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Trivia: The World Cup
General
  • Fan Nickname: Pretty much every team has one.
    • It's usually referent to the team's colors — with the possibility of a variation.
      • Spain: "La Furia Roja" (the "Red Fury")
      • Chile: "La Roja" ("The Reds")
      • Belgium: "The Red Devils"
      • Italy: "Gli Azzurri" ("The Blues"), or "Squadra Azzurra" ("Blue Team")
      • The Netherlands: "Oranje" ("Orange") or "Clockwork Orange" (mostly used by Anglophone fans of the Dutch team; "La Naranja Mecanica" is also appropriately used by the Spanish-speaking fans)
      • France: "Les Bleus" ("The Blues")
      • Mexico: "El Tri" ("The Tri", from tricolor); many countries use the "tricolor" to refer to their national teams, but "El Tri" is exclusive of the Mexicans.
    • Some have more creative or affectionate nicknames.
      • 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)
      • South Africa: The "Bafana-bafana" ("the Boys").
      • Algeria: "The Desert Foxes"
      • Brazil: "O Canarinho" ("The Little Canary" - for their yellow jersey); they are also referred to as "Los Cariocas" in Spanish speaking countries, which is a misnomer, since "Carioca" refers exclusively to Rio De Janeiro.
      • Peru: "Los Incas" (The Incas - for the ancient Pre-Columbian empire)
      • Mexico: the team is also referred to as "Los Aztecas" ("The Aztecs" from the ancient Pre-Columbian empire)
      • Chile: also referred to as "Los Australes" (literally "The Australs", meaning "the southernmost")
    • A subversion is Colombia, who are referred to as "Cafeteros" ("Coffee Makers" of literally "Coffeers") by basically everyone except their fans (who actually use it, but really sparsely). There is not a formal domestic, universal or unique nickname for the Colombian team as it is referred to as "La Seleccion" as many other countries (not that they mind being called "Cafeteros" anyway).
    • Costa Rica: "Los Ticos" (native term for Costa Ricans)
  • The Red Stapler: After a long history of not caring about (association) football, the sport has finally started to become popular in mainstream US media thanks to their team's excellent performance in 2014.
  • 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, Welsh, and Irish (Anyone but England coming into play) love him.
    • Obviously there's a lot of What Could Have Been involving match results, referee decisions, balls hitting the post, penalties awarded, etc., but a notorious case on an individual level is that of Germany in 2002. Had they won the final, they would've equalled Brazil both in terms of championships and in terms of finals won and lost. Oliver Khan, moreover, would've become the first footballer ever to be goalkeeper of the tournament and player of the tournament and captain of the winning team. The team lost, largely because of two mistakes he made, but he still managed to be elected goalkeeper and player of the tournament and, as of 2013, remains the only person ever to do so in a World Cup.
    • The Colombian team had entered the 1994 World Cup in a high note with the same squad that competed in 1990, which was fundamentally based on the coach's former local club (Atletico Nacional) that successfully won the 1989 Copa Libertadores. The Colombians had defeated Argentina 0-5 in Buenos Aires and it seemed for a while that they were unstoppable. Pundits in Colombia were giving the team as a serious contender for reaching the finals, dubbing it the Golden Era of Colombian Football. As the former players and coach argue, the team rapidly fizzled out and collapsed disastrously because of the tampering of third parties who posed threats in Colombia against their families, destabilizing the morale of the team [1]. To this day, the best Colombian team in history to that day was effectively spayed and neutered by the actions of a few outlaws, reaching its lowest note with the assassination of defender Andres Escobar.
    • Crossing with Negated Moment of Awesome, many great players never played the World Cup for various reasons (World War II cancelling the cups that could happen in The Forties, being cut\injured just before the Cup, or not qualifying at all).

1930
  • The first World Cup was held in 1930 in three stadia of Montevideo, Uruguay: Pocitos, Gran Parque Central and Centenario (where the final was played). This was the only tournament where all matches were held in only one city.
  • The idea had been thought up by the French in FIFA, led by Jules Rimet. Henri Delauney's European Championship, which he considered a logical first step, had to wait until 1960.
  • Uruguay were Olympic Champions twice in succession and were desperate to prove that they were world beaters. They were awarded hosting rights after paying all expenses of all teams.
  • Only 13 teams entered, with 4 of them from Europe. Rimet pestered France to attend, and Romania appeared with the blessing of, and managed by, their King!
    • The other two European teams to attend were Belgium and Yugoslavia (which finished fourth). The rest of the teams were all from the Americas: Aside from the aforementioned finalists, there were also Bolivia, Brazil (which would go on to attend every single one of the subsequent tournaments, the only team to do so), Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and USA (which finished third, in a time there was not much bias towards (American) football or basketball from college athletes - though neither soccer nor any of these sports was as popular as baseball back then).
  • The first match was France 4-1 Mexico. The first goal was scored by Lucien Laurent of France, at the 19-minute mark.
  • The match between Romania and Peru is noteworthy due to: having the lowest attendance of all time (only 300 spectators) and the first expulsion, when Peru's Plácido Galindo pushed the referee.
  • There was no third place match, since Yugoslavia left the competition after losing in the semi-finals against Uruguay. They felt they were victims of the refereeing. The US unofficially got the third place due to the goal difference criteria.
  • Although disputed for many years, it's been concluded that the first hat-trick was scored by the US player Bert Patenaude (against Paraguay).
  • The first final was between Uruguay and Argentina, and a dispute was raised about the ball. Eventually, the first half was played with an Argentinian ball and the second half with a Uruguayan ball. The hosts trailed 2-1 at half time and won 4-2.
  • It was the only World Cup that didn't have any draws in the matches.

