World Cup 2014 Football Philately Special

The World Cup is upon us and thirty-two nations are competing for football's biggest prize. To mark this great global sporting event Football Philately presents for your delight a look back into the philatelic history of each participating nation to try and identify the first World Cup stamps they issued. Looking at each qualifying group in turn starting with Group A and the hosts Brazil here are, to the best of my knowledge, the first World Cup stamps issued by the the thirty-two countries taking part in the 2014 World Cup finals.

Group A - Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico

2014 hosts Brazil have a fine football philatelic history which started back in 1950 when they first hosted the World Cup finals. A three-stamp set was issued on 24th June the day of the opening game in which Brazil beat Mexico 4-0. Below is a block of four of the first stamp in the set which features a lovely first day of issue commemorative cancel.

Brazil World Cup 1950 Issued 24/06/50
Brazil World Cup 1950 Issued 24/06/50
Cameroon issued their first World Cup stamps in 1966 on the day that England beat France 2-0 at Wembley. Cameroon was part of the 1966 World Cup African boycott which protested the allocation of direct qualifying spots.

Cameroon World Cup 1966
Cameroon World Cup 1966 Issued 20/07/66

This Croatian stamp was issued on the day of the 1998 tournament's opening game in which Brazil beat Scotland 2-1. Croatia made their World Cup debut this year and performed with skill and style to secure third place. Striker Davor Suker was the tournament top scorer with six goals.

Croatia World Cup 1998
Croatia World Cup 1998 Issued 10/06/98
Hosts Mexico got into the 1970 World Cup spirit nine months early by issuing this colourful pair in August 1969.  When the tournament started Mexico qualified for the knockout stages where they lost to eventual runners-up Italy.

Mexico World Cup 1970
Mexico World Cup 1970 Issued 16/08/69

Group B - Australia, Chile, Netherlands, Spain

Australia qualified for their second World Cup finals in 2006 and reached the last sixteen where hey lost 1-0 to eventual champions Italy. The winning goal coming from a controversial penalty awarded deep into second half injury time.

Australia World Cup 2006
Australia World Cup 2006 Issued 09/05/06

Chile hosted the 1962 World Cup finals and on the day of the opening game, which saw Uruguay beat Colombia 2-1, released a set of four stamps, one of which is shown below. Chile progressed to the semi-finals where they lost 4-2 to eventual champions Brazil.

Chile World Cup 1962
Chile World Cup 1962 Issued 30/05/62
The first Dutch World Cup stamp, much like many of their football issues, was a pretty uninspiring effort. Fortunately the Dutch team were altogether different playing a brand of scintillating total football they reached the final where, despite taking a second minute lead, lost 2-1 to the hosts Germany.

Netherlands World Cup 1974
Netherlands World Cup 1974 Issued 05/06/74

The Spanish were chosen to host the 1982 World Cup finals and started issuing stamps a full two years before the tournament started, with the first pair being issued in May 1980. During the 1982 finals Spain progressed to the second round but finished bottom of their group and so missed out on a semi-final place.

Spain World Cup 1982
Spain World Cup 1982 Issued 23/05/80

Group C - Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Colombia, despite not qualifying for the 1982 World Cup finals issued these rather fetching stamps in June 1982. It was a sort of dual commemorative issue. On one hand the stamps marked the current tournament but on the other looked forward to the next tournament which the Colombians were due to host in 1986. However only a few months later in November 1982 Colombia withdrew leaving FIFA to find a new host for the 1986 tournament.

Colombia World Cup 1982
Colombia World Cup 1982 Issued 21/06/82

The Greeks opted for a contrast between old and new for this 1994 World Cup stamp. They also issued a minisheet using a similar classical v modern theme. As for the tournament the Greeks finished bottom of their group losing all three games without scoring and conceding ten goals.

Greece World Cup 1994
Greece World Cup 1994 Issued 06/06/94
The Ivory Coast issued a 5-value set for the 1978 World Cup. The Ivorians didn't qualify for the finals losing out to Nigeria in the third qualifying round. Tunisia were the eventual African representatives.

Ivory Coast World Cup 1978
Ivory Coast World Cup 1978 Issued 17/06/78
Japn's first World Cup issue coincided with their joint hosting of the 2002 tournament. Issied  ayear before the finals started the three stamps each featured one of the three mascots Ato, Kaz & Nik. Japan reached the knockout stage where they lost to eventual third-placed team Turkey.

Japan World Cup 2002
Japan World Cup 2002 Issued 31/05/01
Group D - Costa Rica, England, Italy, Uruguay

Costa Rica issued a 5-value set to commemorate the 1986 World Cup. They didn't qualify for the finals though they did finish third in the 1985 CONCACAF Championship that had also served as qualification for the 1986 World Cup.

Costa Rica World Cup 1986
Costa Rica World Cup 1986 Issued 30/05/86
Great Britain issued it's first three football stamps in 1966 to commemorate the 1966 World Cup which was hosted by England. The sheet below shows the 4d stamp, probably the most iconic football stamp of all time, overprinted by 'England Winners'. 

Great Britain World Cup 1966
Great Britain World Cup 1966 Issued 01/06/66 - England Winners Issued 18/08/66

Italy were the first nation to issue stamps commemorating a World Cup. Two of the stamps from the 9-value set are shown below, a full set of which will set you back a few hundred euros. Italy hosted the 1934 tournament and won it by beating Czechoslovakia in the final.

