The history of World Cup sticker books

Panini’s World Cup sticker books only come around every four years (or four-and-a-half years this time around). They are a collector's delight and the perfect reminder of a moment in time. Much like our own books World At Your Feet and Europe At Your Feet, they're popular with kids and lovers of footballing nostalgia alike.

Sticker manufacturers Panini began creating sticker albums for the 1970 World Cup and has done one for every tournament since. Here is a look at the history of World Cup sticker books to date.

1970 Panini World Cup Album - Mexico 70

The first and the most coveted World Cup sticker book, this album marks the beginning of what would turn out to be the beginning of a collecting obsession of many football fans.

Pele Panini sticker

This was the ninth World Cup and was hosted by five different venues in Mexico. Czechoslovakia, Peru, Romania, Belgium and Sweden returned to the tournament after missing the previous one. First-time qualifiers El Salvador, Israel and Morocco joined the tournament. This was the only time Argentina failed to qualify for a World Cup and the only time Israel have qualified, making this a rare sticker book in a couple of respects.

Brazil defeated Italy in the final, with what many consider to be the greatest-ever World Cup team. The likes of Pelé, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivellino, and Tostão added to the prestige of the 1970 sticker book. In fact, a complete album signed by Pelé sold for a record £10,450 in 2018.

1974 Panini World Cup Album - Germany

The 10th World Cup was hosted in West Germany. This was a strange sticker book as many big nations failed to qualify. Flick through the pages of this album and you will not be able to find England, France, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Peru, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania. 

The USSR did not make it as they were disqualified for not travelling to Chile for a game. The Netherlands and Poland both qualified for the first time since 1938. Scotland were back in the tournament after a 16-year absence. Argentina and Chile also returned after having missed the 1970 tournament, with Yugoslavia back as well. 

A rarity for the sticker book is the inclusion of East Germany as this was the only tournament they qualified for. Australia were the first side from Oceania to qualify, Haiti the second Caribbean team and Zaire (now DR Congo) the third African team. Neither Haiti nor Zaire qualified for any subsequent tournaments.

1978 Panini World Cup Album - Argentina

England, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union failed to qualify for the second World Cup in a row. East Germany, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Uruguay also missed out. 

But Austria, France, Spain, Peru, Mexico and Hungary were all in attendance at Argentina 78. Newcomers to the sticker book were Iran and Tunisia, both making their first appearance in the tournament. 

Hosts Argentina defeated the Netherlands in the final and this marked the last tournament to include the original number of 16 countries, so you can expect the sticker books to get a bit thicker from this point onwards.

1982 Panini World Cup Album - Spain

Spain hosted the first 24-nation World Cup in its 12th edition. The expansion of the World Cup allowed for more African, Asian and Central American nations to qualify. Algeria, Cameroon, Honduras, Kuwait, New Zealand and El Salvador were all involved. Kuwait have not qualified since.

Northern Ireland made their first appearance since 1958, while England, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, USSR and El Salvador were all back in the finals after a 12-year absence. Yugoslavia and Chile also made their return to the tournament. This was the last World Cup for which South Korea failed to qualify — they've appeared at every World Cup since.

1986 Panini World Cup Album - Mexico

The World Cup returned to Mexico for the 1986 World Cup and the famous Hand of God moment. It marked the first appearance in a World Cup sticker book for Canada, Denmark and Iraq. 

Paraguay and Portugal qualified for the first time since 1958 and 1966, respectively, so this was a first appearance in a World Cup sticker book for both nations.

Argentina’s captain and talisman, the legendary Diego Maradona, was the star of both the sticker album and the tournament.

1990 Panini World Cup Album - Italy

The Italia 90 album is notable for a first and only appearance in a World Cup sticker book for the United Arab Emirates, inaugural World Cup appearances for Costa Rica and the Republic of Ireland, and first sticker book appearances for Egypt and the USA.

It's also the last appearance in a World Cup sticker album for West Germany, who went on to win the tournament for a third and final time ahead of their reunification with East Germany.

