The History of the Football World Cup

Football (or soccer to those of you reading this who are not from Europe) can date its origins back to 1863 England when a split occurred between association Football and rugby football and the Football Association was formed.

It didn’t take long before the idea of an international game came about and the first of these was held between Scotland and England in Glasgow in 1872. At first association football wasn’t played too much outside of Great Britain but the rest of the world soon started to form their own associations and the first international match to take place outside of Britain took place on 20 July 1902. It was played between Uruguay and Argentina with Argentina winning 6-0.

Two years later in Paris, France several European football associations including France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland came together to form the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA. 1904 was also the second time that association football was featured as an Olympic sport. England won the event in 1908 and again in 1912. As the Olympic events were supposed to be for amateurs only, FIFA attempted to hold an international competition outside of the Olympic framework in 1906 and although this was a failure, other competitions started to appear, including two in Turin, the Torneo Internazionale Stampa Sportiva in 1908 and the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy in 1909. The latter of these two competitions is often referred to as the first World Cup although the competition featured club teams that represented their nations rather than proper national teams.

FIFA officially recognised the Olympic event as an amateur world football championship in 1914 and also took on the responsibility for organising the event. The first of these took place at the 1920 Summer Olympics and was won by Belgium, with the following two tournaments in 1924 and 1928 being won by Uruguay.

The 1932 Summer Olympics was to be held in Los Angeles, USA and since association football was not a popular sport in there, it was planned for the football tournament to be dropped. It was because of this that FIFA decided that it should have another go at staging an international tournament. The president of FIFA at the time was 59-year-old Frenchman Jules Rimet and he set about arranging the very first true World Cup tournament. As Uruguay had been named world champions twice due to their 1924 and 1928 Olympic wins and the fact that it was also the 100th anniversary of Uruguayan independence, the country was named as being the first host of the competition.

Due to the expense and the time required to make the trip from Europe to Uruguay at that time, no European teams initially pledged to send a team, but Jules Rimet eventually managed to persuade Belgium, France, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia to do so. Thirteen nations took part in this first competition with teams joining from South America and North America to make up the numbers. The two very first World Cup matches were between France and Mexico which was won by France 4-1 and the United States and Belgium which was won by Belgium 3-0. The two games were played at the same time but the very first world cup goal was scored by Lucien Lauren of France. The tournament resulted in a final between Uruguay and Argentina which Uruguay won 4-2 to become the very first winners of the World Cup, which was also called the Jules Rimet trophy.

The tournament followed the Olympic tradition of hosting the event every four years and the next one in 1934 was hosted by Italy. More countries were interested in sending teams this time and so the 1934 World Cup was the first to feature a qualification stage. Egypt also became the first team to take part from Africa. Italy won the tournament when they beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the final.

The 1938 competition was held in France and it was the first time that the hosts and the holders received automatic qualification.

The competition did not take place in 1942 or 1946 because of the second world war and when FIFA wanted to resume the tournament in 1949, no country wanted to host it. However, the competition did resume the following year, taking place in Brazil.

Another first was recorded for the FIFA World Cup in 1954 as this was the first to be televised with Germany coming from 2-0 down to win a thrilling final 3-2.

Brazil won the tournament four years later in Sweden and when Chile hosted it in 1962 Brazil successfully defended their title.

The 1966 World Cup was hosted in England with the host nation going on to win the final in extra time beating Germany 4-2. The 1966 tournament was the first to feature an official logo and mascot and famously saw the trophy stolen before the tournament began only for it to be found by a small dog called Pickles.

Tournament firsts kept coming over the next few decades too. The Netherlands became the first country to finish runners up two tournaments in succession in 1974 and 1978. The first expansion to the tournament happened when Spain hosted 24 teams in 1982 and Mexico became the first country to host the tournament twice when it hosted for the second time in 1986. Four years later there was another tournament first when Cameroon became the first African nation to reach the quarter-finals and in 1994 the first World Cup final to be decided by a penalty shootout took place when Brazil just about managed to beat Italy.

The FIFA World Cup has also not been without the occasional controversy too. In 1990 West Germany beat Argentina to win that year’s tournament but this was overshadowed by the controversy caused when a firework landed on the pitch close to the Chilean goalkeeper Roberto Rojas in the game that Chile played against Brazil. The keeper faked an injury when he cut his own face with a razor blade hidden inside one of his gloves. As a result, Chile, who were losing 1-0 at the time refused to continue playing. When the actual cause of Rojas’ injury was revealed he received a 12-year ban and Chile were not allowed to take part in the 1994 tournament.

There was further controversy during the 1994 World Cup when Diego Maradona was banned from playing mid-tournament after he tested positive for drugs, leading to his Argentina side being ejected from the tournament by Romania in the round of 16. That tournament also saw Colombian defender Andres Escobar murdered on his return home after his own goal saw his team eliminated by the United States.

The tournament was expanded again in 1998 when France hosted 32 teams and went on to win the trophy.

The first Asian tournament took place when it was hosted jointly by Japan and South Korea in 2002. That tournament also saw the highest winning margin when Australia beat American Samoa 31-0 in a preliminary match and it also saw the quickest goal to be scored at the World Cup when Hakan Sukur of Turkey scored against South Korea after only 11 seconds.

In 2006 French captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the final against Italy in the last ten minutes after he launched an incredible head butt to the chest of defender Marco Materazzi. The game subsequently went to penalties which Italy won 5-3.

In 2010 the World Cup was won by Spain even though they only scored a total of 8 goals in their 7 games in a tournament that was the first to take place on African soil when it was hosted by South Africa.

In 2014 cooling breaks were introduced due to the relatively high temperatures having to be endured by the players when Brazil hosted the tournament. That World Cup saw the worst ever defeat by a Brazilian side when they were beaten by Germany 7-1 in the semi-finals with Germany going on to beat Argentina 1-0 in the final.

The 2018 World Cup was hosted in Russia with a final played between France and Croatia after they knocked out Belgium and England respectively. The tournament itself was another one to generate controversy being the first one to benefit from the Video Assistant Referee or VAR. Although brought in to clarify decisions, it generated controversy because in some cases it led to more confusion rather than less. Even the final didn’t escape after a controversial penalty was awarded for hand-ball following a review of the video by the referee. This altered the game which was drawn 1-1 at the time. France went on to win the 2018 World Cup 4-2.

The 2022 World Cup is scheduled to be hosted in Qatar between 21 November and 18 December. It will be the first time that the tournament has been held so late in the year with it being done so in an attempt to address the problem of severe heat in the Summer months and also as an attempt to avoid a clash with the Summer Olympics. This change in date has caused more controversy as it will interfere with the domestic leagues of a number of countries.

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