FOOTBALL WORLD CUP
The FIFA World Cup (often called the Football World Cup, Soccer World Cup or simply the World Cup) is the most important competition in international football, and the world's most representative team sport event. Organised by Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport's governing body, the World Cup is contested by the men's national football teams of FIFA member nations. The championship has been awarded every four years since the first tournament in 1930 (except in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II), however, it is more of an ongoing event as the qualifying rounds of the competition take place over the three years preceding the final rounds.
FIFA football world cup Chile 1962 (poster)
The final tournament phase (often called the "Finals") involves 32 national teams competing over a four-week period in a previously nominated host nation, with these games making it the most widely-viewed sporting event in the world. In the 17 tournaments held, only seven nations have ever won the World Cup Finals. Brazil is the current holder, as well as the most successful World Cup team, having won the tournament five times, while Germany and Italy follow with three titles each. The next football World Cup Finals will be held in Germany between June 9 and July 9, 2006.
No other sporting event captures the world's imagination like the FIFA World Cup. Ever since the first tentative competition in Uruguay in 1930, FIFA's (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) flagship has constantly grown in popularity and prestige.
A group of visionary French football administrators, led in the 1920s by the innovative Jules Rimet, are credited with the original idea of bringing the world's strongest national football teams together to compete for the title of World Champions. The original gold trophy bore Jules Rimet's name and was contested three times in the 1930s, before the Second World War put a 12-year stop to the competition.
When it resumed, the FIFA World Cup rapidly advanced to its undisputed status as the greatest single sporting event of the modern world. Held since 1958 alternately in Europe and the Americas, the World Cup broke new ground with the Executive Committee's decision in May 1996 to select Korea and Japan as co-hosts for the 2002 edition.
Since 1930, the 16 tournaments have seen only seven different winners. However, the FIFA World Cup has also been punctuated by dramatic upsets that have helped create footballing history - the United States defeating England in 1950, North Korea's defeat of Italy in 1966, Cameroon's emergence in the 1980s and their opening match defeat of the Argentinean cup-holders in 1990.
Today, the FIFA World Cup holds the entire global public under its spell. An accumulated audience of over 37 billion people watched the France 98 tournament, including approximately 1.3 billion for the final alone, while over 2.7 million people flocked to watch the 64 matches in the French stadium.
After all these years and so many changes, however, the main focus of the FIFA World Cup remains the same - the glistening golden trophy, which is the embodiment of every footballer's ambition.
FIFA World Cup Trophy
Previous international competitions
The first international football match was played in 1872 between England and Scotland, although at this stage the sport was rarely played outside Great Britain. As football began to increase in popularity, it was held as a demonstration sport (with no medals awarded) at the 1900, 1904 and 1906 Summer Olympics before football became an official competition at the 1908 Summer Olympics. Organised by England's Football Association, the event was for amateur players only and was regarded suspiciously as a show rather than a competition. The England national amateur football team won the event in both 1908 and 1912.
With the Olympic event continuing to be contested only between amateur teams, Sir Thomas Lipton organised the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy tournament in Turin in 1909. The competition is often described as The First World Cup, and featured the most prestigious professional club sides from Italy, Germany and Switzerland. The first tournament was won by West Auckland, an amateur side from north-east England that was invited after the Football Association refused to be associated with the competition. West Auckland returned in 1911 to successfully defend their title, and were given the trophy to keep forever, as per the rules of the competition.
In 1914, FIFA agreed to recognise the Olympic tournament as a "world football championship for amateurs", and took responsibility for organizing the event. This led the way for the world's first intercontinental football competition, at the 1924 Summer Olympics. Uruguay won the tournament, before winning the gold medal again in 1928, with another South American team, Argentina, taking silver. On 28 May 1928, FIFA made the decision to stage their own international tournament. With Uruguay now two-time official football world champions and due to celebrate their centenary of independence in 1930, FIFA named Uruguay as the host country.
The first official World Cup
The 1932 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, did not plan to include football as part of the programme due to the low popularity of football in the United States. FIFA and the IOC also disagreed over the status of amateur players, and so football was dropped from the Games. FIFA president Jules Rimet thus set about organizing the inaugural World Cup tournament to be held in Uruguay in 1930. The national associations of selected nations were invited to send a team, but the choice of Uruguay as a venue for the competition meant a long and costly trip across the Atlantic Ocean for European sides. Indeed, no European country pledged to send a team until two months before the start of the competition. Rimet eventually persuaded teams from Belgium, France, Romania, and Yugoslavia to make the trip. In total 13 nations took part — seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America.
The first two World Cup matches took place simultaneously, and were won by France and the USA, who beat Mexico 4-1 and Belgium 3-0, respectively. The first goal in World Cup history was scored by Lucien Laurent of France. Four days later, the first World Cup hat-trick was achieved by Bert Patenaude of the USA in the Americans' 3-0 win against Paraguay. In the final, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4-2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people in Montevideo, and became the first nation to win a World Cup.
The issues facing the early World Cup tournaments were the difficulties of intercontinental travel, and war. Few South American teams were willing to travel to Europe for the 1934 and 1938 tournaments, with Brazil the only South American team to compete in both. The 1942 and 1946 competitions were cancelled due to World War II and its aftermath.
