The Free World Cup: What if the World Cup began in 1906?

Who do you think will win the 1906 World Cup?

  • Scotland

    Votes: 2 66.7%
  • Austria

    Votes: 1 33.3%
  • Argentina

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Denmark

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
  • Poll closed .
1909 and 1910 – World Cup Qualifiers

1909 and 1910 – World Cup Qualifiers, Part 1​

On July 1909, the World Cup qualifiers began, with the first matches being played by Group 1. England pummelled Wales and Ireland 5-1 and 11-0 respectively. Because the England matches were played first, Wales and Ireland did not face each other due to already being disqualified by the time those matches ended.

Group 2 was particularly fierce: Sweden beat Norway 2-0, Finland beat Sweden 4-1 and Norway beat Finland 7-1. This created a problem, as the three teams were tied for points. Therefore, FIFA chose to make them replay the matches. This time, Sweden beat Norway 5-3 and Finland 2-0, disqualifying both.

Group 3 was another curbstomp; Denmark far outclassed the German team, beating them 6-2, and ran circles around the Jutland team, winning 8-1 over them. The final match was not played as Denmark had already qualified.

In Group 4, things were heated between the Netherlands and Belgium; both destroyed Luxembourg 12-0 and 9-0 respectively, and drew 3-3 on the next match, which meant it had to be replayed. The Netherlands ended up triumphing over Belgium 2-1.

Group 5 was the first group with 4 teams. Switzerland defeated Italy 4-1, and France thrashed Malta 10-0. In an extreme upset, Malta beat Italy 1-0, bringing national shame to the Italian side, as Switzerland and France drew 2-2. Finally, Switzerland faced Malta and conquered them 6-0, while France drew 3-3 against Italy. Switzerland advanced to the World Cup.

Group 6 was a letdown; Austria beat Romania 5-1, Hungary and Bohemia drew 0-0, Austria beat Bohemia 2-0, Hungary destroyed Romania 8-0. When it came to Austria v Hungary, crowds were once again cheated out of such a match due to the Hungarian team not arriving to the match on time, and Austria was automatically granted a 2-0 victory. Romania v Bohemia was not played as Austria had already qualified.

Group 7, as expected, was boring; the Isle of Man played against the 3 islands and demolished all of them (9-0 against Jersey, 14-0 against Guernsey, and a record-breaking 33-0 against Alderney). The matches between the Channel Islands were not played as the Isle of Man had already qualified.

Groups 8 and 9 were simple, as they were 1-on-1. Argentina defeated Paraguay 6-0…

… and Uruguay stomped Chile 11-2.

Group 10, made up entirely of Brazilian regional teams, was up next. São Paulo barely managed to beat Rio de Janeiro 6-5, Bahia and Pará drew 1-1, São Paulo triumphed over Bahia 3-0 and Rio de Janeiro scraped a win against Pará 3-2. The next games would decide it all; São Paulo 5-2 Pará, and Rio de Janeiro 2-2 Bahia. São Paulo advanced to the World Cup.
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1909 and 1910 – World Cup Qualifiers, Part 2

1909 and 1910 – World Cup Qualifiers, Part 2​

Group 11 was the Caribbean qualifier; Trinidad and Tobago beat British Guiana 3-0 and Haiti 7-3, advancing to the World Cup.

Group 12 was the North American qualifier, and a very interesting group overall; the US and Mexico tied 2-2, Canada beat Quebec 4-0, the US and Canada drew 4-4, Mexico beat Quebec 8-0, the US and Quebec drew 0-0 and Canada unexpectedly annihilated Mexico 12-0, securing their place in the World Cup.

Group 13 was the Asian qualifier; Bengal withdrew before the qualifiers started, so the other three teams were left to duke it out. Hong Kong beat Singapore 5-0, the Philippines beat Singapore 2-1 and Hong Kong barely managed to win over the Philippines 3-2, earning their place in the World Cup.

