It’s that time again! The greatest show on earth is upon us. Ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Russia, we look-back at the 20 tournaments before and the standout aspects from them.

When the World Cup returned after the world war, to a glorious setting in Brazil ending with a famous upset...

Brazil 1950

At the grandest of stages, the most glorious uncertainties of the game came in full view.

After an enforced break of 12 years, the World Cup resumed in South America – left relatively unscathed by the World War II.

Brazil had prepared the magnificent 200,000-capacity Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro for the event but the magnitude of the stadium was matched by that of the disappointment in the final.

England made their first World Cup appearance. It wasn’t a success. Humiliation came in the form of an early exit after a shock 1-0 defeat by the United States, which was dubbed the miracle on grass.

This World Cup had an unique format. Teams were divided into four groups and the group winners went through to a final pool, with the pool winner taking the title without playing an actual final. But it so happened that the last match of the world cup did end up proving decisive.

And disaster struck Brazil.

The host nation had thrashed Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1 in early matches but stumbled in the decider – a match they needed only to draw against Uruguay to win the title.

Before a world record crowd at the Maracana, Albino Cardosa Friaca put Brazil ahead two minutes after half-time, but goals by tournament top scorer Juan Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia maintained Uruguay’s unbeaten record and crowned them world champions for the second time. A crowd officially estimated at 174,000 – but likely to be around 200,000 - was silenced, stunned. The nation was left in shock.

Stats and trivia

  • The one that Indian football fans reminisce about over and over again - the World Cup appearance that wasn’t for us, despite being asked to participate by Fifa. A ban on playing barefoot led to India’s withdrawal from the tournament, is how the popular theory goes, backed by the Fifa archive. But there have since been other reasons to debunk this theory - with a lack of appreciation for the magnitude of the tournament and travel issues being cited as factors. Either way, the greatest side that the country has produced in many an expert’s view, couldn’t make it to the biggest stage there is.
  • With no Fifa World Cup action since 1938 due to the global conflicts at that time, the trophy was hidden in a shoebox under the bed of Fifa’s Italian vice-president, Ottorino Barassi. Upon resumption, it was renamed the Jules Rimet Cup in honour of the man behind the origins of the world cup.
  • England’s 1-0 defeat to USA was scarcely believable, so much so that newspapers back home thought the result was a typing error and changed it to 10-1. 
  • 173,850: Official attendance at the Maracana, that makes Uruguay-Brazil the most-watched for a World Cup match. According to, however, it is widely believed that over 200,000 were inside the Maracana that day – exactly one month after it was inaugurated.  
  • George Reader, at 53 years and 236 days, is the oldest man to referee at the game’s biggest stage, while overseeing Uruguay-Brazil.   
  • Tournament top-scorer: Ademir (Brazil) - 8 goals
  • Total number of goals scored in the tournament: 88 (4 goals per match)

For your viewing pleasure

The story of how Uruguay stunned Brazil


Jules Rimet and the Fifa World Cup

Official poster


With AFP and inputs