Shiny, ain't it?note By the way, yes it was designed by a European in The Seventies, how did you guess?
The World Cup is a very important way to measure the good players, and the great ones. It is a test of a great player.
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 winnote For perspective, look up Costa Rica's 1-0 upset over Italy at the 2014 tournament. When the final whistle was blown, the team rushed the pitch like they had won the whole Cup.. Apart from anything else, many Olympic Gold medals are awarded every four 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 Brazil in 2014, for which 203 countries went for 32 places, and ultimately won by Germany.
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 (CONMEBOL) played a straight league with 4 qualifiers (and one team to a playoff with a North American team)
North America (CONCACAF) 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 (CAF) 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 (AFC) 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 (OFC) 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 (UEFA) 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) were swapped, with Oceania playing CONCACAF, and Asia playing South America. 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 qualifiers.
The winners so far have been:
Uruguay (1930, 1950) — The shirts of World Cup winning countries have one star on them for each World Cup victory; Uruguay, however, have four stars, the extra two being for their gold medal wins in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics (which pre-date the World Cup).
Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) — Benito Mussolini may have had something to do with the first two, hopefully his regime just hijacked the glory!
Germany (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014 — first three as West Germany)
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 stage. Their first win as united Germany in 2014 made them the first European team to win in the Americas.
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, the biggest winner, and the only one to win in three continents (Europe, America and Asia).
England (1966) — 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!).note The Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, have entered every World Cup since 1934.
The English national team is a curious cultural phenomenon. The whole country invariably expects great things from its team, and always finds an unfortunate scapegoat to blame for the inevitable defeat. In recent years the blame has normally fallen on the manager of the team, although in the past individual players have been blamed: David Beckham in '98 for getting sent off, Chris Waddle in '90 for missing a critical penalty, and in a rare case of an opposing player being blamed, Diego Maradona in '86 for blatantly cheating. Yes, they're still bitter about it 27 years on. In 2010, the blame was split between the referee (who failed to see a valid goal everyone else could), the back four, Fabio Capello (whose managing of the side completely fell apart after said goal), and Emile Heskey (who had squandered multiple easy chances in the group stage which contributed to England losing the group).
Argentina (1978, 1986)
Controversially won in 1978 with a military Junta in tow.
The '86 win was no less controversial with the infamous "Hand of God" goal by Diego Maradona against England in the quarterfinals, although Argentinians consider the "Hand of God" as something glorious not shameful.
France (1998) — Their win in 1998 helped reinforce an anti-racist attitude in much of France, as the winning side had many players of non-traditional origins, such as Thierry Henry, Marcel Desailly, Patrick Vieira and Lilian Thuram (all of black African origin); Zinedine Zidane (son of Algerian immigrants); Christian Karembeu (New Caledonian—i.e., Pacific islander); and Youri Djorkaeff (Armenian and Central Asian).
Spain (2010) — 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 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 — made it the most formidable defending champion ever. First European to win a tournament outside the Old World, given their title was in South Africa.
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 later 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. In 2010 and 2014, the winning teams had 'new' jerseys already prepared for their victory.
For every tournament since 1970, Adidas has provided the ball, which is generally the cutting edge of the art of ball development (stop sniggering). For instance, the 2006 +Teamgeist Berlin ("team spirit") design was tested at Loughborough University in the UK as well as the Adidas laboratory at Scheinfeld, Germany. The 2010 Jabulani ("celebrate") was also tested at Loughborough and Scheinfeld, and featured a new design to ensure the most perfectly spherical ball ever. Despite this, every year the ball is blamed for something, regardless of it's actual quality. The only time this criticism was somewhat justified was in 2010, where the new design of the Jabulani actually worked against it and caused it to noticeably "knuckle" and swerve during flight. The 2014 World Cup ball had its name chosen in an online poll of Brazilian fans, and was called the Brazuca, a term used by Brazilians to describe national pride. The balls used for the final are usually colored gold, with a bespoke design, and the names of the two teams emblazoned on them.
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.
There have been a fair dozen Licensed Games for the Cup, and one licensed pinball table: World Cup Soccer.
Note: The "Final Four" teams are categorized from champion to fourth-place. If a city has two or more stadiums, they will be identified. Also, if a host city is a suburb of a larger/better-known city, that is also identified.
Cities: Montevideo (Estadio Centenario [final] / Estadio Gran Parque Central / Estadio Pocitos)
Final Four: Uruguay / Argentina / USA / Yugoslavia
Top scorer: Guillermo Stábile (Argentina) - 8 goals
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 the centennial of their independence from the Brazilian Empire). 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.
