World Cup Quiz

Everyone knows the big dogs when it comes to the World Cup, with teams like Brazil, Germany, Italy and Uruguay winning an incredible 15 tournaments (75% of the competitions) between them. But what about the smaller teams? Underdog nations such as Iceland and Panama are making their debut this year, whilst other nations such as Japan and Iran who’ve never won, have made to another of many World Cups. Whilst most people’s Odds on who will win World Cup 2018 will lie with the bigger teams, remember those champions had to make their debut at some point! Take this quiz to find out who your second pick should be this year!

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Asian Chances at the Fifa World Cup 2018

Russia 2018

Other than the magical South Korean Semi Final run when they hosted the finals in 2002, Asian teams have always struggled. Yes there have been memorable moments (who will ever forget the Saudi Arabian goal in 1994) but more often than not they fail to make it past the group stage and are home before the serious competition starts. What about this year? Will they fair any better? Let us take a look……

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia have had one shining World Cup moment, when they scored perhaps one of the finest goals in World Cup history in 1994 with a solo effort that you need to check out now on Youtube. However, other than that they have been something of the boys to beat with some heavy score lines against them. Even though in 2018 they have been handed a fairly tame group, they would probably have to beat hosts Russia and get something out Egypt to progress which seems unlikely. 0 points and 0 goals is more likely.

Iran

Saudi Arabia may have a nice draw, Iran have the worst this years Fifa World Cup 2018. There is very little to say about the uninspiring Iran line up, other than that they will likely be on the end of convincing defeats to both Spain and Portugal. Again, they face a battle with Morocco to get 3rd in the group, but even that seems a stretch. Another Asian team who is more likely to get 0 points and 0 goals than anything else.

Australia

….well we may as well include them! With an ever impressive Peru, a robust Denmark and a star studded France, Australia cannot have been happy with the draw they faced. They lack experience, lack quality and they lack a chance.

South Korea

Always remembered for their run in 2002, they can expect little in 2018 as the draw was not kind. Germany will be looking to dish out a beating, and with a Swedish side that seem to hitting form at the right team and an ever robust Mexico, I am struggling to see where these points will come from and sadly for the Korean’s an early exit seems inevitable.

Japan

Always outsiders when it comes to the finals, but with an impressive qualification record, the draw will have pleased Japan. I don’t think they will fear Poland, Colombia and Senegal and this appears one of the most unpredictable groups in the contest. Picking up one win and holding on for a draw elsewhere may be enough to send them in the next round and out of all of the Asian teams, although I think none will qualify, if I had to choose one it would be Japan.

Hence, just like the African nations, I forsee very little hope for the Asian nations and they too could all find themselves down and out of the World cup after the group stage.

Why not check out our free World Cup Quiz?

Infographic – Best 11 at the World Cup

So we’re a few games into the World Cup now and as expected, it’s been really hard to predict the outcomes, as it usually is, going massively against the expected predictions. We’ve seen Argentina really struggle against a resolute Iceland, Germany bested by a rampant Mexico and as expected and England struggle to come through a game they should have breezed through.

Big tournaments throw up some surprises but even before this World Cup there were a few when it came to the players going into the tournament. Most fans and pundits would have selected a team they thought would have done well but what they probably didn’t know is the exact form of the players coming in to the tournament. WhoScored.com has a unique system for rating players and based upon these, the best 11 at the World Cup looks completely different to what would be expected.

If you’re as intrigued as we were, see our infographic below and try not to be too shocked at some of the players. Spain to win world cup odds are 9/2 which comes as no surprise as they continue to play some of the most attractive football in the tournament and have all but secured there progression to the knock out stages.

The Best 11 at the World Cup

The World Cup -What would be a “good result” for England?

Russia 2018

Following England at the World cup over the course of my lifetime has been nothing but frustration, pain and disappointment. With the national team on something of a decline, and arguably devoid of any of the World Class players we used to have, the 2018 World Cup has England fans in a mixed frame of mind. In the likes of 1998, 2002 and even 2006, anything short of winning the whole tournament would have been a let down. But what actually constitutes success and failure in the 2018 version?

