Andre Rosso has written a story on
how the World Cup might have unfolded had FIFA not decided to wait over 25 years to
stage their first tournament.
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The World Cup - An alternative history
When I first conceived the idea of this story, my goal was not to write an alternative history of World Cup per se but rather add to it, "fill the blanks" so to speak. What actually happened is already part of a history, so it cannot be altered. But what didn't happen, but could possibly have happened? In world history, "what-ifs" are one of the most fascinate subjects, so I decided to propose the following fantasy theory which is based on the actual facts, statistics and team rankings.
What if FIFA, founded on May 21, 1904, did not fail at the time and organized its first World Cup as originally planned, in 1906 in Switzerland? Assuming that all FIFA regulations would've been applied then as they are now (such as World Cup is held every four years in between the Olympics, only current FIFA members could participate etc), there could have been five more World Cups - in 1906, 1910, 1914, 1922 and 1926. WC could not have been held in 1918 due to the World War I (just like it has not been held in 1942 and 1946 due to the World War II). Who could have been World Champion and runner-up then, provided all other things were equal and all other events happened as they actually did?
To determine most likely possible past WC winners and runners-up, we have to keep in mind the following facts and statistics:
- year when given national association joined FIFA, and in several cases, years when it withdrew or had been expelled from it.
- first of all, results of the Olympic Games football tournaments in 1908 - 1928, which were considered (including FIFA) as de-facto World Championships, because except for the British teams, where professional status had been established since 1885, all other participating countries were fielding their strongest teams (although in 1924 and 1928 this no longer was true in case of the leading Central European nations).
- also, results of the other major official regional competitions, such as Dr. Gero Cup, British Home Championships, Copa America, and lastly, friendly internationals between the strongest national teams.
Besides official World Cup tournaments, there could also have been several wartime championships which could've been held when even "alternative" World Cups could possibly not. These Championships would've been held along the same lines as the actual wartime tournaments which were held in different countries where official leagues have been suspended (for example, in Great Britain in 1915-1919 and 1939-1946, Italy 1943-1945, France 1939-1945). This way I tried to come up with the most possible scenarios of such tournaments, which would make alternative history of World Cup as complete as possible and bridge the gaps made by World Wars.
Finally, I will attempt to go even further back in time, and try to determine World Champions in "pre-FIFA" period, using the same criteria as described above. Apparently, it will be only England vs Scotland contest, as neither of the other two British teams, let alone the rest of the world, were anywhere near those two football powers of the 19th century. Wales and Ireland just started to slowly catch up with them at the turn of the 20th century, actually winning couple of British Home Championships, but overall, at the brink of the World War I they still were no match to either team.
First of all, it would probably make sense to keep the same 4-year intervals as FIFA does it now, and count them back from 1906, our first FIFA World Cup. We would then determine champions according to their performance during that interval. This way, their real strength against each other could be assessed more accurately. Apparently, it should be based upon the actual results of British Home Championships, which have commenced in 1884. Before that, the only criteria that can be used, are the results of annual friendlies which were played by British teams since 1872, and prior to any official games - by the results of 5 known "Alcock internationals", which were played in 1870-1872 in London between teams, consisted respectively from English and Scottish players selected from several London clubs.
1. Tournoi International de Amsterdam, 1902 - forerunner of FIFA World Cup.
In the middle of 1870s football begun to take roots in continental Europe. Two pioneering football nations were France and Denmark - the oldest continental football club is considered to be the Danish club KB (Kjobenhavns Boldklub, now FC Kobenhavn), founded on April 26, 1876 (although some historians argue that Le Havre Football Club, the first football club ever created in France, was founded in 1872). First Continental Federation DBU (Dansk Boldspil-Union, the Danish FA) was founded on May 18, 1889, and later that year DBU invited its clubs to participate in Continent's first football league. In France, U.S.F.S.A. (Union des Societes Francaises de Sports Athletiques), first Union of the different codes of football was founded on November 29, 1890 and begun its regular championships in 1894 (in 1904, U.S.F.S.A. became one of the charter members of FIFA). By the end of the 19th century, football spreaded throughout the continent, and by that time national Football Associations were already founded in Denmark and Netherlands in 1889, Switzerland and Belgium in 1895, Italy (1898) and Germany (1900). In 1902 Carl Hirschmann, a Dutch banker and financier, first conceived the idea of World Championship and wrote a letter to the President of English FA, outlining his vision of this tournament. As it turned out, it took almost a year for him to reply, and the answer was negative. However, Carl Hirschmann was not to be discouraged, and decided in the meantime, well aware about British attitude and in order to promote and support his idea, to hold a one-off unofficial demonstration tournament. Apparently, this idea was inspired by the demonstration of the inaugural football matches at the II Olympic Games, held during the World Exhibition in Paris (France) in 1900. But while in Paris football was merely a demonstration to the visitors of Exhibition with no medals won, Tournoi International would've been a proper tournament. It surely would not have been a first such tournament. In 1887-1888, two matches were played in Scotland between the Scottish and the English Cup holders to decide the "Championship of the United Kingdom". These games were also known as a "Championship of the World". In 1897, the Challenge Cup was introduced by John Gramlick, one of the founders of the Vienna Cricket and Football Club, which was open to all clubs in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (although practically was restricted to teams from three capitals - Vienna, Budapest and Prague). In 1898, Sporting Club de Tourcoing launched an international competition (Challenge International du Nord) for clubs from the northern France and Belgium, because the northern French clubs could not participate in the French (in fact Parisian) championship. And in 1900, the Belgian count Van der Straeten Ponthoz introduced a Cup to the winner of an international tournament. As the champions of three existing continental leagues (Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland) were present in Brussels, the newspapers at that time called it the club championship of the continent.
(Note: the second 1901 edition, with only the leading teams from Netherlands and Belgium, ended in a row. The Dutch team H.V.V. (The Hague) left the tournament in protest against the refereeing of their semifinal match vs Racing Club Brussels. According to the Dutch, the referee allowed too much foul play. The dispute raised the question, whether there should be an overall governing body for international matches. This finally led to the foundation of FIFA in 1904.)
So, the tournament was proposed for the second half of October 1902 in Amsterdam, but in order to simplify the procedure and ensure the maximal number of participants, it was decided that instead of proper national teams, countries will be represented by their club champions. Consequently, the following current champions of the leading European leagues were invited: FC Zurich (Switzerland), Racing Club de France (Paris, France - champions of Serie Paris), Racing CB (Brussels, Belgium), H.V.V. (The Hague, Netherlands) and Glasgow Rangers FC (Scotland). English champions Sunderland FC, Italian champions Genoa Cricket FC 1893 and champions of Sweden Orgryte IS declined to participate. Finally, a representative team from Denmark, composed from the two oldest Danish clubs (Kjobenhavns Boldklub and Akademisk Boldklub) was featured in this tournament (at that time, there was no national championship playoffs and the Copenhagen champions were unofficially considered as Danish champions). Also invited were the winner and the runner-up of the 1902 Challenge Cup - Vienna Cricket FC (Austria) and Budapesti Torna Club (Hungary), and after further consideration - SK Slavia (Prague, Bohemia). (The semifinal match played on May 8, 1902 in Vienna between "Cricketers" and Slavia, had finished 3-3 after 90 minutes and 30 minutes of extra time were to be played, followed, should the score remained even after 120 minutes, by the sudden-death additional time. Slavia refused to play extra time claiming one of the 3 Cricketer goals should have been disallowed for hands, and extra time started without Slavia players on the field. Upon the referee's whistle, Cricketers scored a goal in the empty net and won the match 4-3.)
However, in Austria arouse the dispute regarding which team should've participated in tournament, since in 1900 in Austria (or rather Vienna) was introduced a first league-type competition named Tagblatt-Pokal, founded by the "Neue Wiener Tagblatt", the newspaper with the highest circulation in Habsburg Empire. The 1902 league winner was Wiener AC, and because both teams could not come to the agreement, it was decided not to include the Austrian representative at all. Similarly, in France Racing Club de Roubaix (champions of USFSA) fiercely contested the decision to appoint Paris champions Racing Club de France as a French representative, which eventually prompted USFSA to replace them with RC de Roubaix. Also, Hungarian club Budapesti TC had to withdraw as well because of the travel difficulties and unsufficient funding. And finally, Austrian government firmly protested the decision to include SK Slavia in an international tournament as a separate entrant since Bohemia wasn't an independent state but an Austrian crown land, so to avoid further trouble, Bohemian team was eventually excluded from the tournament.
Therefore, six teams finally entered the tournament. In the first round, French champions Racing Club de Roubaix cruised past FC Zurich (Switzerland), and the Dutch champions H.V.V. beat their Belgian counterparts Racing Club Brussels. But in the semifinals, both teams were routed by Denmark and Glasgow Rangers FC respectively. In match for the third place H.V.V. vs Racing Club de Roubaix, the Dutch team easily dealt with the French, and the consolation match FC Zurich vs Racing Club Brussels was won by the champions of Belgium. In the final match, Glasgow Rangers simply demolished Danish team thus confirming the overwhelming British football superiority. Overall, the tournament was a huge success which only convinced its organizer Carl Hirschmann not to give up and further promote with confidence his idea of World Championship.
2. First two World Cups 1906, 1910.
As we know, England joined FIFA in 1905, and therefore, would've been eligible to participate in all three pre-WWI World Cups. The other three British associations did not join until 1910-1911, and therefore, most likely could have played only in the third WC in 1914. The strongest team in the world outside British Isles was undoubtedly Denmark, runner-up at both Olympic tournaments of 1908 and 1912. Netherlands and Austria, next in line of the stongest teams, were well behind Denmark, as follows from the impressive results showed at the Olympics by Denmark. Denmark, in turn, could not of course match full professional team of England, twice losing Olympic finals to British amateurs. Therefore, the finals of the first two WCs would've been identical to those of the first two Olympics - England vs Denmark, with England twice World champion.
After initial negative response from the English FA, the Europeans decided to act without the British and the following year, on May 21, 1904, the international football federation (FIFA) was founded in Paris by seven charter members - Belgium, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Germany joined the same day by telegraph. The second FIFA Congress, which took place in Paris in June 1905, was already discussing an international competition to take place in 1906 (by this time English FA declared its intention to join FIFA, and Austria and Italy became members, too.) It would consist of four groups and Switzerland would be in charge of organizing the semifinals and the Final. Moreover, Victor Schneider, the Vice-President of Swiss FA, had already donated a trophy. Most likely, there would've been a number of organizational, financial and logistical problems, and some countries would've withdrawn. Format of it possibly could've been like that - 9 Continental participants are playing in 4 groups which could've looked like that:
GROUP 1 - Denmark, Sweden.