Final Four: Italy / Czechoslovakia / Germany / Austria
Top scorer: Oldřich Nejedlý (Czechoslovakia) - 5 goals
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,note More precisely, this was the only time the hosts had to play in the qualifiers in order to secure a World Cup place. South Africa participated in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, but only because the CAF also used those matches as qualifiers for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament for which South Africa had to separately qualify (and failed to do so). 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).
Cities: Antibes / Bordeaux / Le Havre / Lille / Lyon / Marseille / Paris (Parc des Princes / Stade Olympique de Colombes [final]) / Reims / Strasbourg / Toulouse
Final Four: Italy / Hungary / Brazil / Sweden
Top scorer: Leônidas (Brazil) - 7 goals
Best player: Leônidas (Brazil)
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. 16 qualified, but only 15 played — the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany three months prior made Austrian players join the German squad, and their original adversary Sweden to get a free pass to the quarterfinals.
Cities: Belo Horizonte / Curitiba / Porto Alegre / Recife / Rio de Janeiro [final] / São Paulo
Final Four: Uruguay / Brazil / Sweden / Spain
Top scorer: Ademir (Brazil) - 8 goals
The first season since Uruguay 1930 to start with a group stage, which had been followed ever since on subsequent seasons. 16 teams had qualified, but three of them (Turkey, Scotland, and India) 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.
Final Four: West Germany / Hungary / Austria / Uruguay
Top scorer: Sándor Kocsis (Hungary) - 11 goals
Hungary came around on a roll. As reigning Olympic champions from Oslo 1952, 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 resounding victories came: 8-3 on West Germany, 9-0 on South Korea, 4-2 on Brazil, 4-2 on Uruguay... But then the West 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.
Final Four: Brazil / Sweden / France / West Germany
Top scorer: Just Fontaine (France) - 13 goals
Best young player: Pelé (Brazil)
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. Brazil defeating Sweden in the final made both countries the only to lose a WC final at home (even if 1950 is kind of different).
Cities: Arica [kickoff] / Rancagua / Santiago [final] / Viña del Mar
Final Four: Brazil / Czechoslovakia / Chile / Yugoslavia
Top scorers: Flórián Albert (Hungary), Garrincha (Brazil), Valentin Ivanov (USSR), Dražan Jerković (Yugoslavia), Leonel Sánchez (Chile) and Vavá (Brazil) - 4 goals each
Best young player: Flórián Albert (Hungary)
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.
Final Four: England / West Germany / Portugal / USSR
Top scorer: Eusébio (Portugal) - 9 goals
Best young player: Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany)
Heralded as "football coming back home", the tournament was won by the home team, though not without some controversy as the referee allowed an extra time goal from a Geoff Hurst shot that hit the crossbar, bounced on the line and fell back out. Two surprises marked this tournament: Brazil's precocious elimination (thanks to some heavily disorganized management, and Pelé getting pretty much broken by Bulgarian and Portuguese markers on the field) 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.
Final Four: Brazil / Italy / West Germany / Uruguay
Top scorer: Gerd Müller (West Germany) - 10 goals
Best young player: Teófilo Cubillas (Peru)
A spectacular tournament, 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 on). The triumph here allowed Brazil to take the Jules Rimet trophy, as the first team to win three tournaments.
Cities: Dortmund / Düsseldorf / Frankfurt / Gelsenkirchen / Hamburg / Hanover / Munich (final) / Stuttgart / West Berlin
Final Four: West Germany / Netherlands / Poland / Brazil
Top scorer: Grzegorz Lato (Poland) - 7 goals
Best player: Johan Cruyff (Netherlands)
Best young player: Władysław Żmuda (Poland)
The first season which featured the current version of the championship trophy. 20 years before, Hungary dazzled the world with their nigh-unstoppable team. Now it was the Netherlands' 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.
Cities: Buenos Aires (Estadio Monumental [final] / Estadio José Amalfitani) / Córdoba / Mar del Plata / Mendoza / Rosario
Final Four: Argentina / Netherlands / Brazil / Italy
Top scorer: Mario Kempes (Argentina) - 6 goals
Best player: Mario Kempes (Argentina)
Best young player: Antonio Cabrini (Italy)
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), and the Peruvian goalkeeper being Argentinian-born made matters even worse. In fact, even their own traveling routes were arranged to make for easier matches: Argentina played in Buenos Aires for the first round, then in nearby Rosario for the second round, and then back to Buenos Aires for the finalnote to put it into perspective: Brazil started playing in Mar del Plata, at the country's coastline, then took a cross-country trip to Mendoza, near the Chilean border, to face Peru, then went to Rosario to play Argentina, then back to Mendoza again to play Poland. And then to the capital for the third place match against Italy.