1934
  • 1934 was the first World Cup to be held in more than one city (eight specifically), in Italy.
  • There was no group stage for the first time, but there was a qualifying tournament.
  • 32 countries expressed interest to compete, but the format only allowed for 16; hence, the qualifiers were instituted.
  • This was the tournament with less matches played: 17 (counting one playoff match).
  • Lowest overall (358K) and average attendances (about 21K).
  • This was the first tournament for which a team from outside Europe or the Americas qualified, and an African one at that: Egypt.
  • The original World Cup poster depicted an Italian player doing the Fascist salute; however, FIFA's apolitical stance did not allow it to be published, and so the organizers had to replace it with a more neutral one.
  • All eight quarter-finalists were from Europe: Italy, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and Hungary.
    • Notably, none of them were in the previous tournament. Other than them and Egypt, the only other country to debut in this tournament were The Netherlands.
  • Italy and Spain played out the first World Cup draw in the quarter-finals in Florence, with the hosts winning in a replay the next day.
  • The final went to extra-time for the first time, with Italy beating Czechoslovakia 2-1.
  • After Uruguay's withdrawal, this was the only World Cup where the holders did not compete.
  • Throughout the 1930s, the British nations withdrew from FIFA, and had a rather condescending attitude to the rest of the World.

1938
  • Whilst England were off becoming World Champions, the third World Cup was held in France.
  • It was the first tournament where an Asian team participated: the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia).
    • Along with them, Norway, Poland and Cuba also debuted in this edition of the tournament.
  • Sweden received the World Cup's only ever walkover after Austria's Critical Existence Failure ensured their game in Lyon was cancelled.
  • Some Austrian players appeared in Those Wacky Nazis own team. It was Germany's worst ever World Cup performance, losing in the first round to Switzerland.
  • During the Brazil v Poland match in the first round, it is said that Brazilian striker Leonidas da Silva scored a goal with a bare foot (his team's fifth goal, on extra time), but it was never confirmed. This is because, during half time, it rained heavily in Strasbourg, and the stadium's pitch was so awful, it became completely muddy. And, since Brazil was playing with black socks, the referee did not notice when Leonidas lost one of his boots in the mud and shot the ball to the back of the net with his boot-less foot (as per soccer rules, players are forbidden from playing with incomplete kits).
  • When Italy beat France in Paris, they wore Fascist Black For the Evulz.
  • Italy defeated Hungary 4-2 in the final in Paris. They would keep the trophy throughout WW2.

World War II
  • The trophy was kept in a shoebox by the president of the Italian Football Federation, Ottorino Barassi, for the duration of the war. He did this so Mussolini would not use the trophy for his war efforts.
  • Germany or Brazil would have hosted the Cup.
  • The War gave the British nations a chance to return to the FIFA-fold, and they'd enter in 1950.

1950
  • No European nation wanted to divert resources from other fronts, hence Brazil was the only bidder.
  • After withdrawals, and subsequent withdrawals of the replacements of the withdrawals, only 13 teams entered.
  • With India, Scotland and Turkey (and subsequently France, who had been invited to replace the latter) withdrawing, only England debuted in this edition.
  • Since two of the withdrawing teams (Scotland & Turkey) were drawn in Group 4, Uruguay had only one game vs Bolivia. They won 8-0.
  • The tournament included the biggest shock in World Cup history, as the part-timers of the USA defeated giants England.
  • The tournament ended in a final group stage rather than a final. with Brazil, Sweden, Spain and Uruguay playing-off.
    • The last game of the final group stage acted as the final, however, as Spain had to beat Sweden by a large difference (at least 6 goals) and hope Brazil defeated Uruguay in order to clinch the runner-up spot.
  • Uruguay beat hot favourites Brazil in Rio in a game that traumatized Brazilian football so much that the team did not play for two years and changed their kit. To make matters tragically worse, their goalkeeper Moacyr Barbosa fell into ostracism (which was also partly justified by the colour of his skin, since Brazil had not yet grown out of its racist past) after retiring, becoming shunned simply because he conceded the winning goal.