Obviously, not making it out of the group would be a disaster, Last time around, we had a dicey group and could be partially forgiven for not making the knockout stages. This time however, a failure to progress would surely mean the end of the Southgate era. Belgium provide tricky opposition, and despite being on a 17 match unbeaten run, England should not fear a side who have yet to prove themselves on the biggest of stages. Tunisia and Panama, you would expect without an disrespect, are not on the same playing field as England and anything sort of convincing wins would be a cause for concern.

Then that would leave England in the last 16 possibly with meetings against Senegal, Poland or Colombia (or  Japan if they can cause a surprise). Again, none of these are opposition England should fear, Colombia are not the team that they once were and Poland are something of a one man team. Again, whatever your feelings are on England, you have to believe that, when you look at the teams here, an exit at the Last 16 stage is also something that must be considered a failure. Even if Southgate is “planning for the future”, and I do believe in giving managers a chance, there has to be a line drawn and if he can’t manage this out of the group and past the 4 teams  that are an option in the Last 16, then time for a change.

The Quarter final must be considered  a success. Being one of the Top 8 in the world, and in with the likes of the teams who will be in is a result. A valiant loss to one of the big boys is nothing to be ashamed of. Anyone who reaches the World Cup Quarter Final is a quality side. The Semi Final would be something England have not done for 28 years, and a Final appearance….well, let us not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Either way, this should be a very interesting Summer and with a likeable collection of young, hungry players, playing a likeable style of football, I am sure the nation will be behind the team. What will happen? It is too hard to tell but I for one have a certain degree of optimism that this could be a very happy summer and we may hear those three lions roaring once again. One thing that will happen…..is drama!

Golden Boot Contenders

World Cup Golden Boot

One of the most popular bets placed prior to the World Cup is regarding which player will walk away with the Golden Boot, for netting the most number of goals in the tournament. Usually anyone who nets 5 or more can be hopeful of winning it but let us take a look at some of the leading contenders and assess their chances . Who is your money on?

Lionel Messi – Always likely to lead the betting, and the out right goal machine has a nice easy group to start racking up goals. Although Argentina are happy with a 1-0 win, unlike his club, Messi should be able to push on add to his tally. But will he get enough?

Antonie Grizmann – The closer it gets, the more I am thinking 2018 may just be Griezmann’s year. In an attacking French team, he is the main man and with his current form he is going to be troubling defences. Will France get far enough to allow him to score the 5 or 6 needed though?

Neymar – Proven himself to be one of the worlds best players and almost justifies his price tag, and with a big money move again looming, as well as his desire for revenge on last World cups humiliation, this man may just be the one to watch.

Harry Kane – A goal machine against weak opposition in the Premier League, Harry Kane may just well fill his boots with the matches against Panama and Tunisia. A brace in those games will set him up nicely, and with a price tag of 25/1 in some places, he may well be the man. But you will need to check around and perhaps take a look at football acca tips.

Gabriel Jesus – If Neymar doesn’t deliver for Brazil, then Jesus will be the man too. Whether they both play, and whether there is enough in the team for them both the net enough goals to be contenders. A cheeky bet may have been placed on Jesus by this writer.

Cristiano Ronaldo – A list cannot be a list without the main himself on it. However, as great as he is, carrying this Portugal team to enough wins to make Ronaldo a contender the award may just well be a step too far!

Romelu Lukaku – Similar to the comments on Harry Kane, with a nice easy group, this may play into Lukaku’s hands, a man who traditionally does well against weaker opposition!

If you are betting person, this is going to be a very tough call to make. I don’t see an Italians, Germans  or Spaniards netting enough to contend but all it takes, as happened in 1994, is one hat trick plus in a game and then you are well on your way to nabbing the award. Who are you picking? Who are the outsiders? Any tips for underdogs? Let us know

 

England at the 2018 World Cup

In my life time of watching football, I am used to pundits, fans and the press hyping up the England teams chances of excelling at a major tournament. But this time around things are different….with new players, a new manager and a long term plan seemingly in place, there is a feeling this World Cup is a stepping stone to greater things. But I assure you not one fan, player or management staff will be thinking that come the big day….just how will England do?

Despite the relative inexperience of the players and manager, England breezed through the qualifiers and whilst never being outstanding, rarely looked troubled. It is the same old story you may say, but the qualifiers can give you a hint. England struggled in the run up games to Euro 2016 and looked vulnerable at times, but not in this campaign.

