The inaugural edition of the FIFA World Cup was held in 1930, and was hosted by Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. The cup was won by the host nation, who were also Olympic Champions at that time. Since then, we’ve had 20 tournaments in all, which is why there are numerous exciting, unbelievable, and fun facts about FIFA World Cups.
Did You Know?
The qualifying games for every FIFA World Cup go on all around the world for 3 years preceding the main tournament.
Soccer, or Association Football, is the most popular sport on the planet. This is one game you’ll see kids and even grownups playing on makeshift grounds, beaches, and alleys, in every part of the world. The game, in its modern, organized form, dates back to the turn of the 20th century. Its popularity only grew over the decades, and by the turn of the 21st century, more than 3 billion people were playing and/or following the game.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the governing body, and holds the FIFA World Cup every 4 years. It is a footballer’s ultimate dream to represent his country at the mega event. With 20 editions gone by, there have been many records created and broken. Some are known by most who follow the game, but there are also many facts, statistics, and records that are not widely known, but worth a mention.
The main tournament spanning around a month’s time that is held every four years is called the World Cup Finals.
The FIFA World Cup is the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world.
32 teams compete for the coveted trophy, which includes the host nation who automatically qualifies. Until 1978 it was 16 teams, and until 1994 it was 24 teams.
Variants of the tournament include the FIFA Women’s World Cup, FIFA U-20 World Cup, FIFA U-17 World Cup, FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, and FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
200+ countries all around the world play qualifying-related games in a bid to get a place in the final 32 at the World Cup.
The 2014 mega event is the most expensive one ever, at a cost of a whopping $14 billion.
The winner’s trophy is 14.2″ (36 cm) in height, 13.6 lb (6.175 kg) in weight, and made of 18 carat gold.
The winning country keeps the real cup till the next World Cup, and gets to keep a gold-plated replica permanently.
The average attendance at a World Cup game is around 50,000. The best average was achieved at the 1994 edition in USA, which was around 69,000.
1950 saw the least number of teams at the finals. Only 13 teams participated, after India, Turkey, and Scotland withdrew.
In all, 77 teams have qualified to play in the World Cups till date.
Only the 2002 edition had 2 host nations―South Korea and Japan.
In the 1930s, the average goals per game was around 4. This rose to around 5.5 in the 1950s. At present, it is a measly 2.5.
The most goals in a single World Cup are 171. This happened in the 1998 edition in France.
The 1994 edition was the first where the surnames of players were featured on the back of their jerseys, and their numbers were put at the front.
The 2014 tournament was the first to use goal line technology. Also, for the first time, referees used the vanishing spray to mark free kicks.
3.7 million people got to see the matches at the grounds in the 2014 edition.
The tournament was canceled in 1942 and 1946 because of World War II.
The largest crowd to witness a single game live was in the 1950 edition, when 173,850 witnessed the final between Brazil and Uruguay.
The 1994 edition in USA was the first time when 3 points was awarded for a win, instead of 2.
The 1954 edition in Switzerland was the first to be shown on TV. The 1970 edition in Mexico was the first to be beamed all around the globe, thanks to the technology of satellites.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was the first to be televised in each and every country around the world. It was even shown in Antarctica and the Arctic Circle.
The most red cards in a single tournament were handed out in 2006―28.
The 2014 edition saw the use of drones and robots for security reasons.
The first penalty shootout was in the 1982 tournament held in Spain, when West Germany beat France 5 – 4 in the semi-finals.
The inaugural 1930 tournament was the only time that a European team didn’t manage to reach the final.
Goal number 1,000 of a World Cup was when Rob Rensenbrink of the Netherlands scored against Scotland in the 1978 edition.
Goal number 2,000 came up when Marcus Allback of Sweden scored in a draw against England, in the 2006 edition.
Germany has played the most World Cup games as compared to any other country.
The most FIFA World Cups have been won by Brazil – 5.
Brazil is the only team to have played in each and every FIFA World Cup.
The first World Cup held in 1930 was won by Uruguay.
Netherlands is the most successful team to have never won the World Cup, with 3 runner-up finishes and once placed fourth.
The first FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in China in 1991, and was won by the United States.
Brazil and Italy are the only 2 countries to have defended their titles successfully.
In terms of top 4 finishes, Germany is the most successful country, with 14 in all.
The most goals by a team were scored by Hungary, when, in 1982, they defeated El Salvador 10 – 1.
The most goals in a game is 12, when Austria defeated Switzerland 7 – 5 in the 1954 quarter-final.
Brazil has won 71 games at all the finals over the decades, the most by any country.
Brazil has also scored the most goals at all World Cup games put together; 224 in all.
The most undisciplined game was between Netherlands and Portugal, in a 2006 round of 16 match. 16 yellow cards and 4 red cards were given out to the players.
The most goals scored by a team in the whole tournament was by Hungary in 1954. They found the net of the opposing teams 27 times.
Scotland has qualified for 8 World Cups, but never made it past the first round.
In 2010, South Africa became the first African nation to host the FIFA World Cup.
Because of World War II, Germany and Japan were not allowed to take part in the 1950 World Cup.
No team has ever won the tournament under the guidance of a foreign coach.
No country outside Europe and South America has ever won this tournament.
23 countries have qualified for the tournament over the decades, just once.
England has the distinction of getting knocked out of 3 World Cups in the group stages itself, without losing a single game.
Brazil’s semi-final defeat by Germany in 2014 was their first loss in a competitive game at home since 1975.
