Full name being the FIFA World Cup (Fédération Internationale de Football Association- the governing body of The Beautiful Game), The World Cup is an international competition between national football teams hosted every four years. It's THEBig Occasion of both football and all sports in the World - much more popular than the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl merged together.It is also much more prestigious than almost any other sporting event - about the only other event that comes close is the Olympic Games, and even then many nations would gladly swap a fistful of Olympic Golds for a World Cup win. Apart from anything else, many Olympic Gold medals are awarded every two years, but there's only one World Cup winner every four.For a team to win the World Cup means the players will be heroes for life in their native country (especially in those nations such as England and France where success is rare; in those nations such as Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago where success hasn't even come yet, the fact that they qualified to participate is enough to have a freaking National Holiday), and for the country itself can have far-reaching socio-economic effects. West Germany's surprise win against the much-vaunted Hungarians in 1954 is credited with cementing that country into a unified, confident nation-state instead of a broken, battered, occupied country. France's win in 1998 on home soil (against Brazil, no less) with a majority of black and Arab-descended players is said to mark a turning point in positive race relations in France.The first contest was in 1930 in Uruguay, and was won by the hosts, with only 13 entrants (it was supposed to be 16, but the long trip to South America by ship meant many of the countries across the ocean - mainly the European ones - declined the invitation). World War II meant there were no contests in 1942 and 1946. The latest contest was held in South Africa in 2010, for which 204 countries went for 32 places, and ultimately won by Spain.The format has altered somewhat over the years, but there is a group stage in the beginning before it turns into a straight knock-out contest.Qualifying is accomplished differently through the various qualification groups - only the hosts now get an automatic place. In 2010:
The 10 teams of South America played a straight league with 4 qualifiers (and one team to a playoff with a North American team)
North America played several rounds before the six best teams played a league with 3 qualifiers (and one team to a playoff with a South American team)
Africa had 2 rounds of 4-team groups, the winners of which crowned 5 qualifiers (although Egypt and Algeria had to playoff after finishing with identical records, leading to a fair bit of rioting and even more Misplaced Nationalism than usual).
Asia had a knock-out stage followed by a 4-team group phase, followed by a 2 five-team groups. The top 2 from each went through and the third placed teams played off to qualify for a play off with...
Oceania's champion was decided after the gold, silver and bronze medalists from the South Pacific games predictably lost in a four-team group with New Zealand, since Australia has decided to 'relocate' to Asia.
Europe had 8 groups of 6 and one of 5; the nine champions qualified, the 8 best runners-up played-off at (semi-)random for 4 places.
For 2014, the number of places for each continent are the same, but the games involving the playoff teams (1 Asian, 1 CONCACAF, 1 South American, 1 Oceanian) aren't pre-arranged; the pairings will be determined later. Also, Africa sees a change, as the second round of groups is removed to be replaced by play-offs before and after the group stage. So now 40 teams (28 go directly to the group stage, the rest have to play-off for the final spots) compete in 4-team groups, with the 10 group winners entering a play-off stage against each other to determine the 5 qualifyers.The winners so far have been:
Uruguay (1930, 1950) -
Instead of 2 stars for their 2 world cup wins, their shirt holds 4 stars, the 2 extra ones for their victories in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, held before the World Cup and which they deem to be just as good as.
Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
Benito Mussolini may have had something to do with the first two, hopefully his regime just hijacked the glory!
They have qualified for all the World Cups they've entered, and East Germany qualified for 1974, beating eventual champions West Germany in the group
Also, thanks to their women's team winning the Women's World Cup in 2003 and 2007, Germany is the only nation to have won both the men's and women's tournaments.
Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
The only team present in all tournaments
British teams didn't turn up until 1950, having been out of FIFA between 1920 and 1946, since they didn't want to play people they'd fought against (and felt there was too much foreign influence in football!). The 1950 contest, held in Brazil, only had 13 of 16 eligible clubs turn up (Turkey, Scotland and India had qualified, but withdrew), partly because Brazil was harder to get to then - especially in the postwar years when money was tight.
And the '86 win was no less controversial with the infamous "Hand of God" goal by Diego Maradona against England in the quarterfinals
Argentinians on the other hand, consider the "Hand of God" as something glorious not shameful.
Win in 1998 helped reinforce an anti-racist attitude in much of France, as the winning side had several African-French players like Patrick Vieira and Lilian Thuram.
Spain (2010 - Current Holders)
Current world champions, hot off the heels on their success in Euro 2008. First team to win the tournament after losing their opening game (to Switzerland), and the first European team to win outside of Europe. Won after a rather scrappy game with the Netherlands with fourteen yellow cards*
although, to be fair, one of them was for taking off the shirt; see CMOH below
and one red. Both teams were trying to end their duck of being the best skilled teams in the world to never lift the trophy. Spain having won Euro 2012—the only team ever to have taken two Euros and a World Cup in a row—makes it possibly the most formidable defending champion ever.
It is notable that all of the teams who have won the World Cup so far have been from either Europe or South America.There have been two trophies. The first, the Jules Rimet trophy, was given to Brazil for its third victory in 1970, but stolen in 1983 and possibly melted down by the thieves, or perhaps it adorns some janitor's basement... The second one will not be given permanently to anyone.In recent years, the winners have taken to adorning their jerseys with a number of gold stars corresponding to their number of titles. (Uruguay including two Olympic titles for a total of four stars.)The Women's World Cup has been held every four years since 1991 and has been won by the USA (twice), Germany (twice), Norway (once) and Japan (once). The competition is not as prestigious as the men's tournament but has been increasing in popularity and the 1999 final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California attracted over 90,000 spectators.
The tournaments so far:
1930 - Uruguay: The first tournament went to that little South American nation that had just won two Olympic golds in a row in football (also to celebrate their independence's centennial anniversary). However, the difficulties of crossing the Atlantic Ocean by boat (airplanes were still strictly warfare tech), coupled with a dose of It Will Never Catch On, caused many European teams to decline taking part in the tournament, so only four of them (Yugoslavia, Romania, Belgium and Jules Rimet's France) crossed the ocean. This ensured near-total South American domination of the inaugural tournament, with the home side beating Argentina at the final.
1934 - Italy: Used as a tool for Benito Mussolini to promote his fascist regime, he pretty much demanded his home team's victory, which came after a dramatic game with Czechoslovakia. More people became interested in taking part of the tournament but, since the format only allowed for 16 teams to play (it was originally an invitational tournament), the first World Cup Qualifiers were played. Interestingly, this was the only time the hosts had to play in the Qualifiers, as well as the only time the reigning champion did not return to defend the title (Uruguay refused to play in response to the European boycott four years prior).
1938 - France: Won again by Italy who, even with a mostly renewed team, plowed their way through the tournament and defeated Hungary at the final. Even though they wouldn't win the tournament until 20 years later, Brazil's third place finish (basically thanks to them now being professionals) made quite an impression with European spectators.
1950 - Brazil: 16 teams had qualified, but three of them refused to show up, and so they had to make do with 13. The home team had been achieving impressive results throughout the tournament, until that fateful July 16, when a discredited Uruguay turned the match around at the final minutes, beat Brazil on points (there was no true final; instead, the champion was determined in a final round between these two, Sweden and Spain), and cause an entire nation to mope with grief... For a while at least.
1954 - Switzerland: The Hungarian team came around on a roll. Reigning Olympic champs, they had trampled England twice (6-3 in the away game and 7-1 home), and lost only one of the 30 matches they had played up until then. More sounding victories came: 8-3 on West Germany, 9-0 on South Korea, 4-2 on Brazil, 4-2 on Uruguay... But then the Germans stood in their way again. And snatched the trophy from right under their noses, coming back from a 2-0 deficit. And thus was how an entire nation rose from the ashes of war (no, really). On a side note, this tournament boasted the highest goal average of all: 5.38 (140 goals scored in 26 matches), which goes to show how much the sport changed from that time.
1958 - Sweden: The tournament that introduced Pelé to the world and, along with him, the magic Brazilians can do when they have a ball on their feet, as the hosts could attest in more ways than one.
1962 - Chile: Pelé sat out of the tournament after the second match due to injury. How could Brazil hope to defend their title without their top star? The answer was easy: with their other top star, Mané Garrincha, who stunned the world with his disconcerting dribbles and led the "canarinho" team to their second triumph in a row.