Group 14 was another 1-on-1 held between South Africa and New Zealand; South Africa defeated New Zealand 3-1.

Group 15 was the last group and the largest of them all, with 6 teams. It was held in a special gauntlet-style format, as in, one team (in this case, New South Wales) would face all the other teams until it either defeats them all or loses against one; whichever team won against NSW would take its place and continue facing the other teams. However, this last rule never came into play as NSW defeated all of the other teams (3-1 v Queensland, 6-2 v South Australia, 9-0 v Tasmania, 1-0 v Victoria, 5-3 v Western Australia) and advanced to the World Cup.
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The 1910 England World Cup of Football – Round of 16

The 1910 England World Cup of Football – Round of 16​

Soon after the end of the qualifiers, it was 21 May once again. Crowds far larger than anyone had ever seen for a football match had amassed outside various stadiums throughout England. All teams had travelled to England, and awaited the results of the draw. The only prerequisite this time was that England and Scotland would not be allowed to meet until the final, and, of course, the home nation would be drawn at the top of the bracket. These were the results of the draw:

Much like last time, all matches were to be played on the same day. While there were some lacklustre match-ups, like England v Isle of Man, others looked very interesting, like Scotland v Austria, who would have a heated rematch of the 1906 semi-finals, or Denmark v Canada, two Olympic gold medallist nations and favourites to win the World Cup.

The opening match was England v Isle of Man. Like last time, it began an hour before the rest. To the surprise of nobody, this match was an absolute massacre. England scored 4 in the first half and 5 in the second half, tearing apart the Manx defence each and every time. The islanders were clearly not ready to go up against a team of World Cup calibre, and brought the shock home. The crowd celebrated each and every English goal as if it were the final.

In the next match, the Netherlands and South Africa would go up against each other in a very competitive game. South African Prime Minister Louis Botha, a Boer, had arrived in England to see the match, in support of the South African team. Although this lifted the South Africans’ spirits, they crumbled against the Netherlands and allowed 2 goals in during the first half. While they managed to scrape 2 goals in the second half, the Netherlands managed to score a banger goal from the midfield at 83’, winning them the match.

São Paulo vs. Hong Kong was up next, the only match to be contested between newer FIFA sides. As expected, Hong Kong was no match for the Paulistas, as they played a more aggressive attacking game and were not afraid to foul as they scored 4 goals, while the Hongkongers only managed to get one goal in through a penalty and mostly took the fouls instead of dishing them out.

The Denmark vs. Canada game was one of the most anticipated of the Cup. And it was quite the hard-fought battle, as no goals were scored in the first half due to a combination of good defending and the skill of both teams’ goalkeepers. During the second half, Canada managed to get the upper hand on the Danish by scoring a goal seconds after the referee’s whistle blew. Denmark retaliated by scoring their first goal a few minutes later. Both sides would trade shots, a majority of them on-target but always deflected by a defender or the goalkeeper. In the 90th minute, Denmark managed to sneak a shot past the Canadian defence and into the goal, securing the victory and advancing to the quarter-finals.

Uruguay had to face a new force from down under, New South Wales. However, the Uruguayans were once again plagued by bad luck, and seasickness took over three players this time, severely restricting their ability to play. Although this would have made it easier for the NSW side to win, Uruguay still fought valiantly and pushed back against the Australians multiple times, getting close to scoring a goal on 6 separate occasions. In another stroke of bad luck, though, an NSW midfielder accidentally scored a goal while running backwards and shot it straight at the Uruguayan goalkeeper’s goal, as he was distracted and not focusing on the ball, allowing NSW to pass on to the next round.

There weren’t any good prospects for the Sweden vs. Trinidad and Tobago match. The winner was obvious, but just how hard they managed to win was earth-shattering: 18 Swedish goals to none, breaking Hungary’s record set in the previous World Cup. The audience was flabbergasted at just how badly the Trinidadians played, as they were Englishmen just like them. The Swedish side achieved a mostly hollow victory, as the players stopped celebrating goals after the 4th, knowing full-well Trinidad and Tobago had no chance of retaliating.

