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England's World Cup Hist

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England's World Cup History

This competition, begun in 1930, has become the world's largest sporting event.  It has been staged every four years since then with the exception of 1942 and 1946, when the Second World War forced its suspension.  

England did not enter the first three competitions of 1930, 1934 and 1938.  Although FIFA assiduously sought England's participation, the Football Association declined all invitations.  Not until the fourth tournament in 1950 did England take part.

England have entered all 16 post-war competitions.  They reached the final tournament 13 times. They qualified through play in the preliminary competition on 11 occasions (1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010), as host country once (1966) and as reigning champions once (1970).  They failed to qualify for the final tournaments on three occasions (1974, 1978 and 1994).

England have had only moderate success in the World Cup, and that is perhaps a fair indication of their standing in the world game.  They won the tournament once, in 1966, when it was held on their own soil and they played all their matches at their home ground, Wembley Stadium, an advantage extended to no other team in World Cup history.  Their 4-2 extra-time victory against West Germany in the only final match they have reached has remained clouded by the controversy over whether their third goal, the first of extra-time, actually crossed the goal line, and, at least in the view prevailing in Latin nations, by the furore surrounding the expulsion of Argentina captain Antonio Rattin in the quarterfinal.  

England reached the semi-finals on only one other occasion, at the 1990 tournament in Italy, where, following extra-time victories over Belgium and Cameroon, they went down to West Germany on penalty kicks after a 1-1 extra-time draw.  They then lost the third-place match to the host nation, 2-1.

England have reached the quarterfinals on six other occasions, at the 1954, 1962, 1970, 1986, 2002 and 2006 tournaments.  At the 1982 competition in Spain, where the final tournament was conducted through two group stages with the teams topping the four second-round groups proceeding directly to the semi-finals, England finished the second group stage unbeaten but were eliminated anyway. Their second-place finish in the second-round group was tantamount to a quarter-final appearance.

England have been eliminated in the round of 16 teams stage on two occasions since the final tournament was expanded to more than 16 teams in 1982--at the 1998 final tournament in France and the 2010 final tournament in South Africa.

England have been eliminated at the first round group stage on two occasions 1950 and 1958, when they finished level in group play with the USSR but lost a playoff match.

The World Cup has been a frustrating odyssey for England, particularly since 1966.  At several tournaments, their performances have filled their fans with justified hope, but in the end, they have just not had enough to overcome the world's most powerful teams in crucial knockout matches. 

Consolation-seekers like to point out that it has been England's misfortune to meet the eventual World Cup winners in the knockout stages of four tournaments.  They went out to Brazil, 3-1, in the quarterfinals of the 1962 tournament, to Argentina, 2-1 by way of Maradona's "Hand of God" goal, in the quarterfinals of the 1986 tournament, to West Germany, on penalty kicks after a 1-1 extra-time draw, in the semi-finals of the 1990 tournament and to Brazil again, 2-1, in the quarterfinals of the 2002 tournament after holding the lead.

Three times they have been eliminated in penalty-kick shootouts, in the 1990 semi-final against West Germany, the 1998 round-of-16-teams match against Argentina following a 2-2 extra-time draw in which they played a man short following the expulsion early in the second-half of midfielder David Beckham.  On a third occasion, in the 2006 quarter-finals, England were eliminated by Portugal following a 0-0 draw.

Perhaps most disappointing was their elimination at the 1982 tournament in Spain.  Having won all three of their group matches quite handily, all they could muster in their second-round group was a pair of goalless draws against eventual finalist West Germany and hosts Spain.  They went home unbeaten, having yielded only one goal in five matches.  

World Cup Final Tournament Format History

Every tournament but the first in 1930 began with a preliminary competition which determined the teams that took part in the final tournament.  Host nations have qualified automatically for all final tournaments but that of 1934, when Italy had to qualify through preliminary competition.  At the 2002 tournament, the first staged in two countries, both hosts, South Korea and Japan, qualified automatically.  The reigning champions have qualified for all tournaments since the second in 1934; the 1930 winners, Uruguay, chose not to take part in the 1934 tournament.  FIFA decided in 2002 that following that year's tournament, the winning team would no longer qualify automatically.  However, there is a move afoot to reverse this decision or at least to leave the question of automatic qualification to the choice of the reigning champions.

At the first tournament, held in Uruguay in 1930, 13 teams, including the host nation, took part by invitation.  The teams were divided into four first round groups, with each team playing the others in the group and the group winners advancing to the semi-finals.

