Eyes peering at television screens, ears straining to hear radios, and fingers frantically scrolling over mobile phones — welcome to a soccer fan’s life during the FIFA World Cup. But is that really how the World Cup gets celebrated around the world?
The World Cup is the most popular competition in the world, with fans flocking from all corners of the globe. In 2022, the World Cup takes place in Qatar. While it’s referred to as football in most of the world, those of us in the United States know it as soccer. No matter what you call it, let’s take a look at how people celebrate soccer’s biggest tournament, as well as delve into the roots of this global sporting phenomenon.
What’s the Purpose of the World Cup?
The soccer World Cup is a way to determine the best men’s international soccer team through a knockout process. The winning squad is considered the world champions, and players and management usually become legends in their countries.
Why Is the Soccer World Cup So Popular All Over the World?
Soccer, known as football almost everywhere outside the United States, is the most-watched competition globally.
Since 2010, an average of three billion people have watched the World Cup games in more than 190 countries whenever it’s staged. With 32 countries competing, almost everyone can choose a team to follow or boo, be it their own nation, a neighbor, or a rival!
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will also be lucrative, with $791 million in prize money on offer and more than $4.6 billion generated in broadcasting revenues.
What’s more, soccer’s popularity is based on enormous grassroots support. There are an estimated 275 million soccer players worldwide in 211 countries. Mexico leads the way with professional players, with almost 10,000 registered as soccer pros.
Why Is the 2022 World Cup in the Winter?
Soccer World Cups are usually held between June and July. However, in 2010, when FIFA organizers awarded Qatar hosting rights to the competition, it became quickly apparent that the Middle Eastern country’s scorching summer temperatures would be dangerous to players and fans. Qatar and FIFA agreed to move the tournament to November and December to avoid high temperatures.
How Is the World Cup Organized?
The modern version of the World Cup finals sees 32 teams compete over four weeks, contesting a total of 64 games. Usually, one country acts as a host, with South Korea and Japan the exception as joint hosts in 2002.
There are eight groups of four teams, with the top two progressing to the last 16 knockout games, with winners then moving into the quarterfinals, then semi-finals, and the final.
The 2026 World Cup will be held across Mexico, the United States, and Canada, and will expand to include 48 teams and 80 games.
How Does the World Cup Get Celebrated Around the World?
National flags often festoon houses, cars, and offices as World Cup fever increases. Fans fill in wallcharts, pick fantasy World Cup teams, and even watch old games on repeat.
Most people will watch this year’s games on television at home or in a bar or restaurant, or tune into a radio broadcast. More people are also using smartphones to watch games or get updates. But it’s not always about watching.
Brazil soccer fans gear up for the World Cup by bedecking their streets with colorful art. Roads, pavements, and buildings are decorated with signs and bunting.
In England, the birthplace of modern football (i.e., soccer), people gather in pubs to watch games and specially constructed fan zones in big cities. Since 1996, supporters have belted out the Three Lions song before and during games. The song features the phrase “football’s coming home,” which is an ironic statement about the team’s inability to have won anything for generations.
Iceland’s fans gather to perform a Viking Hand Clap before and during games. A slow double drum beat is followed by an overhead clap, with the rhythm picking up the pace to create an incredible atmosphere.
In 2010, German fans became entranced by Paul the octopus , with millions tuning in before games to watch this unlikely soothsayer. The invertebrate would choose an upcoming game’s winner by eating a mussel from one of two boxes, each box adorned by the flag of Germany and its current opponents. Paul successfully guessed all seven Germany results, including the country’s semi-final defeat to Spain. He even correctly guessed Spain would be the eventual World Cup winner!
Others look for divine inspiration. There was one Nigeria fan who blessed every team member before the Super Eagle’s 2-0 win over Iceland at the 2018 World Cup in Russia— via television.
Even the teams get in on the act. Chile’s 1962 squad decided to eat or drink their opponent’s national food or beverage before each game. The ritual included eating spaghetti before playing Italy and drinking vodka while awaiting the Russians. It fell apart in the semi-finals when they drank coffee—and didn’t eat—before playing Brazil and lost.
Who Invented the Soccer World Cup?
Soccer spread worldwide, and in 1904 the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was established in Paris. Founding members included France, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Sweden.
FIFA acts as a governing body, overseeing everything from rules to transfers. Perhaps its most famous president was Jules Rimet, who led FIFA for 33 years from 1921 to 1954.
Rimet proposed the World Cup in 1929, and its inauguration was in 1930 in Uruguay. The winners from 1930 to 1970 received the Jules Rimet Trophy, named after the tournament’s founder.
Who Won the First Soccer World Cup?
The inaugural soccer World Cup was won by its host, Uruguay . La Celeste, or Sky Blues, beat neighbors and rivals Argentina 4-2 , watched by more than 90,000 people at Estadio Centenario in Montevideo.
Only 13 teams took part in the first World Cup because of travel difficulties:
- Seven from South America (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Peru)
- Four from Europe (Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, and Romania)
- United States
Which Country Has the Most World Cup Wins?
