Soccer and World Cup Trivia & Curiosities
The 16th FIFA World Cup™ (1998, France) was the largest ever, contested by 32 teams with 64 matches played (the current format). The 12th FIFA World Cup™ (1982, Spain), in turn, had been the very first including 24 teams, which used 17 different stadiums for all their matches.
Depending on how one looks at it, there are eight debutants in the 2006 World Cup, in all–this label in need of being properly qualified:
Ukraine, another debutant, has indirectly taken part in previous World Cups–some of Ukraine's players having figured in previous Russian squads–before independence, in 1991. (See relevant related notes)
Pretty much the same goes for Serbia and Montenegro, given that–along with Slovenia (World Cup 2002) and Croatia (World Cups 2002 & 2006)–they have all indirectly taken part in previous World Cups, then under the Yugoslavian colors. (See relevant related notes)
Finally, the Czech Republic would likewise not fully qualify as a genuine debutant, given Czechoslovakia's previous World Cup entries. (See relevant related notes)
So, depending on how one chooses to view it, the number of World Cup debutants in 2006 may vary.
Over 25 % of the 32 coaches to be managing a National Squad in the 2006 World Cup, in Germany, are either Dutch-born or Brazilian-born. Comments and further details available on the following eBook pages:
- Top Coaches - 2005
At a press conference previous to the Spanish Grand Prix–taking place in Barcelona, on Mothers' Day–five Formula One drivers were asked to reveal  the squad that they believe will take the 2006 Championship and  their favorite soccer player, among those expected to be playing in Germany. The drivers' replies were as follows:
- Fernando Alonso (Spanish, driving for Renault, & the current Formula One Champion): Brazil I think. My favourite player is Zidane.
- Felipe Massa (Brazilian, driving for Ferrari, alongside Michael Schumacher): We are quite strong for the world cup and definitely Ronaldinho.
- Nico Rosberg (German, driving for Williams-Cosworth, the son of former F1 Champion Keke Rosberg, from Finland): I think Brazil is probably the favourite and Ronaldinho.
- Franck Montagny (French, reserve driver currently driving for Super Aguri-Honda, a new Japanese team): Same as my friend over there: Brazil and Ronaldinho.
- Pedro de la Rosa (Spanish, reserve driver for McLaren-Mercedes): Spain obviously, and Casillas.
By the way, both Luis Figo (Portugal) and Ronaldo (Brazil) are involved in motor racing: they are co-owners of the A1 Grand Prix Portugal and Brazil Teams, along with Carlos Queiroz (well-known Mozambique-born Portuguese soccer coach) and Emerson Fittipaldi (well-known Brazilian double Formula One World Champion and Indy-500 Winner), respectively. A1 Grand Prix, which entitles itself the Motor Racing World Cup of Nations, is a new racing series launched in 2005. France is the first–and current–A1 GP Champion! (MieNet's free A1 Grand Prix eBook is available for download.)
Togo may not be expected to be the number one squad, at the closing of this World Cup; but they have already been number one twice, during the count-down for the World cup: not only were they the first, among the 2006 World Cup squads, to play an international friendly in 2006, but also the first of the squads to arrive in Germany for the World Cup. (Details on the World Cup Write-up page.)
If being the current home for the largest number of players among those who will be defending their National Squads in Germany were a valid criterion for signaling the World Cup winner, then England should be considered by far the biggest favorite of all! For not only England (where a total of 102 soccer stars performing in 30 English clubs will be contesting the 2006 World Cup!), but also two English soccer clubs (Chelsea and Arsenal, each, counting on over a team's worth of players to be seen in Germany-2006!), can boast being well ahead of the rest, as far as providing stars for the 2006 World Cup! Check the list of clubs & countries, as far as the number of their based 2006 World Cup stars.
Spain, on the other hand, could be singled out as one of the favorites for this World Cup title, given that both European top titles, this year (2006), have gone to Spanish clubs!
The largest flag in the World is being woven in Germany! It will carry the National colors of all the Squads contesting the 2006 World Cup.
This flag was to be twenty kilometers long; but it will now be three times larger: it will reach the Westfalenstadion, in Dortmund, coming all the way from Unna.
By the start of January, 2006, seven kilometers of flag are ready, fully woven.
And on the subject of oversized items...a gigantic soccer ball, named FIFA 2006, arrived in Paris, in the third week of January, 2006, and was placed by the Tour Eiffel. Perhaps a soccer team from Krypton (Superman's original planet) could succeed in using this ball in a match: for it weighs 60 tons and its diameter is around 20 meters! Moreover, up to one hundred people are said actually to be able to fit inside the ball's structure. What they are to see, or do, once they have entered the ball, this was not reported...