1966 - England: Heralded as "football coming back home", the tournament was won by the home team, though not without some controversy as the referee wrongfully allowed an extra time goal from a Geoff Hurst shot that hit the crossbar, bounced over the line (for a goal to count, the ball has to completely cross the line) and fell back out. Two surprises marked this tournament: Brazil's precocious elimination (thanks to some heavily disorganized management) and newcomers North Korea flushing out the Italians on group stage. This was also the first tournament where Portugal participated, and they left quite a mark, finishing third.
1970 - Mexico: Arguably the most spectacular of tournaments, not only for the incontestable victory of a star-studded Brazilian team with renewed strength (and Pelé at the top of his game: even when he failedto score, he was masterful), but also for matches with the potential to keep watchers on the edge of their seat (like the dramatic semifinal between Italy and West Germany, dubbed by many as the "Game of the Century"). Plus, it can be said that modern football started here, where many now-common conventions were introduced (e.g. substitutions, card bookings, more technologically sophisticated ball and so one). The triumph here allowed Brazil to take the Jules Rimet trophy, as the first team to win three tournaments.
1974 - West Germany: 20 years before, Hungary dazzled the world with their nigh-unstoppable team. Now it was Holland's turn to stun football fans, by presenting a completely unforeseen way to play football: no player was attached to their roles in the field; instead they had full creativity to do as they wished, so long as they took the ball to the goal. Like Hungary 20 years before, the "Clockwork Orange" made headlines and got all the way to the final. Unfortunately, like 20 years before, West Germany stood in their way, turned the tables after starting off with a deficit and snatched the trophy from them.
1978 - Argentina: The military seized power in Argentina in 1976. A World Cup win on home ground had the potential to make them look good. And win on home soil Argentina did, albeit very controversially - it is said that their 6-0 win over Peru that cost Brazil their spot on the final was arranged by the Videla regime, who promised financial help to Peru if they threw the fight (Argentina needed a very difficult win by four goals to proceed). In fact, even their own traveling routes were arranged to make for easier matches - Argentina played on Buenos Aires for the first round, then in nearby Rosario for the second round, and then back to Buenos Aires for the final*
to put it into perspective: Brazil started playing in Marl del Plata, at the country's coastline, then took a cross-country to Mendoza, near the Chilean border, to face Peru, then went to Rosario to play Argentina, then baaaack to Mendoza again to play Poland. And then to the capital for the thirs place match against Italy
1982 - Spain: It looked like 1970 all over again: Brazil fielding an all-star cast and winning their matches without breaking a sweat. But then there was Italy, who shambled their way to Round 2, but apparently woke up in time to upset the Brazilian team and rush to the trophy. This tournament saw the first match decided on penalty shoot-outs: the thrilling semifinal between France and West Germany (yep, the one where Harald Schumacher nearly wiped out Patrick Battiston without even getting a card). Also, for this tournament, the number of entrants was expanded from 16 to 24, so that countries from outside Europe and South America would be more certain to represent their continents.
1986 - Mexico (as a replacement for Colombia, who stepped out of hosting due to lack of funds): In the first tournament hosted by a nation where the tournament had been before, one man rose above the rest: Diego Maradona, who pushed his team of Argentina to their second victory, while performing his swan's song with masterpieces like that which is considered the greatest goal ever scored in the history of the sport (never mind him weaseling his way to the goal just before).
1990 - Italy: Possibly The Scrappy of the tournaments, this is were football hit a low from which it never fully recovered: emphasis was put in stopping the opposition from scoring instead of the logical opposite, and so there was too little scoring and too much snoring. Due to this, this tournament sports the lowest goal average of all, of 2.21 (115 goals in 52 matches; now go back to 1954 and compare the numbers). In the end, West Germany (in their last tournament before reunification) ousted Argentina from the World Champions' seat in a reprise of the 1986 final - only much, much duller.
1994 - USA: Even though the Americans' idea of football is so much different, the World Cup was brought here to boost interest in the sport among a populace who prefers a derivative of rugby. America still prefers its native football to soccer, but unlike what one would expect, the tournament was a huge success, boasting the highest public average of all (almost 69,000 per match), and the Major League Soccer had its kick-off as a result. The tournament was won by Brazil, who broke their 24-year drought by beating Italy in the first final decided on penalty shootouts.
1998 - France: A whole new generation of football was introduced here, with 32 contenders, thus giving a chance to most every corner of the world to show what they were capable of. With a national side recovered from sitting out of two tournaments straight, the French went on to win the tournament they hosted beating Brazil in the final, thus presenting another genius of the art to the world: Zinedine Zidane.
2002 - Japan and South Korea: The first tournament with joint hosts, and the first one constested in Asia. It was a rather unpredictable tournament, with many major favorites falling along the way (Argentina, Portugal and defending champs France on group stage, then Italy on the Round of 16), and Asian and African football boasting newfound power (Senegal became the second African team to finish on the top eight, after Cameroon in 1990, and co-hosts South Korea clinched an impressive fourth place finish). Brazil asserted their domination by obtaining their fifth World Cup win here by trouncing the ever-efficient German defense.*
Curiously, while these teams have the best World Cup records overall, they had never faced each other directly - Brazil had only played East Germany in 1974, but the German team's historic records during the Cold War belong to the Western country.
2006 - Germany: Not as exciting as the previous tournament (based on the contestants' track records up until then, one could say it was even predictable), but not without its moments. Italy achieved their fourth win by defeating France on penalty shootouts, just after Zidane planted his head on Marco Materazzi's chest.
2010 - South Africa: The first World Cup held on African soil. Even though it was heralded by lively crowds (to say nothing of the ever-present, persistent droning of the vuvuzelas), many matches weren't quite as beautiful (some of them were outright sleep-inducing, like Brazil 0-0 Portugal in the group stage). Spain came out on top for the first time, after a rough, violent game against the Netherlands.
2014 - Brazil: Linked in many people's minds to the 2016 Olympic Games, which will be held in Rio. The Olympics are consired a bit harder to pull off than the World Cup, so if the Brazilian authorities screw up the Cup, they'll come under scrutiny for the Olympics.
2018 - Russia: Was chosen, along with the next host, just after the 2014 tournament was announced to be held in Brazil.
2022 - Qatar: Will be the first tournament in the Middle East. Curiously, Qatar has never participated in the tournament before, and if they fail to qualify for 2014 and 2018, they will be the first country in 88 years (since Italy '34) to host the tournament without having taken part on it before.
This competition provides examples of:
Absurdly High Stakes Game: A surprising amount of one-upsmanship in side bets on the 2010 World Cup. First, Diego Maradona promisedthreatened to run naked through Buenos Aires if Argentina won the World Cup. Responding to this, a Paraguyan lingerie model offered to run naked through Asuncion if her country won*
They lost, but she took some pictures naked in an Asuncion stadium. And later appeared on the Brazilian Playboy.
. Responding to that, a Dutch pornstar offered to 'reward' her Twitter followers with free oral sex (115,000+ ) if the Dutch won. They ultimately lost to Spain 1-0.
All Is Well That Ends Well: Losses at the group stage by eventual World Cup winners (West Germany in '54 to Hungary and '74 to East Germany, Argentina in '78 to Italy, Spain in 2010 to Switzerland), qualifying with three draws (Italy in '82), the 8-3 group stage battering (West Germany in '54) will not be the topics of conversation they once were.
The 2011 Women's World Cup had its first champion without a spotless record, as Japan lost a game in the group stage.
Alliterative Name: Zinedine Zidane (France), Bob Bradley (USA), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Shane Smeltz (New Zealand), Damien Duff (Republic of Ireland), to name a few.
Always Someone Better: England have won the World Cup once. In all their other tournaments, they have either got to the same round as or one less than Germany, save 1950 when the Germans were banned. The only time they got to the same round as Germany, apart from 1966, was in 1962.
Don't forget 2010, in which England was eliminated by Germany, in a game which included a ball kicked by England across the goal line but not counted by the ref. (Ironically, England's 1966 win included a goal many Germans believe to have not crossed the line.)
In 2002, England also lasted two rounds fewer than Germany, having been eliminated in the quarterfinals while Germany made it to the finals. It it's any consolation, England were eliminated by the same team (Brazil) that defeated the Germans during the finals.
And the Adventure Continues: Congratulations, you won the World Cup! Now what? Come back again to the next competition 4 years later to defend your title. But first you must go through a qualifying process which took roughly 2-3 years. Though it applies to all sports competition.
Until 2002, the defending champion did not need to go through qualifiers. Apparently, FIFA changed the rule because of France's horrible performance in that year's World Cup (in which they, defending the 1998 title, were flushed out in group stage without even scoring a goal!) The host team remained the only one exempt from the need to go through qualifiers.
