61 Unbelievable World Cup Facts For The Ultimate Football Lovers

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Apr 10, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Dec 15, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Vikhaash Sundararaj
Kelley O'Hara of USA

The Football World Cup is the most esteemed tournament in sport and it is played once in an interval of four years.

48 teams (32 teams till 2022) participate in the World Cup and the international soccer event is contested by both Men's and Women's national teams from various countries. The 2014 World Cup was one of the most-watched events in the world as it was watched by 3.4 billion people!

Over years, football has popularized over the years and has become one of the most famous played sports globally.

The World Cup is the largest calendar event in the sport and more than 200 countries play in the year-long held qualifiers through which 32 teams make it to the event. The competition is tough as there are many dark horses hidden amongst the various small countries that make it to the event.

The World Cup has played a massive role in the popularity of football on a global level as these international events were televised in countries all around the world before domestic and league football made its way into the household of the common man.

If you like this article about World Cup facts, be sure to check out articles about the Best Soccer Quotes and Sports Facts!

FIFA World Cup History

The origins of football can be dated back to the year 476 when the Chinese were thought to have invented the game. It was called Cuju by the inventors.

The first World Cup was held in 1930 and the idea was introduced by Jules Rimet, who desired to create an international event pitting countries against each other on the international stage. The inaugural World Cup was held in Uruguay and 13 countries participated in the event.

Uruguay went on to win the first edition. The 1930 World Cup was the only time a European team did not appear in the final.

With the advent of World War II in 1939, the 1942 FIFA World Cup was canceled. The 1946 World Cup was also canceled as the affected countries were suffering from economic collapses.

The Women's World Cup was overseen by FIFA in the year 1991. China was the first host of the Women's World Cup which was won by the United States. Germany and United States both hold two Women's World Cup titles each.

The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar will be the last World Cup to feature 32 teams. Starting from 2026, it was decided to increase the number of participants to 48 national teams.

World Cup Records

The first-ever World Cup goal scored in the World Cup was scored by France's Lucient Laurent in 1930 against Me.

The host country has gone on to win the World Cup on six different occasions! The feat was achieved by Uruguay, Italy, West Germany, Argentina, and France. All host countries, with the exclusion of South Africa in 2010, have gone through the group stage and reached the round of 16.

The 2014 World Cup was one of the biggest events in the world as 3.2 billion people tuned in to watch the competition, which is half of the world's population!

Brazil is the only country in the world to have participated in each and every World Cup. They are on their way to the 22nd World Cup after they qualified for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Just 'Justo' Fontaine commands the record for the most goals scored in a single World Cup edition. He scored 13 goals in just six matches in the 1958 World Cup.

Currently, Brazil has scored the most World Cup goals! They have scored 229 goals in their World Cup history, making them one of the most fierce contenders for the title.

The first World Cup ever hosted in Asia was when South Korea and Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup. It was also the first time two countries host the competition together.

Turkey's Hakan Sukur scored the fastest ever goalscorer in the World Cup! He scored against South Korea after 10.89 seconds of play and this goal also helped Turkey beat South Korea and finish the World Cup as the third best-placed team.

Peter Shilton (England) and Fabien Barthez (France) hold the record for the most number of clean sheets with 10 each.

Brazil and Italy are the only countries to win the World Cup twice in a row! Italy did it in 1934 and 1938, while Brazil achieved the same feat in the years 1958 and 1962.

Argentina vs Germany has faced each other the most times in the World Cup Final. These countries have played each other in 1986, 1990, and 2014 World Cup Finals.

The oldest winner of the World Cup is Italy's Dino Zoff. Italy won the World Cup in 1982 against West Germany and Zoff was the captain of that winning team.

At 45 years and 161 days, Egypt's Essam El-Hadary became the oldest debutant in the competition. He played against Saudi Arabia on 25 June 2018.

Russia's Oleg Salenko holds the record for the most goals scored in a single World Cup match. He scored five goals against Cameroon on 28 June 1994.