GROUP 2 - Belgium, Netherlands, France.
GROUP 3 - Germany, Austria.
GROUP 4 - Switzerland, Italy. (Italy later would've withdrawn due to the catastrophic eruption of
Mt. Vesuvius on April 4, 1906, which actually forced them to withdraw their bid to host
the 1908 Olympic Games).
Spain did not have its Federation formed until 1913, so (Real) Madrid FC was representing Spain as a charter member of FIFA. France since May 1905 has experienced an internal split, having had two rivaling Federations with two independent championships (which actually was the reason that France sent two teams, France-A and France-B to the 1908 Olympics, and probably prevented them from sending team to the 1912 Games). They weren't unified until January 1913. Therefore, it is likely that these two countries would've abstained from this WC as well.
In group matches, Denmark wouldn't have had any problems dealing with Sweden, probably beating them with some huge scoreline (in their first direct encounter in 1913 Denmark routed Sweden in two games with total GD 18-0; also, Sweden were crushed 12-1 by Great Britain in the first round of the 1908 Games and then were beaten by Netherlands 2-0 in match for the third place), and Switzerland apparently would've had a walkover. The other two pairs would've been more balanced, but Austria in my opinion would've had an edge (in early years these two teams met only twice in 1908 and 1911, and Austria won both games). Netherland vs Belgium would've been the most closely contested pair. In 1905-1910 these teams met 12 times, the Dutch won 8 times vs Belgium 4, but if we narrow the range down to 1905-1907, then each team will have three wins with total GD 14-12 in favour of Netherlands. Considering third place won by Netherlands at the 1908 Olympic Games, I would give the preference in this group to Netherlands.
Four winners (Denmark, Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland) then would've gone to Switzerland, and played semifinals (Netherlands beat Austria 3-1 in the first round of the 1912 Games, and Switzerland lost 6 games out of total 7 played in 1905-1910, so Netherlands should've had an edge over these two teams) and final, where Denmark would've beaten Netherlands and emerged as the best team on the Continent. And then, Denmark would've played England for the WC title. Given the attitude of English FA at the time, there is a strong possibility that they would've advocated such format. In the championship game England would rout Denmark and win the inaugural World Cup. The following venues could've been chosen to hold this inaugural tournament: Hardau Stadion (Zurich), Parc des Sports des Charmilles (Geneve), Landhof Stadion (Basel) or Spitalacker Sportplatz (Bern).
Note: Almost at the same time, an unofficial football tournament was held at the Intermediate Olympic Games in Athens, Greece (April 22 - May 2, 1906). Because of overlapping schedule with the upcoming inaugural WC tournament, teams from Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Netherlands and France all withdrew from the Olympic Games tournament, and only Denmark sent their team to Athens (where they actually won gold medals by beating Athens representative team 9-0 in first half of the Final match which was abandoned during half-time as the Athens players refused to continue the game). However, that Danish team had not been officially appointed by the national FA, and the matches played there do not count in official Danish Internationals statistics.
Second WC could've been held in 1910 in Austria. Austrian football was rapidly developing at that time, with Vienna turning into European football hotbed. Also, Austrian Federation was very active in Europe, having organized in 1897 The Challenge Cup, first major international club competition in Europe, albeit opened only to Habsburg Empire clubs (forerunner of Mitropa Cup), and playing a number of international friendlies. They therefore look like one of the strongest probabilities to host this WC.
Out of the total 15 FIFA members at that time, Spain still did not have its Federation formed yet, and in France, USFSA, charter member of FIFA, had to leave it in 1908, to be replaced in May 1910 by its rival CFI. But 13 remaining members could've entered this tournament - England, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. France, perhaps, after all could've submitted its entry at the last minute.
Incidentally, this tournament could've been the first World Cup where political considerations would've interfered with purely sporting event. This was a time when nationalistic ideology prevailed as the unquestioned way of thinking, and when FIFA in 1907 accepted Hungary and Bohemia as the separate members despite the fact that they were not independent states, but parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this decision caused confrontation and negotiations with Austrian FA. The problem first appeared during the 1908 London Games, when Austria threatened to abstain from the Games in the event that Bohemia and Hungary were accepted to participate in the Olympics as independent states, and eventually forced their withdrawal from the Games. Four years later, the conciliating intervention of the President of the IOC resolved this problem in the context of the Olympic Games and Austria did not realize its threat when Hungarian team was allowed to participate in the 1912 Stockholm Games. A similar request, however without resorting to threats of abstention, had been raised by Russian government with regard to the participation of Finland, which was a part of the Russian Empire. Nevertheless, Finland was allowed to participate in the 1912 Games as a separate team. These issues would most likely have been raised in course of preparation for the second WC as well, but it is likely that FIFA would've fairly easily negotiated with Austrian FA a participation of Hungary, which after establishment of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary (The Compromise of 1867) had a broad autonomy withing Habsburg Empire including its own parliament, government, administration etc. Similarly, Grand Duchy of Finland was an autonomous part of Russia, so this issue would've been quickly resolved as well, considering the fact that Russia wasn't even a member of FIFA at the time (they joined only in 1912). However, a Bohemian question would've been the most difficult to resolve, especially in light of inspirations of "Young Czechs" nationalistic radical movement which was gathering strength throughout the region. Unlike Hungary, Bohemia was an Austrian crown land with increasingly dominant German language. Initial decision of Austrian FA to exclude Bohemia from participation in the tournament would've caused such strong opposition, that it could probably lead to instigated by "Young Czechs" civil unrest and violent protests in Prague and other large Bohemian cities. Eventually, FIFA would intervene and the compromise would be reached: Bohemian team would be included in the tournament and allowed to play its first match in Prague (similarly, Hungary would've played its first match in Budapest).
Olympic format (i.e., direct knock-out) would most likely have been applied, and in the first round there would've been no surprises - Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Italy would've made an early exit. (Sweden exited after the first rounds of both pre-WWI Olympic Games, and in 1908-1914 lost in all games against all opposition except Norway, Finland and Russia, one win and one loss against Germany and one loss and two draws with Hungary. Norway lost 0-7 to Denmark in the first round of the 1912 Olympics, and in 1908-1914 didn't win a single game, managing only two draws with Russia and one with Sweden. Finland fared slightly better, reaching semifinals of the 1912 Games by beating Italy and Russia, but then were demolished by Great Britain 4-0 and Netherlands 9-0 in a third place match. Apart from the Olympics, Finland played three games against Sweden in 1911-1914 and lost all three of them. In 1908-1914, Switzerland had negative balance against all opposition except Italy. Italy lost in the preliminary round of the 1912 Games, then were beaten by Austria 5-1 in the semifinals of consolation tournament. In 1910-1914 Italy lost all its games against Austria and Hungary, and had negative balance against Switzerland.) Had France (CFI) managed to send its team to this tournament after all (probably, at the last minute), they most definitely would've been eliminated in the first round as well - at the 1908 Games, Denmark first crushed France-B 9-0 and then France-A 17-1 (with Vilhelm Wolfhagen scoring four goals in each game).
Note: the second match has set two historic Olympic records which still remain unbeaten: the highest number of goals scored in one match (18), and the highest ever win in an Olympic match. Further, in this match Sophus Nielsen scored 10 goals, which still remains, along with 10 goals scored by Gottfried Fuchs (Germany) in match vs Russia at the 1912 Games which Germany won 16-0, the world joint record goalscoring in one match.
Next in the quarterfinals, Bohemia, Belgium and Germany would've also been knocked out. Germany lost 1-5 to Austria in the preliminary round and 1-3 to Hungary in the semifinals of consolation tournament of the 1912 Games, and in 1908-1914 had overall negative balance against ENG, DEN, NET, BEL, AUS and HUN. In 1906-1914, Belgium had 0-1-6 balance against ENG amateur team, and 5-1-12 balance against NET. In 1903-1908, Bohemia had 1-2-3 balance against HUN. In the most entertaining quarterfinal Hungary could've met Austria, a home team and its eternal rival. Close to 12,000 spectators would fill to the capacity the Hohe Warte stadium in Vienna to watch this thrilling game, in which (based on the actual results of matches Hungary vs Austria in 1906-1914: W-11, D-4, L-5 including 3-0 win in the final game of consolation tournament at the 1912 Olympic Games, and on the fact that HUN had had better results against all opponents except ENG which they played during this period) Hungary would upset hosts and reach semifinal. Netherlands (finished third at both pre-WWI Olympic tournaments), along with England and Denmark would most likely have been the other three semi-finalists. In the end, England and Denmark would again meet in the final game in Vienna (either on WAC-Platz or Hohe Warte, where Austrian national team played most its matches), where England would lift the World Cup for the second time.
(Note: before WWI, registered record attendance on Hohe Warte was 11,000 spectators on 05.05.1912 whereas WAC-Platz apparently had capacity of no more than 10,000 spectators before it was enlarged in 1912 and registered a record crowd of 22,000 people on 03.05.1914, both times on matches Austria vs Hungary. It is unclear whether the stadiums were completely sold out for these matches, but apparently Hohe Warte was the largest stadium in Vienna at the time, so it would most likely have hosted the second WC Final. However, it is also possible that the WAC-Platz would've been enlarged earlier for the upcoming WC tournament, as well as perhaps several other stadiums in Vienna and Budapest, and would've had a 25,000 capacity before the start of the tournament - enough to host the Final, as well as the most memorable clash of this tournament Austria vs Hungary.)
3. Third World Cup 1914.
Had this WC finally been held in England, birthplace of modern football, it could easily have been one of the most successful in history, even though international situation has been alarming, and clouds of war were gathering over Europe. For the first time, WC could've featured full 16 participants, since FIFA has had enough members to fill all berths, and even qualifying matches would've been necessary to determine all finalists. Also, for the first time it could've featured non-European participants, making it a true World Cup. 4 berths would definitely have been given to four British Associations. Denmark, Netherlands, Austria and Hungary would probably have qualified automatically as well (being semifinalists of the previous WCs), with remaining qualifying groups could've looked like that:
GROUP 1 - Finland, Russia.
GROUP 2 - Sweden, Norway.
GROUP 3 - Belgium, Luxembourg.
GROUP 4 - Germany, Bohemia.
GROUP 5 - Switzerland, France.
GROUP 6 - Italy, Spain.
GROUP 7 - USA, Canada.
GROUP 8 - Argentina, Chile.