FIFA was proven right when Italy repeated France's performance in 2010, dropping out of the competition without winning a single game. Likewise France, the previous runners-up, also dropped out after much drama and no victories.
Animal Motifs: England has three lions, Scotland one, Wales a dragon, France a cockerel, Australia kangaroos, Ivory Coast elephants, Spain... well, you know...
Some are also known by animal nicknames: Brazil are the "Little Canary team", Nigeria the "Super Eagles", and Cameroon "The Indomitable Lions".
Annoying Younger Sibling: Jerome Boateng of Germany who defeated the team of his half-brother, Kevin-Prince Boateng of Ghana in 2010.
Badass Grandpa: Dino Zoff was 40 when he won the World Cup with Italy; Roger Milla scored a goal at the age of 42 in 1994 (surpasssing his own record, as 4 years before he was leading Cameroon to the quarterfinals)
The Band Minus the Face: Averted, the Spanish team in WC 2010 was, offensively, FC Barcelona without Lionel Messi (who played for his home nation, Argentina). They still won the Cup.
Also averted with Brazil in 1962, where Pelé got injured in the second game, but the team was still champion.
But it's also played straight, as things sometimes don't go well when the best player is away (France failed to qualify twice without Platini, and bombed without Zidane - not only in 2010, but 2002 as well, he was injured and only played the third game).
Battle in the Rain: The 1954 final (in which revolutionary new boots developed by Adi Dassler*
yes, the founder of Adidas
gave West Germany a slight edge over Hungary) and the 1974 semi-final West Germany vs. Poland, aka "the Water Battle".
Trope Co. Trope of the Week: Four of the individual awards have one of the partner's names ("Mastercard All-Star Team", "Gillette Best Young Player", and two for Adidas, Golden Ball - best player - and Golden Boot - top scorer). Plus, the "Budweiser Man of the Match" chosen in the website by fans.
Bring My Red Jacket: Since the English team won the 1966 Cup in its red second uniform, it's used in really special occasions (such as in their Heroic Rematch with Argentina in 2002, and against Slovenia in 2010, when a win was needed to qualify; it worked on both).
A kit clash was required but the red kit does seem to have some success.
Although in the other games with Germany (the adversary in 1966), it didn't help (1970: 2-3, giving away a 2-0 lead that lasted until the 68th minute... 2010: 1-4)
Call Back: In the 2002 World Cup, South Korea scored a goal against the United States. During their celebration, they mockingly re-enacted a controversial foul on US Speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno from the 2002 Winter Olympics several months earlier that had cost the Koreans a gold medal.
A more straightforward example would be in the 3rd place match in the 2010 World Cup between Uruguay and Germany. Whenever Luis Suarez of Uruguay had the ball, the neutral crowd would instantly boo. This is because in the Quarterfinals between Uruguay and Ghana (the last African team in the tournament), Suarez's handball is responsible for Ghana not reaching the Semifinals.
Call It Karma: England's 2010 ghost goal karmic justice for their goal given 44 years earlier against the same opponents (Germany).
After a friendly game in early 2010, a young German footballer named Thomas Müller had to leave the press conference, because Diego Maradona (now coach of the Argentinian team) didn't recognize that he was one of the players, and refused to continue the interview until Müller left the stage. Flash forward to the quarter-final of the World Cup 2010, when the Argentinian and German teams met again, and guess which young German footballer it was who scored the first goal, already in the third minute. (The Argentinians eventually lost 0-4.)
Italy is despised as much as envied for its "luck", being accussed by purists of playing ugly defensive football and making crappy performances in the group stage only to win the crucial match and advance to the next round with a last minute goal or awarded penalty kick (such as in the 1982 tournament, where they qualified to Round 2 without winning a game - they had three draws, and qualified over Cameroon on goal difference - and in the 2006 match against Australia; in both occasions, Italy eventually advanced to the final and won the title). This almost happened again in 2010, when the Italians got the chance to equalize a 2-3 result against Slovakia in the last minute and get through to the next round... and their striker failed. Endgame. The reigning champion is out in the group stage with less points than New Zealand.
The reigning runner-up, France, that only qualified after a controversial hand goal and had a team with varying/decaying quality, also fell in the group stage, with one draw and losses to Mexico and South Africa.
In the 2011 Women's World Cup quarterfinals, Brazil was tied with the U.S. 1-1 in added time. Brazil's goal was off of an extremely controversial penalty kick, and Brazil took a 2-1 lead on a play that should have been whistled offsides. Brazil was getting booed even by the neutral members of the crowd for their dirty play and one of Brazil's players even stalled for time and miraculously recovered from her "injury" the moment she was stretchered off the field. The karma part? Because of her stalling, there were three minutes added on as stoppage time to the added time. In the 122nd minute, American Megan Rapinoe crossed a ball into Abby Wambach that just missed the keeper's fingertips, which Wambach headed in for the equalizer. The United States would then go on to win on penalty kicks to move on to the semifinals. Here's the kicker: if the Brazilian player had just played on instead of stalling for time, it's likely that the United States would not have had enough time to score their equalizer. Furthermore, remember that controversial penalty kick? The play also got one of the US players sent off, meaning the US completed their comeback down one player.
Calvinball: While a few tournaments were more straightforward (1934-38: single-elimination tournament; 1958-70: 16 teams in 4 groups, the top 2 of each group qualify; 1986-94: 24 teams in 6 groups, top 2 plus 4 best third places qualify; since 1998: 32 teams in 8 groups, the top 2 in each qualify) the format was sometimes too complicated. One of the official films even said the qualifying rules were difficult even for nuclear physicists.
Captain Obvious: Journalists ask winners of games, "So is that the result you wanted?". Few reply in the negative.
Catch Phrase: Ian Darke's excited "CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?" used to describe particularly amazing goals. He's used it for Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria in the 2010 men's tournament and Abby Wambach's against Brazil in the 2011 women's tournament.
Maradona in 1986, in the (in)famous quarterfinal match between Argentina and England. He scored the first goal by pushing the ball into the net with his left hand before English keeper Peter Shilton could punch it away. Tunisian referee Ali Ben Naceur conceded the goal because he (and only him, apparently) couldn't see Maradona's hand.
In 1990, Argentina and Brazil played against each other for a spot at the quarterfinals. Argentina had two bottles of water, one regular for its team, and one drugged for Brazil (which player Branco ended up drinking). Argentina became that year's runner-up.
Played straight with France's single-point-finish elimination in 2010, given the fact that they got their spot from Ireland through a hand assist by Thierry Henry. Call it poetic justice, Karmic Death or what you will.
Attempted and failed by North Korea in 2010. In an effort to sneak in an extra striker, they listed him as the 3rd Goalkeeper on their official roster. FIFA responded that he would therefore only be allowed to play as a Goalie.
The Chew Toy: Scotland, eliminated in the Group Stage every time they've qualified.
More pitifully so in 1978, when they had Kenny Dalglish (arguably the best player Scottish footballer after Denis Law) on their team. Although their lone victory at the tournament, a surprise 3-2 win over the Netherlands (with one goal from Dalglish and two from Archie Gemmill), is still fondly remembered by Scottish fans of a certain age.
In 1974, they were the only team that didn't lose a match and still failed to qualify for the next stage by goal difference.
City of Adventure: The 1930 tournament, contested by 13 teams, had only 18 matches, all of them played among three stadia in Montevideo.
But it didn't affect the WC as much as the Olympics, where amateur athletes had to compete with the top-level ones from Warsaw Pact countries. The World Cup wasn't easy for Olympic champions USSR, Yugoslavia (both reached only one semifinal and finished 4th), Hungary (a surprising second - when everyone expected a title - in 1954), Czechoslovakia (second in 1962), Poland (third in two Cups) and East Germany (only qualified for 1974, and finished 6th). Bulgaria, runners-up in 1952 and bronze medallists in 1968, fared even worse - during the Cold War era, they qualified for the World Cup five times and didn't win a single match in any of those tournaments.
Consolation Prize: Not only medals for 2nd place, but a match (the third-place play-off) held the day before the final to decide who finishes third.
Since nobody cares very much who comes third and the pressure to succeed is off, this is often the most enjoyable game of the whole tournament.
Cool Mask: Some Mexican fans dress in a very Lucha Libre style in the stands!
