by Greg Melikov - 11/22/2005
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Since the World Cup was staged more than 75 years ago, a half-dozen host countries have won the championship.
Federation Internationale de Football Association's (FIFA) decision to hold the initial World Cup in Uruguay was criticized because in 1930 Europe was in the midst of an economic crisis. It didn't help that traveling to Uruguay involved a long, costly ocean journey.
The decision was primarily made because Uruguay held the '24 and '28 Olympic titles and '30 marked its 100 years of independence. However, many European associations broke their promise to participate.
Although Olympic competition had been held for two decades, it wasn't until the '24 games in Paris that the international sport came into its own. Teams from other continents journeyed to play the Europeans and 60,000 spectators in Colombes Stadium watched Uruguay defeat Switzerland, 3-0.
But when many nations abstained from the '28 Olympic tournament in Amsterdam, the FIFA congress voted to organize a new tournament that would be open to all member nations.
Two months before the '30 tournament was scheduled to begin, no European country had entered. Thanks to the efforts of Jules Rimet, third president of the FIFA, four delegations -- Belgium, France, Yugoslavia and Romania -- made the trip. The United States and eight teams from South America also competed.
Teams didn't have to qualify - they were invited. And the final draw wasn't made until all 13 arrived in Montevideo. After trailing Argentina 2-1 at halftime, Uruguay scored three times to win 4-1 in Centenary Stadium, which was built for the World Cup.
In '34, Italy defeated Czechoslovakia in Rome, 4-1, and the World Cup Final was broadcast on radio. Four years later, Rimet saw his wish fulfilled when the third tournament was held in his home country, France. However, Italy whipped Hungary, 4-2.
The original gold trophy, designed by French sculptor Abel Lafleur, bore the name of the man that headed the FIFA for 33 years. When Rimet took over in 1921, the organization was struggling after World War I and had only 20 members. During his presidency, he reorganized the FIFA after World War II halted competition for 12 years.
In '50, a gold statuette named for Rimet, was passed on to each champion. When a country won three times, it got to keep it. Brazil captured the World Cup for the third time in '70 and leads all nations in World Cup history with five victories. Italy won its third tournament in '82 and West Germany performed the hat trick by '90.
When the Father of the World Cup stepped down after the '54 games in Switzerland, where West Germany beat Hungary, 3-2, the organization counted 85 members. The 80-year-old Father of the World Cup was made the first honorary FIFA president.
Held alternately in Europe and the Americas since '58, World Cup history took another turn when the Executive Committee decided in May 1996 to select Korea and Japan as co-hosts for 2002.
Germany is the host country in 2006 - 32 years after West Germany won its second World Cup, defeating the Netherlands, 2-1. But the classic match of the tournament came earlier that summer when two titans, the Netherlands and Brazil, battled for supremacy.
Both teams were playing well and neither had lost when they clashed. Defending champion Brazil had captured three of the four tournaments since '58 except for '66. The Dutch were hailed as the young pretenders, hoping to steal the crown from the South Americans.
While their styles hardly clashed, colors did. Brazilians swapped their canary yellow shirts for blue ones while the Dutch lined up in white instead of orange.
This was Brazil's first tournament since the retirement of the legendary Pele and two other international stars, Carlos Alberto and Tostao. But the team still had '70 heroes Jairzinho and Rivelino that led Brazil over Italy, 4-1.
This was the golden generation of Dutch soccer, called the team of "Total Football." Defenders attacked and attackers defended. The leader was captain Johan Cruyff, with an excellent supporting cast. He was considered the main threat when moving the ball.
The opening half was marked by rough play. The Dutch controlled the ball the lion share of the time while Brazil tried to exploit their speed with looping passes from midfield.
A poor Brazilian clearance set up a golden chance for Cruyff, but his goal-bound shot was turned around the post by diving goalkeeper Emerson Leao. The resulting corner kick by Wim Van Hagenem sailed over the bar. Minutes later, speedy Brazilian forward Valdomiro deftly ran under his own lob, but couldn't score as Adrianus Haan rushed off his line to clear the ball.
With time running out, Brazil had its best scoring chance. But defender Wim Rijsbergen's desperate back-heel of a shot by Valdomiro knocked the ball away. After a scramble, the ball fell to Jairzinho, but Rijsbergen deflected his shot around the post.
The second half got off to an exciting start. With only five minutes gone, Johan Neeskens poked the ball that was deflected by Cruyff over Leao's head for the first goal. As the match proceeded, the Dutch gained confidence while the frustrated Brazilians received numerous offside calls against their anxious forwards.
With the flow of the game belonging to the Netherlands, it wasn't long before Rensenbrink's kick from midfield sprung Ruud Krol down the left flank through the Brazilian defense. He found Cruyff driving into the box and Leao didn't have a chance to stop the lunging volley. Valdomiro's curling free kick went wide in the 83rd minute and the Dutch proved that Brazil could be beaten at its own game. The final score was 2-0.
Netherlands made it to the finals four years later, but lost to Argentina, 3-1. Brazil had to wait two decades before winning its fourth championship, defeating Italy on penalty kicks, 3-2.
Ironically, Brazil is the defending champ trying to win its sixth World Cup. The host country, which lost in '02 to Brazil, 2-0, hopes to capture its fourth championship - the first since Germany was unified in '90.