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 .
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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    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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    1913 and 1914 – World Cup Qualifiers (Europe)
  • 1913 and 1914 – World Cup Qualifiers (Europe)​

    The following are the results of every qualifier group:

    Group 1​

    León 1-7 Belgium
    Portugal 0-0 Romania
    Scotland 8-0 León
    Belgium 4-2 Romania
    Portugal 1-2 Scotland
    Romania 5-2 León
    Scotland 4-0 Romania
    Portugal 3-0 Belgium
    Belgium 2-3 Scotland
    León 4-4 Portugal

    Group 2​

    Aragon 6-0 Isle of Man
    Castile 8-1 Luxembourg
    Bohemia 3-2 Aragon
    Isle of Man 2-5 Luxembourg
    Castile 2-2 Bohemia
    Luxembourg 3-6 Aragon
    Bohemia 14-0 Luxembourg
    Castile 9-1 Isle of Man
    Isle of Man 2-15 Bohemia
    Aragon 0-0 Castile

    Group 3​

    Cantabria 2-1 France
    Croatia-Slavonia 7-0 Jersey
    Wales 3-2 Cantabria
    France 11-0 Jersey
    Croatia-Slavonia 0-0 Wales
    Jersey 1-6 Cantabria
    Wales 8-2 Jersey
    Croatia-Slavonia 3-3 France
    France 2-0 Wales
    Cantabria 4-2 Croatia-Slavonia

    Group 4​

    Gibraltar 0-7 Italy
    Basque Country 8-3 Malta
    Netherlands 15-2 Gibraltar
    Italy 0-0 Malta
    Basque Country 0-3 Netherlands
    Malta 2-1 Gibraltar
    Netherlands 8-0 Malta
    Basque Country 2-3 Italy
    Italy 0-2 Netherlands
    Gibraltar 0-21 Basque Country

    Group 5​

    Catalonia 1-1 Hungary
    Poland 12-0 Alderney
    Sweden 1-5 Catalonia
    Hungary 26-0 Alderney
    Poland 4-1 Sweden
    Alderney 0-34 Catalonia
    Sweden 17-0 Alderney
    Poland 3-3 Hungary
    Hungary 6-2 Sweden
    Catalonia 0-0 Poland

    Group 6​

    Valencia 1-3 Germany
    Galicia and Lodomeria 2-0 Jutland
    Austria 2-2 Valencia
    Germany 0-1 Jutland
    Galicia and Lodomeria 4-2 Austria
    Jutland 5-1 Valencia
    Austria 3-2 Jutland
    Galicia and Lodomeria 0-7 Germany
    Germany 0-0 Austria
    Valencia 3-1 Galicia and Lodomeria

    Group 7​

    Galicia 0-5 Norway
    Iceland 1-15 Russia
    Switzerland 8-0 Galicia
    Norway 2-2 Russia
    Iceland 0-9 Switzerland
    Russia 1-1 Galicia
    Switzerland 5-0 Russia
    Iceland 0-2 Norway
    Norway 0-4 Switzerland
    Galicia 3-0 Iceland

    Group 8​

    Andalusia 1-1 Finland
    Guernsey 2-17 Ireland
    Finland 16-0 Guernsey
    Andalusia 3-1 Ireland
    Ireland 2-4 Finland
    Andalusia 13-0 Guernsey

    2nd place rankings​


    The European qualifiers went by without a hitch. For the first time, goal average was used to break ties instead of replaying matches. These qualification matches were quite popular compared to the previous Cup’s qualifiers, as they had many more competitive groups and surprises. They also had many new records, including the most goals in an international match (Catalonia scoring 34 against Alderney, beating the Isle of Man's previous record against the same team by 1 goal). Cantabria's victory was seen as the most surprising of them all, beating out previous World Cup teams France and Wales. Austria and Sweden performed far worse than they once had and completely failed to qualify.

    While there were a lot of praises for the qualifiers, there were a few criticisms, like certain teams (most commonly Alderney (which conceded 89 goals in 4 matches), Guernsey, Jersey, Gibraltar and Iceland) being extremely bad and free points for the teams that had to face them, while more competitive groups (such as Group 6, with only a 2 point difference between 1st place Germany and 5th place Valencia) struggled to get above the rest. Woolfall and FIFA assured people that this was a quirk of the introduction of the new system, and it would be ironed out by the next World Cup in 1918.
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    1913 and 1914 – World Cup Qualifiers (Americas and the Rest of the World)
  • 1913 and 1914 – World Cup Qualifiers (Americas and the Rest of the World)​

    Group 9​

    Barbados 0-9 Rio de Janeiro
    Quebec 1-2 Bahia
    Argentina 14-0 Barbados
    Rio de Janeiro 2-2 Bahia
    Quebec 1-1 Argentina
    Bahia 5-1 Barbados
    Argentina 6-0 Bahia
    Quebec 2-0 Rio de Janeiro
    Rio de Janeiro 0-0 Argentina
    Barbados 1-5 Quebec