To maintain coherence with the oversized flag and ball, the 2006 World Cup should also be including the international professional player known to be the tallest in the World: the feared striker Jan Koller (Czech Republic), who is 2.02m!
Now, The Guardian reports that, taking also non-international players into account, then yet 2cm taller than Koller is Norwegian Premier League's Tor Hogne Aaroy, who plays for Aalesund.
To those of us who have not been naturally gifted with such abundance, remains the consolation that both Pelé and Maradona are under 1.70m.!...
Before we get back down to common-life dimensions, let us enjoy what The Guardian reports as the longest team name they know of, in football: it is 86 characters long! The Dutch Eredivisie side NAC Breda, expands to (take a deep breath and try to read it in one go!...) Nooit Opgeven Altijd Doorzetten Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning Combinatie Breda! Could you make it?! Admittedly, their fans must have a good memory, and excellent linguistic ability!...
Incidentally, the folks at The Guardian would like to hear from you, if you know of a longer team name!
Pelé's goal #1000 came from a penalty-kick which he converted, at Maracanã Stadium, on November 19, 1969, at 34 mins. into the second half. The goalkeeper that was to allow Pelé that feat was Andrada, Vasco da Gama's excellent Argentinean player. The match, part of the Rio-São Paulo Tournament, ended Santos (from São Paulo) 2x1 Vasco (from Rio de Janeiro).
Do you know that the first ever World Cup goal was scored by France's Lucien Laurent, on France's 4x1 victory over Mexico? And that the first ever World Cup hat trick was scored by the USA's Bert Patenaude, in the United States team's 3x0 victory over Paraguay? Both these matches were played at Centenario Stadium, Montevideo, as part of the first World Cup, which took place in Uruguay, in 1930.
The World Cup exhibiting the best goal⁄match ratio of all was the one in 1954, when a total of 140 goals were scored in 26 matches–an average 5.38 goals per match!
The first African Squad to win a World Cup match was Tunisia, in 1978 (Argentina), imposing an indisputable 3x1 defeat on Mexico!
Germany's Overath and Mathaüs hold the record of World Cup match wins: 15 match victories, each!
Although no other country has won as many World Cups as Brazil, Brazil's ever first World Cup match, on July 14, 1930, ended in a 2x1 defeat to Yugoslavia!
An odd correlation, perhaps better put, the odd tendency toward a certain pattern is evidenced in the history of the soccer World Cup: the reigning Champion Squad (i.e., from the previous Cup) will usually not keep their Title! (There is a good story about this curious tendency, on the FIFA-World Cup site.)
So far, Italy – Champion in both 1934 & 1938 – and Brazil – Champion in both 1958 & 1962 – have been the sole exceptions. Can Brazil do it again, now, in 2006? Or will they disappoint their fans, as most previous reigning Champions have, so far?
To the above, it should be added that most Squads thought of as favorites, before a World Cup kicks off, have usually disappointed their fans, just the same (as the reigning Champion Squads).
It thus looks as if the current Brazilian Squad have a double jinx to overcome, on their way to winning the 2006 Cup, as of course must be their aim:
For  they are unanimously named as one of the strongest favorites, if not the strongest of all, and  they have won the previous World Cup (Korea⁄Japan, 2002).
So, whether  or , above, each on its own, signals a dark omen regarding Brazil's ambitions...let alone both, together! Would you still bet on Brazil's Squad's chances of leaving Germany with the 2006 World Title?...
The following can be added to the above considerations: in the recent years, Brazil also won the World Cup in 1994 (USA) – possibly their least brilliant Title of the five they have conquered. Interestingly, this Title came just eight years before their last World Title, Brazil having been runner-up in France, 1998. In other words, despite playing great soccer and already having Ronaldo and Rivaldo, they fell pray of the mentioned jinx in 1998.
Finally, it should also be mentioned that the team Brazil is entering the 2006 World Cup with carry impressive credentials in their luggage: not only are they reigning World Champions, but also Copa America champions, Confederations Cup champions and, as if this did not suffice, they have the World and European Player of the Year in their ranks... but can they overcome the hurdles in  and , above?...
From a disciplinary viewpoint, the World Cups of 1950 (in Brazil) and of 1970 (in Mexico) have been the best: no red cards (expulsions) were shown in either tournament.
In sheer contrast, since the 1990 World Cup, the number of red cards per tournament has reached a double-digit figure: 15 in 1994 (USA), 16 in 1990 (Italy), 17 in 2002 (Korea⁄Japan), and a record 22 red cards in 1998 (France).