Possible group winners would've gotten the other 8 berths (1. FIN beat RUS 2-1 in the first round of the 1912 Games. 2. SWE-NOR: 11-4-1 balance in 1910-1918. 3. BEL shouldn't have had problem beating LUX. 4. GER-BOH: 50-50 chance. 5. SWI-FRA: 1-1-2 balance in 1910-1914. 6. Probably ITA, since SPA didn't have international experience until 1920, and probably could've even withdrawn. 7. Most likely USA. 8. ARG-CHI: 7-1-0 balance in 1910-1918, Chile could've withdrawn for financial and logistical reasons).
Internal problems of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which first appeared prior to the previous WC held in Vienna and were caused by the establishment of separate Hungarian and Bohemian Federations, would've been further aggravated in the lead up to this WC by the establishment of another two Federations within Habsburg Empire. On June 25, 1911 the Galician Football Federation was founded in Lemberg (present-day Lviv) which became an autonomous member of the Austrian FA. On June 13, 1912 the Croatian Football Federation was founded in Zagreb (although Croatian national team played its first international matches already in 1907, in Prague on June 23 and 26 against SK Slavia, one of the best football teams in Bohemia at the time, in which Croatia were routed in both games with the total GD 0-35), and the next year both Federations held their first official championships, approved by the Austrian FA. However, neither Federation was allowed to participate in the official international competitions, as was specifically stated by FIFA at the insistence of the Austrian FA.
Participation of all four British teams on home soil would've assured extremely high attendance (90,000 spectators weren't uncommonon at the FA Cup and Premier League games at the time, sometimes rising as high as 150,000), and as a result, high revenues, which could've been a good incentive even for South American team to undertake a three week voyage across half of the globe and participate in this WC. For example, had Scotland been allowed to play their matches in Glasgow, they alone could draw up to 130,000 spectators per their game. (In fact, at Scotalnd vs England games in Glasgow on Hampden Park a new world record attendance for a full International match of 127,307 spectators was registered on 23.03.1912, beaten only on 28.03.1931 (129,810) and reaching 149,547 on 17.04.1937. It still remains the largest ever crowd to watch an International match in Europe, and was held until 16.07.1950. On that day, the highest ever attendance for one match was recorded at the World Cup Final between Brazil and Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro at Estadio Maracana - 199,854 spectators.) Celtic Park or Ibrox Park, much smaller venue after the infamous tragedy of the Ibrox Disaster on April 5, 1902 (when 100,000 spectators gathered at Scotland vs England game, and 26 people died and 587 were injured after part of the newly built west tribune collapsed), could host the other games of Scotland's group and draw up to 60,000 spectators.
It is hard to tell for sure which format would've been applied at this tournament, but I tend to believe, that the group stage could've been introduced. Since the British were regularly playing Home Championships in round-robin format, it is only logical to assume that they would've applied it at this WC as well, with either top teams advancing to the semifinals, or top two going to the quarterfinals. In that case, a sure guess would be that the four British teams would definitely have been assigned to four different groups, making top seeds for each of them. It is difficult to guess whether the top four Continental teams (Denmark, Netherlands, Austria and Hungary) would've been seeded as well. The British were so arrogant those days, that they wouldn't care much about the rest of the world. But assuming they would for once, these four teams would've made the second tier. In case two teams from each group would've been advancing to the quarterfinals, Denmark and Netherlands, second and third at the 1912 Olympic Games, shouldn't have had trouble to come out second in their groups. In 1912, Hungary lost to Great Britain in the first round but then won the consolation tournament, beating Germany and Austria, so they would probably have made quarterfinals as well. Finally, either Austria, Belgium or the winner of the qualifying group 4 would've been the last quarterfinalist.
There is a high probability that both semifinals would've been an all-British affair, although in my opinion, Denmark could've been capable of pulling off a huge upset, knocking out Wales or Ireland. Ireland, in turn, won the 1914 HC, so they could probably put up a very stiff resistance in semifinal, sending it into replay before finally going down. But regardless, the WC final would undoubtedly have been all-British - England vs Scotland. These two teams overall were much better than the other two British teams, which follows from the results of pre-WWI British Home Championships. And of course, they no question were far ahead from the rest of the world, so most likely they would've reached the Final without serious opposition. Of the two, England had showed better results in 1910-1914 editions of Home Championships, winning three of them (although the 1912 HC had been shared, ENG and SCO drew 1-1 in their encounter but England had a better goal difference of +7 vs Scotland's +4, which gives them an edge by today's standards) vs Scotland only one. Therefore, England most likely would've won their third WC in the row and would probably get to keep Victor Schneider Cup forever (just like later Brazil received the same privilege in 1970 with Jules Rimet Cup). There is a high probability of this happening, considering that England left FIFA in 1920 and wouldn't return to the next WC tournament in 1922, so that the new trophy would've been needed. Scotland would've finished as a runner-up. Judging by the hype (and statistics of attendance) around England vs Scotland games at that time, fueled even more by World Championship at stake, this final could easily have been one of the greatest ever, with the record attendance of well over 200,000 spectators. Undoubtedly the Crystal Palace, venue of the FA Challenge Cup finals in 1895-1914 and even more so a symbol of glory of the British Empire, would most likely had been chosen as a venue for the Final. In course of preparation for the upcoming WC tournament, it would most likely had been lavishly renovated and extended which perhaps would've saved it from decline it actually experienced and once again, as during the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Crystal Palace would've manifested the zenith of Pax Britannica.
Very fascinating coincidence. As we know, WC finals are usually played on Sundays around the end of June. This Final could've been played on Sunday, June 28, 1914. On this day, Austrian archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip - an event which triggered World War I. So, on the hot Sunday afternoon around 3pm, at the very moment when England scored its final winning goal against Scotland, thousand miles away from London in sleepy Bosnian capital first shots of the Great War were fired. When stadium erupted in celebration, nobody knew nor realized that what happened in Sarajevo will have much more grave and ominous consequences in years to come. Just one month later, on August 1, 1914, World War I broke out.
4. Fourth World Cup 1922.
This WC would have been the first one played after the Great War, and given the general international political and economic situation at the time, probably one of the least successful. One of the most likely candidates to host this WC would've been Netherlands, which was neutral during WWI, and most of all thanks to the President of the Netherlands FA Carl Hirschmann, who was actually running FIFA and keeping it alive immediately after the war. Carl Hirschmann, a Dutch banker and financier, was the first man who conceived the idea of World Championship back in 1902 and saw his idea materialized four years later. At last, this tournament arrived in his home country, but alas, under very adverse circumstances.
At that time, FIFA had been badly shaken, and international relations were maintained only on a small scale. Four British associations have left FIFA in 1920 and would not have participated. Germany, Austria and Hungary, countries defeated in WWI, were expelled from FIFA and would not have participated as well. No South American country would probably have sent their representative team: Uruguay and Brazil did not join FIFA until 1923, and both Argentina and Chile did not send their teams to the Olympics until 1928. Denmark, the best team outside British Isles before WWI, lost to Spain in the first round of the 1920 Olympics, and after that withdrew from all major international competitions until the 1948 Olympic Games and concentrated on regional Nordic Cup instead. Therefore, only the rest of European teams plus USA would probably have contested this WC. With total FIFA membership down and so many remaining members abstaining, I estimate that no more than 13 countries would've been featured in this WC (Netherlands, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Norway, Finland and USA). This number could be even lower, since European infrastructure was not sufficently effective and secure after the Great War, and for example, Scandinavian FAs were quite reluctant to enter even in bilateral contacts with continental European FAs. Therefore, they like Denmark could have opted out of WC in favour of Nordic Cup, too. That could've been a high probability, because for example, Norway and Finland did not enter even in the 1934 WC qualifiers, as well as the 1924 and 1928 Olympics (and Finland didn't enter the 1920 Olympics also). Sweden was featured in 1920 and 1924 but have dropped from the 1928 Games, so hopefully they would've been present in this WC. In that case, the total number of this WC participants would drop down to 11, making it a total disaster, and of all teams left in the contest, I would guess Netherlands and Czechoslovakia would have had better chances t
o reach the final than anybody else.
To make things even worse, a new trophy would've been required for this tournament. England, not being a member of FIFA at that time, decided to keep a previous Cup they won three times. FIFA's financial situation was so desperate that they simply could not afford a new solid gold or even sterling silver trophy, so in the meantime, a "provisional" trophy, made by one of the famous Amsterdam jewellers and donated by the President of the Netherlands FA Carl Hirschmann from his personal collection, was used. It has been awarded twice, and only after tremendous success of the 1926 WC in Spain FIFA finally drafted new regulations at their 1928 Congress in Amsterdam. These regulations stipulated that the winners should be rewarded with a new trophy, which French sculptor Abel Lafleur was honoured with the task of creating. This new trophy, made from sterling silver with gold plates, was paid for from personal funds of the President of FIFA Jules Rimet (appraised for US $10,000) and since 1946 named the Jules Rimet Cup, and has been awarded since the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay.
Before WWI, Netherlands were next in line after British teams and Denmark, finishing third at the 1908 and 1912 Olympics. In 1920 they lost in semifinal to the eventual winners Belgium (after beating Sweden in second round) and finished third again, in 1924 lost again in semifinal to the eventual winners Uruguay (and lost the third place game to Sweden only after replay), and in 1928 were eliminated in the first round again by the eventual winners Uruguay (but beat Belgium 3-1 in the first round of consolation tournament and won it by lots after drawing with Chile in the Final). With neither team (except Belgium and Sweden) present at this WC, Netherlands would definitely have been in one of the top slots.
On the other hand, Belgium, Olympic champion in 1920, won it by default when Czechoslovakian team left the field in protest against biased refereeing and was disqualified. They were crushed by Sweden 8-1 in the first round in 1924, and again by Argentina 6-3 in the second round in 1928, so we cannot really consider them as major contender for the WC final.
Switzerland, very impressive in 1924 when they finished second (beating Czechoslovakia, Italy and Sweden), did not participate in 1920, and were crushed by Germany 4-0 in the first round in 1928, so it might be difficult to properly assess them. Judging by their rather pathetic performance in the first Dr. Gero Cup, where they lost 8 games out of 8 played, I would give Czechoslovakia better chances to be in the final.
Czechoslovakia, although did not manifest itself at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, have reached the final in 1920 in style, crushing all its opponents in the progress. Also, in 1919 Czechoslovakia won tournament of the Inter-Allied Games held in Paris, beating Belgium 4-1 in group stage and France 3-2 in the Final game. With rather impressive performance later in the Dr. Gero Cup and in friendlies against major teams of the time, it could be considered as one of the best European teams of the time, and definitely could have reached the WC final.
