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World Cup History: A Journey into the Past

Early World Cup History – From 1930 to the Second World War

World Cup Timeline

The history of the World Cup can be traced back to 1930, when the first ever World Cup competition opened in Montevideo, Uruguay.  Then FIFA president Jules Rimet (whom the original World Cup trophy was named after) was angered after the sport was dropped from the summer Olympics.

So instead, he created a tournament to promote the sport by creating an international competition. While, the format of the early World Cup tournament was different, as there were only 16 teams competing.

Despite lacking many of the European countries, the first World Cup was widely considered a success with the host country Uruguay winning the title in front of a home crowd of 93,000 people.

The tournament then moved to Europe for 1934 and 1938 seeing the Italians winning back to back championships, before being put on hold until 1950 due to the outbreak of World War II.

The Tournament Returns - 1950

The tournament returned in 1950 when it was held in Brazil, seeing the host country lose to Uruguay in the final before a record crowd of 200,000 people at the legendary Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro in an infamous match known as the "Maracanazo".

The 1950 World Cup was the first to include British teams as, prior to this, the United Kingdom had withdrawn from FIFA over disagreements both political and soccer related and did not rejoin FIFA until 1946.  While considered one of the best teams in the world at the time, England left the tournament humbled after losing to the United States 1-0 in a now famous match.

Also notable was the fact that the 1950 competition only had 13 teams after 3 teams withdrew from the tournament.  India was, interestingly enough, forced to withdraw after rules were put in place banning barefoot play.  Scotland and Turkey were forced to withdraw due to the (at the time) huge expense and difficulty in travelling to Brazil.

New Trophy – 1974

The 1974 tournament held in West Germany marked the debut of the current World Cup Trophy, after the original trophy, the Jules Rimet Cup, was stolen and never recovered.

Tournament Expansion - 1982 & 1998

The tournament continued to be held every four years with no major changes until the 1982 tournament hosted by Spain.  In 1982, the format was changed and the competition expanded to include 24 teams for the first time in World Cup History.  This continued until 1998, when once again competition was expanded, this time to the current format of 32 teams.

Future of the Tournament

The tournament continues to be held every 4 years with 32 teams attempting to capture soccer's greatest prize. The last tournament was held in 2010 in South Africa and saw Spain capture their first ever title in the first tournament in World Cup history to be held on the African continent.

Looking ahead to the future, the next competition will be held in soccer mad Brazil in 2014, as the emerging country struggles to prepare infrastructure in time for the notoriously expensive tournament.

FIFA has committed itself to promoting the sport in emerging countries and as a result, the 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia. This tournament is advertised as the first to be held in two continents at the same, owing to Russia's considerable size.

The 2022 World Cup will be breaking new ground again by being held for the first ever time in the Middle East with the host being the nation of Qatar. This tournament is already grappling with issues related to its location, as temperatures in the area typically hover around 50°C (122°F) in summertime!

Check out some interesting World Cup Facts!

Return to History of Soccer from World Cup History


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