    Group 10​

    Jamaica 1-1 São Paulo
    Chile 6-1 Trinidad and Tobago
    São Paulo 4-3 Chile
    Jamaica 2-0 Trinidad and Tobago
    Trinidad and Tobago 0-9 São Paulo
    Jamaica 1-1 Chile

    Group 11​

    British Guiana 0-7 Canada
    Paraguay 2-3 Uruguay
    Canada 4-0 Paraguay
    British Guiana 1-12 Uruguay
    Uruguay 1-4 Canada
    British Guiana 0-6 Paraguay

    Group 12​

    Haiti 1-5 United States
    Pará 2-2 Mexico
    United States 4-2 Pará
    Haiti 1-9 Mexico
    Mexico 1-2 United States
    Haiti 0-0 Pará

    While, as expected, only Pot A teams qualified to the World Cup, there were 2 teams in particular that surprised everyone: Quebec and Jamaica. Their second-place finishes destroyed expectations as Rio de Janeiro severely underperformed and ended up 4th, while Chile's overconfidence got the better of them and they ended 3rd.

    Half 1​


    Half 2​


    While the results of the first half weren't surprising, the results of the second half were; Bengal had beaten South Africa and became the second Asian team to qualify for the World Cup.

    The qualifiers had ensured that this next World Cup would be very interesting, with a few returning veterans and a bunch of newcomers. FIFA was hopeful that the quality of the matches would be far superior to the previous World Cup, and that no incidents could stop it. While audiences were smaller in Denmark, many Europeans and people from around the world would travel to go see the tournament.
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    The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – Round of 16
  • The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – Round of 16​

    And so, it was time for the World Cup once again. Crowds were not as large as they were in England, but they were still sizeable, with large proportions of non-Danish fans who had travelled to see their teams duke it out in the most prestigious footballing competition in the world. The draw’s prerequisite this time was that no neighbouring nations would be paired up, and, as always, that the hosts would get the top seed. These were the results of the draw:

    This time, nearly every match looked like a toss-up. The qualifiers had done wonders at showing how teams could truly handle international competition and not just competition against their neighbours. The most hyped-up match was the Netherlands vs. Scotland, two great teams facing each other in the first round.

    The opening match was Denmark vs. Andalusia. As always, the hosts made quick work of the opposing team, scoring 2 goals in the first half. The Andalusians put up a valiant effort, with one shot in particular hitting the upper left corner of the goalposts and bouncing along the line, but the ball never went through and was thrown away by the goalkeeper. Denmark scored another in the second half and buried Andalusia’s World Cup dreams.

    Up next was Germany against New South Wales. This was a heated match, and the Germans’ first experience against the Australians, which played a much more different and tactical game compared to them. The Germans had used an incredibly strange 8-2 formation with no midfielders; the reason for this is unknown to this day, but it worked in deflecting many shots from the New South Welshmen. However, they let 2 of them pass, and could only retaliate with one goal in the second half, sepulting their chances of going forward, and a victory for NSW.

    Newcomers Cantabria would face Switzerland next. The Swiss were hungry for a World Cup victory, having been knocked out in the first round twice in a row. They gave the Cantabrians a hard time, scoring 3 goals in the first half leaving them hopeless. However, the Cantabria side suddenly had a burst of energy and scored 2 goals in 10 minutes, but the Swiss instantly fell into a defensive position and would not let any shots even be on target. Next thing they knew, it was the end of the match, and the Swiss had finally gotten their first World Cup triumph.

    Argentina was to face Catalonia in the next match. The Catalans were confident in their ability to succeed, as they had gone up against Hungary and Sweden previously and won out over both in their group, but they were given a wake-up call when the Argentines began decimating them with 3 goals in the first half. They were utterly hopeless and watched as 2 more goals went right past them and they could barely get the ball in their possession at midfield. The referee blew his whistle, and Argentina once again found itself in the quarter-finals.

    Favourites the United States squared up against Bohemia. Bohemia as a team at this point was considered “decent”: good enough to qualify for the World Cup, but not good enough to get any meaningful results. And they showed it on the pitch that day; the United States wrecked them 4 goals to 1, with Bohemia’s only goal coming from a penalty. The lack of crowd support did not help, as many Americans had come to watch the World Cup while relatively few Bohemians did.

    And then came the most exciting match of the first round: the Netherlands against previous World Champions Scotland. Scotland’s winning squad in 1906 had mostly retired at this point, so the Scottish did not have the same confidence nor the same violent playstyle that subdued teams in the past. However, they were still a formidable force, and, with England still suspended, became the representatives for the United Kingdom on the world stage. The Netherlands would not go down so easily, though. The two teams kicked the ball back-and-forth with horrendous misses on both sides, and the match had to go into overtime as the scoreline was 0-0 by the 90th minute. After 36 gruelling minutes, the exhausted Dutch side relented and let a goal go past, allowing Scotland to advance to the next round.

