The World Cup, sometimes called the FIFA World Cup, is an international soccer competition contested by the men's national soccer teams of the member nations of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport's world governing body. The championship has been awarded every four years since the first event in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946, due to World War II.
The tournament's final phase is often called the World Cup Finals. The current format of the Finals involves thirty-two national teams competing at venues within the host nation (or nations) over a period of about a month. To determine the participating teams, qualifying rounds take place over the three years preceding the Finals.
- 1 Tournament Origins
- 2 History
- 2.1 URUGUAY, 1930
- 2.2 ITALY, 1934
- 2.3 FRANCE, 1938
- 2.4 BRAZIL, 1950
- 2.5 SWITZERLAND, 1954
- 2.6 SWEDEN, 1958
- 2.7 CHILE, 1962
- 2.8 ENGLAND, 1966
- 2.9 MEXICO, 1970
- 2.10 GERMANY, 1974
- 2.11 ARGENTINA, 1978
- 2.12 SPAIN, 1982
- 2.13 MEXICO, 1986
- 2.14 ITALY, 1990
- 2.15 UNITED STATES, 1994
- 2.16 FRANCE, 1998
- 2.17 SOUTH KOREA/JAPAN, 2002
- 2.18 GERMANY, 2006
- 2.19 SOUTH AFRICA, 2010
- 2.20 BRAZIL, 2014
- 2.21 RUSSIA, 2018
- 3 The Trophy
- 4 Successful national teams
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
- 8 Credits
Only eight nations have won the title. Brazil is the most successful World Cup team, having won the tournament five times. Italy and Germany follow with four titles. The other former champions are Uruguay (who won the inaugural tournament), Argentina, and France with two titles each, and England and Spain with one title each.
Soccer, or football as most the world calls it, officially began in 1862 when J.C. Thring, an Englishman, published the first set of rules for what he called "The Simplest Game."
As the British traveled the world, so did the simple game of soccer. By the end of World War I, soccer had already become a world sport. And when 22 teams from as far away as Egypt and Uruguay competed in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, it was clear that the sport needed its own tournament. Soccer was fast becoming a professional sport and in conflict with the amateurism of the Olympics.
Two Frenchman, Jules Rimet and Henri Delaunay, proposed the idea of a World Cup to be held every four years. Uruguay, Olympic gold medalists in 1924 and 1928, volunteered to host the first tournament to be held in 1930.
In the tournaments between 1934 and 1978, 16 teams competed at the Finals, except in 1938 and 1950 when teams withdrew after qualifying, leaving them with 15 and 13 teams respectively. Most of the participating nations were from Europe and South America, with a small minority from North America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. These teams were usually defeated easily by the European and South American teams. There were exceptions, such as when the USA defeated England at the 1950 Finals in Brazil, considered one of the biggest upsets ever.
Until 1982, the only teams from outside Europe and South America to advance out of the first round were: United States, semi-finalists in 1930; Cuba, quarter finalists in 1938; North Korea, quarter finalists in 1966; and Mexico, quarter finalists in 1970.
The Finals were expanded to 24 teams in 1982, then to 32 in 1998, allowing more teams from Africa, Asia and North America to take part.
Since the second World Cup in 1934, qualifying tournaments have been held to thin out the field for the final tournament. These games are held within the six FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, and Europe), overseen by their respective confederations. For each tournament, FIFA decides the number of places awarded to each of the continental zones beforehand, generally based on the relative strength of the confederations' teams, but also subject to lobbying from the confederations.
The qualification process can start as early as almost three years before the final tournament and last over a two-year period. The formats of the qualification tournaments differ between confederations. Usually, one or two places are awarded to winners of intercontinental playoffs. For example, the winner of the Oceania zone and the fifth-placed team from the South American zone entered a play-off to decide which team would qualify for the 2006 World Cup. From the 1938 World Cup onwards, host nations have received an automatic berth in the finals. This right had also been granted to the defending champions since 1938, but it has been withdrawn starting from the 2006 FIFA World Cup, requiring them to qualify as well, so that Brazil, who won in 2002, became the first defending champion to play in a qualifying match.