Italy World Cup 1934
Italy World Cup 1934 Issued 24/05/34

Uruguay issued the World's first football stamps in 1924 but didn't issue their first World Cup stamps until March 1951, eight months after their historic win over Brazil in the Maracana.

Uruguay World Cup 1950
Uruguay World Cup 1950 Issued 20/03/51

Group E - Ecuador, France, Honduras, Switzerland

This was the first Ecuadorean World Cup issue and very dull it is too. Thankfully future football issues were a huge improvement. Ecuador failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup finishing bottom of their qualification group. 

Ecuador World Cup 1974
Ecuador World Cup 1974 Issued 05/06/74

This was France's very first football issue and what a beauty it is. It took the French another 39 years to issue another football stamp. France progressed to the quarter-finals of the 1938 tournament where they lost to eventual champions Italy.

France World Cup 1938
France World Cup 1938 Issued 01/06/38
The most tenuous of the football stamps in this post. The only football related thing about it being the overprint commemorating England's 1966 World Cup win. Honduras missed out on the 1966 tournament by failing to make it through the qualification stages; finishing bottom of their group.

Honduras World Cup 1966
Honduras World Cup 1966 Issued 25/11/66

Switzerland were the 1954 hosts and this was the first football stamp they issued. A simple but beautifully effective design. The Swiss made it to the quarter-finals where they lost 7-5 to Austria which still holds the record as most goals scored in a single World Cup finals game.

Switzerland World Cup 1954
Switzerland World Cup 1954 Issued 15/03/54

Group F - Argentina, Bosnia Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Argentina were the 1978 hosts and these two stamps were issued a year before the tournament began. The 1978 tournament is the first I can remember watching and my parents allowed me stay up late to watch some of the games. Argentina won the Cup beating the Netherlands in the final.

Argentina World Cup 1978
Argentina World Cup 1978 Issued 14/05/77
These were Bosnia Herzegovina's first football stamps and they wre issued to commemorate the World Cup of 1998. Bosnia Herzegovina failed to qualify finishing fourth out five in their qualifying group.

Bosnia Herzegovina World Cup 1998
Bosnia Herzegovina World Cup 1998 Issued 22/05/98
This Iranian stamp issued for the 1998 World Cup features the Azadi Stadium in Tehran one of the largest football grounds in the World. Iran qualified for the finals by beating Australia on away goals in the two-legged AFC-OFC intercontinental play-off. The first leg in Tehran saw 128000 squeeze into the Azadi.

Iran World Cup 1998
Iran World Cup 1998 10/06/98 Issued 

This Nigerian World Cup stamp was issued on the first day of the 1998 World Cup finals. Nigeria progressed to the Round of 16 where they lost 4-1 to Denmark.

Nigeria World Cup 1998
Nigeria World Cup 1998 Issued 10/06/98

Group G - Germany, Ghana, Portugal, United States

Germany hosted the 1974 tournament and issued this pair of stamps. Here they are with a Bonn first day of issue cancel. West Germany won their second World Cup beating the Netherlands in the final.

Germany World Cup 1974
Germany World Cup 1974 Issued 15/05/74
Ghana did not take part in the 1966 World Cup being part of the African boycott protesting the allocation of qualification spots for African nations. They did however issue this lovely set of five stamps which can be seen in more detail at this link: World Cup 1966 Socked on the Nose.

Ghana World Cup 1966
Ghana World Cup 1966 Issued 14/11/66

Portugal issued this stamp a month after the 1978 World Cup had ended. The Portuguese failed to qualify finishing second to Poland in their qualification group.

Portugal World Cup 1978
Portugal World Cup 1978 Issued 24/07/78

As part of the USA's 1994 World Cup philatelic programme they issued this eye-catching minisheet. The hosts progressed to the Round of 16 where they lost to 1-0 to eventual champions Brazil, who became the first nation to win the cup four times.

United States World Cup 1994
United States World Cup 1994 Issued 26/05/94

Group H - Algeria, Belgium, Korea Republic, Russia

Algeria issued this pair of stamps to commemorate the 1982 World Cup. On the opening day the Algerian team pulled off one the biggest World Cup shocks to beat West Germany, the reigning European champions 2-1. However a shameful football crime meant they failed to qualify for the second round.

Algeria World Cup 1982
Algeria World Cup 1982 Issued 18/03/82
Belgium issued two stamps for the 1982 World Cup, both using the same design but differently coloured. The Belgians advanced into the second round of the 1982 tournament by finishing top of their first round group but then finished bottom of their second group.

Belgium World Cup 1982
Belgium World Cup 1982 Issued 20/03/82

The South Koreans got into the 2002 World Cup spirit really, really early. Here's two minisheets issued in 1996 six years before the tournament began. To be fair they were released only a few months after the Koreans had found out they and the Japanese were to be joint hosts. The 2002 tournament was a huge success for the South Korea as they finished in fourth place. 

South Korea World Cup 2002
South Korea World Cup 2002 Issued 01/08/96

This lovely pair was issued by the USSR just prior to the opening game. The Soviets reached the quarter-finals where they lost to hosts and eventual runners-up Sweden. 

USSR World Cup 1958
USSR World Cup 1958 Issued 05/06/58

Billy Bonkers and the Wacky World Cup!

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