    São Paulo had to face newcomers Bengal. It was clear that Bengal had never gone up against a real World Cup team before, and it showed. São Paulo knocked them into submission with 2 goals, but the Bengalese took their time to learn the Paulista playstyle and adapt, equalizing them before the end of the first half. On the second half, the Paulistas went into overdrive, with fouls left and right and a goalkeeper that deflected 3 penalties against the Bengalese. São Paulo managed to score 2 more goals and secured their place in the quarter-finals.

    The final match of the round of 16 was Canada, THE favourites to win, versus Hungary. Unexpectedly, the Hungarians switched up their usual attacking formation for a far more defensive one, which sent the Canadians for a spin and hampered their ability to score goals. Hungary’s defensive strategy ended up being their detriment, as all of the few attacks they sent out were quashed before they could even reach the goal. Eventually, a Canadian player weaved his way around the Hungarian defence and managed to score a goal in the 87th minute, ending the match 1-0 and ending Hungary’s run.

    May 21st had ended, and the bracket now looked like this:
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    The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – Quarter-finals
  • The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – Quarter-finals​

    4 days went by as quickly as they could, and it was the 25th of May once again. Many had noticed that, for the first time ever, non-European teams outnumbered European teams in the quarter-finals. Many saw this as a sign that football was slowly but surely improving all around the world, and that Europe, its antiquated tactics and elitist nature had to catch up to the modern day.

    The first match was contested between hosts and World Champions Denmark and New South Wales. The hosts once again showed their football superiority by running circles around the New South Welshmen, knocking them out of the competition with 4 goals and no chance for recovery for the Australians. The second half of the game was of interest to many football historians: it is said that one New South Wales player simply went up and left the pitch without being noticed by anyone and without anyone realizing that it had happened. Said player never returned home and was never seen again, until, 5 years later, he signed up for Danish team Aarhus Gymnastikforening and began playing for them.

    Then there was Switzerland vs. Argentina. The Swiss were out for blood, especially now that they were facing the team that had knocked them out in the previous World Cup. The “boring Swiss football” was not present here; instead, Switzerland played an aggressive attacking game, which the Argentines were not prepared for and could not adapt to, letting 2 goals pass right through them as they were unable to score one themselves. Instead of falling back on the defence like usual, the Swiss kept attacking, but the Argentines had already grown accustomed to their strategies; however, they were unable to attack the goal in any real capacity for the entire second half, and Switzerland advanced to the semi-finals for the first time.

    The United States and Scotland contested their place in the semi-finals, and it was quite the battle. 1-1 by the end of the first half, 2-2 by the end of the second half. The match would have to be determined in extra time, and this was an obscenely long extra time: 178 minutes, reminding Scottish fans of the extremely long extra time given to the 1906 final. Many fouls, penalties, close calls and arguments with the referee later, and the tie was finally broken by an extremely slow, pitiful goal by an American forward. Controversially, this goal was allowed to go in by the Scottish goalkeeper, who was collapsed on the ground, barely capable of moving. Thanks to this match, FIFA would begin to consider better tie-breaking measures that aren’t extra time and replays.

    São Paulo and Canada had to face each other next, and this match shocked the world. Canada scored 1 goal in the first half, and it looked likely for the Paulistas to equalize the game. What happened in the second half was… unexpected. Canada went in and scored a goal a few seconds after the referee’s whistle blew, and began scoring goals like machines, as even the goalkeeper got in on the fun by going up to the opposing team’s goal and kicking a ball in when no-one was expecting it. The match ended 7-1, with a lot of angry Brazilians in the crowd and stunned Danish, thinking that they’d probably have to face them in the final.

    After a very exciting day of football, these were the fixtures:
    The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – Semi-finals
  • The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – Semi-finals​

    4 days later, and it was time for the semi-finals. No tragedies or incidents this time.

    Denmark vs. Switzerland was an interesting match-up. Switzerland had gone on a miracle run to get to this point, brushing off the Cantabrians and the Argentines, and now had to face the Goliath that was Denmark. The Danish would get the drop on them by scoring in the 3rd minute, and keeping their lead for the entire first half. The Swiss had still led a fierce attack, for which the Danish were prepared for but still taken aback by it. During the second half, the Swiss broke through and scored an equalizer. The Swiss then scored again in the next minute… but this was annulled. The Swiss forward that had scored the goal had bumped into the referee and made him trip over and fall as he scored the goal. The Danish crowd breathed a sigh of relief as the Swiss, with their typical mild manners, grumbled to themselves and went right back to playing. The Danish got ahead with another goal and ended the match 2-1, advancing to the final once again.

