What is the Smallest Country to Win the FIFA World Cup? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
International soccer oftentimes can be a numbers game.
No, not in terms of scorelines, but rather, population. Unlike club competitions, international teams can only pick players who are from that nation. Whereas a team like Real Madrid can sign anyone from anywhere in the world, the Brazilian national team can only field players if they have Brazilian lineage.
So, a country like Brazil, which has a population of over 216 million in 2022, would have a much higher chance of fielding a strong starting 11 to win a tournament than a country like Iceland, which has a population of around 340,000.
Of course, there are exceptions. Croatia made the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final with a population of just over four million. But it suffered a 4-2 loss against France, a country with a population of over 65 million. And on the other hand, China and India, the two most populated countries in the world, are not known for being international soccer powerhouses.
With the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar here, let’s look back at the smallest country to win the prestigious tournament:
What is the smallest country to win the FIFA World Cup?
Uruguay – 1930, 1950
With 21 World Cups held throughout history, Uruguay has pulled off impressive feats twice. La Celeste is undefeated in World Cup Finals, having defeated Argentina 4-2 in the first ever World Cup held in Uruguay itself and beating Brazil 2-1 in Rio de Janeiro exactly 20 years later.
Uruguay by far is the smallest country to win the World Cup, having a population around 1.5 million in 1930, according to The Guardian, and a little over two million in 1950. Today, Uruguay stands at around 3.5 million and is an under-the-radar nation that could make a big run in Qatar.
Beyond Uruguay, Italy has the second-lowest population among World Cup winners. It had just under 42 million during its win in 1934, a vast difference between the two countries.
Oddly enough, Uruguay did not participate in the 1934 World Cup.
Why didn’t Uruguay participate in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups?
Uruguay decided to boycott the 1934 World Cup in Italy to defend its title because many nations did not participate in the event held in the small South American country.
Only four European teams attended the 1930 World Cup held in Uruguay due to the difficulty of traveling to South America.
Uruguay, along with Argentina, also skipped the 1938 World Cup because of FIFA’s decision to have France hold the event for a second successive World Cup held in Europe.