The history of the World Cup


Problem Bob’s Jonas Bergstrand was chosen by FIFA to design backdrop posters for their new football museum in Zürich. Posters covering the first nine World Cup tournaments encapsulating the era of the original Jules Rimet trophy were commissioned. From start to finish the assignment took almost two years to complete. The final art is presented below along with an abridged retelling of the early history of the World Cup. Be sure not to miss out on the extra material filed under each poster. Enjoy!


1930 - Inaugural World Cup

By 1930 football had outgrown the Olympics. Subsequently FIFA, founded in 1904, had gained enough momentum to stage the first ever World Cup. Uruguay, the then leading force in international football with two consecutive Olympic titles, were chosen to host the tournament.

The massive Estadio Centenario, still in use and still Uruguay's national stadium, was built for the tournament but it was not fully completed by the time of the opening ceremony on the 18th of July — to the day one hundred years after Uruguay had won its independence. Before the opening was held five teams, including future superpower Brazil, had already been knocked out!

International travel was spreading throughout the 1920´s but long-distance journeys were not easily undertaken. Few European teams participated in this inaugural World Cup because of traveling difficulties. And to boot the Egyptian team missed their connection in Marseille due to a mediterranean storm.

Vacation was a concept very few had experienced by 1930. Romania, for instance, only managed to take part in the tournament because their newly crowned king, Carol II, persuaded employing companies to grant footballers working for them extended holidays.

After 17 matches the final stood between Uruguay and Argentina. Pre-tournament favourite and host Uruguay won and in front of 93,000 people received the soon to be iconic trophy portraying the godess Nike.


1934 - Coppa del Duce

To participate in the 1934 World Cup teams had to qualify. Thirty-two nations entered the competition, and after qualification, sixteen teams were in the finals. Reigning champions Uruguay refused to take part due to the lukewarm European interest in the first tournament 1930.

It took FIFA eight meetings before Italy was finally accepted as host for the second World Cup. A handsome budget of 3.5 million lire allocated by the Italian government most likely played a significant role in the choice of setting. The fascist leader Mussolini did not care much for football but he understood the political market value of a great sporting event and hence the necessity for Italian victory. And so the second World Cup became plagued by fascist propaganda, sometimes brutal play and questionable refereeing.

Aided by loose regulations surrounding the players nationality Italy formed a strong team including several South American stars of Italian descent. The team also saw a young Giuseppe Meazza making a big name for himself. In the end Italy won the final, beating Czechoslovakia 2–1.


1938 - Homecoming

FIFA picked France as host in a meeting held in Berlin 1936. The World Cup was to come home to the country which had conceived it. In a volatile political landscape, it was the most European World Cup tournament ever staged: only three of the fifteen teams came from outside Europe.

The decision in Berlin caused outrage in South America where it was assumed that the venue would alternate between the two continents. Both Uruguay and Argentina stayed home in dissapointment. Brazil, however, participated and their first superstar Leonidas da Silva was the tournaments top scorer.

Fascism and Nazism swept across the continent during the thirties and lay a dark shadow over Europe. Spain was prevented from entering the tournament as civil war raged the country. Austria disappeared in the Anschluss while stands and pitches in France saw ominous numbers of fascist- and nazi salutes. An Italian team littered with fascist symbolism as well as great players such as Giuseppe Meazza and Silvio Piola managed to defend their title. Italy was once again crowned world champion.

The World Cup would not be held for another twelve years due to the outbreak of World War II. As a result Italy was the reigning World Cup holder for a record sixteen years. Throughout the war the Italian vice president of FIFA hid the trophy in a shoebox under his bed and thus saved it from falling into the hands of Nazi troops.


1950 - Maracanazo

This was the fourth World Cup and the first since 1938 since the planned 1942 and 1946 competitions were cancelled owing to World War II. It was won by Uruguay, who had won the inaugural competition in 1930, clinching the cup by beating the hosts Brazil 2–1 in the deciding match of the four-team final group.

