Interesting World Cup records you probably didn’t know existed
From a crowd the size of a Caribbean island’s population, to a teenager from Northern Ireland who was simply that good, we’ve got some curious factoids from the World Cup’s history for you.
Who doesn’t love a bit of statistical fun? Here’s our look at some of the more curious records and facts that you might not be aware occurred in the history of the FIFA World Cup.
There’s nothing like the FIFA World Cup
It’s been called a festival of football as well as football’s biggest party, it’s what billions around the planet wait so patiently for, and can’t believe it when it’s done. It’s what we call the FIFA World Cup. As we all know, the biggest sporting event in our world rolls around every four years and when it does, it would be safe to say there isn’t a corner of the globe that isn’t watching. Indeed, more than half of the world’s population tuned in to watch the 2018 edition in Russia.
Now here we are in the middle of the first-ever winter World Cup - depending on where you’re located - and we can safely say it’s been a feast for the eyes. Despite the political and cultural backlash ahead of the tournament, Qatar has put on a show like no other and the teams and players involved have done the same. With that said, let’s get into some interesting factoids that you might not have known about the grand show that is the FIFA World Cup.
One city hosted the first FIFA World Cup
Let’s start things off with a fact as opposed to a record. Now, as you know there is nothing quite like the cultural celebration that we get to witness across an entire host nation when the World Cup comes to town. Cities across the country are granted the opportunity to host groups and games and with that we as fans get to see how each one puts their own spin on the party. Yet, that was not the case with the very first FIFA World Cup, which was held - in its entirety - back in 1930 in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city. The tournament’s 18 matches were played in three stadiums, one of which had a staggering capacity of 90,000 while the other two could fit 30,000.
The World Cup’s strangest goal?
It was 1938 and Italy were leading a dazzling Brazil side 1-0 in the semifinal of the World Cup. Granted an opportunity to put another nail in the coffin, Azzurri legend Giuseppe Meazza stepped up to take a penalty on the hour-mark following a foul in the area. What happened next is the stuff of legend. As the Italian captain approached the ball, his shorts slipped to his ankles, but knowing what was at stake Meazza continued toward the ball, while holding his pants up and placed it squarely in the net while Brazil’s keeper stood laughing. In the end, the Italians won the game 2-1, before going on to become world champions after a 4-2 win in the final against Hungary.
Most goals in a single World Cup
If you look at the list of all-time leading goal scorers in World Cup history, you will find that France’s Just Fontaine sits in fourth place. Yet, you’ve got to take a moment to consider that the French legend only played in one single World Cup. For their part ‘Les Bleus’ would eventually fall to eventual champions Brazil at the semi-final stage, but Fontaine’s run to greatness was something to behold. Indeed, during that 1958 edition of the tournament, the man they called ‘le canonnier’ scored a jaw dropping 13 goals, a feat which has never been repeated since.
Most goals in a single World Cup game
Though you’d probably think the above mentioned Just Fontaine would be mentioned again, the honor of being an outright goal machine actually belongs to Oleg Salenko. Believe it or not the Russian actually managed to score five goals in a group stage match against Cameroon at the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.A.. Having scored a hat-trick in the first half, Salenko followed it up with a brace in the second to help spearhead a 6-1 demolition of the Central African nation.
Biggest crowd at a World Cup match
As we mentioned before, the FIFA World Cup is undoubtedly the biggest sporting event on the planet. Indeed, billions of people get in front of the televisions every four years to take in the action. Now while the crowds inside the stadiums aren’t that size - stadiums are clearly not that big - there have been some crowds that were incredible. One game in fact, ranks as the one which hosted the largest crowd ever and it was actually the World Cup final played between Brazil (the hosts) and Uruguay in 1950. An unbelievable 173,850 people - most believe the number to be closer to 200,000 - packed into the Maracana to watch Brazil lose 2-1. We’ve not seen a crowd like that since. If by the way you’re wondering what’s the crowd on the other end of the spectrum, it was back in 1930 when 300 people - essentially a small village - showed up to watch Romania play Peru.
