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The FIFA World Cup/ Jules Rimet Trophy
There is arguably no more famous trophy on the planet than the one awarded to soccer’s best national team, the FIFA World Cup. Every four years, billions of people huddle around TVs, radios and laptops to catch every bit of action they can, awaiting the moment when the 14-inch-tall golden trophy is lifted high by the winning captain.
Named “Victory” for the first tournament in 1930, what would go on to be renamed to honor FIFA President Jules Rimet was called the World Cup (“Coupe du Monde” in French) from the start. Though the official name change would not occur for another 16 years, the more common moniker stuck and remains with us today. Designed by Abel Lafleur to represent the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, holding a ten-sided cup, the Jules Rimet Trophy rode across the Atlantic from France aboard the Conte Verde to Montevideo, the capital of host country and eventual winners, Uruguay.
In 1938, the Italians won the championship on home soil, depositing the trophy in a Roman bank after celebrations were over. With the tournament suspended as World War II raged on, Ottorino Barassi, the vice-president of FIFA and president of the Italian Football Association took possession of the trophy. Convinced the Nazis would steal it if they had the chance, he tucked the Jules Rimet Trophy away in a shoe box under his bed.
The tournament resumed in 1950, allowing the trophy to be passed from one nation to another again with a minor hiccup: a few months before the 1966 edition, thieves removed the trophy from a public display in Westminster Central Hall. Though found seven days later in South London by a dog named Pickles, a replica was secretly commissioned by the English FA for use during the post-match celebrations and displays until 1970. (At an auction in 1997, the fake sold for over $400,000.)
When the competition moved to Mexico, champions Brazil became the first and only nation to claim the official trophy. Jules Rimet, when helping push through the vote to hold a tournament during the 1929 voting period, believed the prize should remain with any nation that won it three times. This resulted in the creation of the modern World Cup trophy, which debuted in 1974. Sadly, just six days before Christmas in 1983, burglars used a crowbar to open the wooden back of the bulletproof cabinet holding the Jules Rimet Trophy at the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation in Rio de Janeiro. It has never been recovered, though a replacement was created in 1984 and remains on display today.
The FIFA World Cup Trophy, the second incarnation of soccer’s greatest prize, is the result of fifty-three entries from seven nations. Some 50 percent heavier than the original, the globe rests between the outstretched arms of two celebrating players, creating a distinctly different feel than the less abstract design of the Jules Rimet Trophy. FIFA created space on the bottom to engrave the names of winners, fittingly claimed by the hosts “Deutschland” (West Germany) in 1974 and continuing on to the current holders, “España” (Spain). With limited space and no plans to expand the trophy, it will be at least 2038 before a new FIFA World Cup. And, unlike the Jules Rimet Trophy, the original cannot be claimed by winners – a gold-plated replica goes home with the champions.
As you would expect, competition for the FIFA World Cup often squeezes every last bit of potential out of the top players in the world. This results in some of the most attractive and influential soccer being played on the grandest stage every four years. Only a few squads can be rated amongst the best, though. Here are five considered to be a cut above the rest:
Arguably the greatest soccer team ever assembled, the team sheet reads like a Who’s Who: Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho, Rivelino and the best of all time, Pelé. A freewheeling attacking force, they lifted the trophy in Mexico with a 4-1 victory over Italy.
Possibly the first team to claim the title of “Greatest Never to Win,” the Magical Magyars were a revelation during the tournament in Switzerland. Having dominated the best of the era – Uruguay, England and the Soviet Union – they succumbed to West Germany 3-2 in the Final after scoring 25 goals in the previous four matches.
West Germany 1990
You might argue this West German team, the last before reunification in 1991, blended power and panache better than any before or since. Fast from front to back with skillful defenders, the team was driven forward by midfielder Lothar Matthaeus, whose sweeping passes and busy movement cut apart rival defenses before winning the trophy 1-0 over Argentina.
For some, this team is on the same level as the Brazilians in 1970. Known for “Total Football,” in which every outfield player had both extensive freedom within his offensive and defensive responsibilities, this squad made it all the way to the Final. The Johan Cruyff-led Dutch ran up against the formidable West Germans and were defeated by the home side, 2-1.
The only team on this list not to make a final, the Argentines were the most complete side in the tournament before losing out to the host Germans in a penalty shootout. Fun to watch and offensively proficient, the passing and movement was a bright spot in a tournament dominated by tight, defensive soccer.
Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
Germany (1954, 1974, 1990)
Argentina (1978, 1986)
Uruguay (1930, 1950)
The FIFA World Cup / Jules Rimet Trophy