The World Cup was first televised in 1954 and is now the most widely-viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games. The cumulative audience of the 2002 World Cup—including all of the matches—is estimated to be 28.8 billion. Over 1.1 billion individuals watched the final match of this tournament (a sixth of the entire population of the planet). The 2006 World Cup draw, which decided the distribution of teams into groups, was watched by 300 million viewers. In America, the 2006 World Cup television ratings saw a 65 percent increase from the 2002 event, despite the U.S. team's poor performance.
Selection of hosts
Early World Cups were given to countries at meetings of FIFA's congress. The choice of location was highly controversial, given the three-week boat journey between South America and Europe, the two centers of strength in football. The decision to hold the first World Cup in Uruguay, for example, led to only four European nations competing. The next two World Cups were both held in Europe. The decision to hold the second of these, the 1938 FIFA World Cup, in France was controversial, as the American countries had been led to understand that the World Cup would rotate between the two continents. Both Argentina and Uruguay thus boycotted the tournament.
After the 1958 World Cup, to avoid any future boycotts or controversy, FIFA began a pattern of alternating the hosts between the Americas and Europe, which continued until the 1998 World Cup. The 2002 World Cup, hosted jointly by Japan and South Korea, was the first one held in Asia (and the only tournament with multiple hosts). In 2010, South Africa will become the first African nation to host the World Cup.
The host country is now chosen in a vote by FIFA's executive committee. This is done under a single transferable vote system. The national football association of the country who desires to host the event receives a guide called "Hosting Agreement" from FIFA, which explains the steps and indicates requirements that need to be met to offer a strong bid. The association that desires to celebrate the event also receives a form that it must fill out and return to FIFA. This document represents the official confirmation of the candidacy. After this, a FIFA-designated group of inspectors visits the country to identify that the country meets the requirements needed to host the event, and a report on the country is produced. The decision on who will host the Cup is currently made six or seven years in advance of the tournament. However, there have been occasions where the hosts of multiple future tournaments were announced at the same time, as was the case for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar, with Qatar becoming the first Middle Eastern country to host the tournament.
Uruguay built a new stadium to celebrate the nation's centenary. Many teams were invited, but only four from Europe made the long voyage. Thirteen teams competed in the finals. The first-ever World Cup game took place on July 13 in Montevideo between France and Mexico, and Frenchman Lucien Laurent had the honor of scoring the tournament's first goal. The U.S. team did remarkably well, losing in the semifinals to Argentina. For the final game, thousands of Argentinians crossed the River Plate into Uruguay to watch their team lose to the host nation 4-2 before 93,000 spectators.
The champions, Uruguay, had been snubbed by the Italians in 1930 and did not make the trip. The United States team made the long journey for just one game, losing to the hosts 7-1. Once again the British teams, enjoying their "splendid isolation," failed to show. Italy triumphed in the final over Czechoslovakia 2-1, in extra time under the gaze of Benito Mussolini and 55,000 in Rome. All of the Czech players came from just two clubs: Sparta and Slavia.
Thirty-two teams entered the qualifying rounds, including Austria, which had recently been absorbed by Hitler's Germany. With the demise of Austria, only 15 teams entered the finals. The British teams were still absent. Brazil lost to Italy in the semifinal. Germany, much to the chagrin of Hitler, lost to Switzerland in a first-round replay. In the final, Italian coach Vittorio Pozzo required his players to raise their arms in the Fascist salute, to the disgust of the French crowd. Italy won its second championship, beating Hungary 4-2.
This was the first World Cup in 12 years, following the tournament's cessation due to World War II. The Brazilians built the massive 175,000-seat Maracana Stadium for the finals in Rio de Janerio, in what became a tournament full of surprises. First, a rag-tag American team defeated England 1-0 in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. In the final match, Uruguay beat Brazil 2-1 before 205,000 stunned Brazilians in the overflowing Maracana. The World Cup trophy, which an Italian soccer official hid in a shoebox under his bed throughout the war, was taken home by Uruguay for the second time.