Probably, Olympic direct knock-out format would've been applied again (with preliminary round reducing the total number of teams to 8, eliminating Yugoslavia, Luxembourg and USA - all these three teams exited after the first rounds of the 1920, 1924 and 1928 Olympics), and most likely those four teams mentioned above would've made a semifinal pool, although Spain (silver medal at the 1920 Games), Sweden (quarterfinals in 1920, third place in 1924 with wins over Belgium and Netherlands) and to the lesser degree Italy (quarterfinals in 1920 and 1924, third place in 1928) could've had a shot at it as well. Spain, in particular, has shown some impressive results at the 1920 Games - after losing 1-3 to Belgium in the second round, they went on to win second place tournament, beating Sweden, Italy and Netherlands. But in 1924, Spain were eliminated in preliminary round by Italy. Finally, France has shown mixed results - they reached semifinals in 1920 by beating Italy in second round and then lost 1-4 to Czechoslovakia; however, in 1924 after beating Latvia they lost in second round 1-5 to Uruguay, and in 1928 were eliminated in first round by Italy.
In the WC final Netherlands vs Czechoslovakia, Netherlands in my opinion would have had an edge, and would've won World Championship by small margin, judging by their better record in official competitions, overall higher ranking and possibly with the advantage of playing at home. About 32,000 spectators would cheer victory of the Dutch team in Final game which could've been held at the Oude Stadion in Amsterdam, home of Dutch national team in 1914-1928 before it was teared down and a brand new Olympisch Stadion was built for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games.
5. Fifth World Cup 1926.
This WC could undoubtedly have been one of the greatest tournaments ever played. In 1924, all four British associations re-joined FIFA and became eligible to play once again. Former Central Powers, and first of all Austria and Hungary, one of the strongest teams in Europe and in the world at the time, were admitted back and also could have participated. With Italy and Czechoslovakia, and to the lesser degree, Sweden and Switzerland, all of the best European teams would've been present. In 1920s, USA has also had one of the strongest soccer leagues in their history, so their team would've been an excellent addition to this tournament. But the biggest force would definitely come from South America - Uruguay and Argentina, arguably two of the best teams in the world in the 1920s and 1930s. All together with 14 new FIFA members added in 1923-1925, qualifying matches would've been necessary to determine the best 16. Europe alone could've had up to 27 possible entries (not counting Denmark), South America up to 6, Middle East 2 (Egypt and Turkey), and North America up to 3 (USA, Costa Rica and highly unlikely Canada). And to top it all off, the mid-1920s were the time of great afterwar recovery and rising economic prosperity in the whole world, which would've only added to the overall success of this WC. Several countries could've organized this tournament, and Spain looks one of the most likely candidates.
Qualifying groups could've looked like this:
Norway and Finland - probably wouldn't have entered
GROUP 1 - England, Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland - 2 places
GROUP 2 - Sweden, Estonia, Latvia - 1 place
GROUP 3 - Germany, Poland, Lithuania - 1 place
GROUP 4 - Netherlands, Belgium, Irish Free state - 2 places
GROUP 5 - France, Switzerland, Luxembourg - 1 place
GROUP 6 - Austria, Czechoslovakia, Romania - 2 places
GROUP 7 - Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria - 1 place
GROUP 8 - Italy, Spain, Portugal - 2 places
GROUP 9 - Egypt, Turkey - 1 place
GROUP 10 - USA, Costa Rica - 1 place
GROUP 11 - Argentina, Chile, Paraguay - 1 place
GROUP 12 - Uruguay, Brazil, Peru - 1 place
British teams would definitely have used their most recent (probably 1925, since the 1926 edition did not finish until April 17th) Home Championship to determine two (most likely) qualifiers, so Scotland and England, having finished top two, would've been in these WC finals. Since Italy, host of WC-1934, still had to qualify for the final tournament, it is logical to assume that the host of this WC would've had to qualify as well. In previous 4 WCs, qualifying tournament could've been necessary only once in 1914, but England, both host and WC holder at the time, would have qualified automatically anyway. As for the current returning champion Netherlands, they still could've been put through qualifying test for the same reasons as the host, and only later would FIFA allow current WC holder automatically defend their title (revoking this privilege after WC-2002).
With so many excellent teams featured in this tournament, it probably would've made more sense to go with group first stage format rather than direct knock-out, but it is almost impossible to guess. So many questionable decisions were made by FIFA in the past, that this format could've been anything, ranging from logical one to the craziest possible. The British could've influenced FIFA into the same format as in 1914, but on the other hand, direct knock-out was the most common one at the time.
Who would've won this WC is the easier question. Uruguay, Olympic champions in 1924 and 1928, were the best team in the world, so they deservedly would have won this WC as well (just like Italy, World Champion in 1934 and 1938, also won the Olympic tournament in 1936). Madrid's Estadio Metropolitano, home of Spanish national team, or Estadio de Chamartin which was inaugurated just three years earlier and became a home ground of Real Madrid CF for many years (before the famous Estadio Santiago Bernabeu was built in 1947) and where Real Madrid celebrated their first Spanish league titles, could've been a venue of a memorable final game. Over 50,000 spectators would've witnessed yet another glorious victory of the magnificent Uruguayan "Celeste" team of the 1920s. Later in the year, the "Celeste" would confirm their world class by making "double" and winning the Copa America tournament, held in Chile in October-November (showing top performance and winning all four games including match vs Argentina).
Who could've been a runner-up, though, is a very difficult guess. Argentina did not participate in the 1924 Olympics, but were a runner-up in 1928. They also have won the 1925, 1927 and 1929 Copa America, and finished second to Uruguay in 1923, 1924 and 1926. In fact, Argentina could've been one of the major contenders for the Champion title, but Uruguay, in my opinion, would more likely have won this WC. This point is strengthened by two consequent victories of Uruguay over Argentina in the Finals of two consequent major international tournaments - the 1928 Olympic Games and the 1930 World Cup. Therefore, this fact leaves Argentina as one of the major contenders for the runner-up spot.
England and Scotland, offstage of all international competitions during that period, nevertheless were the major force in European (and world) football. However, I think it is rather unlikely that England, although regularly beating neighboring Belgium, France and Sweden in friendlies during 1921-1929, still could've reached the final. At British Home Championships, the only official tournament that England and Scotland have participated in during that time, between 1921 and 1929 Scotland have won six of them vs England one (the 1927 HC which has been shared, but England won direct encounter 2-1 although Scotland was on top by total GD +4 vs England's +1). The other two were won by Wales, and every time Scotland has finished higher in the final table than England. Therefore, Scotland would probably have had much better shot at the final place than England, clearly being the best British team at that time. Their real strength against foreign opposition is much harder to determine, because they played their first games against non-British teams only in 1929, 3 friendlies on the Continent with 2 wins and a draw, but nevertheless Scotland as the best British team, could definitely have been in the final.
Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia (plus Italy) were undoubtedly the strongest countries in continental Europe in the late twenties, and the first to introduce professional football on the continent (Austria 1924, Czechoslovakia 1925, Hungary 1926). That helps explain, why their real strenght cannot be assessed by Olympic tournaments - neither country sent their team to the 1928 Olympics. In 1924, Hungary and Czechoslovakia featured only under-strenght, semi-professional teams, and there was no Austrian team again. In 1920, Austria and Hungary could not participate in Olympics at all, and only Czechoslovakia was able to send their full-strenght team, which in the end has reached the final.
Austria, even though it did not participate in the 1920-1928 Olympics, has nevertheless a very impressive record of friendly internationals at that time, winning most of the games, plus they finished only one point behind Italy (beating them twice) in the first edition of Dr. Gero Cup, so they could've been in the WC final also.
Italy lost in the quarterfinals of the 1920 and 1924 Olympics, but reached semifinals in 1928 where they lost to the eventual winners Uruguay and finished third, and won the first edition of Dr. Gero Cup in 1927-1930, so they could've been in final as well.
Czechoslovakia exited after the first round in 1924 and did not participate in 1928, but were very impressive at first Dr. Gero Cup, twice beating Austria and finishing only one point behind winners Italy.
Hungary lost in 1924 to Egypt 0-3 in first round and did not participate in 1928, and finished fourth in Dr. Gero Cup in 1927-1930, although only two points behind Italy, so it may be difficult to consider them among major contenders at that time.
Switzerland, who were runners-up in 1924, knocking out Czechoslovakia and Italy in progress, were eliminated in the first round in 1928 (4-0 by Germany), and were totally shut out in the Dr. Gero Cup in 1927-1930.
Spain, hosts of the tournament and with their famous goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora, in my opinion would nevertheless have had a very hard time competing with the world's top teams. After winning silver medal at the 1920 Olympics (losing in quarterfinal to the eventual champion Belgium but winning second place tournament after Czechoslovakia were disqualified), Spain were eliminated by Italy in the first round in 1924 and again by Italy in the quarterfinal in 1928 (after drawing in first game 1-1 Spain were demolished 7-1 in the replay). So, their prospects to reach even the second stage wouldn't have looked very promising, and if they would've failed to reach the next stage, they would've been the first and until now the only hosts of World Cup to fail to do so.
It is rather difficult to say how would Brazil perform, had they qualified and sent their team to this WC. They did not start to participate in the Olympics until 1952, and at the 1930 WC they lost 1-2 to Yugoslavia and exited after the group stage. Between 1921 and 1929, out of 8 Copa America tournaments Brazil only managed to win 1, and 2 more times finished second, other 5 times didn't even make to the top three. Therefore, at that time it is very likely that they would have exited after the first round if at all featured in this WC, which is even more likely. I doubt that FIFA, with so many European teams participating, would've allocated more than two places to South America, and those would definitely have been taken by Uruguay and Argentina.