Gareth Southgate has been to the big tournaments in the modern era and understands what they are all about. The little touches he will bring, as a man of experience, may be the difference in keeping the squad focused. He has quietly built his own system, introduced his own players and got a team functioning as a team. The criticism always levelled at the previous “Golden era” was that we have a collection of individuals rather than a unit….that can no longer.

The wing back system Southgate seems to favour, is one that will be unique in the tournament. Southgate saw that system function superbly under Glenn Hoddle and seems to be set on imitating it. Opposition may not be used to such a style and we say indeed see it work to England’s advantage. The core of the defence remains strong, the wing backs we have offer great potential both defensively and going forward and the system is very flexible.

Even the most pessimistic England fan must sense qualification is likely. Tunisia and Panama are weak sides, and lack the quality and experience to frustrate England for long. The Belgium game will be key and that will tell us all we need to know. Playing against a team unbeaten in 17 matches, with world class players in every position on the big stage will test any team. A victory in that match may allow England to dream big! That will get the nation dreaming and probably thinking about having a flutter perhaps even on NetBet Sport World Cup Betting

Should the group stage prove passable, Senegal and  Colombia await in the Last 16, both of which England would start as favourites. If that occurs and England earn a Quarter final berth, then that will be mission accomplished for Southgate and company. Anything before the Quarter Finals will be labelled a disappointment, anything after it will be an over achievement.

With Kane, Ali, Sterling and co, along with a solid defence and a dependable set of goalkeepers, any of the opposition who England may face in the latter stages would have to take them as a serious threat.

Will going into a tournament without the hype, as something of an underdog, help the team achieve? Only time will tell

If you have a little time on your hands in the build up then why not check out our England or  World Cup Quiz

Russia as a World Cup venue

Russia 2018

The selection of Russia as a venue for the World Cup 2018 was met with much criticism at the time, and as the political dynamic in the world changes, the criticism continues to grow. Never in my lifetime can I remember as much debate about whether a nation is worthy to host a contest in the run up the finals. Well for now anyhow – l suspect it will equally as controversial in 4 years time in Qatar 2022.

Russia itself is a vast vast country and it goes without saying that there is going to be a lot of travelling involved. Russia is the biggest nation ever to host a World Cup and the distance between the furthest two stadiums is equivalent to a continent. For many players and teams it won’t even feel like playing in the same country. One can’t help but feel some ground rules should have been made about which Stadiums should be used, but alas….fans can expect 14 hour train journeys and multiple flights to get across to games. Not ideal? Part of the fun? And what about the affects on players. If you play into the latter stages the air miles these guys will rack up is going to be huge. Travelling across a country will have wear and tear on the bodies and minds of the players. Perhaps we may be surprised by the mental resilience of some of the smaller nations.

There is no doubt the Stadiums are all high tech, with the first final to played on a plastic pitch due this year, the facilities are second to none. Putin and Russian want to impress, they want to showcase Russia to the world and the best way to do that is going to be how  it looks on TV. I expect a huge spectacle, a lavish opening ceremony and a huge focus on the greatness of Russia.

Concerns have been raised with the LGBT community about their safety fears. The last think Russia wants is to have negative press so I hope that they are prepared!

There has been concern about Russian fans, their hardcore hooligans and crime rings. Russian authorities promise big punishments if they are caught and hopefully that will keep things at bay. But I fully expect come June, to see police battling with drunken fans and riots in the streets….a  sad state of affairs in the modern game.

All that aside my favourites will be the French and if you are interested in their odd at this years World Cup check out: https://www.signupbonuses.co.uk/ – why not get a cheeky bonus!

6 Things About The World Cup You (Probably) Don’t Know

World Cup Quiz

The football World Cup unites the planet like no other sporting event and Russia 2018 is getting closer and closer. The football extravaganza comes along every four years and now is a great time to get your statto-geek World Cup facts and trivia in order. Who knows when there’ll be a mate you need to bore/dazzle in the pub?

