History of the FIFA World Cup
The FIFA World Cup was first held in 1930, when FIFA, the world's football governing body, decided to stage an international men’s football tournament under the era of FIFA president Jules Rimet who put this idea into place. The inaugural edition, held in 1930, was contested as a final tournament of only thirteen teams invited by the organization. Since then, the World Cup has experienced successive expansions and format remodeling, with its current 32-team final tournament preceded by a two-year qualifying process, involving over 200 teams from around the world.
- 1 International football before 1930
- 2 The beginnings of the World Cup
- 3 Cancellations due to World War II
- 4 Post-war years
- 5 Late 20th century
- 6 21st century
- 7 Evolution of the format
- 8 World Cup–winning teams, captains, and managers
- 9 See also
- 10 References
International football before 1930
By the twentieth century football had gained ground all around the world and national football associations were being founded. The first official international match outside the British Isles was played between Uruguay and Argentina in Montevideo in July 1902. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in Paris on 22 May 1904 – comprising football associations from France, Belgium (the preceding two teams having played their first national against each other earlier in the month), Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, with Germany pledging to join.
As football began to increase in popularity, it was contested as an IOC-recognised Olympic sport at the 1900 and 1904 Summer Olympics, as well as at the 1906 Intercalated Games, before becoming an official FIFA-supervised Olympic competition at the 1908 Summer Olympics. Organised by England's Football Association, the event was for amateur players only and was regarded suspiciously as a show rather than a competition. The England national amateur football team won the event in both 1908 and 1912.
There was an attempt made by FIFA to organize an international football tournament between nations outside of the Olympic framework in 1906 and this took place in Switzerland. These were very early days for international football and the official history of FIFA describes the competition as having been a failure.
With the Olympic event continuing to be contested only between amateur teams, competitions involving professional teams also started to appear. The Torneo Internazionale Stampa Sportiva, held in Turin in 1908, was one of the first and the following year; Sir Thomas Lipton organised the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, also held in Turin. Both tournaments were contested between individual clubs (not national teams), each one of which represented an entire nation. For this reason, neither was really a direct forerunner of the World Cup, but notwithstanding that, the Thomas Lipton Trophy is sometimes described as The First World Cup, at the expense of its less well-known Italian predecessor.
In 1914, FIFA agreed to recognise the Olympic tournament as a "world football championship for amateurs", and took responsibility for organising the event. This led the way for the world's first intercontinental football competition, at the 1920 Summer Olympics, won by Belgium. Uruguay won the tournaments in 1924 and 1928.
The beginnings of the World Cup
In 1930, FIFA made the decision to stage their own international tournament. The 1932 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, did not plan to include football as part of the programme due to the low popularity of the sport in the United States. FIFA and the IOC also disagreed over the status of amateur players, and so football was dropped from the Games. FIFA president Jules Rimet thus set about organizing the inaugural World Cup tournament. With Uruguay now two-time official world champions and due to celebrate their centenary of independence in 1930, FIFA named Uruguay as the host country. The national associations of selected nations were invited to send a team, but the choice of Uruguay as a venue for the competition meant a long and costly trip across the Atlantic Ocean for European sides. No European country pledged to send a team until two months before the start of the competition. Rimet eventually persuaded teams from Belgium, France, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia to make the trip. In total, 13 nations took part – seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America.
The first two World Cup matches took place simultaneously, and were won by France and the United States, who beat Mexico 4–1 and Belgium 3–0, respectively. The first goal in World Cup history was scored by Lucien Laurent of France. Four days later, the first World Cup hat-trick was achieved by Bert Patenaude of the U.S. in the Americans' 3–0 win against Paraguay. In the final, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people in Montevideo to become the first nation to win a World Cup.
