2014 World Cup 101: Facts, Rules and Names Everyone Should Know Live

One of the world’s largest and most popular sporting events is here, whether you care or not -- here's what you need to know about it. 
by teebear via Instagram

By Rachel Hahn

One of the world’s largest and most popular sporting events is here, whether you care about it or not. Literally billions of people are going to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup over the next month. Even if you’re not among them, avoiding a conversation about it will be like dodging "Game of Thrones" spoilers on a Monday morn.

So, you don’t know soccer, I mean football. That doesn’t mean you need to be left out of the office chatter or pull the old smile-and-nod when your client starts spouting  football stats. Here’s the quick fix survival kit for talking FIFA World Cup 2014 when the closest you’ve ever come to watching a game is renting "Bend It Like Beckham".

Basic World Cup Facts

  • Occurs: Every four years (easy to remember: just like the Olympics)
  • Duration: One month (June 12 – July 13, 2014)
  • Started: 1930
  • Number of countries competing: 32*
  • Competition method: Round Robin
  • Matches held: 64
  • This year’s host: Brazil (countries bid to be the host, just like the Olympics)
  • Number of stadiums built in Brazil for the World Cup: 12
  • 2018 host: Russia
  • 2022 host: Qatar

*Just like Olympic team sports, players from different professional teams unite under the flag of their home country to compete. For bonus football fan points, check out Mashable’s list of World Cup team nicknames and drop them into casual conversation. 

Money talks

FIFA gobbled up more than $1.1 billion selling broadcasting rights and $780 million USD from marketing rights in the past two years alone.  FIFA also has some seriously loyal sponsors, with many signing on for multiple four-year cycles. Over the current four-year cycle, FIFA received $1.5 billion USD from sponsors.

Big brands

The World Cup is arguably the greatest marketing opportunity out there for a global brand and FIFA has a few core loyal sponsors who launch innovative campaigns to coincide with the event. Here’s a breakdown of a few:


Adidas is FIFA’s longest standing partner. This year their FIFA campaign slogan “All in or Nothing” is the base for a website and promotional videos, including one film by “City of God” director Fernando Meirelles, featuring a new exclusive Kanye West track and some famous footballers of course.


This tech giant is pushing their concept of “One Stadium” where all football fans from all around the world can come together in one shared experience in one digital stadium. The effort is supported by their interactive website and, of course, has it’s own hashtag #onestadiumlive.

Coca Cola

Coke often relies on the power of music to bolster its marketing prowess, but this year they added a twist to their classic approach. Coca Cola’s FIFA World Cup campaign song, The World is Ours, is performed by former X-factor competitor David Correy who was born in Brazil. The cool part? Coca-cola created 32 versions of the song: one for each competing country. 


Nothing makes good water cooler talk quite like controversy, and the FIFA World Cup has a sordid past, present and future that’ll provide enough fuel to keep the conversation going for days.

For starters, this year’s World Cup has its fair share of intrigue. The Brazilian government has come under a lot of ridicule, particularly from the Brazilian people, for spending $11.3 billion USD on hosting the World Cup while public services go underfunded and poverty remains a real issue throughout the country. A metro strike in Sao Paulo continues despite a court order for a return to work.

And even though Brazil has heaped money on hosting the World Cup, the newly built stadiums and venue continue to be criticized for shoddy construction and poor planning, including proximity to one another. This year teams are traveling the longest distances ever between matches.   

A future World Cup is casting a shadow over FIFA too. Allegations of bribery in the selection of Qatar as the 2022 host persist. With an investigation currently underway, several sponsors have made statements condemning shady conduct and promoting the spirit of the tournament. 

As for FIFA’s past, a recent New York Times article exposed match rigging in the 2010 World Cup.

Laws of the Game

That’s right, the rules of football are officially called the Laws of the Game. Say that in your best Morgan Freeman voice, add an ominous thunderclap and the appropriate sacrosanct effect is achieved. In a sport where a grand score of 0-0 is common, there are few better ways to spend game time than arguing over rules and ref calls. So, it’s important to understand some of the basics if you plan to watch any world cup matches, or at least have an idea of what people are arguing about.

The super basic you-should-really-already-know-this rule list:

  • You can’t use your hands* in football (hence the name)
  • The game is comprised of two halves (45 mins each)

*OK, the goaltender can use his hands

Now for some of the less obvious rules:


This is notoriously one of the most difficult football rules to grasp. The chance of you totally understanding offside after reading a sentence or two is pretty slim (it’s easier to understand with visuals anyway), but it should suffice to know:

a) it means a player was not positioned legally on the field

b) it only becomes an offense if that player becomes actively involved in play

c) an indirect free kick is awarded to the other team in the event of an offside offense.

Confused? What’s an indirect free kick? It means you can’t score a goal with it. 

If you have 3:58 minutes to spare, consider letting a patient sounding man in a ref shirt explain it to you gently with the support of uniquely low budget animation.

Time keeping

Unlike most sports, the clock never stops in football. So, at the end of the 90 min match the ref makes a guesstimate of how much time was lost during play to penalties, player substitutions, removing injured players from the field etc. Then, that imaginary number is added to the match and given the neat title of Stoppage Time. 


Football has very much the same rules as Grandma’s house. No kicking, tripping, charging, pushing, tackling or spitting on one another. Unsportsmanlike play is also a punishable offense. If the ref or one of his two assistants catch a player doing these things, they can award a free kick or penalty kick to the opposing team.

It’s in the cards

If a player is particularly naughty he may receive a yellow or red card. A red card is a serious call as it pulls the player out of the game and his team is not allowed to replace him on the field. Two yellow cards equal a red card.

Like rules, do you? Feel free to indulge in the FIFA published Laws of the Game here.

Who’s who?

Every sport has its superstars. Football fans are known for being a rather impassioned and opinionated crew, so you may want to avoid debating them, keeping particular distance from any “best player” statements if you value your life or at least your dignity. But knowing who’s most often in the spotlight can come in handy. Here’s an Instagram gallery of a few of the world’s favorites competing in the World Cup.

Name - Lionel Andrés Messi
Club – FC Barcelona
Country – Argentina
Trivia fact – his real name is Luis Lionel Andrés Messi
Name - Cristiano Ronaldo
Club - Real Madrid
Country – Portugal
Trivia fact – is dating Russian model Irina Shayk

by nonah_cr7 via Instagram
Name -- Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (aka Neymar)
Club -- FC Barcelona
Country -- Brazil
Trivia -- Named the "world's most marketable athlete"
by nahraf90_mohd via Instagram

1 of 3

Going for extra style points? Brush up on some of the lesser known players listed in the Gothamist’s World Cup guide.

If you want to stay abreast of all the conversations happening about and around the 2014 World Cup, bookmark this ScribbleLive World Cup pinboard -- and come back regularly.


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