The FIFA World Cup brings incredible stories with many heroes and villains, legendary victories, and heartbreaking defeats. However, we also have a significant share of stories that have no basis or are only partially truthful. What's incredible is all these myths are still alive in the 21st century, as they are spread by a media unaware of what really happened. As you'll see, these made-up stories come from all eras, so if even in the modern age, you can tell a lie and make billions believe in it. We hope you are intrigued, as here are the top ten biggest FIFA World Cup Myths!
10. Brazil and Uruguay Played the Final of the 1950 FIFA World Cup
The first FIFA World Cup after World War II was a pretty strange competition that gave us some weird records! Many nations qualified and then gave up, so one of the groups had only two instead of four teams! This meant that Uruguay had to win a single game against a weak Bolivia to qualify among the best four teams! While not many people know about this, everyone is aware of Uruguay defeating hosts Brazil in the final, becoming the FIFA World Cup winners in front of 200,000 people. Yet, the thing is, this massive upset wasn't the final!
You see, at the 1950 FIFA World Cup, there was no knockout stage, so the final four teams instead formed the round-robin group. As Brazil had two wins against Uruguay's win and a draw, they didn't even need to triumph in their last match to become world champions. Plus, this wasn't even the tournament's final game, as two other teams, Sweden and Spain, played simultaneously! So, if Brazil and Uruguay had drawn, there would be no confusion. As we hope many people know this by now, this myth is at number 10.
9. South Korea Won Two Fixed Matches in 2002 FIFA World Cup
We already named the 2002 FIFA World Cup the worst in history due to many controversies. Even though decades have passed, no one has forgotten some of the most harmful refereeing ever. Of course, we're talking about South Korea, which eliminated Italy and Spain after two scandalous matches. However, many have forgotten about another South Korean game that was also very suspicious.
In the group phase, South Korea had its last match against Portugal, and if they lost, they would probably be eliminated. Even though they played extremely rough, only Portuguese João Pinto got a red card after half an hour, but South Korea still couldn't score. However, in the 66th minute, Beto was also surprisingly sent off, so Portugal had only nine players left. Only then, South Korea managed to win by a single goal. Yet, after their matches against Italy and Spain, this doesn't even sound like a big deal.
8. The United States Undoubtedly Won the Third Place in 1930 FIFA World Cup
To this day, the 1930 FIFA World Cup was the most successful for US Soccer. That year, the team reached the semifinals, eventually losing to Argentina 6-1. Uruguay beat Yugoslavia by the same result in the other match, but there wasn't an official third-place decider. That often brought confusion about who was third in the end, and the truth is we're not sure it's the US national team.
In 1984, FIFA revealed there was a third-place match, which Yugoslavia won, 3-1. However, there were still reports that this game never happened! Another argument for Yugoslavia was that they were officially ranked third, as they lost to future champions, Uruguay. Only much later, FIFA ranked USA third, based on a better goal difference. Interestingly, both teams received bronze medals, so to us, they shared third place. See, everyone can be a winner!
7. Roberto Baggio's Missed Penalty in the 1994 FIFA World Cup Final Was Crucial
The 1994 FIFA World Cup was the best in history, but the final match wasn't that great. While Brazil had better chances, it looked like they couldn't score in a million years against the tough Italian defense with Baresi, Maldini, and Costacurta. This meant that a penalty shootout was needed to decide the winner, and Brazil was lucky to triumph, 3-2. As we all remember, Roberto Baggio took the penalty and shot over the bar as Brazilians started celebrating.
Nonetheless, what everyone seems to forget is that even if Baggio has scored, Italy would probably still lose! That's because he opened the fifth series to tie the result, meaning that Brazilians would only need to score from their following penalty to win it. Of course, they could miss it, but putting so much blame on Baggio is wrong, as two other Italian players also failed to score from the spot.
6. India Skipped the 1950 World Cup As They Weren't Allowed to Play Barefooted
As we've mentioned, the 1950 FIFA World Cup was chaotic like no other tournament edition before and after. While many other teams have decided not to compete, citing various reasons, all the talk was about India. What we were told so many times was that this nation decided against going to Brazil, as they weren't allowed to play barefooted like they used to! As in 1948, FIFA banned playing shoeless, it was logical to conclude that India had withdrawn as they protested this decision.
Yet, the truth was that India sometimes played in boots, even when the pitch was dry. Sailen Manna, as the captain of the team, claimed that they would have accepted to obey new rules. The other myth was that travel expenses were too much for Indians, but that can't be true because FIFA offered to pay for everything. What really happened is that in 1950, the FIFA World Cup wasn't a global phenomenon. That's why the All-Indian Football Federation decided to focus on Asian Games and the Olympic Games. While this now feels like a horrible mistake, it was a much different time.