The 1934 World Cup was hosted by Italy and was the first World Cup to include a qualification stage. Sixteen teams qualified for the tournament, a number which would be retained until the expansion of the finals tournament in 1982. Uruguay, the titleholders from 1930, still upset about the poor European attendance at their World Cup in 1930, boycotted the 1934 World Cup. Bolivia and Paraguay were also absent, allowing Argentina and Brazil to progress to the finals in Italy without having to play any qualifying matches. Egypt became the first African team to compete, but lost to Hungary in the first round. Italy won the tournament, becoming the first European team to do so.
The 1938 World Cup competition was also held in Europe (in France), much to the consternation of many South Americans, with Uruguay and Argentina boycotting. For the first time, the title holders and the host country were given automatic qualification. Following a play-off match against Latvia, Austria had officially qualified for the final round, but because of the Anschluss in April 1938 with Germany, the Austrian national team withdrew, with some Austrian players being added to the German squad (the combined German squad would be eliminated in the first round for the first time in the World Cup's history, with the second time happening eighty years later during the 2018 tournament). Austria's place was offered to England, but they declined. This left the finals with 15 nations competing. France hosted, but for the first time the hosts did not win the competition, as Italy retained their title, beating Hungary in the final. Polish striker Ernest Willimowski became the first player to score four goals in a World Cup game during Poland's 6–5 loss against Brazil; his record was later equalled by other players, but was bettered only 56 years later in the 1994 World Cup.
Cancellations due to World War II
The FIFA World Cup was planned to take place in 1942. Germany officially applied to host the 1942 FIFA World Cup at the 23rd FIFA Congress on 13 August 1936 in Berlin. In June 1939, Brazil also applied to host the tournament. The beginning of European hostilities in September 1939 prompted further plans for the 1942 World Cup to be cancelled, before a host country was selected. The FIFA tournament did not take place.
During World War II, FIFA struggled to keep itself afloat, and it had no financial or personnel resources with which to plan a peacetime tournament for when hostilities ended. When the war ended in 1945, it was clear that FIFA would have no hope in a single year of planning and scheduling a 1946 World Cup. In fact, FIFA’s first meeting was on July 1, 1946 – around the time the 1946 World Cup would ordinarily have been played – and when it planned the next World Cup for 1949 no country would host it. The major international tournament in 1946 was the 1946 South American Championship in which Argentina beat Brazil 2–0 on February 10, 1946.
Competitions resumed with the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, which was the first to include British participants. British teams withdrew from FIFA in 1920, partly out of unwillingness to play against the countries they had been at war with, and partly as a protest against a foreign influence to football, but rejoined in 1946 following FIFA's invitation. England's involvement, however, was not to be a success. The English failed to make the final group round in a campaign that included a surprise 1–0 loss to the United States.
The tournament also saw the return of 1930 champions Uruguay, who had boycotted the previous two World Cups. For political reasons, Eastern European countries (such as Hungary, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia) did not enter. Title-holder Italy did take part, despite the Superga air disaster of 1949 in which the entire Grande Torino team (many who were national team players) were killed. The 1950 World Cup was the only tournament not to stage a final tie, replacing knockout rounds with two group phases. The last match of the second group phase, however, is sometimes referred to as a "final", as the group standings meant the winners would be the overall winners. Uruguay were surprise victors over hosts Brazil with a final score of 2–1 (the game would later be known as Maracanazo), and became champions for the second time. This game also held the record for the highest attendance at any sporting match, at roughly 200,000.
The 1954 World Cup, held in Switzerland, was the first to be televised. The Soviet Union did not participate because of their dismal performance at the 1952 Summer Olympics. Scotland made their first appearance in the tournament, but were unable to register a win, going out after the group stage. This tournament set a number of all-time goal-scoring records, including highest average goals per game and highest-scoring team (Hungary), and most goals in a single match (Austria's 7–5 quarter-final victory over Switzerland). West Germany were the tournament winners, defeating Olympic champions Hungary 3–2 in the final, overturning a 2–0 deficit in the process, with Helmut Rahn scoring the winner. The match is known as the Miracle of Bern in Germany.