Brazil is the king of the men’s soccer World Cup, with five tournament wins, closely followed by Germany and Italy, who have four wins apiece. Here is the full list of World Cup winners and when they won:
- Brazil (5 wins): 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002
- Germany (4): 1954, 1974, 1990, and 2014
- Italy (4): 1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006
- Uruguay (2): 1930 and 1950
- Argentina (2): 1978 and 1986
- France (2): 1998 and 2018
- England (1): 1966
This, of course, runs contrary to striker Gary Lineker’s assertion that football is a “simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
What Are Some of the Most Iconic World Cup Moments?
Every World Cup throws out hundreds of iconic moments. Some of the most memorable include:
- Diego Maradona’s “ Goal of the Century ” against England in the 1986 quarterfinal in Mexico, following his “Hand of God” goal minutes earlier.
- Diana Ross completely missed the goal—which then broke apart—in the USA tournament’s 1994 opening ceremony.
- The so-called greatest ever save by Gordon Banks from Brazil legend Pele in 1970.
- Roger Milla’s dance after scoring both goals in Cameroon’s 2-1 win against Colombia in 1990.
- Mexico’s Manuel Negrete scores a fantastic scissor-kick goal against Bulgaria in 1986 in Mexico.
Zinedine Zidane headbutted
Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final, leading France to lose.
As commentating legend Jimmy Greaves would have said: “It’s a funny old game.”
Why Is the World Cup Played Every 4 Years?
Early World Cups (1930, 1934, and 1938) featured relatively few teams due to complex travel logistics for teams journeying between South America and Europe. The Second World War paused the competition until its return in 1950 in Brazil.
As the tournament developed and grew, host cities needed time to prepare stadiums and infrastructure for the millions of attending fans. Then came the increased number of participating teams.
However, just getting to the modern version of the World Cup takes a lot of time. Qualifying for the World Cup involves more than 200 nations competing for 31 of those 32 spots—the host nation is given an automatic place.
There are six intercontinental qualifying groups. Countries must navigate these groups to get to the finals. The geographical groups are:
- Europe (UEFA)
- South America (CONMEBOL)
- North America, Central America, and the Caribbean (CONCACAF)
- Africa (CAF)
- Asia (AFC)
Countries play against each other to qualify for the right to attend the finals. The logistics of these pre-World Cup tournaments are enormous and require long-term planning—there were 872 qualifying matches for the 2018 tournament in Russia. Games also have to fit around each association’s regional competitions.
What Is the Soccer World Cup Trophy Called?
Soccer World Cup winners between 1930 and 1970 received the Jules Rimet Trophy . This cup was given to Brazil permanently in 1970, following the country’s third tournament success (1958, 1962, and 1970). Since then, winners have been handed the FIFA World Cup trophy.
Which Country Has Never Missed a World Cup?
Brazil is the only country to feature in all 21 World Cups played thus far. Qatar will be Brazil’s 22nd consecutive World Cup appearance.
Which Country Has Never Won the FIFA World Cup?
It’s easier to answer that only nine countries have won the World Cup. That leaves around 190 countries (including the United States) that enter the tournament yet haven’t won.
Will the United States Men’s Team Win the 2022 World Cup?
Can the United States men’s team win FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022? Yes. But will they? The answer is probably not.
The best performance by the U.S. team was a third-place finish in the 1930’s inaugural tournament when only 13 teams participated. In 2002 in Japan and South Korea, the U.S. team made it to the quarterfinals, where they lost to Germany, having beaten Mexico 2-0 in the previous round.
The men’s team has been good at getting out of the group stages recently, achieving the feat in 1994 when the tournament was held at home, then in 2002, 2010, and 2014. They didn’t qualify for Russia 2018, so Qatar 2022 is an opportunity to gauge the team’s progress.
A group containing England, Wales, and Iran is navigable, and games against England will undoubtedly bring back fond memories for Clint Dempsey. Watch his hilarious goal thanks to England goalkeeper Rob Green’s error in the teams’ 2010 World Cup clash that ended 1-1.
Where Was Soccer Invented?
People were first reported kicking a football-type object around fields in China around 300 BC. Ancient Greeks had a version called Harpastum, and England had various regional variations from the eighth century onwards. Indeed, in the 14th century, people caught playing football in London could be imprisoned.
It was in England in 1863 that the first official rules of Association Football—football, or soccer in the U.S.—came into being, including ball dimensions. Three years later, matches became 90 minutes in length, the same as today. Clubs hurriedly formed and joined the England Football Association leading to cup competitions and leagues by 1872 and the first international match between England and Scotland.
How the World Cup Gets Celebrated Around the World
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be one of many firsts. The first in the Middle East, the first to be played in the Northern Hemisphere winter, and the first where people may attend up to three matches daily.
With Qatar being an absolute Islamic monarchy, there has been much focus on its strict laws concerning women’s rights, social attitudes toward drinking alcohol, and potential problems with so many foreign visitors.
Organizers have set up fan zones in an effort to create a soccer World Cup atmosphere more akin to those seen previously. And while millions may travel to Qatar to watch games in person, the vast majority of the world will follow from home. So whether you ask an octopus for their insights, make a thunderclap like a Viking, or get friends to watch the action, hopefully the tournament will provide more iconic moments and see the best team win.
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