Argentina was once again facing another team that was roughly equal in their skill level, Switzerland. The Swiss were known to be good at playing but boring to watch, so the English crowd mostly supported Argentina even though they were the ones to knock England out of the previous World Cup. To the delight of the crowd, Argentina beat Switzerland out 3 goals to 1. The 3rd goal was obtained dubiously, as an Argentine forward had elbowed the ball accidentally, which placed it in a perfect spot for the other Argentine forward to kick it into the goal. Not many people noticed it at the time, including the referee, so the goal was counted.

And then came the final Round of 16 match, the reigning World Champions Scotland versus the team they knocked out in the semi-finals, Austria. The Scottish were confident in their ability to win; they were the best in the world, after all. The Austrians, meanwhile, had come prepared for this exact match-up, privy to Scotland’s violent playstyle. While the Scottish began with the initiative and scored 2 goals in the entire first half and not much else, what followed in the second half was something nobody could have expected: Austria scored a goal… then another… then another… then 3 more. In the span of 7 minutes. Then, they fell on the hard defensive, barely ever going beyond the midfield. The Scottish tried to go for their usual strategies, but they failed as the Austrian players mostly evaded them and passed the ball to each other at regular short intervals until the end of the match. The English crowds rejoiced to see Scotland’s hopes and dreams utterly crushed and their reigning World Champions title snatched away in the very first round of the World Cup.

By the end of the 21st of May, these were the fixtures:
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The 1910 England World Cup of Football – Quarter-finals

The 1910 England World Cup of Football – Quarter-finals​

After 4 days of rest, on the 25th of May, the quarter-finals began. Denmark, Sweden, Argentina and Austria already had experience with this stage, while England, the Netherlands, São Paulo and New South Wales would see it for the first time, creating an interesting dichotomy.

The first match was highly anticipated: England vs. the Netherlands. Record-breaking crowds attended the match, boosting the morale of the English players. Both teams were pretty even, and the Dutch replicated what they had done in the previous World Cup against Sweden, making far too many shots against the goal. The English had the complete opposite problem, where they had no opportunities to shoot at the goal as the Dutch defenders blocked them from doing so every time. Right before the end of the first half, the English goalkeeper walked up to the midfield and kicked the ball forwards; the ball slowly travelled towards the goal, and the Dutch goalkeeper dropped to grab it, but missed and the ball went right through him. In an attempt to get it back, the goalkeeper accidentally pushed it into the goal, and the first own goal in World Cup history was recorded. During the second half, the English scored a goal against that same goalkeeper and kept the scoreline at 2-0, advancing to the semi-finals to the deafening cheers of the crowd.

Denmark, the favourites, had to go up against a completely new adversary, São Paulo. The Danish took time to accustom to the Paulista style of play, conceding a goal in the meantime, but striking back with 2 more goals before the end of the first half. São Paulo was desperate to score another goal, to the point of completely exhausting the Danish defence and leaving everything up to the busy goalkeeper. The goalkeeper managed to stop all of the shots and cheered his team on to keep playing and secure their victory, which they did with another goal at 74’, ending São Paulo’s debut run.

Sweden was afraid to go up against New South Wales. They knew about the luck they had in the Round of 16, and this was their first real match after wiping the floor with the Trinidadians. The game was a struggle, and a very dull one at that, as neither side wanted to lose. The ball mostly hung around the midfield, only occasionally going near the goal, until a Swedish midfielder broke the ice and scored a long-distance goal. It was far too late for the NSW side to recover, and Sweden went on to the semi-finals.

Argentina and Austria would see a rematch of their 3rd place game in the previous World Cup. This time, however, they were full of energy and there were real stakes behind the match, and they proved so on the field. The first half ended in a 2-2 draw and the bout was described as one of the most marvellous of the World Cup, with many close calls and a lot of conflict with the referee over dubious fouls from both sides. After a long back-and-forth, Austria broke through with 2 more goals and secured their place in the semi-finals as Argentina went home.