Brazil won the 1958 World Cup, held in Sweden, and became the first team to win a World Cup outside their home continent (only 4 teams have done this to date – Brazil in 1958, 1970, 1994 and 2002, Argentina in 1986, Spain in 2010 and Germany in 2014). The Soviet Union participated this time, most likely due to their win at Melbourne 1956. For the first (and so far only) time, all four British teams qualified for the final round. Wales was able to take advantage of a situation in the Africa/Asia zone, where the number of withdrawals would give Israel qualification without having played a single qualifying match. This prompted FIFA to rule that qualification without playing was not allowed (despite allowing this to happen in earlier years of the Cup), and so Israel were ordered to play against one of the teams finishing second in the other groups. A tie was created, and Wales defeated Israel 2–0 twice in 1958. It was the first (and so far the only) time that a country played a World Cup final round after having been eliminated in the regular qualifiers. The tournament also saw the emergence of Pelé, who scored two goals in the final. French striker Just Fontaine became the top scorer of the tournament.
Chile hosted the 1962 World Cup. Two years before the tournament, an earthquake struck, the largest ever recorded at 9.5 magnitude, prompting officials to rebuild due to major damage to infrastructure. When the competition began, two of the best players were in poor form as Pelé was injured in Brazil's second group match against Czechoslovakia. Also, the Soviet Union saw their goalkeeper Lev Yashin show poor form including a 2–1 loss to hosts Chile as the hosts captured third place.
The competition was also marred by overly defensive and often violent tactics. This poisonous atmosphere culminated in what was known as the Battle of Santiago first round match between Italy and Chile in which Chile won 2–0. Prior to the match, two Italian journalists wrote unflattering articles about the host country. In the match, players on both sides made deliberate attempts to harm opponents though only two players from Italy were sent off by English referee Ken Aston. In the end, the Italian team needed police protection to leave the field in safety.
Colombia's Marcos Coll made World Cup history when he scored a goal direct from a corner kick (called an Olympic Goal in Latin America), the only one ever made in a World Cup, past legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin.
The 1966 World Cup, hosted by England, was the first to embrace marketing, featuring a mascot and official logo for the first time. The trophy was stolen in the run-up to the tournament but was found a week later by a dog named "Pickles". South Africa was banned for violating the anti-discrimination charter (apartheid). The ban remained in effect until 1992 when the South Africa Football Association was finally accepted by FIFA. The qualifying rounds of the tournament saw a controversy when the African nations decided to withdraw in protest of only one qualifying place allocated by FIFA to the regions of Asia, Oceania and Africa. The eventual qualifiers from the zone, North Korea, became the first Asian team to reach the quarter-finals, eliminating Italy in the process. England won the tournament, although João Havelange (former FIFA president from 1974 to 1998) claimed that the 1966 and 1974 World Cups were fixed so that England and Germany would win respectively. Geoff Hurst became the first and to this day the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final and Eusébio, whose team Portugal were taking part in their first World Cup, was the tournament top-scorer, with nine goals to his name.
The qualification stages of the 1970 World Cup were coincidental with the Football War between Honduras and El Salvador. The finals were held in Mexico. Israel had been with Europe, but due to political issues, it was becoming harder to place them adequately in the qualifying rounds. They were grouped in Asia/Oceania. Korea DPR then refused to meet them, even though this meant automatic disqualification. The group stage clash between defending champions England and Brazil lived up to its billing, and is still remembered for England goalkeeper Gordon Banks' save from a Pelé header on the six-yard line, arguably the best save ever. The tournament is also remembered for the semi-final match between Italy and West Germany, in which five goals were scored in extra time, and Franz Beckenbauer played with a broken arm, since Germany had used up all their allowed substitutions. Italy were the eventual 4–3 winners, but were defeated 1–4 in the final by Brazil, who became the first nation to win three World Cups, and were awarded the Jules Rimet trophy permanently for their achievement.
