As you all know, the 2014 World Cup finals kick off in Brazil on Thursday!
Football is the most popular sport in the world, and the World Cup is the biggest sports competition in the world involving only one single sport.
In every country, football is run by a group called a ‘Football Association’ (for example, in Ireland we have the ‘Football Association of Ireland’). Every football association is part of FIFA, which organises the World Cup. Every country’s team takes part. First every team plays against other teams from the same continent. The best 32 teams then go to the World Cup Finals.
The tournament began in 1930 and is played every four years (except in 1942 and 1946, when it was not held because of the Second World War).
In the 2014 competition, 32 teams will play 64 games in 12 stadiums around Brazil. The first match takes place on June 12, and the final will take place on July 13.
How the tournament works
Teams are split into eight groups of four. Groups are designed to have teams from as many different continents as possible.
Within each group, every team plays every other team. This means every country gets to play at least three matches.
- Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon.
Click here for a fact book about Group A!
- Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia.
Click here for a fact book about Group B!
- Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan.
Click here for a fact book about Group C!
- Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy.
Click here for a fact book about Group D!
- Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras.
Click here for a fact book about Group E!
- Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria.
Click here for a fact book about Group F!
- Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States.
Click here for a fact book about Group G!
- Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea.
Click here for a fact book about Group H!
The best two teams from each group go into the knockout stage. There, the 16 teams play a knockout tournament – any team that loses is eliminated.
The teams play for the World Cup Trophy, which has been given to the winner of every tournament since 1974.
2nd Class are supporting our own teams!
Every pupil in 2nd Class has chosen two teams to support. Every pupil will learn about the counties they have chosen, and follow their players throughout the tournament!
11 fun facts about the World Cup!
1. Eight different teams have won the World Cup.
Brazil have won the most World Cups, wining the competition five times. The other winners are Italy (4 times); Germany (3 times); Argentina and Uruguay (twice each); and England, France, and Spain (once each).
2. The FIFA World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world.
An estimated 715 million people watched the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France on TV. That’s one out of every eight people on the whole planet! Wow!
3. Brazil striker Ronaldo holds the record for the most goals in the World Cup.
He played in three tournaments: 1998, 2002 and 2006. This video has all 15 of his goals!
4. The next three World Cups…
…will be hosted by Brazil in 2014, Russia in 2018, and Qatar in 2022.
5. The original World Cup trophy was called the ‘Jules Rimet Trophy’.
It was named after the president of FIFA, Jules Rimet, who created the World Cup competition.
In 1970 Brazil won the trophy for a third time, so they were allowed to keep it forever. In the picture here, you can see the famous Brazilian footballer Pele, kissing the old trophy which Brazil were allowed to keep.
A new trophy was made for the competition in 1974 and has been used ever since.
6. Brazil is the only country to take part in every single World Cup since it began in 1930.
Even though football was invented in England, the English team did not take part in the first three World Cups. This is partly because the first tournament was held in Uruguay in South America, which was a very long journey for teams from Europe.
7. 2014 will be the 20th time that the World Cup has taken place.
Out of the previous 19, the host country has won the competition six times: Uruguay in 1930, Italy in 1934, England in 1966, West Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978, and France in 1998.
8. The competition in 2014 will be the first to use special technology.
The referee in every game will wear a special watch, which can tell him when the ball has crossed the goal line. This means there will be no mistakes when the ball crosses the line and the referee can give a goal only when the ball has definitely crossed the line.
Referees will also be able to use a special spray, to draw a line on the ground where players have to stand for a free kick. The line will then disappear a few minutes later, so there is no mark left on the ground. Magic!
9. Time to take a break!
Because Brazil is a very hot country, players will have to take breaks in the middle of games. As well as the half-time break, there will be a break in the middle of each half, so that the players and officials can have a drink and stay cool.
10. The Republic of Ireland team has qualified for three World Cups – 1990, 1994 and 2002.
The best performance was in 1990, where Ireland made it all the way to the quarter-finals.
The whole country was so proud of the team and the manager, Jack Charlton – who had already won the World Cup as a player with England in 1966. Huge crowds went to Dublin to welcome the team home.
11. Have you ever heard about the dog who saved the World Cup?
In 1966 the old World Cup trophy was stolen a few months before the competition was held in England. FIFA were very upset – how could they hold a World Cup if there was no trophy to give to the winners?
Thankfully, it was found by a dog named Pickles who was out for a walk with his owner, David Corbett. Pickles smelled something strange in a hedge and found the trophy, which was wrapped up in old newspapers.
Pickles was treated like a hero and when England won the World Cup in 1966, the Queen invited Pickles and his owner to the official victory party to see the trophy again.
Have some fun at home for the World Cup!
There’s loads of material online for you to download to enjoy the fun of the World Cup at home.