Highs and lows of World Cup his­tory

The road to the South African tour­na­ment has been long and rather bumpy, writes BIANCA CA­PA­ZO­RIO

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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.

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