Cities: A Coruña / Alicante / Barcelona (Camp Nou / Estadi di Sarrià) / Bilbao / Elche / Gijón / Madrid (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu [final] / Estadio Vicente Calderón) / Málaga / Oviedo / Seville (Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán / Estadio Benito Villamarín) / Valencia / Valladolid / Vigo / Zaragoza
Final Four: Italy / West Germany / Poland / France
Top scorer: Paolo Rossi (Italy) - 6 goals
Best player: Paolo Rossi (Italy)
Best young player: Manuel Amoros (France)
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.
Cities: Guadalajara / Irapuato / León / Mexico City (Estadio Azteca [final] / Estadio Olímpico Universitario) / Monterrey / Nezahualcoyotl (Mexico City) / Puebla / Querétaro / San Nicolás de los Garza (Monterrey) / Toluca / Zapopan
Final Four: Argentina / West Germany / France / Belgium
Top scorer: Gary Lineker (England) - 6 goals
Best player: Diego Maradona (Argentina)
Best young player: Enzo Scifo (Belgium)
The season was originally awarded to Colombia, which ultimately stepped out 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 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).
Final Four: West Germany / Argentina / Italy / England
Top scorer: Salvatore Schillaci (Italia) - 6 goals
Best player: Salvatore Schillaci (Italia)
Best young player: Robert Prosinečki (Yugoslavia)
Widely considered the worst edition, this is where 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 (the only goal was a penalty kick!). One of the few interesting elements of the tournament was Cameroon demonstrating that African teams were no longer there just to make up the numbers. They shocked the world by defeating Argentina in the first game of the tournament despite having two players sent off in that match, and reached the quarter finals.
Top scorers: Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) and Oleg Salenko (Russia) - 6 goals each
Best player: Romário (Brazil)
Best young player: Marc Overmars (Netherlands)
Best goalkeeper: Michel Preud'homme (Belgium)
Even though the Americans' idea of football is 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 (as they call this sport), but defying all expectations, attendance-wise USA 1994 was perhaps the most successful World Cup season ever, creating world records in terms of public average attendance (69,000 per match, surpassing the 53,000 record that was set in 1950, with a 200,000-seater stadium helping) and total attendance (3.6 million, even with a 24-team format) — both of which stand to this day — and providing the catalyst for Major League Soccer, which was created as part of a deal with FIFA to bring the World Cup to the USA in the first place. The tournament was won by Brazil, who broke their 24-year drought by beating Italy in the first final decided on penalty shootouts. Furthermore, it sparked an improvement for Team USA, qualifying for every World Cup ever since and even reaching the final of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Final Four: France / Brazil / Croatia / Netherlands
Top scorer: Davor Šuker (Croatia) - 6 goals
Best player: Ronaldo (Brazil)
Best young player: Michael Owen (England)
Best goalkeeper: Fabien Barthez (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.
Cities (South Korea): Busan / Daegu / Daejeon / Gwangju / Incheon / Jeonju / Seogwipo (Jeju) / Seoul / Suwon / Ulsan
Final Four: Brazil / Germany / Turkey / South Korea
Top scorer: Ronaldo (Brazil) - 8 goals
Best player: Oliver Kahn (Germany)
Best young player: Landon Donovan (USA)
Best goalkeeper: Oliver Kahn (Germany)
The first tournament with joint hosts, and the first one contested in Asia. It was a rather unpredictable tournament, with many favorites falling along the way (Argentina, Portugal and France on group stage, then Italy in the Round of 16), and Asian and African teams boasting newfound power (Senegal became the second African team to finish on the Final 8 ever since Cameroon in 1990, and co-host South Korea clinched a decent fourth-place finish). Brazil asserted their domination by obtaining their fifth World Cup win here by trouncing the ever-efficient German defense.note 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. Another notable fact is that, since a long while, this was the World Cup in which the USA advanced the furthest (quarterfinals, where they lost to 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. France reaching the finals was a surprise in itself, as Raymond Domenech was probably the most mocked and despised trainer in the team's history (though the team's play didn't get that much better after he left), yet they took down Spain, Brazil and Portugal before the finals. The tournament was also noted as introducing the world to "modern" Germany (which earned a respectable third-place finish), as it was the first major international television event to show the country after going through reunification in the 1990s.
