How the World Cup is won

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How the World Cup is won

The World Cup is the most important competition in international soccer and reputedly the most popular and avidly followed sporting event in the world. A team sport event, the World Cup is contested by the national men’s soccer teams from the membership of the Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA. Currently 207 countries are members of FIFA.
The World Cup championship tournament has been held every four years since 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 during World War II. The inaugural tournament was held in Uruguay, which also won it by defeating Argentina 4-2 in the final round in front of 93,000 spectators in Montevideo, the capital.
The qualifying rounds of the competition take place over the two to three years preceding the championship round of the World Cup. The 32 national teams that make it through the qualifying rounds travel to the host country to compete in the final phase ― a total of 64 matches over a four-week period.
The host country is chosen six years ahead of the championship tournament in a vote by FIFA’s executive committee.
This year’s World Cup will be held in Germany from June 9 to July 9. In 2002, South Korea and Japan co-hosted the World Cup, the first time the championship games were held outside of Europe or the Americas.
So, what happens at a World Cup championship tournament?
Teams are first drawn to make eight groups of four. Eight of the best-performing teams at recent world cups are each assigned a group and the other teams are drawn at random. Since 1998, no group can contain more than two European teams or more than one team from any other confederation.
Each group plays a round-robin tournament, meaning that every qualifying national team will play at least three matches.
Three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. The top two teams from each group advance to the second stage of the tournament.
In this second stage, the winner of each group plays against the runner-up from another group. This stage is a single-elimination round in which teams play each other. If the teams are in a draw after the regulation time, extra time is given and if they are still tied after that, a penalty shootout takes place to determine the winner.
After the round of 16 games, the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final take place. The losing semi-finalists contest the third place.
For each tournament, FIFA decides the number of slots awarded to each of FIFA’s continental zones or global regions beforehand, generally based on the relative strength of the confederations’ teams.
The qualification rounds are held within the six FIFA global regions (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Oceania and Europe), overseen by their respective confederations. The formats of the qualification tournaments differ between confederations.
Since the 1938 World Cup, host nations have received an automatic place in the finals. This right was also granted to the defending champion, but beginning from this year’s World Cup, that privilege has been withdrawn, requiring the champions to qualify for a place in future World Cups, like other teams.
The team that wins the World Cup is awarded a trophy. From 1930 to 1970, the Jules Rimet Trophy was awarded to the winner. The name was given in 1946 in honor of the FIFA president who organized the first tournament. In 1970, Brazil’s third victory in the tournament brought home the trophy permanently but it was stolen in 1983, and has never been recovered.
After 1970, a new FIFA World Cup Trophy was designed. This trophy is not awarded permanently to a nation no matter how many World Cups it wins. It will not be retired until the name plaque has been entirely filled with the names of the winning nations, in 2038.
As for the individual players, The Yashin Award is given to the best goalkeeper while the Golden Shoe is given to the top goal scorer. The long history of the World Cup has also given birth to tons of interesting statistics, some of them involving South Korea. For instance, the largest margin of victory occurred in 1954 when South Korea was beaten by Hungary 9-0 and the country failed to score a single goal throughout the tournament where it made its first appearance. The tournament’s fastest goal was scored by Hakan Sukur of Turkey in a match against South Korea in 2002, only 11 seconds after kick off. Gerd Mueller from West Germany scored the most goals, 14 altogether, from 1970 to 1974.
The first goal in World Cup history was scored by Lucien Laurent of France. Brazil is the only nation to have qualified for every World Cup. Brazil and Germany are tied for most appearances in the final match of the Cup.
Brazil is the current trophy holder, and is also the most successful nation in the tournament. Throughout the history of the World Cup, Brazil has won the tournament five times. Germany and and Italy follow with three titles each. Only eleven nations have made it to the final match, and only seven nations have won.
For this year’s event, a total of 198 nations tried to qualify.
South Korea has qualified a total of six times, and its best outing occurred in 2002 when it finished fourth place overall.


Soccer glossary

Charging A method of unbalancing or blocking (using one’s shoulder and arm) the player who has possession or is attempting to gain possession of the ball.

Sweeper A defensive player whose job is to position himself behind the other defenders. A sweeper has no specific marking duties and is the last line of defense before the goalkeeper.

Bicycle Kick A move in which a player throws his body in the air and with his legs moving as if pedaling a bicycle strikes the ball backward over his head.

Hat Trick Three goals scored in a game by a single player

Advantage rule A soccer rule that directs the referee to refrain from stopping play for a foul if a stoppage would benefit the team that committed the violation.

Kickoff The kick that begins the game at the beginning of each half and restarts play after a goal is scored

Penalty Area Also called the penalty box, this is a rectangular area that extends 18 yards to each side of the goal and 18 yards in front of it. Within the penalty area is the penalty spot (or penalty mark), which is 12 yards from the goal line, and in line with the centre of the goal

Penalty A penalty free kick that is awarded when a foul has been committed within the penalty area in front of the goal area. A penalty is taken by one player opposed only by the goal keeper, while the other players have keep clear of the penalty area.

Offside A player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last opponent; he is not offside if he is on his half of the field or is level with the second-to-last opponent. However, a player in an offside position may not be penalized if he is deemed not to be interfering with play.

Free Kick A kick from a stationary position that is awarded to a team by the referee when an opponent has committed foul play. There are two types of free kicks, direct and indirect.


by Brian Lee
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