A new trophy was created for the 1974 edition, held in West Germany. After a draw in their first UEFA/CONMEBOL Intercontinental play-off match against Chile in the qualifiers, the Soviet Union refused to travel to the Chilean capital for the return fixture for political reasons, and in accordance with the regulations, Chile were awarded a victory. East Germany, Haiti, Australia and Zaire made their first finals. The tournament also saw a new format, where the two top teams from each of the earlier four groups were divided into two groups of four each again, the winner of either group playing each other in the final. The West German hosts won the competition by beating the Netherlands 2–1 in the final, but it was also the revolutionary Total Football system of the Dutch that captured the footballing world's imagination. The very well-playing Poland finished third, after defeating Brazil 1–0 (and after defeating Argentina 3–2 and eliminating Italy 2–1 in the initial group play), having barely lost in terrible rain in the semi-finals to West Germany 0–1.
The 1978 World Cup was held in Argentina, causing controversy as a military coup had taken place in the country two years earlier. Allegations that Dutch star Johan Cruyff refused to participate because of political convictions were refuted by him 30 years later. and none of the teams decided to stay away.
This was the hardest ever World Cup finals to qualify for. With 95 teams vying for 14 places (the holders and hosts qualified automatically), there were nearly seven countries competing for each place in Argentina. Hungary won their European group but had to win a play-off against Bolivia to qualify, while England were eliminated despite winning five of their six qualifying matches.
Iran and Tunisia were first time participants. Tunisia won their first match against Mexico 3–1 and became the first African team to ever win a world cup game. There was some on-field controversy as well. During the second round, Argentina had an advantage in their match against Peru since the kick off was several hours after Brazil's match with Poland. Brazil won their match 3–1, so Argentina knew that they had to beat Peru by four goals to advance to the final. Trailing 2–0 at half-time, Peru simply collapsed in the second half, and Argentina eventually won 6–0. Rumors suggested that Peru might have been bribed into allowing Argentina to win the match by such a large margin. Argentina went on to win the final 3–1, Mario Kempes scoring twice, with the Dutch being runners-up for the second time in a row.
Late 20th century
Spain hosted an expanded 1982 World Cup which featured 24 teams, the first expansion since 1934. The teams were divided into six groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the second round, where they split into four groups of three. The winners of each group advanced to the semi-finals. Cameroon, Algeria, Honduras, New Zealand and Kuwait were the debutants. The group match between Kuwait and France was stage of a farcical incident. As the French were leading 3–1, the Kuwaiti team stopped playing after hearing a whistle from the stands which they thought had come from referee, as French defender Maxime Bossis scored. As the Kuwaiti team were protesting the goal, Sheikh Fahid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, president of the Kuwait Football Association, rushed onto the pitch and gave the referee a piece of his mind, who proceeded to disallow the goal. Bossis scored another valid goal a few minutes later and France won 4–1.
Also during the group stages, Hungary beat El Salvador 10–1, which has been the only occasion to this day that a team scored ten goals in a World Cup match. The group match between West Germany and Austria later resulted in a change of World Cup rules, after both teams visibly aimed to keep the qualification ensuring 1–0 scoreline over 80 minutes. The semi-final between West Germany and France saw another controversy when German keeper Harald Schumacher's challenge took out Patrick Battiston, with the score at 1–1. Schumacher escaped a red card, and Germany won in a penalty shoot-out, after coming back to level from having gone 1–3 down. The final was won by Italy, making Italian captain Dino Zoff the oldest player to win the World Cup. Italian striker Paolo Rossi, who was making his comeback after a match-fixing scandal and the ensuing ban, was the tournament top-scorer with six goals including a classic hat-trick against Brazil.
Because of Colombia's withdrawal to host the tournament, Mexico became the first nation to hold two World Cups by hosting the 1986 World Cup. The format changed again, with the second round being replaced by a pre-quarterfinal, knockout competition, for which 16 teams would qualify. It was also decided that the final two matches in all groups would kick off simultaneously, to ensure complete fairness. Canada, Denmark and Iraq made their first finals. José Batista of Uruguay set a World Cup record being sent off after a mere 56 seconds into the game against Scotland. The quarterfinal match between England and Argentina is remembered for two remarkable Diego Maradona goals, later regarded as player of the tournament, the first, the controversial handball goal, and the second, considered to be the Goal of the Century, in which he dribbled half the length of the field past five English players before scoring. In the final, Argentina beat West Germany 3–2, inspired by Diego Maradona, who set up Jorge Burruchaga for the winner.
