31 Facts About the World Cup: the things you need to know to look smart in front of your soccer fan friends
- The World Cup has been awarded every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it was not held because of the Second World War.
- The 20 World Cup tournaments have been won by eight national teams.
- Uruguay won the first World Cup in 1930 (which they hosted).
- Brazil has won the World Cup more than any other team, with 25% of the titles (5/20). It is also the only country to have competed in every competition.
- The qualifying games for every FIFA World Cup go on all around the world for 3 years preceding the main tournament.
- The FIFA World Cup is the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world.
- 3.2 billion people worldwide watched the 2010 World Cup - it's 46.4 percent of the world.
- 32 teams compete for the coveted trophy, which includes the host nation who automatically qualifies. Until 1978 it was 16 teams, and until 1994 it was 24 teams. In 2026, the number of teams will increase to 48.
- Pelé is the most successful World Cup player, winning the title 3 different times with Brazil.
- For the first time in the history of soccer, the 2002 World Cup was held in two different countries: South Korea and Japan.
- The World Cup trophy went missing for 7 days in 1966, when it was stolen just prior to the tournament.
- The Italians have had the most number of draws in World Cup history with 21.
- The World Cup winning country is rumored to see a baby boom 9 months after the World Cup. In fact, Hyundai even created a commercial based on this fact.
- The 1970 World Cup hosted by Mexico was the first to be televised in color.
- In 1992, 42-year-old Roger Milla became the oldest goal scorer and the oldest player in World Cup history.
- In 1986, FIFA prohibited shirt swapping because they did not want players to bare their chests on the field.
- Zinedine Zidane has the most cards shown against him - 4 Yellow cards and 2 Red cards.
- The largest crowd to witness a single game live was in the 1950 edition, when 173,850 witnessed the final between Brazil and Uruguay.
- Netherlands is the most successful team to have never won the World Cup, with 3 runner-up finishes and once placed fourth.
- In the 1950 edition, India was disqualified for wanting to play bare feet. Ironically, this has been the only time they qualified for a World Cup.
- Sir Viv Richards is the only person in the world to play both, soccer and cricket World Cups.
- Every World Cup has been won by a coach who is the same nationality as his team.
- 2018 will be the 21st FIFA World Cup, 88 years after the initial tournament in Uruguay (1930) and for the first time in Russia.
- The tournament will take place in 12 stadiums across 11 cities. Moscow is the only city with two arenas (Luzhniki and Spartak).
- Italy failed to qualify for the first time since 1958, being the only one of eight teams to have won the competition who won’t compete in Russia.
- Zimbabwe was supposed to compete in the tournament for the first time ever, but they failed to pay severance fee for a coach and FIFA expelled them from the competition.
- Peru, who competed in the first World Cup, will play in the competition for the first time since 1982, the longest absence of any side that will be in Russia.
- Iceland are the country with the smallest population to ever compete at a World Cup, with 334,000 residents.
- The distance between the easternmost host city (Ekaterinburg) and the westernmost host city (Kaliningrad) at the 2018 World Cup is over 1500 miles. For comparison, that’s about the same distance as Moscow to London, England.
- Germany won the world cup in 2014
Please note that some of the links in select posts are affiliate links and, at no additional cost to you, I earn a small commission if you make a purchase.
As always, ideas and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. - Erika