The History of the World Cup

With the 2018 World Cup looming, we look at the history of the World Cup – the most beloved of tournaments. Will it be victory for favourites Brazil? France? Well, William Hill and the other best online bookmakers seem to think so with some incredible odds on offer. Let’s look at the history and see if there’s a pattern to learn from.

FIFA World Cup Uruguay 1930

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far, far away, a football governing body decided to create its own international football tournament. The year was 1928; the Galaxy was The Milky Way (Planet Earth to be precise) and the governing body was FIFA.

FIFA was a little upset that the Summer Olympics, due to be held in LA in 1932 didn’t want to include football as it wasn’t popular enough in the USA. This encouraged FIFA President, Jules Rimet, to set up the world-renowned Football World Cup.

At this time, Uruguay had twice been named official Football World Champions and was about to celebrate its centenary of independence in 1930. Because of this, FIFA decided that this should be the first host country. FIFA sent invitations to the national associations of selected nations to send a team. However, because of the location of the country, it was a costly trip for European nations. In fact, up until two months before the competition, no European nation had confirmed participation. Eventually Rimet persuaded Belgium, France, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia to participate. All in all, just thirteen nations took part.

In the final, two South American nations fought it out for victory: Argentina and Uruguay. The host nation beat Argentina 4-2 in Montevideo to become the first official World Cup Winners.

Fun Facts:

  • France felt pressured into going and went along without its most important player (Manuel Atanol) and without a coach.
  • The Romanian football team comprised of workers from a petrol factory. Considering this, the team fared pretty well.
  • The two more powerful football teams in Europe, England and Spain, chose not to participate.
  • Because Argentina and Uruguay didn’t trust each other, different balls were used in each half – one chosen by Uruguay and the other by Argentina.

FIFA World Cup Italy 1934

This was the first World Cup that introduced a qualifying stage. This was very much a political sporting event, with Mussolini using it to his advantage. Sixteen teams qualified – a number which was to be kept until 1982. Because Uruguay was sulking that only a few European nations took part in its previous World Cup, the country boycotted the tournament. As the only South American teams prepared to join the tournament, Argentina and Brazil didn’t need to qualify to take part. Egypt became the first African team to participate (although there was no Mo Salah at this point, so the team lost to Hungary in the first round). Just like the previous tournament, it ended up being won by its host nation, Italy. It was the first European team to be official World Champions.

Fun Facts:

  • The championship poster featured a man making a fascist salute with a ball on his feet.
  • A striker from Switzerland, who scored two goals, played his matches wearing glasses.
  • In the Spain v Italy match, the referee was so biased towards the home nation that he ended up being banned for life.

FIFA World Cup France 1938

Another World Cup to be held in Europe, this time in France. The South Americans weren’t happy. This led to Uruguay boycotting again, alongside Argentina. This was the first tournament that guaranteed the defending champions and the host nation entry into the tournament. The Austrian team managed to qualify, but because of the ‘Anschluss’ with Germany in 1938, the team withdrew. Some Austrian players played in the German team. This team was eliminated in the first round. Austria’s place was offered to England who declined; this meant that there were only fifteen participating nations this year. During the game between Poland and Brazil, Polish striker Ernest Willimowski scored 4 goals in the one match. This record was only bettered in 1994. 1938 was the first time the host nation didn’t win. Italy retained its title.

Fun Facts:

  • Argentina boycotted because it was supposed to be held there, but FIFA decided France had better resources.
  • Meazza ran forward to take a penalty against Brazil and just as he was about to kick the ball, his pants fell down.

FIFA World Cup Brazil 1950

After a hiatus, caused by World War II, the competition resumed in 1950. This tournament, to the relief of the South American nations, was held in Brazil. This was the first tournament that would feature the England team. However, that wasn’t a success. This was also the first tournament since 1930 that Uruguay took part in. World Champions, Italy, did take part, despite the air crash that killed its entire Grande Torino team (many of whom played for the international team). This tournament was set out differently, with two group stages. Former champions Uruguay and Brazil both reached the final, with Uruguay winning to become champions for the second time.

Fun Facts:

  • This was the first time football kits displayed numbers.
  • India was the only Asian country to participate, but withdrew because FIFA didn’t allow its players to play barefoot.

