A review of the World Cups

From 1930 to 2014

It was in 1920 when the first international intercontinental football tournament was held, when FIFA and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) joined hands to include the event in the 1920 summer Olympics for the first time.

The first Olympic event was won by Belgium and the next two in 1924 and 1928 were both won by Uruguay. However, it was decided that the 1932 summer Olympics will not feature a football championship due to differences over a few matters between FIFA and IOC and a perceived lack of interest for the sport in the host nation, the United States.

In its place, FIFA decided to hold the first ever World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. However, the first edition of the tournament was by invitation only, and featured a mere 13 teams.

The first two World Cup matches were played simultaneously; France vs Mexico and USA vs Belgium, with France and USA winning the matches 4-1 and 3-0. The host nation eventually triumphed 4-2 against Argentina in the final, completing a hat-trick of world event victories.

Five biggest World Cup Controversies

1. The deaths of 8 Brazilians

Eight workers died during the hasty construction and renovation of stadiums in Brazil to host this year’s World Cup. As doubts continue around the wisdom of Brazil hosting the World Cup amidst poor living standards, the deaths have come as a stark reminder about what is truly important and has put the game, with all its passion, into perspective.

2. Zinidine Zidane’s Headbutt

In the 2006 World Cup final, with the score at 1-1, French captain Zidane headbutted Italian defender Marco Materazzi after he passed some particularly unsavoury remarks about his sister. Zidane was subsequently sent off after having inspired the French team into the final.

3. England’s Ghost Goal Against Germany

After a 2-2 stalemate in normal time in the 1966 final, Geoff Hurst’s shot hit the bottom of the upright before bouncing on the line and being cleared. However, Soviet linesman Tofik Bakhramov flagged it as a goal and England went on to win their only World Cup, thanks to the decision.

4. Diego Maradona’s Hand of God

The famous 1986 quarterfinal between Argentina and England will forever be remembered for Maradona’s telling brace. Maradona used his hand to guide the ball past Peter Shilton. When asked about the goal after the match, Maradona answered, ‘It was the hand of God’. English fans would never get over the incident and a cross-continent rivalry was born.

5. West Germany and Austria Fix the Result

In 1982, Algeria pulled off the shock of the tournament by defeating West Germany 2-1. However, in what would later come to be known as one of the worst matches in the history of the game, Austria and West Germany fixed the result of the decider, since a 1-0 win for West Germany meant that both teams went through at the expense of Algeria. Since then, all final group matches are played at the same time to avoid such an incident.

Isn’t It Weird?

1. Pele’s Predictions

Pele is regarded as one of the best footballers of all time but he is definitely one of the worst pundits. He claimed that Columbia will win the 1994 World Cup but they ended up finishing bottom of their group. In 1998, his favourites were Spain, who also couldn’t get past the first round. In 2002, he predicted a France vs Argentina final. As per the pattern, both teams also failed to go past the first round. He also predicted that Brazil would fail to make it out of the group stages in 2002; they ended up winning the tournament.

2. Romania’s Hairstyle

The Romanian team all bleached their hair in 1998 before their group match against Tunisia. Some say that the move was a show of unity; others say it was to spot each other better during a game.

3. The Three Yellow Cards

Graham Poll became the unfortunate brunt of many a refereeing joke as he booked Croatian Josip Simunic thrice during the 2006 Croatia vs Australia group game. Simunic was first booked in the 61st minute, before receiving his second in the 90th minute. Poll somehow managed to not show him a red and his linesmen and the fourth official decided to not remind him about it. Simunic, however, was nice enough to commit his third bookable offence only three minutes later.

Best Goals

1. Diego Maradona for Argentina vs England in 1986

Regarded as the goal of the century, Maradona skipped through the whole England defence with consummate ease before rounding Peter Shilton and scoring into an empty net.

2. Dennis Bergkamp for Holland vs Argentina in 1998

Everything about this goal oozed class. First Frank de Boer’s vision to see Bergkamp’s run and the raking 60-field to find him. Bergkamp then somehow managed to kill the ball that was coming over his shoulder and in the blink of an eye, he played it past Roberto Ayala’s tackle and curled it into the top corner with the outside of his foot.

3. Esteban Cambiasso for Argentina vs Serbia and Montenegro in 2006

An incredible 24 passes saw Cambiasso free inside the box, who poked it into the bottom corner. The move that started from the back slowly gained intensity and culminated in a sublime backheel by Hernan Crespo with the holding midfielder more than happy to slot it into the back of the net.

4. Nelinho for Brazil vs Italy in 1978

A stunning outside-of-the-foot curler from the adventurous right-back somehow managed to curl enough to go in off the post. The Italians were slow in closing down Nelinho, expecting a cross, but were left stunned by the effort.

5. Carlos Alberto for Brazil vs Italy in 1970

One of the most complete goals seen in football by perhaps the greatest team ever. The goal had everything; skill, dribbles, intricate passing and a crunching finish into the bottom corner at the end of it. A goal worthy of the final.

Records and Numbers

‘Hosts and favourites Brazil’s World Cup tally of 5 is higher than that of any other team. History doesn’t favour the Europeans since 0 European teams have won a World Cup in South America.

‘A record total of 20 cards were issued during the Round of 16 match between Portugal and the Netherlands, with 16 yellow cards and 4 red cards.

‘ Ronaldo holds the record of the highest number of goals in World Cups, with 15 goals spread across 3 tournaments. Just Fontaine scored a remarkable 13 goals in only 6 matches in the 1958 World Cup, the highest in a single edition.

‘Russian Oleg Salenko scored 5 goals in a single match against Cameroon in the 1994 World Cup, a record for the finals. However, this number is dwarfed by Australia’s Archie Thompson, who scored 13 goals in a single match against Samoa in a qualifying match, which Australia won by 31 goals.

‘The fastest goal in a World Cup stands at 10.89 seconds by Hakan Sukur for Turkey against Korean Republic.

‘The 1998 World Cup holds the record for the most goals scored, with 171 goals, while the 1930 and 1934 are the joint lowest with only 70 goals apiece.

‘The World Cup provides just as much joy to defenders and goalkeepers; Peter Shilton and Fabian Barthez both went a record 10 matches without conceding a goal.

‘The 173,850 that officially attended the virtual final ‘the winner was decided by a final group stage and hosts Brazil needed a draw against Uruguay to claim the title’ of the 1950 World Cup at the Maracana Stadium. Uruguay won 2-1 to be crowned champions and the match would forever be known as the Maracanazo [The Maracana Blow]. The lowest attendance, meanwhile, stands at a mere 300 in a Romania-Peru match in the 1930 edition. The highest attendance in a full tournament was 3,587,538 in USA 1994.

‘Former Brazil captain Cafu has won the most number of World Cup matches, 16, and also holds the joint record of having been booked the most number of times, 6, along with Zinidine Zidane.

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