Which countries have qualified for consecutive World Cup finals?

Argentina against France. South America against Europe. Lionel Messi against Kylian Mbappé. The Qatar 2022 World Cup final is almost upon us and France have the opportunity to achieve something that was last done 60 years ago: retain the World Cup trophy.

How likely are they to succeed? Head coach Didier Deschamps doesn’t have his selection issues to seek for Sunday’s final (kick-off at 10am ET, it’s an early one, remember) although they’ll hope that recent history works in their favour.

Only two nations have ever won consecutive World Cups: Italy and Brazil. And, in fact, France are just the seventh country in the 92-year history of the tournament to make it through to back-to-back finals. But who are they and how did they fare in the final?

11 of the 12 goals Argentina have scored at this World Cup have come with Julián Álvarez on the pitch.

All 5 goals conceded have come when he was off it.

Argentina’s unsung hero.

— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) December 16, 2022

Which countries have qualified for back-to-back 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 have made accusations of corruption on his part to ensure Italy won the tournament on home soil, which they did, beating Czechoslovakia after extra-time in the final.

The Italians went on to defend their trophy in the last pre-Second World War tournament, defeating Hungary in the 1938 final.

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

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

A Seleção won again four years later in Chile but had to do it almost entirely without the services of Pelé, who got injured in the opening group game. It mattered little as Brazil defeated everyone in sight, including finalists Czechoslovakia.

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

The ‘total football’ Dutch team of the 1970s is widely heralded as the greatest team never to have won anything. Inspired by Johan Cruyff, who missed the 1978 tournament after a kidnapping attempt, and managed by Rinus Michels, just qualifying in 1974 was a success given that they hadn’t done so since 1938.

In both 1974 and 1978, the Netherlands won admirers with their easy-on-the-eye soccer but were ultimately beaten in the final by the host nation (West Germany and Argentina respectively).

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

Heading into the 1990 tournament, West Germany must have been feeling hard done by. In both 1982 and 1986, they were the losers against teams inspired by two of World Cup history’s most iconic performers.

In 1982 in Spain, Paolo Rossi came back 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 decisive performances in 1986 in Mexico. Die Mannschaft, playing for the last time as West Germany, would get their revenge on the South Americans in the 1990 final in Italy, winning thanks to a late Andreas Brehme penalty.

Argentina: 1986 (won), 1990 (lost)

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

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

Brazil hadn’t won a World Cup in 24 years by the time the tournament in the United States came around. A fairly functional side had sprinkles of magic from Romario and Bebeto in attack, although they needed a penalty shootout to see off Italy in one of the worst World Cup finals – and perhaps even soccer matches – you’re likely to see.

🏆 1993 Captain of Marseille, winner of their only UCL 🇫🇷
🏆 1998 Captain of the World Cup winners
🏆 2000 Captain of EURO winners

🥈 2016 EURO Finalist
🏆 2018 World Cup Winner
🏆 2021 Nations League Winner
⏳ 2022 World Cup Finalist

Respect for Didier Deschamps ❤️🇫🇷

— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) December 16, 2022

Ronaldo dominated the 1998 and 2002 editions – and indeed finals. Having terrorised defences in the first of those tournaments in France, an ‘incident’ before the final against the hosts led to him being missing from the starting line-up before being reinstated minutes before kick-off. Rumours abound to this day. Did he suffer a nervous breakdown? Did he have a fit? Did he suffer an allergic reaction to an injection in his injured knee?

Ronaldo was back at his best in Japan and South Korea, however, top scoring with eight goals, which included a semi-final winner against Turkey and a double in the final to see off Germany. A superb on-field performance which excused his questionable choice of hairstyle.

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

France were one of the favourites heading into the 2018 World Cup, mainly due to the individual quality of the players they possessed on their roster. Did Didier Deschamps manage to get the best out of those players? The eye test would probably say ‘no’ and that they were playing within themselves but the proof is in the pudding (does that sound familiar?): they won the tournament and scored four goals in the final against Croatia, a joint-high.

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