So that these figures are seen in fair perspective, it should be remembered that since 1982 (Spain) 24 teams have qualified for the World Cup final rounds, the number of participants increasing to 32, since 1998 (France)
Argentina (in 1990), France (in 1998) and Cameroon (also in 1998) top the list of most red cards per Squad in a single World Cup: three.
Red cards have rarely been given in World Cup final matches, the sole exceptions being in 1990 and 1998, as follows:
• 1990 World Cup final match: Argentina x West Germany (red cards shown to both Argentina's Pedro Monzon – the first player ever to be shown a red card in a World Cup final match – and Gustavo Dezotti);
• 1998 World Cup final match: France x Brazil (a red card shown to France's Marcel Desailly).
Brazil (the only National Squad not to have missed a single World Cup to date) and Argentina are the Squads that have had the largest number of players sent out, all World Cups considered (1930-2002): 9 red cards, each. Next comes the Cameroon, with 7 red cards, Uruguay and (West) Germany with 6 each, Italy, Mexico and Hungary with 5 each, France, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands with 4 each, and the Soviet Union, Denmark and Bulgaria with 3 red cards each.
Squads that have been twice shown red cards include Yugoslavia, Chile, Sweden, Bolivia, the USA, England, Belgium, Paraguay, Portugal, Turkey and South Korea.
Finally, Romania, Austria, Spain, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Slovenia, Croatia, Peru, Honduras, Jamaica, Canada, China, Australia, South Africa, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Zaïre have all been shown the red card a single time.
The small elite of World Cup champions has been joined by no more than a single new member (France, 1998) in the last 24 years. Will there be a new nation's name added to the Cup Winners' Table, in 2006?
In 1978, Argentina joined this selected club of Nations, admission to which had been closed since 1966, when England conquered its place amongst the winning Squads. Before England, the last nation to join this soccer elite had been Brazil (1958), the Squad that has actually conquered the highest number of World Cup Championships to date (five).
A yet smaller elite comprises players who have scored two goals during a World Cup Final Match: Pelé, in 1958, Geoff Hurst, in 1966, and Zidane in 1998.
The smallest attendance registered at a World Cup match was on June 14, 1930. Only 2000 people watched Romania beat Peru (3x1), at Montevideo's Estadio Pocitas (first World Cup, in Uruguay). It should be added that 2000 is the official figure...journalists who were there have claimed that attendance was actually as low as 300 people! Conversely, the highest attendance registered was also in South America, at Maracanã Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. See further details.
No player has scored more goals for the Brazilian Squad, at Maracanã Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, than Pelé: 30 goals, in 22 matches!
The top goal scorer of all, at Maracanã Stadium, however, is not Pelé, but Zico (now Japan's coach, and ranking 9th, on the 2005 Top-Ten Coaches list): in the 435 matches Zico played there, he scored 333 goals, 320 of which as a professional player, the remaining 13, for the Flamengo amateur (junior) team. Out of Zico's 333 goals scored at Maracanã Stadium , 18 were for the Brazilian Squad (about 2⁄3's of Pelé's count).
It should be elucidated that Pelé's team being based in São Paulo (6 hours South of Rio de Janeiro, by car), Brazil's top player, ever, only played in Brazil's largest stadium when Santos (Pelé's team) had a match against a team in Rio. Zico's team (Flamengo), in contrast, is based in Rio de Janeiro, Maracanã being the stadium where all Flamengo's local and home matches are played, up to this day. Thus the apparent huge discrepancy in the above-given numbers.
Do you know that the official rules of soccer, formally referred to as the Laws of the Game, date all the way back from 1886? These rules, then established by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), aim at ensuring that soccer can be played in the same way, all over the World, whether it would be an international tournament like the World Cup, or a simple unofficial local game. Along the years, the Laws of the Game have evidently undergone some change, but not beyond what might be referred to as mere adjustments or evolutions. There seems to be some tolerance for minor cultural variation, especially, as it comes to the local Federations, though not at international level, of course.
Did you know that the mystique around the number 10 jersey started by pure chance, in the 1958 World Cup?
Only in that decade, team squads started wearing numbered jerseys assigned, each, to a team player enlisted for the World Cup. In the 1958 Brazilian Squad, the numbers were given out totally at random: Garrincha (right-forward) played wearing number 11 on his back, Zagallo (left-forward) number 7, and it just so happens that the inexperienced seventeen-year old Pelé ended up being handed the number 10 jersey. That number had no special meaning, up to 1958.