1954
  • The 1954 World Cup was held in six Swiss stadia.
  • Turkey and Scotland finally debuted in this edition, along with South Korea and West Germany.
    • India, on the other hand, never qualified again after letting go of their only chance, four years prior.
  • Bizarrely, the seeds in each group were not required to play each other, and neither were the non-seeds.
  • The tournament had the highest goals-per-game ratio of any World Cup: 5.38, with 140 goals scored in 26 matches.
  • Extra-time was played in group games, but the two games involved finished in draws aet too.
  • Uruguay lost their first ever World Cup match 2-4 to Hungary in the semifinals.
  • The quarter-final in Lausanne (Austria 7-5 Switzerland) is the highest scoring game ever at the World Cup finals.
  • There was a massive shock in the final for the second successive tournament with the Magical Magyars losing 3-2 to underdog West Germany. See also: German Peculiarities, "Das Wunder von Bern".

1958
  • The 1958 World Cup was held in twelve venues in Sweden.
  • Debuting in this tournament were the Soviet Union, Northern Ireland and Wales.
  • The groups were drawn on a geographical basis; with pots of "Western Europe", "Eastern Europe", "Great Britain" and "The Americas".
  • All four British nations qualified for the only time.
  • The Hungary 4-0 Mexico match in Sandviken (June 15, 1958) became the northern-most World Cup match in history. (60 degrees North)
  • The first 0-0 in World Cup history was between Brazil and England in Gothenburg.
  • This was the last tournament where playoff matches would be played, and all of them were held on group stage to decide their group's second-place qualified teamnote : Northern Ireland 2-1 Czechoslovakia, Wales 2-1 Hungary, and USSR 1-0 England.
  • Morocco-born French forward Just Fontaine scored a record 13 goals in his only World Cup.
  • Pelé played a key role in the final, scoring 2 as Brazil (in blue) beat the hosts 5-2. Just 17 at the time, he's the youngest player to win the tournament.

1962
  • The 1962 World Cup was held in Chile in only 4 stadia - in Santiago, Rancagua, Arica and Vina del Mar.
    • There were supposed to be 8 host cities, but Chile was struck by an earthquake in 1960 (and not just any earthquake; it was the Valdivia earthquake, which holds the record for having the largest magnitude to date, at 9.5 points), and so half of the cities (Concepcion, Talca, Talcahuano and Valdivia) pulled out of hosting.
  • Bulgaria and Colombia debuted in this tournament.
  • This was the last tournament without countries from outside Europe or the Americas.
  • Only Santiago held more than 10,000 people, and England vs Bulgaria was held in front of only 5700, and the Yugoslavia vs Czechoslovakia semi was held in front of 5890 spectators in Vina del Mar.
  • Marcos Coll of Colombia scored the only goal direct from a corner kick in World Cup history, in their 4-4 draw with the USSR.
  • Two matches were interrupted by, of all things, wandering dogs that snuck into the stadium. First, in the quarter final match between Brazil and England, wherein the dog weaved past a lot of players (even Garrincha) until Jimmy Greaves picked it up. Then in the Czechoslovakia vs Yugoslavia semifinal, when the dog came and went before anyone picked it up. Coincidentally enough, both matches were in Vina del Mar.
  • The top scorer table was unique in that six players were tied as the top scorers (Brazilians Garrincha and Vavá, Chilean Leonel Sánchez, Yugoslavian Drazan Jerkovic, Hungarian Florian Albert and Soviet Valentin Ivanov), and all of them scored only four goals.
  • Despite the absence of Pelé with injury, Brazil beat Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the final.

1966
  • Before the tournament, the trophy was stolen. It was recovered from under a bush by Pickles the dog.
  • The tournament was held in 8 stadia in England, none of which had been renovated or newly built.
  • Portugal and North Korea both qualified for the first time.
  • Many African nations boycotted the qualifiers because of the qualifying rule that their three best teams needed to play a final playoff against the winner of the Asian zone, instead of at least one of them being granted qualification for winning their zone. As a result, this was the last tournament without an African team.
  • White City was used for France vs Uruguay, because Wembley refused to cancel its Friday night greyhound racing!
  • North Korea became the first Asian quarter-finalists beating Italy in the group stage (said 1-0 victory being the first from an Asian team in the tournament's history). They lost 5-3 to Portugal (from 3-0 up).
  • The first tournament to have a mascot (the lion Willie).
  • England won the World Cup 4-2 aet in the final against West Germany, the final goal spawning this famous quote:

