And, to round things off, we have upsets, high-scoring games, how to get knocked out of the World Cup without losing, the ball, how a replica World Cup ended up in Manchester and the question of which international organisation (FIFA or the UN) has more members…
49. There have been a few major upsets at the World Cup over the years. Back in 1950, the USA managed to beat England. Then there have been such memorable occasions as North Korea beating Italy in 1966, East Germany beating West Germany in 1974, Algeria beating West Germany in 1982, Cameroon beating Argentina in 1990 and Senegal beating France in 2002.
50. Brazil’s 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Germany in the 2014 semi-final is the biggest defeat suffered by a host nation. There have been a few matches with even more goals than that, though – the record number of goals scored in one game being 12, when Austria beat Switzerland 7-5 in 1954. In addition, there were three occasions on which the margin of victory was by nine goals. 9-0 wins were recorded by Hungary over South Korea in 1954 and by Yugoslavia over Zaire in 1974, while Hungary also beat El Salvador 10-1 in 1982. The highest-scoring draw has been 4-4, and it’s happened twice – England against Belgium in 1954 and the Soviet Union against Colombia in 1962.
51. Brazil have taken part in both the highest-scoring World Cup final and the lowest-scoring one. In 1958, they beat Sweden 5-2. Then in 1994 they drew 0-0 with Italy, a match they went on to win via a penalty shoot-out.
52. The most goals scored in a single tournament has been 171. This happened in 1998 and again in 2014. The fewest goals in a tournament was 70, in 1930 and 1934 when there were less teams and, therefore, much fewer games played. In terms of goals per game, the highest has been 5.38 (in 1954, perhaps unsurprising given some of the games mentioned in number 50) and the lowest was 2.21 (in 1990).
53. It is entirely possible to be eliminated from a World Cup without losing a game (and I’m not trying to claim that losing by way of a penalty shoot-out doesn’t technically count as losing; of course it does). England managed to be knocked out undefeated in 1982, back when the tournament had a second group stage (they beat France, Czechoslovakia and Kuwait in the first round but could only draw against West Germany and Spain in the second). In 2010, New Zealand were knocked out after drawing all of their first-round matches.
54. It is, of course, also possible to lose a game in the group stages and then go on to win the tournament. West Germany managed this in 1954 (they were beaten by Hungary, the team they would go on to beat in the final) and in 1974 (when they were beaten by their neighbours, East Germany).
55. The official match ball of the 2018 World Cup is the Adidas Telstar 18. Its name and design are based on the iconic Adidas Telstar which was used in the 1970 and 1974 World Cups. That was the first football to use the now-familiar design, widely used throughout the world to depict a football, of 12 black pentagonal panels and 20 white hexagonal panels (and it was indeed a football for the modern age, for the name and design were inspired by the Telstar communications satellite).
56. The Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen twice – once in 1966 when it was nicked from Westminster City Hall shortly before the World Cup (it was famously found several days later in South London by a dog called Pickles), the second time when it was taken from the Brazilian Football Confederation’s headquarters in Rio in 1983. It has never been recovered and is widely believed to have been melted down.
57. A replica was made in 1966 by the FA after the first theft. This was kept secret, because FIFA had forbidden it, and after the real one was given back in 1970 it was hidden in the home of an FA executive. After his death, the replica’s existence became public knowledge and tests were done to ensure that it wasn’t the real one (it isn’t). The replica is now on display at the National Football Museum in Manchester. The Brazilians made their own replica in 1984.
58. Getting back to the confederations, a country doesn’t necessarily have to belong to the confederation that covers the continent in which it is geographically located. Israel, for example, has been a member of UEFA since the early 1990s; originally a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), it was expelled from that in the 1970s and for the 1980s it had attempted to qualify for the World Cup via Oceania’s qualification groups. Australia was a member of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) until 2006, when it transferred to the AFC (partly out of a desire to play more competitive football, Australia having very much been a big fish in a small pond in the OFC which mostly consists of small island nations); by winning the AFC Asian Cup in 2015, it became the first-ever country to have been a champion of two footballing confederations.
59. In 2006, a one-off alternative World Cup took place for countries that aren’t recognised by FIFA. The FIFI (Federation of International Football Independents) World Cup was held shortly before the actual World Cup and was hosted by the Hamburg-based FC St Pauli, a club long known for its alternative traditions whose youth team took part as the host ‘Republic of St Pauli’ (a micronation called into existence solely for the FIFI tournament); Gibraltar, Greenland, Northern Cyprus, Tibet (a side comprised entirely of Tibetan exiles) and Zanzibar also took part. Northern Cyprus won after beating Zanzibar on penalties in the final. Of those taking part, Gibraltar later became a member of FIFA.
60. FIFA has more member states than the United Nations (211, compared to 193). As well as the four Home Nations, which for historical reasons compete under their own flags rather than as a UK team, there are also dependent territories which play international football (Gibraltar and the Faroe Islands, for example, and also Hong Kong which had been an international side before the 1997 handover, and which has been allowed to retain this status since then) and countries that aren’t universally recognised as being independent (for example, Kosovo and Taiwan although the latter plays as Chinese Taipei which is also the name it goes under at the Olympics). There are also a few UN member states that aren’t members of FIFA, most notably the United Kingdom (see above).