    And then came a very anticipated rematch: the United States vs. Canada. There was still a lot of animosity from the Olympics, and a very loud American crowd that had come to Denmark to cheer their team on. At the beginning, this match was looking to be one of the most boring of the entire tournament. It was clear neither side wanted to go on the initiative, as that could open up the defence and allow the other team to score. Therefore, a tug-of-war with the ball ensued, where it hung around the midfield as the Americans and Canadians kept taking it off of each other, unable to possess it for very long. Eventually, though, in the 38th minute, a Canadian midfielder broke the stalemate and scored a goal. It was expected that the Canadians would park the bus, but they kept attacking, as the Americans tried their hardest to push back. Now, instead of defending, both teams were attacking, which meant both defences were open wide. Both teams’ nets ate a ton of goals, and the final scoreline looked to be 7-7, until, at the very last minute, an American goal got through. The cheers of the American and the drunk Danish crowd thundered throughout the stadium, and the Canadians knew that was the time to go home. America had reached the final.

    The much-anticipated fixtures had been set in stone:
    The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – 3rd Place Match and Final
  • The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – 3rd Place Match and Final​

    The 3rd place match was surprisingly competitive this time around: Switzerland wanted to at least come out 3rd best during their miracle run, and Canada was looking to prove they were still among the best in the world despite not making it to the final. The Swiss were fierce, and got the upper hand by scoring in the 16th minute. The Canadians pushed back with 2 goals, and then the first half ended. During the second half, the exhaustion had set in: both sides were tired of the nerves and the footballing, so they let loose. There was an infamous illustration of what had happened during the match, where 2 Swiss players and 3 Canadian players briefly sat down and talked while other players were near the Swiss goal. Seconds after that moment, the Canadians scored another goal and cemented their 3rd place position.

    And now, the final. Yet another rematch. Denmark, reigning World Champions, were looking to get revenge on the United States for knocking them out of the Olympic tournament, and also to prove that they were deserving of the title of World Champions, as they had obtained it dubiously in the previous World Cup. The United States, Olympic gold medallists, were looking to no longer be unofficial World Champions, but official, to win the most prestigious footballing competition in the world. There were a lot of stakes behind this match, and two very noisy crowds of fans that had gathered in Copenhagen to watch the match.

    The referee blew his whistle, and the match began. Both sides were well aware of the other’s tactics, so the beginning of the match was slow, but there were a few hearty attacks, mostly from the Americans. The Danish began the storm by scoring a goal at 25’, and the Americans retaliated 10 minutes later with a long distance goal from the very centre of the field. Then at 41’, the United States scored another goal, and put themselves on top. The Danes spent the last 4 minutes repeatedly kicking the ball at the American goal, with the American defence completely hopeless at stopping their relentless attack, but the goalkeeper’s skill prevented any balls from going in.

    Second half. The Danish started things off strong by scoring a goal at 50’, shocking the Americans, who thought they had victory in the bag. Then came the deadlock: America had experienced this before in the previous match, but the ball would just not leave the midfield. Out of frustration, an American player kicked the ball so hard it went out of the stadium and into the street outside, breaking the window of a nearby store. The Danes were also frustrated and began employing a Scotland-like strategy of constant fouling. By the 80th minute, both sides had had enough.

    A goalkeeper grabbed the ball after a failed shot. He passed it onto a defender, who passed it to a midfielder. Neither forward was available, so the midfielder had to go at it alone. He went up to the goalkeeper, as the goalkeeper was ready to catch the ball if the midfielder were to try for goal. Then, the midfielder stomps his foot, and sends the ball flying in an arc over the goalkeeper’s head and into the goal.

    Goal for America.

    10 minutes pass with no serious attempts at goal.

    The referee blows his whistle.

    The United States are World Champions.
    The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – Aftermath
  • The 1914 Denmark World Cup of Football – Aftermath​

    The immediate aftermath of the final came with the coronation of the United States of America as World Champions. The Danish crowds and team were dumbfounded. Sports journalists quickly began writing their match reports and imagining crazy headlines: EUROPE’S FOOTBALL CROWN TAKEN! AMERICA ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS! THE NEW AGE OF INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL? As the Americans lifted the trophy, absolute euphoria was heard from the American crowds, which had grown in size since the start of the tournament.

    The news quickly reached the rest of the world, as did the shock. It was the talk of the town for many days following the final, and everyone at FIFA was glad this World Cup went far better than last time, with much better football and many exciting matches.

    However, this was 1914. June 1914. Gavrilo Princip would shoot Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28th, 1914. One month later, Austria-Hungary would declare war on Serbia. Russia would declare war on Austria-Hungary. Germany would declare war on Russia. A chain reaction would embroil all of Europe and their possessions in war. The world, and, most importantly, football, would never be the same again. FIFA immediately suspended all operations, and would remain dormant until the end of the war.
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    1916 – The South American Championship & the Foundation of CONMEBOL
  • 1916 – The South American Championship & the Foundation of CONMEBOL​

    As the Great War was raging on in Europe, South America was going about its business as usual. In the year 1916, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Argentine independence, the Argentine Minister of Foreign Relations donated a trophy and handed invitations to the football associations of Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Pará to hold a football tournament as part of the celebrations. All invited associations showed up to the tournament, and participated in the first ever official South American international footballing tournament in history.

