Evolution of World Cup format

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1930: The first World Cup final kicked off with 13 teams in Uruguay, including four European nations – Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia.

World Cup
World Cup

1934: Expanded to 16 teams for the tournament in Italy, after a qualifying stage for the first time.

1938: Only 15 teams took part in France after Austria, which had just been annexed by Nazi Germany, withdrew.

1950: World Cup returned  after World War II – the previous two editions having been  cancelled – with 13 teams competing in Brazil.

1954: Hosted by Switzerland, the tournament returned  to the 16-team format.

1958: In Sweden, format unchanged in a tournament in which  Pele won  the first of his three World Cups and France striker Just Fontaine is the top scorer with 13 goals, a record which still stands.

1970: World Cup in Mexico is one of firsts – introduction of substitutes (two) during a match; red and yellow cards and tournament televised in colour. Format unchanged.

1982:  World Cup in Spain witnessed a small revolution with the passage from 16 to 24 teams and 52 matches played.

1986: This edition in Mexico won by Diego Maradona’s Argentina introduced  a knockout round of last 16 and quarter-finals.

1994: Football continues to modernise with 147 participating in qualifiers and Africa gaining a third team in the final in the US.

1998: The tournament organised in France moves to 32 teams. 174 teams participated in qualifiers.

2002: For the first time the World Cup was  jointly hosted by two countries – Japan and South Korea. Brazil won for a fifth time.

2010: The first World Cup hosted on the African continent. Format unchanged..


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