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History of the FIFA World Cup

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No other sporting event captures the World's imagination like the FIFA World Cup does. The World Cup is an international association football competition contested by the men's national teams of the members of FIFA, the sport's global governing body.

The origin of football goes back to 1872, when the first match was played between Scotland and England. Initially, the sport was popular in the United Kingdom, but towards the end of the century, the love for the game started to spread. In view of the rising popularity, football was held as a demonstration event in 1900 and 1904 Summer Olympics. Football became an official event in 1908 and it was planned by the FA (England's football governing body) that the event was for amateur players only.

However it was in the 1920's when a group of French administrators led by Jules Rimet came up with the idea of bringing the World's strongest national football teams together to compete for the title of 'World Champions'. The positive message infused by Rimet is summarized by his famous words "Soccer could reinforce the ideals of a permanent and real peace". And with his initiative and helped by 5 other officials, on May26, 1928, the World Cup was born. However it took two years for the event to come into existence and on July13, 1930 the first game kicked off in Pocitos Stadium between France and Mexico. This marked the beginning of the most awaited competition on the planet.

fifa_world_cup_trophy.jpgThe World Cup trophy was originally named as 'Coupe de Monde', but in1946 was renamed after FIFA president and creator of the tournament Jules Rimet, as the 'Jules Rimet trophy'. In 1970 Brazil's third victory entitled them to keep the trophy permanently. After 1970, a new trophy, known as the 'FIFA World Cup trophy' was designed. The new trophy is 36 cm (14.2 in) high, made of solid 18 carat (75%) gold and weighs 6.175 kg (13.6 lb). The base contains two layers of semi-precious malachite while the bottom side of the trophy bears the engraved year and name of each FIFA World Cup winner since 1974. This new trophy is not awarded to the nation permanently. World Cup winners retain the trophy until the next tournament and are awarded the gold-plated replica in place of the original one.

In the first World Cup, 13 nations took part, with Uruguay hosting the event. The number of teams were expanded to 16 for the tournaments that took place during the time period 1934-1978. Most of the participating nations then were from Europe or South America, with a small minority from other continents. The number increased to 24 in 1982 and then to 32 in 1998 allowing more teams from other continents to take part.

In the 18 World Cup tournaments played so far, 9 have been won by South Americans and 9 by Europeans. Brazil has been the most successful team so far lifting the trophy on 5 occasions (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) and finishing runners-up on two occasions. They are followed by the Italians who have won the elusive title 4 times (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006). In all only 7 teams have managed to land their hands on the booty.

Over the years the World Cup has produced many upsets, the biggest one being that two underdog teams in South Korea and Turkey managing to reach the semi-finals in the 2002 edition. Football fanatics over the world would also remember when the World Cup holders Argentina, a team studded with stars lost out to minnows Cameroon in 1990. Senegal defeating defending champions France in 2002 remains one of the biggest upsets, remembered by many a Senegalese faithful as their best performance ever.

The qualification for the World Cup can start as early as three years before the tournament and lasts over a two year period. The formats are specific to different confederations in different continents. For the 2010 World Cup, a record 204 teams participated in the qualification process. A total of 32 teams, in the present format make it to the World Cup finals. They are then divided into 8 groups comprising 4 teams each and the draw for the groups is made through a pot system.

Teams in each group play each other in a round-robin format, guaranteeing that every team will play at least three matches. The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage. The knockout stage is a single-game affair in which teams play each other in one-off matches, with extra time and penalty shootouts used to decide the winner if necessary. It begins with the "Round of 16" (or the second round) in which the winner of each group plays against the runner-up of another group. This is followed by the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, the third-place play-off (contested by the losing semi-finalists), and the final.

At the end of each World Cup, awards are presented to the players and teams for their accomplishments. There are currently 6 awards given after the World Cup.

The 'Golden Ball' for the best player, determined by a vote of media members (first awarded in 1982); the 'Silver Ball' and the 'Bronze Ball' are awarded to the players finishing second and third in the voting respectively.

The 'Golden Shoe' (sometimes called the Golden Boot) for the top goal scorer (first awarded in 1982, but retrospectively applied to all tournaments from 1930); most recently, the 'Silver Shoe' and the 'Bronze Shoe' have been awarded to the second and third top goal scorers respectively;

The Yashin Award for the best goalkeeper, decided by the FIFA Technical Study Group (first awarded in 1994); the 'Best Young Player Award' for the best player aged 21 or younger at the start of the calendar year, again decided by the FIFA Technical Study Group (first awarded in 2006).

The 'FIFA Fair Play Trophy' for the team with the best record of fair play, according to the points system and criteria established by the FIFA Fair Play Committee (first awarded in 1978);

The 'Most Entertaining Team' for the most dazzling team of the tournament, as determined by a poll of the general public (first awarded in 1994); and an All-Star Team consisting of the best players of the tournament is also announced for each tournament since 1998.

(Click here to download a date-wise schedule of the 2010 FIFA World Cup)

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