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20 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About The World Cup

Some World Cup facts you already know (Germany are the best penalty shootout team in the tournament’s history with four wins out of four), some you just don’t want to know (England are the worst penalty shoot team in history with three losses out of three) and some you have no idea about.

We suspect the 20 utterly ridiculous facts compiled below are very much the latter - some you won't even believe.

Consider your summer small talk sorted.

(Images: Getty, Wiki Commons, Flickr Creative Commons, Adidas)

  • 20 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About The World Cup

    1.

    The FA declined invitations for England to take part in all three of the first World Cup Finals (1930, 1934 and 1938), only finally entering the tournament post-WW2 in 1950.

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    2.

    A crowd search by police before 1930’s World Cup final in Uruguay led to the confiscation of 1,600 revolvers.

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    3.

    During the inter-war years, Italian football Chief Ottorino Barassi secretly took the Jules Rimet trophy home from a bank in Rome and kept it under his bed in a shoebox to ensure Hitler and his Nazi troops didn’t find it. There it stayed until the 1950 World Cup.

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    4.

    When Uruguay caused a major upset by beating hosts Brazil in the 1950 final in the Maracana stadium, two of the 175,000 crowd committed suicide by jumping off the stand. Three other stadium dwellers died of heart attacks.

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    5.

    It was only after the 1950 final did Brazil, who’d previously played in white, adopt the yellow shirts they famously swagger about in today.

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    6.

    There was a 10 minute postponement before West Germany and The Netherlands met in the 1974 World Cup final after officials forgot to put in corner flags.

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    7.

    Jean Langenus, the Belgian who refereed 1930’s Argentina v Uruguay final, wore three quarter trousers, a tie and a deerstalker hat.

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    8.

    As a native sponsor, BMW offered each competing team use of a luxury coach during the 1974 World Cup finals in Germany. Authorities had to reclaim Zaire's after the team attempted to head back to Africa in it following the team’s exit.

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    9.

    So unexpected was the USA’s 1-0 victory over England at the 1950 World Cup, some major newspapers believed there was a mistake on the telex-reports and printed England as 10-1 winners. Others, including the New York Times, didn’t run the story at all for fear of a hoax.

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    10.

    Frenchman Alex Villaplane, a midfielder who captained his national side at the 1930 finals, was later imprisoned for fixing horse races, became a gold smuggler and eventually joined the French Gestapo during the Nazi occupation, which resultedf in his death by firing squad shortly after the liberation of France.

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    11.

    Putting even Vinnie Jones to shame, Uruguay’s Jose Batista was sent off after just 56 seconds against Scotland in 1986 after felling Gordon Strachan.

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    12.

    Right before refereeing 1934’s World Cup final match between Italy and Czechoslovakia in Rome, Swedish referee Ivan Eklind polarised one half of the teams by visiting Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in his private box. Italy won 2-1 after extra-time.

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    13.

    All UAE players who scored at the 1990 finals were promised a Rolls Royce on their return home. Only two players managed the feat, with neither man able to stop the side from being roundly knocked out following three straight group stage defeats.

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    14.

    The attendance for Romania’s group game clash with Peru in 1930’s finals in Uruguay was a pitiful 300.

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    15.

    Noted as one of the best players of all-time, Ferenc Puskas represented both his native Hungary [1954] and also Spain [1962] in two different World Cup final tournaments.

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    16.

    Cameroonian Roger Milla, AKA the oldest ever player to feature at the World Cup finals (vs Russia aged 42 years and 39 days in 1994), once tried to hold his own football tournament using 120 pygmies he reportedly held captive in the basement of Cameroon’s national stadium.

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    17.

    Romania’s King Carol II was that big a fan of the sport that he personally selected all the members of his national team’s 1930 World Cup squad, even threatening employers who were reluctant to let some of the part-time players go.

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    18.

    As of May 2014, migrant workers helping Qatar to prepare for the World Cup in 2022 are dying at a rate of one per day. Over 900 labourers have reportedly died during the construction project so far.

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    19.

    As Italian Giuseppe Meazza stepped up to take a penalty against Brazil in a 1938 World Cup semi-final, the striker’s shorts fell down because the elastic around the waist had earlier been pulled apart. With the Brazilian goalie still laughing, Meazza pulled up his shorts with one hand, shot and scored the winning goal past his chuckling foe.

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    20.

    No national team outside Europe [9 wins] or South America [8 wins] has ever won the World Cup.