Our friends at FootballBettingHub have put together six interesting (or “interesting” perhaps) pieces of World Cup trivia together. Strap yourselves in…

Best Attended – The 1994 USA World Cup, which England decided they’d best not bother with, is the best-attended World Cup ever. The average attendance was 68,991. Max out your geek points by telling anyone who’ll listen that this is a whopping 30% higher than the next best (Brazil 2014).

3 x 5You don’t get any quizzie kudos for knowing your five times table. If, however, you instantly knew we were referring to the fact that three players have played in five different World Cups, then well done! Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal, Italy’s Gigi Buffon and German great Lothar Matthäus are your men!

Hungary for Goals – Three of the most goal-laden World Cup games ever have seen Hungary go goal crazy. Their legendary 1954 team beat Germany FR 8-3 and Korea 9-0, whilst the 1982 side thrashed El Salvador 10-1. That gives Hungary three of the top seven World Cup goalfests.

Stamps Worth More – You probably know that the Jules Rimet trophy (incidentally it was originally called Victory and was renamed in 1946) was stolen in 1966. You also probably know that Pickles the dog found it. But did you know that the thieves took it from the “Sport with Stamps” display at the Stampex exhibition? And that stamps valued at £3 million were ignored in favour of the £30,000 trophy?

Klose The King? – Germany’s Miroslav Klose is arguably the greatest player in World Cup history. He’s played in four World Cups and only three men have played in more. Only compatriot Matthäus has played more games but nobody has scored more goals or won more games at the World Cup than the former Lazio forward. In his four World Cups, he never finished worse than third! Essentially he’s miles better than England all by himself.

Italy, Germany or Brazil – If you want to bet on the World Cup, just back Italy, Germany AND Brazil to win it. Ignoring the first World Cup (1930, held in and won by Uruguay – as you knew!) when only 13 teams took part and there was no Italy or Germany, these three nations have been dominant. There have been 19 World Cups since then and this glorious trio have won 13 of them! That’s a 68% strike rate!

If you do indeed fancy a bet on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, check out FootballBettingHub’s brilliant World Cup betting offers. Their listings of the best enhanced odds, free bets and bookie offers will help you cash in next summer!

How are England shaping up for Russia 2018?

England Manager

England Manager12 months ago in Nice, England suffered arguably their worst humiliation since 1950, losing 2-1 to the spirited underdogs of Iceland. Feelings of cynicism and mistrust towards the England team, which have festered for decades, became even more prominent. Fans felt alienated that such well-paid individuals could not stand up for their country and show a fraction of the desire that we saw from Strákarnir okkar. Throw in the Sam Allardyce debacle that followed within three months of Roy Hodgson’s inevitable resignation and Gareth Southgate was dealt a rough hand.

And yet, his first nine months in charge have provided encouraging signs. We have seen the team ease towards qualification for the 2018 World Cup, with many issues from the regimes of Roy Hodgson and others seemingly put to bed.

Previous managers including Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren all at times shoehorned in big-name players, without considering the tactical balance of the side. Hodgson started Wayne Rooney at the Euros, but he also wanted to play Dele Alli after the season he had enjoyed as well as two strikers, due to the strength in that area. The outcome was a disjointed side with too many players trying to do similar jobs, which was partly responsible for the hesitancy the team showed when approaching the final third.

For Southgate to loosen the shackles on England’s younger (bar Jamie Vardy) and best attacking players, it was clear Rooney had to be dropped from the squad. That was not an easy decision to make about the team’s most recent captain, who for 12 years has been untouchable, but it was the right one.

The Three Lions, who as of 08th June are 20/1 to win the next World Cup with Betway, will have more width with Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who both started the 2-0 win over Lithuania, included in the squad. They enjoyed good 16/17 seasons at top clubs and have the versatility to attack the flank at pace, when too many players at the Euros only wanted to operate in central areas.

If there was one criticism of the team’s first six games under Southgate, it would be the need for better finishing. England perhaps shaded their friendly with Germany but failed to net and were undone by a fitting Lukas Podolski screamer and could have netted more than two against Lithuania. Some of this profligacy can be attributed to the absence of Harry Kane, a complete striker who has scored 99 goals in three years, leading some to dub him world-class.

