Random World Cup Facts

World Cup Trivia

In the spirit of randomness, this pic has nothing to with this article to be honest. But it is probably the most iconic World Cup image of all time. Diego Maradona gets ready to feast on a healthy helping of Belgians in 1982. Argentina lost 1-0.


I’ve often said that I’m a walking-talking World Cup encyclopaedia. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I do know a lot about the history of the greatest show on earth. Without further ado, here’s a list of the most seemingly random World Cup facts off the top of my head. Some most people know while others I suppose are just… Random!

  • The opening match in 1970, Mexico v USSR was first match to use yellow and red cards and was also the first to have a substitute come off the bench. He was Antoly Puzach, and he came on at half-time.
  • Antonio Cabrini of Italy was the first player to miss a penalty in the Final when he sent his kick wide v West Germany in the 1982 Final.
  • Since 1966, England have never went further in the World Cup than West Germany. A sequence that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
  • Roberto Baggio participated in three penalty shootouts losing all three. He scored against Argentina in Italia ’90 and France in ’98 but famously missed in ’94 Final.
  • A woolly black dog strayed onto the pitch during the 1962 Quarter-Final between Brazil and England. Jimmy Greaves collared it, but not before it urinated all over his shirt!
  • Italy is the only team to have defeated Norway at the Finals. They met three times, included two on the same ground (Marseilles) 60 years apart.
  • Black goalkeepers are seen as a bad omen in Brazil for the World Cup. Ever since Barbosa let in a soft winner from Alcides Ghiggia in the 1950 Final that lost them the World Cup. Brazil went 56 years before allowing another coloured keeper (Dida in 2006) play.
  • Gays, players with long hair and earrings did not have a future in Daniel Passarella’s 1998 team. Even Gabriel Batistuta had his hair cut to shoulder length in order not to miss out.
  • When Jostein Flo came off the bench for Norway v Brazil in 1998, it was the first time ever that three members of one family played in the same finals match. Jostein is the brother of Tore-André Flo, while Havard Flo is their cousin.
  • Alessandro Del-Piero’s second goal v Germany in 2006 in the 120th minute is the latest goal ever scored in any Finals. While Hakan Sükür’s opener in the Third-Place playoff v South Korea in 2002 was the quickest at 11 seconds.
  • At 25 matches, Lothar Mattaüs has the most appearances at the finals. He played five tournaments, equalling Antonio Carbajal’s (Mexico) record.
  • FIFA almost hosted the World Cup in a third country for the 2002 edition. They were toying with the notion of staging the odd match in North Korea.
  • David Beckham is the only Englishman to score in three different World Cups.
  • It took Michael Owen 25 strides upon receiving David Beckham’s pass to dispatch the ball into the net when he scored that goal vs Argentina in 1998.
  • Walter Zenga has the record for longest duration without conceding at 517 minutes. Iker Casillas was on the verge of breaking the record then Friday the 13th happened.
  • Germany/ West Germany have never lost a World Cup penalty shootout. As a matter of fact, when Podolski missed against Serbia in 2010 in normal play during the second group match, it was the first time they missed from the spot since 1982!
  • Argentina once shared an unbeaten record in the penalty shootout with West Germany – a record that was broken in 2006 against you know who.
  • England have the worst penalty shootout record; never winning any in the World Cup. After three attempts they have lost to West Germany 1990, Argentina 1998 and Portugal 2006. Italy were just as bad until they won in the 2006 Final.
  • Diego Maradona has the record for appearances as captain in the World Cup with 16. Italy’s Dino Zoff comes in a close second with 14.
  • Claudio Caniggia was sent off in 2002 without ever being on the field! Referee Mohammed Bujsaim of the UAE gave him his marching orders when he abused the ref from the bench.
  • When Pelé scored a crashing header in the 1970 Final, it was Brazil’s 100th goal at the finals.
  • Rigobert Song was the first player to be sent off in two different tournaments when he got ejected for felling Chile’s Jose Luis Sierra in 1998. Zinedine Zidane would eventually share this dubious title, going off against Saudi Arabia in ’98 and Italy in ’06.
  • Zidane is one of four players to score in different Final matches. Paul Breitner, Vavá and Pelé of Brazil are the other three.
  • Captaining a winning World Cup team is a once in a lifetime experience… Literally. No-one has done it more than once, although Maradona came agonisingly close in 1990 and Dunga in 1998.
  • Brazil have appeared in all editions of the World Cup, played the most matches, scored the most goals and won the most titles.
  • Italy’s win yesterday against England was their first in normal time at the finals since they beat Ukraine in the Quarter-Finals eight years ago!
  • Just Fontaine has scored the most goals in any one finals tournament netting 13 for France in 1958!
  • On four occasions, fathers have coached their sons at the finals. Ondino Viera coached his son Milton in 1966, Cesare Maldini coached his son Paolo in 1998 even making him the captain, Zlatko Kranjčar coached his son Niko in 2006 and Bob Bradley with his son Michael in 2010. An honourable mention to Danny and Daley Blind on Friday for the Netherlands against Spain, Danny Blind was Van Gaal’s assistant on the bench though.
  • Dejan Stanković is the only player at the finals to play for three different countries. He represented Yugoslavia in 1998, Serbia-Montenegro in 2006 and Serbia in 2010. Although you can call this a technicality because the Yugoslavia team in 1998 was actually made of Serbs and the odd Montenegrin. The country didn’t change its name to Serbia-Montenegro until 2002.

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