The Opening Match of a FIFA World Cup™ heralds the start of a month packed with all the thrills and spills the beautiful game has to offer.
There are a number of other perfectly good reasons why these games have stuck in the collective memory, however. Read on as this article takes you through some of the interesting and bizarre events that have happened on the opening day of past FIFA World Cups.
- France and Mexico faced off in the first-ever FIFA World Cup Opening Match on 13 July 1930 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Les Bleus ran out 4-1 winners in a match that remains the highest-scoring opening clash in the tournament’s history.
- In a frantic opening to the 1934 edition, the tournament kicked off with an astonishing eight simultaneously-played matches, the highest number of Opening Matches.
- The opening game at France 1938 entered the record books as the longest Opening Match ever, with 120 minutes of play failing to separate Switzerland and Germany after a hard-fought 1-1 draw. At the time the entire tournament was played on a knockout basis and Switzerland eventually won the replay 4-2.
- Purists may groan, but the most common scoreline for FIFA World Cup openers is 1-0, and the trend is on the increase. Four of the last six tournaments – 1982, 1990, 1994, and 2002 – began with the narrowest of wins, a scoreline also seen in 1954.
- In another bizarre sequence, fans watching the Opening Matches of four consecutive tournaments, from 1966 to 1978, did not see a single goal. This uninspiring run was only broken at Spain 1982 with Belgium’s 1-0 victory over defending champions Argentina.
- From 1958 to 1970, the host nation always took part in the FIFA World Cup Opening Match, but from Germany 1974 that honour switched to the defending champions. Curiously enough, 32 years later and back on German soil, the old tradition has been reintroduced for the 2006 tournament, with hosts Germany getting this summer’s showpiece tournament under way against Costa Rica in Munich.