All in all, it could've been anybody's place, although I believe, that overall Argentina, Italy, Scotland or Austria would have been the most likely runners-up, while Czechoslovakia and England each having some, and Hungary only remote chance. I would give second place to Austria, just in recognition of their "Wonderteam" of 1920-1930s, one of the greatest under-achievers in the world along with Hungary of 1950s and Netherlands of 1970s. But at least, we were able to outline 8 most possible quarter-finalists: Uruguay, Argentina, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Italy, Scotland and England, although I believe, that Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden (third place in 1924), and to lesser degree Spain, USA and Germany (beat Switzerland 4-0 in the first round in 1928 but then lost to Uruguay in quarterfinal 1-4), could also have had a shot at the final 8. All would've been dependent on the draw. Finally, Egypt and either France or Belgium, depending on the composition of qualifying groups, would've given us the last two qualifiers for this WC. Egypt, in particular, shouldn't have had problem winning their qualifying group, actually beating Turkey 7-1 in first round of the 1928 Games. In fact, in 1928 Egypt eventually reached semifinals by beating Portugal 2-1 in second round, and at the 1924 Games they also performed well, beating Hungary 3-0 in first round before being hammered 5-0 by Sweden in second, so overall I believe that Egypt (along with USA) could've been a surprise revelation of this tournament. As for France or Belgium, neither team performed particularly well at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics: France were crushed 1-5 by Uruguay in second round in 1924 and were eliminated by Italy in first round in 1928, and Belgium were demolished 1-8 by Sweden in first round in 1924 and 3-6 by Argentina in second round in 1928, so most likely whichever team would've qualified for this tournament, they would've been eliminated early.
6. World Champion title game 1918.
For four years the Great War was raging in Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. By June 1918, German and Austro-Hungarian troops were occupying half of European Russia, most of the Balkans, Belgium and north-eastern parts of France and Italy. German troops were standing less than 100 miles away from both Paris and St.Petersburg, and have advanced as far to the east as Tiflis, Georgia. Russia has plunged into the abyss, and Italy and France were both close to collapsing as well. German and Austrian High Commands were gathering their last resources to deliver Entente a final deadly blow. And yet, only few months later the war was over. Central Powers were defeated, and Armistice has been signed on November 11, 1918.
Most of international football competitions have been suspended during war, and when the time would have come for the next WC tournament in 1918, it could not have been held. Legendary Hugo Meisl and Austrian FA tried to organize a small tournament ("mini-Cup") in late spring of 1918, but being at war, no team from Entente countries (Great Britain, France, Italy, USA) and their allies would have taken part in this competition. After failing to secure agreement from several neutral countries (Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway all refused to participate; only Switzerland agreed to send a team), without German participation (since all their competitions have been cancelled at the outbreak of war), and decision taken not to include Bohemian team because of fear that their participation will further instigate Czech nationalist movement, there were only three teams left for consideration - Austria, Hungary and Switzerland. Without sufficient number of participants and most of all because of huge strain placed on country and its economy and finances by four years of total war, this idea was after all abandoned. (This hypothesis is based on the fact that Austria continued to play friendlies with Hungary throughout the war, and played along with Hungary series of matches with Switzerland in 1917-1918).
Only in South America, where war has not been felt, regional championship (Copa America) has commenced in 1916. Due to the fact that most players were in military service, English FA did not resume its international activity until late fall of 1919, so in the meantime, an unofficial series of Victory Internationals were played by English national team. Therefore, since proper tournament could not have been staged, it could've been possible that England, three times World Champion before the war, and Uruguay, champion of South America (they won the first two Copa America tournaments in 1916 and 1917; the 1918 edition was cancelled due to the flu epidemic in Brazil, host of the tournament), would've played in yet another Victory International to decide the World Champion title. The French FF, whose predecessors were one of the founders of FIFA, would again offer full organizational support to this game, especially significant in the immediate aftermath of the Great War, and Baron Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympic Games, would donate a small but very beautiful trophy. This trophy, crafted in Olympic style, would signify the end of wars and hostilities, even though Great Britain and France were still engaged in Russian Civil war. British troops were occupying parts of North and South Russia, Transcaucasia and Turkestan; French troops landed in Odessa and Crimea. But in Europe the guns had finally gone silent, and although this offer could not have been officially endorsed by FIFA, England and Uruguay would nevertheless meet in April 1919 in Paris in unofficial game to determine the World Champion. Incidentally, this game could've inaugurated Stade Pershing where it could've been held and which was built for coming up in June the Inter-Allied Games and just had been completed (by 3,200 American soldiers who took over French construction workers when they went on strike). Uruguay, a rising football power, would play an exciting football, and prove to be a true match to the current champion. Lack of competitive games on English part would also contribute to this fact. Their first encounter would end in a thrilling draw, so a replay game would be needed, and held three days later.
Second game would be as exciting as the first one, plenty of goals would be scored, but finally towards the end of extra time England would prevail, and beat Uruguay by a fluke goal. England, although unofficially, for the last time would retain its Champion title. However, these games would mean that another football star is rising at the far end of the Atlantic. In times to come, Uruguay would climb on the top of football wheel of fortune, replacing England as the absolute World Champion.
Interestingly enough, Uruguay considered this game not as much as Championship game, but mostly as a preparation for the upcoming Copa America tournament in Brazil, scheduled to start on May 11. That helps explain the absense of South American teams at the next WC tournament in 1922, since in that region Copa America was still considered as a priority. Only tremendous success of the following tournaments - the 1924 Olympic Games and the 1926 WC, both won by Uruguay, will forever change that perception, although Uruguay, for different reasons as it was, would still boycott WC in 1934 and 1938. Unfortunately, it took much longer for British associations, notably England and Scotland, to come to the same conclusion, but by the time they did in 1950s, their earlier lead in world football would disappear.
Incidentally, after playing two Championship games with England 120 minutes each, Uruguay will travel to Brazil to take part in the Copa America tournament in May. On May 29, 1919, in final game in Rio de Janeiro before 35,000 spectators Uruguay and Brazil played 4 extra periods of 15 minutes each. Brazil scored the only goal on 122nd minute and won 1:0. This was the longest match in history of Copa America, 150 minutes!
7. NAZI World Cup 1942.
What if the 1942 WC actually took place? During WWII, Nazi Germany (which actually submitted to FIFA, along with Argentina and Brazil, their bid to host the 1942 WC) could've staged a WC to gain political advantages and boost population's morale in the wartime, as well as to prove German superiority. (In fact, FIFA planned to announce the host country at their Congress in Luxembourg in 1940, and Jules Rimet, then President of FIFA, begun his inspection tour to South America in August 1939. His first stop was Rio de Janeiro, but his working visit to Brazil was interrupted in September when he saw newspapers with headlines: "War in Europe!", "Germany invades Poland!".) It is well known that Benito Mussolini used the 1934 WC in Italy for fascist propaganda, and gave his team a direct order - "win or die". Italian team, definitely one of the best in the world, went on to win that WC. Certainly, the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin were used for Nazi propaganda as well. But the most famous example of such attempt, which later Soviet propaganda turned into myth, took place in the summer of 1942 in Nazi-occupied Kiev, Ukraine. Before the war, Dynamo Kiev had been one of the best teams in the USSR, so the Germans offered them series of games. Dynamo (under the name "Start") played five matches against several German, Hungarian and Romanian Armed Forces teams (including two games, later named "Matches of Death", against the best and invincible till then "Flakelf", reinforced by few professional players from then-current German champion "Schalke 04"), two with Hungarian team "MSG Wal" and two more with Ukrainian nationalists "Rukh", winning all nine of them with the total GD 56-11. Several months later, four Ukrainian players who Germans suspected were the NKVD agents, were sent to Baby Yar (Syrets concentration camp in Kiev) and on February 24, 1943 they were executed.
In June 1942 German Army, still standing at the gates of Moscow and Leningrad, resumed its brutal offense on the southern flank of the Eastern front, pressing towards Stalingrad and the Caucasus. In Egypt, German Afrika Korp was pushing the British back towards Suez Canal, and German U-boat fleet was tilting the balance in the battle of Atlantic in favour of Axis. It certainly could've been a good time to stage a "Nazi" WC, and it is likely that FIFA would hardly have been in position to contest this decision. Apparently, only Nazi's allies, satellites, Axis-controlled territories and probably neutrals would've taken part in it. Most likely and for obvious reasons, no country from outside Europe, even with Nazi-friendly regime such as Argentina for example, would've considered participation.
History of the trophy which was to be presented to the winner is cloaked in sinister mystery. The whole competition was to be held under patronage of SS, and since German team was expected to win this tournament, a special trophy made from pure gold, incrusted with precious stones and crafted in Nazi-Aryan style, was personally ordered by SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. It is said that the statue was created in total secrecy by one of the very talented Jewish sculptors who was an inmate in Auschwitz concentration camp. The sculpture turned out to be so exceptional piece of art, that its author was transfered to Sachsenhausen and included as an artist in the team "Operation Bernhard" (the most famous counterfeiting operation in history, devised during WWII by Germany to ruin the British economy by flooding them with hundreds of millions of "almost perfect" forgeries of Bank of England notes, which were produced by prisoners in Sachsenhausen concentration camp). When Sachsenhausen was evacuated in April 1945, the "Operation Bernhard" team was transferred to Ebensee, a sub-camp of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria where they were liberated by US Army on May 5, 1945. At the same time, there were persistent rumours about origins of gold which was used to make this infamous sculpture, and although no documents or other evidence was found to support this rumour, a controversy still surrounds this trophy till present day.
During WWII, Axis Powers, their allies, satellites and a number of Axis-occupied countries have continued their domestic championship tournaments, and series of international friendlies were actually played by Germany, their allies, satellites and neutrals. These facts were used as the basis for our hypothesis, and the strength of teams against each other was assessed by the actual results of those games. The following nations could most likely have participated:
Axis Powers - Germany and twice World champion Italy.
Axis allies - Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland.
Axis satellites - Slovakia, Croatia(*), France Free Zone (**).
Axis-controlled territories - Denmark, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the winners of qualifying groups.
Neutral countries - Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Turkey.
19th team could've been Ukraine, made up from players of Dynamo Kiev who actually played matches with German teams in Kiev, and players of "Pogon" (Lviv), 4-times champion of Poland in the 1920s, and "Ukraine" (Lviv), the best team in the championship of Galicia (Western Ukraine) which was actually held in 1942-1944. This team would've been created and organized by expatriate Ukrainian hetman Pavlo Skoropadskiy, head of Ukrainian State during German occupation in 1918. After defeat of Germany in WWI and supported by Germany Ukrainian State in 1918, Skoropadskiy emigrated to Germany and lived in Berlin since then. To realize his idea of rebirth of independent Ukraine, he secured personal permission from Dr. Alfred Rosenberg, head of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, to create the team which would've represented Ukraine (which in fact was a Reichskommissariat) in this tournament.
(Kazimierz Gorski, one of the best players of "Pogon" in pre-war Poland, in 1940-1941 played for Dynamo Kiev. After WWII he returned to Poland and later became the most famous coach in the history of Poland - he lead Polish national team to the third place at the 1974 World Cup, Olympic championship at the 1972 Munich Games and silver medals at the 1976 Montreal Games. Another "Pogon" player Adam Wolanin during the war emigrated to the United States, and was a member of the US World Cup team at the 1950 WC in Brazil.
