World Cup countdown: 50 days to go

In celebration of the tournament being 50 days away, presents 50 facts about the greatest sports event on the planet: the FIFA World Cup.

Wednesday officially marked the 50-day countdown to the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

In celebration of the tournament being 50 days away, presents 50 facts about the greatest sports event on the planet: the World Cup.

1 - Brazil's Pele is the only player to win three World Cups: in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

South Africa marks 50-day countdown to World Cup

Chief local organizer Danny Jordaan marked the 50-day countdown to the World Cup on Wednesday, saying the tournament was one of South Africa's "most important defining moments."

Jordaan said hosting soccer's showcase tournament was one of a series of "significant moments that have shaped the country we live in today," comparing it to Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990, and South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994.

Jordaan was in Kimberley, in the country's Northern Cape province, with South African President Jacob Zuma to mark the 50-day countdown to Africa's first World Cup.

A series of celebrations are planned at the Galeshewe Stadium on Wednesday, 50 days before the host nation kicks off the 2010 tournament against Mexico on June 11 at Soweto's Soccer City Stadium.

Jordaan said South Africa will defy the skeptics who thought the country was incapable of hosting the tournament because of its high rate of violent crime and erratic transport system.

"The world has heard so many stories about us (since 1994), sometimes more negative than positive," Jordaan said. "But this World Cup gives all South Africans the opportunity the show the world who we really are 16 years into our democracy."

Zuma has said the country was "more than ready" to host soccer's biggest event.

Jordaan said the 10 World Cup stadiums were ready, and the needed infrastructure was in place.

He also said tickets "were selling fast" despite worries over empty stadiums when organizers put 500,000 unsold tickets on sale on April 15.

- Associated Press

2 - Four players have recorded two hat tricks at the World Cup: Hungary's Sandor Kocsis (both in 1954), France's Just Fontaine (1958), West Germany's Gerd Muller (1970) and Gabriel Batistuta (one in 1994 and one in 1998).

3 - Russia's Oleg Salenko scored a tournament-record five goals in one game during a 6-1 win over Cameroon at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

4 - Paolo Rossi was the top scorer at the 1982 World Cup in Spain with six goals, leading Italy to its third title.

5 - The World Cup trophy went missing for a week when it was stolen prior to the 1966 World Cup in England. A dog named Pickles, being taken out for a walk by his owner in South London, discovered the trophy wrapped in some newspapers at the bottom of some bushes a week after it was taken.

6 - There were 10 minutes left in extra time of the 2006 World Cup final when France's Zinedine Zidane head-butted Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

7 - Turkey's Hakan Sukur scored 11 seconds into the third-place game against South Korea in 2002, the quickest goal in World Cup history.

8 - Austria and Switzerland teamed up for the highest-scoring game in World Cup history in 1954 when they combined for 12 goals. Austria won 7-5.

9 - Thirteen teams that participated in the first World Cup in 1930 in Uruguay.

10 -Brazil's Ronaldo holds the record for most career World Cup goals with 15.

11 - Russian referee Valentin Ivanov brandished 16 yellow cards (tying a tournament record) in a second-round match at the 2006 World Cup in Germany between Portugal and the Netherlands.

12 -Brazil's Pele was 17 years old when he became the youngest player ever to score at the World Cup, in 1958 in Sweden.

13 - England's Geoff Hurst is the only player in World Cup history to net a hat trick in the final - he scored three times against West Germany in 1966.

14 - Lucien Laurent scored for France in the 19th minute against Mexico in the 1930 tournament, becoming the first player to score a goal at the World Cup.

15 - Uruguay's Alcides Ghiggia scored the winning goal against Brazil in the 1950 World Cup decider at Rio's Maracana Stadium. Years later, Ghiggia famously said: "Only three people have ever silenced 200,000 people at the Maracana with a single gesture: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and me."

16 - Germany's Lothar Matthaus played in a tournament record 25 games at the World Cup.

17 - On May 26, 1928, at its Amsterdam conference, FIFA, soccer's world governing body, announced plans to stage a World Cup tournament independent of the Olympics. Two years later, the first World Cup was held in Uruguay.

18 - Hungary scored the most goals by one team at a single tournament, finding the back of the net 27 times in 1954 in Switzerland.