FIFA World Cup Switzerland 1954

This tournament saw the Soviet Union not participating due to its poor Olympics Performance in 1952. However, Scotland made its first tournament appearance – but didn’t manage to get a win and went out in group stages. The tournament was a great one for goal scoring, with the highest average goals per game, the highest scoring team and the most goals in a single match (Austria 7 – Switzerland 5). West Germany came out victorious this time, beating Hungary 3-2 in a match that became known as the Miracle of Bern as the team had to overcome a 2-0 deficit.

Fun Facts:

  • The 1954 World Cup was the very first to be fully televised.
  • This was the first time two brothers won a World Cup (Franz and Ottmar Walter).
  • This was the first Wold Cup where Brazil used its yellow and green shirt.

FIFA World Cup Sweden 1958

This tournament saw Brazil as victors – the first win of many. It was the first team to win the World Cup outside of its own continent. Furthermore, the 1958 saw the return of the Soviet Union, revelling in its success of Melbourne in 1856. It was also the first (and only) time that the four UK home nations managed to qualify. On top of this, the 1958 World Cup was where we were all introduced to the footballing legend Pele. He scored two goals in the final and this was just the beginning…

Fun Facts:

  • At just 17, Pele became the youngest player to score a goal in the World Cup when he hit the back of the net against Wales.
  • France’s Just Fontaine scored 13 goals – a record in all World Cups – scoring in every match he played.
  • Gloves were first introduced for goalies.

FIFA World Cup Chile 1962

Just before the start of the World Cup, held in Chile, the largest ever earthquake struck, with a magnitude of 9.5. As a result, officials had to rebuild due to severe damage. Another disaster was the fact that Pele was injured in the second group match against Czechoslovakia. On top of that, the tournament was let down by overly violent and defensive tactics which culminated in the ‘Battle of Santiago’. Before the match, Italian journalists wrote unpleasant articles about the host nation. The match between Italy and Chile saw both teams attempting to harm opposing players. Two Italian players were sent off and Italy’s team needed police protection to leave the pitch safely.

Despite Pele’s injury, Brazil still managed another victory and beat Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final. Another South American feat was Colombia’s Marcos Coll who made history when he scored directly from a corner – the only one ever to ever do this in a World Cup.

Fun Facts:

  • The Czech team hold the record for scoring closest to the start of a match, with Vaclav Masek scoring after just 15 seconds.
  • In total, fifty players were injured in just the first four days of the tournament.
  • The USSR was beating Colombia 4-1 until the final 22 minutes of the game. However Colombia managed to get a draw. Later, the Brazilian referee confessed that he was responsible for taking the game to a draw as he hated the Russians since the invasion of Hungary. The ref was a descendant of Hungarians.

FIFA World Cup England 1966

The England hosted World Cup was the first to feature an official logo and mascot. The trophy was stolen in the run up, but was found by a police dog called Pickles. Also, South Africa was banned because of the apartheid culture; this ban was to remain until 1992. African nations withdrew in protest that FIFA only allocated one qualifying place to all of Africa, Asia and Oceania. North Korea eventually took that place and made it to the quarter-finals.

This was the year that saw host nation England win – oh yes – at last… the first and only time to date. However, one of the England goals was controversial as many consider that it didn’t go over the line but it was still counted. This was undoubtedly one of England’s greatest World Cup moments. Furthermore, Geoff Hurst became the first and only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final and Eusebio won the Golden Boot with 9 tournament goals.

Fun Facts:

  • This was the first World Cup where ball boys were used.
  • North Korea brought 12 official fans designated by its government.

FIFA World Cup Mexico 1970

This was a difficult tournament with lots of issues surrounding qualifications. Israel had initially been grouped with Europe but political issues meant it ended up being grouped with Asia/Oceania. As a result, Korea DPR refused to play the team and was therefore disqualified. The opening match saw champions England play former champions Brazil which was a spectacle, with one of the best saves ever performed by Gordon Banks on a Pele header.

As well as this, there was another match that caused rippled – Italy v West Germany, where five goals were scored in extra time and Beckenbauer played with a broken arm.  Italy beat Germany but was beaten in the final by Brazil – winners for the third time. Brazil was awarded the Jules Rimet trophy permanently for the achievement.

Fun Facts:

  • This was the first time yellow and red cards were used.
  • This was the first time it allowed substitutes during a match.

FIFA World Cup Germany 1974

This was the year that saw the Oranjes impress. It was a first for many nations including East Germany, Haiti, Australia and Zaire. Also it was a first for a new layout – the two top teams from each group were put into another group of four. The winners of the two groups played in the final. West German beat The Netherlands in its group – despite the revolutionary Total Football system employed by the team. Poland pipped Brazil in the other group and faced West Germany in the final, where the Germans won 1-0.

