Does Home Field Advantage Matter For The World Cup?

There have been 19 World Cups in the history of association football. 8 different nations have had the exquisite pleasure of hoisting the most coveted trophy in sports:
  • Uruguay 2x
  • Italy 4x
  • Germany 3x
  • Brazil 5x
  • England
  • Argentina 2x
  • France
  • Spain


Of those 19 World Cups, six times the host nation has been the champion:

  1. It happened in 1930 with Uruguay
  2. 1934 with Italy,
  3. 1966 with England
  4. 1974 with West Germany
  5. 1978 with Argentina
  6. 1998 with France.

6/19 for the host nation is far from perfect odds from a gambling standpoint. But it is significant. And it doesn’t even tell the whole story of home advantage. Let’s look back into history:

The first two World Cups were won by the host nations (Uruguay and Italy respectively). And the 1938 World Cup, hosted in France, was won by Italy again.

Uruguay National Team - 1930
Uruguay National Team – 1930

After 1938, World War II ravaged the sport by sending all able-bodied men to War–including most of the professional athletes of the day.

1942 and 1946 were dark summers indeed. No World Cups were hosted, and the World suffered a 12 year drought of the beautiful game that saw many of the World’s stars swap out football jerseys for military uniforms. Who knows how much talent and potential was lost to that war.

In 1950, Brazil hosted the World Cup and finished runner-up to 1930  and 1938 champions Uruguay.

But only after Uruguay came back from 0-1 scoreline in the last 20 minutes of the game thanks to late goals from Juan Alberto Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia. Uruguay—then considered the best team in the world—easily could have lost the match.

Brazil’s Aldemir was also the leading goalscorer of the tournament with 8 goals. Further evidence that maybe the champions weren’t the best team that World Cup. Perhaps it was the host nation.

In 1954, host nation Switzerland caused one of the largest upsets in sports by defeating 1934 and 1938 World Cup champions Italy 2-1 in the group stages—and then again 4-1 in the group-stage play-off to determine a tie-breaker.

This stunned the world back in 1954. The Italians never expected to be eliminated in the group stages—let alone by Switzerland. They underestimated the power of the home advantage. (The one that helped Italy win the World Cup back in 1934.)

Switzerland went on to be defeated by Austria in the next round 7-5. But their triumph over Italy is still remembered to this day. (By me.)

West Germany went on to win the World Cup—their first. Maybe this is just me, but this still sort of feels like a home advantage.

The 1958 World Cup in Sweden was won by Brazil–led by Pele. Any guess as to who the runner-up nation was?

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, aka "Pele" became the youngest goalscorer in 1958 at age 17.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, aka “Pele” became the youngest goalscorer in World Cup history in 1958 at age 17.

You guessed it! Sweden.

After defeating the Soviet Union and West Germany in the knockout stages en route to the final, Sweden was stopped by the Brazilians in the final 5-2.

Not bad for little Sweden, a country most well-known for draws against England. I will be amazed if they ever make it to the final of a World Cup again. (Unless they host it, of course.)

The 1962 World Cup, hosted by Chile, was won by Brazil (again). Chile managed third place.

Chile was stopped by Brazil in the Semi-finals 4-2, but went on to defeat Yugoslavia 1-0 in the third place match. Not bad, Chile! 3/16 in the World is nothing to hang your head about.

In 1966, England hosted and won their only World Cup. Now if only they would shut up about it.

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Seriously, England. It’s been almost 50 years since you won a World Cup. Get it together, m8. Stop dwelling on the past.

I watch your club matches every weekend and get excited for your 23-man squad announcement every World Cup season. But you never fail to disappoint me during crunch time.

I dare you to even make it out of the group stages this World Cup. Fuckers. Serves you right for playing with my emotions for so many years.

In 1970, host nation Mexico shit the bed and lost in the first round of the knockout stages 4-1 to Italy.

Fuck you, Mexico.
How does it feel to be eliminated by Argentina in two consecutive World Cups?

I just put this in here to remind my Mexican friends that Mexico sucks and has no chance this World Cup.

Although, to be fair, I think Mexico has a decent chance of making it out of the Group Stages—if they can beat Croatia.

After hosts West Germany and Argentina won the 1974 and 1978 World Cups respectively, Spain hosted the World Cup in 1982.

La Furia Roja managed to make it out of the first round of Group Stages, but were eliminated in the 2nd round of Group Stages. (The World Cup had 2 group stages back in 1982.)

Nothing special about this World Cup regarding home advantage.


Italy won the World Cup after a stunning performance by Paolo Rossi in the tournament.

In 1986, Mexico hosted the World Cup for a second time after original host Colombia had to back out for economic reasons.

Mexico lost to West Germany in the Quarter-finals on a penalty shootout. Argentina were the eventual champions, led by Diego Maradona.


I guess Mexico is immune to the World Cup home advantage.

The 1990 World Cup was hosted by Italy (the second nation to host a second World Cup.) Italy won the World Cup the first time they hosted it in 1934, and were confident they would have a repeat performance.

Italy managed to make it to the Semi-finals, where they lost to reigning champions Argentina in a close penalty shootout.

Italy defeated England 2-1 in the match for third.

West Germany defeated Argentina in the final 1-0, taking home the World Cup for the third time.

In 1994, the United States hosted their first World Cup. Shockingly, they didn’t win.


They did, however, make it out of the difficult group stages and into the round of 16—where they were defeated by eventual champions Brazil 1-0.