Joe Hart’s status as a world-class goalkeeper has been tarnished somewhat by an unconvincing end to his Man City career and a mixed spell on loan at Torino. However, he has only conceded one goal in 585 minutes since the Euros and could have done little about Podolski’s strike in Dortmund. By contrast, Tom Heaton has had a better season at club level, but struggled in his 45-minute outing against Spain, letting in two goals that saw England throw away a comfortable lead.

Joe Hart Man City Goalkeeper

Were Heaton younger than Hart, patience may be needed but he is one-year older at 31. Southgate is better off persisting with a goalkeeper who is at home playing for his country and has experience of winning titles, something perhaps lacking in the squad.

Gary Cahill has won six major honours as a regular with Chelsea and, after leading last year’s Premier League champions commandingly, is deserving of the captaincy. The best partner for Cahill could be Eric Dier or Rob Holding, possibly both with each of the trio used to playing in a back-three.

The wing-back system showed potential against Germany and suits the skillset of the full-backs in the squad. Kyle Walker is used to playing in a 3-4-3 for Tottenham and while club teammate Danny Rose is less familiar due to a coinciding injury, he has the energy to adapt. The same can be said of back-ups Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand, the latter often positioned further forward than central midfielders at Southampton.

Providing the licence for these players to attack, either as wing-backs or full-backs, could be Jordan Henderson. The 26-year-old has missed the last four months through injury but when fit, he has proved a consistent and dependable performer at Liverpool. Bar Idrissa Gana Gueye, Henderson won more tackles per game (3.7) than any Premier League player last season and averages by far the most passes per game (85.7), according to WhoScored. Though number of passes does not tell you everything, a player who can gain a steady handle on the midfield is useful when entwined with more creative types.

One of those is club teammate Adam Lallana, who has also impressed for the Reds this term with his intelligent movement and clever footwork in tight areas. Lallana has looked at home against the might of Spain and Germany, but faces competition for the same position in Alli, the Premier League’s highest-scoring non-striker last term with 18 goals.

At least one of Chamberlain and Sterling, who can fit into many different roles, are likely to start in Russia, which means one of Alli and Lallana may have to miss out. Alli has age and goalscoring statistics on his side, but Lallana is more adaptable and tends to have greater influence in the middle third.

Thanks to a resurgence in English talent over the last three years, the Lallana or Alli debate demonstrates the wide array of impressive players England now possess. Added to that, we now have a manager we can trust to pick out the players that will give the team the best balance, not necessarily those of the highest-profile. The current national mood of weariness towards England is understandable, but if we look in the right places, there may be room for a little cautious optimism.

Germany & Denmark get off to winning starts in World Cup qualifying

This week saw the start of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign across Europe, with four times winners Germany among those to claim an opening victory in their respective group. Bayern man Thomas Muller found the net twice for Joachim Low’s side during a comfortable 3-0 win over Norway, with fellow Group C contenders the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland playing out a goalless Prague.

As the reigning World Cup holders, Germany are unsurprisingly the Betser freebet to finish at the top of the group, securing an automatic passage to the finals in Russia, with Euro 2016 participants Northern Ireland hoping to earn a second successive spot at a major tournament. Elsewhere in the group, Azerbaijan claimed an opening victory over minnows San Marino, with Pierangelo Manzaroli’s men having lost 13-0 to Germany back in 2006.

Meanwhile, in Group E, Denmark narrowly saw off Armenia thanks to single goal from Tottenhams’s Christian Eriksen, while there was late drama in Kazakhstan. Despite holding a two goal half-time advantage, thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski and Leicester City’s Bartosz Kapustka, Poland conceded two goals during the second period to allow the home side to claim a famous point. Elsewhere in the group, Romania and Montenegro both found the back of the net in the closing stages to secure what could be a valuable point. Former Manchester City man StevanJovetic cancelled out Adrian Popa’s striker, with NicolaeStanciu dramatically missing a penalty for the hosts in the seventh minute of added time. If the first round of fixtures is anything to go by, Group E looks set to be one of the most competitive in Europe.

Group F was certainly not short of drama also, with a 95th minute Adam Lallana goal ensuring that Sam Allardyce got his England tenor off to a winning start in Slovakia. It had looked like being a frustrating evening for England, despite former Liverpool man Martin Skrtel receiving a deserved red card in the second half, however Lallana scored his first goal at international level to secure all three points. England will certainly be favourites to qualify for the finals with Betser, with only Scotland likely to cause any real problems for the Three Lions.

