FIFA World Cup – The once in four years international festival
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), is the global governing body of football. And it conducts the FIFA World Cup once in four years.
It’s one of the most exciting events for football fans. FIFA conducts the event from the year 1930 and serves the excitement of the huge fan base.
The millions of diehard fans at the international level cherish every moment of the carnival. Unfortunately, FIFA didn’t conduct the sport in 1942 and 1946 due to the second world war.
So far, eight national teams won the cup in the 21 World Cup Tournaments. Among the countries, Brazil won it five times. Germany and Italy won four titles, while Argentina, France, and Uruguay won two titles each. The countries, England and Spain won it one time only.
France won the title, a second time in the year 2018. It is the present world champion.
Early international competitions
In 1872, Scotland and England played the first-ever international match in Glasgow. The teams played it as a challenge match and it ended in a draw.
With the inauguration of the British Home Championship in the year 1884, the first-ever international football tournament came into place.
Then, the popularity of the game grew in other parts of the world. So, the Olympic organizers allowed the game as a demonstration sport in the years 1900 and 1904. Later, the Olympic committee recognized the matches as official events.
After the formation of FIFA in the year 1904, it tried to conduct international football tournaments. In the year 1906, FIFA tried to conduct a tournament by including the nations that didn’t participate in the Olympics.
The event took place in Switzerland. As it was a very early period in the history of football, it received only a lukewarm response. In addition, the records of FIFA also noted the competition as a failure.
Finally, in the year 1908, the Olympic Committee recognized football. It cleared the way for football to become an Official Competition in the Summer Olympics, London. Only amateur players participated and Britain won the medal. And the team won the gold medals again at the Olympics-1912, in Stockholm.
In the year 1909, Sir Thomas Lipton organized the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy tournament in Turin. Individual clubs from different nations participated in the event and each club represented a nation.
Famous clubs from Italy, Germany, and Switzerland began to participate in the event. In the tournament, West Auckland represented England. It won the first tournament in the year 1909 and also won the title in the year 1911.
In the year 1914, FIFA agreed to manage the football events in the Olympics. Also, it recognized the Olympic tournament as a “world football championship for amateurs”.
Subsequently, the first intercontinental football tournament was conducted in the 1920 Summer Olympics. Belgium won the championship. Uruguay won the next Olympic Tournaments in the year 1924 and 1928.
Read for more details
World Cups before World War II – 1930 to 1938
Jules Rimnet was the president of FIFA during the 1920s. He was instrumental in organizing an international football event.
The successful Olympic football tournaments inspired the organizers to conduct a separate international meet for football. Subsequently, on 28 May 1928, FIFA decided to conduct a world championship itself.
Then FIFA named Uruguay, the two-time world champion as the host country of the inaugural event. The organizers also considered the centenary celebration of its independence in the year 1930.
FIFA president Jules Rimet convinced the confederations to promote an international football tournament.
As it was a long-distance costly trip to Uruguay, many European countries hesitated to participate in the event. With the effort of Jules Rimet, finally, 13 nations participated in the event.
On 13 July 1930, the first matches of the world cup began. Both matches took place on the same day and France and the U.S. won the matches.
A french player named Lucien Laurent scored the first goal in World Cup History. Eventually, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4-2 and won the first-ever World Cup.
As a dispute arose over the status of the amateur players between IOC and FIFA, football was dropped from the 1932 Summer Olympics. When the game returned to Olympics in the following edition, it lost its fame to the prestigious World Cup.
In the early years, the participating nations faced intermittent wars. Also, they had to travel a long distance. As a result, there were only a few participants from North America and South America in the 1934 and 1938 World Cup events.
Then Brazil was the only country that participated in both the events. Furthermore, the World Cup events for the years 1942 and 1946 were canceled due to World War II.
FIFA World Cups after World War II
After the war, the World Cup was held in Brazil in the year 1950. Earlier British teams withdrew from FIFA in the year 1920. It cited playing with the foes in the war, as the reason.
But it rejoined in the year 1946 and participated in the 1950 World Cup. Uruguay defeated the host nation Brazil in the final and won the tournament.
Between 1934 and 1978, 16 teams competed in each tournament. When Germany acquired Austria, the number of participating countries was reduced to 15. Further in the year 1950, only 13 teams participated in the event.
