Historians trace the origins of football back 3000 years, but it only gained traction about 150 years ago in England when local clubs banded together to form the first-ever Football Association. In 1930 the president of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) decided to host a World Cup tournament.
The first FIFA World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930 and consisted of only thirteen men’s soccer teams who participated in a knockout-style event that lasted 17 days. Despite its infancy, the 1930 FIFA World Cup drew an in-seat audience of 590,549 (32,808 per match).
The Evolution of the World Cup
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 continues the global tournament tradition of breaking records and innovating the world of football. This year's event is the first ever to be played in an Arab nation, and due to its extreme climate will also be the first time the tournament is played during the winter months.
Since its inception, the soccer tournament has exploded in popularity, with its viewership projected to exceed more than 5 billion people worldwide. To put that viewership figure in perspective, the world's population reached 8 billion in November 2022, which means that the FIFA World Cup is expected to be watched by more than 60 of the planet's population!
While very little is known about betting in 1930, but you can rest assured that someone was having a flutter. According to FIFA, punters wagered around $160 billion (€136 billion) during the 2018 World Cup. Given the popularity of sports betting, this is expected to increase by up to 65% in regions like the United Kingdom.
Wild World Cup 2022 Wagers
Football is known for having passionate supporters who travel the world to watch their favourite teams play live and those who prefer to back them with crazy bets at the local bookmaker.
One ardent Argentina supporter saw his love of the game, and his favourite team cost him a staggering $160,000! The punter bet the entire amount on Argentina to beat Saudi Arabia at their inaugural match.
In a shocking upset, Saudi Arabia trumped Argentina 2-1. The win created a groundswell of support for the event with local soccer fans and saw one Brit out a few pounds.
There are several reports from bookmakers highlighting some special bets:
- BetMGM recorded a $150,000 bet on Brazil to win the tournament. If they do, the punter will take home $600,000.
- BetMGM also recorded a $14,000 bet at 28-1 on Denmark to win, which could pay out $392,000 if the prediction is correct.
- There is also a $2500 wager on Canada to win. If this punter has it right, they will walk home with $625,000 at the end of the tournament.
Some bettors prefer to play the long odds, with the bookmaker reporting several outlier bets of $1000 or less on teams with odds of +10,000. As unlikely as it seems, a win here would mean an easy $100,000 payday.
Intriguing FIFA Factoids
As one would expect from a long-running sporting event that spans the globe, some interesting facts and stories follow the event:
- The Cost of Excellence: FIFA 2022 is the tournament’s most expensive outing to date, with Qatar spending more than $200 billion on stadiums, highways, and hotels.
- Incredible Talent: To date, only three players in FIFA history have won the tournament as both players and head coaches of the teams they played for. These exceptionally skilled individuals are Didier Deschamp (France), Mario Zagallo (Brazil) and Franz Beckenbauer (Germany).
- The Impossible Win: Uruguay is the only team in the world to ever win the FIFA World Cup without having to win the final match. The tournament in 1950 featured a one-time-only rule that allowed Uruguay to win the cup during the round-robin stage without claiming victory in the final.
- In and Out: The fastest red card in FIFA history was during the 1986 World Cup when Jose Batista from Uruguay was sent off only 56 seconds after the kick-off for a foul on Scottish player Gordon Strachan.
- Baby Boom: In a report by Germany on the impact of the 2006 World Cup on the country, it was noted that the event caused a spike in pregnancies. The anecdotal statistic showed a birth rate spike from 1% to 10% in the nine months following the football tournament.
There is one final misconception which is often treated as a fact. India boycotted the 1950 World Cup because the federation banned players from playing barefoot. The real reason they didn't play in 1950 was optics. At the time, the Asian and Olympic Games were the world’s most prestigious sporting events, and India focused their efforts on these instead.
Infamous Football Moments
The World Cup and other football tournaments are always a hotbed of infamous moments as fiery-tempered teams clash for the glory of claiming a title that only becomes available every four years.
An Unexpected Wardrobe Malfunction
We have all heard stories of pop stars and other celebrities experiencing newsworthy wardrobe malfunctions that leave them flustered. However, a wardrobe malfunction in soccer can nearly cost a team victory, as Italian footballer Giuseppe Meazza discovered in 1938.
During a tense penalty shootout between Brazil and Italy, Meazza lost his shorts during the run-up to take his shot on goal. Keeping a cool head, the exposed player pulled up his shorts and struck a perfect shot to beat the Brazilian keeper, who was too busy laughing to defend his goal.
It would also prove to be the goal that allowed Italy to progress to the Finals while dashing Brazil’s championship hopes at the same time.
The Hand of God
Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona earned the nickname Dios for his near-godlike displays of prowess on the field. However, in the 1986 Quarter Finals against England, he took his right to divine intervention a step further by scoring a hand goal.
When questioned about the goal, Maradona replied that it was "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God".
In later years Maradona would address the controversy in this autobiography, saying: “Now I can say what I couldn't at that moment, what I defined at that time as The Hand of God. What hand of God? It was the hand of Diego!”
A Different Kind of Header
French striker, Zinedine Zidane, was praised as one of the sport's leading two-footed players, being able to out-dribble and out-strike most opponents with both feet.
Yet it would only be the final match of the 2006 World Cup tournament, where France faced off against Italy, that Zidane would become known for using his head. During an altercation with Italian striker, Marco Materazzi Zidane lost his composure and headbutted his rival in the chest, knocking the shocked player off his feet.
Italy would go on to beat France 5-3 in a penalty shootout after an overtime score of 1-1. While the World Cup loss was terrible for France, Zidane was the ultimate loser in this scenario. The 2006 World Cup was his final outing as a professional footballer. Rather than leaving the sport a legend, he left with a cloud hanging over his name.