FIFA World Cup – A League unto Itself

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It could probably be said that the FIFA world cup is the league of leagues, where the club is a school, and the World Cup a university. This unique tournament, now nearly a century old, is one in which the purest skill of each country is put on display.
The one event (with the exception of the Olympics) that brings the world together - the average stadium during Brazil 2014 filled up to about 53,000 seats per match and over 3.2 billion television viewers tuned in.

World football championships of the past used to be the domain of the Olympic Games. However, in 1928 Frenchman and FIFA President, Jules Rimet, organised the first World Cup to take place two years later in 1930. It was held in Uruguay, a country whose team had won the two previous Olympic Football Tournaments of 1924 and ’28. Since then, the tournament has been played 20 times and has seen 79 national teams compete on the international stage.

After Uruguay, Italy was the next to make noise in the history books by being the first European country to host the World Cup. The Italian team also netted the following two consecutive tournaments of 1934 and ’38, becoming the first team to successfully defend the crown. Since then, Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, England and Argentina have stepped up to claim the crown, with the Brazilian team boasting the most impressive track record.

In 1958, Brazil claimed its first title in Sweden. This year also marked the debut of the legendary Pele, who would make history by being the youngest player to compete in the tournament at 17 years of age. He would then go on to become one of the highest goal-scorers in the history of football. As it stands, Brazil have 5 World Cup titles under their belt.

Germany had previously won the 1954 final against Hungary where they were the underdogs (a far cry from today’s Deutschland). They would go on to claim their second title against the Netherlands in 1974, being one of the 6 countries to have won on home soil.

Apart from Pele, the World Cup has boosted the CVs of many world-renowned players. Diego Maradona, who made his debut for Argentina in 1982 and helped his country win two subsequent titles in 1986 and 1990, is a shining example. Subsequent notable players on the international stage in the nineties and early noughties include “Zizou” (Zinedine Zidane ) and Ronaldo.

Zizou, now the manager of Real Madrid and previously a midfielder for the same team along with Juventus, secured France’s title in 1998 on home turf against Brazil. Superstar player Ronaldo also stood out during the same period by helping to bag a title for Brazil alongside Ronaldinho and Rivaldo in Korea/Japan 2002.

Korea/Japan also saw well-known World Cup veteran and top goal scorer, Miroslav Klose, make his debut appearance for Germany, racking up a total of 5 goals. He would then go on to score a tally of 16 goals for the next three tournaments, with his last 2 scored at Brazil in 2014, where his team also won the title.

However, in the latter tournament he’d been surpassed by Colombian attacking midfielder, James Rodríguez, who bagged a total of 6 goals, surpassing Argentinian and Catalan footballer Lionel Messi, and Thomas Muller of Germany. Rodríguez will be the player to watch for Colombia in their group stage against Japan, Poland and Senegal in Russia 2018.

Among the 32 qualifying teams to watch out for this year, however, it is Germany who are tipped as favourites in the World Cup odds to clinch the title once again. With midfielder Toni Kroos as their right-hand man, Germany are a force to be reckoned with. The team have won a total of four World Cup titles (just one less than Brazil) and the quality of their football has only improved in recent years.

Whatever the odds, this year’s World Cup - the first time the tournament has ever been held in Russia, and with a distance of 1,500 miles between its two host cities, Ekaterinburg and Kaliningrad - should be no less exciting than the previous 20!

Top Image -  Photo by Alexandre Breveglieri / CC BY 2.0

Read 421 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 14:44

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