Since the World Cup has such a storied history, we wanted to take a moment to stop and appreciate some of the odd, curious, and downright bizarre things that have happened in the last 92 years of FIFA’s World Cup.
7. Only eight countries have ever won a World Cup
Although there have been 21 World Cups in total (22 after this year), only eight countries have actually won. Brazil tops the leaderboard with five wins, followed by Germany, Italy, Argentina, France, Uruguay, Spain, and England. No North American or Asian country has ever even made it to the finals.
6. The top three countries have won more than the other five combined
Of those eight countries, three of them account for more than half of World Cup wins overall. With five wins for Brazil, four for Germany, and four for Italy, their 13 combined wins outweigh every other country on the list. Brazil, Germany, and Italy have also been in as many finals as the other countries on the list combined. Oddly enough, Brazil and Germany have only played each other once in a World Cup final, in 2002.
5. Weeks before the 1966 World Cup, the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen and recovered a week later by a dog named Pickles
Although it was international news at the time, many people don’t know that before the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen in Brazil in 1983 and never recovered, it was originally stolen in 1966 before it was found a week later by a dog named Pickles. The details surrounding the theft are still debated today, but many believe that a well-known burglar named Sidney Cugullere was the culprit. Just six years prior, in 1960, Cugullere stole $4 million of jewelry from actress Sophia Loren’s hotel room while she was shooting a movie.
4. In 2018, France took home $38 million after their finals win — Croatia still left with $28 million in its pockets
Since FIFA rakes in about $4 billion dollars during the month-long tournament, it only seems fair that they spread the love a little bit. Every team that participates gets $8 million dollars just for showing up, but the Cup’s winning team went home with a whopping $38 million, as reported by Sporting News. 2018’s runner-up, Croatia, returned with $28 million, which is still pretty good if you ask us. Either way, if you make it to the World Cup finals you’re leaving with an 8-figure payout. By comparison, the US Women’s team only made $2 million when they won the WWC in 2015.
3. India withdrew from the World Cup in 1950 because they were required to wear shoes
After learning that they qualified for the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, India was forced to withdraw from the competition for two major reasons. One, there were some financial setbacks that would have made it difficult for the team to travel. But, perhaps more importantly, the team decided against participating in the competition because FIFA required all players to wear shoes and the Indian team was already used to playing barefoot, making it likely they would have underperformed in the actual tournament.
2. In 2002, a Turkish player named Hakan Sakur set a world record when he scored a goal 11 seconds into a game against South Korea
If there’s one thing that keeps Americans from diving headfirst into the world of fútbol fandom, it’s that soccer games have a tendency to feel somewhat slow-paced for fans of fast-paced sports like basketball, football, and hockey. However, if they’d watched Turkey play in 2002, some of them might have changed their tune. That’s because a player named Hakan Sakur was able to score a goal within the first 10.8 seconds of the game. We say again: 10.8 seconds. Turkey would go on to beat South Korea in that game 3-1…if only he hadn’t been able to get that first shot.
The craziest part? Hakan Sakur is now a taxi driver in the United States following a severe falling out with the Turkish president that led to death threats and a freeze on his assets.
1. Six countries have won a World Cup in the same year they were hosting it
To cap off this list, it’s worth mentioning that six countries have won the World Cup while they were hosting it. That might not seem like a lot at first, but considering there have only been 21 of them, that comes out to nearly 30% of all World Cups in history. It happened during the first World Cup in 1930 when Uruguay won while hosting the tournament and then again in 1934, when it was hosted in Italy. After that, it was: England in 1966, West Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978, and France in 1998.
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