Corrupt Corporate Executive: A large part of the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, whether unfounded or not. Back in 2009, two FIFA executive members had been caught selling their votes for the World Cups by the Sunday Times and were subsequently suspended. Further allegations of corruption by the English, against their rivals for the 2018 tournament, the Russians, probably ended up killing their bid, and the announcement of Russia landing it was met mostly with derision about Russia "buying the World Cup". Ten years earlier, A German satire magazine tried to bribe some officials with a $20 gift basket just to see what would happen. See the Other Wiki for details.
There are also constant rumors about players being on a squad solely because they paid the coach or the countries FA. Some reporters speculated that the aversion of this trope by Guus Hiddink is one of the reasons South Korea advanced as far as they did in 2002, explicitly choosing talent over experience and/or social standing.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Happens with some regularity due to the weakest teams (usually from Asia, Oceania, Central America, and a few Africans) being seeded with the strongest ones in the group phase. Scores of 7-0 (Portugal vs North Korea, 2010, the irony is that the North Koreans were expecting to get back at their elimination at 1966, then it got worse), 8-0 (Germany v. Saudi Arabia in Sapporo in 2002), 9-0 (Hungary v. South Korea in Zurich in 1954, Yugoslavia v. Zaire in Gelsenkirchen in 1974) or 10-1 (Hungary v. El Salvador in Elche in 1982 - the largest score in the competition so far) or happen every now and then.
Although Hungary was mentioned twice in the previous paragraph, there was one instance in the history of World Cups when they were on the receiving end. Hungarian football was slowly deteriorating from the 1954 loss against West Germany (helped that in 1956, a revolution caused the defection of Puskas, among others), and ever since that final, every WC was seen as an opportunity to bring back Hungary to the top of the soccer world. After the 70s, this was starting to be considered as daydreaming, even from the most die-hard fans of the national team in Hungary. But after the 1986 WC-qualifiers, the team stood with a stunning 83% performance (only losing once to Holland out of 6 matches), and people started to believe that this could be the start of something big. The team had their first match against the USSR, and suffered a historical 6-0 defeat. This marks the end of an era: Hungary was not able to qualify to the World Cup ever since, and it's a common thing in Hungary to refer to this match as the "doom of Hungarian football".
The aforementioned Portugal beatdown of North Korea was the first live sporting event ever televised in North Korea. One wonders how the Glorious Leader spun that one.
The decision to televise the game live was made after the first game North Korea had against Brazil, record world champion and one of the favorites for the win, where they only lost 2:1 after a hard fought battle. Cue the decision to televise the game against Portugal live, and the PRK getting curbstomped.
Averted by the US victory over England in 1950 was so heavily expected to be this that when the 1-0 score came over the wire, English newspapermen didn't believe it was true. They logically concluded that it must have been a transmission error, and that England must have won 10-1.
More largely, averted every now and then by some newbies defeating well-established teams: Algeria defeating West Germany (1982), Cameroon beating Argentina in 1990, Senegal's win against France (2002), Mexico's 2-0 drumming of France and Slovakia's victory upon Italy in 2010.
In 2006, Serbia's defense was regarded to be one the world's best, qualifying for the finals first in their group and having received a single goal in 10 matches. Argentina proceeded to trounce them 6-0 in their second game, including a goal scored by Esteban Cambiasso after no less than 25 consecutive passes.
France defeated Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 final. Brazil is considered the "eternal number one" of the game, and the only other team who have won a World Cup final with a difference of 3 goals (5-2 against Sweden in 1958, and 4-1 against Italy in 1970). But of course the team wasn't feeling OK that day (see Heroic BSOD).
Germany played Argentina in the quarterfinals in 2010, both very good teams that had played four years before (Germany had won on penalties). Argentina got soundly thrashed 4-0.
Dark Horse Victory: In the 2011 Women's World Cup, everyone expected a title from USA, Germany or Brazil. The winner was... Japan.
Also West Germany in 1954 and 1974, beating out those tournament's favorites (respectively, Hungary and Holland - though with the latter, playing at home helped), and Italy in 1982.
David Versus Goliath: The Davids sometimes win; USA 1-0 England in Belo Horizonte in 1950, North Korea 1-0 Italy in Middlesbrough in 1966, Algeria 2-1 West Germany in Gijon in 1982, Cameroon 1-0 Argentina in Milan in 1990, Senegal 1-0 France in Seoul in 2002, Switzerland 1-0 Spain in Durban in 2010. In the 2011 Women's World Cup, Japan's 1-0 victory against two-time defending champion Germany (and later, champions over perennial favorites United States, 3-1 in penalties).
A lot of people attribute the popularity of the sport to this. While the David can (and most likely will, depending on the opponent) get stomped, it is entirely possible for the smaller team to drive home a small lead, thanks to the fact that football is quite low scoring. A solid defense and a lucky shot is all it takes for the underdog.
A Day in the Limelight: Some unheralded players get these, for example Salvatore "Totò" Schillaci, top scorer in 1990 but with an otherwise largely unremarkable career (aside from the 1990 tournament, he only played for the national team in 9 matches with only one goal). Or players like Roger Milla in 1990.
And a few teams - many from Africa (Cameroon in 1982 and 1990, Morocco in 1986, Nigeria in 1994 and 1998, Senegal in 2002, Ghana in the latest 2), some Eastern Europeans in the 90s (Romania and Bulgaria in 1994, Croatia in 1998), and any good performance by an Australasian (North Korea in 1966, South Korea and Japan in 2002 and 2010, Australia in 2006).
Determinator: Franz Beckenbauer in the semi-final match against Italy in 1970. Before the match went on to extra-time after an 1-1 draw, he broke his shoulder, but could not be taken off the pitch because the West German team had already made the two substitutions allowed. So he played on through extra time with his arm strapped to a sling. Subverted in that Italy eventually won 4-3.
For the 2011 Women's World Cup, see Call It Karma. The US pulled it off playing with only 10 players.
Didn't See That Coming: Expecting only modest gains, many Turks were genuinely surprised by Turkey's performance in 2002. Practically the whole country went from a "That was lucky" mood to a "Holy crap we may actually pull this off" within days.
Fewer people, however, were surprised when Turkey lost against Brazil.
South Korea itself also qualifies in 2002; honestly, before the tournament began, who in the world would have expected them to beat Portugal, Italy, and Spain in the tournament?*
The Koreans expected to have a chance vs the USA but lose to Portugal and Poland in the group. They beat both Europeans but drew with the States. Though, the match against Spain was fraught with several wrong decisions by the referee and assistants, and many feel that Spain would have won if it had not been for that.
A very similar thing happened with Ghana in 2006, where most people, who had been pleased just to qualify for the first time ever, started thinking "Holy crap, we might actually do this!" after beating the Czechs and the USA. Then Brazil showed up and the rest is history.
An example from the 2010 Qualification. Republic of Ireland are in a group with (then) World Champions Italy, and Bulgaria. Italy and Bulgaria are expected to ease through. Ireland decided to throw a green spanner in the work by drawing with Italy and beating Bulgaria to ensure a play-off spot. In said play-off, Ireland are beaten by France in Dublin, and are expected to be curb-stomped in Paris. Instead, Ireland defy the odds again, and nearly pull off a miracle by running circles around the French. Then Henry cheated.
Didn't Think This Through: England in 1950 went to Brazil having never played a non-European team. They landed 2 days before the tournament, clearly insufficient time to acclimatise. They booked a hotel right on the quiet Copacabana beach to sleep, rather than a secluded training camp. They did not prepare for the fact the food served in a Brazilian hotel would be spicy. They sent members of their squad, including the great Stanley Matthews, on a spurious tour of Canada which kept them out of the opening game. There is no surprise this ill-prepared team was humiliated.
Disproportionate Retribution: After the 1994 Cup, Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell and Colombian defender Andrés Escobar ended up paying for their countries early exits (the former got his house torched, and the latter got killed - see Serious Business, below).
Early Installment Weirdness: The inaugural championship in 1930 doesn't have a third place match. Consequently the 3rd and 4th placed teams (USA and Yugoslavia, respectively) were determined by their overall performance.
Epic Fail: France's 2002 World Cup campaign. Hardly any team could match the epicness of their failure. How could a reigning champion get kicked out in the group phase? Worse, they didn't even score a goal! Their performance is so atrocious that FIFA eventually rules that even reigning champion has to pass qualifications.
The 2010 Final was Spain vs. the Netherlands, which Spain won.
England are as famous as the Netherlands for falling to this trope, both in the World Cup and the European Championship. Despite being consistently in the FIFA top ten, their 1966 victory is the only triumph in either competition. By 1996, this was so famous their anthem for Euro '96, and (unofficially) France '98 was "Three Lions", a slightly melancholy Crowd Song about their failings in Italy in '90 (and, for France, also England in '96) with the chorus of "football's coming home".