Which player has won the most World Cup titles?
You may have already known this one, but there’s never a bad time to pay tribute to the great Pele. The Brazilian icon is to this day the holder of the most World Cup titles. Widely regarded as the greatest to ever play the game - no disrespect to Messi and Ronaldo fans - the former Santos star set himself apart at the tender age of 17-years-old, when he debuted on the world stage scoring an incredible two goals in the finals against Sweden in 1958. That was the first of three World Cups that he would win, with the other two coming in 1962 and 1970.
The youngest player in World Cup history?
We forgive you if you thought it was Pele, that was a decent guess. Yet, the honor of being the youngest player to play in football’s biggest tournament actually goes to a former Manchester United great, Norman Whiteside. Born in Northern Ireland in 1965, Whiteside was just 17 years and 41 days when he debuted for his country against Yugoslavia in 1982′s edition of the tournament, meaning he would likely have been playing during his summer vacation from school.
The country with the fewest World Cup matches
This is one to remember. As we know, to have played in even a single World Cup is an honor that few of us will get to experience, but how many teams can claim to have played in just one single match. Hard as it may be to believe, that’s exactly the case with Indonesia or as they were called back in 1938, Dutch East Indies. Playing in a World Cup format that started with a 16-team knockout stage, the Dutch East Indies played their first and only game against heavyweights of the time, Hungary. Following a 6-0 mauling, Hungary booked their ticket to the quarterfinals while their opponents booked one for home. It should be said, however, that they were in fact the first Asian team to appear in a FIFA World Cup and that’s something worth being proud of.
The fastest goal in World Cup history
The 2002 World Cup was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, but it was the latter who truly put on a show with a semi-final finish. Yet, what they won’t remember fondly is that they were the victim of the World Cup’s fastest goal to date. Having lost their semifinal match against Germany, the ‘Taegeuk Warriors’ faced off against Turkey and it was clear from the very start that they were in for a ride. Just 11 seconds in and Turkish legend Hakan Sukur had his name on the score board, before providing two assists to ensure a 3-2 Turkish victory.
The team with the most draws in World Cup history
Despite what their fans may think, England aren’t the most prolific of football nations. Yes, they did win a World Cup in 1966, but the ‘Three Lions’ have not been able to make good on their ‘it’s coming home’ promise since and quite frankly, don’t look like they will any time soon - with all due respect of course. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to know that no other country in football today, has drawn more World Cup matches than England. How many you ask? Across their 15 trips to football’s fiesta, the English have drawn 21 games.
The team with the most losses in World Cup history
Though we’re sure it’s an honor they’d rather not have publicized, Mexico are in fact the team that holds the dubious honor of recording the most losses in World Cup history - 27 to be exact. On the other hand, they have consistently managed to progress past the group stage - more than can be said for many teams - and with that were eliminated in Qatar without reaching the Round of 16 for the first time in the last seven editions of the World Cup.
The worst team ever to reach the World Cup finals
When Argentina arrived in Italy for the 1990 World Cup they did so as defending champions and one of the favorites in the tournament. Though aging, Maradona was still definitely Maradona, which is to say capable of the supernatural and there was also the speedy Claudio Cannigia to help. Yet, brilliance is not what we witnessed. After losing their first game to Cameroon albeit courtesy of some truly brutal tackles on Maradona, they would get a victory against the Soviets, before drawing with Romania. With that, they squeezed into the Round of 16 where they faced a Brazil side that had won all three of its group games.
What followed was as bizarre as it was comical. Brazil laid siege to the Argentine goal, but simply couldn’t find the back of the net. Then, with one moment of magic, Maradona released Caniggia who scored and just like that Brazil were out and Argentina were in the quarter finals. Across the quarters and the semifinals, Argentina beat Yugoslavia and Italy respectively on penalties, which left West Germany in the finals. It was there that the Albiceleste would finally fall to a controversial German penalty, but not without going down in history as statistically the worst team ever to play in the finals of the FIFA World Cup.