Tragic fate was awaiting Zygmunt Steuermann, one of the best players of the Lviv Jewish Club "Hasmonea" who played for Polish national team and could've been included in this Ukrainian squad. Most of Hasmonea players were rounded up and killed in Lviv Jewish Ghetto. There, the Germans held football matches "prisoners" vs "guards", and after one of such games which prisoners won 3-1 and Steuermann scored two goals, a drunk SS guard shot him dead.)
Western Group. Amsterdam. Belgium, Netherlands, occupied France (**).
Eastern Group. Riga. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.
(*) The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) was re-established in 1939. After Germany invaded and defeated Yugoslavia in April 1941, an independent Croatian state was established under Italian protectorate and HNS was admitted to FIFA on July 17, 1941.
(**) During German occupation in 1940-1944, two separate regional championships were held in France - in the North in the "occupied zone" and in the South in the "free zone" (even after the southern France was also occupied in November 1942).
After SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia nicknamed "The Butcher of Prague", was assassinated on May 27, 1942 by a team of British-trained agents of the Czechoslovakian government in exile and died in agony in a Prague hospital on June 4, the retaliation from the Nazis was savage. On June 10 all males over the age of 16 in the village of Lidice, 22 km north-west of Prague, were executed, all women and children were deported to concentration camps and the village was totally burned down. Consequently, Bohemian team would've been ejected from the tournament. Moreover, a pompous opening ceremony was originally planned to stage at the Olympiastadion before first game of the tournament with participation of German team, which was intended to eclipse the opening of the 1936 Olympic Games, with opening speech of Adolf Hitler and mass Nazi-style show. Instead, the ceremony turned out subdued and curtailed because of Heydrich's highly elaborate funeral, staged by the Nazis in Berlin and personally attended by Hitler and other top Nazi leadership.
Direct knock-out, the same format as in the last two WCs would most likely have been used again. After withdrawal of Turkey, 17 teams would've entered the tournament. In the preliminary round game held in Odessa, principal city of Transnistria (part of Ukraine, occupied and annexed by Romania in the summer of 1941) Ukrainian team would rout Romania with two-digit score and then travel to Germany. In the first round, Finland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, France, Portugal and the winners of Western (Belgium) and Eastern (Latvia) Groups most likely would've been eliminated. At the beginning of the tournament, the hosts divided the pool into two halfs, assigning themselves into one half and Italy and Hungary, finalists of the 1938 WC, into another and thus avoiding meeting either team before the Final match. However, before quarterfinal matches the hosts, trying to avoid at all costs the strongest remaining opposition, Switzerland and Sweden (minding again the 1938 WC, where Germany was eliminated by Switzerland in the first round and Sweden reached semifinals, as well as the most recent friendly matches with these two teams in 1941 which Germany also lost), went further and resorted to blatant fixing of the draw procedure and received relatively weaker opponent - Denmark. Consequently, in the quarterfinals Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland would also exit, leaving two fascinating semifinals: Italy vs Hungary, remake of the 1938 WC final, and Germany vs Ukraine, Match of Death of truly epic magnitude. In the end, Italy would've prevailed again, reaching their third straight WC final where they'd have met Ukraine, which wouldn't have been intimidated and have stunned 100,000 spectators at the Olympiastadion in Berlin by defying all odds and beating Germany. Not only German team, as in the 1938 WC, included the best Austrian players, but now also a Polish striker Ernest Wilimowski, hero of Poland vs Brazil first round game of the 1938 WC in Strasbourg where he scored 4 goals. But despite brutal tactics of the Germans and biased refereeing, the Ukrainian team which was largely based on a Dynamo Kiev team, one of the best in pre-war USSR, would beat them in style. After that game Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Germany's Minister of Propaganda, reportedly commented: "One hundred thousand have left the stadium depressed; and as a victory in this football match is closer to these people's hearts than the conquest of some city in the East, such events should be prohibited in the interest of the internal mood." But in a thrilling but brutal final game held in Berlin on the famous Olympiastadion, venue of the 1936 Olympic Games where Italy won gold medal, Italy's class and experience would eventually have helped overcome heroic Ukrainian resistance and assured their victory in extra time. Initially, Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of Nazi Germany, planned to attend the Final match before moving to his field Headquarters "Werewolf" in Vinnitsa, Ukraine (!) from where he directed German advance in Southern Russia. But after humiliating defeat suffered by Germany in semifinal, he went furious and refused to take part in Final ceremony, so Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering, Hitler's deputy as a Head of State (his formal successor by decree from June 29, 1941), presented the trophy to the captain of Italian team.
As it happened, the Nazis never really managed to use football to their advantage. Already last year, after Germany lost 1-2 to Switzerland on April 20, 1941 (Hitler's birthday), Dr. Goebbels ordered "that above all no sporting exchanges be made when the outcome is at all in doubt." After disastrous loss of their World Cup campaign and followed after that further defeat from Sweden 3-2 in friendly international in Berlin on September 20, aggravated even more by depressing news from the Eastern front where the 6th German Army has completely bogged down in the fierce Battle of Stalingrad, Nazi Germany in November 1942 finally ceased playing internationals.
After Italy surrendered in September 1943, most part of the country was swiftly occupied by German troops. SS and Gestapo were looking for the trophy that Italian team won one year ago, but the Vice President of Italian FA, Dr. Ottorino Barassi, hid it along with the statue of Nike (i.e., Jules Rimet Cup which Italy won at the last pre-war FIFA WC tournament in 1938) in a shoe box under his bed and thus saved it from falling into the hands of Germans. After Rome was liberated in June 1944, American military Intelligence now showed their interest in the controversial prize, so Dr. Barassi made decision to quietly dispose of this ominous sculpture, which like Wilkie Collins's Moonstone, was bringing a lot of trouble to its holder. In May 1945 it disappeared, and later had been presumably sold to the unnamed buyer through one of the Swiss banks (in Roma branch of which the "Goddess Nike" Cup has been kept during war before Dr. Barassi recovered it from there in 1943). Recently this sculpture re-appeared again, stirring yet even more hype and controversy, and was sold at Sotheby's auction in London for US $10 Million to another buyer who again didn't reveal his identity and was represented by Liechtenstein law firm.
8. World Champion title 1942.
After Italy won the "Nazi" World Cup on July 5 and Uruguay won the "alternative" World Championship on December 31, 1942, each nation declared itself a World Champion. To determine the ultimate champion, Italy and Uruguay conducted negotiations and agreed to hold a decisive game sometime in the summer of 1943, with venue still to be determined. But by that time the situation on the fronts of World War has radically turned in favour of Allies. Although in July 1943 German Army begun its summer offence at Kursk salient on the Eastern front (during which the biggest and the most fierce tank battle in world history occured on July 12 near the village of Prokhorovka, where on 7 km-wide sector of the front 800 Soviet tanks engaged 700 German Panzers), Italy after annihilation of its 8th Army in Russia in January and capitulation in North Africa in May was on the brink of collapse. Economy was in total chaos, war losses were mounting, and when on July 10 Allies begun landing in Sicily, final outcome of war for Italy became clear. On July 25 Mussolini was arrested, and on September 9, 1943, one week after Allies begun invasion on the mainland, Italy surrendered.
As it happened, the World Champion title game Italy - Uruguay was never played, and both nations were later declared as co-champions.
9. "Alternative" World Championships 1942, 1946
When World War II broke out in September 1939, all international competitions (i.e., FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games) have been suspended, and were maintained only on regional level in the Americas, far from European, North African, East Asian and Pacific battlefields. But, what if South American Confederation, especially in response to the "Nazi" WC but first of all in order not to interrupt WC tradition, decided to organize an alternative wartime championship? Similar unofficial national championships have actually been held in several countries where official leagues have been suspended during war (in Great Britain, France and Italy, for example). It could've been even more probable, and even been instigated by the fact that earlier FIFA reneged on their promise to alternate WCs between Europe and South America, and gave the 1938 WC again to Europeans. Of course, this tournament could not have beared the official name "FIFA World Cup", but simply would've been called "World Championship". It is possible that at that time FIFA, although not having had approved it, would not have objected to it either, for as long as it remained semi-official. South American Confederation would also provide a trophy for this tournament, created by famous Brazilian craftsman.
Uruguay, which staged Copa America in January-February 1942, could've again staged a first wartime WC in December 1942. At that time, initial Axis advance was gradually exhausting, and the tide of war was slowly turning in favour of Allies. In Russia, the 6th German Army was encircled in Stalingrad and has been mercilessly annihilated despite desperate attempts of German High Command to break the encirclement. In Egypt, German Afrika Korp was defeated at El Alamein and retreating deep into Lybia; Allies have also landed in French North Africa. And in the Pacific, after initial success which followed attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, Japanese advance had been at last halted in the Battle of Midway, in New Guinea and Guadalcanal at the gates of Australia, and on the border of India. Finally, after seizure of Vichy-controlled Madagascar Allies prevented Germany and Japan from conducting any coordinated military operations.
Because of number of logistical issues, it could've been decided to go with only 8 participants - 5 best South American teams, 2 best teams from C.C.C.F. (Central American and Caribbean Football Confederation), and one from N.A.F.C. (North American Football Confederation). Obviously, no European team, even from neutral countries, would've taken risk and travel across the warzone of the Atlantic to participate in this tournament.
By the results of the 1942 Copa America, 5 best South American teams were: Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru. According to the most resent CCCF Championship (Costa Rica, May 1941), Central America would've been represented by Costa Rica and El Salvador. Out of 3 NAFC members, USA being at war with Axis Powers, could not have participated, Mexico (as in the 1938 WC qualifiers) probably would've withdrawn again, so Cuba would have had a walkover.
Tournament's format would definitely have been the same as Copa America's, i.e. league format, where team finished with most points would win Championship. In case top teams finish equal on points, playoff final game would decide the champion.
In both 1941 and 1942 editions of Copa America, Argentina and Uruguay finished top two, each winning one championship. In 1941, Argentina won all 4 games, and Uruguay won 3 losing only to Argentina. In 1942, Uruguay won all 6 games and Argentina 5. Therefore, it is highly likely that after the final round (27.12.1942), Uruguay and Argentina would again have finished top two with 13 points each, drawing in their encounter and winning the rest of games. So, on the New Year's Eve, December 31, Uruguay would meet Argentina on the famous Estadio Centenario before almost 85,000 spectators in the final game, later named "Battle of Montevideo", which was to decide the champion. Argentina, trying to avenge their defeat on this stadium 12 years earlier in the 1930 WC final, would resort to brutal tactics, fans of both teams would riot on the stands, so game would've been suspended for more than an hour and police called in to restore the order. In the end, Uruguay would again beat Argentina in extra time, and win the Championship.