]] were eliminated to reach them and B)the regularity earned them a seed in 2006).
Egypt has to be the most shocking example. It is widely considered the best team in Africa, having won the African Cup of Nations 7 times (including the last 3 editions) and advancing to the semifinals 4 times more, it's usually among the 30 best teams in the FIFA ranking and has beaten its own record of consecutive matches without being defeated in 2010. Furthermore, its two best clubs—Al-Ahly and Zamalek, which are both almost entirely Egyptian and together provide 11 (almost half) of the national team—dominate in African club play. Yet it has qualified for just two World Cups, 1934 and 1990 (exiting in Round 1 in both cases), and in 2010 lost a spot in a tiebreaker match to Algeria. Egyptians—understandably displeased with their team—suspect the players of not taking the Cup seriously, that they might get lucrative European club contracts. Never mind whether that actually makes sense...
In the women's side there's Brazil, with a team as strong as the male one (among other players there's Marta, chosen as the world's best player five years in a row) but not as victorious - runner-ups in 2007, 3rd place in 1999, two quarterfinals and two group stages.
To be fair to Brazil, their women's team literally makes do with nothing. Women's soccer was banned until only recently in Brazil, and unlike every other Women's Soccer/Football power, Brazil has no professional women's league. The women are forced to wear old mens' uniforms, they don't get paid at all (and if they do, it's months late), and the women's team is understaffed (As in while the US traveled with a number of chefs to keep the players happy with familiar foods, Brazil has 0 cooks. They eat what they can get). They are a world power despite being little more a ragtag bunch compared to much more well-funded teams like the United States.
The Czech Republic. Their Cold-War era united Czechoslovak team won EURO 76, but their 2006 counterpart, despite being ranked in the top 5 of most soccer rankings, fizzled out in a group containing the USA, Ghana, and Italy.
Exposition Diagram: You don't understand what a 4-4-2 formation is? Wait for some graphics to come up at the start of the match to show you!
Fan Nickname: Pretty much every team has one. It's usually referent to the team's colors — with the possibility of a variation, such as Spain's La Furia Roja (the "Red Fury") or the Netherlands' the "Clockwork Orange" — but some more creative or affectionate examples are Uruguay the "Charrúas" (a local tribe famous for their bravery), Germany "Nationalelf" ("national eleven" - "Mannschaft", the German word for "team", is not used as a nickname in Germany), and South Africa is the "Bafana-bafana" ("the Boys").
"Clockwork Orange" really is more of a nickname used by Anglophone fans of the Dutch team.
Far East: Korea and Japan tend to get lumped in stereotypically together - even by FIFA!
Fascist Italy: Got very involved in the 1934 World Cup in Italy, down to a Copa del Duce which was awarded with great fanfare while the official trophy was given to the winners as well. A telegraph from Mussolini allegedly saying "Win or Die" allegedly caused Hungary to throw the 1938 final, although this has never been proven.
Field Promotion: It is difficult to imagine what Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer felt in South Africa, after he gained his place following Robert Enke's suicide.
Also Scotland in 1986 had to replace the late, great Jock Stein, who had died after the final qualifier against Wales. The replacement was Alex Ferguson! Even with great managers like these, they've never qualified for Round 2.
In a non-lethal example, Spain's keeper Cañizares got his foot injured in a bathroom accident just mere days before the beginning of the 2002 Cup and was subtitued by Iker Casillas. Casillas has been Spain's first choice goalkeeper ever since and is now the current team's captain.
From Bad to Worse: Zaire in 1974 subbed their goalkeeper at half-time because they were 3-0 down to Yugoslavia. They lost 9-0!
Germanic Efficiency: No-one ever praises Germany's team. But they've reached 12 semi-finals out of the 17 tournaments they've played. Nobody ever says that Germany is "an excellent team." They say that group with the Germans is "a difficult group." Or, as someone else put it: "Football is a simple game. 22 men chase after a ball for 90 minutes, and at the end, the Germans win."
This stereotype was strongly averted in 2010, when Germany actually played exciting attacking football, winning their first game 4-0, then losing 1-0, winning 1-0, 4-1 and 4-0, before losing the semi-final 1-0 to Spain.
On the other hand, lots of praise has been heaped on Germany's women's team, as they won the 2003 and 2007 Women's World Cup. The praise stopped when they were knocked out of the 2011 tournament, which they were hosting, by Japan in a 1-0 game.
Glorious Mother Russia: Brazil in 1958 feared playing the USSR because of their "scientific" football. They needn't have been, what with Garrincha dribbling three markers at different moments of the match.
Glory Seeker: Pick your own example of a player who ends a promising move from his team by having a shot from no-chance range instead of passing to a team-mate in a better position.
Heel Race Turn: Turncoating before signing up to the national team. People's nationalities can change at will in some cases, particularly if they can't get into the Brazil team (as was the case with Liédson, who played for Portugal despite having had a career in Brazilian side Flamengo before getting there, and recently having returned to play for Corinthians).
An interesting case in 2010 had two half-brothers playing for different national teams: Jérôme Boateng playing for Germany and Kevin-Prince Boateng playing for Ghana.
Hello Boys: Interesting ambush marketing campaign by a Dutch brewer (Bavaria) had several girls in mini-dresses designed to catch the attention of the cameraman during the Netherlands vs Denmark game, with the dresses well known to the Dutch public as associated to the brewer. FIFA, who is sponsored by another brewer (Budweiser) were not too happy.
Hero with Bad Publicity: Dunga, Brazil's World Cup winning captain in 1994 and manager in 2010, has few fans in Brazil for the style of football he won with as a player and played with as a manager. His bad relation with the press hasn't helped, and following Brazil's shock exit in the quarter-finals, he has been sacked as team manager.
Heroic BSOD: Ronaldo suffered a convulsion before the 1998 finals. This really affected Brazil's team, who then lost 3-0 to France. (He redeemed himself by scoring both goals in the 2002 final win over Germany.)
Heroic Rematch: Four years later we meet again... West Germany and Argentina in the 1986 and 1990 finals being the best example. Germany also defeated Argentina in two straight quarterfinals (Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010, the latter by 4-0.)
Another good example: West Germany against England in 1966 and 1970. In the final in 1966, England won 4-2, but in the quarter-finals in 1970, West Germany came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in extra time.
Sticking with West Germany, they met Yugoslavia in the quarter-finals in three consecutive World Cups: 1954 (2-0 to the Germans), 1958 (1-0 to the Germans), and 1962 (1-0 to Yugoslavia).
The final of the 2011 Women's World Cup provided half an example. Japan defeated the United States in the Cup final, and which two teams played in the final of the women's tournament at the Olympics one year later? Japan and the United States. This time, the United States won.
For "resurrections" as players, Ronaldo in 2002 (after the Heroic BSOD in 1998 and suffering with injuries in-between the 1998 and 2002 tournament) and Paolo Rossi in 1982, both with the title and the Golden Boot.
History Repeats: Some teams face each other very often. The record is 7 times, for Brazil vs. Sweden (which includes the 1958 final... and Sweden have never won: 3 draws and 4 defeats) and Germany vs. Serbia/Yugoslavia (German 4, one draw, plus one victory for each Yugoslavia and Serbia)
Home Field Advantage: The host usually overperforms (Sweden's only final, Chile and South Korea's only semifinals, Mexico's only quarterfinal and Switzerland's last...), at times even winning (all champions but Brazil and Spain have done so; in fact, France and England's only titles were at home). The only true Epic Fail by a home team was South Africa in 2010, becoming the first to not even pass to Round 2 - though achieving their first victory.
Idiot Ball: Wayne Rooney moaning about the fans after an awful performance for England against Algeria. Eloquently rebuffed in this article.
Instant-Win Condition: Golden Goal in 1998 and 2002 allowed Laurent Blanc (France v Paraguay '98), Henri Camara (Senegal vs Sweden '02), Ahn Jun-Hwang (S Korea vs Italy '02) and Ilhan Mansiz (Turkey vs Senegal '02) to end the game, no questions asked.
Interrupting Meme: The vuvuzelas are BRRRRRRRZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Last Five Minutes Superpower: As the entry in Who Needs Extra Time shows, a few teams only get the strength to win when extra time or penalties seem inevitable.
