June of 2014 has brought with it the 20th FIFA World Cup – a fierce competition in which nations from around the globe compete for the champion title in one of the most popular sports in the world: football. No, not the American sport which involves tackling opponents from the enemy team into submission! Rather, the focus of the FIFA World Cup is traditional European football, popularly known in America as soccer. The 2014 competition marks the 20th anniversary in the history of FIFA’s internationally-beloved tournament, revealing a long history of champions and triumphs, as well as a lasting impact on the popularity and legacy of football in human history.
Since its debut in 1930, FIFA has held a competition every 4 years (with the exception of 1942 and 1946, due to complications of World War II). The most recent format of the FIFA World Cup includes 32 teams competing for the title at the host nation’s designated stadium; this is the stage that is known publicly as the finals. Prior to this, however, a qualification phase takes place in order to determine the competing teams in the finals – this process currently takes 3 of the 4 years in between the World Cup finals. Ironically, the most hyped portion of the competition, in proportion to the qualification stage, takes up ¼ of the duration of the full competition. The qualification round was not a component of the original 1930 FIFA World Cup, but was later implemented when “thinning out the competing parties” was necessary for the organization and stability of the competition itself.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals, which began on June 14th, is a competition between the qualifying 32 nations; among the ranks of this year’s competitors are Spain, Brazil, Australia, Japan, Germany, Portugal, England, Italy and the United States. Of the diverse collection of nations that make it to the finals every competition in the past 84 years, only 8 nations who have ever competed in the World Cup have actually won the champion title; Brazil takes first place having won the title 5 times; Italy has won 4; West Germany has won 3; Uruguay and Argentina have each won twice; Spain, England and France have also taken the title.
Some format changes to the FIFA World Cup are currently being considered. For instance, the expansion of competing teams to 40 from the current 32 is in discussion. This is primarily focused on promoting globalization, as well as increasing the opportunity for smaller countries to compete in the finals round. Since its inception, the number of teams permitted to compete in the finals round has been increased 4 times. Perhaps with this expansion, the FIFA World Cup will see a new victory in coming years. The 2018 and 2022 FIFA competitions (slated to be hosted by Russia and Qatar, respectively) are already being planned.
It is particularly important to recognize the worldwide impact that FIFA and other such competitions have on sports. Thanks to FIFA, the globalization and popularity of traditional football has been accelerated. Sports also have a significant effect on national relations and politics; FIFA has put a common sport on the world stage. Hopefully, a global interest and friendly competition will go a long way in strengthening national pride and alleviate tensions between nations.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia Commons