Brazilian and global football legend Pelé holds several records that were set in the 1958 World Cup when he guided his country to the World Cup at the age of 17! He holds the record for the youngest goalscorer (vs Wales), youngest hat-trick scorer (vs France), and the youngest goalscorer in the final (vs Sweden)!

Roger Milla, the first African player to gain fame on the international stage, is the oldest goalscorer at a World Cup event. He scored against Russia in the 1994 World Cup.

Indonesia has only played one World Cup match in 1938.

Brazil vs Sweden, Germany vs Yugoslavia/Serbia, and Argentina vs Germany are the most played matches between two countries in the history of the competitions. These countries have come face to face seven times in the history of the competition!

The biggest victory margin in the World Cup archives is Hungary beating South Korea by nine to zero (1954); Yugoslavia beating Zaire by nine to zero (1974); Hungary beating El Salvador by ten to one goals (1982).

171 goals were scored in the 1998 and 2014 World Cup, 171 is the most goals scored until now. The fewest goals scored were in the 1930 and 1934 World Cup with a total of 70 goals being scored.

Italian club Juventus has provided the most players to the World Cup. 128 total players who appeared in the World Cups were members of the Juventus team.

Seoul Army Club and Manchester City are the joint holders of the record of sending 16 players to the World Cup! Seoul Army Club sent 16 players in the 1954 World Cup and Manchester City sent the same number in the 2018 World Club.

The English Premier League holds the record for the most players provided by a football association! The Premier League has a total of 1022 players over its course of history.

Uruguayan defender Jose Batista was sent off (red-carded) just after 56 seconds in Uruguay vs Scotland match in 1986!

Miroslav Klose, a retired German footballer has the most goals in the World Cup. He scored 16 goals during his World Cup playing career and has participated in the 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014 World Cups. He broke the record of Brazilian football great Ronaldo Nazário in the 2014 World Cup.

Marcelo Trobbiani only played for just one minute for Argentina during the 1986 World Cup Final. He became a World Cup Winner with only one minute of game time!

The countries to reach the most Finals of the World Cups are from Europe, the only exclusion being the World Cups in 1930 and 1950.

World Cup Winners

Even though European countries dominate most of the World Cup scenes, Brazil is the actual powerhouse! Brazil is the most successful country in the history of the World Cup and has won the competition a record five times.

Italy and Germany come second with four titles each. France, Argentina, and Uruguay are tied for fourth place with two trophies each.

In total, there are eight countries that have won the World Cup. The victorious countries of Italy, Germany, France, England, and Spain hail from Europe, while Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina hail from South America.

France won the 2018 World Cup Final and claimed its second World Cup title. The last time France was the world champion was back in 1998 when France was a host country

Alex Morgan pose with trophy

Who won the first world cup?

The first-ever World Cup was hosted by Uruguay who would go on to win the competition. The World Cup in 1930 saw 13 countries participating in the event. France vs Mexico and United States vs Belgium was the first-ever World Cup matches that were played concurrently. Today, the World Cup has become the most-watched sporting event in history.

Jules Rimet, the FIFA President, played a major role in the organization of the tournament, and Uruguay, based on their previous stunning performance in the Paris (1924) and Amsterdam (1928) Olympics, was chosen as the host of the first World Cup.

Uruguay beat Yugoslavia in the semi-finals by six to one and then proceeded to beat Argentina in the final by a score of four to two.

The United States progressed to the semi-final match and faced Argentina before they bowed out of the competition after then six to one defeat at the hands of Argentina.

93,000 spectators watched the final match of Uruguay vs Argentina on 30 July 1930, the match was seen as a rematch of the 1928 Olympic football gold medal match. Uruguay would win their second World Cup title in 1950 after they beat Brazil by two to one in Rio de Janeiro.

Did You Know...

Federation Internationale de Football Association also known as FIFA and International Federation of Association Football in English, are known as the United Nations of Football. FIFA has run the footballing world since its establishment in 1904. As of now, there are around 211 countries that are a part of FIFA.

The match between England and Scotland held on 30 November 1871, was the first official, international match that was recognized by FIFA. The match ended with a score of zero all.