After Pelé's fabulous performances in the 1958 World Cup, other players started claiming the number 10 jersey for themselves, in their teams (in Brazil and elsewhere). As these were usually the teams' most skilled players, or top scorers, their carrying the number 10 on their back, only reinforced the mystique that had already been started by the association of that number 10 with Pelé's unique skills, which had enchanted the World. Thus, the number 10 jersey has come to symbolize the outstanding forward or middle-field player in a team. But had Pelé been handed a different number (which would have been quite possible, given the random number distribution culminating with number 10 for him, in 1958), today's highly desired soccer jersey would display a number other than the famous 10 we have grown used to!
At Pelé's Brazilian team, Santos (in São Paulo), it has since been felt as a special honor to wear the number 10 jersey, the one exhibiting the number that Pelé carried, for as long as he played. It is said that, to some players, that number 10 jersey feels just too heavy to wear (perhaps better put, to bear); and so, some players are said to succumb to the burden of the number 10 jersey, at Santos, especially, but also in Brazil's Squad, though to other players, that special jersey seems to have the opposite effect, and mean a deserved boost. Real Madrid's Robinho, who actually carries the famous number 10 also in his Spanish club, was the most outstanding number 10 player in Santos, in recent years. Though Robinho should be called for the Brazilian Squad in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Barcelona's number 10 Ronaldinho Gaúcho should be the one player having the honor to wear the number 10 yellow jersey, in 2006. (Robinho will likely be assigned a number in the high teen's–update: he has actually gotten number 23!) Zico, above-cited, has probably been Pelé's most famous successor in the number 10 yellow jersey. Can the currently highly praised Ronaldinho Gaúcho surpass Zico, in the history of Brazil's number 10 jersey?...
Curiously, in the 1970 World Cup, in Mexico, the Brazilian winning Squad had five different number 10 players in their clubs, playing in the Mexican stadiums: Gérson (wearing the number 8 jersey, in that Brazilian Squad), Rivelino (number 11), Jairzinho (number 7), Tostão (number 9), and Pelé, the one who kept his original number 10, at that World Cup.
Quite a striking contrast is found in Argentina: in the Argentinean press, Diego Maradona (who, following the above-mentioned mystique, had the number 10 on his jersey) can actually be referred to simply by "el Diez" (the Ten)–a reference which only very occasionally could have been made in the Brazilian press regarding Pelé, in his days, if at all (nowadays, it would certainly not be heard in Brazil, given that many other famous number 10 players have succeeded Pelé, both in the Brazilian Squad and in Pelé's original club, Santos). Thus, in Brazil, Pelé is thought of as "in the past" of the number 10 jersey mystique, even though he was the player that gave origin to it! In Argentina, however, Maradona seems to be idolized as the embodiment of number ten.
Interestingly, the pronunciation of Maradona's famous "hand-of-God" goal against England, when uttered in Spanish, sounds very close to the pronunciation of the "hand-of-the-ten"! One could easily use the two in a pun: "La Mano de Dios" and "La Mano del Diez," respectively. That notorious goal has in fact gained such an incredible proportion, in Argentina–Maradona actually being highly praised by the local fans for that feat–that there has even been a song (perhaps more than one) written to celebrate it, as well as to sing Maradona's virtues (a young "God" on Sundays, i.e., in the stadiums, and a sinner, i.e., regular man, during the week, so the song goes: "Los domingos niño Dios, transgresor en la semana."). Regarding the "hand-of-God" goal, itself, the song further boasts: "Te saben ilusionista los ingleses con razón, porque vieron una mano donde estaba el corazón" (the English have a good reason to know you are an illusionist, for they saw a hand in the place where the heart was). This song can be found on-line, along with a lot more celebrating Maradona.
The word goes that, after Diego Maradona left the Boca Juniors team, the use of the number 10 jersey was to be abolished there, altogether, in his honor.
Pelé's farewell match to the Brazilian Squad was of course played at Maracanã Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro: the friendly Brazil 2x2 Yugoslavia, on July 18, 1971. A 138.575 strong crowd was present to say good-bye to Brazil's (and according to Beckenbauer, among so many more, the World's).best player, ever. Pelé, nonetheless, did not score, in his last match wearing the famous Nr. 10 yellow jersey; Gérson and Rivelino (respectively, Nr. 8 and Nr. 11), two outstanding mid-fielders from the Squad that conquered the Jules Rimet Cup on a permanent basis, in 1970, were responsible for Brazil's goals, that evening.