1970
  • The 1970 World Cup was held in 5 Mexican stadia.
  • El Salvador, Israel and Morocco made their first appearances in this edition.
  • The Mexicans opened the World Cup for a 3rd time (against the USSR). Including 2010, they've never won at an opening game.
  • For the opening ceremony, the Russians sent out their reserves to stand for 30 minutes in the Mexican heat, to protect their starting eleven.
  • Substitutes were allowed for the first time, with #20 Anatoliy Puzach on at half-time in the opener (which ended 0-0) for #15 Viktor Serebryanikov.
    • There was also the first goalkeeper substitution, by Romania, with #21 Stere Adamache being replaced during the first half by #1 Necula Raducanu during their match against Brazil (by which point Romania was already down 2-0; the match ended 3-2 for Brazil).
  • Yellow and red cards were used to indicate cautions and expulsions in an international language for the first time. The first player to receive a yellow card was Soviet Evgeni Lovchev.
    • Interestingly, no red cards were awarded in this tournament. This and 1950 were the two only editions were no players were sent off.
  • Gerd Müller scored consecutive hattricks, and ten goals, for West Germany.
  • Brazil defeated Italy 4-1 in the final, with Jairzinho scoring in all 6 games.
  • The rules said the Jules Rimet Trophy would be permanently given to the first team to win three times. Both teams on the final qualified - but if the game finished tied, even after extra time, it would be solved in a coin toss!note 

1974
  • The first tournament to use the FIFA World Cup Trophy. The final was the only occasion the new trophy and the Jules Rimet cupnote  were seen together.
  • This was the first time a team from Oceania (Australia) qualified; with this, all six continental confederations have had representatives in the final tournament.
  • The tournament was held in 9 stadia in West Germany - one of them in West Berlin, a city geographically in East Germany.
  • The first player to be shown a red card was Carlos Caszely, from Chile, in his team's 1-0 defeat to West Germany.
  • The second round was changed - the first and second placed teams in the group stage were sorted into two groups of four teams. The first of those groups qualified for the final, and the runner-ups, to the third place match.
  • It was the only World Cup disputed by East Germany - and they were in the same group as West Germany, winning their confront 1-0. Which means that after The Great Politics Mess-Up, they have no chance ever to clear this.
  • This was the first tournament in which the final was not played in the host country's capital city (in 1950, Rio de Janeiro was still the capital of Brazil). It would happen again in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014.
  • Again West Germany defeated the perceived favorite in the finals, 2-1 over the Netherlands (nicknamed "Clockwork Orange", who employed the Total Football technique first used by its coach Rinus Michels in Ajax F.C., where all players but the goalkeeper change positions).

1978
  • The tournament was held in 6 stadia in 5 Argentinian cities (the capital, Buenos Aires, was home to two of them: Vélez Sarsfield's stadium José Amalfitani and River Plate's Monumental).
  • This was the first appearance of Iran and Tunisia.
  • Dutch forward Rob Rensenbrink scored the 1000th goal in the tournament's history, in their match against Scotland (which Netherlands lost 3-2).
  • The distances travelled by teams varied drastically - hosts Argentina, with most of its games in Buenos Aires, travelled 618 km (384 miles); runners-up Netherlands, whose matches took place in Mendoza, Córdoba and Buenos Aires, travelled 1358 km (843 mi); but 3rd place Brazil got the short end of the stick, with games in Mar del Plata, Mendoza, Rosarionote  and Buenos Aires, having to travel 4659 km (2894 mi).
  • For the second round, the group format was kept - and Group B aroused controversy: Argentina entered the final match with Peru knowing they needed a 4-0 win to reach the final; they won 6-0. Rumors of bribing to throw the game arised, but were never confirmed.
  • Tunisia became the first African team to win a match with a 2-0 over Mexico.
  • Argentina and the Netherlands reached the second final of each team. The hosts won 3-1 after extra time.

1982
  • The tournament was held in 17 stadia in 14 Spanish cities (Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla each had two stadia in the tournament).
  • The number of teams were expanded from 16 to 24. The format was six groups of 4, followed by four groups of 3 consisting of first and second placed teams; the winners of the Round 2 groups qualified for the semifinals.
  • With the expansion, five nations (all from outside Europe and South America) debuted in the tournament: Algeria, Cameroon, Kuwait, Honduras and New Zealand.
  • One of the impressions left by Kuwait was not exactly their football, but their FA President, Sheikh Fahad al-Sabah, who invaded the pitch after France scored the fourth goal over his team and chased Soviet referee Miroslav Stupar around, demanding him to disallow the goal because his team allegedly stopped playing after hearing a whistle from the crowd (possibly mistaken for the referee's own whistle). Stupar ended up disallowing the goal (though Kuwait still lost 4-1 because France scored another goal later on), and banned by FIFA. As for al-Sabah, he was fined US$ 10,000 and, on an unrelated note, killed when Iraq invaded his country eight years later.
  • El Salvador lost 10-1 to Hungary, the biggest defeat in World Cup history. The country is officially the worst team ever in the tournament - qualified for two World Cups, lost all games (3 in 1970 and 3 in 1982), scored 1 goal and suffered 22.
  • The semifinal West Germany - France was the first match decided on penalty shootouts (Germany won 5-4).
  • Italy had three draws in Round 1, and qualified for Round 2 due to having one goal more than Cameroon. They proceeded to win all the remaining games, including the 3-1 final with West Germany.
  • Italian goalkeeper and captain Dino Zoff is the oldest player to win the World Cup, at the age of 40.