An estimated crowd of 205,000 fell silent as Alcides Ghiggia late in the game scored the winning goal. Ghiggia became the last surviving player from the match. He died at the age of 88 on 16 July 2015, exactly sixtyfive years after scoring the decisive goal.

The Brazilian defeat spawned the still vivid and legendary term Maracanazo which roughly translates to The Maracanã Blow. After the 1950 disaster Brazil abandoned their all-white kit and have never again played dressed in white.


1954 - Das wunder von Bern

There have probably never been greater favourites to win the World Cup than the Hungarians in 1954, and yet amazingly they failed to do so. From 1950 to 1956 Hungary lost only one match and that was the most important of them all, the World Cup final.

Only eight minutes into the game the Hungarians were up 2-0 against West Germany who they had already beat comfortably in the group event. But after another eight minutes and two surprising german goals the game was level.

The rest of the game was played in heavy rain, later dubbed Fritz-Walter-Wetter after the German captain, who, due to malaria contracted in a POV-camp during the war, favored play in cold weather. As the condition of the pitch deteriorated German boots, designed by Adi Dassler, proved a big advantage as they had exchangeable studs. Disciplined defense, brilliant goalkeeping and on two occasions, the post, also laid path to the upset. Late in the game an offbeat chance emerged for German forward Helmut Rahn and he took it superbly to score the winner. Just before the final whistle Puskas scored what first seemed like an equalizer but it was controversially ruled out as offside and what was later to become known as ”the Miracle of Bern” was a fact.

1954 was the first World Cup to be televised. The new media did not, however, really compete with the traditional as overseas broadcasting was not available and a TV-set proved much too expensive for most in a world still trying to recuperate after the devastating world war.

The original base of the Jules Rimet Trophy was replaced by a bigger one in order make more room for engraving the names of winning teams. The original foot vanished and was lost for decades until it was found in 2014.


1958 - Birth of a king

In the late fifties the world of football was much different from today. Only one match per round was televised, and broadcast across Europe.

In hindsight the World Cups held during this era had a blissful aura of almost naive innocence about them. The magnitude of the event had not yet outgrown the possibility for the modest and homegrown to make their mark. Media coverage of qualifying rounds was rhapsodic by todays standards so fantasies of over-night stardom and small nations victory over the giants didn´t seem unrealistic.

As a symbol of this even the official ball turned out to be one made under humble conditions. It was chosen from 102 candidates in a blind test by FIFA officials and was made in the small city of Ängelholm in the south of Sweden.

The game itself was dominated by the will to attack and score goals. The final played between Brazil and host Sweden truly encompassed the times. The then largely unknown Pelé became the youngest to play a World Cup Finals, the youngest scorer in a World Cup Final and the youngest player to win a World Cup. On the other hand Nils Liedholm became the oldest player to score in a World Cup Final. This final had the highest number of goals scored by a winning team and the highest number of total goals scored.

French forward Just Fontaine became the top scorer with 13 goals. A record that still stands.

The final was played in Stockholm at the Råsunda Stadium (pulled down 2012), less than 5 kilometers from where this artwork was created.


1962 - Porque nada tenemos, lo haremos todo

The legendary Carlos Dittborn, head of organizing the 1962 World Cup coined the famous phrase “Porque nada tenemos, lo haremos todo” (Because we have nothing, we will do everything) in response to Argentinian self-assurance during the bidding process for the tournament at the 30th FIFA Congress. In May 1960, as the preparations were well under way, Chile suffered the largest earthquake ever recorded (9.5 magnitude) which caused enormous damage. Carlos Dittborn’s words prevailed however and the nation pulled together. Stadia and other infrastructures were rebuilt at record speed and the tournament was pulled off on schedule with no major organisational flaws.

Dittborn himself however did not live to see the success of his efforts, as he died one month before the start of the tournament only 38 years old. The World Cup venue at Arica was named Estadio Carlos Dittborn in his honour and still bears his name.

