Football World Cup
The World Cup is irrefutably the largest and most popular sporting event in the world. The men’s football event continually exceeds the Olympic Games in television-viewing numbers, and in 2006 one-ninth of the entire global population watched the final match of the tournament.
World Cup History
Excepting 1942 and 1946, the tournament has been held every four years since its inception in 1930. The number of countries competing to qualify for the event continues to increase, with 204 countries participating in the qualification stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Of those 204, only 32 will advance to the finals stage.
Reigning champions Italy won their fourth title at the 2006 event in Germany, yet Brazil are still the most successful national club with five World Cup titles. Only seven teams have taken the world champions mantle, four from Europe, and three from South America.
The European and South American dominance of the games has begun to ebb, however, especially since the 2002 World Cup – which was held in South Korea and Japan – saw the Korea Republic place fourth, becoming the first Asian team to reach the semi-finals of the tournament. African nations have also become more prominent in recent tournaments, particularly since players like Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o and the Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba have emerged as superstars at their renowned European clubs.
On the other side of the globe, Oceania – one of the six continental zones competing for qualification places – has only been represented three times, Australia twice and New Zealand once. Since 2006, Australia has been accepted into the Asian continental zone, giving them a greater chance at qualifying for the tournament.
The sheer popularity of the World Cup can be seen by fans selling out matches more than a year before the next tournament is set to begin in June of 2010. By May 2009, football fans had already sold out all possible games – in addition to the opening and final matches – involving Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Netherlands, Ireland, and England.
The World Cup allows for 64 matches over the course of the tournament, so it is no surprise that football betting is extremely popular. The event often makes for conservative odds at the group stages; however, the downright unpredictability of knockout matches can garner very interesting wagering opportunities. For example, two-time champion Argentina was knocked out of the 2006 World Cup in the quarterfinals by host nation Germany. England was also disposed of in an upset loss to Portugal on penalties. Online sportsbooks offer football fans the chance to bet on every match leading up to, and during, the 2010 World Cup.