Held every four years, the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world, carrying more viewers and fans than even the Olympics. Football, or soccer in the US, is the most popular sport in the world and in 2006 the competition is being held in Germany. Over 200 teams are recognized by FIFA and over the course of the three year interim, 32 teams compete in the World Cup finals.

This phenomenon brings together all nations, despite political, religious or cultural divisions, in spectatorship of a single sport. In 1966, North Korea, isolated from the rest of the world politically, was brought into the spotlight after their upset over Italy in the quarter finals. In 1998, Saudi Arabia qualified for its first World Cup finals. This year, Serbia and Montenegro is competing; a nation recently designated after the collapse of Yugoslavia in the late 1990's.

There are however, a few incidents and concerns with the event. One of the largest problems faced by football promoters and countries is the increase of hooliganism during the World Cup. In 1994, a Colombian player was shot on his return home after scoring a goal against his team. England and Germany, both countries known for their football hooligans, have taken extra measures to prevent possible riots from breaking out, including banning fans from games and implementing strict penalties during the month of the games.

For Germany, hosting the World Cup presents the opportunity to improve its national status. With the Germany hosting hundreds of tourists and being watched by millions of television viewers, the nation is spending millions of Euros to promote its image.

The World Cup is the epitome of public diplomacy. Team’s results can change the economy and politics of their home nations. Nations that have been caught in violent conflict with one another compete in sport. Every country, even those not competing in the World Cup, has a sense of camaraderie and connection to the players and the event as a whole; with the exception of the United States.

Format and Teams

The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four that compete in a round-robin format. The top two teams from each group then compete in a single match bracket with the losers of the semifinals competing for third place. The 2006 teams are:

Germany Equador Costa Rica Poland
England Sweden Trinidad and Tobago Paraguay
Argentina Netherlands Côte d'Ivoire Serbia and Montenegro
Mexico Portugal Angola Iran
Czech Republic Italy Ghana United States
Australia Croatia Brazil Japan
Korea Republic France Switzerland Togo
Spain Ukraine Tunisia Saudi Arabia


FIFA World Cup Official Site

“Germans aim for a World Cup surprise: they're fun�? Financial Times Deutschland

“'Hooligans' banned from World Cup.�? BBC News

“World Cup boosts growth, binds ties, even sparks wars.�? The Christian Science Montor.

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