The 1954 tournament was known for the remarkable number of goals scored—140 in just 26 games. Hungary, the favorite, trounced West Germany 8-3 in the first round. But the Germans were not finished. In the quarterfinals, Hungary fought out a 4-2 victory over Brazil in a game marked by a bench-clearing brawl. Three players were ejected in the match forever known as the "Battle of Bern." Led by the talented but injured Ferenc Puskas, the "Magic Magyars" of Hungary, reached the final game. In appalling weather, West Germany got sweet revenge, defeating Hungary 3-2 before 60,000 at Bern's Wankdorf Stadium.
This was the first World Cup shown internationally on television. The world saw the emergence of a 17-year-old Brazilian called Edson Arantes do Nascimento, forever known as Pele. He scored six goals in the tournament, but the tournament's real goal-scoring wizard was the amazing French striker Juste Fontaine, who scored 13, still an all-time record. Host Sweden did better than anyone expected but lost 5-2 to pre-tournament favorite Brazil in the final, with Pele scoring twice.
Pele was injured after only one game, but Brazil had a new star in tiny winger Garrincha, "the little bird." Police had to invade the field to break up a fight in the Chile-Italy game. Once again Brazil was the favorite and triumphed over Czechoslovakia 3-1 to win its second championship.
The finals were held in the birthplace of the game and produced one of the best tournaments to date. Brazil was eliminated early, with Pele limping off the field. Italy went down 1-0 to the unknown North Koreans. The Italian team was spat upon by fans when they returned home. Portugal reached the semifinals led by the great Eusebio. And Geoff Hurst scored the first and only "hat trick" (three goals) in a championship game as England defeated West Germany 4-2. Before the tournament, the World Cup trophy was stolen while on display in London. However, eight days later it was discovered by a dog named Pickles.
A qualifying game between Honduras and El Salvador provoked a war, which became known as the "Soccer War" in 1969. But the nations had made peace by the time the Finals came around. England and Brazil were the pre-tournament favorites. In the England-Brazil game in the first round, England goalie Gordan Banks made one of the greatest saves in the history of the sport, on a Pele header. Italy's 4-2 defeat of West Germany in the semifinals was notable, as the teams struggled through extra time in the stifling heat and altitude of Mexico City. Fielding one of the best teams ever in the history of the event, Brazil beat Italy 4-1 in the final with Pele getting one goal. Brazil's Jairzinho scored in each of his country's games.
Just two years after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, West Germany hosted the World Cup. A lack of good teams—England and France failed to qualify—and a scarcity of goals marred the tournament. However, Holland and West Germany, led by star players Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer, respectively, had brilliant teams. The two met in the final with Holland the favorite. The Dutch had introduced a style called "total soccer," with players interchanging positions. The final game opened dramatically with the referee awarding the Dutch a penalty shot with less than a minute played. Johan Neeskens converted the kick, and Holland had taken the lead without a German player touching the ball. West Germany rallied to tie the game and finally won 2 – 1 on a penalty kick.
For the first time, more than 100 teams competed in qualifying rounds. Argentina was in a state of political chaos, ruled by a military junta and under the threat of terrorist attacks. But for the duration of the finals there was peace. The Dutch were without Johan Cruyff but still had a talented team and again reached the final game. Argentina had to score four goals against Peru to win its second-round group and a place in the final game. The South Americans scored six and advanced at the expense of Brazil. The championship game went into extra time with Holland and Argentina tied 1 – 1 after 90 minutes. Argentina then made sure of it, scoring twice to win 3 – 1.
The 1982 World Cup, the 12th FIFA World Cup, was held in Spain from June 13 to July 11. The tournament finals expanded from 16 teams to 24.
Italy started sluggishly with three ties in its opening group. Brazil looked sharp but had a weak goalie. Argentina introduced the great Diego Maradona, but his time had not yet come. West Germany got an early scare, losing to Algeria 2 – 1 and barely advancing to the next round. The French had the great Michel Platini. In the end it was the prodigal son of Italy, Paolo Rossi, just back from a two-year suspension for bribery, who became the goal-scoring hero of the finals. Rossi scored the first goal in the final game against West Germany, leading Italy to a 3 – 1 victory and its third championship.
