The World Cup: A complete and concise history

Ah, the World Cup. Patriotism, passion and penalties all condensed into a one-month long super-tournament every four years.

Ah, the World Cup. Patriotism, passion and penalties all condensed into a one-month long super-tournament every four years. Men, women and children up and down the country put aside their club rivalries and become embroiled in a wave of nationalistic fervour as the nation bites its nails with only a Panini sticker collection taking minds off England’s inevitable premature exit from the competition. 

Now a worldwide competition existing of 32 teams, the World Cup had a more humble beginning in Uruguay during the summer of 1930. After it was decided that football was to be removed from the Olympics for the 1932 games in Los Angeles, FIFA president, Jules Rimet, decided to organise the inaugural football World Cup which consisted of 13 nations and saw hosts Uruguay beat rivals Argentina 4-2 in the final.

The idea of football

On the back of the success of the first competition FIFA decided that like the Olympics, the World Cup would take place every four years. The second tournament in 1934 saw hosts Italy lift the trophy and included 16 nations for the first time – a concept that would remain until 1982. Italy once again triumphed in France in 1938 and lifted the Jules Rimet trophy for a second successive time.

It was at this stage that the tournament encountered its first road block in the shape of World War Two. Despite applying to host the 1942 tournament, Germany was not chosen (for obvious reasons) and it was decided that the tournament would not take place. FIFA planned to hold the competition again in the summer of 1946 but due to the length of the war and the consequent detriment caused to the nations involved, the competition did not go ahead and would instead return in Brazil in 1950.

Between 1950 and 1970 football really began to cement itself as the worldwide sporting phenomenon that we know it to be today. The 1954 tournament was held in Switzerland and was the first World Cup to receive television coverage, whilst England 1966 was the first to include marketing such as mascots and logos.

In terms of the footballing side of things, Brazil began to develop their own brand of fast-paced and skilful football which saw them win back to back tournaments in 1958 and 1962. And of course in the 1966 competition our very own England managed to lift the Jules Rimet trophy in controversial fashion after a Geoff Hurst hat-trick in the final against West Germany.

Hand of God and a modern brand

The 1970 tournament in Mexico saw Brazil become the first ever nation to win three tournaments with what many regard as the greatest international football team ever. Players such as Pele, Jairzinho and Rivelino excelled on the international stage as the team dominated the tournament and provided us with one of the finest goals in World Cup history in the form of a fine Carlos Alberto Torres strike after a wonderful team move.

1974 saw the dawn of ‘total football’ with the magnificent Dutch side narrowly losing to hosts West Germany 2-1 in the final. Netherlands captain Johan Cruyff electrified defences with his slick footwork and his new trick – the Cruyff turn. The Dutch were once again on the losing side of a final at the next tournament in 1978 after being beaten by hosts Argentina 3-1.

1982 saw the first 24 nation tournament in Spain, however it was the 1986 competition in Mexico that was the World Cup the eighties will be remembered by.

In the form of his career, Diego Maradona led Argentina to their second World Cup victory which came to a dramatic climax in a 3-2 final win against West Germany. However, the tournament was marred by controversy after Maradona scored the infamous Hand of God goal against England in a quarter final that also saw him score arguably one of the greatest individual goals of all time.

The World Cups from 1994 onwards saw a new brand of modern football. Brazil, France, Brazil, Italy and Spain lifted the trophy in that order during those years with each side putting their own unique stamp on to each competition.

Memorable moments from this era include Spain’s dominance during the 2010 World Cup, Zidane’s infamous head-butt during the 2006 final and Ronaldinho and Ronaldo’s master class en route to Brazil being crowned champions in 2002.  

It is difficult not to fall in love with the World Cup. Its future may be affected by the controversy surrounding Qatar’s 2022 tournament, however the moments it continues to provide us with on the pitch remind us time and time again why we love the beautiful game.

From a small competition in Uruguay in 1930 to the biggest stage in world sport today, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is sure to be something special.

What do you think of the World Cup? Have your say in the comments section below.

Image: Jimmy Baikovicius / Wikimedia Commons