    The format of the tournament was two groups of 4 would all play against each other once, then the first-place teams of each group would advance to the final. Argentina won the first group while Uruguay won the second, and the Uruguayans beat the Argentines 2-0 in the final and took the trophy home. The tournament was considered a great success, and, as the tournament was going on, Montevideo Wanderers director Héctor Rivadavia Gómez saw his chance to realize a personal project of his: the creation of a South American football confederation. On July 9th, 1916, the 100 year anniversary date of Argentine independence, leaders from the 8 associations met in Buenos Aires to discuss the idea, and unanimously agreed via vote to create the organization. On the 5th of December of that same year, everything that was agreed on in the meeting was ratified in Montevideo, and the South American Football Confederation or CONMEBOL was born.
    The Unofficial 1917-1918 Argentina World Cup of Football
  • The Unofficial 1917-1918 Argentina World Cup of Football​

    By May 21st 1917, the date the next World Cup qualifiers were supposed to start, World War I was still very much raging on in Europe and other parts of the world. FIFA operations were still suspended, and fans from countries not in the war were getting restless for their World Cup fix. Seeing this, a wealthy Argentine entrepreneur decided to rent out many Buenos Aires stadiums and set up his own World Cup. He would gather many teams made up of immigrants living in Buenos Aires City and throughout Buenos Aires province, take a few shirts from Buenos Aires clubs and got a few flags sewn together, and borrowed the local league trophy. And thus, the unofficial 1918 World Cup of Football began.

    The teams that are known to have participated were:
    • Albania [1]
    • Argentina
    • Austria
    • Basque Country
    • Belgium
    • Bohemia
    • Byelorussia [1]
    • Cape Verde [1]
    • Croatia
    • Denmark
    • England
    • France
    • Galicia
    • Germany
    • Hungary
    • Ireland
    • Italy
    • Lithuania [1]
    • Macedonia [1]
    • Montenegro [1]
    • Netherlands
    • Poland [2]
    • Portugal
    • Russia
    • Scotland
    • Serbia [1]
    • Slovenia [1]
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • Syria [1]
    • Turkey [1]
    • Ukraine [1]
    • United States
    • Uruguay [3]
    [1] First ever representative team.
    [2] Featured the first ever use of the modern Polish flag in international competition.
    [3] Made up of sailors from Montevideo.

    The 35-team tournament would be held throughout 1917 and 1918. Teams would all play each other once, and whoever came out on top would be crowned “World Champions”. The final games were played on 21 May 1918, the date when the 1918 World Cup was supposed to start. The exact results of every match are mostly unknown, and the placings below the top five are disputed. The following are the most agreed-upon placements:
    1. Argentina
    2. Belgium
    3. England
    4. Spain
    5. Italy
    6. Uruguay
    7. Scotland
    8. Switzerland
    9. Denmark
    10. Slovenia
    11. Sweden
    12. Hungary
    13. Basque Country
    14. Netherlands
    15. Ireland
    There are no clear sources on the exact rankings of the bottom 20 teams. Due to the inexact nature of the results, and the fact that every team except Argentina was made up of immigrant workers, the tournament’s results are not recognized by FIFA, but the tournament itself is still honoured by the organization and seen as a part of international footballing history.
    1918, 1919 and 1920 – The Return and Near-Collapse of FIFA
  • 1918 and 1919– The Return and Near-Collapse of FIFA​

    On 24 October 1918, Daniel Burley Woolfall passed away. FIFA went into a state of pure chaos, as nobody knew what to do. Many FIFA officials had died during the war, and so did a plurality of football players in Europe, with many others who survived the war unwilling to play due to either injury or personal choice. Cornelis August Wilhelm Hirschman, one of the founders of the Dutch Olympic Committee and General Secretary of FIFA, took over the organization, almost single-handedly keeping it from falling apart and at his own costs, operating from his offices in Amsterdam.

    In 1919, he convened an assembly in Brussels. There were a lot of grievances from the football associations of Europe; many would not be able to field their best players due to them being dead or too unwell to play ever again. Allied nations objected to the continued inclusion of Central Powers nations in the organization, and nations not involved in the war were mad that they had no fixtures to play for 4 years and all of the matches that were played during that time remained unrecognized by FIFA. There was also the issue of what to do with players and teams from regions that changed nationality after the war: Galicia and Lodomeria had been mostly absorbed into Poland, Bohemia had become a part of Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hungary lost major pieces of land that prevented them from fielding players they previously could, Croatia-Slavonia had become a part of Yugoslavia, Germany had lost access to players from the many areas that they had lost, etc.

