If you’re thinking of taking one of our 2014 World Cup packages you’ll need lots of things. Official match tickets. A valid passport. Suntan lotion. A skimpy swimsuit for posing on Copacabana beach. A Portuguese language handbook and a printout of the lyrics to ‘Girl from Ipanema’.
But most important of all you’ll need to be armed with a few not-so-well-known facts about the World Cup so you can hold your own in those ‘did you know?’ conversations that always happen in pubs during major tournaments. Luckily, we’ve got that covered for you, so there’s no need to spend hours reading made-up nonsense on Wikipedia!
After thorough statistical analysis and lots of conversations with friends down the pub, we’ve come to the world-shattering conclusion that Brazil have got a very good chance of winning the 2014 World Cup. And here’s why. They’ve already won it five times. The host country have won the cup on six occasions, and although Spain and the Netherlands have been looking pretty tasty in recent months, only Brazil and Argentina have ever won a World Cup away from their own continent.
The biggest ever attendance for a World Cup match is 200,000 people. They all squeezed into the Maracana Stadium for a match between Brazil and Uruguay during the 1950 World Cup. It’d never happen these days… health and safety gone mad and all that.
The fastest goal ever scored at a World Cup was knocked in by Turkish superstar (and one time Blackburn Rover), Hakan Sukur against South Korea in the 2002 World Cup. It took him just 11 seconds.
Despite the rather nifty dancing and some rather good goals, Roger Milla is the oldest player to ever take part in a World Cup. When he last laced up his boots at the finals, he was just over 42 years old.
Norman Whiteside is the youngest player to ever take the field at a World Cup. He was just 17 years, one month and 10 days when he played for Northern Ireland against Yugoslavia at the ’82 World Cup in Spain. That fact is pretty well known. What isn’t so well know is that when he got back home, his mam grounded him for a week for not calling her to let him know he’d arrived safely in Madrid.
German legend Lothar Matthaeus played 25 games across five World Cup tournaments. Only he and Antonio Carbajal (the legendary Mexican goalkeeper) have played at five World Cups. Lothar’s haul of 25 games is unmatched by anyone else, the closest being the evergreen Paolo Maldini who notched up 23.
Every wannabe Alan Hansen knows that Ronaldo (the Brazilian one, not the Portuguese one) has scored more World Cup goals than anyone else (15). However, only the very finest football minds know that the record for most goals at a single tournament goes to the remarkably prolific Just Fontaine at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. He knocked in 13 goals in just six matches, including a hattrick against Paraguay and four against West Germany.
Zinedine Zidane is widely regarded as the finest player of his generation and the catalyst for France’s short-lived stint as the greatest team in world football. It also turns out he’s the dirtiest player to ever lace up a pair of boots at a World Cup – either that or he just wasn’t very subtle. He played in three tournaments and picked up four yellows and two red cars, including that distinctly un-subtle chest-butt on Marco Materazzi.