What is Football World Cup?
FIFA World Cup is a senior men’s soccer tournament contested by the FIFA Member associations. The tournament is held every four years since 1930.
Owing to the World War II, the competition was not organized in the years 1942 and 1946. The latest tournament is the 2014 World Cup which saw Germany prevail over Argentina at the final held in July. Germany remain the World champions until 2018 when they get to defend their title in Russia.
Football World Cup history & origin
A number of international soccer matches were played prior to the World Cup. It’s in the early 20th century that international soccer experienced significant growth. The game was featured in the 1900 and 1904 Olympic Games and became an official competition at the Olympics beginning 1908.
FIFA which stands for Federation Internationale de Football Association, was formed in 1904. FIFA embarked on creating an international soccer tournament separate from the Olympics. The formation of the World Cup was a means of meeting its main aim of developing the game and setting up a better future. Though it took the governing body a number of years to successfully organize an international competition, the sport has subsequently grown to be the most popular sporting event in the world.
Uruguay became the host and winner of the first tournament in 1930, in which 13 nations contested. The participants came from Europe, South America and North America.
16 teams participated in each tournament between 1934 and 1978. However, 15 teams took part in 1938 after Austria was absorbed by Germany while 13 teams featured in the 1950 World Cup after Scotland, Turkey and India withdrew. The key challenge facing FIFA In the early tournaments was the lack of participation by British teams until the 1950 tournament. However, teams from other regions, Africa, Asia and Oceania, played in the tournament despite their weak performance. Further expansions were made in 1982(24 participants) and 1998(32 participants) in order to accommodate more teams.
A significant mention in the history of the World Cup is the story of the 1970 winners. Brazil won their third tournament in 1970. They were awarded the trophy permanently only for it to be stolen in 1983 and never to be recovered. As for now, winners cannot be permanently awarded the present golden FIFA World Cup Trophy which was designed after 1970. Titleholders return the trophy after the match celebrations at the field and are handed a gold-coated replica as a replacement.
Apart from the FIFA World Cup, the organization governs other major tournaments. FIFA Women’s World Cup has been played since 1991. FIFA also organizes the Confederation Cup a year before the upcoming World Cup, held at the host nation as a preparation of the event. Similarly, there are international tournaments for soccer clubs, youth teams (both men and women) and soccer variants governed by FIFA.
Football World Cup groups & format
All teams have to go through a qualification phase about three years prior to the final tournament. The only team guaranteed of a spot is the host nation. Defending champions had an equal privilege between 1938 and 2002 before it was withdrawn. 32 teams make it to the final tournament held in a pre-determined host nation. FIFA determines the number of teams to represent each of the six FIFA continental zones, namely Europe, North & Central America and Caribbean, South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
The tournament is split into group and knockout phases and runs for a month. Initially, the teams are drawn into groups of four through seeding and the use of a formula that is based on the FIFA rankings of various national teams. The process has ensured that a group can have at most two teams from Europe and one team at most from any other zone.
At the group stage each team plays three matches against the other three teams. The last two group matches are played simultaneously. Two teams proceed depending on the points earned and the superior goal difference in case of a tie in points at the second position.
The knockout stage comprises the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, third-place play-off and the finals. The round of 16 has each group winner playing against a runners-up from another group. Matches at this level can go into extra time or even penalty shootouts to find the winner.
Image below: FIFA Football Wordp Cup 2014 Team Groupings and Format
FIFA World Cup Statistics, Participation & Top Goal Scorers
Over the 84-year duration, 77 nations have taken part in the final tournament with eight teams winning the 20 titles to date.
World Cup Winners
Among the soccer world cup winners, Brazil are top with five titles, Germany and Italy have four titles each, Uruguay and Argentina hold two titles each and France, England, and Spain have won one time each.
World Cup Participation
Brazil has played in every tournament since 1930. Italy and Germany follow with 18 appearances and Argentina has made 16 appearances. However, Germany has played more matches than any other team, 106, and have scored the highest number of goals (224). Moreover, Germany has featured in most finals, a record eight times.
It is worth noting that the World Cup final has been played by teams from only two zones, Europe and South America, over the years.
The only teams to reach the semi-finals outside these two regions are USA (1930) and South Korea (2002). African teams have only made it to the quarters while the Oceania zone got represented once in the Round of 16 by Australia in 2006.
World Cup Top Scorers
The FIFA World Cup all-time top scorers are Miroslav Klose of Germany (16 goals), Ronaldo of Brazil (15), Gerd Muller of West Germany (14), Just Fontaine of France (13) and Brazil’s Pele in the fifth position with 12 goals. Fontaine scored all his goals in the 1958 tournament, a record he set for most goals scored by a player in a single final tournament.