With the 2018 World Cup in Russia quickly creeping up on us, now is a good time to look at some of the tournament’s most unbreakable records. There’s no doubt soccer has changed over the decades, arguably for the worse, as it’s now a more defensive-oriented game than it used to be. In this list we’ll take a look at 12 FIFA World Cup records that are most likely going to be unbreakable in the coming years (and maybe forever).
All of these current marks were set between the first World Cup in 1930 and France 1998. There are two or three of them that may be equaled in the future, but from the looks of things it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever be surpassed, due to the present tactics that rule the sport. Of course, we should never say never. But there’s a good chance these records will still be standing 100 years from now.
12. Youngest World Cup Manager
Let’s take a different direction here for a moment and focus on a record from off the pitch, rather than on it. When Juan Jose Tramutola managed the Argentine squad at the very first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930, he was just 27 years and 267 days old. That still stands today as the record for the youngest manager in a World Cup. He managed to take his team to the final, where they were doubled 4-2 by the hosts.
However, Tramutola’s team did win the Copa America tournament a year earlier when he was still only 26. He did get some help though, as Francisco Olazar was his co-manager (or coach if you prefer) and Tramutola’s official position back then was called “technical director.” He would also coach club sides Boca Juniors, Ferrocarril Oeste and Velez Sarsfield in his later years.
11. Biggest World Cup Crowd
The biggest recorded crowd ever at a soccer match took place at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. The final contest between Uruguay and the host nation attracted a crowd of 199,854 fans. Most of them went home dazed and confused though, as Uruguay pulled off a 2-1 upset to capture the Jules Rimet Trophy. The game was held at the famous Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 16th. The size of the crowd is a bit debatable, since the number of sold tickets was only 173,850. Either way, it’s the biggest crowd ever to watch the sport. This record won’t be broken for some time since the Rungrado May Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea is currently the biggest ground on the globe with a capacity of just 114,000 for soccer. The stadium opened in 1989. The second-largest is currently Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, with a capacity of just over 99,000. Even Macarena Stadium only holds about 80,000 spectators now, after decades of renovations and upgrades.
10. Smallest World Cup Crowd
According to FIFA’s records, the smallest crowd to ever attend a World Cup contest came back in 1930 when Romania took on Peru. Just 300 people bothered to show up on July 14 at the Estadio Pocitos in Montevideo, Uruguay. That’s just 199,554 fans fewer than the all-time high record set in Brazil 20 years later. Since the 1930 event was the very first World Cup, perhaps fans were unsure of what to expect. Even still, up to 80,000 (depending on which source you think is accurate) showed up for the final when the host nation doubled Argentina 4-2. And it’s also quite odd, considering the average attendance for the tournament was 32,808 per contest. But when we look deeper, we find the Pocitos Stadium held just 1,000 fans. The attendance was never going to be great, but that means it was still 70 percent empty for the game. Anyway, Romania won the match 3-1 and we’ll never see a crowd this small at the World Cup again.
9. Most Tournaments Played
Both Antonio Carbajal and Lothar Matthaus managed to play in five different World Cups. Carbajal represented Mexico at the 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962 and 1966 events, while Matthaus played for Germany in 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 and again in 1998. Since the tournament is held every four years this means a span of 16 years passed between the players’ first and last appearances. This record may very well be equaled in the near future, but to break it, a player would have to make his nation’s World Cup squad 20 years after being named to it the first time. It’s possible to do, age-wise, since an 18-year-old World Cup debutant could still play at the age of 38. However, it’s unlikely that a player’s skills would still be at a high enough level to make their World Cup squad 20 years later.
8. Youngest to Play, Score In, and Win a World Cup Final
Yes, there are plenty of good young footballers across the world in today’s era, but it’s doubtful we’ll see a 17-year-old make it on to the pitch in a World Cup final again. Brazilian legend Pele was just 17 years and 249 days of age when he played in the 1958 final in Sweden against the hosts. Brazil captured the trophy with a convincing 5-2 victory and Pele was named the Best Young Player of the tournament. As well as being the youngest player in a final, he also became the youngest to ever win a World Cup and the youngest to score in a final. Those records will likely stand the test of time, since managers aren’t too quick to throw teenagers into a games as important as a World Cup final these days.
7. Longest Time Between World Cup Appearances
Striker Alfred Bickel may have been born in Germany, but he played his international football for Switzerland. He scored an average of one goal every two games in the Swiss league, but notched just 15 goals in 71 international appearances. But Bickel holds the record of playing in his second World Cup 12 years and 13 days after appearing in his first one. He played in 1938 but then didn’t suit up again until the 1950 event in Brazil. One of the main reasons for this was the outbreak of World War II. In fact, Bickel and Erik Nilsson of Sweden are the only two men to have played in a World Cup before and after the war. In the modern football era it’s doubtful we’ll see a player at a World Cup, then miss two and be selected again for his squad 12 years later.