A small group of six players enjoy a curious entry, amid the World Cup facts: they have worn the jersey of two different National Squads! These players are Luis Monti, who defended Argentina in 1930, and Italy in 1934; Ferenc Puskas, who defended Hungary in 1954, and Spain in 1962; José Santamaria, who defended Uruguay in 1954, and Spain in 1962; Mazola, who defended Brazil in 1958, and Italy in 1962 (in the Italian Squad, Mazola was known as José Altafini); and finally Robert Prosinecki and Robert Jarni, both of whom defended Yugoslavia in 1990, and Croatia in 1998.
A single squad, among all 32, plans to switch bases during the 2006 World Cup: through the First Round, Brazil is staying at the Kempinski-Hotel (Königstein⁄Taunus), whereas for the knock-out phase (of course, provided that they hold thus far) they plan to be at the Schlosshotel Lerbach (Bergisch Gladbach). All other squads have conversely planned on a single base, throughout their participation in the World Cup.
While watching the 2005 Brazilian League Championship, something unusual came to my attention, at every free-kick: the referee seemed to have some kind of chalk (or the like), in his pocket, with which he would quickly draw a line on the pitch, in order to mark the 10-yard distance between the defensive wall and the ball, as the rule goes for a free-kick. This obviously prevented the usual sneaky pulling forward, little by little, as we have seen, over and over, players forming the defensive wall do, until a free-kick is finally taken. Interestingly, someone has recently sent a query, in this regard, to the British newspaper The Guardian, the answer to which query follows (in italics), as it clarifies the situation with flying colors.
The reply posted at The Guardian (December 14, 2005) elucidated that Brazilian football fan and chemist Heine Allemagne is to thank for inventing a high-tech spray in 2000. The referees carry a small aerosol can – or one is brought out to them – so that whenever a defensive wall needs to be formed near the penalty area, they can spray the foam and mark out the 10 yards that players must retreat. As if by magic, the dye evaporates from the grass within 60 seconds, because, as Rio resident José Sette explains, "it is a white water-based foam that is non-toxic, odourless, and does not affect the ozone layer." Phew! And what's more "it is composed of mineralised water, coconut by-products, additives and a propellent gas."
The Guardian further informs that this spray was first used in the São Paulo State Championship in 2001, with the Brazilian Football Confederation and state federations then extending its usage around the country. But despite proving a highly effective tool in upholding the rules of the game, Fifa remains unconvinced as to its necessity and is yet to take the idea worldwide.1
Isn't it ironic that the first player ever to miss a penalty in a World Cup was a Brazilian?! Yes, it was Valdemar de Brito, way back in 1934.
On the same note, the first defending champions ever to be knocked out in the first round of a World Cup were the Brazilian Squad (England, 1966).
If it should serve as consolation for the French fans (in view of France's likewise surprising elimination in the first round, in 2002, as the defending champion), Brazil's Squad had come to England, in 1966, as the defending champion from the two previous World Cups (Sweden, 1958 & Chile, 1962), thus motivating a conceivably even greater shock!
On the subject of World Cup ironies, the Brazilian squad is responsible for another: despite having scored more World Cup goals than any other squad, the Brazilian side produced the first ever World Cup goal-less tie (i.e., a 0 x 0 result), in their 1958 match against the English squad. To make it all yet more ironic, 1958 was the year of Brazil's first World Cup win. Before that null-null match (see complete statistics), there had already been five World Cups, all of which had registered at least one goal per match.
The record of null-null draws, in a World Cup, is held by that which took place in Spain, in 1982, in which tournament this hardly exciting score came up seven (7!) times, in 52 matches.
There having already been five blank scores in the First Round of the current World Cup (2006), it ominously loomed as a candidate for matching or breaking the above record (see details on the Noteworthy page, 2006 World Cup Statistics section).
It is not so much the quantity of the goals scored, but rather the quality of the game, which can add to or detract from the enjoyment we have looked forward to for four years.
Watch out for players (and, in special, strikers!) who may have not been around for a long while, up to around the time a World Cup kicks off!
Why? They may be serious candidates for outstanding performances in that World Cup. Here are a couple of examples: In 1982, Italy's Paolo Rossi (who had been banned from international matches, for having been involved in a betting scandal) turned out to be the Cup's top scorer! On a similar note, Brazil's Ronaldo (who had long been injured and undergoing successive surgeries on his knee) ended up as 2002's top scorer! Will there be any such surprises in 2006?...