The 1990 World Cup was held in Italy. Cameroon, participating in their second World Cup, made it to the quarter-finals after beating Argentina in the opening game. No African country had ever reached the quarter-finals before. Mexico was unable to compete in the 1990 World Cup preliminary competition as a result of a two-year ban for age fraud at a youth championship, an incident known as Los Cachirules. the United States qualified for the first time since 1950. An unpleasant episode marred the South American qualifiers: during the match between Brazil and Chile, a firework landed close to the Chilean goalkeeper Roberto Rojas, who then feigned injury by cutting his own face with a razor blade he had hidden in his glove. His team refused to continue the match (as they were down a goal at the time). The plot was discovered and resulted in a 12-year suspension for Rojas and to Chile being banned from the 1994 World Cup. The final featured the same teams as in 1986. After finishing runners-up in the two previous tournaments, West Germany beat Argentina 1–0 in the final to record their third title. The Republic of Ireland also made their first appearance in the tournament, reaching the quarter-finals without winning a single game (four draws, with a penalty shoot-out win over Romania in the second round). This is the furthest a team has ever advanced in the World Cup without winning a game.
The 1994 World Cup, held in the United States, saw the first World Cup final to be decided on penalties, with Brazil edging out Italy. FR Yugoslavia was excluded due to UN sanctions in connection with the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Colombia qualified unexpectedly defeating Argentina 5-0. Japan narrowly missed a ticket to the World Cup after drawing with Iraq in the final match of the qualification round, remembered by fans as the "Agony of Doha". As a result, South Korea qualified to the tournament. Russia (taking the place of the Soviet Union which had disintegrated over 1990 and 1991) played their first World Cup competition as a new country, with Greece, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia as the other first-timers. Diego Maradona was banned mid-tournament after testing positive for cocaine: without him, Argentina were eliminated in the last 16 by Romania. Colombian defender Andrés Escobar was murdered ten days after scoring an own-goal against the hosts in a first-round match that eliminated Colombia.
The total attendance for the tournament of nearly 3.6 million remains the biggest in World Cup history. Oleg Salenko of Russia became the first player to score five goals in a single World Cup finals game in his country's 6–1 group stage win over Cameroon. In the same match, 42-year-old Roger Milla scored the only goal for Cameroon, becoming the oldest player ever to score in a World Cup match. Hristo Stoichkov shared the Golden Boot as the joint top goal scorer in the tournament with Oleg Salenko (six goals), as well as earning the Bronze Ball award. He led Bulgaria to a shock 2-1 win over defending champions Germany in the quarter-finals, before losing 2–1 to Italy and losing the third place play-off to Sweden, 4–0.
The 1998 World Cup was held in France, and had an expanded format featuring 32 teams. Iran beat the Maldives in qualification by the widest margin in World Cup history – 17–0. In the finals, the second round match between France and Paraguay witnessed the first golden goal in World Cup history, as Laurent Blanc scored to give the hosts a 1–0 victory. Hosts France won the tournament by beating Brazil 3–0 in the final, as the Brazilian Ronaldo had health issues and therefore he hasn't impact on the match. Debutants Croatia finished a commendable third.
The 2002 World Cup was the first to be held in Asia, and was hosted jointly by South Korea and Japan. Togolese Souleymane Mamam became the youngest player ever to take to a World Cup preliminary game field at 13 years, 310 days in Lomé in May 2001. Australia defeated American Samoa 31–0 in a preliminary match – a new record for the margin of victory, and the highest-scoring match ever. The tournament was a successful one for teams traditionally regarded as minnows, with South Korea, Senegal and the United States all reaching the last eight. Brazil beat Germany 2–0 in the final for their fifth title. The Turkish Hakan Sukur made history by scoring the earliest World Cup goal of all time against South Korea at only 11 seconds.