Fun Facts:

  • Chilean player Carlos Caszely was the first player the get a red card.
  • This was the first World Cup televised in colour.

FIFA World Cup Argentina 1978

The choice of Argentina was very controversial as there has been a military coup in the country two years previous. As well as this there was also controversy on the pitch. Argentina had an advantage over Peru as kick-off was some hours after Brazil v Poland. Because Brazil beat Poland 3-1, Argentina knew it had to win its own match by four goals to get through. Eventually Peru collapsed under the pressure of the game and lost 6-0. Rumours were afoot that Peru had been bribed to let Argentina to win by such a score line. Argentina beat the Dutch 3-1 to win the tournament. Another home win.

Fun Facts:

  • Certain Dutch players refused the medal for second place in protest to the government military regime.
  • Scottish striker Willie Johnstone tested positive for fencamfamine by the anti-doping control.

FIFA World Cup Spain 1982

The Spanish World Cup 1982 was the first to feature 24 nations. The teams were divided into six groups of four, with the top two in each round advancing to the second round. They were then split into four groups of three. The winner from each group played in the semi-finals.

The game between Kuwait and France was memorable. A spectator blew a whistle and the Kuwait team stopped playing, believing it was the ref. French defender Bossis scored at this time. This lead to the President of the Kuwaiti Football Association running onto the pitch and arguing with the ref – who then disallowed the goal. However, Bossis scored another valid goal soon after and France won 4-1.  Another fun game was when Hungary beat El-Salvador 10-1 – the only time a team has scored ten goals in a World Cup match.

A big controversy was in the semi-final when West German goalie took out France’s Patrick Battiston. The German escaped a red card and then team went on to beat France in a penalty shoot-out. However, the luck stopped there and the team was beaten by Italy in the final with the star of the show being disgraced footballer Paolo Rossi.

Fun Facts:

  • Norman Whiteside from Northern Ireland became the youngest player to have participated at just 17 years and 42 days.
  • We were first introduced to legend Diego Armando Maradona.

FIFA World Cup Mexico 1986

Mexico was honoured to be the first nation to host the tournament twice. The layout changed yet again with the second lot of group stages being replaced by a pre-quarterfinal knockout round. This competition saw the infamous match between England and Argentina – remembered for the controversial Hand of God goal and one of the finest goals to ever grace the tournament. Both goals were courtesy of Maradona.

Despite the controversy, Argentina went on to win, beating West Germany 3-2 in the finals.

Fun Facts:

  • The quickest red card in the tournament’s history was awarded to Jose Batista of Uruguay after just 56 seconds of play.
  • This was the first time an audience did a Mexican Wave.

FIFA World Cup Italia 90

The 1990 World Cup saw Cameroon make it to the quarterfinals, which was a first for any African nation. There was an unpleasant event in the match between Brazil and Chile, where a firework landed near the Chilean goalie who cut his own face with a razor blade hidden in his glove to fake an injury. The team refused to continue to play at one goal down. However, the plot was uncovered. Rojas, the goalie was banned for twelve years and Chile was banned from the 1994 World Cup.

The final saw a replay of the previous final, with West Germany playing Argentina. However, fortune was reversed and West Germany beat Argentina 1-0.

Fun Facts:

  • The Cameroon player, Roger Mila became the oldest striker in a World Cup at the age of 38 years old.
  • Years later, Maradona confessed that in the match against Brazil, they put tranquilisers in some of the Brazilian’s water bottles.
  • This was the World Cup with the lowest goal average at just 2.21 goals per match.

FIFA World Cup USA 1994

This World Cup was the first to be decided by a penalty shoot-out, with Brazil pipping Italy to the post. This tournament saw the disgrace of Argentinian winder by Maradona, who tested positive for ephedrine. Without Maradona, Argentina couldn’t make it past the round of 16. Also, this tournament saw tragedy when Colombian defender Andres Escobar was murdered just ten days after he scored an own goal in a first round match that saw Columbia eliminated.

Over 3.6 million people attended the tournament, which is an all-time record. Another record was set by Oleg Salenko who was the first player to score five goals in a match in Russia’s win over Cameroon. That same match, Roger Milla of Cameroon scored the side’s only goal which made him the oldest goal scorer ever in a World Cup at the age of 42.

