Growing up Canadian, I was not tuned into the world of professional soccer (football). By “not tuned in”, I mean I didn’t know it existed. Like most Canadians, I lived and breathed the sport of ice hockey, or as we called it, hockey. In a land where winter can be 8 months long, and every small town has at least one hockey rink, inserting the word “ice” was simply not necessary.
Not long after I started dating my now Partner, (he hails from the United Kingdom) I heard him utter the words “World Cup” in regards to an upcoming event. When I enquired what that was, he fixed me with a puzzled and somewhat pained stare of disbelief, before informing me that it was ”the most popular sporting event in the world”. Who knew? Apparently a lot of people, but I wasn’t one of them.
In the intervening years, I’ve learned a lot about the World Cup and come to appreciate why soccer/football is known as “the beautiful game”. Today, I’m happy to share with you my top 10 World Cup fun facts:
1. What is commonly referred to as “The World Cup” is technically the FIFA World Cup. FIFA stands for Fédération Internationale de Football Association and consists of Men’s National Teams. Not to be confused with the FIFA Women’s World Cup, or other sports that hold a World Cup competition, such as rugby or cricket.
2. Only one player has won the World Cup 3 times, a remarkable feat considering the event is only held every 4 years. That player is known as Pelé (born Edson Arantes do Nascimento), the famous Brazilian Forward. Now 82 years old, he’s still widely regarded as the greatest player ever.
3. 2022 will mark the 22nd World Cup; it was first held in 1930. Only one team, Brazil, has qualified for all 22 World Cups, followed closely by Germany with 20 qualifications, and Argentina and Italy, each with 18.
4. To date, only South American and European teams have been successful in bringing home the World Cup. In spite of qualifying 17 times, Mexico has never made it past the quarter finals.
5. Including 2022, the United States has qualified for the World Cup 11 times. Their best showing was in 1930 with a third place finish.
6. World Cup 2026 will be the first World Cup event to be hosted by 3 different countries: Mexico, USA and Canada. The host cities will be Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco/Bay Area,Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto.
7. Although currently ranked 6th by FIFA, Italy did not qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Canada, currently ranked 41st, DID qualify. How is this possible? Although the FIFA ranking system generally proves to be a good predictor of which teams will succeed, it is independent of the World Cup qualification process which can lead to surprises like this one. P.S. Go Canada!
8. Modern soccer/football was invented in England in the 1860s. In spite of the fact they invented the game, and have some of the most passionate fans in the world, England has only won the World Cup once, in 1966.
9. Most of us love an underdog, and that was Croatia when they played England in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals. England was favored to win, but the Croatians became the first team in a World Cup semi-final match to come from behind in 28 years, and beat England 2-1.
10. Speaking of dogs, there was some unexpected excitement in the 1962 World Cup quarter finals, when Brazil faced off against England. A stray dog invaded the pitch and the referee had to stop the game. Legend has it that the dog was eventually captured by dog lover and England footballer, Jimmy Greaves. Named Bi, the lucky pooch was taken back to Brazil and adopted by Brazilian star player Mané Garrincha.
2022 World Cup kicks off Sunday, November 20th. Drop us a reply to this post and let us know your favorite World Cup fun fact, and what team you’ll be rooting for!
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Well, it is, of course, impossible to say.
But … let me point out that the winners of the World Cup always start slowly. In such a long, intensive tournament, it is impossible to be in top form throughout the entire Cup.
Given this, the favourites, Germany, Brazil, France and Spain have all started slowly, as have Portugal and Argentina (although Argentina’s could be terminal).
Overall, Spain is still my tip. Team
While the whole Qatar thing seems to be pretty controversial, I'm stoked for the cup. Growing up, I loved to play and watch soccer. I think it was mostly because of my dad, but I enjoyed the sport immensely. I haven't kept up with the MLS (American league) for a while now, but I always used to cheer for FC Dallas. Mainly I think it was because my parents lived around that area before I was born and Hawaii doesn't have any professional sports teams.
South Koreans absolutely love the cup and still crow about their 2002 performance. All of the games in which South Korea will be playing will totally be a big deal over here, and the time difference isn't all that gnarly. If I'm not dead from all of my finals and grading papers, I'll try to catch the team USA and team SK games. We'll see how they do this time around.
I'm going to pass on this world cup. There are way too many elephants in the room than I could stand. It's a bummer for all participating sportsmen but FIFA (once again) made clear that this is not about sports but only economical interests.
Can't wait for the games to begin - so much talk and prognostication in advance, but the game is played on the field (or pitch as I grew up knowing it). I have two horses in this race - England (being born there) and Canada (being raised there). Canada is certainly a long shot (fun fact: this is only their 2nd time qualifying for the World Cup, the last being in 1986, where they didn't score a single goal), but they play a fast and fun style - would love to see Canada make it to the round of 16!
Thanks @Lola - it was tough to see them lose, after such a close match against Belgium (which I think Canada should have won). Hopefully some good lessons learned for the next World Cup. I knew Croatia would be tough - they made the finals last go around, and always play a strong game. I agree about the Davies goal though, he showed a lot of that during the qualifications too!