The 2006 World Cup was held in Germany. It was the first World Cup for which the previous winner had to qualify; the host nation(s) continue to receive an automatic berth. Four African teams also made their debut in the world cup finals: Togo, Ivory Coast, Angola and Ghana who impressively made it to last 16 by beating the Czech Republic, third ranked in the world, 2–1, along with the United States 2–0, before losing to the defending champions Brazil 0–3.
First seed and holders Brazil and second seeded England were initially English bookmakers' favourites. A strong performance by Germany brought them as far as the semi-finals. However, the final match-up was between Italy and France, in which French captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the last ten minutes of extra time for a headbutt to the chest of Italian central defender Marco Materazzi. Italy went on to win 5–3 in a penalty shootout, the score having been 1–1 after 90 minutes and extra time.
The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa. It was the first cup hosted on African soil, and the cup was won by Spain. The tournament was noted for its highly defensive opening matches, controversies surrounding goal-line technology, and the introduction of vuvuzelas. Though considered as one of the tournament favorites, the Spaniards won the cup despite scoring only eight goals in seven games and losing their opening match to Switzerland. David Villa led the squad in scoring with five goals. In a final which saw a record number of yellow cards distributed and what some considered violent play from the Dutch side, the ten-man Netherlands squad were defeated 1–0 in the 116th minute of extra time by an Andrés Iniesta goal.
The 2014 World Cup was held in Brazil, marking the second time that Brazil hosted the competition. The cup was won by Germany, who beat Argentina 1-0 in the final. The Netherlands defeated Brazil (who lost to the eventual winners, Germany, 7-1 in the semifinals) 3–0 in the bronze medal game.
Because of the relatively high ambient temperatures in Brazil, particularly at the northern venues, cooling breaks for the players were first introduced during these games. In this World Cup there was the debut of sensors to avoid phantom goals with the Goal-line technology, used to determine, in doubtful situations, whether the ball crossed the goal line or not.
The 2018 World Cup was held in Russia. It was the first cup to be held in Eastern Europe. The cup was won by France, who beat Croatia 4–2 in the final. Belgium defeated England 2–0 in the bronze medal game. It was also the first cup to use the video assistant referee (VAR) system.
The 2022 World Cup hosted by Qatar will be the first tournament to not be held in summer time in which it is usually held. It will take place from November 21 to December 18, 2022.
Evolution of the format
The number of teams and the format of each final tournament have varied considerably over the years. In most tournaments, the tournament consists of a round-robin group stage followed by a single-elimination knockout stage.
|Year||Host||Entrants / Played (Qualifying)||Teams||Matches||Round 1||Round 2||Final stages|
|1930||Uruguay||No Qualification (Invitational Only)||13||18||4 groups of 3 or 4 teams[s 1]||knockout of 4 teams |
(round 1 group winners)[s 2]
|1934||Italy||32 / 27||16||17||knockout[s 3]|
|1938||France||37 / 21||16[s 4]||18||knockout[s 3]|
|Tournaments of 1942 and 1946 cancelled due to World War II|
|1950||Brazil||34 / 19||16[s 5]||22||4 groups of 4 teams[s 5][s 1]||group of 4 teams |
(round 1 group winners)
|1954||Switzerland||45 / 33||16||26||4 groups of 4 teams[s 6][s 1]||knockout of 8 teams |
(round 1 group winners and runners-up)
|1958||Sweden||55 / 46||16||35||4 groups of 4 teams[s 1]|
|1962||Chile||56 / 49||16||32||4 groups of 4 teams|
|1966||England||74 / 51|
|1970||Mexico||75 / 68|
|1974||West Germany||99 / 90||16||38||4 groups of 4 teams||2 groups of 4 teams
(round 1 group winners and runners-up)
(round 2 group winners)[s 7]
|1978||Argentina||107 / 95|
|1982||Spain||109 / 103||24||52||6 groups of 4 teams||4 groups of 3 teams
(round 1 group winners and runners-up)
|knockout of 4 teams |
(round 2 group winners)
|1986||Mexico||121 / 110||24||52||6 groups of 4 teams||knockout of 16 teams |
(round 1 group winners and runners-up, plus 4 best 3rd-placed teams)
|1990||Italy||116 / 103|
|1994||United States||147 / 130|
|1998||France||174 / 168||32||64||8 groups of 4 teams||knockout of 16 teams |
(round 1 group winners and runners-up)
|2002|| South Korea
|199 / 193|
|2006||Germany||198 / 194|
|2010||South Africa||205 / 200|
|2014||Brazil||204 / 203|
|2018||Russia||210 / 208|
|2022||Qatar||32||To be announced|
|48||80||16 groups of 3 teams||knockout of 32 teams |
(round 1 group winners and runners-up)
- Up to 1958, ranking ties in groups were to be broken via a playoff; this only happened in 1954 and 1958. Since 1962, all ties are broken by goal average or goal difference.