Mexico was awarded the finals for a second time after original host Colombia withdrew. This will always be known as Diego Maradona's final. The Argentine midfielder with the famous left-foot, dominated the tournament like no other player in the history of the game with brilliance and controversy. His famous "Hand of God" goal, against England in the quarterfinals, in which he punched the ball into the net with his hand, was spotted by nearly everybody except the referee. Often marked by several players and brutally fouled, his second goal of the 2-1 game was an act of genius and arguably the best goal ever scored. West Germany survived a penalty shootout with Mexico and again stumbled along to the final. In the championship match, Argentina led 2-0 with 17 minutes left when the Germans tied the score. Then Maradona struck, making a perfect assist for Jorge Burruchaga to seal a 3-2 victory.
The 1990 finals tournament was held from June 8 to July 8, 1990 in Italy, the second country to host the event twice. It was the lowest scoring tournament, with only 115 goals in 52 games.
Cameroon opened things with a surprise win over champion Argentina but had two players ejected. Led by the 38-year-old Roger Milla, who was called out of retirement, Cameroon exhibited some of the tournament's most exciting soccer. England reached the semifinals only to lose to Germany in a penalty shootout. Maradona was a shadow of his former self but in one brilliant move destroyed Brazil's hopes, and then ended Italy's bid in yet another semifinal penalty shootout. Along with Milla, England's Paul Gascoinge and Italy's Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci emerged as the tournament's stars. Germany got sweet revenge in the final, beating Argentina 1-0 on a penalty kick in a disappointing match. "If it were a fish I'd have thrown it back," commented an American writer.
UNITED STATES, 1994
This was FIFA's great missionary venture, to spread the game in the sports-saturated market of America, where soccer had long been misunderstood and numerous professional leagues had come and gone. The USA was well prepared with numerous stadiums available. Trays of turf were laid over the artificial surface at Giants Stadium in New York, and the World Cup's first indoor game was held inside Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome.
The host Americans beat outside favorite Colombia to reach the second round but the U.S. lost to eventual champion Brazil in a Fourth of July match. Bulgaria was the big surprise in reaching the semifinals but this will always be remembered as the first final World Cup game to be decided on penalty kicks, after Brazil and Italy failed to score a goal in regulation and overtime. Italy's Roberto Baggio missed his penalty kick to hand Brazil its record fourth title and first since 1970.
The 1998 FIFA World Cup, the 16th FIFA World Cup, was held in France from June 10 to July 12, 1998. The country was chosen as the host nation by FIFA for the second time in the history of the tournament, defeating Morocco in the bidding process.
The final between the hosts France and champion Brazil produced a marquee lineup before 80,000 at the stunning Stade de France just outside Paris, but the controversy over Brazilian star Ronaldo's pre-game illness dominated the early news. Ronaldo played in the game but performed poorly as French ace Zinedine Zidane dominated the game scoring two goals as France won its first title 3-0.
SOUTH KOREA/JAPAN, 2002
In 2002, for the first time, the World Cup was hosted by two nations. Japan was the early favorite to be the host but a late and expensive surge from the South Korea forced FIFA to allow both nations to run the event. It was also the first Finals to be held outside Europe and the Americas. The South Koreans proved to be the surprise team reaching the semifinals.
The final game saw Germany and Brazil meet for the first time ever in the 72 years of the finals. Germany was missing its key player Michael Ballack, who was suspended, and Brazil went on to beat Germany 2-0 and earn its record fifth title.
In the eighteenth staging of the finals, the venue returned to Germany. Italy won its fourth title, defeating France on penalties after the game finished 1-1 after extra-time. The final game will always be remembered for for the unfortunate actions of French star Zinedine Zidane. Considered the star of the tournament, Zidane gave France an early lead with a coolly-taken penalty kick, but ten minutes into the extra-time period, the otherwise frustrated Zidane delivered a head-butt to the chest of Italian Marco Materazzi, who had earlier tied the game 1-1. The Frenchman was then sent off the field by the referee, a sad exit for one of the game's great players in what was his last World Cup.
