World Cup

John Duerden on how Lebanon are raising hopes against the odds with a good showing in World Cup qualifying

Lebanon's German manager, Theo Bücker, was tired of waiting and told the bus driver to leave the Seoul hotel, where the team were preparing for a 2014 World Cup qualifier against South Korea, without one of his players. "If I say five o'clock, I don't mean two minutes after or two minutes before," Bücker said. "If a shot hits the crossbar is it a goal even if it had gone in had the shot been two centimetres lower?"

No one knows how much money hosting a World Cup makes (or loses). Ernst Bouwes reports

FA conservative analysis by [auditors] PWC calculates the economic benefit to England of hosting the FIFA World Cup™ at over £3.2 billion, creating thousands of new jobs and opportunities for the entire country.” So says the England 2018 bid on its website.

Three years ago, Jens Heilmann began a project to photograph the footballs used in every World Cup final. From the introduction to a new book, The World Cup Balls, Norbert Thomma describes how they were painstakingly tracked down

Internet searches on World Cup footballs showed only that they had been badly photographed. There was scant information about the originals. Apparently the world was only interested in goals and artistic overhead kicks, in saved penalties and vicious fouls, in posing winners and fallen idols. But the single item they all fight over was often ignored.

No other World Cup hosts have been knocked out in such extreme circumstances as Switzerland in 1954. Paul Joyce looks back at the tournament's highest-scoring match

The 1954 World Cup is mainly remembered for West Germany’s 3-2 victory over favourites Hungary in the final. But the quarter-final between Switzerland and Austria, the so-called Hitzeschlacht von Lausanne (Heat Battle of Lausanne), is if anything even more noteworthy. Not only was it played in intolerable weather conditions but it remains the highest-scoring game in World Cup finals history.

Brazil face local opposition to their bid to host the 2014 World Cup. Robert Shaw reports

Will Brazil host a second World Cup in 2014, 64 years after first doing so and 36 years after the last tournament in South America, Argentina 78? What seemed a formality now looks less certain, not just because Colombia – the intended hosts of the 1986 tournament before they withdrew for financial and security reasons – have made a bid to win the final FIFA vote, due to take place in November.

If you missed the 1978 World Cup final and don’t want to know the score, look away now. Al Needham's dad preferred the seaside to the match and didn't know the etiquette

The film Field of Dreams is about the sacred bond between father and son and the perverse ways they express their love – namely, by chucking a ball at each other. It’s deep. It’s meaningful. It’s absolute bollocks.

Michael Richardson thought it was all over in 1966. Haydn Parry reveals the man on the Wembley pitch.

English football, Ken Wolstenholme and Geoff Hurst in particular, owe Michael Rich­ardson a peculiar debt. For, as Wolstenholme stared down incredulously from his gantry at the impromptu pitch invasion prior to the fourth goal and final whistle in 1966, it was a young Mr Richardson who was doing his stuff, upstaging the main event in the top left hand corner of the nation’s TV screens. Mich­ael’s 15 seconds of fame came at the age of 18, although these days he still has a public pro­file, of sorts, as the drummer in Elkie Brooks’s band (ask your parents).

England's World Cup form over the years has been patchy, as Cris Freddi analyses

Statistics probably aren’t lies or damned lies in this case. England’s first four appearances in the finals ended with a record of three wins and six defeats in 14 matches. They never really looked the equal of the tournament’s best teams – and it began to look as if the only way they were going to win the pesky thing was to stage it.

Cris Freddi continues his series building up to the World Cup finals with a look at Scotland's record in the tournament

Sorry, there’s no getting away from it. Scotland’s record in the World Cup finals is dead poor, we all know that. Only four wins in 20 matches, two of them against Zaire and New Zealand. But the most humiliating thing is that nothing better has ever been expected of them. Except once, and that ended in the biggest let-down of all. Despite regular wins over England, they haven’t been a world force for 60 years.

France may be hosting the World Cup on merit, but Cris Freddi examines previous hosts who were chosen for other reasons

FIFA started promisingly, awarding the 1930 World Cup to Uruguay, where a coalition of the two strongest parties ‘was able to avert dictatorship’ – then blotted their copybook in spectacular fashion. They handed the second tournament to Italy.

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