- No third-place match was played
- In 1934 and 1938, draws in knockout matches were resolved via a replay. Later, drawing of lots was provided for, though never invoked. Since 1974, penalty shootouts are used.
- Austria pulled out after qualifying, leaving the tournament with only 15 teams
- India, Scotland and Turkey pulled out after qualifying, leaving the tournament with only 13 teams, and thus, one group had only 3 teams and one group had only 2 teams
- Each group had two seeded and two unseeded teams; the seeded teams played only unseeded teams and vice versa.
- The third-place match was contested by the round 2 group runners-up
Until the 1990 FIFA World Cup, 2 points were conceded for a win and 1 point was conceded for a draw. Since the 1994 FIFA World Cup, 3 points are conceded for a win and 1 point is conceded for a draw.
Each group of four teams plays a round-robin schedule. As of the 1986 World Cup, all final group games must be held simultaneously, a rule instituted by FIFA to minimize collusion amongst teams requiring a certain result to advance. FIFA instituted a policy to award three points for a win in the 1994 World Cup. Although goals for was already a tiebreaker, FIFA hoped to create an additional incentive for teams to pursue victory. The first team affected by the rule was Paraguay in 1998, which would have won its group on goal differential over Nigeria under prior FIFA rules. Paraguay advanced to the knockout phase as group runner-up and was defeated by host nation and eventual champion France in the round of 16. It is not possible under the new point system to be eliminated from the group stage with a second place or higher winning percentage, however it is possible to finish behind a team with the same winning percentage yet a lower goal difference. This took place in the 2010 World Cup when New Zealand finished with three draws and Slovakia finished with one win, one draw, and one loss. Slovakia advanced in Group F by finishing second with four points, eliminating New Zealand with three points. Under the previous FIFA point allotment system, New Zealand would have advanced with a zero goal difference, while Slovakia would have been eliminated with a goal difference of −1.
The criteria for advancement to knockout phase is as follows:
- Greatest number of points in group matches
- Greatest total goal difference in the three group matches
- Greatest number of goals scored in the three group matches
- If teams remained level after those criteria, a mini-group would be formed from those teams, who would be ranked on:
- Most points earned in matches against other teams in the tie
- Greatest goal difference in matches against other teams in the tie
- Greatest number of goals scored in matches against other teams in the tie
- If teams remained level after all these criteria, FIFA would hold a drawing of lots
- The drawing of lots for tied teams takes place one hour after the final game in the group at the stadium where the championship match is held. The drawing of lots is similar to the World Cup draw in terms of style and format; a ball is drawn from a pot, which contains balls with the names of each tied team.
As of the 2014 World Cup, lots have only been drawn once in tournament history. However, they were used to separate second and third place in a group (Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands in 1990) where both were already assured of qualification. Thus, a team has never been eliminated based upon drawn lots.
World Cup–winning teams, captains, and managers
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