SOUTH AFRICA, 2010
The 19th FIFA World Cup took place in South Africa from June 11 to July 11, 2010. The bidding process for hosting the tournament finals was open only to African nations; in 2004, the international football federation, FIFA, selected South Africa over Egypt and Morocco to become the first African nation to host the finals. The matches were played in ten stadiums in nine host cities around the country, with the final played at the Soccer City stadium in South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg.
Second-ranked Spain started the 2010 World Cup by losing to Switzerland and then won every game after that, including a 1-0 victory over powerful Germany. No other nation has won the World Cup after losing its opener. Spain won its last four games by a score of 1-0 and won the championship with the fewest goals, eight. The World Cup featured a record 31 one-goal decisions out of 64 matches—four more than the previous high set in 2002, according to STATS LLC.
As for the Netherlands, this was their third time to lose in the finals. They were unbeaten in qualifying for the tournament and with the loss in the finals they broke their 25 game unbeaten streak. The Netherlands now has more victories in World Cup games without a title than any nation: 19. Spain previously held that record with 24.
The 20th FIFA World Cup took place in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, 2014, after the country was awarded the hosting rights in 2007. It was the second time that Brazil staged the competition (the first was in 1950), and the fifth time that it was held in South America. A total of 64 matches were played in 12 venues located in as many host cities across Brazil.
Every World Cup-winning team since the first edition in 1930 – Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Uruguay – qualified for this tournament. Spain, the title holders, were eliminated at the group stage, along with England and Italy. Uruguay were eliminated in the round of 16, and France exited in the quarter-finals. Brazil, who had won the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, lost to Germany in the semi-finals and eventually finished in fourth place.
In the final, Germany defeated Argentina 1–0 to win the tournament and secure the country's fourth world title, the first after the German reunification in 1990, when as West Germany they also beat Argentina in the World Cup final. Germany became the first European team to win a World Cup staged in the Americas, and this result marked the first time that sides from the same continent had won three consecutive tournaments (following Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010)
The 21st FIFA World Cup took place in Russia between June 14 and July 15, 2018. It was the eleventh time the championships had been held in Europe, and the first time they were held in Eastern Europe.
The finals involved 32 teams, of which 31 came through qualifying competitions, while as the host nation Russia qualified automatically. Of the 32, 20 had also appeared in the 2014 event, while both Iceland and Panama made their first appearances at the World Cup. 64 matches were played in 12 venues across 11 cities. Germany, the defending champions, were eliminated in the group stage. Host nation Russia was eliminated in the quarter-finals. In the final, France played Croatia on July 15 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. France won the match 4–2 to claim their second World Cup.
The Jules Rimet Trophy was the original prize for winning the World Cup. Originally called "Victory," but was generally known simply as the World Cup or Coupe du Monde, it was officially renamed in 1946 to honor the FIFA President Jules Rimet who in 1929 passed a vote to initiate the competition.
Just before the 1966 World Cup in England, FIFA allowed the Jules Rimet Trophy to be the centerpiece at a stamp exhibition in London. An hour after the trophy was put on display, someone stole it in broad daylight from its padlocked cabinet. Although the stamps at the exhibition were worth an estimated $6 million, only the trophy—insured for a mere $50,000—was taken. The story of the theft of the world's most coveted trophy made the front pages of newspapers around the world, much to the embarrassment of the English police, who immediately assigned more than 100 detectives to search for the cup. The solid gold trophy had survived World War II hidden in a shoebox under the bed of an Italian soccer official in Rome, but had now slipped through the hands of English security.
A week after the theft, a dog called Pickles discovered the trophy under a hedge in a southeast suburb of London. The owner of the dog said at the time, "I looked down and saw a bundle of wrapped newspaper. I tore the paper and saw gold and the words "Brazil 1962." (Brazil had won the trophy four years earlier.) Pickles became an instant hero, and a dog food company gave him a year's supply for "his outstanding service to football." A few months later, Pickles and his owner were given front-row seats at London's famed Wembley Stadium, where they saw England captain Bobby Moore hold the trophy high after his team defeated Germany 4-2 to win the championship. However, the story of the original trophy did not have a happy ending. When Brazil won the finals for the third time in 1970, FIFA rewarded the nation by giving it the Rimet trophy to keep permanently. But the cup disappeared somewhere in Brazil and has never been recovered.