Possible candidates, among well known stars expected to play in Germany, for the 18th World Cup, include, for example, out of a longer list: England's Michael Owen, and then also Wayne Rooney (provided that he remains on Sven-Göran Eriksson's plans for the World Cup), USA's Claudio Reyna, Spain's Xavi, Valeron and captain Raul (just restarting in March⁄April at Real Madrid, after three months out, with a knee injury), Brazil's captain Cafu and Ricardo Oliveira (both just restarting in April, after surgery), Czech Republic's Jan Koller, and Italy's Francesco Totti. (Unfortunately, other top players in their teams will likely miss the World Cup due to injury, such as South Korean striker Lee Dong-gook, who is not expected to recover from a serious knee injury in time.)
Could the sensation, or the top scorer, in the 2006 World Cup turn out to be one of these players who will be just returning to their teams when the Cup kicks off?
Did you know that the Portuguese Squad, under Felipão's command, has had three alternating Captains, Pauleta, Costinha and Figo, the actual Captain for each match being chosen according to the adversary and match to be played? For the 2006 World Cup, Luis Figo has been named captain. Whether or not he will be the only squad player to be assigned this role, time will tell.
The oldest player to take part in, and also to win a World Cup was Italian goalkeeper and Captain Dino Zoff, in 1982, in Spain: he was 40 years old when Italy conquered that World Cup.
The youngest, in turn, who actually both played and scored, in addition to winning that World Cup, was Pelé, World Champion at only 17 in 1958, Sweden, where he enjoyed the extra honor of scoring the last goal in that World Cup. Also the youngest World Cup goal scorer of all, Pelé was just 17 years and 239 days old, when he scored against Wales, during the 1958 World Cup, in Sweden.
England's 2006 Squad included a player who could have broken Pelé's record(s), above-mentioned–Theo Walcott, born on March 16, 1989 (jersey # 23): if either England had won the World Cup, or if Walcott had actually been given a chance to play and scored, or both, as was the case with Pelé.
Now, the oldest player of all to take part in a World Cup was Cameroon's Roger Milla, who was 42 years and 39 days old when his Squad faced Russia, in 1994; whereas the youngest of all was Northern Ireland's Norman Whiteside, who was just 17 years and 41 days old, when he played against Yugoslavia, in 1982.
Cafu, Brazilian squad's captain and oldest player, became 36 years old on June 7. Cafu is the only player so far to have taken part in three successive World Cup final matches (1994, 1998 and 2002), and to have won two of them, moreover.
Curiously, Cafu was born (in São Paulo) during the 1970 World Cup match in which Brazil defeated England 1x0, in Mexico, then moving on to win their third World Cup.
For this reason, Cafu, himself, has told that his father joked that newly-born-Cafu had to have been destined to becoming a great soccer player, given the 'omen' of his being born during such an important match and overall Brazilian squad campaign. Well, though meant as a mere joke, then, his father's words did turn into an accurate prediction.
In the realm of entire Squads, the youngest line-up ever to start a World Cup match was the Yugoslavian team that played against Brazil, way back in 1930: their average age was just 21 years and 258 days!
The oldest ever, in turn, was the German Squad that played against Iran, in 1998, in France: their average age was 31 years and 345 days. Also worth mentioning, in this contest, is the Belgium Squad that played the match against Mexico, in that same World Cup: their average age was 31 years and 304 days.
Would you believe that the Brazilian Soccer Confederation will not need to spend a single cent, and will actually make the significant profit of at least 2 million Dollars, instead, during the 13 days that the team will be staying in a luxurious hotel, in Weggis, Switzerland (from May 22 to June 4), as they get ready for the World Cup?
Oh, it is not that the Swiss, whose banking is famous World-wide, are that fond of football art!... The reason is business-related, as usual...the sports marketing agency Kentaro reportedly not only taking care of all expenses and paying that profitable amount to the Brazilians, but also building a soccer training field for the Brazilian team, near or in the hotel grounds, just in exchange for being able to exhibit its outdoors and other publicity displays, in addition to sponsoring a couple of training matches for the Squad and charging admittance to their training sessions, while the Brazilians are staying in Switzerland.
Being World Champion and top of FIFA's Rank can have its advantages outside the soccer environment, itself...though this could of course backfire onto the sporting aspect of the team...as it in fact has, unfortunately for us, fans of competitive football-art (see here).
Before the 2006 World Cup, there had been sixteen matches decided on penalty shoot-outs: three in 1986, 1994 and 1998, one in 1982, four in 1990, and two in 2002. Among all these instances, only two have required extra penalties: the matches between West Germany and France, in 1982, and between Sweden and Romania, 1994.
