Ten Facts About the FIFA World Cup
The World Cup is an international football competition that takes place every four years. Pre-qualification takes place from about two years before the tournament itself, whittling around 200 national teams down to 32. The 32 teams are split into groups of four. The four teams play each other once and the top two teams from each group go through to the next round. From then on, the competition becomes a knockout tournament with the winners going on to the next round and the losers going home, until only two teams remain. The team that wins the final becomes the world champions. Here are ten facts abuut the World Cup. From 2026, 48 teams will play in the finals.
The first FIFA World Cup competition took place in Uruguay in July 1930. Only 13 teams took part (four from Europe, seven from South America, two from North America) with Uruguay being the first world champions.
Although there have been twenty-one World Cup tournaments up to 2018, only eight different countries have actually won it. Brazil have been champions five times, Italy and Germany four times, Argentina, France and Uruguay twice, and England and Spain once.
Brazil, the most successful World Cup team, are the only country to have taken part in every single competition. They hosted (and won) the fourth World Cup finals in 1950, and hosted the twentieth tournament in 2014. In that competition, they were knocked out after losing 7-1 to Germany in the semi-final.
Prior to the World Cup, the first international football match to take place was between Scotland and England in 1872. Even so, England didn't make their first appearance in a World Cup until 1950, with Scotland debuting in 1954.
The fastest goal scored in a World Cup match was by Hakan Şükür for Turkey against South Korea in a match to decide the Third and Fourth place runners up. He scored it only 10.8 seconds after the start of the game! Turkey won that game 3-2.
The most goals scored in a World Cup match was 12. This was in a match between Austria and Switzerland in the 1954 World Cup. Austria won 7-5. Austria's neighbours, Hungary, managed to beat El Salvador 10-1 in 1982, and hold the record for the biggest scoreline in a World Cup match.
There have been two World Cup trophies. The winning country gets to keep the cup until the start of the next competition. The first cup was the Jules Rimet Trophy, which was used from the first World Cup in 1930 until 1970. The current trophy, used since 1974, is simply known as the FIFA World Cup Trophy. Brazil were allowed to keep the original Jules Rimet Trophy forever after winning the World Cup for the third time in 1970. The "three wins and it's your's" rule doesn't apply to the current trophy. Instead, after its name plaque base is filled with the names of the winning countries - there's enough space for seventeen - it will be handed to FIFA to keep and a new cup will be needed. This means that a new trophy will be needed for the 2042 World Cup.
The Jules Rimet Trophy has been stolen twice. The first time was when it was stolen when on public demonstration at a postage stamp exhibition (seriously?!! A postage stamp exhibition?) four months before the start of the 1966 World Cup in England. A week later, it was found at the bottom of a hedge by a dog called Pickles. England won the World Cup that year, but to prevent any nimble-fingered thieves from getting their hands on it again, the English Football Association secretly had a replica created and used this for any public appearances of the cup! As the genuine World Cup had to be returned in 1970, England had to ensure that the replica was also taken out of public view, so it was hidden under the bed of its creator. The second time it was stolen was from a display cabinet at the Brazilian Football Confederation's headquarters in Rio de Janeiro in 1983. Sadly, it has never been recovered and it is believed that it was melted down for its gold, although there is still hope that it still exists somewhere. The English replica was purchased by FIFA in 1997 and is now on display at the National Football Museum in Manchester, England. The Brazilian Football Confederation commisioned their own replica of the trophy in 1984.
Yellow and Red Cards were first used in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Traffic lights inspired English referee Ken Aston to come up with the idea for them as a way of making it easier for players of all languages to understand the referee. Quite conveniently, the 1970 World Cup was the first one to be shown in colour on television, making it easier for viewers to understand the referee's intentions too! The first player to get a yellow card was Lovchev for Russia (USSR) in the opening match against Mexico in 1970. There were no red cards in that tournament. Carlos Caszely of Chile was the first player to get a red card in a World Cup match in 1974 in a game against West Germany.
No country has hosted the World Cup more than twice. The countries that have hosted it twice are Italy (1934 and 1986), France (1938 and 1998), Brazil (1950 and 2014), Mexico (1970 and 1986) and Germany (1974 and 2006). Colombia were chosen to host the 1986 World Cup but pulled out after declaring that they wouldn't be able to afford it. The other countries to host the World Cup, once each, are Uruguay (1930), Switzerland (1954), Sweden (1958), Chile (1962), England (1966), Argentina (1978), Spain (1982), USA (1994), South Korea and Japan (joint hosts, 2002), South Africa (2010) and Russia (2018). Qatar will host the World Cup in 2018 and Qatar will host in 2022. The 2026 World Cup finals will be hosted in Canada, the USA and Mexico, making it the first time it has been hosted in three countries. That will be the USA's second turn at hosting and Mexico's third. Six out of the eight countries that have won the World Cup did so once each while playing in their own countries (Uruguay in 1930, Italy in 1934, England in 1966, Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978 and France in 1998).