On May 8, 1945 Nazi Germany surrendered, and World War II in Europe ended. On September 2, 1945 Japan also signed act of capitulation, and war in the Pacific came to the end. When FIFA Congress met again in July 1946 in Luxembourg, most of European continent was devastated, so it was decided to stage the next WC in 1950 in Brazil. Therefore Argentina, venue of the 1946 Copa America (held in January-February), could've proposed to organize a second interim WC in December 1946. (Because of that, the following 1947 Copa America tournament in Ecuador had been postponed till November 30, with last match being played on the New Year's Eve). This time, several European nations could've been invited as well - Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal, neutral during war, plus England, Scotland and Italy; France, Netherlands, Belgium and Yugoslavia could've been possible choices, too. However, because the timing of this WC would've interfered with schedules of most European national championships, and as well as for financial, logistical and other considerations, most of these countries would've declined to participate, and only Sweden and Switzerland could probably have sent their teams.
Six South American teams, two European and two from both CCCF and NAFC would've made a total of 12 participants. Originally, it was planned to have full 16 teams, with Europe being allocated six berths, but since only two countries have eventually agreed to send their teams, the total number of participants have dropped down to 12. Peru would probably have withdrawn from the competition (they actually withdrew from the 1945 and 1946 Copa America), so Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and Bolivia (as per 1946 Copa America) would've represented South America. Costa Rica and Guatemala (per 1946 CCCF Championship), plus Mexico and Cuba (per 1947 NAFC Championship) would've made up the rest of qualifiers.
Because of large number of participants, format of the second WC would've been modified. 12 teams would've been broken up in two groups of six, and the top teams from each group would meet in the final game. Argentina, winner of the 1945, 1946 and 1947 Copa America, and Brazil, runner-up in 1945 and 1946 (they withdrew in 1947) would most likely win their groups, and on December 29 meet in the final game in Buenos Aires on Estadio Monumental de Nunez before more than 80,000 spectators. Historically, matches between these two teams, especially Copa America playoff Finals, are marred with incidents. Nine years earlier, on 01.02.1937 the final match between Argentina and Brazil was played (again!) in Buenos Aires on Gasometro de Boedo before 80,000 spectators (which Argentina won 2-0). Towards the end of regulation time, it was suspended for 40 minutes with the score still 0-0. After restart, the referee finished it at the 86th minute and the match was finally decided after extra time. In the deciding game of Copa America held on this venue between these very teams just 10 months earlier (on 10.02.1946 which Argentina won 2-0), match was suspended for 70 minutes and two players were sent off. As in that match, with memories still fresh after that game and incidents that surrounded it, tension would rise high and fight would break out on the field again, instigating yet another unrest on the stands. However, Argentina would not let control of the game slip out of their hands, and would've comfortably won the second Championship.
10. First Inter-Association Competition 1866.
From the beginning of the 19th century, football matches were played mainly on the pitches and grounds of various English public schools, and also by military and civil servants. Originally, different schools had set up their own rules (Eton in 1841, Rugby in 1846) which varied from one school to another. First attempt to consolidate the laws of the game had been undertaken in Cambridge University, where on October ??, 1848 a first ever set of uniform rules was adopted at the meeting of representatives from fourteen major public schools including Cambridge and Oxford. Sheffield FC, the world's oldest football club came into existence on October 24, 1857 (after informal play since 1855), and by 1862 there were fifteen clubs in Sheffield "Association", playing under their own set of laws. On October 26, 1863 representatives from twelve clubs and schools from the London area met at Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street in London, and set a unified Code of the Game largely based on the "Cambridge Rules" of 1848. At this historic meeting the English Football Association was founded, marking the birth of modern football. (The very first match to be played under the new "Football Association" rules came off on January 9, 1864 at Battersea Park in London, between the FA Secretary's team and a side chosen by the President of the FA, teams which included the best-known football players of the day. The President's team won 2-0 with C.W. Alcock scoring both goals). However, none of the members were from Sheffield or Nottingham - in fact, until the 1870s the FA membership included clubs only from the London area.
Nottingham was another center of football at that time, again with its own set of rules. On January 2, 1865 Notts County FC (the world's oldest Football League club, founded on December 7, 1864 after informal play since 1862) played against Sheffield FC at the Meadows Cricket Ground before large number of spectators. This was Sheffield's first "out of town" match, and was played under "Nottingham rules". Eighteen players contended on each side, and Sheffield FC scored the only goal. The return game in Sheffield took place on March 23, 1865 at Bramall Lane, and Sheffield FC again won by one goal to zero. Next season, competitive matches did not get underway until January 1866. Again, two games were played in Nottingham (January 25) and Sheffield (March 15), and Sheffield FC again won both games (2-1 and 1-0). Two weeks after the second game, Sheffield FC travelled to London.
Although playing under different rules at the time, members of the (London) FA and Sheffield FC (representing two strongest Associations at that time) agreed to a challenge match between London and Sheffield at Battersea Park in London on March 31, 1866. London's representative team was drawn largely from Barnes and The Wanderers. Agreement had been reached in advance regarding the rules and in the end, London team easily won with 2 goals and 4 touchdowns to none (at that time, the FA rules still included touchdowns as a decider if goals were level). The (London) FA proposed a re-match but agreement about which rules should be used could not be reached, and no further matches took place until 1871. Arguably, Sheffield got hammered in this match because the rules favoured London. The fact that London scored touchdowns, which were not a part of the Sheffield game, suggests that Sheffield were not playing a familiar game. At the time Sheffield were playing with rouges (extra posts either side of the goal posts), which were introduced from Eton rules. Nevertheless, this historic match (or rather series of matches involving London, Sheffield and Nottingham teams) could be seen as a forerunner of international competitions (apparently, inter- association games of the 1860s could be compared to international games as we know it today), and as a result of it, London XI could be considered as the first (world) champion in association football.
11. Unofficial World Championships (British Nations Cup) 1870-1910.
It was the middle of the 19th Century, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and massive social changes were occurring in Great Britain. Improvements in roads and transportation allowed football to be played outside the local communities, and as steam trains started to link the ever- growing towns of Britain, it became possible to play on a national basis. It was during this time that football, as an organized game with uniform rules, spread first throughout England and then the rest of the United Kingdom.
Scotland was the second country where Association Football gained popularity. Although it was still the dawn of the game and no national competition even existed yet, there were people in England who were already thinking about staging international matches and competitions. In 1869 Charles Alcock, one of the founding fathers of English football and the Secretary of the English FA, had written to the Glasgow Herald suggesting an international game between the two neighbours. He organized the series of football matches which were played in 1870-1872 in London between teams, consisted respectively from English and Scottish players selected from several London clubs. First, a letter appeared in the Sportsman, then the leading London newspaper dealing with football, as follows: "A match between the leading representatives of the Scotch and English sections will be played at The Oval on Saturday, 19 February, under the auspices of the Football Association." Severe frost on the proposed date caused the match to be postponed for two weeks, and on March 5, 1870, the first ever unofficial international match was played in London at Kennington Oval between England and Scotland. The "Alcock internationals" had no official standing however, and only two and a half years later, on a rain-soaked cricket pitch in Glasgow on Saturday, November 30 (Saint Andrew's Day), 1872, Scotland and England met in the first official football match between two countries. Strictly speaking, at that time England had no other partner association against which to play. The Scottish FA did not even exist then - it was founded only on March 13, 1873. The team England played that day was actually the oldest Scottish club team, Queen's Park FC (formed on July 9, 1867). The success of the match ensured that the game would become a regular fixture.
But what if Charles Alcock went further and established a competition between British teams, let's call it a Nations Cup? The goal could've been to determine the best national team in the Great Britain. How possibly would this competition develop then?
At its first edition in 1870, two teams from London clubs only had actually played at Kennington Oval before few hundred spectators, there was no even actual Cup awarded to the winner, just a Diploma (beautifully crafted on the expensive papyrus-style paper, donated by the owner of one London firm of Barristers and Solicitors, a keen supporter of football), so this new competition probably would not have raised much interest. Since the teams weren't proper national teams, this tournament wouldn't have borne an official status and wouldn't have been recognized by the English, and later the Scottish FA. As a result, in the following years these games bore only friendly status, and no official and organizational, not to mention financial, support could've been found, especially in light of the first ever official competition, the FA Challenge Cup, which started in 1871. Only four years later, after the Scottish FA was founded in 1873, this idea could've been revived and received official status. Thanks to the efforts of Charles Alcock and the Scottish FA the next edition of the Nations Cup (or Charles Alcock Cup) would've been played in 1874 in addition to the regular annual friendly internationals. This time the Cup, in its official status, would've been contested between proper national teams of England and Scotland selected by respective FAs, in two games in London and Glasgow, and a beautiful Cup, found by Alcock in one of the antique shops in London Soho district, had been presented to the winner. Altough this time the Nations Cup could've risen much more interest, still there could've been doubts about its expediency, so it could've been decided to keep for the time being the same 4-year interval rather than hold an annual competition, mostly in order not to compete with English and now Scottish FA Cup which started the previous year. After the FA of Wales was founded in 1876, the next 1878 edition of Cup included already three participants, and therefore it was decided to hold the Cup competitions in one place which would've been alternated between Associations, rather than play on home-and-away basis. And although this competition was called a Cup, a league format had actually been employed in this and all subsequent editions. The 1882 edition (after the Irish FA was formed in 1880) featured for the first time all four British Associations, and by that time the holder of the Cup, now called the British Nations Cup, was considered the best team in the United Kingdom, and therefore, the World Champion. (Also, this edition could've been the first ever international tournament played by newly perfected electrical illumination). The following venues would probably have been chosen for the Cup games: Kennington Oval (in the middle of the 1890s switched to Crystal Palace, London, England), Cricket Ground (in the late 1870s switched to Hampden Park & Celtic/Ibrox Park, Glasgow, Scotland), Acton Park (at the beginning of the 1890s added the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, Wales), Ulster Ground & Solitude Ground (Belfast, Ireland).