1986
  • Colombia was scheduled to host, but gave up in 1985 due to an economic crisis. Mexico eventually picked up the duties, and became the first country to host two World Cups. It's widely regarded in Colombia that in hindsight their withdrawal, though justifiable, was actually shorthanded and reflected a generally poor decision by the government; Mexico recovered from an even bigger crisis (an enormous earthquake in 1985) and still managed to host the tournament. The tournament itself was a great motivation for their recovery.
  • Twelve stadia were used in the cup (two of them located in the capital, Mexico City), including the five from 1970.
  • Denmark, Canada and Iraq made their first appearances in this edition.
  • The second round was changed to regular knockout round, disputed by the top two teams and the four best third place finishers from the six groups.
  • Morocco became the first African team to qualify for the second round of the competition.
  • In the quarterfinals with England, Argentinian captain Diego Maradona scored both goals, one infamous (The Hand of God, punching the ball) and one famous (The Goal of the Century, passing up 6 English players before kicking).
  • Uruguayan player José Batista was expelled after just 55 seconds in his game with Scotland, after a rough tackle on Gordon Strachan.
  • Portugal's disappointing performance (they finished last in their group) was explained by a certain famous affair. A similar affair occurred in 2002.
  • Argentina won its second title over Germany, 3-2, but Maradona didn't score in the final, instead giving the assist for Jorge Burruchaga's winning goal.
    • Burruchaga also attempted to score a goal with his hand during said final, but he wasn't able to fool the referee.

1990
  • Italy became the second country to host two World Cups, with twelve venues. Just one of the 1934 cities, Trieste, did not host a game - but only four of the stadia (in Milan, Bologna, Florence and Genoa) were the same as in the last Cup in Italy.
  • The Delle Alpi stadium in Torino, built for the tournament, became the host of teams Juventus and Torino F. C.; it received general disapproval for its poor visibility from the stands and was demolished in 2006.
  • Ireland, Costa Rica and the United Arab Emirates debuted in this tournament. This was also the final appearance of USSR, Czechoslovakia and pre-breakup Yugoslavia.
  • Egypt reappeared in the tournament after 56 years, the longest period between a national team's appearances, a record only equalled by Norway in the next tournament.
  • The tournament had the lowest goals-per-game ratio of any World Cup (2.21 - 115 goals in 52 matches), leading to some rule changes, like the back pass rule (wherein the goalkeeper cannot catch the ball in his hands if a teammate passes it to him) and awarding three points per win (so as to prevent teams from playing for draws).
  • Cameroon became the first African team to reach the quarterfinals.
  • Both semifinals ended in penalty shootouts.
  • Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga remained a record 518 minutes without conceding a goal - the only two he suffered were from Argentina in the semifinal, and England in the third place match.
  • In the Argentina vs. URSS game in the first round, Argentinian goalie Nery Alberto Pumpido (the same GK from 1986) broke his leg. This would be the big break for the guy who replaced him (and his understudy at River Plate and the national team), Sergio Javier Goycoechea, who would keep a clean sheet in the 1-0 Second Round victory over Brazil, save penalties in the quarter-final and semi-final penalty shootout victories against Yugoslavia and Italy, and almost save the aforementioned penalty goal by Brehme in the finals.
  • West Germany reached a third straight final, again against Argentina - but this time they won, 1-0, with a penalty goal by Andreas Brehme, five minutes from full time.
  • Franz Beckenbauer, captain of the German team in 1974 and coach of the winning team in 1990, became the second person to win a World Cup as player and manager (after Zagallo, who played for Brazil in 1958 and 1962, and coached the 1970 team; Zagallo was also assistant in the 1994 team).