Elsewhere in the group, Lithuania threw away a two goal lead against Slovenia, with former West Bromwich Albion loanee Bostjan Cesar equalising for the visitors in the final seconds. Gordon Strachan was delighted with his Scotland side’s performance against a potentially tricky Malta outfit, with Hull City’s Robert Snodgrass scoring a hat-trick in a comfortable 5-1 win. The home side finished the game with nine men following two second half sending’s off. Scotland will see this as a good opportunity to qualify for their first major tournament since the World Cup in 1998.

Germany & Denmark get off to winning starts in World Cup qualifying

World Cup Quiz

This week saw the start of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign across Europe, with four times winners Germany among those to claim an opening victory in their respective group. Bayern man Thomas Muller found the net twice for Joachim Low’s side during a comfortable 3-0 win over Norway, with fellow Group C contenders the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland playing out a goalless Prague.

As the reigning World Cup holders, Germany are unsurprisingly the favourites at Betser to finish at the top of the group, securing an automatic passage to the finals in Russia, with Euro 2016 participants Northern Ireland hoping to earn a second successive spot at a major tournament. Elsewhere in the group, Azerbaijan claimed an opening victory over minnows San Marino, with Pierangelo Manzaroli’s men having lost 13-0 to Germany back in 2006.

Meanwhile, in Group E, Denmark narrowly saw off Armenia thanks to single goal from Tottenhams’s Christian Eriksen, while there was late drama in Kazakhstan. Despite holding a two goal half-time advantage, thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski and Leicester City’s Bartosz Kapustka, Poland conceded two goals during the second period to allow the home side to claim a famous point. Elsewhere in the group, Romania and Montenegro both found the back of the net in the closing stages to secure what could be a valuable point. Former Manchester City man Stevan Jovetic cancelled out Adrian Popa’s striker, with Nicolae Stanciu dramatically missing a penalty for the hosts in the seventh minute of added time. If the first round of fixtures is anything to go by, Group E looks set to be one of the most competitive in Europe.

Group F was certainly not short of drama also, with a 95th minute Adam Lallana goal ensuring that Sam Allardyce got his England tenor off to a winning start in Slovakia. It had looked like being a frustrating evening for England, despite former Liverpool man Martin Skrtel receiving a deserved red card in the second half, however Lallana scored his first goal at international level to secure all three points. England will certainly be favourites to qualify for the finals with Betser, with only Scotland likely to cause any real problems for the Three Lions.

Elsewhere in the group, Lithuania threw away a two goal lead against Slovenia, withformer West Bromwich Albion loanee Bostjan Cesar equalising for the visitors in the final seconds. Gordon Strachan was delighted with his Scotland side’s performance against a potentially tricky Malta outfit, with Hull City’s Robert Snodgrass scoring a hat-trick in a comfortable 5-1 win. The home side finished the game with nine men following two second half sending’s off. Scotland will see this as a good opportunity to qualify for their first major tournament since the World Cup in 1998.

Our Quick Guide to the last 20 World Cups

World Cup Quiz

With England still the dominant force in World football, the World Cup in 1930 was set to start in Uruguay without them. Although the English FA had joined FIFA in 1906, the relationship with the British associations was fraught. In 1928, the British nations withdrew from FIFA, in a disagreement over payments to amateur players and the World Cup went on without them. Thirteen teams entered the original tournament. Many European teams chose not to compete because of the difficulty of travelling to South America. Uruguay took advantage, winning every game including 6-1 in the semi-final and a 4-1 win over Argentina in the final.

In 1934, Uruguay joined the British nations in not competing in the tournament held in Italy. They withdrew in protest that many European countries did not travel to South America 4 years earlier and are still the only champions not to defend their title. Italy needed a replay against Spain in the quarter finals (24 hours after the first match – can you imagine today’s players being asked to do that?) and extra-time in the final to see off Czechoslovakia and win the cup on their own soil.

