A History of the World Cup – extract

A History of the World Cup


On Thursday 12 June 2014 the opening match of the twentieth FIFA World Cup* will take place between hosts and five-time champions, Brazil, and Croatia in front of a capacity crowd of 65,000 spectators. 84 years earlier, on 13 July 1930, Mexico and France and USA and Belgium played the opening matches of the first World Cup tournament, both games taking place in the city of Montevideo, capital of Uruguay.

Over the course of two years, 203 nations took part in this year’s World Cup qualification until 31 teams were left to join the hosts in Brazil.

Only thirteen nations took part in 1930; no qualification was needed, and with no representatives from Africa or Asia, the name ‘World Cup’ seemed somewhat a misnomer.

However, we would be mistaken to consider the game of 84 years ago any less popular than it is today. It still attracted as much passion and fury as it does now, and at a time when nationalism was a by-product of the global consciousness, perhaps more so.

For the first FIFA World Cup Final, which took place on 30 July 1930, an estimated 90,000 crammed in to see the hosts, Uruguay, beat their South American rivals Argentina 4-2. So incensed at their loss, Argentinian fans in Buenos Aires stoned the Uruguayan embassy denting diplomatic relations between the two nations.

The stars of yesteryear were as much revered as they are now. Leonidas, Ademir, Puskas, Fontaine and Ghiggia were, each of them, as famous in their day as Pele, Moore, Beckenbauer and Cruyff were in recent decades and Messi, Ronaldo, Ribery and Rooney are now.

The FIFA World Cup of 2014 will bring out the best and the worst of players, managers, officials and fans alike. Players, known only within their home nations, will become overnight stars throughout the world; others will suffer vilification, while some will exit the world stage following this tournament. There will be great excitement, unbearable tension, utter delight and crushing despair. There will be epic games that will live in the memory and the dull we’d rather forget. And, at the end of it, one nation only will hold the World Cup aloft. We know all this because it happens at every tournament.

The following book is not a comprehensive history of the competition – you will not learn the name of Bulgaria’s outside right in 1962, nor who scored the second goal in Yugoslavia’s 9-0 win over Zaire in 1974. But you will get a good overview of the world’s ultimate sporting occasion, the games that mattered, its superstars and its villains.

This, in an hour, is the history of the FIFA World Cup.

*(‘FIFA’, ‘World Cup’ and ‘FIFA World Cup’ are trade marks of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association).

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