What is the World Cup? What is association football?

The FIFA World Cup is an international association football tournament held every 4 years, except for 1942 and 1946 because of World War II.

FIFA stands for Fédération Internationale de Football Association, French for International Federation of Association Football. It’s headquarters are in Zurich, Switzerland, and the current president is Sepp Blatter (a right bastard if you ask me), who is elected by a congress of representatives from each affiliated member association. These are the AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa), CONCACAF (North and Central America), CONMEBOL (South America), OFC (Oceania), and the powerhouse that is UEFA (Europe).

Games like football have been played for hundreds, probably thousands of years, but the first modernization of Association Football happened in English private schools in the mid-19th century. It may not be wholly accurate, but this is part of why England considers itself the birthplace of the game.

FIFA’s standardized rules are called, as they have been since the beginning, the “Laws of the Game.” I’ll surely be referencing these on multiple occasions, but here is a nice link for any of you to reference. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_the_Game_(association_football)

Alright, starts with over 200 teams (this year, 204) that go through qualifying rounds within their home federation, finally ending with 32 teams for what the whole tournament is referred to as The Finals. Different federations get a certain amount of ‘berths’, aka number of teams they can send. This is based on FIFA’s judgment of the quality of each federation’s countries. UEFA, for example sends 13 teams to CONCACAF’s 3. This is good though, imagine great countries like Portugal missing out because all the federations sent an equal number of teams. This ensures that the absolute best countries are sent to the tournament. The way UEFA does it is that the 9 winners of the UEFA Qualifying Group stages are automatically sent (England, for example), and the eight best runners-up will play a two-leg (one home game, one away game) playoff to determine the final 4 spots.
*sidenote, the home nation is always guaranteed a group stage berth, no qualifying is required* Certain problems can arise in this playoff system, most recently seen in France’s dubious win over the Republic of Ireland due to Thierry Henry’s handball that was unseen by the referee.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxw1-Id91lQ (still gets me going, Ireland is a class squad)

Now, the actual Finals is the tournament that we really care about, the one that matters. The whole idea of “one game changes everything” is deeply rooted in the World Cup’s 80-year history.

There are eight groups with four countries in each; the four teams play each other round-robin style within the group. Finally, the top two teams from each group progress to the knockout stage based on points. Three points for a win, one point for a draw, zero for a loss. If there is a tiebreaker in points, it goes first to goal differential (goals scored-goals against), then to most goals scored, then the head to head result.

The knockout stages seed the winner of each group against the runner-up of another group, thus this is the ’round of 16′ since it basically cuts the teams in half. After this, there are the quarterfinals, semifinals, and obviously, the Final.

All matches from the knockout stages on are not to end in a draw: first there are two periods of 15 minutes for extra time, then finally to a penalty kick shootout. Penalties are the ultimate test of nerve, skill, preparation but also of extreme luck. Many say the penalty shootout is a lottery, and with the best players in the world involved, it often is.

Finally, a few notes on the history of the World Cup.

-Brazil has won the most World Cups, 5 in all, followed by Italy’s 4.
-The Golden Ball is awarded to the tournament’s best player, but the Golden Boot is given to the highest goalscorer. There are various other awards, including the Best Young Player and the Most Entertaining Team.
-Brazil’s Ronaldo is the highest all-time goalscorer with 15 goals in 3 tournaments. (He wanted to try and play in 2010, but he’s too fat)

I want to include much more, but I will have to break these down as much as I can, so as to draw your attention as well as give you the least amount to read at a time. That’s probably what will work the best.

Questions? Comments?

See http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/ for some great analyses and articles that I will surely be drawing upon throughout this series.

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~ by spenserdavis on May 17, 2010.

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