India qualified for the 1950 World Cup Finals but had to opt-out of the sporting event because they were not allowed to play barefoot. Playing barefoot was how the team had practiced at the time. They have never appeared in any of the World Cups since then and are the only team who revoked their participation in the competition.

In 2010, South Africa became the first African nation to play host to the World Cup.

Qatar's status as the host of the 2022 World Cup gave them qualification to their first-ever World Cup appearance. Italy was the first host nation to make its debut on the stage when they also hosted the 1934 World Cup and gained instant qualification.

Qatar, being a Middle East country, is known for its dry and high temperatures. To combat this, stadiums in the 2022 World Cup country will have cooling technologies to guarantee a pleasant environment for both the players and the fans. They have also postponed the dates from May - July to November - December to avoid the heat.

Canada and United States are the only countries in the world that called the sport 'Soccer'. The rest of the global population calls the sport Football. Both United States and Canada have their own leagues and have ecstatic soccer fans all around the country.

In their entire 20 participations in the World Cup, Germany has only failed thrice to go past the group stages.

This happened the first time in the 1938 World Cup and the second time it happened was in the 2018 World Cup when they participated as the defending champions but they were eliminated after South Korea beat them by two to zero.

And finally in 2023 when Japan topped the group with Spain in second.

The current World Cup presented to the successful team has been since the '70s and a replacement had to be made as the trophy was stolen in 1983. The original Jules Rimet Trophy was also stolen prior to the beginning of the 1966 World Cup.

The host of the next world cup final match in the 2022 Qatar World Cup is a city called Lusail. The city was not even founded until 2006!

West Indian Cricket legend Vivian Richards is the only person in the world to play in both cricket and football World Cups. He was a part of Antigua's football team who participated in the qualifiers of the 1974 FIFA World Cup.

The Women's World Cup is also hosted once every four years. The next Women's World Cup will be held in Australia and New Zealand in 2013 who will both share the duties of being a host country.

Iceland is the smallest country by population to ever play in the World Cup. They finally made it to the group stages for the 2018 FIFA World Cup after 12 previously failed campaigns!

Japan's Kazuyoshi Miura is the oldest football player at the age of 54! Kazu, as he is known by his fans, is still active and plays for Yokohama FC and represented Japan's national team from 1990 - 2000.

László Kubala is the only player in the world to play for three countries! László officially represented Spain, Argentina, and Columbia.

Sialkot, Pakistan produces most of the footballs that are used in Britain. They have been making the FIFA world cup balls since 1982.

Gerd Müller, a German great, set the record of scoring in every minute of a game! Recently Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović also achieved this feat.

5,098 teams participated in a football tournament in 1999. A total of 35,000 players appeared in the competition making the even the largest ever tournament in football history.

With France coming out as the winning country in the 2018 World Cup, Raphael Varane became the ninth player in football history to win the Champions League and the World Cup in the same year!

The World Cup in 2006 saw one of the matches with the most red cards! The second round of the World Cup was held between Netherlands-Portugal and a total of four players were red-carded! two from each side. 16 yellow cards were also dished out by referee Valentin Ivanov. The match is known as the 'Battle of Nuremberg' now.

Qatar 2022 will be the first time female referees will officiate men’s World Cup matches. Of 36 referees, three – Yamashita Yoshimi, Salima Mukansanga and Stephanie Frappart – are female.

Main image credits: feelphoto / Shutterstock.com

Article image credits: Jose Breton- Pics Action / Shutterstock.com

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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Fact-checked by Vikhaash Sundararaj

Bachelor of Fine Arts specializing in International Business

Vikhaash Sundararaj picture

Vikhaash SundararajBachelor of Fine Arts specializing in International Business

With a background in International Business Management, having completed his degree at the University of Hull. Vikhaash has volunteered with 'Teach For India' to help students create a monthly newsletter. In his free time, he enjoys sports and was the assistant captain of his school's hockey team. He has also gained marketing experience through an internship at Decathlon Sports India.

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