In those tournaments, most of the participating nations were from Europe and South America. And the teams easily defeated the participants from other places.
32 teams in the Finalists
FIFA grew in name and stature. Up to the year 1982, it attracted 24 participating countries as its members. Further in the year 1998, it further went up and reached 32.
More teams from Asia, Africa, and North America took part and several countries enjoyed success by reaching the quarter-finals.
In the year 2002, nearly 200 teams entered the FIFA qualification rounds. Then in the year 2006, 198 countries participated. Further, it reached a record number of 204 in the year 2010.
48 teams in the finalists
The successive presidents of FIFA discussed the need to increase the number of finalist countries. Finally, on the 10th of January 2017, FIFA confirmed that the number of finalists teams in the 2026 World Cup will be 48.
Format of the tournament in FIFA
FIFA conducts qualifying rounds from the second world cup (1934) itself. The intention is to get a less number of teams as finalists.
It conducts the qualifying rounds in the six FIFA continental zones. To carry out the operations, respective confederation in the zone takes the responsibility. But FIFA decides the number of places for each continental zone beforehand which is based on the relative strength of the confederations’ teams.
For every tournament, the qualification round starts three years before the final world cup event. From the year 1938, the host countries don’t go for qualifying rounds and get the direct selection to the final tournament.
From the year 1938 to 2002, the defending champions also got the eligibility for direct election. Then FIFA changed the rule and from the year 2006, the defending champions also have been playing in the qualifying round.
Final tournament in FIFA
In the current format which has been in place from the year 1998, 32 teams compete for the World Cup for over a month in the hosting country or countries. The tournament comprises of group stage and knockout stage.
In the group stage, eight groups with four teams in each group are formed. Among the host nation, eight teams are selected based on some criteria set by FIFA, like world rankings and performance in recent world cups.
Other teams got their place in a group by random selection. But from the year 1998, a restriction came into effect to place more than two European nations or two teams from any other confederation in a single group.
The teams in a group play the matches in the round-robin method. So, each team plays three matches against other teams in the group and a total of six matches played in each group.
Then the top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage. The teams get points in the group: three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. And from the points, the top two teams are selected for the knockout stage.
The knock out stage is an elimination tournament in which teams play one-off matches. The matches also include extra time and penalty shootouts to decide the winner.
The knock out round begins with the round of 16 matches in which the winner of each group plays against the runner-up of another group. Then quarter-finals, semi-finals, the match for third place and final matches follow in the order to decide the champion team.
As FIFA has approved for the 48-team world cup, the tournament in the year 2026 will consist of 16 groups and 32 knockout matches.
Would you like to read about Wimbledon in detail?
Host Countries in FIFA
Selection of the host country
In the initial stages of the tournament, the venues were decided by FIFA at the meetings. But, disputes arose as traveling to the venues took much time for the participants.
In the first-ever tournament held in Uruguay, only four European countries participated. In the following tournaments also, disputes continued and many countries abstained from participating.
FIFA decided to alternate the venues between America and Europe. It continued to hold the pattern up to the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
South Korea and Japan jointly hosted the event in the year 2002. It was the first tournament that FIFA held outside America and Europe. Then South Africa hosted the event in the year 2010. Then it was the first African country to host the event.
Now FIFA chooses the venue by voting in the council. It issues hosting agreement to the country that explains requirements a host country should fulfill.
Then a group of inspectors appointed by FIFA visits the country to assess the situation and submits a report. Usually, the announcement comes six or seven years earlier and the host country gets ample time for the preparation.
A controversy arose after Germany won the bid over South Africa in the year 2006. Hence for the years, 2010 and 2014, countries only from the chosen confederations were allowed to bid to host the tournament.
FIFA World Cup – List of Winners
Here is the list of winners of the prestigious world cup from the inaugural year 1930.
Successful nations in FIFA World Cup
Though many countries compete for the famous title, Brazil has earned an outstanding name. It won the title five times so far. Germany and Italy won four tiles each and ranked second in the list.
Argentina, Uruguay, and France are the countries that won two titles each. Further England and France, won one title each.
You may like to read about the legendary footballer, Pele.