19 - Born in Buenos Aires, Luis Monti is the only person to have played in two World Cup finals for different countries, representing Italy in 1934 after playing for Argentina four years earlier.

20 - Joe Gaetjens scored in the 38th minute for the U.S. against England in the first round of the 1950 World Cup. The Americans went on to win 1-0, registering the greatest upset in tournament history.

21 - Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff was 40 when he became the oldest player ever to win the World Cup, at the 1982 tournament in Spain.

22 - Northern Ireland's Norman Whiteside was 17 years and 41 days old when he became the youngest player to appear at the World Cup, in 1982.

23 - Cameroon's Roger Milla was 42 when he became the oldest player to score and play at the World Cup, in 1994 in the United States.

24- Argentina's Diego Maradona scored his infamous "Hand of God" goal in the 51st minute against England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

25 - Argentina's Diego Maradona scored his famous "Goal of the Century" goal in the 54th minute against England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

26 - Uruguay's Jose Batista was red carded a mere 56 seconds into a first-round game against Scotland at the 1986 World Cup, the fastest ejection in tournament history.

27 - Brazil's Mario Zagallo became the first man to win the World Cup as a player and a coach. He won his first title while playing for Brazil in 1958 and coached the team to the title in 1970.

28 - English referee Graham Poll mistakenly showed Croatian defender Josip Simunic three yellow cards during a first-round game against Australia in 2006.

29 - Brazil has earned a record number of World Cup victories, 64.

30 - The first player to be expelled in a World Cup final was Pedro Monzon of Argentina in 1990, when he was sent off against West Germany.

31 - Argentina's Claudio Caniggia scored against Italy in the semifinals of the 1990 tournament, ending Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga's record shutout streak at 517 consecutive minutes.

32 - Archie Gemmell scored one of the most famous goals in World Cup history in the 68th minute of a first-round game against the Netherlands in 1978. Gemmell elegantly slalomed his way through the Dutch defence before chipping the ball over goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed and into the back of the net to give Scotland a 3-1 lead.

33 -Hungary's Laszlo Kiss scored three goals against El Salvador in 1982 en route to recording the quickest ever hat trick at the World Cup (eight minutes).

34 - Mexico became the first nation outside of Europe and South America to host the World Cup, in 1970.

35 - Seventy-four nations have played at the World Cup.

36 - Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) are the only teams to repeat as champions.

37 - Germany's Helmut Rahn scored the winning goal against Hungary in the 84th minute of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. The game, forever known as "the miracle of Berne," saw the Germans win their first World Cup in one of the most dramatic finals ever.

38 - Mexico became the first repeat host when it staged the World Cup for the second time in 1986.

39  - Germany's Karl-Heinz Schnellinger scored in the 90th minute of the 1970 semifinals to tie the score 1-1 against Italy, sending the game, regarded by many critics as the greatest in World Cup history, into extra time. The Italians went on to win 4-3.

40 - Both Brazil and Germany have played in a record 92 World Cup games.

41 - 93,000 spectators packed Montevideo's Estadio Centenario to watch Uruguay defeat Argentina 4-2 in the first World Cup final in 1930.

42 - More than 3.5 million fans attended all 52 games of the 1994 World Cup in the United States, still the single tournament attendance record.

43 - A 1995 study conducted by the Engineering Department at Oxford University concluded that Geoff Hurst's controversial winning goal for England at the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany did not cross the goal-line entirely.

44 - Bora Milutinovic is the only man to coach five different countries at the World Cup: Mexico (1986), Costa Rica (1990), the United States (1994), Nigeria (1998), and China (2002).

45 - Sweden's Jan Olsson was the defender that Dutch star Johan Cruyff famously bamboozled with his inventive "Cruyff Turn" at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.

46 - Every match at the inaugural 1930 World Cup in Uruguay was played in one city: Montevideo.

47 - Mexico lost a record nine straight games at the World Cup (1930, 1950-58).

48  - The legendary Alfredo di Stefano of Argentina acquired Spanish citizenship and played four World Cup qualifying matches for Spain in 1957, but the team failed to qualify. Di Stefano is considered the greatest player never to have played at the World Cup.

49 - The aftermath of the Second World War caused the cancellation of the 1946 World Cup.

50 - Francisco Varallo, who recently turned 100 years old and currently lives in his native Argentina, is the only person who is still alive to have played in the first World Cup in 1930.