The FIFA World Cup is organised by the sport's global governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and is open to every men's team from its 208 full members, which is a larger number than the United Nations (192) or the International Olympic Committee (205).
The championship is played every four years and the first tournament was held in Uruguay in 1930. There were no competitions in 1942 and 1946, due to World War II.
There are two parts to each tournament, the qualification phase and the final phase (referred to as the World Cup Finals). The three year qualification phase is used to determine which teams qualify for the Finals.
Since the 1998 Finals in France, the competition involves 32 teams at venues within the host nation (or nations) over a period of about a month.
In the eighteen tournaments held, only seven nations have won the title. Brazil is the most successful World Cup team, having won the tournament five times and are the only nation to compete in all 19 Finals. The current World Champions, Italy, follows with four titles, while Germany holds three. The other former champions are Uruguay (who won the inaugural tournament) and Argentina with two titles each, and England and France with one title each.
The most recent World Cup Finals were held in Germany, where Italy was crowned champion after beating France in the final. The next World Cup Finals will be held in South Africa in the summer of 2010.
Slovakia will become the 77th nation to participate in FIFA World Cup Finals since the first competition in 1930.