Long Runner: Sepp Herberger (he of the Xanatos Gambit below) was appointed Germany assistant coach in 1932. He became Germany's coach after the coach Otto Nerz failed in the Olympics of 1936. He was first manager of Germany in 1938, but political pressure from Those Wacky Nazis forced 6 Austrians into his team and Germany lost (in the only case of a walk-over victory in the World Cup's history: Austria was scheduled to play Sweden, but due to them being annexed by Nazi Germany, they withdrew). Despite some turbulence involving Germany, Herberger was reappointed manager (of West Germany) for their return to internationals after the 1950 World Cup, and he guided them to victory in 1954. He remained manager until 1964. This meant he had been part of the German World Cup set-up for 5 World Cups, the first 28 years after the last.
Herberger's sucessor Helmut Schön also qualifies, coaching for four World Cups (1966-1978). Germany used to keep managers for long periods (before the 2000s "one coach per Cup", six coaches in 14 tournaments)
Loophole Abuse: The whole "interfering with play" part of the offside law has been recently much abused by attackers.
Loser Leaves Town: After the group stages for sure, Brazil vs Turkey in 2002 was a second match between the sides in the same tournament...
The final of 1962 (Brazil vs. Czechoslovakia) and a semifinal in 1982 (Italy vs. Poland) were also repeats with bigger value.
Men Buy from Mars, Women Buy from Venus: Ad breaks tend to involve commercials aimed at men during the World Cup, even though there is a high number of women watching. Indeed the Trope Namer Mars have made themselves the Official Chocolate Supplier to the England Team!
Misblamed / The Scapegoat: Sometimes one player becomes "responsible" for the whole team's failure. In Brazil, there's Barbosa (the goalkeeper in 1950), Toninho Cerezo (who led to Italy's second goal in 1982), Zico (who lost a penalty in 1986) and Roberto Carlos (who let Thierry Henry score the goal which led to their elimination in 2006).
David Beckham getting sent off against Argentina in 1998. England would lose the game on penalties; headlines the next day famously said "10 heroic lions, one stupid boy."
Brazil also subverted this in 2010 with Felipe Melo - sure, he scored an assist against the Netherlands. But in that same game he scored an own goal *
although FIFA later changed the attribution to Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands
and got expelled after stomping a Dutch player on the ground (final score: 2-1 to the Dutch), Brazil managed their best performance (3-0 against Chile in the second round) without him, and overall he played horriblyandviolently. That's one player who deserved to be blamed.
In a strange case after Spain's defeat to Switzerland in 2010, the British press said that Spanish people were somehow putting the blame on the goalkeeper's girlfriend (no one could prove it). Then they were champions, she◊ was "absolved", and it was literallySealed with a Kiss. The British press themselves claimed they were being Mis-blamed on wither THEY were the ones blaming Sara Carbonero. They were just saying the Spaniards were blaming her, as properly noted above. All while in reality no Spaniard, in the press or the internet (except perhaps that lost Youtube comment among millions) blamed Carbonero for it. Which means the British press was misblaming a misblaming from the get go. Plus, the fact they published a similar story but with Robert Green and his ex-girlriend some days before doesn't speak the less in their favour. invoked
Blamed for Argentina's loss against Germany in 2006: Cambiasso. The guy who kicked (and missed) the last penalty. Poor guy had nothing to do with his teammates' failures.
After the 2010 final, the Dutch Media attempted to blame referee Howard Webb for their loss as he missed a corner decision for the Netherlands prior to the Spanish goal and even claimed he favoured Spain in general. However it's widely considered Webb, who was probably too lenient on the Dutch, could (and according to Netherlands legend Cruyff should) have sent two Dutch players off before it was even half-time, given the Dutch's main strategy had largely consisted of kicking lumps out of Spanish players. In particular Nigel de Jong's infamous 28th minute mid-air"tackle" on Alonso's chest somehow avoided a straight red. Spain were likely the best passing team in the world and being a single man down to them with so long to go in the match would have likely all but ended their chances.
Music At Sporting Events: Every match is preceded by the playing of both teams' national anthems. Much national pride ensues, especially when the fan contingent from one country is large enough and sings along loud enough to be heard on television.
Never Accepted In His Hometown: So you've moved abroad and become a hero, winning bucketloads for your club. Sometimes no-one knows that at home. Previously German-based English midfielder Owen Hargreaves was this until he broke into the side during the 2006 tournament.
The same could be said of Garrincha in 1962 (mainly because Pelé sustained an injury in the second match and didn't play for the rest of the tournament) and Romário in 1994. But, for what can be seen in Brazilian press, the other players didn't feel dejected in the least.
Older and Wiser: Ex-players return as coaches. 2 ex-players have coached the World Cup winners; Mario Zagallo of Brazil (1958-62 player, 1970 coach) and Franz Beckenbauer of West Germany (1974 player, 1990 coach).
Opposing Sports Team: The United States, whom everyone loves to thump on even though they are a mid-level team at best.
This is probably because soccer/football is one of the few sports that the rest of the world are clearly miles better than the U.S., primarily because it is their primary sport. Even in other countries where they have other sports that are more popular (rugby in Australia, hockey in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, possibly Russia, baseball in Japan), soccer is a solid no. 2 or 3 sport... not in America, where it's probably the 5th sport at best. The very best athletes in other countries end up playing soccer; here, they end up playing basketball, football, and baseball. Combine that with traditional American disdain for soccer/football, and you wind up with the rest of the world looking down their collective noses at us for not "getting" the de facto official world sport. Though we're beginning to close the gap. However, this is completely averted on the women's side of the sport, as the United States has won two Women's World Cups and is a perennial favorite to win it all.
Politically Correct History: 2010 - Spain's first World Cup semi-final. Technically true, but the implication was that Spain had achieved their best result at a World Cup before beating Germany. Spain finished fourth in the 1950 World Cup where no semi-finals were held - instead, a final group stage with the group winners was held.
Psychic Powers: Paul the Octopus, who predicted correctly the winner of every match that involved Germany in South Africa 2010, and the winner of the final. Sadly, he passed away after the World Cup, but a shrine was built on his memory on the Oberhousen Sea Life Centre in Germany.
Pyrrhic Victory: In South Africa 2010 Luis Suarez committed an intentional (and blatant) handball on the goal line in the dying moments of extra-time against Ghana to prevent them winning the match. It worked despite the penalty awarded, but the red card he received kept him out of his dream encounter with the Netherlands and his absence was likely a factor in Uruguay's subsequent loss.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The same US team that defeated England 1-0 in 1950 qualify as this (with the goal scored by a Haitian dishwasher no less! No, really.)
Role Ending Misdemeanor: Due to the players being Slave to PR, you might lose your place after doing something wrong before the Cup (Brazil has at least two cases: in 1986, the striker Renato Gaúcho was cut after escaping from the training facility; and striker Adriano wasn't called in 2010 because of bad behavior - going out with drug dealers, organizing bizarre orgies), or even during it (in 1994, Stefan Effenberg was dropped off the German team after Flipping the Bird to the booing audience).
Who loved Argentina? Neither Brazil (rival whom they eliminated in the round of 16) nor Italy (home team which they eliminated in the semifinals - the audience even booed Argentina's anthem, despite them playing in Naples, where Maradona was a big idol at the time)!
Averted for the Dutch in 1974/8.
And Hungary in 1954.
And West Germany in 1966. The team that lost an epic final decided in extra time by an endlessly discussed goal is remembered in Germany much more intensely and fondly than e. g. the Cup-winning 1990 squad. To say nothing of the legendary status of the 1970 team, who came third. Say "game of the century" (Jahrhundertspiel) in the presence of German fans and they'll know you're referring to the heart-stopping semifinal against Italy (3-4 after extra time).
Other third-placed teams that are very fondly remembered even outside the countries concerned: Portugal in 1966 and Poland in 1974 (referred to by a German sports journalist as Weltmeister der Herzen (world champions of the hearts).
This trope was certainly invoked by German keeper Oliver Kahn in 2002. Until the final match, he had only conceded one goal, but this loss in particular sent his career plummeting (that's what he said at the time anyway; he kept up his regularity as first-pick keeper for Bayern Munich, which allowed him to keep his place in the national team, though he'd become a substitute for Jens Lehmann in 2006).
And the football-based toy officially called table football is called "foosball" in English, while Germans usually refer to it as a "Kicker".
Serious Business: Andrés Escobar was tragically shot dead on returning home to Colombia in 1994 after scoring an own goal in his team's last game against the United States in Pasadena.
Some have suggested it was a hit orchestrated by drug lords who lost millions betting on the game. Serious Business indeed...
ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series devotes one of its few feature-length episodes to Escobar and advances the theory that it was in fact the drug lords...who had, under the direction of the "supreme drug lord" Pablo Escobar (no relation), funded the Colombian national side. Furthermore, Pablo Escobar loved the national team, and it's highly likely that had he not been killed in a gun battle with the Colombian police two years earlier, Andres Escobar would not have been killed, because Pablo wouldn't have let anyone harm a hair on a national team player's head.
The incumbent Labour Party are thought to have lost the 1970 British general election (when the polling had suggested a victory) purely because England crashed out of the World Cup a few days before.
Shirtless Scene: Players have felt the need for these before, now banned by FIFA (the rules do state that taking off your shirt awards you a yellow card). As Winston Reid of New Zealand proved in 2010, that hasn't killed them. The rules allow for the shirt trading after the game, however.
Brandi Chastain's shirtless scene after the US's 1999 Women's World Cup win is one of the most famous images associated with the women's side of the sport.
Signature Style: Arjen Robben gets the ball on the right wing. Bet he jinks inside the defenders and shoots at goal with his left foot.
Slave to PR: Many of the players are this, since good PR is more likely to keep your place in the team than good performances (especially where the press are of the rabid variety.)
Small Reference Pools: Any football pundit will have these. Name a Dutch player of the 70s. Johan Cruyff A Brazilian from the 1970 team? Pelé An Argentine number 10 who scored the winner in the World Cup final? If you said Maradona, you're wrong. Mario Kempes, 1978.
Special Guest: In 2006, ITV brought in cricket legend Shane Warne to be an analyst for an Australia football game. Less egregious was their use of South Africa rugby union World Cup winner François Pienaar talking about the nation at the 2010 Opening Ceremony/Match.
Also in 2006, ESPN dropped in veteran baseball announcer Dave O'Brien as the lead announcer for the tournament, selecting him over long-time soccer announcer JP Dellacamera. O'Brien was not only terrible, he was hostile about being terrible. Fortunately, ESPN learned from this, and avoided the mistake for the 2010 World Cup by hiring a flotilla of British soccer announcers and international analysts.
Stay in the Kitchen: Some nations outright banned women's soccer for decades (Brazil and West Germany are two notable examples) which left them at a decided disadvantage when the Women's World Cup began play. Fortunately, both countries have warmed to their women's teams, and while they still aren't as prestigious as their male counterparts, Brazil is a perennial World Cup contender whose star player Marta has been named the world player of the year five times and Germany won two consecutive World Cups. The attitude still exists in some places, though: as noted during the women's tournament at the 2012 Olympics, Japan's women's team (which is at the time of this writing the defending World Cup champion and fell just short of beating the United States for gold at the Olympics) is forced to fly coach while their men's team, which has not won an equivalent title, gets to fly first class.
Suicidal Overconfidence: Ghana attacking Brazil in 2006 qualifies as this. Brazil just picked them off on the break!
Also, the Netherlands didn't bother to send someone to the game which would provide their adversary in the finals (Poland vs. West Germany) after the assistant coach assigned to observe it could not make it (he was sent home after throwing a bottle out of his hotel room and almost hitting players). Given how despite the Dutch starting ahead of the score the German tactics were effective enough for a title...
Tempting Fate: Maradona saying "The Germans only know how to run [...] We play football" before the quarter-finals in 2010. Cue Germany curbstomping Argentina 4-0 in that match.
26 years earlier, Brazilian coach Zagallo said "We're gonna make juice out of the Clockwork Orange!" Needless to say, the Netherlands won 2-0 and got their place in the final.
Theatrics Of Pain: Increasingly professional footballers, despite being healthy adult men, cannot come into contact with, run past or even go near an opposition player without falling and writhing dramatically on the ground. (see also: World of Ham) As Robin Williams put it:
"OH SHIT! I'VE BEEN KILLED! I'VE BEEN BLINDED! I— ...there's no one near me, huh? Okay, I'm just kidding..."
Throwing The Fight: there are several occasions where the only possible explanation for the result is the teams conspiring to play for a mutually beneficial result, or, more rarely, a team throwing a match for an easier draw in the knockout stages.
The West German side lost 8-3 to the Hungarians in the Group Stage of the 1954 World Cup, which ensured that the Germans would go through the runners-up bracket. The Germans faced the Hungarians again in the final, and walked away with a 3-2 victory.
Actually it was a bit more complicated, see Xanatos Gambit.
West Germany would do it again in 1974, deliberately losing to East Germany (yep) in order to not fall into a group with the Netherlands, Brazil, and Argentina. Instead, by losing and qualifying second, they met their familiar punching bags Yugoslavia, Sweden, and Poland.
West German coach Helmut Schön, who had fled from East Germany, was determined to win that game and was heartbroken when his team lost. Also please don't underestimate the group - up until then (West) Germany always had a hard time against Sweden (e. g. losing to them in the 1958 half-final and coming very close to not even to qualify for the 1966 World Cup against them), Yugoslavia had thrown West Germany out of the Cup in 1962, and Poland simply was one of the best teams of 1974, who were unlucky to lose against West Germany on a waterlogged pitch and went on to defeat Brazil in the game for 3rd place.
In the 1978 World Cup, thanks to creative rescheduling of the Brazil-Poland game, Argentina knew that it had to win by four clear goals against Peru to overtake Brazil on goal difference and reach the final. Argentina won 6-0 against a Peruvian team, many players of which did not even seem to want to put up a pretense of resistance (and whose goalkeeper, Ramón Quiroga, was a naturalized Peruvian born in Rosario, Argentina, to boot). According to Argentinian and British investigative journalists, the game was fixed at government level, Peru receiving 35,000 tonnes of grain, the unfreezing of a 50 million dollar credit as well as arms in return for throwing the game.
In the 1982 World Cup, the Austrians threw a match with the West Germans 1-0 to ensure both teams qualified for the second round (as Algeria had already played Chile, they knew the result they needed). The Spanish crowd at the stadium booed vigourously, and German supporters burned their flags. After what was nothing short of a farce, FIFA changed the rules for Euro 1984 and Mexico '86 to ensure the final matches of the each group kicked off at the same time.
The game is today known in Germany as the Disgrace of Gijon. The players literally stood on the pitch motionless and passed the ball to each other for the whole game, after West Germany scored the 1-0 lead in the 11th minute of play.
Situations still arise where, after two-games, the remaining game pits the first- and second-placed teams against each other, and they need only a draw to progress. Whatever happens is a matter of ethics; see below for two examples from 2010:
Averted in Group A, Uruguay and Mexico needed to play for a draw to eliminate France and South Africa. Uruguay expressly didn't, won 1-0, and Mexico qualified on goal difference.
Though it's unknown if it's more "convenience" or "we're free to play badly": In Group G, Portugal and Brazil technically needed a draw to eliminate the Ivory Coast (Portugal had a 8-goal advantage over the Ivory Coast, but were still in danger of being knocked out). The game was pretty much a 90-minute kickabout*
The last time the sides played, two years previous, Brazil beat Portugal 6-2
complete with the boos at the end despite both sides qualifying.
To Absent Friends: The Zambia team were killed in a plane crash on their way to a qualifying tie for 1994. Their bodies were flown back by military aeroplane amid much mourning. The President of Zambia neglected to mention his government had denied them the right to use the safe military aeroplane in life...
Token Black: Going as early as Jean Tigana, born in Mali, who played for France in both 1980s tournaments, some European teams have naturalized players who become this (Nigerian Emmanuel Olisadebe played for Poland in 2002, Brazilian Marcos Senna played for Spain in 2006, Germany had the Ghana-born Gerald Asamoah in two Cups and the Ghanese-descendant Jerome Boateng in another, and Switzerland had two African players - Congolese Blaise Nkufo and Cape Verde-born Gelson Fernandes - in 2010).
It also happens that there are players who were born in that country, but their ancestry is notably from another one. Case in point is Martin Dahlin, who played for Sweden in 1994 and is Swedish, except his father is Venezuelan from African descent
Token White: Matthew Booth was the only white person in a South Africa team in 2010 representing an overwhelmingly black squad.
Also Chris Birchall for Trinidad and Tobago in 2006
Too Many Cooks Spoil The Soup: Arguably the star-studded midfield of Brazil in 1982 and the wonderful attack of Argentina in 2010, not a lot of defending was considered.