    Further meetings managed to sort out the issues. Galicia and Lodomeria was expelled from FIFA for the time being and countries were only allowed to field players from their current territories. Bohemia would still represent the area of Bohemia as FIFA encouraged the newly formed Czechoslovakia to create associations for Moravia, the Sudetenland, Slovakia and Transcarpathia. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which had fully separated from Russia, were allowed into FIFA as the Russian Civil War was still raging on. Many other regional associations would begin to rise up during this time, especially in territories that changed hands after the war.

    During this process, the following associations joined FIFA:
    • Bombay
    • Burma
    • Congo
    • Egypt
    • Estonia
    • Greece
    • Guatemala
    • Iran
    • Latvia
    • Lithuania
    • Madras
    • Newfoundland
    • Peru
    • Siam
    • Suriname
    FIFA closed new applications until after the 1922 World Cup. During this time, they encouraged and tried foster the development of regional associations throughout the world.
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    1920 – Football at the 1920 Antwerp Summer Olympics
  • 1920 – Football at the 1920 Antwerp Summer Olympics​

    The 1920 Olympics football tournament in Antwerp (and Brussels… and Ghent) was the first major footballing competition following the war. 16 teams had arrived to play, with Egypt and Greece debuting in international competition for the first time, and New Zealand and Japan officially playing against teams outside of Asia, Africa and/or Oceania for the first time.

    The first match was hosts Belgium against Italy; Italy was no match for the Belgians, and lost 4-1. The next match was contested between New Zealand and Egypt, with New Zealand defeating Egypt 2-0. Luxembourg had to face Bohemia next, and was thrashed 11-0. Greece and Japan butted heads in the next match, and, unexpectedly, the Japanese won 2-0 over the Greeks. Norway vs. Canada was up next, and the Canadians scraped a 1-0 victory. The United States made quick work of the Netherlands 5-0, and so did a combined Great Britain team (this time featuring Englishmen along with the Scotsmen and the Welshmen, creating a full British team) against Sweden 6-1. Denmark beat France 2-1, and it was then time for the quarter-finals.

    The quarter-finals began with an intense match between Belgium and New Zealand that ended 5-4 after extra time. Japan continued their miracle run against Bohemia, beating them 3-0. The United States and Canada faced each other once again, and the United States proved their superiority in the rivalry by beating the Canadians back 3-2. Danes and Englishmen squared up for the first time since the 1910 World Cup, but they were not up to par and lost 3-1, allowing Denmark to advance to the semi-finals.

    In the semi-finals, Belgium put a stop to Japan’s miracle run 2-0, while a very anticipated rematch between the United States and Denmark took place. However, this rematch was a complete romp for the Americans as they defeated the Danish 4-1; Denmark had not sent their best players to the Olympics, while America had. In the 3rd place match, Denmark had to be content with taking the bronze medal as they defeated the exhausted but glad to have gotten that far Japanese 3-1. In the final, Belgium had to play yet another intense game against the United States, which ended 6-4 and the Americans kept their Olympic gold.

    After this tournament, the United States had cemented itself as the single greatest team in the world. The Europeans, having been severely weakened by the Great War, could not catch up to the level of the Americas, and the rest of the world was beginning to give them trouble, as exemplified by New Zealand getting close to knocking out the hosts during the quarter-finals, and Japan reaching the semi-finals while knocking out the Greeks and the Bohemians.
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    1921 and 1922 – Format Change and World Cup Qualifiers Draw
  • 1921 and 1922 – Format Change and World Cup Qualifiers Draw​

    Following the Olympics, FIFA met up once again to determine the hosts of the next World Cup. There were five candidates this time: the United States, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway. It was determined that, due to their recent results, the United States and Canada would be the only ones seriously considered. The United States narrowly beat out Canada in the voting, and they were chosen to host the next World Cup on May 1922. Qualifiers would begin in June 1921. The qualification system from the previous World Cup remained, but this time nations were more accurately placed as most had already played a few matches.

    Another decision made during this meeting was a BIG one: the World Cup format itself would change. Many at FIFA felt that 16 slots wasn’t enough to fully represent the world, and so multiple formats and expansions were proposed:
    • 20-team format with 4 groups of 5 teams, with the top 2 of each group advancing to the knockout stages.
    • 24-team format with 6 groups of 4 teams, with the top 2 of each group along with the 4 best third-placed teams advancing to the knockout stages.
    • 24-team format with 8 groups of 3 teams, with the winner of each group advancing to the knockout stages.
    • 32-team format, doubling the amount of teams and adding 1 extra round to the current knockout stages.
    The 24-team format with 6 groups of 4 teams became the most popular format with both FIFA officials and the associations, so it was decided to expand the World Cup to 24 teams. Most were glad that their teams had a higher chance to qualify, but others were wary of the expansion, saying that it would bog down the magic of the World Cup by filling it with worse teams and more games.

