Sport Soccer

Wednesday 21 August 2019

World Cup trivia to treasure 1930-2018

Norman Whiteside
Norman Whiteside
Roger Milla
John Meagher

John Meagher

Think you know all there is to know about the greatest show on earth? Here are some nuggets to impress your most World Cup-obsessed mates.

Wembley may have taken centre-stage during the 1966 World Cup, but the France-Uruguay quarter-final that was due to be played there had to be moved to the now defunct White City Stadium. Wembley had greyhound racing on, but its owners refused to reschedule.

The 1970 World Cup boasts a special place in football lore, not least because a gifted Brazil team won the competition. It was also the first World Cup to be broadcast on colour television and for a generation of young football fans, Brazil's yellow shirts are imprinted on their memories.

The 1974 final in Munich's Olympic Stadium pitted the inventors of 'total football', the Netherlands, against West Germany. The Dutch cause was not helped by a story in the German tabloid Bild which alleged that girls had been cavorting in the hotel pool with players. Netherlands' talisman Johan Cruyff allegedly spent the night before the final on the phone to his wife. Germany won 2-1.

Zaire had an especially inauspicious tournament in 1974. The African nation lost 9-0 to Yugoslavia and the Zaire President had threatened trouble if they conceded four goals or more in their final group game, against the holders Brazil - luckily they kept the score down to 3-0. However, an attempts to drive their borrowed BMW bus back to Africa, post-elimination, was stopped by German authorities.

Vehicular transport of a more salubrious kind was promised to any United Arab Emirates goalscorer in 1990. A new Rolls-Royce per goal was the inducement and two players obliged in the UAE's only appearance in the tournament.

The 1982 tournament will be remembered for Italy's win and the goals of Paolo Rossi, but it was also the World Cup that saw Hungary demolish El Salvador 10-1. An impressive score, but not quite as eye-catching as the 31 goals Australia put past a hapless American Samoa when qualifying for 2002.


The 1986 World Cup was originally awarded to Colombia, but the country pulled out in 1982 due to economic problems. Mexico, which had held the tournament in 1970, stepped up. The tournament boasted two of the most famous goals in football history - both scored by Maradona against England, including his 'Hand of God' opener.

The 86 World Cup also gave the world the 'Mexican Wave' - which, 32 years later, is still going strong. But one fad that didn't catch on was the dreaded vuvuzela - the traditional South African horns that provided the blaring soundtrack during the 2010 tournament.

FIFA does not take kindly to any brand that might try to piggyback on the World Cup, without becoming an 'official partner'. In 2010, two Dutch female fans were arrested after a game for wearing orange dresses made by Bavaria beer in an apparent ambush marketing stunt.

There's no chance of the Dutch trying such antics again. They're one of the big-name sides that failed to qualify. Four-times champions Italy also won't be there - for the first time in 60 years - and the US won't be part of the action for the first time since 1986.

Iceland, with a population of 350,000, will be the smallest country to ever participate in a World Cup when they make their maiden appearance in Russia. More than half that number were present for the largest crowd ever at a football match - 199,854 at Rio's Maracanã for the 1950 final.

Host nations have won on six occasions: Uruguay in 1930, Italy in 1934, England in 1966, West Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978 and France in 1998. But with Russia the second lowest ranked team at this year's tournament, it's highly unlikely the Kremlin will be celebrating homegrown champions.

There were just 13 teams in the inaugural tournament in Uruguay in 1930 - nine from South America and North America and only four from Europe. This year, 32 countries have made the finals and the number will jump to 48 in 2026. Maybe Ireland will manage to qualify then?

That first tournament was the only one without qualification games. Every FIFA-affiliated nation was invited to compete and given a deadline of February 28, 1930 to accept.

Goal-line technology was first used in the 2014 World Cup - it would have come in handy when trying to determine if Geoff Hurst's effort really had crossed the line in the 1966 final won by England. 'Vanishing spray' - now a frequent sight at football matches - was first used by referees in Brazil 14, too.

RTÉ unveiled its punditry team for Russia this week and the names include Hope Solo, star of the US ladies team. The evergreen Eamon Dunphy will also be present - the veteran pundit started in the 1978 tournament.

Northern Ireland reached the World Cup finals eight years before the Republic managed it and that year, 1982, Norman Whiteside became the youngest player to play in the tournament. He was 17 years and 41 days - and it's a record that still stands today.

Roger Milla

At the other end of the spectrum, Cameroon's Roger Milla became the oldest player to score in a World Cup - banging in a goal at 42 in 1994 - while Italy goalie Dino Zoff was the oldest player to win the trophy. He was 40 when Italy beat Germany in 1982.

Germany held a perfectly organised tournament in 2006 and they seemed to be especially loved-up that summer. Remarkably, the country's birth rate leaped by 30pc nine months later - and those children became known as the Klinsi Generation, after coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

World Cup Willie may generate bemused shrugs today, but he was inescapable in 1966. This lion was the official mascot for the England-held tournament. There was been a World Cup mascot ever since, with a wolf called Zabivaka on duty for this tournament.

Willie got his own song, too - composed and performed by Lonnie Donegan and A-list artists have stepped up since. Santana, Shakira and Anastacia have delivered official World Cup songs and this year's tune, 'Live it Up', is by US singer Nicky Jam and features Will Smith

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