The semi-finals appeared to be even more exciting than last time, with the English rejoicing that they had a fair chance to snatch the World Cup trophy for themselves and rub it in Scotland’s faces for the next 4 years…
The 1910 England World Cup of Football – Semi-finals?

The 1910 England World Cup of Football – Semi-finals?​

4 days came and went, and it was now time for the semi-finals.

England and Denmark were considered strong candidates for the cup since even before the qualifiers, so this was a very anticipated match. A large crowd had gone to White Hart Lane to watch the match with great prospects, and the players were ready to go out into the field. As they were coming out, however, they received terrible news…

A few minutes before this, in Manchester, at the United Football Ground, the Austrian and Swedish sides were getting ready to go out to the pitch. However, something began to happen to the structure of the stadium. The stadium was over capacity that day; while it could only hold 80,000 people, it estimated that roughly 120,000 people were in the stadium at that time. This over-capacity ended up being too much for the outer parts of the stadium, and sections of the roof in certain areas began to collapse. While the damage was initially minimal, the falling roof began to mash people together into a few spots, causing a multitude of injuries for those caught in the crush. Some audience members spilled into the stadium.

It took 7 minutes for tragedy to occur. The roof above the teams’ lockers collapsed all at once, at full force. Most of the players and the people accompanying them ended up crushed by both the roof and (mostly) the mass of people that fell on top of them. Out of 22 players, 12 survived the incident, and only 1 managed to escape without injury. 68 people died during the incident with an estimated 2000 injured. Both the Austrian and Swedish side had lost many of their best players and were unable to continue participating in the tournament.

FIFA officials stepped out into the pitch at White Hart Lane to announce the news. The England side was instantly disqualified from the World Cup, the FA was to be suspended from FIFA, and a 2-0 victory was awarded to Denmark by default, making this match the unofficial final. No trophy ceremony was held, and people were told to leave the stadium and go home. Fighting broke out, but this was quelled without any major hassle.

Denmark became World Champions without ever going to the final and without kicking a ball during the last match they "played". No 3rd place or 4th place ranking was determined.
The 1910 England World Cup of Football – Aftermath

The 1910 England World Cup of Football – Aftermath​

The immediate aftermath of the news left conflicted feelings on the Danish. Should they be happy that they are World Champions? Is this really a victory, winning by default due to the occurrence of such a tragedy? The English, meanwhile, were angry. They were getting severely punished for something that was the fault of just one club and their shoddy business practices, ruining the World Cup for everyone. Most of the survivors of the Swedish and Austrian teams would never be able to play again, while others willingly chose to never play again. By the end of the month, only 2 Austrian players and 1 Swedish player chose to keep playing football.

Sanctions piled on top of the FA from FIFA, with a kick in the gut and a suspension from international play until after the next World Cup. Manchester United, the owners of the stadium that collapsed, could not bear the weight of sanctions from FIFA, the FA and the British government all at once, and the club went into liquidation. A great shame, considering that the club had already won the league once and the Charity Shield just 8 years after their first liquidation as Newton Heath. United Football Ground was to be torn down, but was purchased by a wealthy man looking to start his own club in that ground.

FIFA was brought down from their 6-year high. The World Cup had suddenly taken a massive hit, despite seeming like such a success before. While this Cup still broke attendance records and had even more eyes on it than last time, the lower quality of the matches could not be ignored. The current qualification system was seen as reductive to the quality of the World Cup, and let teams like Trinidad and Tobago, the Isle of Man and Hong Kong into what is supposed to be a tournament for the best teams in the world, while teams such as Wales, Hungary, Bohemia and Belgium were left in the dust during the qualifiers. The board of FIFA threatened Woolfall to either change the system radically or step down from his post.