Trade Snark: Every official outlet dubs the event the "FIFA World Cup 2010 South Africa™". FIFA has become aggressive at enforcing World Cup™ related trademarks and rights. In 2006, a Dutch brewery got in trouble for having fans wear "leeuwenhose" (orange colored overalls with a lion's tail and their logo on it, distributed with their beer before the tournament) to a Dutch game, considering it an ambush marketing that could confuse people into thinking they were an official sponsor. They pulled the same stunt in 2010, but this time with orange miniskirts that were modeled by the wife of a Dutch player in advertisements.
In 2010, discount airline Kulula was forced to pull an advertisement that was "infringing" FIFA's trademarks; it contained soccer and South African imagery (yes, even Vuvuzelas), and had described themselves as "The Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What", and all but lampshading that they were not an official sponsor. After FIFA complained, they introduced a new ad further lampshading the incident with the new tagline: "Not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between"
The North Koreans' training is rumoured to be this.
Before the 2002 Japan/South Korea World Cup, Guus Hiddink, Korea's manager at the time, supposedly gathered the team together some weeks before the tournament and put them in a military boot camp. This helped to build stamina and seemed to bring the team together, as the South Koreans showed great energy and willing effort in their matches along with appearing to be a very together group of players.
Turn Coat: Actually banned now (in the sense that, if you've already played for one national team before, you are uneligible for another even if you naturalize), but in 1930-34 Luis Monti played for both Argentina and then Italy in consecutive World Cup Finals. José "Mazzola" Altafini won the 1958 Cup with Brazil and played in 1962 for Italy. Spain's 1962 World Cup squad included Ferenc Puskas (yes, the biggest star of the '54 Hungarian team) and Alfredo di Stefano who'd represented both Argentina and Colombia (but never played for any of them in the finals).
Played totally straight in this case: Ernst Willimowski was born a German in Upper Silesia in 1916, but his home town of Kattowitz/Katowice became Polish after World War I and thus he played in the Polish football league when he became old enough. A prolific striker, he soon became an international and played in the Polish national squad, scoring 21 goals in 22 games. His finest hour was in the 1938 World Cup where in the knock-out phase Poland went out against Brazil 5-6 after extra time. Willimowski here became the first player to score four goals in one World Cup match. When Nazi Germany overran Poland in 1939, Willimowski decided to become German again and played for his new/old country in 8 matches, scoring 13 goals. The Poles of course never foregave him for this, and not only was he forced to stay in East, then West Germany after 1945, but for many years Willimowski's name was erased from official statistics, as if his goals had been scored by someone else.
Subverted in cases in which some people only played for more than one national team because their previous country ceased to exist, as was the case with many Eastern-European players in the 90s. An example is Dejan Stankoviæ, who played for Yugoslavia - or what was left of it - in 1998, then after his country collapsed for good and divided into Serbia and Montenegro, just before the 2006 tournament (which is why they played as a still unified team) he played for Serbia and Montenegro, and now in 2010, with the split said and done, he's representing just Serbia.
Another notable example is Robert Prosinecki, he scored for both Yugoslavia (one goal) and Croatia (two goals) in the World Cup. As of 2010, he is the only player so far who has scored for two different countries in the World Cup finals. (Excluding own goals, of course)
The Netherlands is involved in a few notable examples:
The 1974 The Brazil-Netherlands match is legendary for being a disappointment due to the violent play. One journalist in the Netherlands found himself blackballed during the WC in 1974 for commenting on the roughness of the Dutch team.
The "Battle of Nuremberg" in Germany 2006 is the record-holder of red/yellow (4 red, 16 yellow) cards in the World Cup. Portugal would eventually win 1-0.
The second instance being in the final of South Africa 2010 with Spain, an image from which has the dubious honour of illustrating the Unnecessary Roughness page (something the responsible later admitted he should have been expelled for). It currently holds the record for cards given during a World Cup Final (13 yellow, 1 red). Neutrals pointed out that the Netherlands would have been fortunate to have 10 men on the pitch come half time, never mind the 11 they actually left with at the interval. Dutch footballing legend Johan Cruyff not only later slammed the Netherlands for their dirty tactics calling them "vulgar" and "anti-football" but also slammed the referee for not sending off two Dutch players in the first half alone.
We Used To Be Friends: In the modern World Cup, opponents who are team-mates in club football appear in opposition. Ronaldo and Rooney in 2006 would be a good example. Also the Boateng brothers, who faced each other in 2010 in Group D on the German and Ghanaian teams (apparently they're half-brothers and not that close IRL).
We Win Because You Didn't: A draw for a poor team against a good team feels like a win for them! And a loss for the good team!
Case in point: England's run in 2010. A draw against USA was treated as a humiliating loss for England and a soaring victory for the USA. A boring 0-0 against Algeria caused the England fans to boo the players at the end of the match.
The New Zealand team from the same year drew all their games and did not advance from the group stage but were (controversially) named the Westpac Halberg team of the year in their country.
Wearing a Flag on Your Head: The USA team in 1994 had both a "stars" uniform (all blue with the white stars decorating it) and a "stripes" uniform (red and white vertical stripes, with blue shorts).
The current USA kit has a subtler version of the same theme: red and white horizontal stripes. Yes, there are thirteen of them.
What Could Have Been: German fans have not forgotten 1966 and you can be certain that the English won't forget 1986 or 2010. The English still hate Maradona for this, and the Scots (Anyone but England coming into play) love him.
2010 US vs Algeria: 91st minute goal by Landon Donovan allows US to progress to round of 16.
Rather infamously subverted in a first round group match between Brazil and Sweden in Mar del Plata in 1978. With the score at 1-1, Brazil won a corner in the final seconds of injury time in the second half. Edinho took the corner, and Zico headed the ball into the back of the net... however, between those two events, Welsh referee Clive Thomas blew for full time, and the goal was disallowed. The Brazilian players were understandably upset and tried unsuccessfully to protest the decision. (It was not the only controversial decision Thomas made in a major tournament in his career, but it was perhaps the most high profile.)
In a case of What Could Have Been, had the goal been given, they would have topped the group and gone on to one of the greatest Groups of Death in the history of the tournament - Brazil, Italy, West Germany, and the Netherlands. Instead Austria topped the group and Brazil (who later drew 0-0 with Spain and beat Austria 1-0) ended up in a group with Argentina, Peru, and Poland.
Just in Time: Considering actual extra time (in that case, Who Needs Penalties?): in 1990's round of 16, England scored over Belgium at the 119th minute; a record for 16 years - then in the 2006 semifinals, Italy scored twice, 119' and 121' over Germany. To say nothing of the US women in 2011 scoring in 122' (the latest goal in World Cup history) to equalize against Brazil.
Xanatos Gambit: West Germany lost 8-3 to Hungary in 1954, which put them in the "group runners-up" half of the draw, allowing them an easier route to the final than the Hungarians who had to fight past Brazil (literally, in the "Battle of Bern") and then defeat Uruguay. Furthermore, German coach Sepp Herberger had predicted that if his team made the finals, their most likely opponents would be Hungary. Therefore, he played his reserves in the aforementioned 8-3 loss, withholding from the Hungarians firsthand knowledge of his strongest team. Armed with more rested bodies and better knowledge of the opposition, the Germans defeated them in the final.
Under the controversial and decidedly oddball rules of the 1954 World Cup cumulative goal differences were not taken into account, in the event of the second and third of a group being equal on points, a deciding game for second place became necessary. West Germany was equal on points with Turkey, so Herberger sensibly decided to rest some of his best players for the additional game with Turkey rather than seriously attempt to defeat the Mighty Magyars (in the event of a defeat his best players might not have been able to defeat the Turks in the decider). Also because of the rules of the competition, it was not really possible to foresee whom each team would come up against, because in the event of two teams being equal on points for first and second place, lots were cast. It was unforeseeable bad luck of the draw that determined that Hungary would come up against Brazil (2nd in Group 1 even though it had a better goal difference than Yugoslavia) and Uruguay (2nd in Group 3 even though it had a better goal difference than Austria).
Not each team of every group was scheduled to play each other. Each team played only two matches (the estimated favorites were not to play each other) - so the Hungarians and the Turks never met. If the final games would have been played, most probably West Germany would have come out on top of Turkey after beating them 4-1 in their regular match, Turkey not having played Hungary and West Germany not having played whipping boys South Korea. Actually this was made to prevent favorites from being eliminated, but Turkey was only placed as a favorite since the seeding took place before the qualifications were finished and Turkey happened to eliminate the fancied Spanish team. Oddball indeed.
Some consider the defeat listed under Cold War to also qualify: the defeat made West Germany avoid the Netherlands in Round 2, eventually leading them to face the Clockwork Orange in the finals.