The following are some interesting facts about FIFA World Cup:

1. The FIFA World Cup is a challenge trophy that remains in the permanent possession of FIFA. Made out of 18-carat gold for the 1974 tournament, it is 36.8cm high and weighs 6.175kg. The base has space for 17 inscriptions, which will suffice until the 2038 World Cup. The winning association receives a replica until the next tournament but this is ‘only gold-plated'.

2. Three stadiums hosted the first-ever FIFA World Cup including the purpose-built Centenario in Montevideo, Uruguay. The highest number of stadiums used was in Spain in 1982: 14 cities and 17 stadiums. In 2002 when South Korea and Japan were co-hosts they each provided ten stadiums each in as many cities.

3. Sixteen countries, including South Africa in 2010, have been one-time hosts of the FIFA World Cup. Four countries, Mexico, Italy, France and Germany have had the honour of doing so twice. South Korea and Japan co-hosted the 2002 edition. To-date ten competitions have been held in Europe, seven in the Americas and one in Asia

4. The FIFA World Cup is by far the biggest TV sports event in the world. In 2006 a cumulated audience of more than 26 billion viewers was recorded for the 64 matches. This compares to less than 5 billion viewers for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

5. Today's World Cup format has been in place since 1986. The tournaments in 1974, 1978 and 1982 (the first one with 24 teams) had another group stage in the second phase. The knockout system after the group stage (quarterfinals) was used from 1954 to 1970. In 1998 the tournament was expanded to 32 teams.

6. Telstar was the first official FIFA World Cup match ball. It was introduced in 1970 in Mexico. Telstar was again used in 1974. Match balls since then include Tango (1978, 1982), Azteca (1986), Etrusco (1990), Questra (1994), Tricolore (1998), Fevernova (2002), Teamgeist (2006). The match ball for the 2010 tournament is Jabulani.

7. Almost 31 million fans have attended the 708 World Cup matches played since 1930, an average of 44,000 people per game.

8. The first World Cup mascot was introduced in 1966. ‘Willie' was British lion wearing a Union Jack flag jersey sporting the words, “World Cup”. The following three tournaments had boys as mascots: Juanito (Mexico 1970), Tip & Tap (Germany 1974) and Gauchito (Argentina 1978). Spain's mascot in 1982 was Naranjito, an orange wearing the Spanish team kit. Pique, the jalapeno pepper with a moustache and wearing a sombrero was Mexico's mascot in 1986. Italy 1990 saw the first inanimate mascot called ‘Ciao', a stick figure player with a football for a head and an Italian tricolour body. Since then there have always been animals: Striker, the dog (USA 1994), Footix, the chicken (France 1998), Goleo, the lion (Germany 2006) and finally Zakumi, the South African leopard (2010).

The exception was South Korea and Japan in 2002 where the mascots were Ato, Kaz and Nik, three futuristic computer-generated creatures.

9. In 1978 green-and-white striped shirts made a unique first and last appearance at a FIFA World Cup tournament. The French arrived at Mar del Plata to play Hungary without a change of strip.

As both teams' kit was white, the French were forced to play their first round match in shirts borrowed from local team, Aletico Kimberley.

— Compiled by A. Vinod; Source: FIFA

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