1994
  • The tournament was held in the United States, in nine venues which usually held NFL or NCAA games. Despite America's apathy towards soccer, the tournament holds the record for highest overall (about 3,58 million) and average attendance (almost 69K) and did help boost the sport's popularity there (it also helped that NFL stadia are usually large).
  • Russia, Greece, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia made their first appearances.
  • This was the only post-war tournament for which none of the British nations qualified.
  • The first World Cup in which three points were given to a win in the group round (the previous ones gave 2).
  • The first indoor World Cup games were played at the Pontiac Silverdome, in Detroit, Michigan.
  • Two players were "punished" for their team's performance: Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell had his house torched, and Colombian defender Andrés Escobar, who scored an own goal in the defeat to the USA, was shot dead after returning home. The brother of one of Escobar's teammates was killed before that game to provide incentive.
  • In the Round of 16 match between Mexico and Bulgaria, during a corner kick play at the Mexican box, Mexican midfielder Marcelino Bernal ran into the back of the net with such force that the crossbar broke up. The match had to be interrupted for about eight minutes so the goalposts could be replaced.
  • Russia 6-1 Cameroon had two records: oldest player to score a goal (Roger Milla of Cameroon was 42) and most goals by a player (5 by Russian striker Oleg Salenko).
    • Salenko's feat helped him become the only player to reach top scorer (tied with Hristo Stoichkov of Bulgaria, 6 goals) after falling in Round 1.
  • The United States became the first host to get eliminated before the quarterfinals - on the 4th of July, even!
    • However, it was the eventual champion (see below) which eliminated the U.S.
  • Like 1970, Brazil and Italy reached the final, with the winner to become the first team to reach a fourth title. In the first final decided in penalty shootouts, Brazil won.

1998
  • The number of teams rose from 24 to 32, which remains to date. The format allowed for knockout rounds without third-placed teams.
  • First appearance of South Africa, Croatia, Jamaica and Japan (interestingly, the latter three were all placed in the same group, with Argentina).
  • Final appearance of Yugoslavia (at least, under the name of Yugoslavia).
  • France hosted the tournament again, with ten venues (four - Parc des Princes in Paris, Toulouse, Marseille and Bordeaux - were used in 1938).
  • Stade Gerland, in Lyon, was used in a World Cup for the first time, despite it having been in the 1938 program (the only match to be held there, Austria v Sweden, was cancelled).
  • The tournament holds the record for overall goals: 171. The record was only equaled by the 2014 edition.
  • Argentinian striker Gabriel Batistuta became the first player to score hattricks in two World Cups (against Greece in 1994, and against Jamaica in 1998).
  • The first tournament in which a coach was fired mid-tournament: Saudi Arabia dismissed Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira after their 4-0 defeat to France.
  • It was the first tournament to use the Golden Goal rule (instant win for the team who scores during extra-time), with France 1-0 Paraguay being the first match to employ it. The rule was short-lived − it was abandoned for the 2006 edition − mostly due to being rather nonsensical.
  • It was the last tournament, since 1978, where the top scorer (Croatia's Davor Suker) scored 6 goals, preceded by Mario Kempes (Argentina, 1978), Paolo Rossi (Italy, 1982), Gary Lineker (England, 1986), Salvatore Schilacci (Italy, 1990), Hristo Stoichkov and Oleg Salenko (Bulgaria and Russia, 1994).
  • In the same day of the final, Brazilian striker Ronaldo suffered a convulsive fit. The incident affected the team enough for them to lose the game 3-0 to France (which had a great team, but the score shows the adversary was hardly trying).

2002
  • South Korea and Japan decided to share their host bids, and were eventually chosen. The shared duties led to a record 20 stadia (10 in each country).
  • Notably, Japan was the only host country whose capital did not host a World Cup game; of the 10 stadia selected there, none was located in Tokyo (unlike Korea, where Seoul received a few matches, including one of the semifinals).
  • Senegal, Slovenia, China and Ecuador debuted in this edition.
  • With two defeats, one draw, and no goals scored, France had the worst performance ever by a defending champion. It is said that this was the reason why FIFA decided to no longer award automatic qualification to the reigning champions.
  • Both hosts had their best performances to date - Japan was 9th, falling in the round of 16 (a feat they repeated in 2010), and South Korea was fourth (the first time an Asian team reached the semifinals), after questionable wins over Italy and Spain.
  • South Korean forward Ahn Jung-Hwan played for Italian team Perugia. After Ahn scored the Golden Goal which eliminated the Azzurri, the team president fired him. After the controversy that followed, the president tried to reverse his decision but, by then, Ahn decided not to return to Perugia anyway.
  • Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic managed China, reaching five consecutive Cups with different teams (Mexico '86, Costa Rica '90, USA '94 and Nigeria '98). It was the first time his team did not qualify for Round 2.
  • Turkey captain Hakan Sukur scored the fastest goal ever at the third place match with South Korea, at 11 seconds.
  • Brazil entered discredited, but won its fifth title with the distinction of winning all seven games.
  • Related to Brazil's performance, Ronaldo saw many months without play after the '98 final due to knee problems (one particularly traumatic). He shut up critics by scoring 8 goals, including both in the 2-0 final with Germany.

