Highs and lows of World Cup history
The road to the South African tournament has been long and rather bumpy, writes BIANCA CAPAZORIO
THIS YEAR marks the 80th anniversary of the World Cup tournament and it has been a bumpy ride with two earthquakes, a host of upsets, a martial arts kick, a headbutt and a World War all playing a role in the hosting of the tournaments. The first Fifa World Cup was hosted and won by Uruguay. Only 13 teams participated, and did so at the invitation of Fifa.
Only four European teams played, having made a long sea journey to South America for the tournament. Italy became the second host country to walk away with the trophy. To date, six host nations have won the trophy and a host nation has never been knocked out in the first round. France’s hosting of the 1938 tournament caused outrage in South America, as it had been widely accepted that the tournament would swing between the two continents. Argentina and Uruguay pulled out and Spain became the first team to withdraw because of a war – the Spanish Civil War. Italy won the tournament, beating Hungary. No World Cup tournaments were held in 1942 and 1946 because of World War II. With Europe in ruins following the war, Fifa struggled to find a host country for the first World Cup in 12 years. It is considered the only World Cup tournament to not technically have a final game. With only 13 teams able to make it, the groups contained even numbers and the team with the most points at the end of the final group stage was considered to have won. Brazil were widely tipped to win, but lost to Uruguay, who beat them in the last game. To mark Fifa’s 50th anniversary, the 1954 tournament was held in Switzerland, where the football body has its headquarters. This was the first televised World Cup. West Germany won, beating Hungary in what is viewed as one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history. The two teams met in the first round, and Hungary won 8-3. Allegations of doping were made against the Germans, but were never proved. The Swedish World Cup is the only European World Cup not to have been won by a European team. Brazil won the trophy that year. It was also the year in which an unkown 17-year-old made his debut. The player was affectionately referred to as Pele and went on to become arguably the greatest footballer ever. Just two years before Chile was to host the tournament, the country was rocked by a 9.5 magnitude earthquake which destroyed the infrastructure and stadiums. The country went on to host a successful tournament, but it was marred by on-pitch violence. In a first-round game between Italy and Chile, two Italian players were sent off but Chilean Leonal Sanchez was allowed to play on, despite punching Italian captain Huberto Maschio and breaking his nose. An Italian player then landed a martial arts kick on one of his opponents and armed police had to be brought onto the field three times to maintain order. Brazil won the tournament. The 1966 World Cup is probably best known for the disappearance of the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy. It was later found wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a garden by a dog named Pickles. England went on to win the trophy. Mexico was the first tournament televised in colour and is widely regarded as one of the best World Cups for its quality football. Brazil took the tournament for an unprecedented third time, winning the trophy outright. It was later stolen from their trophy cabinet and never recovered. West Germany marked the first time the current World Cup trophy was used. It was won by the hosts, who beat The Netherlands 2-1 in the final. Argentina’s hosting of the World Cup was called into question when in the two years prior to kick-off, the country was put under violent military rule. Despite this, it went off without a hitch and Argentina kept the trophy at home. Italy walked away with their third World Cup trophy at the end of the Spanish World Cup. One of the major World Cup upsets came when Algeria beat defending champions West Germany 2-1 on the first day of the group 2 matches. Mexico’s 1986 hosting of the tournament will be remembered for two things. Eight months before kick-off, a massive earthquake rocked the country, killing 20 000 people. Mexico picked up the pieces and managed to stage a successful tournament. It was also the year of the infamous Diego Maradona “hand of God” incident, in which a handball by him found the back of the net and was allowed. Argentina went on to win. Italy’s 1990 hosting of the World Cup will always be remembered for a record low in terms of goals scored, and a then record high of 16 red cards. 1990 was Cameroon’s year to shine and football legend Roger Milla scored four goals in the tournament. Cameroon beat the reigning champions Argentina in the first game of the tournament, but it was Germany who went home with the cup. The US hosted the tournament for the first time in 1994. Critics questioned whether the country had enough of a football following for the tournament to be a success, but the event recorded huge crowd numbers and the final holds the record for the highest attendance at a sporting event in the US. Brazil won their fourth World Cup. Air France and other transport staff embarked on a massive strike that was only resolved hours before kick-off. The format of the game changed in 1998 from 24 teams to 32, and from 52 games to 64. France went on to beat Brazil in the final. 2002 was a year of firsts. It was the first World Cup tournament to be hosted in Asia and to be hosted by two countries. It will also be remembered as the last time the golden goal was used. Brazil won the tournament for a record fifth time, beating Germany in the final. It may have been one of the best organised tournaments in World Cup history, but Germany 2006 will be best remembered for the incident in which French player Zinedine Zidane headbutted Italian player Marco Materazzi in the final. The Germans also found themselves with a hooligan problem, with riots and fights breaking out during the tournament. The Italian team walked away with the trophy.
HAND OF GOD: Maradonna’s infamous handball in Mexico in 1986.
OLD AND NEW: The old Jules Rimet World Cup, left, and the modern trophy, first used in 1974.