The 1938 became synonymous with politics and the debate over the future of the tournament. Uruguay and Argentina didn’t compete because of the decision to hold the tournament in Europe for the second time in succession. The British FA’s were still at war with FIFA (reminds me of recent events with Sepp Blatter) so didn’t enter, Spain were excluded because of the civil war and Germany competed under the Nazi flag. Italy retained their crown with a 4-2 final victory over the emerging Hungary, who had beaten England 6-2 at Wembley 2 years earlier.

After a break of 12 years because of World War II, the tournament returned with Brazil as the host nation. The winner was decided by a final group, and as it turned out, the deciding match in this group is notable for the size of the crowd, with a reported 173,850 packed into the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro to see Uruguay win 2-1 and top the group as World Cup winners.

This was to be Hungary’s World Cup. 1954 in Switzerland saw them defeat South Korea 9-0 and West Germany 8-3 in the group before scoring 4 past both Brazil and Uruguay (albeit after extra-time) in the knockout stages. By the time they faced West Germany again in the final they had amassed a 32 match unbeaten run. They were undone by West Germany 3-2, after being 2-0 up inside the first 8 minutes.

The 1958 World Cup was hosted in Sweden and should be remembered for the feat of one man, who is often forgotten when the history of the World Cup is told. Just Fontaine, a Moroccan-born player for France scores a remarkable 13 goals in the tournament. He is still the fourth highest goalscorer at all World Cups, only having competed in one. To put that in context, Miroslav Klose took 4 tournaments to get his 16 goals and Ronaldo took 3 tournaments to score his 15 World Cup goals. A remarkable feat that is often overshadowed by the fact that this was Brazil’s first World Cup win and the start of the Pele era – he was only 17.

The 1962 edition of the Word Cup returned to South America, Chile and this small country hosted a tournament of 16 teams in only 4 stadiums. Brazil’s team with Garrincha, Vava and Pele starring were unbeaten throughout and took the final 3-1 against Czechoslovakia and took back-to-back wins. They were immediately installed as favourites to win their hat-trick in the next World Cup.

England fans will tell you the only thing you need to remember about the 1966 World Cup was we won it. (West) Germany fans will tell you the only thing you need to remember about the 1966 World Cup was the Russian linesman. West Ham fans will tell you the only thing you need to remember about the 1966 World Cup was the fact that West Ham players dominated the final.

Mexico 70 was a one team tournament, with Brazil even winning the final 4-1 against Italy. It was the crowning glory of the Pele Brazil era, completing their third triumph after feeling that they were fouled out of the 1966 World Cup in England. The Jules Rimet trophy was given to them permanently and a new World Cup was to be designed for the next tournament.

1974 was the start of the experiment of staging groups for both the first and second rounds of the tournament. East Germany topped the group ahead of their fierce rivals, and hosts, West Germany in the first round. They couldn’t repeat these results in the second round as group winners Netherlands and West Germany qualified for the final. Gerd Muller scored the winner as the West Germans triumphed 2-1, Muller’s fourth goal of the competition to add to the 10 he scored in 1970.

Scotland travelled to Argentina in 1978 win genuine hopes of challenging for the title, but they returned home 8 days after they started with group stage elimination. Their consolation was a win over the much-fancied Netherlands in what was the Netherlands only loss on their march to the final. They couldn’t cope with the passion of the hosts and ended up losing their second final in succession. The scoreline was 3-1.

The 1982 World Cup had many high points – the Brazil v Italy match in the second phase was a great match – but the moment of the tournament was Marco Tardelli’s celebration as he scored the third Italy goal in the final against West Germany. It captures the passion that the world feels for football. The ugly side of football reared its head through Harald Schumacher’s assault on Patrick Battiston.

The 1986 World Cup belonged to one man. Loved and loathed in fairly equal measure the world over, Diego Armando Maradona won the World Cup single-handed. In a team full of players that even fanatical football fans had forgotten a year later, Maradona was a star – for me the greatest player of all time. It’s not often that an entire tournament is dominated by a single team, let alone a single player but the best goals, the best performances and the biggest controversy all belonged to one man.