    This time around, Europe was allotted 15 slots, the Americas 5 slots, and Africa, Asia and Oceania 1 slot respectively with the final slot going to current champions and hosts the United States. Europe would play 11 4-team groups, with the winner of each automatically qualifying, and the top 8 second-placed teams advancing to a play-off round in which 4 would come out on top. The Americas would play 5 4-team groups, with the winner of each automatically qualifying. Africa would play only one 4-team group, Oceania would play 2 4-team groups with the winner of each qualifying for a play-off in which the winner would go on to the World Cup, and Asia would do the same but with 5-team groups.

    These were the pots used in the draws:

    The results of the draw were the following:
    • Group 1: Andalusia, Italy, Poland, Alderney
    • Group 2: Germany, France, Russia, Estonia
    • Group 3: Bohemia, Ireland, Romania, Latvia
    • Group 4: Switzerland, Sweden, Basque Country, Greece
    • Group 5: Scotland, Castile, Portugal, León
    • Group 6: Belgium, Jutland, Luxembourg, Guernsey
    • Group 7: Cantabria, Wales, Aragon, Gibraltar
    • Group 8: Denmark, Hungary, Galicia, Valencia
    • Group 9: Catalonia, Austria, Isle of Man, Jersey
    • Group 10: England, Norway, Croatia-Slavonia, Iceland
    • Group 11: Netherlands, Finland, Malta, Lithuania
    • Group 12: Canada, Chile, Pará, Newfoundland
    • Group 13: São Paulo, Jamaica, Haiti, Guatemala
    • Group 14: Quebec, Rio de Janeiro, Trinidad and Tobago, Surinam
    • Group 15: Uruguay, Bahia, Paraguay, Barbados
    • Group 16: Argentina, Mexico, British Guiana, Peru
    • Group 17: Bengal, Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, Madras
    • Group 18: Japan, Philippines, Siam, Iran, Bombay
    • Group 19: South Africa, Egypt, Liberia, Congo
    • Group 20: New Zealand, Victoria, Western Australia, Papua
    • Group 21: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania
    1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Europe)
  • 1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Europe)​

    The following are the results of every qualifier group:

    Group 1​

    Alderney 0-19 Alderney
    Poland 1-2 Italy
    Andalusia 0-0 Poland
    Alderney 0-23 Italy
    Italy 2-2 Andalusia
    Alderney 0-12 Poland

    Group 2​

    Estonia 0-4 Germany
    Russia 2-3 France
    Germany 2-2 Russia
    Estonia 1-5 France
    France 4-2 Germany
    Russia 0-0 Estonia

    Group 3​

    Latvia 0-9 Bohemia
    Romania 2-1 Ireland
    Bohemia 3-0 Romania
    Latvia 1-4 Ireland
    Ireland 2-9 Bohemia
    Latvia 1-7 Romania

    Group 4​

    Greece 0-3 Switzerland
    Basque Country 2-2 Sweden
    Switzerland 6-0 Basque Country
    Greece 1-7 Sweden
    Sweden 0-9 Switzerland
    Greece 1-1 Basque Country

    Group 5​

    León 0-6 Scotland
    Portugal 2-4 Castile
    Scotland 8-1 Portugal
    León 0-0 Castile
    Castile 0-2 Scotland
    León 0-3 Portugal

    Group 6​

    Guernsey 0-27 Belgium
    Luxembourg 1-4 Jutland
    Belgium 0-0 Luxembourg
    Guernsey 0-11 Jutland
    Jutland 0-3 Belgium
    Guernsey 0-9 Luxembourg

    Group 7​

    Gibraltar 0-8 Cantabria
    Aragon 2-1 Wales
    Cantabria 3-1 Aragon
    Gibraltar 0-10 Wales
    Wales 2-0 Cantabria
    Gibraltar 0-12 Aragon

    Group 8​

    Valencia 1-0 Denmark
    Galicia 2-4 Hungary
    Denmark 7-0 Galicia
    Valencia 2-7 Hungary
    Hungary 0-3 Denmark
    Valencia 0-2 Galicia

    Group 9​

    Jersey 0-20 Catalonia
    Isle of Man 0-11 Austria
    Catalonia 16-0 Isle of Man
    Jersey 0-22 Austria
    Austria 2-2 Catalonia
    Jersey 0-13 Isle of Man

    Group 10​

    Iceland 0-0 England
    Croatia-Slavonia 1-3 Norway
    England 2-1 Croatia-Slavonia
    Iceland 0-5 Norway
    Norway 4-2 England
    Iceland 1-6 Croatia-Slavonia

    Group 11​

    Lithuania 3-9 Netherlands
    Malta 2-5 Finland
    Netherlands 4-0 Malta
    Lithuania 2-7 Finland
    Finland 1-3 Netherlands
    Lithuania 1-1 Malta

    2nd place play-offs​


    The 2nd-placed teams were seeded and drawn according to placement, with the top 4 at home and the bottom 4 away.