Incidentally, order could hardly be considered relevant; for among these sixteen shoot-outs, for seven times the winning team had been the one taking the first shot. In other words, the odds just slightly have favored the team shooting last.
2006 Update: in four penalty shoot-outs, always the team shooting first won. So, now, in 20 penalty shoot-outs, 11 have been won by the team taking the first shot, whereas 9 have been won by the team shooting last. That is to say, even though the scale has tipped slightly to the opposite side, still order could not be considered a major factor regarding a team's chances of success.
Coincidentally, before the 2006 World Cup, sixteen different Squads had taken part in these sixteen penalty shoot-outs. (The names in italics, right below, indicate squads that were to take penalty shoot-outs in 2006)
Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina have taken part in three different series, each;
Mexico, England, the Republic of Ireland, and Romania, in two, whereas
Belgium, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Korea Republic, in one.
July, 2006 Update: The coincidence curiously remained, after 63 matches had been played in 2006: nineteen Squads had taken place in nineteen shoot-outs! But in the Final Match, this numerical symmetry was at last broken: now, nineteen Squads have taken place in twenty shoot-outs!
Both Germany (then West Germany) and Argentina clearly had the edge–up to the 2006 World Cup, and now retained just by Germany–as elaborated below (the 2006 update follows the pre-World Cup information right below):
Whereas Germany and Argentina had come to the 2006 World Cup with the best past results of all, in hand (both had been victorious in all above-mentioned three times), Italy had surprisingly been the losing side up to the 2006 World Cup, in all their three shoot outs. On the same boat were Mexico, Romania and England, in the two shoot outs they had taken up to the 2006 World Cup.
Both France and Brazil had won two of their three shoot outs, whereas Spain, just one of their three. The Republic of Ireland, in turn, having taken part in only two shoot outs, up to the 2006 World Cup, lost one and won the other.
Finally, Belgium, Bulgaria, Sweden and South Korea have all won their single shoot out experience, whereas both Yugoslavia and the Netherlands have been defeated in theirs.
July, 2006 Update:
There have been four penalty shoot-outs, in the 2006 World Cup: one in the Round of Sixteen, two in the Quarter-Finals, and in the Final Match, involving the following squads: Switzerland, Ukraine, Germany, Argentina, Portugal, England, Italy and France–the winning sides marked in italics. The above list of teams, ordered by the number of penalty shoot-outs that they have taken part in, now reads as follows:
Italy, Germany, France and Argentina have now taken part in four different series, each;
England, Spain, and Brazil have taken part in three different series, each;
Mexico, the Republic of Ireland, and Romania, in two, whereas
Switzerland, Ukraine, Portugal, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Korea Republic, in one.
So, adding the 2006 data to that previously entered above, the picture below emerges, as far as the outcome of the penalty shoot-outs taken. Note that Germany, having now passed Argentina, stands out as the greatest winner of all, as far as penalty shoot-outs!
| shoot outs
|| won 4 times
|| won 3 times
|| won twice
|| won once
|| lost once
|| lost twice
|| lost 3 times
It is worth remarking that Italy narrowly escaped engaging in a penalty shoot-out against Germany, in their Semi-Final match: in the very last two minutes of the extra-time second half, the Italian side at last managed two goals! Had the shoot-out taken place, then most likely it would have been Germany, and not Italy, to be playing the Final Match against France, given their contrasting records (see above table). The Italians, aware of that, gave clear signs that they were doing their utmost to define the match during extra time. Then, in their build-up to the Final Match against France, the Italians reportedly practiced penalty taking very intensely, in case a shoot-out would be needed. As we now know, their practicing efforts have paid off very satisfactorily!
Incidentally, Italy had another narrow escape, this World Cup: in their Round of Sixteen match against Australia, the Italian side found a penalty in the very last minute of the second half, thus avoiding the need to go into an extra-time playing that was already looking inevitable! As a 10 man Italy appeared exhausted towards the end of the regular 90 minutes, whereas the Australians seemed in pretty good shape, despite their vigorous physical style, it looks like Italy counted on Lady Luck's good graces, also in this match. Just as it happened in the above-mentioned match against Germany, the final whistle was blown once the Italian goal was scored.
And though one might say that Lady Luck kept on smiling upon the Italian side, as they played the Final Match against France (who would imagine Zidane's shockingly losing his head and literally butting Materazzi in the chest, and then of course being sent off?!...–see related details), the truth is that Italy is a worthy 2006 World Cup Champion!
