification)      Games     (finals)
1930 13 no qualification rounds 18
1934 16 32 17
1938 16* 37 18
1950 15 36 22
1954 16 37 26
1958 16 55 35
1962 16 56 32

* Austria were abolished before the first game of political reasons.

Reference: Football World Cup History – Football history.

Football online betting has never been easier and more exciting with Betfinal. We try to offer our players the best World Cup 2022 in Qatar betting odds and help you choose your best betting World Cup strategies possible.

So, get ready for the upcoming games and look for the best World Cup betting tips at the Betfinal blog. Stay tuned for the World Cup Finals betting tips when the time rolls around.

Have fun and bet wisely with the best World Cup betting odds at your favourite betting site,

Check us regularly for the news, interesting facts, updates and the best betting strategies at This is where your successful sports betting journey begins.

Published: November 2022

By: Rafa

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