Cities: Bloemfontein / Cape Town / Durban / Johannesburg [final] / Nelspruit / Polokwane / Port Elizabeth / Pretoria / Rustenburg
Final Four: Spain / Netherlands / Germany / Uruguay
Top scorers: Diego Forlán (Uruguay), Thomas Müller (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands) and David Villa (Spain) - 5 goals each
Best player: Diego Forlán (Uruguay)
Best young player: Thomas Müller (Germany)
Best goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)
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.
Cities: Belo Horizonte / Brasília / Cuiabá / Curitiba / Fortaleza / Manaus / Natal / Rio de Janeiro [final] / Porto Alegre / Recife / Salvador / São Paulo
Final Four: Germany / Argentina / Netherlands / Brazil
Top scorer: James Rodríguez (Colombia) - 6 goals
Best player: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Best young player: Paul Pogba (France)
Best goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (Germany)
Linked in many people's minds to the 2016 Olympic Games, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, where the final game was held. Despite concerns about preparedness and security, Brazil 2014 proved to be quite a success, featuring electrifying matches and a rather high scoreline, another biting incident involving Uruguayan striker Luiz Suarez (this time against Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in group play), surprise contenders like France — resurgent after a horrid 2010 performance (which saw much mediocrity, scandal and infighting) — and out-of-nowhere Costa Rica clawing their way to the quarterfinals, perennial favorites like England, Italy and defending champions Spain falling by the wayside, and increased interest in the sport from the USA after its national team's surprisingly good showing (including a record-breaking 16 saves by Everton FC goalkeeper Tim Howard in a defiant 1-2 loss to Belgium at the Round of 16)note Even being (temporarily) promoted to Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, as well as a shocking 7-1 trouncing of hosts Brazil by Germany in the semifinal (which saw the latter's Polish-born striker Miroslav Klose overtake Ronaldo as the tournament's all-time leading scorer with 16 goals), which then proceeded to beat Argentina 1-0 (extra time), thus becoming the very first European team to win in the Americas.
Was chosen, along with the next host, just after the 2014 tournament was announced to be held in Brazil. Also linked to the Olympics (but the Winter version held in Sochi in 2014 — Fisht Stadium, where the ceremonies were held, is even one of the venues), including the spending, with nine new stadia and a rebuilt one.
Cities: Al Khor / Al Rayyan / Al Wakrah / Doha / Lusail / Madinat ash Shamal / Umm Salal
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 2018, they will be the first country in 88 years (since Italy '34) to host the tournament without having taken part in it before. Infamously controversial, how legitimately Qatar was chosen over the USA, South Korea, Japan and Australia remains dubious, and further concerns were raised over Qatar's use of what it claims is Sharia (i.e. Muslim law, which in most implementations for example makes homosexuality illegal, and also alcohol, which clashes with FIFA's sponsorship with Budweiser), climate (with temperatures routinely over 50°C/122°F during summer), and the alleged use of slave labor in its migrant-heavy labor force. Following a report by England's Sunday Times that approximately $5 million worth of bribes were given to the voting committee by Qatari ex-FIFA Vice President Mohammad bin Hammam, FIFA has begun an inquiry into the incident. FIFA has alerted the USA to be prepared in case Qatar's hosting is stripped.
Top scorer: Sun Wen (China) and Sissi (Brazil) - 7 goals
Best player: Sun Wen (China)
Like USA 1994 five years earlier, USA 1999 set a record — its final, won by USA against China via a 5-4 penalty shootout (with 0-0 on regulation time), is the most attended game in the history of women's football with over 90,000 live spectators. This edition also saw the final tournament expand to 16 teams, at which it remained through 2011.
The 2003 Cup was originally to be hosted by China, but due to the SARS outbreak the tournament had to turn to the previous host. Won by Germany against Sweden, 2-1, in a game that reached sudden-death.
As compensation for losing the 2003 tournament due to the SARS outbreak, China was automatically given the 2007 edition. China 2007 began with a high-scoring wrecking of Germany against Argentina, 11-0 — the highest scoring match in the tournament's history — and ending with the same team mopping Brazil, 2-0, to become the first back-to-back champion in the tournament, as well as the first champion in either the men's or women's version not to surrender a goal.
The latest edition of the Women's World Cup, which featured a surprise win by Japan over USA via a 3-1 penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw on regulation time — an emphatic Throw the Dog a Bone moment for a country still reeling over a massive earthquake and tsunami a few months earlier.