10 Fun Facts About The Past World Cup Host Countries & Why You Should Visit

Football fever returns!

Football (or soccer to some) is now the sport everyone’s talking about as the world gears up for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Host countries are selected via a voting process by a selection committee based on a stringent set of rules. This year, Russia has the honour of hosting some of the world’s best football players.

We’ve compiled a list of the past 10 World Cup hosts, each with their own flavour and culture. Which one’s your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!

  1. 2018: Russia

  2. 2014: Brazil

  3. 2010: South Africa

  4. 2006: Germany

  5. 2002: Japan & South Korea

  6. 1998: France

  7. 1994: US

  8. 1990: Italy

  9. 1986: Mexico

  10. 1982: Spain

1. 1982: Spain

Antoni Gaudi architecture in Barcelona

Spain’s capital Barcelona is known for its eclectic architecture complete with whimsical designs and pastel walls, especially the La Sagrada Familia by renowned artist Antoni Gaudi. If you don’t know where to begin, check out this first timer’s guide. If you’re a dedicated football fan, visit the Bernabeu Stadium – home of the Real Madrid team (but we’re sure you already know this).

Football Fun Facts:

Spain may have only won one World Cup title so far but they are definitely a crowd favourite. They were defending Euro cup champions in 2008 and 2012 and interestingly enough none of the Spain matches in the World Cup has ever ended in a draw.

2. 1986: Mexico

Mariachi players in Mexico

Popularized by Disney in the movie Coco, Mexico’s Day of the Dead involves elaborate costumes, face paint and visits to the family grave. Feast your eyes upon the Teotihuacan Pyramids – imposing ancient structures built in the pre-Mayan era. When in Mexico, it’s practically a crime not to get your hands on some margaritas, quesadillas and a good old taco.

Football Fun Facts:

A particular match between England and Paraguay left presenters confused as there were two Gary Stevens on the English team (they were not related)! This was also the second time that Mexico was hosting the World Cup in five World Cup tournaments.

3. 1990: Italy

Trevi Fountain in Italy

It’s always a good idea to travel to the coastal towns of Italy including the Cinque Terre towns along the Amalfi Coast. Use a Eurail Pass for the easiest and most cost-effective way to cover both Rome and Milan in one trip, and maybe even some smaller towns along the way! Don’t forget to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to send some good fortune your way.

Football Fun Facts:

Referees are humans too – in the semi-final game between Italy and Argentina in 1990, French referee Michael Vautrot accidentally added an extra 8-mins of injury time. The World Cup is serious business for this four-time champion, especially when the actual World Cup trophy was 100% made in Italy (in Milan to be exact!)!

4. 1994: US

Statue of Liberty in New York

The US is a mish-mash of diverse cultures with numerous things to see and do. Catch a musical number on Broadway, marvel at the Golden Gate bridge, scale the Empire State building and not forgetting a visit to Lady Liberty herself.

Football Fun Facts:

The World Cup was a huge success albeit several controversial incidents related to the tournament: Germany’s midfielder Stefan Effenberg gave fans the finger and was dropped immediately from the team while Chile’s goalkeeper faked an injury in order to sabotage their match against Brazil which earned him a ban for life.

5. 1998: France

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

You can’t have enough of the country of love! Visit the original Mona Lisa at the Louvre, enjoy a picnic at the foot of the Eiffel Tower or travel to  Bordeaux with your Eurail Pass – the choice is yours! Check out our first timer’s guide to France for more.

Football Fun Facts:

Did you know a whopping estimate of 1.3 billion people tuned in to watch the World Cup Final in France? This was also the year a golden goal was scored by French player Laurent Blanc in the match against Paraguay, with the host country also emerging champions in the final.

6. 2002: Japan & South Korea

Tokyo and Korea

One thing both Japan and Korea share in common is their extensive public transportation system that can sometimes cost a considerable sum. For the most cost-effective and hassle-free way of navigating these two countries, you’ll want to consider getting yourself a JR Pass and the Korail Pass! Travelling from Tokyo Disneyland to Universal Studios Japan and Lotte World to Everland has never been easier.

Football Fun Facts:

Coincidentally, both countries also made history by playing co-hosts to the first ever World Cup hosted by two countries in 2002. Fun fact – Turkish player Hakan Sükür scored the fastest goal ever in a World Cup match against South Korea within the first 11 seconds of the game!

7. 2006: Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany

Did you know Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Royal Castle inspired several Disney movies? These picturesque grounds have also been featured in many pre-wedding shoots, most famously in those of Taiwanese singer Jay Chou and Hannah Quinlivan. Castles aside, Germany is best known for Oktoberfest, Christmas markets, bratwurst (German sausages) and some of the best weizenbier (wheat beer) around.

Football Fun Facts:

Germany was home to one of the most electrifying tournaments ever. This year saw many great goals scored which culminated in a nail-biting penalty shootout between Italy and France. Italy won eventually. The opening match was held in Munich and the final match in Berlin.

8. 2010: South Africa

Lions in the safari in South Africa

Africa is unsurprisingly home to bastions of untouched natural beauty. Besides Kruger National Park and Table Mountain, South Africa has also produced some of the world’s most beautiful people (Victoria’s Secret angels Behati Prinsloo and Candice Swanepoel were both from South Africa) and new age wines.

Football Fun Facts:

Who can forget the Shakira song that made the whole world sing “this time for Africa”? This was Spain’s first World Cup Final win and also Africa’s first time hosting the World Cup.

9. 2014: Brazil

Christ The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

You can’t miss the massive 30-metre statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, or the colourful macaws native to the country. Visit during The Carnival of Brazil for a true feast for the senses with colourful costumes, dancing and good food all around.

Football Fun Facts:

2014 was Brazil’s second time hosting the World Cup. This football powerhouse has five World Cup titles to its name. That aside, it has produced the likes of Pele, Ronaldinho, Neymar and Ronaldo.

10. 2018: Russia

St Basil's Cathedral in Russia

Most will immediately recognize the colourful domed roofs of St Basil’s Cathedral, located at the famous Red Square. History buffs can peruse over three million items on display in the 360 rooms of the State Hermitage Museum. For foodies – try shchi (Russian cabbage soup) or a hearty bowl of beef stroganoff.

Football Fun Facts:

Known for its notoriously cold winters and baller citizens, this continent is a fitting host for this year’s World Cup. 12 stadiums have been earmarked for this global event. Luzhniki Stadium and Saint Petersburg Stadium are the largest and will be used most often.

2022 FIFA World Cup: Qatar

Qatar skyline

Up next – Qatar. This modern yet traditional city will undoubtedly pull out all the stops for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It will also be the first time the Middle East plays host to the World Cup tournament.