After annual British Home Championships were introduced in 1884, there were fears that these two competitions would interfere with each other and diminish each other's significance. Next year, a further trouble appeared after professional football was legalized in England at the FA meeting on July 20, 1885. The Scottish FA and the FA of Wales were in strong opposition to this motion since the whole matter was likely to transform the face of British footbal and therefore was of vital concern to the other three Home countries. However, after the failure of meeting in Liverpool on September 24, 1885 and after their further attempts to organize meeting of all four FAs in January 1886 were frustrated, Scotland finally acceded. The following 1886 edition of the BN Cup went ahead with the record surge in attendance (over 50,000 spectators watched England vs Scotland game), confirming its status in the eyes of British public as the ultimate World Championship. This was the age of high imperialism, when the British Empire reached its zenith, controlling or influencing the world's affairs even in the most remote regions of the planet, such as the Arctic region, Tibet - the "roof of the planet", African wilderness or small Pacific islands. The sun was never set on the Empire, the Royal Navy had its bases and squadrons all over the world, fulfilling such diverse tasks as sustaining the world order and balance of forces or surpressing piracy and slave trade, British economic and financial presense has been felt everywhere on all continents, so football was just underpinning this feeling of being on the top of the world.
After the competition commenced in 1870, football in England was aleady much more developed than in Scotland, but still England managed to win the first two Cups only by small margin. In 1870, first England-Scotland game held on March 5 ended in a 1-1 draw, and on November 19 in the replay England won 1-0, and with it the inaugural competition. Next, in 1874 each team won one game, and since goal difference didn't count back then, a third game was needed, in which England prevailed again despite the fact that the backbone of the Scotland team was the invincible Queen's Park FC from Glasgow. (In fact, from its formation in July 1867, for the first time in its history Queen's Park FC conceded goal in game against Vale of Leven on January 16, 1875 at Hampden Park.) Arguably, England national team would've performed much better had Sheffield players been called in. Before Sheffield FA joined the FA in 1877, the big games in the early 1870's were the games between two of the strongest associations in England - Sheffield vs London (the FA), and Sheffield won 6 of the first 9 inter-association matches and 8 of the first 14 matches. However, in the middle of the 1870s Scotland introduced a revolutionary passing tactics which proved the most effective and led Scotland to dominate British and therefore world football thoughout the 1870s and 1880s, winning four straight Cups in 1878-1890. First three of them have been won by Scotland with overwhelming superiority, and in 1882 England was even shockingly edged by Wales which came second. In the early 1890s, England managed to finally catch up with Scotland and, although losing the 1890 BN Cup by a very small margin, confidently won the next 1894 edition. After that the balance was leveled, England and Scotland became roughly of the same strength, and each nation won one of the next two Cups by a very small margin. Finally, after FIFA World Cup had been introduced in 1906, two more tournaments have been held before the final merge with WC, each won by England, but this time Ireland and Wales showed real improvement in their game. Ireland came very close to edging Scotland and only narrowly failed to reach second place in 1906, and in 1910 Wales acually managed to squeeze past Scotland and clinched a runner-up spot.
At the same time football was rapidly spreading throughout the Europe and the rest of the world. Gradually in European countries rose interest to the British Nations Cup which was de-facto a World Championship. Several requests were made to include non-British participants to the Cup competition (transforming it to the British Open Cup similar to the Wimbledon tennis tournament), but to no avail. The British resented any idea about allowing Continental Associations to participate in their competition, which eventually instigated them to form in 1904 an International Federation (FIFA) and hold a World Cup competition. Incidentally, the first FIFA WC tournament in Switzerland in 1906 was held at the same time as the regular edition of the BN Cup. England, at that time already being a member of FIFA, predictably opted out of FIFA WC in favour of BN Cup, but the compromise was eventually found. England would play the winner of the Continental tournament for the WC title, and after winning the BN Cup went on to win the first World Cup, beating Denmark and confirming the status of the BN Cup as true World Championship. However, when in 1910 the next editions of FIFA WC and BN Cup were held, it became clear that with steadily growing number of WC participants, two competing World Championships cannot exist simultaneously anymore. This time FIFA, trying to raise the level of WC, could not allow England receive automatic place in the Final, but agreed to schedule its competition so that it won't overlap with the schedule of the BN Cup. Nevertheless, England again won both competitions. But when the other three British associations joined FIFA in 1910-1911 and received possibility to participate in the next WC competition scheduled to take place in England, it was decided to merge the BN Cup with the WC, and finally 1914 saw the triumph of the "unified" World Cup.
1870. Two unofficial "Alcock internationals" were played in London. England - Scotland: 1-1, 1-0.
1871-1874. Out of three unofficial "Alcock internationals" played in 1871-1872, England won two and drew in the third game. After full international games commenced in 1872, England and Scotland each won one game, and drew one. England won its first official champion title only due to better GD in all three games (5-4).
1875-1878. Scotland is an absolute champion, winning three out of total four games against England (drawing fourth) with the total GD 15-5, and all three games against Wales (GD 15-0).
1879-1882. Scotland again is an absolute champion, winning seven out of total eight games played against England and Wales, with impressive total GD 38-13. England came second with 3 wins and 5 losses (GD 19-29). Wales registered 2 wins (both against England) and 6 losses; however, in their direct encounter against England, Wales had an edge: 2 wins, 2 losses, but GD 9-8. Ireland played their first internationals in 1882 against England and Wales, losing both games with total GD 1-20.
1883-1886. Scotland won two Home Championships (which have commenced in 1884) vs England zero. Third one was shared, so to determine its ultimate winner, we're applying today's standards. The result of their direct encounter was a 1-1 draw, but England had total GD +7 vs Scotland's +8, so we give Scotland a win. Therefore, Scotland again is an absolute champion, with 3 HCs vs England's none (every time ENG came second). Plus, they also won both their 1883 annual friendlies against England and Wales; England, although losing to Scotland, won against both Wales and Ireland, and match Wales-Ireland ended in 1-1 draw.
1887-1890. Scotland won two HCs vs England one. The fourth shared, using the same procedure, should be given to England (ENG-SCO: 1-1, England's GD +10 vs Scotland's GD +8), so the final score will be 2-2. Therefore, to determine the best team, we have to consider their results in head-to-head encounters. Our of four games played (one per each HC), England won one vs Scotland two, and one more resulted in draw. Therefore, Scotland is the ultimate winner again, though this time by a very small margin.
1891-1894. England is an absolute champion, winning 3 HCs vs Scotland one.
1895-1898. England won 2 HCs vs Scotland 2, so we're considering their head-to-head results. Each team won two games, but England won by better total GD in these games (8-5).
1899-1902. Again, England and Scotland have won two HCs each, so again we have to consider head-to-head results. Each team won one game, with 2 draws, but this time Scotland won, with their GD being 9-7.
1903-1906. England won two HCs outright, and two more were shared - one with Scotland (1906), and another with Scotland and Ireland (1903). In 1906, Scotland beat England 2-1 (although overall GD was England +5 vs Scotland 0), so if we consider result of direct encounter first, we'll give win to Scotland, but if GD first - to England. In 1903, each team won 1 and lost 1 game in their encounters, and overall GDs were: ENG +4, SCO and IRE 0. Therefore, England wins this HC, and with 3 (or 4) wins total is an absolute champion. In 1903, Ireland beat Scotland 2-0 and came second, as well as in 1904. Overall, Scotland prevailed over Ireland and came second, winning 2 of their direct encounters vs Ireland 1, and one more resulted in draw.
1907-1910. England, Scotland and Wales each won 1 HC. Fourth one (1908) was shared between England and Scotland. Their direct encounter was a 1-1 draw, overall GD was England +8 vs Scotland +6, therefore England with 2 wins is a champion by a small margin. Wales came second in 1909. Overall Scotland and Wales won two games each in their direct encounters, with total GD 5-5. Considering overall results in all four HCs, SCO and WAL won 1 HC each and came second one time each. In other HCs, Scotland came two times third and Wales - two times fourth, so Scotland overall came second by the smallest possible margin.
12. WORLD CHAMPIONS.
(*) 1866. London. London XI (the FA)
- Sheffield FC 2g, 4 td - 0
(**) I. 1870. London. Eng - Sco 1-1, rep 1-0
II. 1874. London/Glasgow. Eng - Sco
III. 1878. London. Sco - Eng
IV. 1882. Wrexham. Sco - Wal
V. 1886. Glasgow. Sco - Eng
VI. 1890. Belfast. Sco - Eng
VII. 1894. London. Eng - Sco
VIII. 1898. Wrexham. Eng - Sco
IX. 1902. Glasgow. Sco - Eng
1. 1906. Zurich. Eng - Den
2. 1910. Vienna. Eng - Den
3. 1914. London. Eng - Sco
(***) 1919. Paris. Eng - Uru
4. 1922. Amsterdam. Hol - Cze
5. 1926. Madrid. Uru - Aut
6. 1930. Montevideo. Uru - Arg 4-2
7. 1934. Rome. Ita - Cze 2-1
8. 1938. Paris. Ita - Hun 4-2
(4*) 1942. Berlin. Ita - Ukr
(5*) 1WC. 1942. Montevideo. Uru - Arg
(5*) 2WC. 1946. Buenos Aires. Arg - Bra
9. 1950. Rio de Janeiro Uru - Bra 2-1
10. 1954. Bern. Ger - Hun 3-2
11. 1958. Stockholm. Bra - Swe 5-2
12. 1962. Santiago. Bra - Cze 3-1
13. 1966. London. Eng - Ger 4-2
14. 1970. Mexico City. Bra - Ita 4-1
15. 1974. Munich. Ger - Hol 2-1
16. 1978. Buenos Aires. Arg - Hol 3-1
17. 1982. Madrid. Ita - Ger 3-1
18. 1986. Mexico City. Arg - Ger 3-2
19. 1990. Rome. Ger - Arg 1-0
20. 1994. Los Angeles. Bra - Ita 0-0, 3-2 pen
21. 1998. Paris. Fra - Bra 3-0
22. 2002. Tokyo. Bra - Ger 2-0
23. 2006. Berlin.
24. 2010. South Africa.
25. 2014. Brazil.
(*) A challenge match between London XI and Sheffield FC, representatives of two strongest
associations at the time - the FA and Sheffield "Association". In 1865-1866, Sheffield FC
played four games with Notts County FC (Nottingham "Association"), and won all of them.
=> NN I-IX - British Nations Cup, considered as World Championship before introduction of FIFA
World Cup in 1906.
(**) First 1870 edition of BN Cup had unofficial status.
=> NN 1-23 - official FIFA World Cups.
(***) A World Champion title game, organized by French FF in lieu of proper tournament which has
not been held due to the World War I.
(4*) A "Nazi" World Cup, held by Germany in 1942.
(5*) Wartime World Championships, held by South American Confederation during World War II.
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