Which countries have qualified for consecutive World Cup finals?

Argentina versus France. South America versus Europe. Lionel Messi against Kylian Mbappé. The Qatar 2022 World Cup final is fast approaching and France has the opportunity to achieve something that was last done 60 years ago: keep the World Cup trophy.

What is the probability that they succeed? Head coach Didier Deschamps doesn’t have his selection issues to look out for Sunday’s final (kick-off 10 a.m. ET, it’s a start, remember) though they hope recent history works in their favor.

Only two nations have won consecutive world cups: Italy and Brazil. And, in fact, France is just the seventh country in the tournament’s 92-year history to qualify for back-to-back finals. But who are they and how did they behave in the final?

Which countries have qualified for consecutive World Cup finals?

Italy: 1934 (won), 1938 (won).

Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini was keen to use the 1934 World Cup to promote fascism and some leveled accusations of corruption on his part to ensure Italy won the tournament on home soil, what they did, beat Czechoslovakia after extra time in the final.

The Italians then defended their trophy in the last tournament before World War II, beating Hungary in the 1938 final.

Brazil: 1958 (won), 1962 (won).

Brazil’s triumph in 1958 is famous for being the introduction of the world to Pelé, who was only 17 at the time and broke into the squad midway through the tournament. He ended up scoring six times, including twice in the final against hosts Sweden.

A selection won again four years later in Chile but had to do it almost entirely without the services of Pelé, who was injured in the opening game of the group. It didn’t matter because Brazil beat everyone in sight, including runners-up Czechoslovakia.

Netherlands: 1974 (lost), 1978 (lost).

The Dutch “total football” team of the 1970s is widely hailed as the greatest team to never win anything. Inspired by Johan Cruyff, who missed the 1978 tournament after an attempted kidnapping, and led by Rinus Michels, qualifying in 1974 was a success considering they hadn’t done so since 1938.

In 1974 and 1978, the Netherlands won admirers with their easy to watch football but were finally beaten in the final by the host country (West Germany and Argentina respectively).

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West Germany: 1982 (lost), 1986 (lost), 1990 (won).

As the 1990 tournament approached, West Germany must have felt uneasy. In 1982 and 1986 they were losers against teams inspired by two of the most iconic performers in World Cup history.

In 1982 in Spain, Paul Rossi returned after a match-fixing scandal to win the tournament for Italy with his six goals, while Diego Maradona almost single-handedly led Argentina to the trophy with a string of breakthrough performances in 1986 in Mexico. Die Mannschaft, playing West Germany for the last time, would get their revenge on the South Americans in the 1990 final in Italywinner thanks to a late penalty from Andreas Brehme.

Argentina: 1986 (won), 1990 (lost)

The Argentinians suffered the opposite fate of West Germany in the only time the same two teams have played back-to-back finals. Argentina’s 3-2 win over the West Germans in the 1986 final was the highest-scoring World Cup final until 2018.

Brazil: 1994 (won), 1998 (lost), 2002 (won).

Brazil had not won a World Cup for 24 years when the tournament in the United States began. A fairly functional side had sprinkles magic from Romario and Bebeto in attackeven if they needed a penalty shootout to see Italy in one of the worst World Cup finals – and maybe even football matches – you’re likely to see.

Ronaldo dominated the 1998 and 2002 editions – and indeed finals. Having terrorized the defenses during the first of these tournaments in France, an “incident” before the final against the hosts led to him being absent from the starting line-up before being reinstated minutes before kick-off. Rumors abound to this day. Did he have a nervous breakdown? Did he have a seizure? Did he suffer an allergic reaction to an injection in his injured knee?

Ronaldo was back to its best in Japan and South Korea, however, top scorer with eight goals, including a semi-final winner against Turkey and a double in the final to defeat Germany. A superb performance on the pitch which excused his questionable choice of hairstyle.

France: 2018 (won), 2022 (?).

France were one of the favorites before the 2018 World Cup, mainly due to the individual quality of the players they had on their list. Didier Deschamps manage to get the best out of these players? The the eyesight test would probably say “no” and that they were playing within themselves but the proof is in the pudding (does that mean anything to you?): they won the tournament and scored four goals in the final against Croatia, a joint record.

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