A preliminary competition was held for the first time before the 1934 final tournament in Italy, and 16 teams qualified.  There was no group play at the final tournament; all matches were played on a knockout basis with the winners advancing to the next round.  Extra-time was played if the teams were drawn at the end of regulation time, and the match was replayed if still drawn at the end of extra-time.  The 16-team tournament remained the standard until the 1982 final tournament in Spain.

The same format was followed at the 1938 final tournament in France, except that one team, Sweden, was given a first-round bye due to the late withdrawal of Austria following its annexation by Germany.

Group play was reinstated for the 1950 final tournament in Brazil--with a vengeance.  Following the preliminary competition, the 16 qualifying teams were divided into four first round groups.  Although three of the 16 teams withdrew and were not replaced, the groups were not realigned and the first round was held with groups of four, four, three and two teams.  The winners of the four first round groups advanced to a final pool, as it was called, and the team finishing top of this final group won the tournament.  There were no quarterfinals or semi-finals.  Since none of the matches were held on a knockout basis, draws were allowed to stand without extra-time or replays.

More fiddling with the format came at the 1954 final tournament in Switzerland.  The 16 qualifying teams were divided into four groups for the first round, but two teams in each group were seeded and did not play each other.  Each team thus played only two of the other three teams in the group.  In an effort to forestall the consequent increased likelihood of points deadlocks in the group tables, extra-time was played if the first round group matches were drawn at the end of regulation time, although the draw was allowed to stand without a replay if extra-time did not produce a winner.  This is the only occasion in the tournament's history when extra-time was employed during group play.  Playoff matches were held if two teams were level on points at the end of group play; resort to goal difference and goals scored were not yet in use to break such deadlocks.  The top two teams in each group advanced to the quarterfinals, which, once again, were conducted on a knockout basis, the winners advancing to the semi-finals and the winners of those to the final match.

Sanity returned at the 1958 final tournament in Sweden.  The 16 qualifying teams were divided into four groups, with each team playing the three others in the group and draws allowed to stand without extra-time.  Deadlocks in points in the group table were broken by playoff matches.  The two top teams in each group advanced to the quarterfinals, which were held on a knockout basis.  Extra-time and replays were available to settle draws at the knockout stages, but there was no need for them at this tournament.

The format used at the 1958 tournament became the standard and was employed at the next three tournaments, in Chile in 1962, England in 1966 and Mexico in 1970.  However, beginning in 1962, deadlocks in group standings were resolved by resort to goals scored.

More tinkering followed at the 1974 final tournament in West Germany.  As usual, the 16 qualifying teams were divided into four first round groups of four teams with each team playing all the others in the group.  The two top teams advanced to two second round groups of four teams each with each team again playing all the others in the group and draws allowed to stand at the end of regulation time.  The two top teams in these two second-round groups advanced to the final match.  Deadlocks in group standings were broken for the first time by resort to goal difference rather than goals scored.  The two second-place teams advanced to the third-place match.  There were no quarterfinals or semi-finals; only the final and the third-place match were held on a knockout basis.

The 1974 format was followed at the 1978 final tournament in Argentina.

There were more changes at the 1982 final tournament in Spain.  The number of qualifying teams was expanded from 16 to 24.  They were divided in six first round groups of four teams.  Following round-robin play, the two top teams in each group advanced to four second-round groups of three teams each.  After round-robin play in these second-round groups, the four first-place teams advanced to the semi-finals.  There were no quarterfinals.  For the first time, the penalty kicks shootout was used in the knockout stages to determine which team advanced if the teams remained drawn at the end of extra-time.  There were to be no more replayed matches.

Knockout elimination again got the emphasis at the 1986 tournament in Mexico.  Once again the 24 qualifying teams were divided into six groups of four teams each.  But this time the top two teams in each group plus the four third-place teams with the best record in group play--determined on the basis of points earned and then goal difference and goals scored--advanced to a round of 16 teams conducted on a knockout basis, followed by quarterfinals, semi-finals and the final and third-place matches.  

The same format was used at the 1990 final tournament in Italy and the 1994 final tournament in the U.S.A.

From the 1998 final tournament in France, the number of qualifying teams was increased from 24 to 32. These 32 teams were divided into eight first-round groups of four teams each.  Following group play, the top two teams in each group advanced to the round of 16 teams conducted on a knockout basis, followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final and third-place match.

The same format was used at the 2002 final tournament in Japan and South Korea.  Both host nations as well as the reigning champions qualified automatically, and so the number of teams qualifying through preliminary competition was reduced to 29.

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