The 1950 World Cup was the first to include British participants. British teams withdrew from FIFA in 1920, partly out of unwillingness to play against the countries they had been at war with, and partly as a protest against a foreign influence to football, but rejoined in 1946 following FIFA's invitation. The tournament also saw the return of 1930 champions Uruguay, who had boycotted the previous two World Cups
In the tournaments between 1934 and 1978, 16 teams qualified for each finals tournament (except in a few cases where teams withdrew after qualifying). Most were from Europe and Latin America, with a very small minority from Africa, Asia and Oceania. These teams were usually defeated easily by the European and Latin American teams (with the notable exception of North Korea, who reached the 1966 quarterfinals).
The finals were expanded to 24 teams in 1982, then 32 in 1998, allowing more teams from Africa, Asia and North America to take part. In recent years, these comparatively new participants have enjoyed more success, with Cameroon reaching the quarter-finals in 1990, and South Korea, Senegal and USA all reaching the elimination rounds in 2002. 197 nations attempted to qualify for the 2006 edition, and all but three of the 207 FIFA member nations have previously entered the competition, with recent new members Comoros and East Timor not yet having the chance to do so, and Bhutan the only other current member never to have entered.
An equivalent tournament for women's football, the FIFA Women's World Cup, was first held in 1991. It is similar to the men's tournament in format, but so far has not generated the same level of interest.
FIFA World Cup Trophy on a German stamp
From 1930 to 1970, the Jules Rimet Trophy was awarded to the Cup winner. It was originally simply known as the World Cup or Coupe du Monde but was renamed in 1946 in honour of the FIFA president who organized the first tournament. In 1970, Brazil's third victory in the tournament entitled them to keep the trophy permanently. However, the trophy was stolen in 1983, and has never been recovered.
After 1970, a new trophy, known as the FIFA World Cup Trophy, was designed. This is not awarded to the winning nation permanently, irrespective of how many World Cups they win. Argentina, Germany (as West Germany) and Brazil have all won the second trophy twice. It will not be retired until the name plaque has been entirely filled with the names of winning nations in 2038.
Since the second World Cup in 1934, qualifying tournaments have been held to thin the field for the final tournament. They are held within the six FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, Europe), overseen by their respective confederations. For each tournament, FIFA decides the number of places awarded to each of the continental zones beforehand, generally based on the relative strength of the confederations' teams, but also subject to lobbying from the confederations.
The qualification process can start as early as almost three years before the final tournament, and last over a two-year period. The formats of the qualification tournaments differ between confederations. Usually, one or two places are awarded to winners of Intercontinental Play-offs. For example, the winner of the Oceanian zone and the fifth-placed team from the South American zone entered a play-off to decide which team would qualify for the 2006 World Cup. From the 1938 World Cup onwards, host nations have received an automatic berth in the finals. This right also used to be granted to the defending champion, but from the 2006 finals onwards, this entitlement has been withdrawn, requiring the champions to qualify as well.
Nelson Mandella holds the FIFA world cup trophy
The current finals tournament features 32 national teams competing over a month in the host nation(s). There are two stages, a group stage and a knockout stage.
In the first stage (the group stage), teams are drawn into eight groups of four. Eight teams are seeded at the draw, and assigned a group. The other teams are drawn at random. Since 1998, constraints have applied to the draw to ensure that no group contains more than two European teams or more than one team from any other confederation. Each group plays a round-robin tournament, guaranteeing that every qualifying nation will play at least three matches. The last round of matches of each group are held simultaneously to prevent collusion between nations. Since 1994, three points have been awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss (prior to this, winners only received two points). The top two teams from each group advance to the second stage (the knockout stage).
The knockout stage is a single-elimination round in which teams play each other in one-off matches, with extra time and penalty shootouts used to decide the winner, if necessary. In the Round of 16, the winner of each group plays against the runner-up from another group. This is followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final. The losing semi-finalists contest a third place match.
Selection of hosts
Early World Cups were given to countries at meetings of FIFA's congress. The choice of location was highly controversial, given the three week boat journey between South America and Europe, the two centres of strength in football at the time. The decision to hold the first cup in Uruguay, for example, led to only four European nations competing. The next two world cups were both held in Europe. The decision to hold the second of these, the 1938 FIFA World Cup in France was controversial, as the American countries had been led to understand that the World Cup would rotate between the two continents. Both Argentina and Uruguay thus boycotted the tournament. After World War Two, to avoid any future boycotts or controversy, FIFA began a pattern of alternation between South/North America and Europe, which continued until the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The system evolved so that the host country is now chosen in a vote by FIFA's executive committee. This is done under a single transferable vote system. The decision is currently made six years in advance of the tournament.
The World Cup was first televised in 1954, and is now the most widely-viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games. The cumulative audience of the World Cup 2002 event — summing over all matches — is estimated to be 28.8 billion. 1.1 billion individuals have watched the final match of this tournament. The draw, which decided the distribution of teams into groups, has been watched by 300 million viewers.
Each Football World Cup usually has its own mascot. World Cup Willie, the mascot for the 1966 competition, was the first World Cup mascot. Mascots for the forthcoming World Cup 2006 are Goleo, a lion, and Pille, a football.
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