6. Most Goals in a Game
Oleg Salenko of Russia banged in five goals in a match against Cameroon in 1994 and that still stands as the all-time record for goals in a single world Cup game. It’s possible that some young hotshot ties the mark, but breaking it with six goals is going to be nearly impossible. The avalanche of goals in Russia’s 6-1 win helped Salenko share the Golden Boot Award that year with Hristo Stoichkov of Bulgaria, as they both finished the event with six apiece. However, Salenko played just three matches as Russia was eliminated in the group stage. He also won the Golden Boot at the Under-20 World Cup five years earlier and up to now is the only player to win the award at both tournaments. Salenko’s also the only player to ever win the World Cup Golden Boot and not get past the group stage.
5. Youngest Goal and Hat-Trick Scorer
It probably wasn’t too hard to figure out that the record for the youngest ever scorer in a World Cup game also belongs to Pele. The Brazilian scoring machine achieved this feat at the age of 17 years, seven months, and 27 days when he scored the only goal of the game against Wales on June 19 at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. This was just 10 days before becoming the youngest player ever to score in a final. And in between, Pele also managed to become the youngest ever to score a hat-trick, when he found the back of the net three times against France. Pele notched three goals in a 23-minute span in a 5-2 semifinal victory on June 24 and finished the tournament with half a dozen markers.
4. Most Consecutive Minutes Without Allowing a Goal
So far the attackers have gotten all the glory, so let’s show some respect to the goalkeepers. The record for the longest World Cup shutout streak belongs to Italy’s Walter Zenga. He played between the posts at the 1990 event in his homeland and kept the ball out of his net for 517 straight minutes. Since there are 90 minutes in a match, this means Zenga went five and two-thirds games without conceding, with five straight clean sheets also being a record. Oddly, he didn’t make the Best XI that year. Zenga shut out Austria, the USAm and Czechoslovakia in the group stage and then Uruguay and the Republic of Ireland in knockout games. He finally allowed a goal in the 67th minute of the semifinal in a 1-1 draw with Argentina and then lost the match in a shootout. Italy then edged England 2-1 to take third place.
3. Most Goals Allowed in a Game
Poor Luis Guevara Mora of El Salvador holds the current record for the most goals allowed in a game, when 10 balls got past him in Spain in 1982. The 20-year-old Mora was beaten 10 times in a 10-1 defeat to Hungary in his nation’s first group stage outing. The contest also set a record for most goals in a game by one team and equaled the mark for largest margin of victory at nine. The Hungarians also smoked a side by nine goals back in 1954 when they beat South Korea 9-0 and Yugoslavia drilled Zaire 9-0 in 1974. Getting back to Mora — the youngster proved he was a world class keeper in El Salvador’s next two matches as they were beaten just 1-0 by Belgium and 2-0 by reigning World Cup champions Argentina. So it probably wasn’t entirely his fault.
2. Most Goals Scored Per Game
Back in 1954, Hungary was generally regarded as the best football team on the planet. They set out to prove this at the World Cup in Switzerland, but were edged 3-2 in the final by West Germany. The Germans scored the winner with six minutes to play, with Hungary appearing to tie it back up three minutes later only to have their goal ruled offside. Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis led the scoring parade with 11 goals and his teammates included Ferenc Puskas, who was the best player in the world back then.
The squad set records for most goals scored in a World Cup with 27, the most scored per game at 5.4, the biggest goal difference at +17, and the biggest goal difference per match at +3.4. Hungary won their encounters 9-0, 8-3, 4-2, and 4-2 before falling 3-2 in the final. Oddly enough, they had thumped West Germany 8-3 in the group stage and also managed to beat reigning champions Brazil 4-2 in the quarterfinals. Their 9-0 win over South Korea set a record for margin of victory which was later equaled by Yugoslavia and Hungary themselves.
1. Most Goals By a Player in a Tournament
The most games a team can play in the current World Cup setup is seven. This means somebody would have to score an average of two goals a game all the way to the final or third-place match to beat Just Fontaine’s record of 13 goals in a tournament. The Moroccan-born Fontaine set the mark for France in 1958 in Sweden. The 24-year-old scored at least once in all six of his 1958 World Cup matches. He had a hat-trick against Paraguay, two against Yugoslavia, one against Scotland, two more against Northern Ireland, once against Brazil and four in the third-place win over West Germany. He beat Sandor Kocsis’ mark of 11 goals set in 1954 and also shares the record of two hat tricks in a World Cup. Germany’s Gerd Muller scored 10 goals in 1970, but nobody has scored more than eight times in the past 11 tournaments. He also shares the record for most games with at least two goals at four and most consecutive contests with a goal at six. Maybe when the World Cup expands to 48 teams in 2026, there will be a chance for someone to catch fire and break this record.