For the 1974 finals, FIFA commissioned a new trophy. It was designed by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazamiga, who described his creation:
The lines spring out from the base, rising in spirals, stretching out to receive the world. From the remarkable dynamic tensions of the compact body of the sculpture rise the figures of two athletes at the stirring moment of victory.
After considering many names, FIFA decided just to call it the FIFA World Cup. The trophy is 36.8 cm (14.5 inches) tall, weighs 6.142 kg (13.54 pounds), and is made of 18-carat gold. The base contains two layers of semi-precious malachite while the underside of the trophy is engraved with the year and name of each winner since 1974.
There are several replicas of the trophy reportedly circulating America that are being touted as the real thing. The real trophy, however, is under lock and key in a safe at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
Successful national teams
In all, 78 nations have qualified at least once for the World Cup Finals. Of these, only thirteen have made it to the final match, and only eight have won. The eight national teams that have won the World Cup have added stars to the crest, located on their shirt, with each star representing a World Cup victory.
With five titles, Brazil is the most successful World Cup team. Italy and Germany follow with four titles. Brazil and Italy are also the only nations to have won consecutive titles (Italy: 1934 and 1938; Brazil: 1958 and 1962). In 1970 and 1994, Brazil and Italy were finalists, each having a chance to become the first team to win a third title (and allowing them to keep the Jules Rimet trophy permanently) and a fourth title respectively. Brazil won both matches, and added a record fifth title in 2002. It has won the World Cup in the four continents that the World Cup has been hosted at—Europe: 1958; South America: 1962; North America: 1970 & 1994; Asia: 2002.
Italy, Brazil, West Germany, Argentina, as well as non-champions Netherlands, are the only teams to have ever appeared in consecutive final games, while Brazil and West Germany are the only two teams ever to appear in three consecutive World Cup final matches (1994, 1998, 2002 and 1982, 1986, 1990, respectively). Brazil won two out of the three (1994, 2002) and West Germany won only one (1990). Of the 18 World Cup final matches, only twice have the same two teams contested the match. Brazil and Italy played in 1970 and 1994, and West Germany and Argentina in 1986 and 1990 (when West Germany and Argentina also became the only two teams to meet in consecutive finals).
World Cup summaries
- aet: after extra time
- Note 1950: There was no official World Cup final or Third Place match in 1950. The tournament winner was decided by a final round-robin group contested by four teams (Uruguay, Brazil, Sweden, and Spain). The last two matches of the tournament pitted the two top ranked teams against each other and the two lowest ranked teams against each other. Uruguay's 2–1 victory over Brazil is thus often being considered as the de facto final of the 1950 World Cup. Likewise, the game between Sweden and Spain can be considered equal to a Third Place match, with Sweden's 3–1 victory over Spain ensuring that they finished third.
- History of the FIFA World Cup™ Preliminary Competition FIFA. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
- Jamie Jackson, Qatar wins 2022 World Cup bid The Guardian, December 2, 2010.
- John Haydon, Italy gets its kicks The Washington Times, July 10, 2006. Retrieved May 25, 2007.
- Paul Gadsby, World Cup mystery: what happened to the original Jules Rimet trophy? The Guardian, June 13, 2014. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
- The FIFA World Cup™ Trophy FIFA. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
- There was no official World Cup Third Place match in 1930 and no official third place was awarded; USA and Yugoslavia lost in the semi-finals.
- Gardner, Paul. The Simplest Game: The Intelligent Fan's Guide to the World of Soccer. MacMillian. ISBN 0028604016
- Glanville, Brian. The Story of the World Cup: The Essential Companion to Japan 2002. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571210589
- Haydon, John. "Dog found original trophy after yeggs stole it." The Washington Times. June 13, 1994. p. B7
- Hunt, Chris. World Cup Stories: A BBC History of the FIFA World Cup. BBC. ISBN 0954981928
- Palmer, Mark. Lost in France: Story of England's 1998 World Cup Campaign. Fourth Estate. ISBN 1857028554
All links retrieved October 10, 2020.
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