5. The Brazilian Leônidas Didn't Play the 1938 World Cup Semifinal As the Coach Rested Him
Long before Pelé, Brazil still had soccer superstars, and one of them was Leônidas. In 1938, he was at the peak of his power, scoring five goals in only three FIFA World Cup matches. Thanks to his performance, Brazil was in the semifinals for the first time, but they lost to defending champions Italy.
What was a huge shock is that Leônidas didn't even play a minute in this game! For half a century and even longer, you could hear a story that arrogant Brazilian coach Adhemar Pimenta was resting him for the final! Yet, this belongs among the FIFA World Cup lies. The truth was that Leônidas was so beaten up in the previous games that he was in no condition to play. Despite him confirming that and even writing an open letter, many still believe the myth.
4. Mussolini Fixed the 1934 FIFA World Cup for Italians to Win It
To say it politely, Italian leader Benito Mussolini was not a good man, and he didn't like soccer. When Italy organized a World Cup in 1934, he saw it as an excellent opportunity to promote fascism. Of course, that also meant that Italy winning the trophy would serve him well, proving his nation's superiority. There's no doubt he was pleased when that did happen, as the hosts won the final against Czechoslovakia in Rome. Since then, we've heard tons of stories about fixed matches, threats, and bribery, and knowing Mussolini, it wasn't hard at all to believe them.
However, there was no proof that any serious offense happened. None of the played matches was seen as fixed, and the truth was that Italians really had the best team. Four years later, they won the title again, proving the point. Interestingly, another myth about Mussolini was that before the 1938 final, he sent a telegram to the Italian team telling them to either win or die. However, one of the players, Pietro Rava, later said that he only sent them best wishes. Yet, he did made them wear Fascist attire.
3. You Have to Be Good To Reach World Cup Semifinals
Getting to the final four in the FIFA World Cup is a massive success for 99% of the nations, so this must mean you must play great to reach it, right? However, many examples are proving otherwise, but let's focus on Belgium and Bulgaria. In 1986, Belgium lost the semifinal against Argentina, ending up fourth. It was amazing that in seven games, they won only two and had a negative goal difference!
Bulgaria wasn't much better in 1994, as they also finished fourth, with only three wins, one draw, and three defeats. Their goal difference was also negative, as they were humiliated by Nigeria and Sweden, allowing seven goals while scoring none! South Korea in 2002, Brazil in 2014, and England in 2018 were also pretty horrible semifinalists.
2. North Korea State TV Announced North Korean Victory Over Brazil in 2010
In 2010, North Korea made a World Cup debut, facing Brazil in their first match. While everyone expected them to suffer an embarrassing defeat, that never happened! Brazil didn't score until the 55th minute, winning only 2-1. Despite the heroic performance, the reports at the time said that North Korean leadership wasn't satisfied. As the story says, the state TV claimed that North Korea actually won by a single goal.
While we've all heard horror tales about the country, this story doesn't have an ounce of truth! Not only the correct result was announced, but the whole nation was delighted by the performance. We guess things were much different only a few days later when Portugal destroyed them 7-0. Later articles claimed that the team was publically shamed and even sent to prison camp! However, a South Korean intelligence source claims that no such thing happened.
1. Maradona Was Rightfully Thrown Out from the 1994 World Cup
Diego Maradona was not a saint, and even he was very critical about his bad habits. His drug abuse seriously hurt his career, and he was even banned from competing for more than a year. However, the miracle happened, as he was back playing for Argentina in 1993! As they barely qualified, no one took the team seriously, but that dramatically changed after two group games. Led by Diego, Argentina won both matches and was now considered among the favorites! Even the skeptical English talked about his magnificent form as he scored goals and made terrific assists, all while being in tremendous shape. However, after that second game, he was banned from the tournament!
The truth, he wasn't positive on cocaine, nor he used doping. Instead, he was banned for ephedrine, a weight-loss drug that has no impact on performance! What's even more ridiculous was that in 1986, a Spanish player Ramón Calderé was also positive for the same reason. However, he was allowed to continue playing, while only the medical team was punished. Furthermore, ephedrine was allowed in NBA, MLB, and NFL, as again, it didn't affect athlete's performance. To this day, many believe that FIFA wanted Maradona out, as controversial FIFA president João Havelange needed his native Brazil to finally win the title. With Maradona in top form leading the best team Argentina ever, he had reasons to be afraid.
While the internet can help us do relatively quick fact checks, all of these top ten myths are still going pretty strong and Qatar 2022 will probably add some more. The reason is simple as if you are sure that something is accurate, you don't feel the need to research it. While you might have known the truth behind some of these myths, we also hope you've learned something new. Even though facts are sometimes dull and even hurtful, we would always stick to them!
Have you heard about all these FIFA World Cup myths? Did you already know that some of them weren't true? Let's discuss it in our comments section!
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