Now we’re half-way through the World Cup, let’s see who’s been following the numbers.
It’s not all about the game results: the facts and trivia surrounding this year’s championships are grabbing headlines and filling the record books.
So what are some of the success factors and challenges for the finalists of this year’s biggest sports event?
A challenge over thousands of miles
During the World Cup this summer, you’ll be able to follow 64 matches played by 32 nations, each with 23 players. They’re coming from 5 footballing confederations to compete for the trophy.
In its attempt to achieve an even geographical spread, Brazil has taken an unusual decision to set up base camps for the nations in 12 cities across the country. With various atmospheric conditions in each location, Manaus, Cuiabá and Brasília are the only three non-coastal cities.
The hot weather and humidity amidst the Amazon region has made victory easier for a few acclimatised underdogs during the early stages of the tournament. Luckily for the remaining teams, the rest of the venues are lined up along the Atlantic coast. For the travel aficionados amongst you, north to south these are Fortaleza, Natal, Recife, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Curitiba and Porto Alegre.
If you’re planning to visit Brazil this month, each of the 12 host cities has a stadium with capacities ranging from 41,456 to 78,838 seats. Seven of those are brand new, built specifically for the World Cup. The other five have been renovated – including the legendary Maracanã which will host the final match on 13th July.
The tournament is taking place over 32 days and there will be no games during 8 of these days. That’s to give teams time to relocate and prepare for each consecutive stage – or for visitors to explore more of Brazil’s natural beauty. With the cities being quite a distance apart, both teams and supporters must cover vast distances to reach the next game’s destination. Planes are likely to be the preferred travel mode as an alternative to Brazil’s notoriously poor infrastructure and absence of high speed trains. Some of the teams are estimated to travel an incredible amount of miles between the matches. To see how much the finalists will ultimately cover in distance, check The business of football: 10 facts in digits.
Battle for goals and race for designs
In preparation for the event, designing the World Cup logo attracted 125 contenders, only 25 of which were shortlisted for final consideration. The current version was selected by a panel of seven judges. As you’ve probably noticed, it represents 3 hands raising the World Cup trophy in victory, symbolizing the unity this event brings to the world. The bright yellow and green colours are designed to convey the unique spirit of the host country, as well as its connection to FIFA, according to their official website – “victory and union”.
Following the action live – a World Cup tradition
This year the World Cup is shown in every country around the world, but was it the case before? The televising of the games started 48 years ago in England. The 1966 tournament was the first and the last to be shown on black and white TV. Since then, this practice developed into a huge revenue source for the organizers. In 2014 FIFA expects to net around two thirds of its total revenue from television broadcasting rights. Find out more on the exact figures in The business of football: 10 facts in digits.
The mascot – the spirit of the nation
England not only pioneered televising the tournaments, but also cheering traditions. 1966 was the year in which an official mascot was first introduced – a symbol of the host country’s culture and spirit. The World Cup Willie was one of “the three lions” – the nickname of the England team and also the logo they still use to this day on their football shirts. The team picked up a second nickname – “the wingless wonders” after victory over then West Germany in the 1966 final. In 2014, 48 years later, many of the traditions are still the same. This year’s mascot is inspired by a Brazilian endemic species – the armadillo. It was chosen to raise awareness of the endangered species in the country and promote the eco-friendly nature of this year’s tournament.
The home advantage: a factor for certain victory?
Historically, only 3 of the World Cup winners have achieved victory outside of their home continent, and 6 have enjoyed the most success when cheered by their fans at home.
Some attribute the success to familiar weather conditions, whereas others dive deeper and examine the emotional factors. We can’t say for sure what affects the odds of winning, but the facts point to Brazil, Spain and Argentina as the most adaptable nations to make their way to the top on foreign ground.
So what about the other nations? 76 have participated at least once in a World Cup tournament. Since 1930, in the 84 years of championship history, there have been 19 tournaments and only 8 nations who have won. Brazil tops the list with 5 victories, followed by Italy with 4 and Germany with 3. Uruguay and Argentina remember two glorious finals each, whereas England, France and Spain have just one.
After Uruguay and Italy, England was the 3rd country to win as a host in 1966. It was also the 5th country to hold the World Cup trophy after Italy, Uruguay, Germany and Brazil.
England first joined the tournament in 1950 when Brazil hosted for the first time. Their only win in 1966 was a glorious football moment for England, again – when played at home. That year’s tournament saw 74 countries (versus only 32 now) competing in 8 stadiums across 7 cities. As already mentioned, for the first time fans could follow the games not only at the stadiums but also on TV from the comfort of their own homes.
The recipe for success
Economists who are trying to predict the outcome of the World Cup place a significant importance on the home factor, what else influences a nation’s chance of winning? Let’s take a look at Brazil as the most successful footballing nation. It has won the tournament five times – 1958 in Sweden, 1962 in Chile, 1970 in Mexico, 1994 in USA and 2002 in Korea/Japan. They’re also the only team to have played in all tournaments since 1930 and they’ve won 67 games prior to 2014.
Although the recipe to their success remains unknown, one of the ingredients is certain. Supporters of Brazil and the team itself find the samba rhythm to be one of the secrets to inspire their unique football passion and style.
Will Brazil be victorious once more?
The Amazon country is meeting all nations on a home ground again, 64 years after it hosted the 4th World Cup championship in 1950. The only other four countries to have had the same privilege are Mexico (‘70 & ‘82), Italy (‘34 & ‘90) France (38’ & ‘98) and Germany (‘74 and ‘06). As we look forward to this year’s final, more than 78,800 football fans will head to Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã Stadium to cheer the winners.
As we previously wrote in The business of football: 10 facts in digits, it is the only stadium in the world to see a second World Cup final kick-off. This month it will accommodate much fewer fans that its original jaw-dropping capacity of 205,000, which was a record breaking number at the time of its inauguration. With such a big audience at the heart of their own country, more determination than ever, and their performance so far, Brazilians stand a good chance to achieve another victory. There’s only a few days left before we find out!
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