2006
  • Germany hosted its second World Cup after a controversial election over South Africa (see Comically Small Bribe). Twelve stadia were used, six of which saw 1974 games (Berlin, Hamburg, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Hannover and Stuttgart; Munich and Gelsenkirchen were venues in both, but with different stadia; only Dusseldorf was left out) and one being in the former East Germany (Leipzig).
  • Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Angola, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Ukraine and the Czech Republic debuted in this tournament. Serbia and Montenegro is a special case, as it is essentially the same as post-breakup Yugoslavia - which was in the 1998 World Cup before, and would last appear here.
  • This tournament holds the record of red cards awarded: 28 in 64 matches.
  • The 2000th goal in the tournament's history was scored by Sweden's Marcus Allback, in his team's 2-2 draw with England.
  • Croatian player Josip Simunic was accidentally shown three yellow cards before being expelled during a game of the group stage.
  • Switzerland became the first team to be eliminated with zero goals conceded, after losing to Ukraine in the penalty shoot-outs during the Round of 16 (where they were also the first team not to score at all in a penalty shoot-out, losing 0-3).
  • Portugal 1-0 Netherlands in the Round of 16 became known as the "Battle of Nuremberg", holding the records for most cards at a single game (16 yellow and 4 red cards - 2 for each team). Noticeably, Luis Figo headbutted the HELL out of a Dutch player and only got a yellow card for it
  • Ronaldo reached his 15th goal in a World Cup and surpassed Gerd Muller's record of 14 that stood since 1974.note 
  • During the semifinal with Germany, Italy opened the score at the 19th minute of overtime, and two minutes later scored the latest goal ever.
  • In the final, Zinedine Zidane of France opened the score, and Marco Materazzi of Italy tied. During overtime, both players had a discussion that led to Zidane headbutting Materazzi in the chest, leading Zidane to be expelled in his final professional match. During the penalty kick-offs, Italy won 5-3.

2010
  • After the confusion in the previous host decision, FIFA decided to start a continental rotation, with 2010 being in Africa - as expected, South Africa won. 10 stadia in 9 cities were used.
  • This tournament saw only two debutants: Serbia and Slovakia.
  • The games were marked by the vuvuzela, a really loud and annoying horn which the African audience played non-stop.
  • South Africa became the first host nation to get eliminated in round 1.
  • Carlos Alberto Parreira became the first coach to reach six World Cups - with five different teams like Bora Milutinovic, as he coached his native Brazil twice, the title of 1994 and later in 2006 (the others were Kuwait in 1982, UAE in 1990, Saudi Arabia in 1998, and South Africa in 2010). South Africa's win over France was his first not coaching Brazil.
  • Both finalists of 2006 fell in Round 1 - France tied one game and lost the other two, and Italy tied two games and lost the last one (though they had a chance to tie with Slovakia in the final minutes).
  • Switzerland kept their "no goals taken" streak up until the second half of their game with Chile.
  • Surprisingly, the only unbeaten side was New Zealand.
  • In the round of 16 match between Argentina and Mexico, the instant replay showed that Tevez's goal was clearly an offside... making FIFA forbid such replays for the rest of the tournament.
  • Spain won their first World Cup in a really violent game with the Netherlands, which became the first team to reach three finals and lose them all. Spain was also the first team to win after losing the first game (0-1 to Switzerland).