The World Cup would still be held again in 1914, and new associations would still be accepted into FIFA for the time being, but things would remain turbulent at the Federation for a long while after this incident. The 1912 Olympics were right around the corner, and the tournament then would be as big as the World Cup, so FIFA began preparations for that event.

Woolfall would feel light headaches consistently for the rest of his tenure at FIFA.
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A few minutes before this, in Manchester, at the United Football Ground, the Austrian and Swedish sides were getting ready to go out to the pitch. However, something began to happen to the structure of the stadium. The stadium was over capacity that day; while it could only hold 80,000 people, it estimated that roughly 120,000 people were in the stadium at that time. This over-capacity ended up being too much for the outer parts of the stadium, and sections of the roof in certain areas began to collapse. While the damage was initially minimal, the falling roof began to mash people together into a few spots, causing a multitude of injuries for those caught in the crush. Some audience members spilled into the stadium.
Wonder if this butterflies away other such disasters in Britain (I'm thinking of the infamous Hillsborough tragedy, also caused by poor crowd control (1))
The World Cup would still be held again in 1914, and new associations would still be accepted into FIFA for the time being, but things would remain turbulent at the Federation for a long while after this incident. The 1912 Olympics were right around the corner, and the tournament then would be as big as the World Cup, so FIFA began preparations for that event.

Woolfall would feel light headaches consistently for the rest of his tenure at FIFA.
Um, yeah, the 1914 World Cup ain't going to happen because of, well, the First World War (I doubt that would be butterflied away, IMO)...

(1) RIP to the 96 in Hillsborough (and to all those who have died in other such disasters through history)...
Um, yeah, the 1914 World Cup ain't going to happen because of, well, the First World War (I doubt that would be butterflied away, IMO)...
WW1 began in July 28, 1914. The World Cup would happen on May 1914, and end mere weeks before ol' Archduke gets shot.
You left out the winners of the 1904 Summer Olympics!!! Bah!!! Just kidding.
B-b-b-but I did mention them!!! Look!!!:

1904, 1905 and 1906 – Preparation Matches and the Imperial Cup​

Football did come to the Olympic Games again, but due to the nature of the St. Louis games, only 3 teams played; 2 American and 1 Canadian. The Canadian Galt F.C. beat out both American teams to take the gold medal. The only effect this really had was increase FIFA’s interest in North America.
1910, 1911 and 1912 – The 1912 Olympics and New Entrants into FIFA

1910, 1911 and 1912 – The 1912 Olympics and New Entrants into FIFA​

The rest of 1910 and 1911 were relatively uneventful. On June 29th 1912, the football tournament at the Olympic Games was about to begin. 16 national selections played in this tournament, equalling the size of the World Cup. However, they were exclusively from Europe and North America. What happened in this tournament sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world.

The first match was contested by a combined Great Britain team. Due to the FA being banned from FIFA, this team could not field English players, so it was exclusively made up of Scottish and Welsh players. This combination defeated Belgium 7-0. The second match, Hungary v France, gave the French their first ever victory in an international tournament, scoring 3 goals against Hungary’s 1. Finland and Italy made their international tournament debut; Finland stomped Italy 5-0. Russia would make their debut in the next match, recently being accepted into FIFA, but they would be beaten out by the Canadians 2-0. Reigning “World Champions” Denmark defeated Bohemia 4-1. Norway and the United States, both debutants, faced each other in the next match, and the USA barely beat out Norway 3-2. The next two matches featured hosts Sweden and Austria facing the Netherlands and Germany respectively. Expectedly, neither team was up to par to their previous skill level, and were knocked out by their opponents 4-2 and 2-0 respectively.

The quarter-finals featured a heated match between the British and the French, their first ever international encounter. The British would come out on top 2-1. Finland faced Canada and was decimated 6-1. The next match was the biggest surprise of them all: the United States, in their second ever match against a European team, which just so happened to be the reigning World Champions, knocked out Denmark 4-1, advancing to the semi-finals. The Netherlands and Germany had an exhausting game that ended 7-3.

