World War One had ended just 12 years before, the Great Depression was raging, and archaic racial laws were still in place in countries like the United States.
To put it bluntly, the inaugural World Cup took place in a bygone era. It was the only edition of the tournament not to feature qualification rounds, as FIFA merely invited its participating teams to join. Thirteen nations made the trip down to Montevideo, Uruguay, for a tournament that was, due to technological handicaps, unable to garner much worldwide publicity.
The 1930 World Cup featured 4 groups, three of which had three teams, whilst Group A featured four.
- Group A – Argentina, France, Chile, Mexico
- Group B – Yugoslavia, Brazil, Bolivia
- Group C – Uruguay, Romania, Peru
- Group D – United States, Paraguay, Belgium
The European squads made the 11,000km journey via the ocean liner SS Conte Verde, a mission that would take several weeks to complete. The liner stopped by to pick up the Brazilians on the way. A reflection of the times, transporting the European players would have been a logistical nightmare and an energy-sapping experience to say the least.
Argentina and Uruguay were the two remaining teams by the end of the tournament and the neighbouring nations contested the first FIFA World Cup final on 30 July 1930.
Played at the peak of the South American winter, the host nation defeated Argentina 4-2 in front of 68,346 fans at Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario. Josè Nasazzi became the first World Cup winning captain, whilst Pablo Dorado scored the first-ever goal in a World Cup final.
Though the debut edition of the FIFA World Cup was a low-key and forgettable one, it remains important for kickstarting the competition that has since grown into a global juggernaut. The success of the 1930 World Cup led to a 1934 edition, and the success of that one led to the tournament’s continued growth.
We all start somewhere, and if it wasn’t for the Uruguayan tournament played almost 100 years ago, perhaps we would have the memories that future World Cups gave us.
To round off this retrospective of the 1930 World Cup, here are some fun facts:
- France’s Lucien Laurent (1907-2005) scored the first-ever goal at a World Cup and was a guest of honour at the 1998 World Cup Final, where his beloved France finally won the trophy
- Argentine forward Francisco Varallo (1910-2010) was the last-surviving player of this competition, passing away in August 2010, a month after the final’s 80th anniversary
- The 1930 edition of the tournament was the only one to feature more teams from South America than Europe
- France captain Alex Villaplane (1904-1944) would be executed for collaborating with Germany’s state during World War Two
- Uruguay and Argentina were unable to decide on a match ball, so two of them were used; one Argentine-made and the other Uruguayan.
- Uruguay became the first of six nations to have won the World Cup whilst hosting it. In the years since, Italy, England, West Germany, Argentina, and France have followed suit.
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