Champion hasn't been one of the contestants in opening match since 66

England was the last champion squad who has been at the premiere of the tournament

iG Minas Gerais | FOLHAPRESS |

House owner, England won its one and only championship in 1966
House owner, England won its one and only championship in 1966

For the fourth time in history, Brazil participates into the opening match of the World Cup with an inconvenient taboo to be broken. Only two times in World Cup history, which is at its 20th edition this year, a team that has opened the championship won the tournament. And the last time this happened was in 1966.

At the occasion, England had its debut against Uruguay at Wembley and didn't go further than the 0 to 0. The team, directed by Alf Ramsey, had better luck at the decision, by beating Germany 4 to 2 on prorogation. Since then, two squads have come so close to making the deed, but ended up with second place. In 1990, Maradona's Argentina has lost the final to Germany 1 to 0. Eight years later, France has destroyed the Brazilian's dream, winning 3 to 0 on a Zidane's night.

Biggest winner of World Cups, Brazil still hasn't got the achievement on its resume. In 1950, Flavio Costa's team has entered the Cup with a 4 to 0 show over Mexico, in front of more than 80 thousand spectators in Maracanã.

The second opportunity came in 1974, in Germany. While the world waited for the brilliant football exhibited by the yellow squad in 1970, all they saw was a tasteless even goalless over Yugoslavia at the Cup's opening. Commanded by Zagallo, Brazil has continued until the quarter-finals, but was eliminated after having lost for Holland 2 to 0.

In 1998, the Brazilian squad started the championship as favourite. The beginning was promising, with a good performance against Scotland at the opening match. At the final, the defeat to France was marked by the indefinition in the draft of Ronaldo, who suffered a convulsion just hours before the match.


The criterion to define who gets in the first match of a World Cup has suffered changes since 1930. Until 1954 championship, Fifa didn't have a defined polity over the theme. Therefore, the choice was made according to the host country's interest.

The situation has changed in 1958, at Sweden, when Fifa has decided that the host country would open the competition. A new change has occurred in 1974, when the current champion would start in the matches.

Political disputes inside Fifa, however, have provoked ever further changes for 2006 world championship. The last winner started having the obligation to dispute the runoffs. Without its place guaranteed, the right of opening the Cup has gone back to who would host the tournament. The host country always has its place guaranteed at the championship.


Hosts have participated in a total of eight opening matches. In none of them the challenger has lost. It's been five victories and three ties. Good performance of host countries doesn't change not even when we consider the premieres that don't open the Cups. In 20 matches, we count 14 victories and six ties.

As not always the host teams are in world football èlite, it's reasonable believing that having the majority of the supporters by their side is beneficial in a moment like the opening match, when anxiety and adrenalin match.

SURPRISES Getting onto the field with the confidence of winning is not always of help. From 1974 to 2002, there have been eight matches, with two victories, three ties and three defeats.

The first victim has been Argentina, beaten by Belgium, then European vice champion 1 to 0 in 1982. The Argentinians would fall in the same trap eight years later. The executioner was Cameroon, also 1 to 0, at the first great odd of World Cup openings.

In 2002, another African squad has caused a buzz. With a goal by Papa Bouba Diop, Senegal has beaten France, winner of world and European titles, besides the Confederations Cup.

Translated by Raquel Sodré  

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