With Pelé injured the reigning champions looked to the formidable dribbler Garrincha to bring the magic and he delivered in style, helping Brazil to a consecutive title. The lightning-quick Garrincha is easily one of the most colorful characters in football history. He had several birth defects: his spine was deformed, his right leg bent outwards and his left leg was six centimeters shorter and curved inwards … still he played like no other.

Generally though the quality of play saw a decline as the game shifted towards defensive strategies. The happy-go-lucky attitude of Garrincha stood in stark contrast to the at times brutal new game. The average number of goals per match dropped to under 3 for the first time and sadly the average has not reached above since.


1966 - In a Pickle

The 1966 World Cup had a rather unusual hero off the field, a dog called Pickles. In the build-up to the tournament, the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from an exhibition display and a frantic nationwide hunt ensued. But finally it was sniffed out by Pickles from under some bushes in a London green.

Football focusing on strong, sometimes brutal, defensive play dominated the 1966 World Cup. A handfull of key matches, including the highly dramatic final, still made for entertaining score lines.

England beat West Germany 4–2 in a classic match. Germany leveled the score just before full time and the match went into extra time. Then Geoff Hurst scored one of the most famous and debated goals ever. With 11 minutes of extra time gone, Alan Ball put in a cross and Geoff Hurst shot from close range. The ball hit the underside of the cross-bar, bounced down – on the line – and was cleared. The referee, Gottfried Dienst, was uncertain whether it had been a goal or not. He consulted his linesman, Tofiq Bahramov from Azerbaijan, who in a moment of drama indicated that it was a goal. After non-verbal communication, as they had no common language, the Swiss referee awarded the goal to the home team. The crowd and an audience of 400 million television viewers were left arguing whether the goal should have been given or not.

With this victory, England won their first FIFA World Cup title and became the third World Cup host to win the tournament after Uruguay in 1930 and Italy in 1934.


1970 - Farewell to the original Jules Rimet cup

Mexico hosted the ninth FIFA World Cup, the first held outside Europe and South America. With the advancements in satellite communications, the 1970 finals attracted a new record television audience as the games were broadcast live around the world and, for the first time, in color.

For the benefit of European television schedules, many games kicked off at noon, meaning play under the scorching midday sun. Despite the issues of altitude and high temperature, the finals largely produced attacking football which created an average of goals per game of 2.97. A record not since bettered by any subsequent World Cup Finals.

All four of the semi-finalists were former world champions with the line-up ensuring a final between Europe and South America. Italy beat West Germany in a thrilling match later known as ”El Partido Del Siglo” — the game of the century. The performance of Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer stands out as he played the latter part of the game with a fractured collarbone. Brazil won against Uruguay and on the 21st of June 1970 Italy and Brazil clashed at the mighty Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Brazil won 4-1 after a magnificent match and it being their third World Cup title, Brazil kept the the original Jules Rimet Trophy permanently. The victorious team, led by Carlos Alberto and featuring players such as Pelé, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivellino, and Tostão, is often cited as the greatest ever World Cup team. They achieved a perfect record of wins in all six games in the finals, as well as winning all their qualifying rounds.


FIFA World Football Museum

Seestrasse 27, 8002 Zürich, Switzerland.
Open Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 - 19:00, Sundays 09:00 - 18:00.



French sculptor Abel Lafleur drew inspiration for his trophy design from the sculpture Nike of Samothrace on display at the Louvre in Paris. The trophy originally called Victory was renamed in honor of FIFA’s third president Jules Rimet because it was during his presidency the idea of a world championship competition was realized.

After winning the World Cup for a third time Brazil received the Jules Rimet Trophy in perpetuity. In 1983 the trophy was stolen from the Brazilian Soccer Confederation building in Rio and it has never been recovered. Rumour has it the sculpture was melted down and sold as bullion. The original base was thought to be lost as well after it was replaced for a bigger one in 1954. It was however found in a basement storage at FIFA’s headquarters in 2014.

Just like this retelling of the early days of World Cup Football the incomplete trophy presents only a fraction of what times passed were really like.

1930 >>1934 >>1938 >>1950 >>1954 >>1958 >>1962 >>1966 >>1970 >> PITCH & PIECES >>