The FIFA World Cup – more aptly described as football’s showpiece event – is currently being held in Brazil, and we’re already seeing goals aplenty in what has started off to be one of the most entertaining World Cup tournaments in recent memory. Although many of us are currently reveling in the excitement of the ongoing tournament, let’s take another look back for a bit, because some facts regarding previous editions of the tournament are simply astonishing. With that in mind, we’ll be going through this top 10 list looking at some things you might not have previously known about one of the biggest events in sport.
Some of the facts here will surprise you: Did you know that one of the greatest footballers of all time is also the most penalized player in World Cup history? Or that FIFA were so convinced in 1950 that Brazil would win the trophy on home soil that, instead of writing the congratulatory speech in Spanish for champions Uruguay, they wrote it in Portuguese? Or that all-time attendance records at the World Cup were broken – and are still held – by a country some say doesn’t even care about soccer? The World Cup is a tournament full of surprises, and perhaps once this current tournament in Brazil is finished in July, we’ll have more facts to be amazed and surprised by. In fact, we already have one: this tournament was the first to have the first goal of the World Cup be an own goal; a dubious honour belonging to Brazilian defender Marcelo against Croatia.
All this to say, the World Cup is as unpredictable and as entertaining as international sports tournaments come, even if some editions of the tournament can be more entertaining – or far less entertaining – than others. We’ve already covered 10 things you didn’t know about the World Cup, but the tournament is so vast and full of tradition, emotion and intensity that stopping at 10 would hardly do it justice. Here are 10 more things you didn’t know about the World Cup.
10. This year will mark the first time goal-line technology is used
Perhaps Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal from the 2010 World Cup was what spurred FIFA to develop a system to effectively determine whether the ball has crossed the line in tight situations. 7 cameras are installed in and around each team’s net, connected to a main computer that analyses every goal and relays the result back to the referee via a wrist watch that displays the word “goal”. Better late than never, Fifa, but lets get on some sort of video replay system that reduces instances of successful diving as well, shall we?
9. Zinedine Zidane is the most penalized player in World Cup history
Although the player lovingly referred to as “Zizou” in his playing days will continue to be remembered by some for his headbutt in his final professional game in the 2006 World Cup final against Marco Materazzi and the Italian team, Zinedine Zidane’s penalty history at international football’s biggest event is more detailed than you think. Over three World Cup tournaments from 1998 to 2006, Zidane picked up four yellow cards and two reds – the other red card coming in the group stage against Saudi Arabia for a stomp on one of their players, making him the first French player to ever receive a red card in the World Cup.
8. The Netherlands have been to the final three times without winning once
The pioneers of “Total Football,” the Netherlands’ national team is often regarded as the greatest country to never win a World Cup. With players like Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens and their manager Rinus Michels, the Dutch team reached the final in 1974 and 1978 (although Cruyff didn’t go to the latter tournament) only to lose both times: first to West Germany, and again to Argentina in extra time. Most recently, the Oranje made it to the final against Spain, only to fall victim to an excellent Spanish team thanks to an extra time goal by Andres Iniesta in a violent, yellow card-heavy final.
7. Greece has the longest national anthem in the World Cup
Being the longest national anthem in the world, it’s obviously no surprise that Greece’s national anthem “Hymn to Liberty” is the longest in this World Cup, making for 158 stanzas. However, if we count actual bars of music, Uruguay’s is the longest at 105. Obviously, the full anthem cannot possibly be sung before a World Cup match: FIFA caps the length of each anthem at 90 seconds. Fitting, because one version of Greece’s anthem existing on YouTube clocks in at 55 minutes long. Conversely, Japan has the shortest national anthem of this tournament, with a length of only 11 measures.
6. The 2014 World Cup is the most expensive edition of the tournament ever
Brazil definitely went all out in preparing for this edition of the World Cup, and Brazilians were not shy to voice their displeasure about the country pumping billions of dollars into the tournament. This year’s World Cup has cost Brazil somewhere in the region of $14-16 billion. That’s more than what the two previous World Cups cost combined. The country went to such lengths as to construct a $300 million stadium in the middle of the Amazon rainforest that will only be used for four (yes, four) World Cup games. Due its remote location and distance from local soccer teams, the stadium will likely fall unused once the tournament is over.
5. 1970 World Cup was the first to allow non-injury substitutions and yellow cards
The 1970 finals is still regarded to this day as being one of the most entertaining and goal-filled World Cup tournaments ever, with an average of 2.97 goals per game and with the trophy being lifted by Brazil, whose side was arguably the greatest World Cup team ever brought to the tournament. However, the 1970 tournament also marked a first for the tournament in that yellow cards were introduced as well as tactical substitutions; in fact, five yellow cards were awarded in the opening match between Mexico and the Soviet Union, with the Soviets receiving four of them. The Soviets also made the first substitution of the tournament, subbing Viktor Serebryanikov off for Anatoliy Puzach in the 46th minute.
4. The host nation has won six of 19 World Cup tournaments
As hard as it might be for some to believe, only eight nations have ever brought home the bacon at the FIFA World Cup: Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Brazil, England, Argentina, France and Spain. Of the 19 World Cup tournaments that have already come and gone, six of them have been won by the host nation: first in 1934 by Italy, and most recently by France in 1998. Only twice has a host nation lost in the final on home soil: first in 1950 with Brazil’s heartbreaking loss to Uruguay, and in 1958 when Sweden lost to the Brazilians. Can Brazil become the seventh nation to win at home this year?
3. Uruguay’s 1950 congratulatory speech was written in Portuguese instead of Spanish
Brazil’s loss in the 1950 World Cup Final at home to Uruguay is still such a tragedy in their eyes that their aim 64 years later is to avenge that loss at home. Even more upsetting is the fact that even FIFA seemed so confident that Brazil would triumph in front of their home fans at the Maracana, so much so that the congratulatory speech was written in Portuguese, seemingly without even thinking about writing one in Spanish for Uruguay. After Uruguay triumphed 2-1, they were awarded the Jules Rimet Trophy without a speech and without an awards ceremony.
2. Just Fontaine is the all-time leading scorer in one World Cup tournament
He was born and bred in Morocco, but he’s regarded to this day as one of the greatest French players of all time, as well as one of the greatest to ever grace a pitch in the World Cup finals. Just Fontaine only competed in one World Cup (the tournament in Sweden in 1958) and got to lift the trophy as France settled for third place, but he made his time in the spotlight count: the striker scored 13 goals in the tournament, a feat that has yet to be matched since. His most explosive performance in one match came during the third place match against West Germany, where he scored four to help guide France to a 6-3 victory.
1. Old World Cup trophy awarded to Brazil permanently in 1970
Since Brazil had won the original Jules Rimet Trophy for a third time in 1970, the Seleção were allowed to keep it permanently as per FIFA regulations. Therefore, FIFA commissioned a new trophy for the 1974 tournament designed by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga, which is still used to this day. As for what happened to the previous trophy? Well, it was kept by the Brazilian Football Confederation and put on display at their headquarters. But despite being covered by bulletproof glass, it was stolen in 1983 and was never retrieved. Although four men were convicted for stealing it, it is believed that it was melted down and later put up for sale.