THE WORLD CUP
THE FIFA WORLD CUP.
Known to football fans all over the world simply as “the World Cup” and in my opinion the most wonderful football tournament at an international level the world has ever seen, this tournament run by FIFA has been running every four years since 1930 – except for the years 1942 and 1946, during which time the Second World War forced its abandonment. The World cup started again in 1950, and has continued to be played again, every four years ever since the 50s.
The World Cup is among the world’s most widely viewed sporting events; an estimated 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany!
For people who may not be football fans, here’s how the tournament is set up:
The current format of the tournament involves 32 teams competing for the title at venues within the host nation (which is decided at random from a pot luck draw) over a period of about a month; this phase is often called the World Cup Finals.
A qualification phase, which currently takes place over the preceding three years, is used to determine which teams qualify for the tournament together with the host nation.
Once there are 32 teams qualified, there would be begin a “Group Stage” of the tournament. There are 8 groups, labelled “A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H”. 32 (countries) divided by 8 (groups) is four of course (shout out to the maths fans who figured that out fast), there are four teams to every group. Again, pot luck is used (just like with the host nation) to determine which countries will end up in which group, a random draw usually televised and watched with anticipation as football fans find out who their country will play in the group stage of the tournament.
Your country will play each team within the group they are a part of 1 time, making a total of 3 games played by the end of the group stage. The top two teams (with the most points gained from their three games played or highest goal difference if points are level) from each group will go through to the “knockout stage”. The knockout stage is where the 16 teams who qualified from the groups (A-H) will start to play games in which the two bottom teams won’t be able to play any further, while the top two teams will progress to the next stage.
The tournament progresses in this way, where one of the teams in a game gets knocked out and the winner goes on to the next stage, all the way up until there is only two left in the tournament (the Final).
The four stages of the knockout stage are called “Last 16” (where the 16 teams which qualified from group stages begin their first “knockout” games with one other team), “Quarter finals” (where now only 8 teams left compete against one other team, winner going on to the next stage), “Semi-Finals” (where now only 4 teams are competing and the winners will go on to the last stage), and the “Final” (where there are only two teams left and the winner of this game will be the winner of the entire tournament!).
Obviously, there are more than 32 countries in the world and many countries fail to qualify for this prestigious tournament. To be a part of the biggest tournament in the football world, your country usually needs to be a nation with a long history and many local clubs within its leagues. If you are from a country that is small and may not include football as a “national sport” (meaning other sports are more popular in terms of quantity of spectators), it is unfortunately highly unlikely that your country will qualify for the World Cup.
Some nations qualify for the World Cup based on the strength of one player occasionally (usually a star striker that scores lots of goals and wins important games almost by themselves), but unless the player is doing the same thing in the league, they may not even be noticed by their nations manager to be picked. Scoring lots of goals for your club is one of the quickest ways to get noticed and chosen by your country’s manager.
Watching the World Cup is a favourite past time for me, despite the fact that i have actually never seen my country win the tournament. England has only won the World Cup once, back in 1966. I wasn’t even born then.
As a nation, England fans have never had 100 % confidence in their own county’s ability to perform.
I think not winning the tournament since the 60s puts a doubt in your mind about whether it’s really possible after all this time, if a country can get back to winning ways again. Generally, a very high percentage of English people just mock their national team and laugh at how “we’re not gonna win it again”. I have heard those words every 4 years since I’ve been born, pretty much.
However, there are a few that stand by their country and support us, no matter what. I consider myself one of those few faithful fans.
I have fond memories of England players like Bryan Robson, Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne (Gazza), Michael Owen, Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Tony Adams, Terry Butcher, Stuart Pearce, David Seaman, David James, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.
Over the years since the 80s, I’ve had hopes and dreams that we would win it again. And by the end of the tournament, those hopes and dreams were crushed, as England got knocked out!
I can’t say that I don’t enjoy the World Cup, even if England haven’t won it in my lifetime. It’s a fun time. You get the see the best footballers from all over the world, playing in the same games! That, itself, is a reason to watch. Lets be honest, most English football fans don’t pay attention to the rest of the world and what’s going on there, usually.
There is the European Cup (A.K.A Champions League) or even the Europa League (A.K.A UEFA Cup) and we (English footy fans) get to see plenty of European teams and players in those competitions if the teams we’re following are competing in them. But it’s not like I will make any effort to find out what result for instance, Ajax, got every time they play their games, continually for the whole season they’re playing.
We simply won’t be paying that much attention to their league. We focus on the English league, because that’s all that matters to us, that is until the World Cup starts!
On a personal level, probably my most favourite World Cup ever was “Italia 90”. England reached the semifinals in that tournament and eventually came in 4th place, after being beaten by West Germany on penalties in the semi-final. The Germans had scored 1 earlier than we did, but the game had ended 1-1 with Gary Lineker being the hero that scored late into the game (around the 80th minutes), forcing the game to go penalties.
David Platt, Peter Beardsley and Gary Lineker would all score from the spot, but Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce would miss penalties which allowed the Germans the advantage, mathematically. All they had to do was keep scoring and the game would be theirs. The Germans did not miss any of the four penalties they took and they won the game 4-3.
There was a memorable occasion in Italia 90 when Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne had made a tackle on a player and the referee booked him for it. Unfortunately, Gascoigne had already been booked a few times in the tournament and due to FIFA rules that say if you receive (I think) 3 yellows you must be banned from playing in the next game, this card meant Gazza would not be allowed to play in the World Cup final – which meant so much to Gazza that he started crying.
The whole world watched him as he shed tears because being able to play in (and maybe WIN) the World Cup Final was obviously Gazza’s biggest dream (possibly the biggest thing he could ever achieve in his career) and it was completely destroyed and taken away from by that referee who gave him the card.
Gazza’s team mate Gary Lineker would notice him being upset and say the unforgettable words (I think to the England manager who was nearby) “have a word”.
Due to the (West) Germans beating England on penalties, they would not make the World Cup final anyway, but it was still an emotional game, one which i can recall clearly to this day. Hence I believe, World Cups are unforgattable. They will leave you with memories to recall years later, without a doubt. I hope you all enjoy this years World Cup in Brazil. BRING ON THE UNFORGETTABLE MEMORIES!
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red. I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (about 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.
I’m a die hard Liverpool fan (only supported ONE club in my whole life, Liverpool) and one of the most dedicated fans you’ll ever meet.