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Day: June 8, 2006

Switzerland 1954

For the 1954 World Cup, normal service was almost resumed. We were back to groups followed by a knock-out competition, but with a twist. For reasons lost to the record books, drawn matches in the group phases would go to extra-time before a point was awarded to each team. Television was also there for the first time, although there was no live coverage. The hosts were Switzerland. Not only were they financially unscathed by the war, but they had also spent a considerable amount of money developing their facilities. The chances are that the World Cup will never be held in such a small country again. Group A – Brazil, Yugoslavia, Mexico & France: The draw was kind to the favourites. They sailed through comfortably, with two wins and (eventually) a draw, but the battle for second place was tight, with Yugoslavia by an odd goal. Group B – West Germany, Hungary, South Korea & Turkey: This was the group of madness. West Germany’s 4-1 win over Turkey provided the least goals of any match played. Germany played a weakened team against Hungary, who beat them 8-3. The Magyars also put 9 past South Korea, to join the rejuvenated Germans in the quarter-finals. Group C – Scotland, Uruguay, Austria and Czechoslovakia: Scotland’s entrance into the tournament was a miserable experience, though they were unfortunate in so far as they...

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Brazil 1950

After the not-inconsiderable inconvenience of World War II, the World Cup resumed in 1950. With most of Europe financially ruined by the cost of the war, Brazil alone applied to host the tournament. Neutral during the war, the country had developed rapidly over the previous twenty years, and their hosting of the finals seemed justified, especially considering their performance in France in 1938, when they were unlucky to lose in the semi-finals and, had they not made the enormous tactical error of dropping top striker Leonidas to keep him in good shape for the final. Yet again, the format of the competition was altered, This time there would be four groups, and the winners of each would go on to a final pool. There would be, for once, be no World Cup Final. Although, as it turned out… there would. The tournament was also enlivened by the entrance of the home nations. The top two from the Home Championships were due to go, but runners-up Scotland withdrew on cost grounds. Considering what happened to England, history shows that perhaps they made a wise decision. Group A: Brazil, Yugoslavia, Switzerland & Mexico – Brazil, the hosts, started comfortably enough, but suffered a nasty shock when Fatton levelled late on to earn a draw against Switzerland. This meant Brazil had to beat Yugoslavia in their final match. Yugoslavia had won their...

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France 1938

France were chosen as the hosts of the 1938 World Cup, largely as a thanks to Jules Rimet, the Parisian who had set up the tournament in the first place. All of this caused much consternation in Argentina. The Argentines had expected to host the tournament, on the basis that the tournament would be rotated between Europe and South America. Such was their outrage when the competition was awarded to the French that they threw a hissy fit and refused to enter. Uruguay, ever close allies of the Argentine cause, followed suit. The 1938 World Cup is notable for the first sighting of what is now a staple of every World Cup: the Brazilian superstar. Leonidas was his name and, although his team would fall at the semi-final stage, he scored eight goals. There were again a couple of surprise entries. The Dutch East Indies made their first and only appearance, as did Cuba. First Round: The holders Italy continued their apparent tradition of making a mountain out of a molehill, by labouring to beat Norway 2-1. Elsewhere, the Dutch East Indies were thrashed 6-0 by Hungary, and Cuba nearly provided a surprise before being held 3-3 by Romania. Romantics didn’t have to wait too long, though. The Cubans won the replay 2-1. Elsewhere, Germany were surprised by four goals to two by the Swiss after a replay and,...

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Italy 1934

Say what you like about Mussolini, but at least he made the trains run on time”, they say. Well, he also knew the importance of football as propaganda, and Italy, having run Uruguay close in 1930, were elected to host the second World Cup finals. There were changes for this tournament. This time around, with it all being held in Europe, there were qualifiers. Italy, having not entered in 1930, had to qualify themselves, and this time the tournament was under-represented by South American teams – even the holders Uruguay didn’t show up, as a protest at the fact that so few European teams had made the trip there four years earlier. Only the USA, Brazil and Argentina made the trip, along with Egypt – the first African entrants. The other big difference was in the layout of the finals themselves, as a straight knock-out competition. The only second chance anyone would get would be if they managed a draw in the first match, in which case a replay would be required. As we’ll see, Italy would be grateful for this, especially considering their record in penalty shoot-outs since they were introduced. Qualifying Round: I won’t normally go into the details of the qualifying rounds, but this one does deserve a special mention. Italy qualified with a 4-0 defeat of Greece. Although there was due to be a second...

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Uruguay 1930

I’m hoping that, through the medium of staying up all night and sitting here smoking copious cigarettes and drinking industrial-strength coffee, to get through each World Cup before the tournament starts. If it almost certainly an effort that will end in tears, but I like to push myself every now and again. The success of the Olympic football was the major spur towards the formation of the tournament. Although FIFA had been formed in 1904, the prevailing belief of the game’s governing body was that they needed to wrest control of it from the IOC, and thus, in 1928, the decision was made to host a tournament in two years’ time. There were, perhaps surprisingly, no shortage of applicants to stage the first tournament, at least in the first place. Much as today, the varying competing interests into blocs, and pretty soon six applicants had been dwindled down to just two, Italy and Uruguay. The key reasons behind Uruguay getting the nod were two-fold. Firstly, the Europeans were split over whether to support them, whereas South America. Secondly, Uruguay had an were the reigning Olympic champions, and was also celebrating it’s centenary as a republic. Uruguay got the nod. Of course, in 1930, there were no planes. Anybody wishing to take part had to an endure a six week boat journey to get there. The home nations, even though...

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