21 World Cup Facts You Don’t Need to Know But Want to

Article by Nick Hodgson

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the city you’re living in is about to be overrun by honking horns, flags, and a level of patriotism bordering on the psychotic. But hey, at least it’ll only last for the next month… 

So when everyone in your office is suddenly streaming live games and water cooler chat is simply reduced to who scored the latest goal, we thought we’d hit you with some World Cup facts to impress, depress, amaze, and reassure you that Canada will never win.  

The Unstoppable
Brazil has qualified for every World Cup (all 19 of them) and won the coveted trophy a record five times. Oh, and they’re also currently favoured to win World Cup 2014. Here’s a little perspective: Brazil has won the World Cup more than twice as many times as the Leafs have made the playoffs in the last decade.

You Have to be Pretty to be Good.
If Portugal wins the world cup, it will likely be due to one man – the most recent winner of FIFA’s Ballon d’Or, given to the best soccer player on the planet. Even women who have no interest in the World Cup have an interest in the World Cup because of Cristiano Ronaldo. Exhibit A:

Tournament Format
Eight groups (A-H) of four make up the 32 teams. Each team plays the three other teams in its respective group in a round robin format. Two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage, starting with the round of 16, followed by the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and finals. Got it? Or are you still stuck trying to figure out what a round robin is…

Messi for Pope
Lionel Messi, touted by many as the best soccer player ever, having won the Ballon d’Or four consecutive years (2009-12), and who plays as if the ball is attached to his shoe, will lead Argentina’s squad. Should he be successful in bringing the much-awaited cup back to Argentina, his fellow Argentine, Pope Francis, may just have to step aside. (We’re actually not sure if we’re joking here.)

Shirts Off
FIFA has a rule against a player removing their jersey while on the field to celebrate a goal or otherwise. If a player breaks the rule, they ‘re booked with a yellow card. Which is obviously ridiculous. Who can forget the sheer excitement (see also: sexiness) when Brandi Chastin removed her shirt after scoring the winning penalty kick for the US team in the 1999 Women’s World Cup?

Oh, and Exhibit B:

No bare feet
India withdrew from the 1950 World Cup when FIFA informed them that they had to wear football boots and could not play barefoot. In related news, McDonalds took an extra long time to become popular in India.

And the World Cup is born
On May 29th, 1928, in Amsterdam, FIFA (probably sitting in a Cafe of sorts) decided to hold a World Cup. Then, on July 19, 1930, the first games of a World Cup were played in the host nation, Uruguay. Thirteen teams took part, and Uruguay won the tournament, becoming the first of eight teams to ever win the cup on home soil.

Two world cup finals have been decided on penalty kicks. Brazil beat Italy in 1994 and Italy beat France in 2006. The 1994 final was most notable for Italian star Roberto Baggio’s missed penalty kick that soared over the net. Every player who shot the ball over the net for the next four years was taunted with the “Baaaaaagggggiiiioooo” call. FIFA even considered making it a rule. Well, they should have.

Qatar 2022. Really?
It was very recently reported that Qatar rigged the draw to host World Cup 2022. Go figure. Who in their right mind would allow the tournament to be held where the average temperature is over 40°C in the summer?

Canada plays soccer?
Once again Canada failed to qualify for the World Cup. They‘ve only managed to appear once – in 1986. Thankfully the World Cup spirit is alive and well in Canada due to our cultural diversity, with means almost every team will have a significant following. Cheering together for Canada, however, probably won’t happen until they change the playing surface.

The new YP
At age 21, Neymar, the Brazilian phenom, is already the seventh-richest footballer in the world, has scored more than 100 professional goals, graced the cover of Time magazine, and has even fathered a child. Add a World Cup title to that list and he’s just made a mockery of what it means to be a young professional.

Hand of God = Fail
Argentina has added to its cast and surrounded Messi with a slew of talent that will hopefully enable them to finally get back to the semifinals (they lost in the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010). They’ve also replaced coach Maradona – a much needed move. They can now be taught how to score with their feet and not with their hands…

Siesta, Anyone?
Spain is the defending champion from South Africa 2010 and another favourite at Brazil 2014. But is this really surprising? Any country that has a dedicated naptime is obviously well rested when they hit the pitch. 

Ukraine is the only nation ranked in the top 20 nations that did not qualify for Brazil 2014. But that’s probably for the best; they have a lot of other things to deal with right now…

For those in the know, Group of Death refers to the World Cup group that is full of very strong competitors. Due to the format, two of these teams will be eliminated despite high expectations to progress had they been in any other group. The Group of Death at Brazil 2014 is Group G, featuring Germany, Portugal, Ghana, and USA.

In the 1934 World Cup, Mussolini apparently had a private dinner with the refs before the final game. Italy ended up defeating Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the final. Totally legit. Totally.

$35 Million to the winner.
Total prize money for the 2014 World Cup is $576 million, with $35 million going to the winner. Getting eliminated in the first round still pays $8 million, so simply making the tournament guarantees a team at least this much. Has anyone mentioned this to our men’s team?

And now we’ll know.
If you’re a World Cup fan, think back to 2010, when English star Frank Lampard struck the crossbar with a blistering shot that bounced down behind the goal line and back out. The ref called it a no-goal, but the replay clearly showed that it was in. No such uncertainty will exist this time around, as Brazil 2014 will establish the first-ever goal-line technology. The beautiful game just got a modern look.  

Why is the ref a magician?
For the first World Cup ever, Vanishing Spray – a spray that creates a white mark on the field and then vanishes soon after – will be used by the referee to mark the position of a free kick and to indicate a 10-metre mark, the distance at which defenders have to be back from the free kit spot. Don’t ask us how it vanishes. We’re still wondering.

No chance for the rest of us
There have been 19 World cups Played, with only 7 different winners, all from South America and Europe. Right. So, if we could ever manage to get a team in, the likelihood of winning is basically nil. 

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)


Cover image from: FIFA Facebook

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