Chile and Mexico were banned, France and Poland missed out, but Colombia, Romania, Netherlands and Sweden were all back in sticker form. 

1994 Panini World Cup Album - USA

USA 94 was the first appearance in the tournament and a sticker book for Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Greece.

Geopolitical reshuffling saw inaugural appearances for Russia (instead of the USSR) and a united Germany. Norway, Bolivia and Switzerland made their returns to the World Cup and first appearances in the sticker book. This is the only sticker album in World Cup history that doesn't contain a single representative from the UK home nations. 

1998 Panini World Cup Album - France

Croatia, Jamaica, Japan and South Africa made their debuts in sticker form at France 98, the 16th World Cup tournament. England, Scotland, Austria and Yugoslavia made their returns to the competition. 

It marked host France's first World Cup victory. They became the seventh country to win a tournament and the sixth to have achieved that feat on home soil.

2002 Panini World Cup Album - South Korea/Japan

The 17th World Cup was the first to be hosted outside of the Americas and Europe, while also being the first to ever be joint-hosted by two nations. It also marks the last World Cup where the defending champion qualified automatically. 

Making their World Cup and Panini sticker book debuts were China, Ecuador, Senegal and Slovenia. It was also Turkey's first time to feature in a sticker album since they had last qualified in 1954. Neither they, China nor the Republic of Ireland have featured since this tournament.

2006 Panini World Cup Album - Germany

Eight new nations joined the ranks of the Panini sticker book with their debuts in this tournament. Angola, Czech Republic, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, and Serbia and Montenegro all made their bows at Germany 2006. 

The Czech Republic and Ukraine were making their first appearance as independent nations. They had before been a part of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union respectively. Serbia and Montenegro competed as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at France 98, as well as making up part of Yugoslav teams from 1930 to 1990.

This was the first tournament to feature a digital sticker album.

2010 Panini World Cup Album - South Africa

The first World Cup in Africa was also the first time in a sticker book for North Korea. Slovakia followed in the footsteps of the Czech Republic four years earlier with a first appearance as an independent nation following the separation of Czechoslovakia.

Serbia also made its first appearance as an independent nation, having before been present as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1930, as SFR Yugoslavia from 1950 to 1990, as FR Yugoslavia in 1998, and as Serbia and Montenegro in 2006.

2014 Panini World Cup Album - Brazil

The 20th World Cup was hosted in Brazil, the most successful nation in the history of the tournament. The only debutant of the tournament and book was Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The sticker book features the famous Germany team that thrashed the hosts 7-1 in the semi-final, before going on to defeat Argentina in the final. 

Three million people participated in a digital sticker album, opening a total of 195 million virtual packets and swapping 243 million virtual stickers. Call us old-fashioned but we prefer World Cup books we can hold in our hands.

2018 Panini World Cup Album - Russia

Iceland and Panama made their debuts in Panini sticker books a Russia 2018. 

The album contains 682 unique stickers and was estimated to cost an average of £773.60 to complete by yourself. If you have fellow collectors to swap with, you can bring that figure down dramatically. A group of 10 collectors swapping duplicates with each other would fill the album for an average of £247.

The number of digital sticker collectors had risen to five million for this tournament. 

2022 Panini World Cup Album - Qatar

The sticker album for the upcoming 2022 World Cup is now on sale. The official sticker book for the World Cup will include 670 stickers. It's the first Panini World Cup sticker book to be released late into the year because of the World Cup kicking off in November.

This will also be the last sticker album to feature 32 teams before the tournament increases to 48 nations for the 2026 edition.

Hosts Qatar, who qualified automatically, are appearing in the tournament for the first time. They are the only debutants, although Wales are back for the first time in the sticker album age, having last qualified in 1958.

The Netherlands, Ecuador, Ghana, Cameroon and the USA return to the tournament after not making the 2018 tournament.

That concludes our round-up of the history of the Panini World Cup sticker books. They chronicle many legendary players and immortalise many different amazing moments from the tournament's history. 

Some of the images of players from World Cups of yesteryear will live forever in the memories of those who collected the stickers. Let's hope that continues for the next generation of football fans.

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