    The European qualifiers had a fair few notable moments: Cantabria (Group 7) were knocked out in 3rd place by goal average despite having 4 points, Denmark (Group 8) had quite the scare as they lost their first fixture against Valencia, England (Group 10) had an embarassing performance and was knocked out with 2 points and no victories, and Switzerland (Group 4) once again went through the entire stage without conceding a goal.
    1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Americas)
  • 1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Americas)​


    Group 12​

    Newfoundland 1-6 Canada
    Pará 2-2 Chile
    Canada 4-0 Pará
    Newfoundland 1-1 Chile
    Chile 0-0 Canada
    Newfoundland 3-2 Pará

    Group 13​

    Guatemala 0-6 São Paulo
    Haiti 1-1 Jamaica
    São Paulo 4-1 Haiti
    Guatemala 2-5 Jamaica
    Jamaica 2-8 São Paulo
    Guatemala 0-1 Haiti

    Group 14​

    Surinam 0-4 Quebec
    Trinidad and Tobago 1-7 Rio de Janeiro
    Quebec 8-3 Trinidad and Tobago
    Surinam 0-6 Rio de Janeiro
    Rio de Janeiro 2-0 Quebec
    Surinam 5-1 Trinidad and Tobago

    Group 15​

    Barbados 0-14 Uruguay
    Paraguay 2-0 Bahia
    Uruguay 4-3 Paraguay
    Barbados 0-4 Bahia
    Bahia 2-4 Uruguay
    Barbados 0-9 Paraguay

    Group 16​

    Peru 1-3 Argentina
    British Guiana 0-2 Mexico
    Argentina 8-0 British Guiana
    Peru 3-2 Mexico
    Mexico 0-0 Argentina
    Peru 1-1 British Guiana

    There weren't any surprises in these qualifiers, except for one: Rio de Janeiro (Group 14) qualified to the World Cup for the first time!
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    1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Asia)
  • 1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Asia)​


    Group 17​

    Madras 4-0 Hong Kong
    Burma 2-2 Singapore
    Bengal 7-0 Madras
    Hong Kong 3-1 Singapore
    Burma 0-0 Bengal
    Singapore 0-6 Madras
    Bengal 5-1 Singapore
    Burma 2-4 Hong Kong
    Hong Kong 0-9 Bengal
    Madras 3-3 Burma

    Group 18​

    Bombay 8-0 Philippines
    Iran 3-2 Siam
    Japan 4-1 Bombay
    Philippines 2-1 Siam
    Iran 3-0 Japan
    Siam 0-0 Bombay
    Japan 6-0 Siam
    Iran 3-4 Philippines
    Philippines 2-5 Japan
    Bombay 1-1 Iran

    The play-off was played between the top teams of each group.

    Japan would make its debut on the world stage shortly after their impressive Olympic performance.
    1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Africa)
  • 1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Africa)​


    Group 19​

    Congo 0-24 South Africa
    Liberia 1-2 Egypt
    South Africa 3-0 Liberia
    Congo 0-7 Egypt
    Egypt 2-2 South Africa
    Congo 0-4 Liberia

    South Africa would return to the World Cup after being absent from the 1914 edition.
    1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Oceania)
  • 1921 and 1922 – World Cup Qualifiers (Oceania)​


    Group 20​

    Papua 0-7 New Zealand
    Western Australia 1-1 Victoria
    New Zealand 4-1 Western Australia
    Papua 0-2 Victoria
    Victoria 3-5 New Zealand
    Papua 0-2 Western Australia

    Group 21​

    Tasmania 0-12 New South Wales
    South Australia 2-3 Queensland
    New South Wales 0-0 South Australia
    Tasmania 0-3 Queensland
    Queenlsand 1-4 New South Wales
    Tasmania 0-9 South Australia

    The play-off was played between the top teams of each group.

    New Zealand would make their World Cup debut following their surprising Olympic performance.
    The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Group Stage Draw
  • The 1922 United States World Cup of Football – Group Stage Draw​

    This time around, the World Cup did not start on the 21st of May; instead, it would begin on the 1st of June, with the draw being made on the 21st of May. FIFA officials gathered in New York to present the draw. The draw only had one prerequisite: the United States would be seeded to the top of Group A. These were the pots used in the draw:

    The results of the draw were the following:
    • Group A: United States, Belgium, Uruguay, Romania
    • Group B: Argentina, Bohemia, New Zealand, Hungary
    • Group C: Canada, São Paulo, Wales, Rio de Janeiro
    • Group D: Switzerland, Catalonia, South Africa, Austria
    • Group E: Scotland, Netherlands, Italy, Norway
    • Group F: Denmark, Japan, France, Aragon
    These groups turned out quite competitive, and fans were excited to see how they would do. Ticket sales rose through the roof and FIFA expected that the attendance records set in 1910 would be repeatedly broken, up to the final.