Italia 90 was nearly England’s year again, but it wasn’t to be. The dominance of Maradona from four years earlier had faded and this was a World Cup lit up by stars that hadn’t been expected to shine before it began – Paul Gascogne, Toto Schillaci, Roger Milla and David Platt. But Maradona dragged every ounce out of his teammates and the West German machine worked through the gears to face each other in the final. After a (mostly) beautiful tournament played in a beautiful country, the final was an ugly affair. Argentina decided that attrition and a penalty shoot-out was their best chance of retaining their title and the match was a horrible spectacle. Fortunately the team that came to play football were marshalled through the more by Lothar Matthaus and lifted the trophy.

The decision to take the World Cup to the USA in 1994 was seen as a positive commercial move in taking the game to a new market, unlike the furore around the new market of Qatar in 2022. The tournament was considered a success in bringing the game to packed stadiums across the country. The tournament was dominated by Brazil and Italy and it was no surprise to see them face each other in the final. What was a surprise, however, was the 0-0 scoreline and THAT penalty miss – no, not Diana Ross in the Opening Ceremony, but Roberto Baggio in the final shoot-out. Brazil win again after a wait of 24 years.

France 1998 was a World Cup to behold, with global stars at the top of their game. Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Juan Sebastian Veron, Edgar Davids and Christian Vieiri all had fantastic tournaments. The biggest drama came off the pitch as Ronaldo was seemingly overcome by nerves the night before the final. Reports circulated around the press as he was omitted from the starting lineup only to be reinstated 45 minutes before kick-off. This unsettled Brazil and France (for France, read Zinedine Zidane) took control with a 3-0 win.

The 2002 edition of the World Cup took us to new frontiers as Japan and South Korea were hosts. Defending champions France crashed out of the group stage without a win and were joined on the plane home by Portugal and Argentina. Controversy followed South Korea in winning through against Italy and Spain to set up a semi-final showdown with Germany. The old guard won through and Germany faced Brazil in the final. Ronaldo put to bed his demons from four years earlier with both goals in a 2-0 Brazil triumph.
The 2006 World Cup became notable for the number of cards issued by referees, with 345 yellows and 28 red cards issued. One match between Netherlands and Portugal saw 4 reds and 16 yellows handed out – the match becoming known as the Battle of Nuremberg. English referee Graham Poll infamously showed 3 yellow cards to the same player! On a more positive note, the French were revived by the skill and grace of Zinedine Zidane to reach the final against Italy. Zidane imploded with a head butt deep into extra-time and the Italians won on penalties.
2010 saw some more of the good side (small as it is) of Sepp Blatter as the World Cup again ventured into pastures new – South Africa. The finalists from 4 years earlier – France and Italy – both finished bottom of their groups and didn’t make it to the knockout stages, that were dominated by Germany hitting 4 goals past both England and Argentina before meeting an efficient Spain team that won 1-0 in all their knockout games, including the final against an aggressive Dutch team.
Three results in particular stand out for me as the 2014 World Cup played out.

Netherlands 5-1 Spain
Germany 4-0 Portugal
Germany 7-1 Brazil
These were defining moments in a competition that rewarded attacking football. The much-vaunted battle between the best players in the World didn’t show as Cristiano Ronaldo limped into and out of the tournament and Lionel Messi’s teammates were woefully off-colour, particularly Angel Di Maria. No surprise with the results above that Germany won the cup and are current World Champions.

World Cup Fantasy Football – Help Needed

As editor of FootieQuiz.co.uk, I may know who was the top scorer at the 1986 World Cup Finals (Gary Lineker), who has scored in every round of a World Cup tournament (Jairzinho) and how many teams competed in the first ever World Cup (13)… but picking a Fantasy World Cup team.. that’s a different ball game. (Well almost!)

 

What do you think so far???

 

Lloris, H Lloris, H Lloris, H £3.5m
Vermaelen, T Vermaelen, T Vermaelen, T £3.7m
Mertesacker, P Mertesacker, P Mertesacker, P £4.2m
Rodriguez, F Rodriguez, F Rodriguez, F £2.3m
Zhirkov, Y Zhirkov, Y Zhirkov, Y £3.2m
Reus, M Reus, M Reus, M £5.7m
Robben, A Robben, ARobben, A £5.7m
Palacios, W Palacios, W Palacios, W £2.7m
Karagounis, G Karagounis, G Karagounis, G £2.9m
Messi, L Messi, L Messi, L £8.0m

Neymar Neymar Neymar £7.8m