The FIFA World Cup is a soccer extravaganza that has been played in a number of countries in Europe and beyond. However, Europe has hosted most of the tournaments. As such, it is perhaps not a great surprise that the European teams have won more World Cups than the rest put together.
The first FIFA World Cup played in Europe was in 1934. Italy was the first to host this great soccer cup within Europe. This tournament was one of the few that did not include any groups. Instead, it was a cup knockout that included 16 teams, most of which from Europe. Only four teams from beyond Europe played in what was almost a European Championship. The European teams dominated, and the hosts Italy emerged victorious after a 2 -1 win against Czechoslovakia in the final.
In 1938, the FIFA finals came to France. Few South American teams traveled to this tournament, which was once again largely dominated by the European sides. Brazil were one exception, as they finished third with a 4 - 2 defeat of Sweden in the third-place playoff. However, the 1938 final included the champions Italy and the Hungary national team. Italy emerged as the first team to defend the trophy as they defeated the Hungarians 4 - 2 in the final.
Hereafter, the FIFA World Cup disappeared in the 1940s. It returned in the 1950s, and the next tournament in Europe was played in Switzerland. The 1954 finals was lit up by the enthralling Hungarian team that set a new scoring record in the cup with players such as Puskas and Kocsis. Their goals carried Hungary to the final, but the team fell short against West Germany. A 3 - 2 victory for West Germany ensured a first World Cup triumph for the Germans.
Pele dominated the 1958 FIFA tournament in Sweden. Pele's goals in the semifinals and final inspired Brazil to victory. They played Sweden in a classic final. Five Brazilian goals settled the matter, as Brazil ran out 5 - 2 winners to win its first World Cup. It was the first time a team from beyond Europe had won the trophy in Europe.
In 1966, soccer came home to England. Wembley was the venue for the a number of the great '66 world cup games. Brazil remained the champions, but the England team had plenty of great players in their team such as Banks and Greaves. A 2 - 1 victory against Portugal in the semifinals booked their place in the final where they played West Germany. In a classic final the West German team took the lead, but two England goals seemed to have clinched victory before a late German equalizer. However, Hurst claimed his hat-trick in extra time to win England the trophy.
West Germany hosted the 1974 finals. There were some great teams in this tournament, including Holland who made it to their first final. In that game they played the host's West Germany, and scored the first goal in the game. However, the Germans later equalized; and Muller fired in the winning goal to win West Germany the trophy.
The Italians hosted the 1990 finals. Italia 1990 was a low scoring tournament, and included a number of penalty shoot-outs in the knockout stages. Cameroon was the first African team to reach the quarter-finals, but England defeated them. In the semis West Germany and England's game finished 1 - 1, and West Germany emerged victorious in the shoot-out. Brehme's goal settled the final between West Germany and Argentina, which won the cup for the Germans.
The 1998 FIFA World Cup was played in France. FIFA expanded the tournament to include up to 32 teams in the finals. It was also one of the few world cups to include the Golden Goal which was later scrapped by FIFA. The Golden Goal handed victory to the first team that scored in the extra-time period. The first Golden Goal scored was France's winner against Paraguay. France won the tournament for the first time thanks to two Zidane goals in the final that ensured a 3 - 0 victory.
FIFA selected Germany to host the 2006 tournament. In this tournament Italy and France made it the final after defeating Germany and Portugal in the semifinals. The final itself ended 1 - 1, and went to a penalty shoot-out which Italy won. It was the fourth time they had won the trophy.
This was the most recent FIFA World Cup in Europe. Since 1994 FIFA has generally favored World Cups beyond Europe with South Africa and Brazil the most recent selected. As such, fewer future FIFA World Cups will likely be played within Europe.