There is no competition in football that can compare with the World Cup. Even though the UEFA Champions League may produce games of the same quality, it can’t overreach the status earned from the long tradition and the fact that one team represent a whole country.
Before the World Cup was inaugurated, the football tournament arranged as part of the Summer Olympics was given the most prestige. But in the 1920s, the game was facing a transition to professionalism that wasn’t consistent with the Olympic spirit. Therefore, the government body, FIFA, made plans to organize a World Cup. The decision of arranging the first edition was officially declared on May 26, 1928.
In 1930, The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) held soccer’s first World Cup tournament in Montevideo, Uruguay and since then the tournament has been held every fourth year (with exceptions for interruption due to the Second World War). The entire tournament took place in three stadium within Montevideo; Central Park, Pocitos Stadium and Estadio Centenario, which staged the final between the hosts and Argentina. In the first World Cup final, held on July 30, 1930, 93,000 spectators looked on as Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in a rematch of the 1928 Olympic gold medal game. Uruguay went on to win its second World Cup in 1950 with a 2-1 win over Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.
On July 13, 1930, France defeated Mexico 4-1 and the United States defeated Belgium 3-0 in the first-ever World Cup football matches, played simultaneously in host city Montevideo, Uruguay. The World Cup has since become the world’s most watched sporting event.
The FIFA World Cup has many amazing ways of making a positive impact in various nations but the effective is that of polishing the unity within the nations and it’s participants. Sure, nothing is all sunshine and lollipops like the screaming ecstasy and contagious expressions of the crowdy stadium.
WORLD WAR ERA
The 1942 FIFA World Cup was the first to have complications due to World War II. In fact, there were so many international political complications that the tournament didn’t even go ahead and FIFA was left struggling to stay afloat financially.
Even in 1946, when the war had ended, FIFA simply didn’t have the capabilities to host a World Cup and so the tournament continued its hiatus into the next decade.
Thankfully for soccer fans around the world, the FIFA World Cup returned in 1950. As you can probably imagine, selecting a host nation was a delicate business after such a long period of international trouble but eventually, Brazil was decided to host the tournament.
The tournament saw 16 teams taking part, with half of the places being allocated to European countries who now had better means of traveling to South America. Unsurprisingly, it was Uruguay who again took home the trophy, beating out the hosts, Brazil, in the final.
The following World Cup in 1954 saw a great technological advancement in the tournament’s history, as it was the first to be televised. The Switzerland based tournament saw West Germany taken first place with Uruguay falling to a disappointing fourth.
The 1966 World Cup was incredibly significant to English soccer fans, given that it was the only time England has ever won the tournament. That year also saw England host the tournament for the first time, meaning the eyes of the whole nation were on the players as they saw off West Germany in a thrilling final.
However, that World Cup also saw some controversy before the tournament had even started, with the prestigious trophy being stolen. Thankfully, a dog named ‘Pickles’ was the nation’s hero after he found the trophy hidden in a bush at his local park.
The FIFA World Cup in the 1960s also saw great progress for social change in the sport of soccer. South Africa was banned from the 1966 tournament for violating the anti-discrimination charter and North Korea was the first Asian team to reach the quarter-finals, giving hope to a whole new generation of soccer players.
At this point in history, the FIFA World Cup was a household name and the tournament ran consistently every four years. By 1978, 95 nations competed fiercely to qualify for one of the 14 places in the tournament, making it one of the most competitive soccer tournaments in history.
Eventually, it was another host nation, Argentina, who won the trophy and beat out the Netherlands side captained by the iconic, Johan Cruyff.
The 1982 FIFA World Cup saw the first expansion to 24 teams, to accommodate the greater competitiveness in qualifying. 1986 saw one of the tournament’s most controversial moments when Argentina legend, Diego Maradona, used his hand to score in the quarter-finals against England.
Despite the protests of English players, the referee didn’t see the action (later nicknamed ‘the hand of God’), and Argentina went on to win the tournament.
Remarkably, it wasn’t until the 1994 World Cup that the final match was decided by a penalty shoot-out, with Brazil taking home the trophy after beating Italy.
In the 21st century, great technological and social changes have taken place in the structure of the FIFA World Cup. 2014 saw the first implementation of goal-line technology, which eliminated any close decisions about whether the ball crossed the goal line.
Then, in 2018, FIFA introduced the video assistant referee (VAR) system which helped to cut down on even more potential mistakes by officials.
Finally, the FIFA World Cup has had a rich history and has undergone numerous changes since the first tournament was held. The only thing that has remained consistent across all those years is how prestigious the title is considered and how fiercely it is competed for every four years.