Fun Facts:

  • This was the first time a final ended with a 0-0 score line.
  • Saudi Arabia’s Saeed Al Owairan scored the best goal of the tournament, reminiscent of Maradona’s 1986 goal against England.

FIFA World Cup France 1998

The 1998 tournament featured an expanded format with 32 teams overall. Ira bet the Maldives to qualify with the biggest margin ever in World Cup history… 17-0. Also, this tournament saw the first ‘Golden Goal’ with Laurent Blanc scoring to give France the victory. Les Bleus won the tournament by beating Brazil 3-0 which saw top Brazilian player Ronaldo fail to make any impact. Croatia may have been in the tournament for the first time, but the team finished in an impressive third place.

Fun Facts:

  • The ball used in the tournament was called the Tricolore
  • Hours before the final against France, Ronaldo fainted and was unwell. He still played but made no impact.

FIFA World Cup Korea –Japan 2002

This was the first year that the World Cup was held in Asia. One of the preliminary matches saw Australia defeat American Samoa 31-0 which was a new record for margin of victory. This was a great tournament for teams previously considered small fry; South Korea, USA and Senegal all managed to reach the quarterfinals, However, the final was back to the big boys with Brazil facing off against Germany and beating them 2-0.

Fun Facts:

  • This was the first World Cup to be hosted in two different countries.
  • Brazil won its fifth World Cup title.
  • Brazilian player Cafu was the first player to play in three separate World Cup finals.

FIFA World Cup Germany 2006

This World Cup saw a return to the holders of the World Cup having to qualify, although the host nation still qualified automatically. This was one of the few World Cups where England was one of the favourite teams to win, alongside Brazil. Germany did well yet again and managed to reach the semi-finals. However, the final saw Italy play France. This was the French captain’s, Zinedine Zidane’s, farewell international game, but it ended badly with the ref giving him a red card for head-butting Italy’s Materazzi. The Italian’s went on to beat Les Bleus 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out.

Fun Facts:

  • Argentinian player Messi played with boots with ‘La Mano de Dios’ written inside – ‘The Hand of God’ in tribute to the 1986 goal.
  • Debut team Ghana managed to get into the top 16 teams before being defeated by Brazil.

FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010

This was the first World Cup to ever be hosted in Africa. The tournament was famous for very defensive and low scoring opening matches, the ever-annoying vuvuzelas and the goal line technology controversy. Despite losing its first game to Switzerland and scoring only seven goals, Spain went on to win the title and be crowned World Cup champions. The final was pretty violent and saw record numbers of yellow cards and very rowdy play from the Dutch team. However, Italy beat the 10-man Dutch team when Iniesta scored in the 116th minute.

Fun Facts:

  • This is the first time the winning team lost its opening match.
  • This was the first time the host nation was knocked out in the first round.
  • Both Italy and France, the finalists of the 1996 World Cup didn’t make it out of group stages.

FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014

This was the second time that the tournament was held in Brazil. The tournament also introduced some new technology to ensure a fairer tournament. This included goal line technology to ensure that goals go over the goal line – and conversely that all goals that go over the line are counted. The tournament saw big names leave in the group stages, including previous champions Spain, England, Italy and also Portugal.

The final saw Argentina taking on Germany again – the two teams that had faced off in the final the most in the history of the tournament. Germany went on to win the match with an extra-time goal scored by Mario Gotze. However, it was another of the German games that caused the biggest stir, as the team beat hosts Brazil 7-1, which was a result that no-one could have predicted. Brazil has never suffered a defeat this large and there has never been such a defeat in any World Cup semi-final. A crushing humiliation for the home team. A European team had won the trophy for the third time in a row – a new record.

Fun Facts:

  • Germany built its own team hotel for the tournament – ‘Camp Bahia’.
  • Brail changed its laws so people could drink beer in the stadiums.
  • Italy forbade its players to use social media… not that it helped.

FIFA World Cup Russia 2018

Who knows what this tournament has to offer. Brazilian humiliation? German domination? Shock exits and surprise results? Quite probably. The one thing you can guarantee it that you can never predict the outcome of many games; you need to expect the unexpected. So, whether you want to place your money on top teams like Brazil, Italy and France winning, or whether you want to try your luck on an underdog – like the England squad, or shock eliminations then we can help you find the bookmakers with the best odds. It’s time to get the World Cup party started.