Facts About the FIFA World Cup

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By Martin Graham | 19th Feb 2022

As preparations intensify for the FIFA 2022 World Cup later this year in Qatar, we bring you some facts, some trivia and some general knowledge about the biggest sporting festival in the world.

How did the World Cup start?

The FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting festival in the world and by extension, the most prestigious football competition in the world. A host nation is decided by FIFA’s executive Council to host the top 32 national teams in the world for a month-long tournament every four years.

However the current format of the World Cup has seen a lot of changes since its inception in 1930.

FIFA was formed as a seven-nation organisation of European countries namely France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

As these nations continued to play each other in football tournaments, interest in a global tournament began to grow. After a back-and-forth with the International Olympic committee who were already hosting football tournaments as an Olympic sport, FIFA decided to come up with their own tournament which allowed nations to select players only from local leagues.

The first FIFA World Cup tournament was hosted by Uruguay in 1930 and had only 13 Nations participating. Uruguay was selected as the first nation to host the World Cup because they were the winners of the last two Olympic gold medals in men’s football (1924 and 1928).

As was expected, Uruguay won the first ever World Cup in 1930 as they were the best team on display at the time.

The games have continued every four years to this day, with the only break happening when World War II began in 1942. The World Cup picked up again in 1950 with Uruguay winning their second ever World Cup to date.

Who has won the most World Cups in history?

FIFA has since officially stamped its authority as the chief footballing organisation in the world. It consists of 208 member football federations of countries across all continents on Earth.

There have been 21 tournaments including Uruguay 1930 across many nations and many federations. There have even been a few inter-confederation hosting of the tournament in its history.

However, no country outside of Europe or South America has ever won the World Cup.

The nation with the most World Cup wins in history is Brazil with five wins from the 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002 tournaments.

Italy and Germany are the second most successful nations at the World Cup with four wins each. Italy’s four wins came from the 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006 tournaments while Germany’s four wins came from the 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014 tournaments.

Other nations to have won the World Cup include France in 1998 and 2018, Spain in 2010, Argentina in 1986 and 1978, England in 1966, and of course Uruguay in 1930 and 1950.

Brazil remains the only nation to have competed in all 21 FIFA World Cup tournaments held so far and they have also qualified for the upcoming tournament in Qatar this December.

Some FIFA World Cup facts and trivia

  • Italy and Brazil are the only two Nations to have won back-to-back titles. Italy did it first in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil followed suit with their 1958 and 1962 triumphs.
  • The record for the most individual goals in a single World Cup match is held by Russia’s Oleg Slanko who scored five goals against Cameroon in 1994.
  • The 2010 World Cup held in South Africa was the first ever World Cup to be held on African soil. It was also the first ever World Cup to see the most FIFA member nations attempt to qualify, with 204 out of 208 member nations participating in qualifiers across their continents. It was indeed a record-breaking World Cup tournament.
  • Germany’s Miroslav Klose is the record goal scorer in World Cup history with 16 goals across all the tournaments he played in. However, France’s Just Fontaine scored 13 goals in the 1958 World Cup which is the record for the most goals in a single tournament. Fontaine only played in one tournament but that single tournament is enough to place him as one of the World Cups all-time greats and fourth on the list of the most goals scored in World Cup history.
  • The infamous 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France in which we saw legendary midfielder Zinedine Zidane headbutt Marco Materazzi was watched by over 715.1 million viewers, the most in World Cup history.

Martin Graham is an MFF sports writer

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