Here is why: Up to when the 3rd.Place Match was played, Italy had the best attack (now, the second best), and they have the best defense, having only conceded a penalty goal (in the Final Match) and an own goal (match against the United States). Incidentally, Italy had one of their own best striking forces ever, in 2006 (see related data). Additionally, the Italians have committed fewer fouls than any of the other three squads playing the Semi-Finals. In sum, when all has been counted and averaged out, the best figures are undeniably Italy's. So never mind it, if Lady Luck may or not have been on their side; they have performed well enough to deserve the Crown!
As the calendar turned its page to welcome a new year, it looked like the Serbia and Montenegro Squad might be getting ready to do just the same. Serbian Middle-fielder Dejan Petkovic (link to great goal clip), had simply been banned altogether from the Team, since the friendly that Yugoslavia and Brazil played in 1998, following a disagreement with both the coach and the body of directors in charge of the Squad's administration. With the arrival of the new year, fresh news from Serbia and Montenegro indicated that Petkovic's name had been cogitated, with a view at least on a coming friendly match, though he was not called to play for his National Squad, when time came for that match.
Serbia and Montenegro's presence in what has been referred to as the "group of death" has perhaps motivated the news (or rumor?) that old grudges could be put aside, in behalf of the Squad's success.
May 2006 update: Petkovic's poor form in 2006 (in striking contrast to 2005) has undoubtedly discouraged Serbia and Montenegro's manager from nominating him among the players to be taken to Germany 2006.
Dejan Petkovic currently plays for Fluminense, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he enjoyed good prestige in 2005, having had a successful season, at the end of which he was elected the best attacking midfielder in the 2005 Brazilian League Championship. No wonder Serbia and Montenegro's coach (whose last name, by the way, is also Petkovic) seemed to have cast an interested eye on his fellow-countryman currently playing in Brazil. It is just unfortunate for Dejan Petkovic that, despite the promising news (or rumor?) at the turn of year, his current form could not help him make the final rooster for Serbia and Montenegro, in May-2006.
more to be added. Stay tuned.
1 Having cleared my curiosity regarding how Brazilian referees have been managing to ensure soccer rules are accurately followed at free-kicks, I now wonder about the reasons underlying FIFA's statement (as reported) that it remains unconvinced of the efficiency of the invention above described... What could prevent FIFA from at least recommending that other football leagues take up the idea, and report the results?... For, in fact, FIFA's use of a "smart ball," in one of their youth International Tournaments, in 2005, seems to indicate that FIFA is on the pursue of high-tech solutions that can ensure that the rules of the game are fairly and accurately followed. In addition, the official announcement of the 2006 World Cup ball clearly indicates FIFA's pride in announcing a ball that is expected to help ensure many goals and favor the skilled players.
Then why not make use of a far simpler high-tech solution, which is moreover ecological, and has been tested and used with success in the most important National Championship (Campeonato Brasileiro: 462 matches, 1,448 goals, averaging 3.1342 goals⁄match, in 2005!) held in the only nation to have conquered five World Cups thus far, and to have produced some of the finest attack players in the history of football? If I (a mere fan) have seen, with my own eyes (on television) that the defense walls do stand at the sprayed spot – they have little choice, given the conspicuous white line marking the legal distance – anyone at FIFA should easily be able to verify, also on tape, the efficiency of the procedure.
Moreover, from the reply posted by The Guardian, it is easy to deduce that this original method will have been in use in Brazilian matches for five entire years, when the 2006 World Cup kicks off (one would logically imagine this time-span to have been sufficient for testing out a new referee-aid, given that World Cups are organized every four years). So I can't make logic out of FIFA's reportedly remaining unconvinced – can you? – when the idea proudly imparted at the launching of the 2006 World Cup ball is a concern with ensuring that attack players can get their job done unhindered by extra-football nuisances. Unable to make sense in a logical way, I of course hope this is not a mere (sad) instance of politics standing on the way for FIFA to be "convinced" of the excellent aid to referees and insurance of goals, which this Brazilian invention could have represented in the 2006 World Cup.
After all, all that really matters, in the end, is to ensure that the success of the sport, of the Tournament, the increase in public attendance and TV audience, World-wide, the increase in goal⁄match average, a successful disciplinary aspect, etc., can all be celebrated, once the 2006 World Cup is history. This is what will be most remembered by the fans, by the football historians, and by the football authorities, themselves, as well as by those making a profit out of the sport.
2006 World Cup
Abbreviations, above: used by FIFA, as well as in this eBook.
Numbers 1-4, above, correspond to the numbering used for the Groups drawing,
in Leipzig (2005), number one being the seed.squad, in each Group.
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