The first FIFA World Cup was a small event in 1930 featuring only 13 teams. Today it’s the most popular sporting event worldwide, featuring the top national teams from around the globe.
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has held the World Cup every four years since 1930, with the exception of the war-torn years of 1942 and 1946. During this time football has cemented it’s place as the world’s most popular sport, and the World Cup has became the most popular sporting event on the planet.
The Cup has come a long way since its inauguration in 1930 as a small-time tournament featuring mostly teams from South America. It now features 32 of the world’s best national teams and is followed religiously by zealous fans the world over.
This year thousands of football fans from Europe, Asia and North America will empty their bank accounts for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel to Brazil for the games.
This series will chronicle the tournaments rise from humble beginnings to the global phenomenon it is today, with casual fans as well as those who bet on sports in the UK, Europe and everywhere going crazy over it.
The origins of World Cup football
While international competitions had been played previously, it wasn’t until 1928 that FIFA (founded in 1904) decided to organize a quadrennial tournament featuring the world’s best national sides.
As Uruguay had won two Olympic gold medals in football it was chosen as the host country of the first-ever World Cup in 1930. Given the long and costly trip for most countries, only 13 teams participated: Uruguay, Belgium, France, Romania, Yugoslavia, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru.
Uruguay strengthened its reputation as the global leader in football by defeating Argentina 4-2 in the final match. Due to political reasons, the country chose not to seek back-to-back titles, boycotting the next two tournaments which were held in Italy and France, respectively. Both tournaments were won by Italy.
World Cup history
The games have been dominated by Europe and South America. Only five countries have ever won a title, each of which came from these two regions. In fact, only four outsiders have ever advanced past the first round: the US (1930), Cuba (1938), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (1966) and Mexico (1970).
Brazil is the all-time leader with five titles, followed by Italy with four and Germany with three. Italy and Brazil are the only two countries to have taken home back-to-back titles. Uruguay hasn’t won since its first two appearances in 1930 and 1950.
From 1930 to 1970 the winning side received the Jules Rimet Trophy, named after the FIFA president instrumental in founding the games. After Brazil’s third victory in 1970, however, the trophy was stolen and never recovered.
After the heist a new trophy, the predictably-named FIFA World Cup Trophy was designed by the Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga. The trophy is currently held by Spain, which won the 2010 games in South Africa.
Hosting countries have shown a tendency to perform well in the Cup. Of the eight teams to have won a title, six of them won at least one title on their home territory. The only exceptions are Brazil and Spain.
After finishing the runner-up in 1950 on its own soil, Brazil will attempt to join that exclusive club. England in 1966 and France in 1998 won their only titles playing at home. South Africa in 2010 was the only host ever to fail to advance past the first round.
After the original 13-team tournament in 1930 the field was expanded to 16 teams in 1934 and remained that way through 1978. In 1982 8 more teams were added, then it finally expanded to 32 teams total in 1998.
The participations are chosen due to their performance in regional qualifying tournaments. The qualifiers are held within FIFA’s six continental zones (Africa, Asia, North/Central America/Caribbean, South America, Oceania and Europe. FIFA determines the number of representatives from each zone.
In the current 32-team format, contestants are split into 8 groups of 4. The top two from each group advance to the “knockout stage” which is a single-elimination tournament for the ultimate prize.
To prep on the upcoming frenzy that is the Football World Cup 2014 in Brazil we’ve compiled a list of informative historical pieces on the world’s most popular sporting event. We cover everything from the most glorious moments to the most shameful, from the greatest sides, players and managers to the worst. Whether or not you enjoy online or mobile betting, this brief rundown of each article will whet your appetite:
7 Worst Betting Scandals in World Cup History
Football is a beautiful game, and the World Cup provides an opportunity for its best players and sides to compete at the global level. Sadly, it has been tarnished at times with the stain of scandal. This piece analyzes the most shameful world cup betting scandals in history.
World Cup Upset Matches that Shocked the World
One of the most thrilling things in any sport is when an David takes down a Goliath in high-stakes competition. Football history has no shortage of World Cup upset matches. Hey, there’s a reason that it’s the world’s most popular sporting event.
The Greatest Sides in World Cup History
The 2014 Brazil World Cup will be the 19th in FIFA history. Over that span hundreds of sides have competed for the ultimate prize. This piece will recount the best teams in World Cup history.
Can Spain Join the Ranks of Back-to-Back World Cup Winners?
Over the 18 previously played tournaments in World Cup history only eight teams have won titles. Of those eight, only Brazil and Italy have been back-to-back World Cup winners.
• While the inaugural World Cup in 1930 featured only 13 teams, today it is the world’s most popular sporting event
• Brazil has the all-time record for most World Cup titles with five
• In 2014 Spain will attempt to become only the third country in history to win back-to-back titles
In the South Africa games in 2010 Spain defeated the Netherlands in one of the most thrilling final games in history, winning 1-0 on an extra time goal from Andres Iniesta.
This time around Spain is as strong as ever and looking to join Brazil and Italy as the only teams to win consecutive titles. This piece analyzes their chances of joining this exclusive group of World Cup royalty.
7 Greatest Managers in World Cup History
To use a painfully obvious phrase, “the players are the ones who play.” This means that no team can be successful if it doesn’t have competent players. But in order to win a competition as competitive as the World Cup, you also need to have a great manager.
We’ll pay homage to the men behind great football machines like the Italian teams of the 1930s and the Brazilians of the 1950s. These are the greatest managers in World Cup history.
7 Most Shocking Controversies in World Cup History
The World Cup is a celebration of all that is fine and beautiful in the game of football. But like in other sports, the athletics are sometimes overshadowed by off-field controversies.
From politics to crime, the World Cup is about a lot more than football. In fact, that’s a large part of what makes it the world’s most popular sporting events. Tune in for the most shocking moments in World Cup history.
National Disgraces: The Biggest Flops in World Cup History
The World Cup is a meeting of the best national teams from around the globe. Every team is great, but of course some are better than others. And every year bookmakers and prognosticators choose those they believe to be destined for glory.
Sometimes the teams expected to soar the highest are those which fall flat on their face. This piece will review of the most colossal World Cup flops.