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The FIFA World Cup is Close

Jun 1, 2008
Held every four years, the FIFA World Cup is probably one the most renown and popular sports tournaments in the world. The soccer tournament takes place in one or two countries over a four week period in which thirty-two teams compete against each other to claim the title of world champions. The most recent world cup was held in Germany in 2006, in which Italy were proclaimed as the winners after defeating France in a penalty shoot-out.

Origins of the World Cup: The first World Cup tournament was held in Uruguay in 1930. The first tournament was difficult to establish because of the location. The organizers struggled to attract European nations to send teams to South America to contest the tournament. Eventually, the tournament took place with thirteen teams involved; nine from the Americas and four from Europe. The first final was contested between the hosts and Argentina, with Uruguay winning 4-2.

The early competitions were troubled by the difficulties of transportation and frequent interruptions caused by war. Many countries refused to participate, as it would involve playing soccer matches against teams that either they did not recognize or had been in conflict with in the recent past. After World War Two many of these problems were removed and FIFA was able to organize credible and professional tournaments much easily.

The Modern World Cup: The World Cup is essentially organized in two distinct parts; the qualification stage and the finals. The qualification stage takes place over a two year period and runs concurrently with each nation's domestic soccer season. Teams are divided into regions: Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the North American and Caribbean regions.

Within these regions the countries are drawn into groups and will play each other home and away. The exact qualification method differs from region to region, but usually the top team in each group qualifies for the World Cup Finals and the runner-up competes in a play-off for the last remaining qualifying positions.

The World Cup Finals themselves are held in a different country on each occasion. Sometimes, FIFA has selected two countries in the same vicinity to host the tournament; for example, South Korea and Japan hosted in 2002.

The finals are contested between thirty-two nations divided into eight groups. They play each other once and the top two teams qualify for the knock out stages. There follows three further rounds that are decided by one match. If the match is level, the game will be decided on penalties.

Past Winners of the World Cup: Brazil is the most successful team in the history of the World Cup, having won the tournament a record five times. Italy's recent victory in 2006 has brought them close to equaling the record with four successes. Remarkably, the World Cup has only been won by seven different countries over the eighteen tournaments so far. Germany, Uruguay, Argentina, France and England complete the list.

The Future of the World Cup: The next World Cup will be held in the South Africa in 2010. This will be the first time that the tournament will be held on the African continent.

After a series of promising performances by Cameroon, Senegal and Nigeria in recent tournaments, many soccer experts are predicting that one of these nations may be able to win the Word Cup next time.
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