The most World Cup games played between two countries are 7 – Brazil vs. Sweden. Germany and Yugoslavia have played each other 6 times.
South Africa is the only host country to have been eliminated in the first round, when they hosted the tournament in 2010.
The worst performance by a defending champion was by France in 2002. They did not score a single goal and were eliminated in the group stage itself.
As far as qualifiers are concerned, the biggest victory was achieved by Australia, who beat American Samoa 31-0 in 2001.
Only 6 countries have managed to win the tournament as host country.
Mexico has lost the most games at World Cups.
The most appearances in a World Cup is by Lothar Matthaeus of Germany, who played 25 matches.
Lucien Laurent of France scored the first goal ever in a World Cup in 1930.
Geoff Hurst of England is the only player to have scored a hat-trick in a final – 1966 against West Germany.
Vittorio Pozzo of Italy is the only coach to have won the tournament twice, once in 1934 and again in 1938.
Tore Keller of Sweden is the oldest player to score a hat-trick at a World Cup. He was 33 when he achieved this feat in a game against Cuba in the 1938 edition.
Luis Monti is the only player to have represented different countries in different World Cups. He played for Argentina in 1930 and Italy in 1934.
Bora Milutinovic is the only person to have coached 5 different World Cup teams; Mexico, Costa Rica, USA, China, and Nigeria.
Oleg Salenko of Russia holds the record for the most goals in a single game, when he scored 5 against Cameroon in 1994.
Just Fontaine of France scored the most goals in a single tournament. In the 1958 edition, he found the net 13 times. Ironically, that was the only World Cup he played.
Franz Beckenbauer of Germany and Mário Zagallo of Brazil are the only 2 individuals to win the World Cup both as a player and coach.
The fastest goal was scored by Hakan Sükür of Turkey, when he netted a goal just 11 seconds into a game against South Korea in the 2002 tournament.
Tony Meola of USA was just 21 when he captained his team in a 1990 World Cup game.
The first ever expulsion of a goalkeeper was in the 1994 edition held in USA, when Gianluca Pagliuca of Italy was sent of in a match against Norway.
The first yellow card shown was in the 1970 edition, when Kakhi Asatiani of the Soviet Union was booked in a game against Mexico.
The youngest player to score a World Cup goal is Pelé of Brazil. He first scored at the 1958 tournament when he was just 17 years and 239 days old.
The oldest player to score a World Cup goal is Roger Milla of Cameroon. He was 42 years and 39 days old when he scored in the 1994 edition.
The first substitution in a World Cup was in a game between the Soviet Union and Mexico. Viktor Serebryanikov of the USSR was substituted in the 46th minute of the game.
The youngest coach at a World Cup was Argentina’s Juan Jose Tramutola. He was 27 when he coached Argentina in the 1930 tournament.
The only goalkeeper to have ever won the ‘Golden Ball’ trophy is Oliver Kahn.
Germany’s Miroslav Klose has scored the most goals in World Cups – 16.
Ronaldo from Brazil now stands 2nd in the list of highest goal scorers of all time, with 15 goals to his name.
Gabriel Batistuta of Argentina is the only player to score hat-tricks in two different World Cup tournaments.
The World Cup trophy went missing for 7 days at the start of the 1966 tournament.
The United Nations has 193 countries as members, but FIFA has 209.
Uruguay’s Jose Baptista got to play one World Cup game for just 56 seconds. In 1986 he was red-carded in a game against Scotland.
Sir Viv Richards is the only person in the world to play both, soccer and cricket World Cups.
At the 2006 tourney, referee Graham Poll forgot his numbers. He booked Croatian Josip Simunic three times before sending him off, whereas the rule states that 2 bookings warrant a suspension.
Malaysia holds the record for the best and worst FIFA ranking by the same country. They have gone as high as 75 and as low as 170 in the rankings over time.
Norman Whiteside is the youngest player to play in a World Cup. He was barely 17, and was grounded by his folks when he got back home for not letting them know that he had reached the host country safely after leaving home.
Only once in history have 2 own goals been scored in a single game. In the 2002 edition, Portugal scored twice, but it was for their opponent’s USA, and went on to lose 3 – 2.
In the 1950 edition, India was disqualified for wanting to play bare feet. Ironically, this has been the only time they qualified for a World Cup.
For the 2014 edition, FIFA made Brazil revoke a 2003 law that banned alcohol sales in stadiums.
Argentine Marcelo Trobbiani had the shortest World Cup career in the world. He played for just 1 minute for his country at a World Cup, when he came on in the 89th minute in the 1986 final. Nevertheless, Argentina won and he can call himself a World Champion.
At the 1986 tournament, FIFA banned shirt swapping. The reason for this ban is that they didn’t want the players to bare their chests to the public.
Everybody wants number 10. But players wearing shirt number 9 have scored the most goals in World Cups, followed by those wearing 10.
Netherlands have always had a player with the name ‘van’ in their line up for the past 14 years.
England and Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs has never played in a FIFA World Cup.
The least number of people to watch a World Cup game live at a stadium was 300, at the 1930 games.
The game is just getting bigger as the years go by. FIFA is using all its resources to promote and fund the game in as many places around the world as possible. So, it would be safe to say that, the future will give us many more superstars like Messi, Ronaldo, and Pelé, who go on to create and smash all the records one can ever imagine. If you have any interesting or funny FIFA World Cup-related fact/record that you would like to share with everyone here, simply post it in the comments section below. Until next time, keep the goals coming.