Tough loss for the yanks. It’s never easy to draw the eventual champions in the first round. Better luck next time.

In 1998, France hosted and won the World Cup after a great run in the Group and knockout stages capped off by a stunning personal performance by Zinedine Zidane in the final against Brazil, where Zizou scored twice and led France to a 3-0 victory.


This was the first and so far only time France has won the World Cup.

Like Uruguay (1930), Italy (1934), England (1966), and Argentina (1978), it wasn’t until they hosted the tournament that they finally managed to win it all.

Maybe we’re seeing a trend here?

The 2002 World Cup was co-hosted by two nations: South Korea and Japan. It was the first World Cup hosted in Asia, and the last one that implemented the archaic Golden Goal rule.

The eventual champions were Brazil, led by Ronaldo. But the real story this World Cup was the incredible run of co-hosts South Korea to fourth place. (Out of 32 teams)

South Korea’s achievement in 2002 is truly exceptional.


After beating out Portugal and Poland to make it out of the Group Stages, they defeated both Italy and Spain in the knockout stages before losing to Germany 1-0 in the Semi-finals.

They went on to lose the third place match to a strong Turkish side 3-2.

Japan also had a strong showing during 2002. They topped their group, which included Russia, Belgium, and Tunisia, and went on to lose 1-0 in the round of 16 to Turkey.


I think this is the first time that both co-host nations were defeated by the same country. Cheers, Turkey!

In 2006, Germany hosted the World Cup and looked poised to win the tournament after an impressive performance in the Group Stages and after defeating favorites Argentina in a penalty shootout in the Quarter-finals.

Germany ultimately lost to Italy in the Semi-finals 2-0 in an exciting match that went to overtime.

Italy eventually won the tournament over France in a penalty shootout. The match, however, is more remembered for Zidane’s famous headbutt than the razor-thin margin of victory for Italy.

Germany defeated Portugal 3-1 to claim third place. Not too shabby for the host nation.

In 2010, host nations South Africa were eliminated in the Group Stages by goal differential. Uruguay and Mexico advanced out of that group.

Spain went on to win their first World Cup, defeating the Netherlands in the final 1-0 in overtime.

This is the third time that the Oranje have lost in the World Cup Final. (1974, 1978, 2010)

Holland has gifted the World some of the greatest players of the game.

Ruud Gullit
Ruud Gullit
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Patrick Kluivert
Patrick Kluivert
Dennis Bergkamp
Dennis Bergkamp
Edgar Davids
Edgar Davids
Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff
Marco Van Basten
Marco Van Basten

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Holland is good. Very good.

In fact, the Dutch could make a serious case for being the best team in the World. They certainly have the skill, speed, experience, and depth. But until the Oranje win a World Cup, there will always be naysayers pointing to an empty trophy cabinet.

And rightfully so. Because everyone knows you can’t be the best in the world without winning the World Championship.


You can rise as high as #1 in the FIFA rankings…but you can’t seal the deal on the biggest stage. Tsk tsk tsk…

Three times the dutch have blown it in the final. Three times! Ouch.

I almost feel bad for them.

But then I remember what a bunch of cocks they are on the field.

"I swear, ref, I was going for the ball!"
“I swear, I was going for the ball!”

And don’t forget off the field. (Fuck you Nigel De Jong and Robin Van Persie.)

A different angle
A different angle


And who can forget the famous Battle of Nuremberg back in 2006? Holland vs. Portugal was a record-breaking game for a number of horrible reasons.

16 yellow cards and 4 players sent off. Holy shit, Holland. You are part of the dirtiest game in World Cup history. And you lost that game too. So suck on that.

I sincerely hope Holland loses in the final of every World Cup until the end of time.

That might sound harsh, but it really isn’t.

I love watching the Dutch players, because they produce beautiful soccer. And it would be a treat to watch them make a dazzling run to the final. (Because more beautiful soccer!)

But it would be even sweeter to watch them blow it in the final—again. And then watch my Dutch friends rage—again.

Personal biases aside, Holland would likely win their first World Cup if they ever get a chance to host it.

Historically, that first World Cup is the most difficult to win. But once you break that seal, the second World Cup tends to come more easily. (Unless you are England).

So now it is June 1st, 2014 and we are less than two weeks from the first match of the World Cup between hosts Brazil and Croatia.

It is going to be an exciting three weeks of the beautiful game, and I know I will be glued to my Television screen for the duration.

As for my predictions for the World Cup? As much as it kills me to say—as an Argentine—I think Brazil has by far the best odds of winning the tournament.

I understand that Argentina has the best player in the world.

That silky dribbling skill that comes along once in a lifetime.

And I’m aware that we have been gifted the easiest World Cup group ever. (Nigeria, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina—you’re going down.)

I have my faith in la selección.

But I think with both my brains and heart. I believe that my Albiceleste will make a run to the final against the hosts. It won’t be easy, but it is doable (and technically possible).

I’m predicting an Argentina-Brazil Final. It would be the most anticipated World Cup showdown in South American history.

So to answer the question I posed at the outset of this article: Does home field advantage matter? FUCK. YES.

If I were a gambling man, I would definitely take Brazil for 2014. The host nation has historically outperformed non-host nations, and in this case—because it’s fucking Brazil—I think it would be a safer bet than most. (I wouldn’t be my life on Qatar winning in 2022, in contrast.)

It goes without saying that I am FUCKBALLS EXCITED for this World Cup. You should be too.

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