Article: Three Highest-Scoring FIFA World Cups this Millennium

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By Jonathan Lewis | 21st Nov 2022

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is finally here. After a prolonged wait since Russia 2018 – an extra five months to be exact, courtesy of Qatar’s soaring summer temperatures – we are finally underway. France enter the tournament as the reigning champions after Kylian Mbappe’s brilliance inspired them to their second crown. They don’t enter the tournament as favourites, however. That is an honour that oddschecker, which compares World Cup odds and offers, has given to Brazil.

And it’s clear to see why. The Brazilians have quality all over the pitch. They boast perhaps the two best goalkeepers in the world – Liverpool’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson – in their ranks. And their forward line of Neymar, Vinicius Jr., and Gabriel Jesus needs no introduction.

But its the Selecao’s archrivals Argentina that many have earmarked as their pick for success. The Albicelestes defeated Brazil on enemy territory last year to lift the Copa America at the expense of their greatest rivals. It was Angel Di Maria’s delightfully chipped winner that gave them a 1-0 victory in the Maracana and, in turn, gifted Lionel Messi his first trophy on the international stage. The Qatar World Cup will be the PSG wizard’s last appearance at football’s grandest spectacle, and his teammates will be doing their utmost to ensure that he comes out on top.

In recent tournaments, teams at FIFA World Cups have treated us to goals in abundance. Here are the three highest-scoring tournaments since the turn of the millennium.

3 – Japan/South Korea 2002 – 161 goals 

The 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea feels like an eternity ago. Indeed, many young football fans may not have been born when Ronaldo’s double was sinking Germany in the final in Yokohama. To those young fans, we’d say go back and check the highlights on YouTube. This tournament provided plenty of stunners, as well as some stunning results.

Germany beat Saudi Arabia 8-0 in the group stages, the tournament’s all-time record goalscorer Miroslav Klose helping himself to a hat trick. Eventual winners Brazil also had thumping wins in Group C, beating China 4-0 and Costa Rica 5-2.

There were some amazing moments during the tournament. David Beckham gained redemption for his red card against Argentina four years prior by scoring the winner against the same opponents in the group stages. Senegal stunned tournament favourites France in the opening game, with Papa Bouba Diop scoring the only goal. Les Bleus exited the tournament at the group stage without so much as scoring a goal, and began the champions curse which they will once again have to conquer this year.

But in the end, it was the fearsome trident of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho that proved too much for the rest of the opposition, as the Selecao lifted the famous gold trophy for the fifth time in their history.

2 – Russia 2018 – 169 goals

The most recent World Cup in Russia couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. Within the first two days, Russia had put five goals past Saudi Arabia, and Portugal and Spain played out a 3-3 classic, a game in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored a majestic hat trick.

See Portugal v Spain | 2018 FIFA World Cup | Match Highlights

Group G provided plenty of net busters as well. Belgium beat Tunisia 5-2 in their opening game, while England beat Panama 6-1 in their second, with eventual Golden Boot winner Harry Kane bagging himself a hat trick.

Unlike in other tournaments, however, goals continued to flow in the knockout stages. France and Argentina played out a 4-3 classic in the second round, with 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe causing all sorts of problems, scoring twice and winning a penalty with a powerful run into the box.

Belgium also came back from the dead in the second round. They were 2-0 down against Japan with just 20 minutes remaining, but goals from Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini and a 94th-minute winner from Nacer Chadli turned the game in their favour.

England were once again one of the main talking points. They defeated Colombia on penalties in the second round, their first penalty shootout victory in the history of the World Cup. Their tournament was brought to an end by impressive Croatia, who reached the final four for the first time. However, the Mbappe-inspired French were too hot to handle. Les Bleus won the Moscow showpiece 4-2 and lifted the trophy exactly 20 years after their first triumph in Paris.


1 – Brazil 2014 – 171 goals 

Brazil 2014 was the perfect World Cup. The tournament returned to the country for the first time since Uruguay broke the host’s hearts back in 1950. This time around, it wouldn’t only end in pain, but huge embarrassment.

The Brazilians looked like real contenders en route to the semifinals, but injuries to star player Neymar and captain Thiago Silva left them vulnerable. The Germans wouldn’t show them any mercy, thumping them 7-1 to record the biggest victory in the history of knockout football at the World Cup.

The Netherlands were a nation that thrilled. In the group stages, they gained some revenge of their own against Spain in a repeat of the 2010 final, a game which Spain won courtesy of Andres Iniesta’s extra-time winner. The Dutch hammered the reigning champions 5-1. Then, Los Rojas would lose their second group game against Chile, meaning that the Spanish were knocked out before the defence of their crown had even gotten underway.

Brazil 2014 was also the tournament in which Colombia’s James Rodriguez announced himself to the world. The then-AS Monaco man scored six goals in five games as his team reached the quarter-finals, including a goal-of-the-century contender in the last 16 against Uruguay.

It was Germany who would lift the trophy, though, and they deserved to be champions. They beat France in the quarterfinals, thumped Brazil in the semis, and then held their nerve to beat Argentina in the final. Lionel Messi would be named player of the tournament, but he would have given that away in a heartbeat in exchange for a World Cup winner’s medal. Will he manage to add one to his huge collection this winter, in his fifth and final attempt?

Brazil 2014 was the highest scoring World Cup of this millennium, an exciting tournament that produced a total of 171 goals. Let’s hope this year’s World Cup can produce similar action.

Jonathan Lewis is an MFF sports writer


Photo Credit.png: https://historyofsoccer.info


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