2014
  • Brazil hosted the Cup again in 2014. The country went through many problems - such as overpricing and delays - involving the construction/reforms of stadia and related infrastructure (just for starters, São Paulo's best stadium was rejected by the organizing comittee and the one eventually used was still incomplete in January 2014 - complete with damage by a falling construction crane during construction), and many Brazilians were doubtful on how soon things would be done. Six stadia were ready in early 2013 for the Confederations Cup, but Maracanã (in Rio) was especially rushed - even at its inaugural match in the competition, it faced some problems on resource management. Yet the tournament itself went mostly without problems - biggest were a ticket scam and some Football Hooligans-related fights and invasions.
  • In the year leading to the Cup, Brazilians started to rally on the streets against their government. At first, the motivation was the price of over R$ 3 for the bus farenote , but it escalated to encompass other things that are wrong with the country, like the prohibitively high tax charges, the rampant crime, the deplorable situation of public health and education, and last but not least - get this - the fact that the government was giving more priority to the World Cup stadia itself than smaller things like, say, working for the good of the citizens. If you think this last one is petty, then consider that some of the 8 stadia that were being renovated for the tournament generated astronomical expenses (they had been building new stadia on top of the old ones), mostly on public cash, that could be better employed on public services (Maracanã, for example, is stated to have cost over R$ 300 million - more than half of the necessary to build a new onenote  - also, this tournament costed Brazil, overall, about US$ 14 billion, over twice as much as it cost Germany in 2006, and over the triple of what South Africa spent in 2010). Putting all of this together, you may see it was pretty justified the crowd en masse booing President Dilma Rousseff at the 2013 CC opening, and later in the 2014 opening match as well (where Dilma's presence wasn't even announced, but once the patrons found out, they weren't amused). Dilma eventually decided to attend the closing ceremony delivering the trophy, to some of the loudest jeering ever heard in a stadium.
  • While 6 of the 14 host cities were also in 1950, Rio is the only one where the same stadium will be used - though only São Paulo and Recife built brand new venues for 2014.
  • Following the vuvuzela tradition, the caxirola (which consists of a closed cup full of beads similar to maracas) was launched by local musician Carlinhos Brown as the 2014 World Cup official musical instrument. It was eventually forbidden by Brazilian government (along with other instruments), due to a potential use as a weapon - it helps that shape is akin to a grenade with knuckles - after a failed test run in which a lot of Bahia supporters threw the instrument to the pitch.
  • Bosnia was the only newcomer to the tournament. It got eliminated in just two games after losing to Argentina (with an own goal 3 minutes after the match began) and Nigeria.
  • Colombia returned to a World Cup after a 16-year absence, and to the knockout rounds after 24 years. They reached the quarter-finals for the first time in what's considered their overall best performance at the tournament. By putting in the sole reminiscent of the 1994 and 1998 tournaments, goalkeeper Faryd Mondrágon, in a match substituting starter Ospina, they also broke the record of oldest player in World Cup finals, at the age of 43, in a Heartwarming Moment for both players and fans. For the first time in the history of the World Cup, a Colombian (James Rodriguez) received the Golden Boot for the most goals scored, totaling 6; he also was a serious contender for the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament and his first goal against Uruguay in the round of 16 was chosen to be the best goal in the tournament. Also for the first time ever, the Colombian team was also the winner of the Fifa Fair Play Trophy for the best record of fair play in the tournament.
  • This was the first time since 1982 where no Nordic nation was present in the finals.
  • In the opening match, all four goals were by Brazil because Croatia's one in the 3-1 defeat was an own goal. Said mishappening marked three records: first-ever World Cup opening goal that was an own goal, first own goal by the hosts in the opening match, and first Brazilian own goal in twenty Cups.
  • Defending champions Spain crashed out in the group stage, in a way similar to France in 2002 and Italy in 2010. However, unlike the other two they did manage to win a match once already eliminated.
  • All 32 teams have scored for the first time since 1998. The goal total also matched the record set in that edition, 171, after three tournaments with increasingly lower scoring.
  • The 50th hat-trick in the history of the World Cups was scored by Swiss player Shaqiri against Honduras.
  • For the first time both two Africans (Nigeria and Algeria) and three CONCACAF squads (USA, Mexico and Costa Rica) managed to qualify for the knockout rounds. Algeria became the second North African team to achieve the second round after Morocco in 1986. Against all odds and previous predictions, Costa Rica reached the quarterfinals after surpassing three former World Cup winning sides (Italy, Uruguay and England) to finish first on their group, and later defeating Greece, only to be finally knocked out by the Netherlands.
  • The first confirmed goal using goal-line technologynote , given to France during their match against Honduras.
  • All the 8 group winners won the round of 16, the first time this happened. The last similar moment was in 1958, when all group winners won the quarterfinals.
  • Klose became the player with most goals scored in the final stages (16), overcoming Brazilian player Ronaldo (15). It's also noteworthy that while Ronaldo got his record in Germany, Klose did so in Brazil, against Brazil.
  • Brazil was having a good campaign until in the quarterfinals The Ace, Neymar, got kneed in the back breaking a vertebra, and The Captain, Thiago Silva, got his second yellow card. The subsequent semifinal had both their worst defeat ever and the worst loss by a host team: 1-7 to Germany. Then in the third place match with the Netherlands, the 0-3 defeat lead them to a total of 14 goals taken, the most ever since the tournament adopted the 32-team format.
  • Germany became the first European nation to win a World Cup in South America as they beat Argentina 1-0 in extra-time. It's also the first time they won the WC as a unified nation and the first time three World Cups were won consecutively by teams from the same continent. And like with Brazil and Italy, the fourth title came after a 24-year drought that didn't end on regular time.

2018
  • For the first time a stadium that hosted Winter Olympics will be used as a FIFA World Cup venue (Sochi).
  • Brazil's overspending apparently wasn't big enough for a country rich in oil/gas money: the current estimated budget is US$ 20 billion.

2022
  • It will be the first World Cup held in the Middle East.
  • Uncertainty looms over the tournament: FIFA is considering to circumvent the terrible heat changing from summer to winter, accusations of bribing to win the candidacy are emerging, and there are reports of both slave work and worker deaths in the construction sites.


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