World Cup Final Tournament
In 2006 the FIFA World Cup finals had an estimated cumulative audience of a little over 26.29 billion making it the world’s most watched sporting event, a few billion over the estimated Olympics audience. Football has been the world’s most popular sport for a considerably long time now and the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is expected to reach out to even more people than the previous tournament.
The World Cup final tournament consists of 32 national teams competing for the World Cup trophy and the fame that follows (the multi-million dollar contracts signed by players from the victorious team, with European and Spanish clubs a day after the FIFA World Cup is enough proof). The battles between these nations are waged at different venues in a host country selected by FIFA and consist of two stages, the group stage followed by the knockout stage. The breakdown of the final tournament is as follows.
The group stage comprises of eight groups with four teams in each group. Eight of the contesting teams are seeded along with the host nation, the rest of the seeded teams are selected and drawn to different groups based on a formula that takes into consideration the FIFA World Rankings and/or performances in previous World Cup tournaments. The rest of the teams are assigned to different ‘pots’ and the teams in each pot are drawn at random for the eight groups. In 1998 FIFA regulations decreed that no group should contain no more two European teams and no more than one team from any other confederation.
Each of the eight groups plays a round-robin tournament ensuring that every team plays three matches and the last round matches for every group is scheduled at the same time in different venues to maintain fair-play which FIFA emphasizes on. The current system of points state that a winning team receives three points, one point for a draw and zero for a loss. In case of a tie between teams with identical points, tiebreakers are used in this order, goal difference, total goals scored, head-to-head results and finally drawing lots, the top two teams in every group progresses to the knockout stage.
The knockout stage is as simple as it sounds, teams play each other in one-off matches with extra-time penalty shoot-outs to determine the winner if necessary. The knockout stage is a round of 16, in which the winner of each group plays against the runner-up of another group. Only eight teams are left standing after this round.
The knockout stage is followed by the quarter-finals, after which four teams progress to the semi-finals. The third place of the tournament is decided in a match between the two losing teams in the semi-finals, while the two winners go on to play the final and determine who goes home with the world’s most coveted sporting trophy-The FIFA World Cup.