Podcast: Play in new window
The World Cup is an international soccer competition among the national teams of members of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, also known as FIFA. This championship is played every four years and was first played in 1930. The only years that the world cup was not played were in 1942 and 1946, due to World War 2. Currently the world cup is the most widely viewed sporting event in the world. The cumulative audience of the 2006 worldcup was an estimated 26.29 billion people and more than 715 million people watched the final match alone, which at the time was about 1/9th of the entire planet! 32 national teams qualify for the tournament with one spot saved for the host country. Only 8 teams have ever won the world cup including Brazil, West Germany, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, England, France and Spain.
The honor of hosting the first ever World Cup in 1930 was awarded to Uruguay partly because they had won the last two Olympic gold medals and partly because Uruguay was celebrating its 100th Anniversary of Independence (Oh yeah, and they agreed to cover all of the costs, including travel and accommodation for participating teams). However, it was not easy to convince the best European teams to travel halfway across the world to play soccer. Travel involved a long sea journey for players and it also meant that their local clubs would have to excuse their most prized players to make the trip. However, President Jules Rimet convinced France, Romania, Belgium and Yugoslavia to partake in the inaugural competition. Uruguay went on the win the first ever World Cup but harbored a huge grudge against many of the European sides who refused to travel to compete. The following world cup competition was held in Italy and Uruguay returned the favor by refusing to travel making them the only country to not defend their title in the following World Cup.
Then came World War 2, which caused the cancellation of multiple World Cup tournaments. After the war the FIFA Congress met again and awarded hosting rights to Brazil. Also at that meeting, Jules Rimet was honored for his role as the President of FIFA for over 25 years. In recognition of his achievements, the FIFA World Cup Trophy was renamed the Jules Rimet Cup.
The Jules Rimet Cup has a fascinating history. French sculptor Abel Lafeur was commissioned by Jules Rimet to create the statue for the first World Cup in 1930. It is a gold-plated statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. It was awarded to Uruguay after they won the first World Cup but returned to Italy for 8 years up until the start of World War 2. Adolf Hitler ordered his forces to find certain desirable artifacts to add to his power including the Holy Grail, the Spear of Destiny and the Jules Rimet Cup. Italian football commissioner Ottorino Barassi had other plans and stole the trophy from it’s hiding place in a bank and hid it in a shoebox under his bed until the war was over. In 1966 it was on display in London and disappeared. It was later found by Pickles, a border collie in a garden hedge. In 1983, the trophy was stolen from a bullet-proof glass case in the Brazilian Football Confederation in Rio de Janeiro. There was a desperate search for the trophy but the trophy was never found and today is still regarded as one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in sports history (the holy grail to football fanatics). Two arrests were made in Brazil but both men were released. One of them was later found dead, murdered due to his possible involvement in the heist. In 1970, a new World Cup trophy was commissioned but winners are not given possession of that trophy. They are awarded replicas of the trophy which is held by FIFA.
Has the USA ever won a World Cup? The answer is no. There best finish was actually in the 1930 World Cup where they finished in 3rd place. The USMNT played in many of the early World Cup competitions but failed to qualify between 1950 and 1990. Since then, they have qualified for every World Cup. In 2002 they made it to the quarterfinals where they lost to Germany. This was the best finish for the USMNT since 1930. In both 2002 and 2006, the USMNT was knocked out of the tournament by Ghana. But just a few days ago, on June 16th, 2014, we finally had our redemption by beating Ghana 2-1 in the first came of group play. Our next group matches are against heavy favorites Portugal and Germany. The USMNT plays Portugal at 5pm on Sunday June 22nd, 2014 and Germany at 11am on Thursday June 26th. Both games will be aired on ESPN.