Unlike previous competitions, we're not discussing the results of the World Cup as summer comes to an end. This year the tournament is taking place in Qatar in November and December. This gives us an excuse to look back at the world-famous competition and explore some of the interesting little known facts before the 22nd World Cup is upon us.
Let's take a closer look at seven facts about the FIFA World Cup.
1. Almost 50% of the world's population watches the competition
With over eight billion people on the planet, it's hard to imagine over half of the population sitting down and watching the World Cup, but figures suggest it's true.
Almost 3.2 billion people around the world watched at least one minute of the 2010 World Cup. That was approximately 46% of the whole world population which is a feat no other sporting competition can even come close to. This information was collated by FIFA themselves after the 2010 tournament and puts into perspective just how huge the competition really is.
2. England did not take part in the first three tournaments
England is often considered one of the top teams in the World Cup. Their recent efforts have been standout, and everyone is expecting a big performance at the 2022 World Cup. However, we have not always been so interested and involved.
Initially, England chose not to travel to Uruguay in 1930, believing they were too good for the competition. The Three Lions didn't play in their first World Cup until 1950. In 1928, all British nations withdrew from FIFA in a dispute over payments to amateur players.
3. The First Women's World Cup was in 1991
England's women’s team is flying high after their victory at the European Championships in the summer of 2022, but the history of women's football is much shorter than their male counterparts.
The Women’s World Cup has only been held eight times. The first competition took place in 1991 and the USA is the team to beat in the women's game, winning four tournaments so far. The 1991 Women's World Cup saw matches last just 80 minutes. This seems rather unfair given, at one point, women’s football was bigger than men’s.
4. Biggest World Cup Winners and Losers
Brazil sits right at the top of the table when it comes to World Cup winners in the men’s game. They are the only team to have appeared in all tournaments to date and have been crowned champions five times. They are followed in quick succession by Germany, who have won four tournaments (three times as West Germany).
At the other end of the table, you've got Indonesia, a team who have only ever played one match in the World Cup. Mexico has also racked up the most World Cup match losses with 27 to their name, though they do have 16 wins too.
5. World Cups = Baby Booms
Research has shown that World Cup competitions can cause a baby boom for the host nations. Yes, it sounds absurd, but World Cups cause pregnancies. Evidence from Germany backs up this fact as the country saw a surge of babies born nine months after hosting the tournament in 2006. The birth rate in Germany actually increased by 10% and considering the normal rate of growth is under 1%, that's a pretty huge margin.
The birth phenomenon is explained by a combination of increased alcohol consumption, and high spirits due to the fun and success in the competition. Furthermore, joy and happiness can lead to women releasing hormones that further increase their chances of pregnancy.
6. Trophies and Cash Bonuses
Owning the World Cup trophy is the main driver of teams in the competition, but there's also a healthy cash prize to pay for. There is over £335 million in the prize pool, with the victors obviously getting the biggest share of the pot. The champions in 2022 will receive £32 million, while every team below will also net a prize in the millions.
There are also other individual accolades players can aim for, including the Golden Boot and Golden Glove, though these don't have the huge financial gain attached.
7. First Ever Winter World Cup
The 2022 instalment marks the first winter World Cup since the competition began. It is also the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East.
The extreme heat in Qatar in June and July means moving the tournament to the winter months makes it more manageable and minimises the potential health risks of playing and spectating in such heat. It will also be the most expensive World Cup to date.