The semi-finals were even more shocking; Canada defeated Great Britain 2-1 after extra time, and the United States scraped a win against the Netherlands 1-0. For the first time ever in an international competition, two North American teams would face each other in the final. Great Britain kicked the Netherlands to the curb 4-0 to take the bronze medal, and all that was left was Canada vs. the United States, a match that would kick-start a long footballing rivalry between the two nations. After a very intense match, the United States managed to triumph over Canada 5-3 and took their Olympic gold. Media outlets dubbed them the unofficial World Champions for both knocking out the reigning World Champion and coming out on top of an extremely similar competition to the World Cup.

Europe’s footballing crown had been taken. Canada and the United States sat on top of the world in terms of international footballing clout, and fans were anxious to see how they would perform in the 1914 World Cup.

Between 1910 and 1913, the following associations entered FIFA:
  • Barbados
  • Iceland
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Liberia
  • Papua
  • Poland
  • Russia
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Cool stuff, were there similar proposals for the inclusion of regional teams IRL?
Sadly, no. Regional teams were and still are abundant, but a grand majority of them never even tried to join FIFA and very few joined organizations such as ConIFA or the NF-Board.
1913 and 1914 – World Cup Qualifiers Draw

1913 and 1914 – World Cup Qualifiers Draw​

At a FIFA meeting following the Olympics, the hosts for the next World Cup were to be determined. 3 nations stepped up to the plate as candidates: Denmark, France and Germany. France and Germany’s candidacies were thrown out due to their relatively poor footballing record, so Denmark was chosen as the next nation to host the World Cup on May 1914. Qualifiers for the World Cup would begin in July 1913. This time around, Woolfall had come up with a new qualification system: instead of being grouped by proximity, nations would be grouped by continent, and would be randomly drawn into groups. Nations that were perceived to be better at football would be kept apart as mediocre nations would be strewn about. This time around, 9 slots were allotted to Europe, 4 to the Americas and 2 to the rest of the world, with the remaining slot reserved for reigning Champions and hosts Denmark.

Europe would play 7 five-team groups and 1 four-team group, with the best second placed team out of those groups also advancing, the Americas would play 3 four-team groups and 1 five-team group, and the rest of the world would play two knockout tournaments akin to the World Cup, with the winner of each one advancing to the World Cup itself; due to there being 15 teams in the rest of the world, New South Wales would get a bye to the second round.

These were the pots used in the European and American draws:

The results of the draws were the following:
  • Group 1: Scotland, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, León
  • Group 2: Bohemia, Isle of Man, Luxembourg, Castile, Aragon
  • Group 3: Wales, France, Jersey, Croatia-Slavonia, Cantabria
  • Group 4: Netherlands, Italy, Malta, Basque Country, Gibraltar
  • Group 5: Sweden, Hungary, Alderney, Poland, Catalonia
  • Group 6: Austria, Germany, Jutland, Galicia and Lodomeria, Valencia
  • Group 7: Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Iceland, Galicia
  • Group 8: Finland, Ireland, Guernsey, Andalusia
  • Group 9: Argentina, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Quebec, Barbados
  • Group 10: São Paulo, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, Jamaica
  • Group 11: Canada, Uruguay, Paraguay, British Guiana
  • Group 12: United States, Mexico, Pará, Haiti
The Rest of the World tournaments were divided into two halves:
  • Half 1: New South Wales (bye), Hong Kong v Singapore, Victoria v Tasmania, Queensland v South Australia
  • Half 2: South Africa v Liberia, Japan v Philippines, New Zealand v Papua, Western Australia v Bengal
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Here's a question for you all: While I do keep a list ready for which associations I'll add into FIFA every passing year... which regional associations would you want to see in this TL? I do keep track of regional associations that exist in OTL like the ones in ConIFA but if you have a particular region you want me to give a football team to (that doesn't have one or hasn't had one for many decades in OTL) I'd be happy to do it, as long as it makes sense.