The FIFA World Cup is the pinnacle of soccer. Since its humble beginnings in 1930, the tournament has exploded and, in the modern day, it has genuine claims to being the biggest sporting spectacle on earth.
Qatar wouldn’t have been everyone’s first choice as hosts in 2022, but they have delivered one of the most memorable tournaments of all time. There’s been some thrilling football played while the competition has produced more than its fair share of shock results.
Interesting World Cup Facts
The Biggest Surprise?
What has been the biggest shock result in World Cup history? Qatar 2022 has produced a number of contenders, but it will be tough to match the claims of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis were ranked underdogs to win the tournament and one look at the World Cup odds told us that they had no chance of defeating Argentina in their opening game. After Lionel Messi opened the scoring with an early penalty, any chance they had would have surely disappeared.
What happened next marked one of the most remarkable comebacks in any soccer game. Two early second-half goals and some admirable defending saw Saudi Arabia hold on for an unforgettable 2-1 victory.
Where does this rank in the all-time list of World Cup shocks? The United States stunned England in 1950 with a 1-0 victory while Italy’s loss to Costa Rica in 2014 also ranks highly. Opening matches seem to provide opportunities for upsets with Cameroon defeating Argentina in 1990 and Senegal overcoming champions France in 2002.
The biggest shock is subject to debate, but here are some World Cup facts that cannot be disputed.
Half the World Tunes in
Viewing figures for the World Cup final suggest that this is the biggest sporting event of them all. The 2010 final between Spain and the Netherlands was watched by 3.2 billion people which represented around 46% of the world’s population at the time.
If the numbers continue to rise, those figures are likely to climb above 50% in 2022.
The First World Cup
The very first World Cup took place in Uruguay in 1930. Only 13 teams took part with many European countries unable to make the long journey to South America.
There were supposed to be 14 teams in contention, but Egypt failed to make it after a storm delayed their boat trip.
An Easy Passage for Mexico
Mexico hold the record for most matches hosted at a World Cup. They were the designated host nation in 1970, and they also stepped in when Colombia were unable to fulfill their duties.
In 2026, Mexico have been named as one of three host nations, together with Canada and the USA. This also means that Mexico have been able to take part in three modern World Cups without having to negotiate a qualification phase.
What’s in a Name?
The original World Cup was referred to as the Jules Rimet trophy. Rimet was the President of FIFA when the organization voted to begin the competition.
After Brazil won their third title in 1970, they got to keep the cup and a new trophy was produced.
The 2002 World Cup was the first time that hosting duties were split between two countries. Japan and South Korea took the honors in what was a memorable tournament.
The 2026 edition in Mexico, Canada and the USA will see three countries host the World Cup for the first time.
Quick off the Mark
It took just 10.89 seconds to record the fastest ever goal in a World Cup finals. Hakan Sukur of Turkey still holds this milestone as he was quick out of the blocks to stun hosts South Korea in 2002.
Oldest and Youngest
The oldest player to appear in a World Cup finals is the Egyptian goalkeeper Essem El Hadary. He was 45 years old when he played for Egypt in the 2018 tournament in Russia.
The youngest player at a finals was Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside who was 17 years and 41 days old when he played his first game at Spain 1982.
The highest aggregate total of goals at a World Cup finals is 12 which was recorded at the 1954 tournament in Switzerland.
The Swiss were on the wrong side of a drubbing as they lost 5-7 to Austria.
A History of Success
Brazil are the most successful team in the history of the World Cup. Their win at the 2002 finals was their fifth overall.
The Brazilians also own the record for the most matches won at the finals. Prior to Qatar 2022, the team had won 70 of their games.
There are some proud records here. Some may be on the line in Qatar and at future tournaments, but each is a proud landmark for those involved.